VideoReport #388

Volume CCCLXXXVIII- Taken 3: This Time, It’s Personal-er

For the Week of 1/22/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day and has, oh, all the movies ever. Redbox machines take your credit card info and dispense scratched copies of the same 50 movies in a garbage-strewn convenience store parking lot. Your call.

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Videoport customer Jenny A. suggests ‘Carnivale’ (in Incredibly Strange.) Holy (!) schmoly, it is a damn good HBO series. Two seasons completed on what was to be a much longer story arc, and still it delivers. A sprawling narrative of good and evil, with two plotlines that converge: one involving a traveling carnival in the Depression era, another a preacher ascending to power. Visceral filming, it’s almost like encountering a scent from childhood that brings you back to that memory. Evocative. You feel like you’re breathing the Dust Bowl. Clancy Brown as the preacher can do no wrong. He uses his voice so powerfully, in every line, the cadence, the threat. Amy Madigan is masterful as his sister. I was feeling for Ralph Waite, as an actor, to be suffering & silent in all his grim scenes: “Convey anguish, without moving!” (And he does.) I liked the Rita Sue/Stumpy dynamic, in the ‘cootch show’ family. Overall, very compelling, and uniquely excellent. If you like Twin Peaks or LOST, shows with mythologies and eccentric characters, spend your Videoport credits on Carnivàle…it’s good, twisted entertainment.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Dennis suggests you check out the “New Arrivals at Videoport” listings on page 2 of this here newsletter to see a healthy infusion of classic gangster and crime dramas from the 30s coming to Videoport’s Classics section! Seriously- it’ll knock your fedora off! (And, hey, check out a new Frank Sinatra, a new Jimmy Stewart, and a new Greta Garbo DVD while you’re at it…)

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests a Buffy the Vampire Birthday marathon (in Horror)! Hey, it’s a belated Buffy birthday! Last week was Buffy Summers’ 32 birthday*, and I’m still in the mood to celebrate with three big fat birthday episodes. In “Surprise” (S2, ep13), when Angel asks Buffy what she’d like for her 17th birthday, she responds “Surprise me.” Be careful what you wish for, Buff; not every surprise is a treat. In addition to Angel’s surprise, Drusilla and Spike are planning a big surprise of their own — but despite increasingly dangerous and unexpected events, Giles insists on the Scoobies going through with their plan to throw Buffy a much-deserved surprise party… which gives Willow a chance to invite that cute boy she’s been eying. (You can continue the post-birthday antics — SURPRISE! — in the following episode, “Innocence.”) “Helpless” (S3, ep12) opens with Buffy looking forward to her traditional birthday visit from her often-absent dad. But her enthusiasm about the Ice Capades (whaaaaaat? it’s tradition!) wanes when her slayer strength abruptly deserts her. Suddenly, our slayer is battling the forces of evil with only the strength of the tiny little gal she actually is. Wuh-oh. “A New Man,” (S4, ep12) reminds us that not everything is about the birthday girl! At Buffy’s surprise party (and HEY GUYS, throwing a surprise party for a slayer? Who routinely stakes the things that jump out at her? Maybe not a genius move in the whole don’t-get-accidentally-staked thing, right?), Giles comes to some uncomfortable realizations about his place in her life… and in his own life. Well, that’s okay, because come tomorrow, he’s going to wake up feeling like (you guessed it) a new man. Well, not man, exactly.

*SUPERNERD ALERT (and super-alert nerd): there’s some canonical confusion here because in early episodes, a glancing look at Buffy’s school records reveal her birthday to occur variously in May or October. But later seasons often featured a late-January birthday episode occurring on-or-around January 19th, and Joss Whedon himself confirms that as Buffy’s official birthday. SUPERNERD OUT.

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

You need to rent this. Trust me. (See what I did there?)

You need to rent this. Trust me. (See what I did there?)

>>>Dennis suggests Trust (in Feature Drama). YEEEAAHHHH! Ahem, excuse me, I just got a little excited there, since one of my favorite cult films of all time has finally, belatedly, blessedly received a DVD release…after 23 years!?!? This 1990 comedy/romance/one-of-a-kind thing is from director Hal Hartley (Amateur, The Unbelievable Truth, Simple Men, Book of Life, Henry Fool, Fay Grim, No Such Thing) who has also been among the missing for a while. It’s a shame, because Hartley’s singular blend of quirkiness, deadpan comedy, and mysteriously-moving drama is something that every film fan should have in their memory banks. All of Hartley’s films are worth seeking out (Amateur especially is stunning), but Trust remains my favorite. (Thus the YEEEAAHHH!) In it, Hartley favorites Martin Donovan and the late Adrienne Shelly star as a pair of very unlikely would-be lovers . She’s an underage high school girl, pregnant by her dumb jock boyfriend and abandoned by him and her forbidding mother, once her news gives her father a heart attack (and look for a very-pre-Sopranos Edie Falco as Shelly’s sister.) He’s a brilliant, antisocial 20-ish malcontent , living with his abusive dad and terrorizing the denizens of the local bar with his acerbic wit and quick temper. Meeting as they both seek some peace in an abandoned house, they both semi-reluctantly end up wreaking havoc in the rigid worlds of their respective families and, maybe, falling in love. Of course, up to this point, Trust might sound like any old quirky indie comedy/romance/drama, but in the hands of Hartley and his cast, this is, simply, unlike any such movie you’ve ever seen. Like directors such as Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch, Hartley’s films are imbued with a singular, easily-identifiable, and yet completely unique sensibilities that set them apart. In Hartley’s case, it’s primarily a matter of a verbal and visual deadpan; his characters seem to be operating on at least one level of ironic remove. However, unlike say the films of Whit Stillman (to whom Hartley is often compared), that archness is less a result of the filmmaker;s own too-clever irony but more that Hartley’s characters are just more interesting, often smarter, tan the rest of the world, and so their words emerge from that other, weirder, smarter place. Like I said, it’s a tough style to describe, but when it hooks into you (as it does to me, every time), it sticks with you- and sends you to your local video store’s shelves for more. Trust is a singular, funny, weird, unexpectedly affecting movie unlike any other, with two absolutely astounding lead performances. I could not be happier that it’s finally come out, and that Videoport’s got it.

Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!

>>>It’s a free kids movie. You’ll love it.

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Andrew J. Curseword (that’s his Facebook name) suggests Compliance (in Feature Drama.) It is usually best to take ‘based on a true story’ films with a grain of salt, but to anyone familiar with the 2004 strip-search prank call scam that occurred at a Kentucky McDonald’s (and really, who isn’t?), Compliance is unusually faithful to reality. Anna Dowd is brilliantly frumpish as fast food restaurant manager Sandra, who, on an already hectic Friday is called at work by a ‘police officer’ investigating a theft at the counter. He sternly convinces her to bring young, attractive, and uh, compliant Becky (Dreama Walker) out back to the storage room for questioning while police are en route (for at least an hour). Much hilarity then ensues…I mean, terrible, terrible things happen. When the real life story aired on 60 Minutes back in 2004, it really struck me as a prime example of how normal people can be coerced to do things they usually would never believe themselves capable of, and this adaptation will have many thinking the same thing. My girlfriend was incredulous at the premise even after I mentioned it followed the basic events fairly accurately, and you might be too (apparently when the film played at the Sundance Film Festival, there were shouting matches and walkouts during the Q&A session). But anyone familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment will know that it really isn’t that farfetched. Let this be a lesson to you sheeple.

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests Don’t Look Now (in Mystery/Thriller). [This review of Don’t Look Now assumes familiarity with the film; minor SPOILERS AHEAD.] On the surface, Don’t Look Now is a classic domestic-horror: two parents mourning a lost child try to soothe their pain with a busy trip abroad, hoping the distractions of off-season Venice will distract them from their sorrows. But Don’t Look Now is all about the rift between appearance and reality, between the expected and the obscure. Several moments reinforce that ever-present tension between the actual and the imagined, from the police inspector who tells the Baxters “The skill of police artists is to make the living appear dead,” to the sisters they meet in their hotel (as Laura says, “This one who’s blind — she’s the’s the one that can see”). Even before Christine’s death, Laura poses a question from the children to John: if the earth is round, why is a frozen pond flat? John’s answer: “Nothing is as it seems.” And he’s right. Nothing is as it seems. In the wake of their daughter’s death, Laura seems dangerously overcome with grief, susceptible to darkest depression and comforting fantasy and charlatans alike, but as the film progresses, we see that Laura knows how to heal herself. Instead, it’s John who falls prey to the devastation of grief.

627New Releases this week at Videoport: End of Watch (Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena star in this gritty cop drama from the writer of Training Day about a couple of LA cops whose bond of brotherhood is put to the test when they run afoul of a vicious drug cartel), Searching for Sugar Man (the feel-good documentary of the year- a long-forgotten 1970s musician (Detroit rocker Sixto Rodriguez) is rediscovered decades later when filmmakers find out that, improbably, he has long been one of the most popular rock stars in South Africa), The Paperboy (sure, it might be a hard-boiled thriller about a Florida convict

"Whizzy!"

“Whizzy!”

and the prison pen pal lover who wants to bust him out, it might be directed by the guy who made Precious, and it might star the likes of Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey, and Zac Efron, but you know it as the movie where Kidman whizzes on Efron for some reason), The Imposter (spellbinding, utterly-implausible documentary about a missing child, a grieving, desperate family, and the Spanish conman who claimed to be the missing boy), Nobody Walks (John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt and Olivia Thirlby star in this indie about a family whose placid life is turned upside down when they less a beautiful young artist move into their guest house; cowritten by ‘Girls’’ Len Dunham), For a Good Time, Call… (saucy, overly-punctuated comedy about a pair of mismatched roommates who band together as phone sex operators to hang onto their rent-controlled apartment), Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren have been milking this action series about a pair of genetically modified super soldiers since 1992, people- who are you to resist them?), Birders: The Central Park Effect (you like birds? Well, so do the subjects of this documentary about an NYC-based birdwatchers group. They watch birds!), Keep the Lights On (acclaimed, sexually-charged drama about two men whose decades-long affair comes to consume their very different lives), Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Japanese cult director Takashi Miike [Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins) crafts a typically-striking, violent film about a samurai whose request to commit ritual suicide sets in motion an epic tale of honor, swordplay and bloodshed; also check out the excellent 1962 version of the tale Harakiri in the Criterion Collection section), Nature Calls (certified hilarious guy Patton Oswalt improbably stars in this boy scout comedy about two estranged brothers [Patton and Johnny Knoxville] whose issues get worked out, via forest pratfalls, on a comedically inept

Patton's a funny guy. So it can't be all bad...

Patton’s a funny guy. So it can’t be all bad…

camping trip), Beauty Is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story (visually-stunning documentary about the titular visual artist who crafted, among other things, the puppets and sets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse), Chris Hardwick: Mandroid (new standup comedy from the very funny Hardwick, host of the podcast The Nerdist), Elvis and Madona (Brazilian romance about a lesbian pizza delivery driver who falls in love with the transvestite hairdresser on her route), Putin’s Kiss (documentary about a nationalistic young Russian woman’s enthusiastic participation in a youth political organization, and her gradual realization that the group has a dark side), Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet (documentary about a rock musician, afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease, whose paralysis has not kept him from making music…with his eyes?!), One Nation Under Dog (the passionate, ofttimes obsessive relationship between Americans and their dogs is the subject of this documentary), The Thompsons (remember that horror movie The Hamiltons? No? Well, anyway- this is a sequel), ‘Being Human’- season 2 (the US version of the horror/drama series about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire sharing an apartment continues)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Trust (see Thursday’s review- and then rent this one. Seriously…), Blockade (Henry Fonda and Madeleine Carroll starred in this then-timely 1938 political drama about two lovers caught up in the Spanish Civil War), Each Dawn I Die (James Cagney stars in this peerlessly-titled 1939 prison drama about an innocent reporter sent to the big house on trumped-up charges), Bullets or Ballots (Edward G. Robinson stars [alongside Humphrey Bogart] as a two-fisted honest cop who, unjustly booted off the force, finds himself working for the very racketeer he’s been trying to lock up all these years), G Men (Cagney’s back in this 1935 crime drama as a lawyer who turns on the neighborhood crime lord who put him through law school when a law school pal-turned-titular G Man is rubbed out), San Quentin (and here comes some more Bogart in this 1937 prison flick about a hood whose sister’s boyfriend Pat O’Brien is one of the prison guards at the titular pen where Bogart’s doin’ hard time), A Slight Case of Murder (and here comes some more sweet, sweet Edward G. Robinson in a 1938 gangster comedy about a Prohibition beer baron who runs into hard times when the booze ban is listed and he realizes no one’s had the heart to tell him that his bathtub hooch tastes like, well, it was made in a bathtub), City for Conquest (and howsabout some more Cagney, with Jimmy playing a pug who turns to boxing to try to support his gal and his kid brother), Never So Few (Frank Sinatra stars in this clearly-bananas 1959 WWII epic about a squad of OSS guys sent to teach the Burmese natives how to fight the invading Japanese; costarring a young Steve McQueen, Peter Lawford, Paul Henreid, and, as Frank’s love interest, Gina Lollobrigida; why is Gina Lollobrigida in WWII-era Burma, in the jungle? Don’t ask…), Ninotchka (delightful Ernst Lubitsch comedy romance about a stern Russian woman [GARBO!] sent to Paris on business who finds herself helpless against the charms of the dapper/dull Melvyn Douglas), Winchester ‘73 (this Jimmy Stewart Western has gotten lots of free pub lately since Quentin Tarantino cites it as his favorite Western ever- come get it!)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Trust, Searching for Sugar Man, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, ‘Eastbound and Down’- season 3, Thelma and Louise, The Possession, End of Watch, The Paperboy, ‘Downton Abbey’- season 1

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