VideoReport #403

Volume CDIII- Indiana Jones and the Secret Life of Bees

For the Week of 5/7/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. How can you beat that? You can’t, that’s how…

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 Matthew B. suggests War Of The Dead (in Incredibly Strange), saying, “This is probably the best Nazi zombie movie I’ve ever seen!”

>>>Dennis suggests ‘Luther’ (in Mystery/Thriller.) I’ve written before about how depressing it is to see the cast of The Wire (the best show in the history of television) not get the success their talents deserve. Watching the huge cast of that show go from enlivening some of the most well-realized, complex characters in TV history to playing cops, drug dealers, or lawyers on crappy/mediocre series is a bummer (and, yes, I realize that those are the roles they were playing on The Wire, too- but there’s playing a drug dealer on The Wire, and playing one in some show on the USA network.) Oh, and the fact that most of these actors are black is the most iron-clad proof of institutional Hollywood racism I can possibly think of. Anyway, one guy we don’t have to worry about is Idris Elba. After playing arguably The Wire’s most magnetic character, upwardly-mobile drug kingpin Stringer Bell, Elba’s landed some decent movie roles and this BBC cop vehicle for himself. As John Luther, tormented London super-cop, Elba (getting to use his own accent for a change) elevates what could be standard cop show stuff with his very presence. We first see him chasing a monster of a crook and letting the creep fall to his death once he determines that the information the guy’s given him (about the whereabouts of his most recent victim) are true. Clearly the guy’s got some serious issues, but, in the tradition of super-cops everywhere, he’s allowed back on the force, albeit with the standard “you’re on thin ice, Luther!” warnings, and Elba makes the most of his role, imbuing him with a tortured dignity that makes the whole thing exceptionally watchable, even when it occasionally veers into cliche or outright silliness. (Mostly involving the entertainingly bonkers killer played by Ruth Wilson, who has sort of an Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes thing with Luther.) So maybe it’s a little beneath his talents, but at least it’s a chance for Elba to strut his stuff.

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 the films of Ray Harryhausen. With the death last week of this pioneering visual effects master, why not revisit some of the films in which his stop-motion creatures livened up the lives of generations of movies and movie-goers. His meticulously crafted and animated creatures had more life and imagination in their slightest movement than most CGI character can boast from a bloated, big-budgeted three hours of nonsense. Check out:

-Mighty Joe Young (where he apprenticed)

-20 Million Miles to Earth

-The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

-The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

-Mysterious Island

-First Men In The Moon

-The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

-Sinbad and The Eye Of The Tiger

-Clash of the Titans (the 18981 version; rent it alongside the blandly empty new one and see, for all its fancy computer graphics, how much more interesting the original’s effects are)

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 some sweet, sweet Andy Richter (in Comedy.) So Andy Richter has settled back into his role as Conan O’Brien’s sidekick and, while he’s good at it, there was a time when he was thought of as a comic leading man in his own right. Videoport’s got both of his starring vehicles, and they each reveal that that wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. In Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Andy plays, well, Andy- put-upon worker in a faceless corporation who often imagines himself in much more interesting situations as a way of coping with his humdrum life of Andy-ness. It’s a lot like Scrubs (which came along later), with Andy’s flights of fancy visualized as a comic counterpoint to the invariably more ordinary and demeaning facts of everyday life. Andy’s funny, and genial, and the show was a little bit ahead of its time. Not a lot, but still- maybe a week and a half. Then there’s Andy Barker, PI, where Andy, playing Andy, is a mild mannered accountant who, moving into his new office, finds himself approached for assistance by people looking for its previous occupant- a private eye. So Andy, partly out of boredom, and partly because, being Andy, he’s so nice and genial, starts taking on cases. If this one sounds familiar, too, it’s because it predated the very similar Bored to Death. So again, Andy’s was about a month and a half ahead of his time. That sounds about right in summing up Andy Richter’s appeal to me…

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 has a movie theme night suggestion for you. I admit it: I love to have guests over for theme movie nights. (Possibly related: I’m a huge dork.) LOVE IT. So what do you eat when you watch movies about giants? Obviously: tiny food so you and your guests can pretend to be ENORMOUS GIANTS laying waste to the teeny weeny little treats. I’m thinking mini-quiches, stuffed cherry tomatoes, little bitty baked potatoes, a tiny little loaf of homemade bread, the smallest possible cupcakes for dessert, served on saucers with hors d’oeuvre forks and all washed down with splits of champagne or liqueur glasses of juice. Suggested viewing: The Iron Giant and The Princess Bride. Don’t forget to stomp around and roar!

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

>>>Dennis suggests you get yourself a free kids movie! What’s that? You don’t have any kids? Well, then get something for your inner child then, smart guy- it’s free.

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests some Bass! This week, legendary graphic designer Saul Bass would have turned 93. In his honor, I’m going to revisit great movies featuring Bass’ legendary (and often Oscar-winning) title sequences, including the vertiginous gestalt skyscraper of North by Northwest, the splintered text of Psycho, the obsessive spiraling vortex of Vertigo, the stripped-down style of Goodfellas, the ominous physicality of Bunny Lake is Missing, the surreal distortion of Seconds, the scrawled chalked-up walls of West Side Story, and the brassy black & white papercut silhouettes of Anatomy of a Murder.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests a little televisual comfort food with ‘Castle’ (in Drama) and ‘Psych’ (in Comedy.) You know how everyone loves murder mysteries, but not everyone wants CSI-style recreations of blood and semen and whatnot? Well, both of these long-running, utterly pleasant and funny sort-of cop shows deliver a weekly serving of fun whodunnits alongside a clearly-silly central premise which allows for funny hijinx from their effortlessly funny and charming leads. In Castle, it’s all-around awesome guy Nathan Fillion (that’s Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly to you, mister) as Rick Castle, successful and wealthy mystery novelist who, through some connections in the mayor’s office, is allowed to tag along with beautiful, no-nonsense detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) while he secretly bases his new detective character on her. It’s really pretty irresponsible for the NYPD, since Castle is constantly wandering into dangerous crime scenes (he has a bulletproof vest with “writer” emblazoned on it made up special), but his finely honed mystery writer’s insight keeps helping the real cops solve a murder every week, so they let it slide. Of course, Fillion’s the real draw here; effortlessly charming and funny (and soulful when need be), he’s a big kid playing copper and he (and the viewer) has a ball. I thought, and still think, really, that the show’s beneath him, but, well, Firefly’s never coming back, and there are worse gigs. As for Psych, the silliness factor is ramped up even more, with James Roday’s slacker possessing such powers of observation and recall that everyone thinks he’s a psychic. So, alongside his oft-unwilling best friend, the sensible Gus (the indispensable Dule Hill from The West Wing), Shawn Spencer hires himself out to the most credulous police department in the nation (Santa Barbara) as a freelance psychic investigator. Roday’s smarmy self-referential schtick could have gotten old fast, but he’s actually consistently funny, especially in his scenes with the slightly more responsible Gus; there’s no question that these guys have been besties forever, with their comic chemistry often approaching terminal giggles levels. Plus, Psych’s amiable goofiness often extends to some clever and silly tribute/theme episodes which generally pay off nicely. (And hearing Hill exasperatedly say the name “Shawn” is never not funny.) So if you want your TV murders to be breezy, funny, and easily digestible, Castle and Psych go down smooth.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Upstream Color (the new film from Shane Carruth, writer/director of the still-stunning Primer brings us another mind-bending film about things that may not make all the sense; thseriously, this guy is someone you should pay attention to; what’s it about? Just watch it…), Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise stars as a man of action in this thriller based on a series of books about a kick-ass hero who is, um, about a foot taller than Cruise), Safe Haven (a woman with a deep, dark secret heads to picturesque South Carolina and meets a hunky stranger who helps her cope with her deep, dark secret in this newest in the unending series of films adapted from the books of schmaltz-meister Nicholas Sparks [The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, The Notebook]), Mama (cool-guy director Guillermo Del Toro [The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth] produces this horror flick about a pair of young sisters, adopted by a new family, whose survival in the wild may have had something to do with their titular parent who may not, and I’m not spoiling anything here, be totally normal), ‘30 Rock’- season 7 (say goodbye to one of the best sitcoms in TV history with this final season of the backstage antics of Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, Tracy Jordan, and the rest), Hitler’s Children (from the people at Film Movement comes this fascinating documentary about the present-day descendants of infamous Nazis and how they have coped with their unwanted legacy), The Girl (if the Anthony Hopkins Hitchcock left you wanting more of the legendary, and legendarily creepy, director, this second biopic, this time with Toby Jones portraying Hitch as he tries to craft Tippi Hedren into his ideal heroine), To the Arctic (it’s like March of the Penguins, but with huge monsters that could rip you face off when Meryl Streep narrates this stunningly filmed nature documentary about a mama polar bear and her two cubs as they cope with the vicious Arctic winter and the effects of global warming on their habitat), Bunohan: Return To Murder (it’s revenge action, Muay Thai style when a brother returns home to avenge his brother’s death, probably by kick-boxing the bejeezus out of a bunch of dudes), The Oranges (Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Oliver Platt, and Alia Shawkat star in this indie dramedy about two suburban families whose peaceful coexistence is threatened when the daughter of one starts an affair with the father of the other), The Rabbi’s Cat (animated fable about a rabbi’s cat who eats a parrot, learns to speak, and decides to convert to Judaism himself), Superman Unbound (White Collar’s Matt Bomer gives voice to Supes in this animated movie where he and Supergirl have to battle Braniac), Starlet (good-looking indie about the unlikely friendship that grows between a 21 year old aspiring actress and an elderly woman when the actress discovers a stash of money hidden inside something she bought at the old woman’s yard sale), Clandestine Childhood (life’s tough for a kid when your parents are hiding out from the Argentinian government and you can’t tell the girl you’re in love with that your name is not your name and that you might have to flee at any moment), ‘Cake Boss’- season 4 (there’s this guy who makes cakes. He is apparently the royal ruler of said cakes? I have no further information…), ‘Fringe’- season 5 (the often-quite-good sci fi series wraps it up; did they make sense of all the alternate dimensions and doubles and bald dudes and sci fi goop and whatnot? Rent it and find out!)

New Arrivals at Videoport: Kidnapped (the last film from famed Italian horror director Mario Bava, this crime thriller follows a trio of amoral bank robbers whose abduction of three hostages leads to some seriously unsavory shenanigans; includes Bava’s original cut, called Rabid Dogs), Vegan Mashup (local cooking DVD made by local filmmaking legend Betsy Carson), Touch (cool pedigree from writer Elmore Leonard and director Paul Schrader involved in this 1997 dark comedy about a young guy [Skeet Ulrich] who starts getting stigmata; throw in Christopher Walken and I’m sold), Private Resort (why did Videoport bring in the DVD release of this forgotten 1985 teen sex comedy about a pair of horny guys chasing girls at the titular getaway? It was one of the first films of a little fella named Johnny Depp…), Elmo: The Musical (if you ever wanted to hear that high pitched voice shrieking songs at you, this is your time…), Messenger of Death (Bronson! Yup, Charles Bronson’s 1988 action flick features Chuck as a guy whose family is killed and who then learns to accept the inevitability of death and come to inner peace; Oh wait, no he doesn’t- he picks up a shotgun and blows the crap out of the guys who did it. My apologies…), Viva Zapata! (Marlon Brando slaps on a handlebar mustache and some bronzer to portray the legendary Mexican revolutionary in this 1952 biopic),

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Jack Reacher, Safe Haven, Mama, Upstream Color, Monsters, and Videoport now owns every Star Trek movie on Blu Ray, just in time for the new one! Yeah!

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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