VideoReport #391

Volume CCCXCI- Star Wars: Episode 7- Hoth Fuzz

 For the Week of 2/12/13

 Videoport gives you a free movie every day. If you have a problem with that, please seek psychological assistance.

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!

>>>Dennis suggests ‘The Zeppo’- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, episode 13 (in Horror.) In watching the excellent HBO series ‘Enlightened’ recently (see Thursday and Sunday’s review for much, much more), I was reminded of this, one of my favorite Buffy episodes. Enlightened has a habit of unexpectedly turning the show over to a supporting character for an episode, delving into that character’s life at least partially-apart from Laura Dern’s main character and her story. You know, the main story of the series. It’s used to great, surprising effect all through Enlightened, offering a depth of perspective that sheds light on both

Xander. Donuts.

Xander. Donuts.

that “minor” character and on how a hero’s essential adventures can look to someone whose life doesn’t get top billing. Like Xander. Played by Nicholas Brendon, Xander was the one member of the Scooby Gang (what Buffy and her friends call themselves) without any special abilities, powers, or anything like that (unless you count his self-deprecating wit, which no one does, really). Xander’s just Xander- helping out where he can, getting crushes on various female pals, occasionally offering a bit of endearing perspective. He gets knocked out a lot. (Although not as much as Giles.) In ‘The Zeppo’, we get to see what Buffy’s big, bad, vampire-slayin’ world (and show) is like through the eyes of J. Alfred Prufrock, as Xander, amidst his usual support role of getting donuts and making wisecracks, finds himself having a very dangerous, yet appropriately-Xanderesque) adventure with the psychotic high school bully and some zombies, all the while, at the edges of his story, we glean the fact that Buffy and the others are gearing up to prevent, literally, the apocalypse. It’s a gimmick, sure, but Brendon is superb as he navigates his C-team way through his own problems and, unbeknownst to the real heroes, saves the day. And if no one ever knows how brave, resourceful, and unexpectedly cool Xander was on his own? Well, that’s the sidekick’s lot in life.

“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.”

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!

>>>Send in your reviews to The VideoReport! (denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page Videoport Jones).

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!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests “Galentine’s Day,” Parks & Rec S2 ep16 [S2, disc 3]. At Leslie’s annual Galentine’s Day celebration (every February 13th, natch!), her mother, the usually hard-nosed Marlene Griggs-Knope (Pamela Reed), tells a wistful story of youthful romance, which gives Leslie an idea. And what’s more dangerous than Leslie with an idea?

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!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests “Enlightened,” (in Drama), the HBO dramedy starring co-creators Laura Dern and Mike White, has been evolving into one of the most compulsively watchable, cringe-y, laugh-out-loud, tears-in-your-eyes rollercoasters on TV. If you just started watching, now’s a great time to visit the first season (still new) on DVD. And while you’re at it, pair it up with a (FREE!) disc of legendary one-season wonder “Freaks & Geeks.” “Freaks & Geeks” is best known as the launching pad for Jason Segel, Seth Rogan, and James DiFranco, but there’s a staggering number of now-celebrated contributors to the short-lived show, including sometimes-writer/supervising producer/actor Mike White.

>>>Videoport customer Daniel R. suggests Wake In Fright (in Drama), saying, “That was something. It’s going to stick with me for a long time. I might even give up drinking.”

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

>>>You know- for kids! Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests “St. Valentine’s Day,” 30 Rock S3 ep11 [S3, disc 2] The luxurious debauchery Jack (Alec Baldwin) has planned for to celebrate Valentine’s Day gets scrapped when his virtuous girlfriend Elisa (Salma Hayek in an all-too-rare comic role) insists instead on spending the night at the St. Valentine’s mass, leading them to squabble right in front of the statue of Santa Lucia, the patron saint of judgmental statues! Meanwhile, Liz (Tina Fey) has finally worked up the nerve to ask out her impossibly handsome (“He looks like a cartoon pilot!”) downstairs neighbor Drew (Jon Hamm), realizing too late that their first date falls on — duh duh DUH ! — Valentine’s Day. Aaaaand the date goes downhill from there. BLERG!

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests ‘Enlightened’ (in Feature Drama.) Now in its second season on HBO, this half hour sort-of comedy series isn’t getting the same press as the uber-buzzworthy (and excellent) ‘Girls’. Maybe it’s the general lack of naked young flesh that’s keeping this show in semi-obscurity, or, you know, the fact that it is almost impossible to describe in a way that will make anyone want to watch it, ever. I mean, I

She's got the crazy face.

She’s got the crazy face.

resisted ‘Enlightened’ for a good long while before finally succumbing, and now it’s appointment viewing for me, so I’ll give it a shot. A vehicle for actress Laura Dern, the show follows her character who, as the show begins, is Amy, a hard-driving, even harder-partying junior executive at a typical corporate multi-whatever who, after a particularly public breakdown at work finds herself attending a holistic rehab facility. While there, Amy wholeheartedly adopts the spiritual awakening philosophy and returns to work, only to find that she’s being phased out of her old job and that, shockingly, her newfound social/environmental/all other ways consciousness doesn’t jibe with the corporate philosophy. Shunted down to the literal and figurative basement of the company, she finds herself little more than a data entry drone, surrounded with the rest of the company’s misfits; the company can’t really fire an employee who’s undergone the recommended treatment, but they sure can bury her in drudgery and humiliation and hope she’ll quit on her own. The thing is- this new Amy is filed with the righteousness that only the truly self-righteous can know and she takes it upon herself to bring her newfound, well, enlightenment to the corporate world- and then probably the world, especially when she accidentally discovers that the company may be up to more than the typical corporate malfeasances that go hand in hand with good ol’ capitalism. There- now you can see that I’ve spent a lot of words trying to convince you to watch this show and that I have failed completely. It sounds like a drag, frankly: maybe it’ll be a bummer of a self-satisfied liberal polemic, or a nasty-headed cringe comedy mocking new agey types. I thought it was going to be one of those, but what I didn’t count on was Mike White, the sneaky genius whose written things like Chuck & Buck, School of Rock, Year of the Dog, and more, and under whose guidance (he writes every episode), ‘Enlightened’ has revealed itself as one of the most multi-layered, surprising, character-based series in a long time. The key to the show (as it was with White’s underrated Year of the Dog) is that it’s entirely possible to be absolutely right in your convictions and yet be absolutely insufferable in your actions. Dern’s Amy, like Molly Shannon’s awakened animal rights activist in Dog, undergoes what to her is a meaningful spiritual awakening that completely takes over her life, and then loses all perspective on the fact that, just because you’ve had an epiphany, you can’t just assume that the rest of the world is going to do everything you say. Now, that may sound a lot like the aforementioned “new age bashing” but ‘Enlightened’ really isn’t that; sure Amy’s newfound obsessions are played for queasy, uncomfortable laughs more often than not, but you get the sense that White thinks her positions are essentially correct. It’s more a show about a fundamentally unhappy woman who exchanges one unhealthy obsession (her career) for another (fixing the entire world) without the leavening wisdom of perspective to prevent her from becoming, well, a monster. Because, in Dern’s hands, a monster is what Amy becomes, her toothy, wide eyed earnestness whooshing past the needs of others and sweeping the unwary along with her on her monomaniacal yet unformed crusade to save the word, largely by destroying the company she’d once lived for. It’s a stunning performance which (like Shannon’s in Dog), plays empathy ping-pong with the viewer as Amy is at once the humiliated underdog out for vindication and a single-minded zealot out to wreak revenge on those who she thinks have wronged her, no matter who her vendetta destroys. (And, as ever, the shocking openness of Dern’s face is absolutely captivating to watch- and terrifying.) The balancing act White and Dern pull off here is fascinating, but that’s just the half of it. The show has a habit of pulling back from Amy’s story unexpectedly to throw an entire episode at one of the minor characters (that’s how she sees them, anyway) in Amy’s life, giving them an entire episode to show what a life in Amy’s fanatical orbit is like. Luke Wilson, who hasn’t been this good since The Royal Tenenbaums, gets one as Amy’s still-addicted ex-husband, and Diane Ladd (Dern’s real mom) gets one as Amy’s put-upon mother who takes Amy back into her quiet retirement (and house). And Mike White himself, who heartbreakingly portrays Tyler, the ghostlike office mole and computer expert who finds himself unable to resist getting sucked into Amy’s quest. (Seriously, his season 2 episode had me in awe-struck tears throughout, when I wasn’t laughing.) So there you go- ‘Enlightened’ is a weird, ambitious, unsettling, funny, heartbreaking, nigh-uncatagorizable series anchored by great writing and a daringly bananas lead performance. I’d watch it, if I were you…

New Releases this week at Videoport: Skyfall (Daniel Craig returns as that guy…what’s his name? Oh yeah- James Bond! You know him- the one with the shooting and the sexing and then the more shooting? That guy…), The Perks of Being A Wallflower (very good reviews for this high school dramedy about an introverted freshman taken under the wing of a pair of seniors; starring Harry Potter’s Emma Watson), ‘Weeds’- season 8 (the THC-tastic adventures of suburban mom turned pot dealer finally come to an end, hopefully freeing up the ever-enchanting Mary Louise Parker to do some more interesting stuff), The Man With the Iron Fists (in what can only be the culmination of his childhood dreams, the RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan writes, directs, and stars in his own insanely-over the top kung fu epic, bringing along Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe), Bully (acclaimed documentary about the rampant problem of school bullying, this one was controversial, asking as it did parents to, maybe, crazily, teach their kids not to be dicks), The Sessions (always-cool character man John Hawkes gets a rare lead [and an Oscar nomination] for playing a real life guy whose desire to lose his virginity was complicated by his near-total body paralysis, and aided by Helen Hunt’s understanding “sex surrogate”), ‘Nurse Jackie’- season 4 (out from under The Sopranos shadow, Edie Falco continues to anchor this dark medical comedy about a no-nonsense, yet pill-popping nurse who won’t take crap from anyone), Silent Hill: Revelation (people just keep going back to the creepiest town on earth in this sequel to the semi-popular horror franchise; just don’t go there!), Robot and Frank (old pro Frank Langella stars in this much-demanded slightly-sci fi drama about a retired cat burglar whose declining health prompts his kids to procure one of those fancy new humanoid robot caretakers they’ve got; rumors about that this one is heartwarming and pretty great), Postcards From the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary (all there in the title, as the author of Fight Club, and a lot of books even more disturbing, gets his own life story film), Goyokin (from the director of Three Outlaw Samurai and Sword of the Beast comes another of his stunningly shot, violent samurai masterpieces)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Skyfall.

VideoReport 1,000,000!

This being VideoReport #391, and each VideoReport being approximately 2,500 words long, this continues the countdown to VideoReport #400 which means the last word of that issue will be VideoReport word #1,000,000 (approximately- just go with it). That’s a million damned words of the staff and customers of the best damned independent video store in the world have spilled talking about their favorite, least favorite, and/or most indifferent movies and TV shows over the years. That’s a lot of pontification, and to commemorate there’s gonna be some sort of contest, or prizes, or something- we haven’t figured it out yet and there’s eight more weeks to do so. Still, who’s got a guess what the 1,000,000th word in VideoReport history is gonna be? (Some guesses: “pants,” “imaginarium,” “sasquatch,” “Walken,” “Whedon,” “Screw Netflix,” “underpants”- who knows? So send in your reviews to the VideoReport, think on that last word, and, yeah, screw Netflix.

Get free money at Videoport! We keep saying this, and I don’t think you guys believe it, or think there’s some catch involved. There isn’t. If you pre-pay $20 on your Videoport account, you get $25 worth of rental credit. And $30 buys you $40 worth. That’s five or ten free bucks (which you were going to spend eventually anyway.) Honestly- I can see no reason not to do this. Free money, people.

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