VideoReport #392

Volume CCCXCII- Star Wars: Episode 7- Keeping Up With the Calrissians

For the Week of 2/19/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. There is literally nothing wrong with that.

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!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Armageddon (in Sci Fi/the Criterion Collection section- no, really). In this week overloaded with harrowing astronomical disturbances, [legendary astrophysicist/ pundit/director of the Hayden Planetarium/ “Nova” host/ NASA Distinguished Public Service Award winner/ professional awesome dude] Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted “Was ready to watch the 1998 film Armageddon (in which the laws of physics are optional) but it’s nowhere on Netflix or iTunes.” That’s right, Dr. Tyson, but you can pick up Armageddon (and his second-choice pick for what is rapidly turning into Asteroid Awareness Month, Deep Impact) right here at Videoport, your local independent videostore. The underground location and stocks of candy also make Videoport a handy bunker when the big one hits.

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 Videoport Jones on Facebook!)

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!

>>>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.

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 The Woman (in Horror.) Let me be very, VERY clear: The Woman features brutal, unflinching violence and disturbing — even traumatic and triggering — themes. This is not a film for everyone. It’s hardly for anyone. But it struck a chord in me — hit it so hard and so relentlessly that I spent the second and third act rocking back and forth on the couch trying (and failing) to suppress my cries of second-hand anguish. In the first few minutes of The Woman, we see a feral woman striding surely through the woods, clad in rags and streaked with mud. She is powerful and fierce, commanding even the wolves. Cut to a jolting contrast, a neighborhood barbeque where we meet the Cleek family: mom Belle (Angela Bettis, the riveting star of director Lucky McKee’s May and Sick Girl) with her tight smile and flashing eyes, sulky daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter, Premium Rush), quietly obedient son Brian (Zach Rand), and twinkly little Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen), and the chipper, chirpy, casually controlling dad, Chris (Sean Bridgers, “Deadwood”). It’s inevitable that these two scenes will collide, and also inevitable what will happen when they do: the patriarch captures the wild woman and spends all his free time trying to subdue her. And in this simple, brutal story, Lucky McKee taps into and articulates an anguish and an anger that lurk within me — and maybe within you. The power of The Woman comes from its ability to surprise us even as it plays out the story that we know is coming, the story that we dread. McKee gives that dread its due, never turning from the stark horror of her subjugation. The sexual violence — and of course there is sexual violence, though smug, self-congratulatory Chris takes his time building up to it, telling himself that he’s civilizing his charge, not imprisoning her— is not titillating or stirring, never framed for the audience’s scandalized pleasure. This is rape, plainly presented. It’s stomach-turning. The Woman showcases McKee’s perfect grasp of sexualized horror tropes and reclaims them with flawless ironic aplomb, stirring up fury and horror and grief and empathy instead of fear and perverse thrills*. Some critics complained that The Woman is outrageous, dehumanizing, sickening. And those complaints are right, in a very limited, obtuse way: it is an outrage. Abuse and rape — and even worse, the way our culture conspires to shame victims of abuse and rape — are dehumanizing. The sheer beaming smugness of an abusive patriarch secure in his role is sickening. It’s not the movie that makes them so. This viciously, mercilessly graphic film expresses something I’ve long felt in my heart: that misogynists, and those who support misogyny by standing silently by, aren’t just denying women’s abilities or intelligence or rights: they are denying our very humanity. They are arrogating the mantle of full humanity to themselves and denying it to me and to other women based purely on anatomy. Before the film started, your editor remarked “Angela Bettis is in this! You like her! … but she isn’t The Woman.” Not very many minutes in, I wondered “… isn’t she?” I think she is. I think daughter Peggy is The Woman, as well. I think that — to a certain, all-too-common class of misogynist — I am. Misogynists aren’t just denying us some rights, they are dehumanizing me — and if you’re a woman, they’re dehumanizing you, too. And that’s terrifying. Once a person persuades themselves that you are less than fully human, they can allow themselves to do anything to you. The Woman takes that harrowing truth and plays it out to its most extreme, and by embracing the atrocity of that possibility, it provides a truly powerful catharsis.

*Hey, I’m not knocking perverse thrills. There are a lot of movies and a lot of movie-watchers, and there’s a place for almost everything. But seeing an on-screen rape presented uncomplicatedly as a rape was weirdly, jarringly reassuring to me: a reminder that, despite our culture’s reliance on rape-as-drama or rape-as-redemption or rape-as-plot-catalyst, the actual act is just a brutal, painful act of personal terrorizing.

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

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Faerie Tale Theater. If you think the children’s section (and the weekly Free Friday: a free family/children’s movie, no other rental necessary!) is strictly kids’ stuff, you haven’t checked out the racks over here. There’s plenty of kiddie stuff, sure, but there are also some solid “family-friendly” picks that are even better suited to a grown-up audience. I’m not second-guessing the cataloging of “Faerie Tale Theatre” in the family/kids section. There’s some sound logic to that choice. As the series title proclaims, these are the old familiar fairy tales, presented in all their olde-tymey glory. Shelley Duvall, series creator, host, and exec producer, wasn’t interested in a post-modern re-imagining of fairy tales in contemporary settings. These stories play out in the misty long-ago of legend, set against rough brick cottages or gleaming palace walls, lavish with capes and cloaks and floor-sweeping gowns. Though we now think of fairy tales as children’s fare, they were never intended to be solely the province of children. Faerie Tale Theatre walks a narrow line. Though it never treads into the deepest-dark of fairy-tale gore, its more serious episodes peek into the somber drama of these stories. A whole generation best knows Beauty and the Beast as the Disneyfied romp between bookish Belle and a leonine grouch, but Faerie Tale Theatre‘s rendition dwells on the internal life of these characters and the bond slowly growing between them. Beauty (Susan Sarandon, forbearing and lovely) is torn between her heartbreak at being separated from her beloved father and the impulse to return the kindness shown her by The Beast. Meanwhile, The Beast (Klaus Kinski) suffers the heart-shredding torment of trusting his fate and his life to a precious beauty he imprisons. Kinski’s eyes blaze out of his (heavily masked) face, loading even his silences with the weight of his misery. There’s nothing here that is unsuitable for children, but the slow pace and subtlety of the show (no surprise, from director Roger Vadim) is better suited for adults. And at the very end [SPOILER ALERT FROM THE 1740s, Y’ALL] when The Beast transforms into the prince he once was, those same eyes burn in the jagged face of Klaus Kinski as he asks Beauty “Are you… afraid?” Then he drapes his hand lovingly about her shoulders, his blunt fingers oh-so-casually stroking her slender throat. And for the first time, I am afraid for Beauty. Happily ever after, The End. (Yikes.)

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

>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Sinister (in Horror.) When you’re a horror aficionado, you put up with some big disappointments. The (often-disparaged) horror genre* is a lot of chaff for a little bit of grain, and it takes a lot of sifting to sort it out. That makes it particularly galling when a moderately big budget, big name horror movie takes a clever premise and blows it through shoddy storytelling. Wow, this isn’t turning out to be a rave, huh? But I am recommending it, with reservations. Like so many haunted-whatever movies, Sinister starts on moving day: true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) has relocated his family to a notorious murder home, hoping he’s get the inspiration to jump-start his flagging career. And the house does deliver inspiration — does it ever! But here’s where the movie starts to lose me: Ellison stumbles on an impossibly promising trove of true-crime evidence, a jawdropping windfall of graphic proof that would fill any non-fiction author with euphoria, and he… doesn’t seem excited. He doesn’t safeguard it or take notes on it or tell his wife about it or report it to the authorities or bother his agent with a blissed-out phone call or do a little jig of delight or, really, do anything but sit in the dark and squint at it while he slams back whiskey. I’d love to see this as character-building, as the slackness of a once-disciplined writer fading into liquor-dimmed laziness, but the movie doesn’t really sell it that way. In fact, Ellison’s research habits seem appallingly slapdash and the questions he finally jots down on Post-It notes ring simplistic and overdue. So, why am I recommending this movie? For two reasons: Sinister packs some good scares (and a great many more cheap jump-chord scares) and a backstory that starts out creepy-weird and just gets weirder. And there is something intoxicatingly spooky about the combination of bland suburban architecture shot in moody, smothering darkness. (Even though that darkness is apparently brought to you by the family’s persistent failure to buy light bulbs. Seriously, Ethan Hawke: do you never turn on the light, no matter how badly scared you get or how long you have to prowl around your home in the nighttime? NOT BELIEVABLE, MOVIE.) And horror, like comedy, is a deeply personal taste; what peters out for me may work wonders for you.

*I’d like to point out: when I say the horror genre is awash in dreck, I mean just like every other genre. For every touching, tender romantic comedy, there are countless misogynistic or man-hating or just-plain-vacuous rom-coms; for every excellent, incisive drama, the shelves overflow with maudlin or dreary trudges through melodrama. Every genre has a thin skim of quality films floating above the mass of mediocrity, and down at the bottom is the muck. It’s just that the muck at the bottom of the horror barrel is more susceptible to puritan pillory than other genres’ muck.

>>>For Sunday, VideoReport 1,000,000 is coming!! What will the millionth word be? Start thinkin’ about it, people!

New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Game of Thrones’- season 2 (some of you may have heard of this; the hackin’, slashin’, and fornicatin’ aplenty roars on in this sword and sorcery HBO series about a bunch of leather-wearin’ types warring over a really uncomfortable looking chair), Argo (Ben Affleck continues his second act career resurgence with this, his third quality film as director, an improbably true espionage thriller about a secret plot to save some American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis), Atlas Shrugged, Part 2 (despite its predecessor’s complete critical and financial failure, the second part of this Ayn Rand continues, with all the super-successful, naturally-superior people who are destined to rule over all of us inferiors continuing to be superior, you know- despite the fact that no one’s watching and no one cares…), Sinister (Ethan Hawke stars in this creepy-looking horror flick about a writer who finds a serial killer’s hoard of 8mm snuff tapes…and discovers the killer might still be around), Bestiare (documentary about the life-long relationship between man and animals; no, not like that, you perv- get your mind out of the gutter…), The Factory (did you ever hear of this thriller about a cop trying to save his daughter from a serial killer in Buffalo starring John Cusack and Dexter’s sister? No? Me neither- do you think that’s a good sign?), For Ellen (indie darling Paul Dano [Ruby Sparks] stars in this-surprise!- indie drama about a struggling musician on a journey to fight his estranged wife for custody of the daughter he barely knows; should be a pip!), Hipster (in 1950s Russia a group of rebellious teens attempt to forge a Western identity of American nicknames and jazz all in the face of the repressive Soviet killjoys), North Sea Texas (Dutch coming of age drama about a teenaged boy whose search for love leads him to the boy next door), The Pill (relationship comedy about a dude who, afraid he’s knocked up a one night stand, ends up following his partner around in order to make sure he’s on the pill; should work out fine), Small Apartments (absolutely-bananas cast all team up on this indie comedy about a guy moving into a very weird apartment building: starring Matt Lucas [Little Britain], James Caan, James Marsden, Dolph Lundgren, Johnny Knoxville, Rebel Wilson, Peter Stormare, DJ Qualls, and David Koechner), Undefeated (Videoport’s Regan hates sports, and yet she’s broken down in tears several times over this documentary about a small town football team and the new coach who inspires them; Friday Night Lights fans, I’m looking at you…), ‘Wallander’- season 1!!! (You asked for it, Videoporters, Videoport’s got it- all the rest of the original Swedish detective series about the most bummed out copper in all of Scandinavia), Grassroots (after a journalist loses his job, he reluctantly agrees to help his oddball friend run for Seattle city council), Breakaway (it’s a hockey movie! And Rob Lowe’s in it! Just like Youngblood– which is out of print and no one remembers!), The Life Zone (oooh- fans of bad, right-wing pseudo horror movies, do we have a treat for you! An organization kidnaps single women planning abortions and imprisons them until they’re ready to give birth! This should make literally everyone mad!), Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley and Jude Law get all period costumed-up in this adaptation of the 19th century Tolstoy tragic love story), Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome (missing your Battlestar fix? Well here’s a TV movie about the young pre-Commander Adama and his heroics during the first Cylon war; that should hold you over), Vigilante Vigilante (no, it’s not about Batman fighting Batman; instead, this is documentary about the most famous graffiti artists ever…who probably don’t want to be publicly identified. Whoops…), Hard Romanticker (self-described as a Yakuza version of A Clockwork Orange, so you know- for familes probably…), Lapland Odyssey (ramshackle comedy about the hard luck journey of a bunch of Scandinavian screw-ups), Side By Side (filmmaking documentary about the history and development of digital and chemical film techniques; featuring the likes of David Fincher, David Lynch, Robert Rodriguez, and Martin Scorcese), Teddy Bear (a gentle Danish bodybuilder heads to Thailand in search of love in this quirky dramedy from the Film Movement people), Black’s Game (Icelandic crime thriller about the real-life criminal gang who took over the Reykjavik scene in the 1990s), ‘The Impressionists’ (artsy miniseries about the birth of the artistic movement founded by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Manet)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Argo, Anna Karenina, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, Silent Hill 2: Revelation, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Man With the Iron Fists, The Sessions.

 

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