VideoReport #398

Volume CCCXCVIII- I Still Know What You Did In Three Of The Last Four Summers

For the Week of 4/2/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. And all of our movies and TV shows are just here. All the time. Come get some.

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 Retreat (in Mystery/Thriller.) An impossibly attractive couple (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton) have retreated (get it?) to a tourist cabin on a remote British island to try to salvage their marriage after an unnamed tragedy. They settle in, circle warily, and sigh a lot because their relationship is clearly coming to an end. Aaaand then a bloodied young guy (Billy Elliot’s Jamie Bell) in solder’s fatigues collapses at their doorstep and tells them that a terrible plague is sweeping the globe and that they have to hole up and hope they can wait out the pandemic in an isolated cabin without cell phone service. As their visitor awakes and starts acting particularly aggressively and erratically, the couple, trying to cope with their own problems alongside a possibly-insane guy with a gun and, you know, the possible end of all humanity, Murphy and Newton are faced with a series of decisions which seem to make perfect sense at the time but which draw them deeper and deeper into a possible nightmare. Retreat’s a well-acted, queasily plausible British Straw Dogs-style thriller where a couple’s veneer of normalcy and security is shattered when it seems that the rules under which they’ve felt so secure no longer apply. Helped along by three solid central performances and a welcome dearth of any of them acting egregiously stupid in order to make sure the movie doesn’t end after 40 minutes, Retreat is pretty adept at stringing you along and making you as off-balance as its protagonists.

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!

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests ‘The Wire’ (in Mystery/Thriller- rent 3 DVDs for a week for 7 bucks today!) The Wire is arguably the best television show ever produced. It’s also inarguably depressing: David Simon’s morally complex five-season story scathingly portrays the institutional gridlock and entrenched thinking that compounds the many problems facing an impoverished urban cityscape. The show is so riveting, so driven by fascinating personalities, and so intelligently written that it’s impossible to look away, impossible not to be frustrated and disillusioned, and impossible not to see Baltimore’s collapse echoed in too many decaying major cities in the U.S. But let’s salve that despair a bit: not only is change possible, it’s being enacted by institutions and individuals right now. Indeed, some of the actors from The Wire have parlayed that recognition and social capital into social activism or entrepreneurial efforts targeting those disintegrating cities and serving inner-city populations. Sonja Sohn (Det. Kima Greggs) is founder and CEO of ReWired For Change, a non-profit Baltimore organization that provides education, advocacy, and community-building to at-risk children and families, which counts among its founding members The Wire creator David Simon and a dozen cast members. In New york City, Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield) started Moving Mountains, a theater mentoring program for aspiring actors from 12 to 21 (and with a summer camp program for children as young as 6) and a four-time winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Arts & Sciences. In New Orleans, Wendell Pierce (Det. “The Bunk” Moreland) heads the Pontchartrain Park Redevelopment Project, which aims to rebuild the Katrina-ravaged neighborhood with affordable, energy-efficient homes, and he’s opening a local chain of groceries providing wider choices to populations the city’s food deserts — including free rides home for orders over $50, which allows shoppers to stock their pantries without relying on cars or often-unreliable public transit. Watching The Wire can fill you with despair at the desperate state of our institutions… or it can fill you with the drive to do something, anything, whatever you can do to combat that decay.

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!

>>>Videoport customer Andrew J. Curseword suggests House (in the Criterion Collection.) I have many qualms about the Criterion Collection’s measure for selecting reissues. Lena Dunham is in league with Satan and Tiny Furniture has no business getting the praise from Criterion that it did as it got reissued in what seemed like mere hours after its release. In a perfect world, they would spend more time reissuing psychedelic-Japanese-haunted-house-freakouts like Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 horror (for lack of a better term, more like live-action episode of Scooby Doo on LSD) flick HOUSE. A synopsis will never do any justice to the singular and beautiful weirdness of it all, but I will give it the old college try. Some high school girl named Gorgeous is mad at her dad for getting remarried (after mom’s death years prior) behind her back so instead of going with her lame dad on summer vacay, she invites six of her friends to go visit her maternal aunt, who she hasn’t seen in years. All of her friends are cartoonish stereotypes: token smart kid, token fat kid (who isn’t even), token martial arts expert (named Kung Fu, no less). En route, they pick up a kitty on the bus that might actually not just be a cat but also a demon. The girls arrive at the aunt’s house, and this crib is haunted. Seriously, insanely haunted. Some pretty creepy stuff ensues and this movie could be labeled as ‘horror’ I suppose, but the dialogue and direction is so comical and cartoonish at times it feels like I am watching a live-action anime, or maybe a satire of the haunted house genre itself. The camera-work and cinematography is a truly kaleidoscopic treat for the viewer, going from dreamy, washed out shots straight out of a soap-opera dream sequence to hyper-paced action shots to superimposed animation of disembodied human fingers playing the piano, often within the same scene. You will never watch a haunted house flick like HOUSE. And you will wish there were more like it.

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!

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests Howards End, A Room with a View, Remains of the Day (in Drama.) Esteemed screenwriter and Booker-Prize-winning novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died this week, at home, at the age of 85. Though Jhabvala is rarely name-checked when film buffs talk about Merchant Ivory Productions, Merchant himself acknowledged Jhabvala’s equal importance to their endeavors: “Someone once described us as a three-headed god. Maybe they should have called us a three-headed monster!” In addition to winning the Booker Prize and the O Henry Prize for her fiction, Jhabvala was twice awarded the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay (both times for E.M. Forster adaptations) and was nominated a third time for her adaptation of Remains of the Day. (Just between you and me, how did she not win for Remains of the Day? Before seeing the film, I would have described Kazuo Ishiguro’s meandering, meditative, infuriating unreliable narrator as devastating but completely unfilmable; Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s script takes all that deliberation and self-confusion and inactivity and transforms it into something something compellingly watchable and affecting on the screen.)

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests you wish them out into the cornfield! with these a-maize-ing shows and movies: Children of the Corn (Horror); North by Northwest (Suspense/Thriller); Field of Dreams (Drama); Husk (from the After Dark collection, in Horror); The Informant! (Comedy); King Corn (Documentary); and — of course! — “Twilight Zone” episode It’s a Good Life (Sci-Fi).

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

>>>It’s free and you don’t have to rent anything else to get it. What, you don’t like kids?

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Evil Dead (in Horror.) I know there’s a remake coming out this week, and that some of you are being lured in by the fact that Bruce Campbell (star/producer/punching bag of the original) is on board as producer, but let’s not forget that the 1981 original is justifiably regarded as a classic. And completely freaking disgusting. The story behind its creation is justifiably legendary, too: Campbell was high school friends with an equally odd little guy named Sam Raimi. Maybe you’ve heard of him, since since he’s directed the likes of the first three Spider Man movies, Drag Me To Hell, A Simple Plan, The Gift and the two Evil Dead sequels. But back in the day, Bruce and Sam were just two film geeks from Michigan determined to make it in the film business any way they could. So, drawing on their extensive horror movie knowledge and scrappy amateur filmmaking experience, they cobbled together a script and a truly tiny amount of financing and headed to the wilds of Tennessee where they rented a dilapidated cabin and further dilapidated it making a ferociously gory, visually inventive tale of the requisite gang of pretty young friends who accidentally raise an unspeakable evil. One of the most impressive early examples of the truly independent American film boom, The Evil Dead transcends the “local boys done good” patronizing praise, remaining one of the most insanely terrifying, loonily stomach-churning horror movies ever. Sure, its sequel, Evil Dead 2 ups the ante in every way (and adds a heaping helping of black, black humor), but the first installment remains one of the rawest, goopiest, most energetically nasty horror flicks of all time. I hope the new one makes Sam and Bruce a lot of retirement moolah, but as nasty as it looks in the trailers, it’s just not going to match its ancestor.

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests Blow Up (in Incredibly Strange.) Today I learned two things. Thing one: although I’ve read and heard the word meretricious plenty of times, I didn’t actually, um, know what it meant. Thing two: it means “apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity.” Thank you, semi-anonymous internet commenter who used the phrase “Antonioni’s meretricious Blow-Up” to link to Pauline Kael’s review. (I disagree with both Kael and the commenter, but *shrugs* whatever it takes to expand the vocabulary.)

New Releases this week at Videoport: John Dies At The End (instant cult status is conferred upon this newest film from certified cult director Don Coscarelli [Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm] about a pair of slackers pressed into service combatting the no-longer-human victims of a new drug called soy sauce; starring Paul Giamatti and a generous serving of batsh*t insanity), ‘The Killing’- season 2 (everybody was so mad when the first season of this acclaimed thriller series didn’t ID the person who did the titular killing at the end of the first season; so watch season 2- I’m sure they won’t string you along again!), Hemingway & Gellhorn (Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman star as legendary writer Ernest and his wife, a somewhat less legendary war correspondent in this HBO movie about their tumultuous marriage and adventures during the Spanish Civil War), The Baytown Outlaws (after her sleazy ex-husband shoots her and steals her godson, one of those tough-as-nails broads hires a trio of scruff toughies to get the kid back; starring Billy Bob Thornton [as the sleazy guy- shocker], Eva Longoria, and Travis Fimmel [who is very good on that show Vikings, by the way]), Knuckleball (Red Sox legend Tim Wakefield, alongside fellow masters of the most unpredictable and mystical pitch in baseball R.A. Dickey and the Niekro brothers are the subjects of this documentary I am going to watch about ten times), Meet the Fokkens (no, not another Ben Stiller/Robert DeNiro sequel, this is instead a documentary about a pair of still-working 70 year old Dutch prostitute sisters; I am at a loss which of those possible alternatives I find more depressing), White Elephant (acclaimed Argentinian film about two activists priests whose attempts to do good in a Buenos Aires slum are threatened by government interference, and a sexy aid worker), Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt leads a great cast including James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard in this thriller about a hitman sent to knock off two lowlifes whose robbery of a mob-protected card game has thrown the entire underworld into chaos; directed by the guy who did Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford), The Bible’ (miniseries docudrama about,

The ninja angel fight scene from "The Bible". No, I am not kidding...

The ninja angel fight scene from “The Bible”. No, I am not kidding…

you know, the Bible; enormously popular on the History Channel despite being awful and not, you know, about history),

New Arrivals at Videoport this week: Prince Valiant (a young Robert Wagner stars in this epic adaptation of the comic strip about the medieval hero)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: All Good Things, Schindler’s List, Killing Them Softly

VideoReport #1,000,000 is coming!

Two issues to go ‘til #400 of the VideoReport. That’s 400 issues, 2,500 words per issue- holy cats, that’s one million words! Now what does this mean? That Videoport is home to the best customers and staff any video store’s ever had anywhere? That there’s never, ever an end to how much you can write about movies? That Dennis has waaaay too much time on his hands? That the lovely Ms. Emily S. Customer deserves a Nobel Prize? All of the above, probably and more. So keep an eye out for issue #400 in two short weeks. What’s gonna happen? Honestly, we have no idea. Probably something about movies. Almost sure. (If you wanna be part of the VideoReport experience, send your reviews and ideas to denmn@hotmail.com!)

Get free money at Videoport!

Look, we know you love us. And you’re gonna keep spending your hard-earned rental dollars here (and not on some scratched DVDs plunked out from a plastic vending machine in a scabby 7-11 parking lot), so why not get yourself some free money. Yup- prepay $20 on your Videoport account, and we give you $25 worth of rental credit. And if you prepay $30, we give you $40 worth of rental credit. That’s just free money you’re leaving on the table, people.

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