VideoReport #401

Volume CCCCI- Indiana Jones and the Secret of NIMH

For the Week of 4/23/13

Videoport gives you a free movies every single day. Have for 25 years, in fact. I’m fairly sire that’s…let me do the math…one frillion free movies. Come get one.

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!

>>> Andy suggests the first 45 minutes of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy). Hey, Former Videoporter Stockman! In response to your review of Keeping the Faith in last week’s VideoReport, I want to share that I have also become one of those people that go to the gym! I can also “entertain myself on those stupid pointless machines.” Sometimes. I usually just hop on a treadmill and run until I realize I’m going to be late for work. I pop some earbuds in, listen to music or a podcast, and set the TV set on MSNBC, CNN, or, if I need to run faster and angrier, Fox News. Aaaaaand… exercise! Sometimes, though, I start running and realize that the TV’s remote control is broken, so I’m stuck watching a Ronco infomercial, or, as happened recently, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And I am not a fan of Peter Jackson’s beloved fantasy trilogy, though I do love almost everything else Jackson has directed (Heavenly Creatures is my absolute favorite movie of all time). The Rings movies are just so long and drawn out and the characters are dull, dull, dull. Not even some glimpses of Jackson’s visual flair and occasional exciting action sequences could get me emotionally involved in this tedious film series. So, the other day at the gym, when the TV was stuck on a channel that had just begun showing The Fellowship (with no closed captions!), I was resigned to having a boring run. But, well, here I am recommending the movie in the VideoReport! Why? I found a lot to enjoy! First, I was impressed that Jackson confidently began his trilogy by slowly and patiently introducing his characters in a fun-time-having party setting, with everybody joking around and enjoying each other’s company for a really long time before anything dramatic happens. Can I compare The Lord of the Rings to The Deer Hunter here? Second, I enjoyed just watching the special effects. I usually don’t enjoy this in movies, but Jackson and his WETA buddies seem to be having a good time. It reminded me of those late ‘80s-early ‘90s Robert Zemeckis films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future, and Death Becomes Her. In those movies, Zemeckis was seriously enjoying the magic and trickery of moviemaking. He was telling good stories, while also trying to dazzle his audience, and kind of getting off on the technical side of it, too. Peter Jackson uses his state of the art computer effects, but also optical effects, miniatures, and old-fashioned theatrical effects to create his fantasy world. It seems like more than simply a means to an end; he was enjoying the technical part of the filmmaking process. So, I’d like to thank Planet Fitness and their broken remote controls for helping me appreciate The Lord of the Rings a little bit. Maybe I’ll give the series another try. And maybe I’ll watch it with the sound on!

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 Ronin (in Action.) Remember what Robert DeNiro used to try? Well, he was already sort of coasting by the time this lean, exciting 1998 action thriller came out, but he raised his game on this one. Directed by The Manchurian Candidate’s John Frankenheimer, Ronin is a no-nonsense heist movie, a spy thriller, and has a cool chase scene right in the middle, and DeNiro anchors the whole thing with a terse, deliberately minimalist performance. Throw in Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgard, and Jean Reno, and that’s a solid Tuesday freebie.

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!

>>>Dennis suggests ‘Key & Peele’- season 1 (in Comedy.) The best sketch comedy series since The Kids In The Hall. Yeah, I said it. (I really meant since The Upright Citizen’s Brigade but none of you have watched that, so it wouldn’t have as much impact. Seriously though- this is a great sketch show.)

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 laments: We lost a great musician this week in legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Richie Havens. Treat yourself to a big bite of Havens’ greatness is Ciao, Manhattan, in which he performs his own “To Give All Your Love Away” and “Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing?” as well as Gordon Lightfoot’s “Can’t Make It Anymore.” You can also hear Havens performances in Django Unchained (“Freedom”), I’m Not There (“Tombstone Blues”), and The Pursuit of Happyness (“Morning, Morning”).

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

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests you pair up blockbuster new release The Hobbit with a FREE-ON-FRIDAY Teletubbies episodes. I can’t be the only one who thinks The Shire bears a striking resemblance to the rolling green, perpetually sunny countryside of Teletubbies’ home, right? It’s uncanny, right down to the mound-shaped homes and porthole windows. I kinda love the eerie brightness and preternatural calmness of Teletubbies land. It’s weirdly soothing. (After hearing that, it should surprise precisely no one that I was disappointed to realize Jackson’s The Hobbit was going to feature a bunch of cooked-up epic adventure not original to the book while excising the actual, y’know, cooking and camping and second-breakfasting. Watching the first segment, I realized that I’d cheerfully watch a 90-minute movie of Bilbo puttering around his little hobbit hole, making toast and sipping beer and waxing the woodwork on Wednesdays. Ah, well, that’s what the Teletubbies are for.)

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Looper (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) I look at time travel movies like the end of Chinatown. Frankly, I’m just not smart or invested enough in ferreting out the multiple, brain-scarring paradoxes involved in any time travel story to spend five hours on the internet arguing with people, so I just enjoy the ride and eventually just take comfort from a voice in my head that sounds suspiciously like the guy at the end of Chinatown who walks the confused and stricken Jake Gittes away from the scene, exhorting him to, “Forget it Jake- it’s Chinatown.” There are about a half dozen good time travel stories and a whole lot of nonsense (the good ones: Back to the Future [not the sequels], Timecrimes, Twelve Monkeys, La Jetee, The Terminators 1&2 [only], Time Bandits, Star Trek 4, Star Trek: First Contact, Donnie Darko, Happy Accidents, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Primer [without question the best time travel movie of all time]), but in each case, I simply have to unplug my brain at a certain point and just accept that I won’t understand. (I’d be more worried about this if time travel weren’t just a made up sci fi goof.) As far as Looper goes- I’d toss it into the “good” list, despite some overall silliness, largely because of the ever-interesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Man, this guy’s good. Even swaddled under some convincingly-disconcerting prosthetics as he is here so that it would remain plausible that the fresh-faced JGL would one day turn into the bullet-headed, sour-pussed Bruce Willis. See, in the future the mob has a handle on the understandably-outlawed time travel technology so it can send people to kill people in the future…or something. Again, Chinatown. (Side note: the lovely Ms. Emily S. Customer and I apparently weren’t the only ones who got the giggles when the film was originally advertized with the solemn voice-over “In the future, the mob controls time travel.” She immediately broke into a Michael Palin impression from the mobster Monty Python skit- “Gee, it’s a nice large Hadron Collider you’ve got ‘ere…be a shame if anyfin’ happened to it…” We have fun.) In it, JGLl is sent to kill his older self (Willis) but hesitates, gets clocked, and then it’s a battle of wits between old and young for…some stakes involving a little kid, some gold and silver, and a conspiracy or two: the details didn’t really register too much, frankly (especially concerning the fact that, in the future, 10% of the world has developed telekenetic powers?! Regardless, it’s got some good, mildly mind-bending twists, and JGL and Willis have some fun scenes mocking each other with layers of dramatic irony, and some nicely played action sequences and guest stars. Ultimately though, it’s JGL who carries the thing- I’m not gonna be one of those jerks who claim to have seen the astounding potential of the guy when he was goofing around with French Stewart on Third Rock From The Sun, but it’s undeniable that he’s become one of the most engaging and versatile young actors in the country at this point. Even handicapped with the coarsening Willis-brow here, JGL carries Looper’s action and drama with charismatic ease. He’s worked with director Rian Johnson before in the equally-gimmicky and equally interesting Brick (a goofily-compelling film noir set in a seeming alternate universe where high schoolers all behave as if they’re in a Phillip Marlowe novel), and here again he proves both his versatility and his willingness to throw himself into the most offbeat of premises with utter commitment.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Faith Rewarded (in Sports.) There’s no one but David Ortiz left from the 2004 world champs on the current Red Sox roster. That makes sense, things being what they are (and, you know, since that was nine years ago and all). And sure, things didn’t turn out as we’d hoped at the time for the likes of 2004 Sox heroes like Schilling, Manny, Damon (going to the Yankees the next year? Seriously?), Foulke, Francona, and the rest, none of the depressing realities of free agency, greed, selfishness, and the inevitable decline of all that is good and holy can take away what this season meant to the likes of me. It was a fairy tale, in the truest sense: Having to get by the Yankees, down 3-0 in the ALCS? Inconceivable. Big Papi coming through in two straight extra inning games to keep us alive? I couldn’t have written, or imagined, something so perfect. In this skillfully assembled NESN documentary, it’s all alive, all still pristine and perfect. Nothing can take that away from us. Not even time. Play ball…

New Releases this week at Videoport: Gangster Squad (great cast including Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie, and Nick Nolte star in this hard-hitting, fedora-strewn cop movie about the titular 40s cop gang who beat the bejeezus out of organized crime: looks suspiciously similar to Nolte’s Mulholland Falls in that regard, but whatever…), The Impossible (marrieds Ewan McGregor and Naoimi Watts star in this harrowing real life tale of a family caught unawares by the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; despite the fact that it’s yet another movie where Americans only care about real life disasters if they focus on the whitest victims thereof, it’s supposed to be very good), Promised Land (director Gus Van Sant brings his unpredictable career to bear on this “ripped from the headlines” tale of a big oil company sending an aw-shucks representative [Matt Damon] to convince a small town to sign off on it’s controversial “fracking” plan while aw-shucks environmental crusader (Jon Krasinski) tries to show the locals the dangers involved), A Haunted House (the Wayans Brothers give their signature nuanced, subtle spin on the Paranormal Activity franchise in this horror spoof that I’m sure in no way relies on a single fart joke), The Central Park Five (remember the horrific case of the Central Park jogger who was raped and brutally beaten? And how everyone felt so safe and secure when a group of black teenagers were convicted of “wilding”? Yeah, well they didn’t do it. Ken Burns gets to the bottom of- shocker!- another case of race-biased, media-driven injustice in this documentary), ‘Mr. Selfridge’ (aiming for some of that sweet, sweet Downton Abbey money, the BBC brings you this period historical drama about the titular American entrepreneur who tried to open a lavish early 1900s London department store), Pawn (Shield co-stars Forest Whitaker and Michael Chiklis star in this indie about the intersecting stories that collide in the holdup of an all-night diner), Thale (two crime scene cleaners discover a woman locked in the basement of a remote cabin; oh, did I mention she has a tail? I’m almost sure I did…check the horror section), Any Day Now (Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star as a gay couple in the 70s trying to maintain custody of their beloved adopted son in this indie drama), Happy People: A Year In The Taiga (Werner Herzog returns with another documentary of unlikely people in extreme circumstances: this time about a tiny village of indigenous Siberians living in one of the most desolate places on earth), Family Weekend (a precocious daughter kidnaps her parents [Kristin Chenowith and Matthew Modine] in this comedy to show them how important it is to pay attention to your kids; because, who knows- they might turn out to be a psycho who kidnaps you…), K-11 (a sleazy rich guy [Goran Visnjik] ends up in the titular maximum security lockup after a weekend of binge drinking and drugging, and finds himself having to deal with a ward full of guys with sexual…peculiarities), Wasted On The Young (Australian thriller about a high school party gone terribly wrong, and the computer hacker who looks to enact horrible, sexy revenge), Switch (check Videoport’s documentary section for this one about a guy traveling the world looking into every possible form of alternative energy), Orchestra Of Exiles (inspiringly harrowing documentary about the birth of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra made up of the various brilliant musicians fired across Europe during the rise of the Nazis), Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel (from the title, one might intuit that this is not the most critical documentary about the aged skintrepeneur, but it’s still supposed to be an enthralling portrait of the guy), Late Bloomers (William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini star in this drama about an aging married couple adjusting to retirement), ‘Huff’- season 2 (the second season of this half-entertaining, half-maddening cable series about a troubled shrink [Hank Azaria]), ‘Merlin’- season 5 (the youthful adventures of the legendary wizard of the round table), A Dark Truth (Forest Whitaker stars alongside Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria in this thriller about a former CIA operative and radio talk show host brought in to investigate a company’s shady Central American dealings), ‘Spies of Warsaw’ (former Dr. Who David Tenant stars in this WWII BBC series about, well, you read the title…)

New Arrivals at Videoport: Dinosaur Train (two animated adventures of dinosaurs operating a train? Look in the kids section for the predictably-disastrous results), Tristana (long-awaited DVD release of the classic Luis Bunuel film about young Catherine Deneuve who, seduced by her guardian [Fernando Rey], embarks on a campaign of psychological tortures against him), The Tango Lesson (director/star Sally Potter [Orlando, Yes] crafts this tale of a film director embroiled in an affair with her tango instructor while she’s making a film about a female director having an affair with his tango instructor…)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Gangster Squad, A Haunted House, The Impossible, Pawn, Promised Land, Red Dragon, Late Bloomers, The Ten Commandments, Monster In Paris, The Darjeeling Limited, Ran, Toys In The Attic, Thale, Repo Man

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