VideoReport #411

Volume CDXI- Sherlock Holmes and the Chamber Of Secrets

For the Week of 7/2/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. We genuinely feel there’s 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!

>>> Videoport customer Jenny suggests a topical double feature— two gun-violence-themed cult films that will spur discussion: Series 7: The Contenders (in Incredibly Strange), and Targets (in Mystery/Thriller.) Series 7: The Contenders is a prescient dark satire of gun culture and reality TV. Writer/director Daniel Minahan (Game of Thrones director) drafted it in 1995, and filmed it in 1999. By its 2001 theatrical release, the film was competing with the second season of Survivor and didn’t find an audience. Series 7 found its fans in home viewing, and is now in the AV Club’s New Cult Canon. Brooke Smith (Silence of the Lambs) is exquisite as heroine Dawn. Hostile, unkempt, pregnant, Dawn is forced to compete in a murder reality show. The satire is that entertainment is above the law. The film does not over-explain the violent premise, we’re just immediately, uncomfortably immersed in it. The film begins with Dawn killing a man in a convenience store, then asking, “Hey, do you have any bean dip?” Yes, this is very, very dark humor, filmed and presented in reality-TV-show format, with promos. Minahan wanted the film to encourage conversations on media exploitation and its representation of violence. Yet the director’s commentary reveals even he is not sure if the film is “about” it, or “of” it. Is he lampooning or participating? Judging by his latest directorial work on the ultra-violent Game of Thrones, Minahan has not yet resolved his conflict.

The second film in our double feature is Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, his only film in the horror genre. I discovered Targets serendipitously: A Maine film director recommended Jason Zinoman’s book Shock Value, a treatise on modern horror films. The book mentions the little-known Targets, so when I spied the DVD at Videoport, I picked it up. It has a review by Andy tucked in the cover, and we share eerily similar tastes. Two recommendations, I’m in! Watch the special features’ introduction first, then the film, to understand its unique structure. You’ll admire it more once you know the constraints. Targets was released in 1968, but its plot happened in real life the day I watched it, almost down to the locale (Santa Monica shooter killed his family at home, then shot at people in cars). The film’s sniper is based on Texan Charles Whitman’s 1965 rampage, down to some direct quotes (“I’m gonna shoot some pigs,”) and actions (how he tucked his slain family into bed, closed the bedroom doors).  Bogdanovich explores the horror of mass shootings, the sniper with no known motive. It’s a very effective thriller, with an odd dual structure that works, juxtaposing old gothic horror and new horror. Gothic horror is represented by Boris Karloff, basically playing himself (“Byron Orlok”) and featuring scenes from Roger Corman’s The Terror with Jack Nicholson. Karloff thinks he’s washed up, needs to retire, holding up a headline: “Youth Kills 6 in Supermarket.”  Modern horror is the all-American bland blond sniper; Bobby chomps on Baby Ruths and drives a white convertible Mustang. The sniper is played by Tim O’Kelly in one of his only film roles, and he is solid. Casual, methodical, and handsome. The banality of the family murder sequence is remarkable. No motivation, no psychology, apart from hints: a photo on the wall infers he was in Vietnam; he and his wife live with his parents in the Valley. He tries to explain to his wife, “I get funny ideas.” She rebuffs him and heads off to work. Bogdanovich hammily plays the director, and apart from some low budget awkwardness, it’s an artful effort. The interiors are all sets with very deliberate art direction and color schemes; warm yellows for Karloff, cold blues & whites for the sniper. The director makes effective use of the killer’s POV, especially the sniper scope. There’s no score, just ambient sound and radio/TV for verisimilitude. Karloff’s final sequence is worth the rental price alone: “Is that what I was afraid of?” Also, a Random Portland connection: Jenny is played by the late Nancy Hsueh; IMDB reveals she died in Portland, and her husband lives here. She’s vibrant and charming in her scenes with Karloff.

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 Searchers (in Classics.) First, I have a confession to make: it’s hard for me to believe, but my immediate reaction (“Hey, he really does walk like that!”) suggests that maybe I’ve never watched a John Wayne movie before. And this was an excellent place to start. Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards (Wayne) returns from a murky absence just in time to avenge an attack on his brothers homestead by a Comanche raiding party. Incensed (and, judging by his affection for his sister-in-law, heartbroken), Ethan devotes himself to seeking his abducted nieces— though it’s unclear at the start whether he expects to rescue them or to execute them. Directed by John Ford (Portland’s own!), The Searchers was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest Western of all time; it was among the first films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”; it’s generally agreed to be among the greatest films of all time. And yey I hardly know what to think: The Searchers is a heady, unsteady mix of heartache, grim drama, and comic relief that is more uneasy camp than real relief. On his obsessive journey, Ethan is accompanied by his adopted nephew Martin, a part-Comanche orphan whom Ethan rescued years ago and whom Martin scorns as “a half-breed.” Even as Martin stands in for the audience in his desire to protect his sisters from Ethan’s wrath, his presence reveals Ethan’s entrenched racism and callousness, maybe even madness. As a whole, The Searchers gives me mood whiplash, swinging from comic to tragic and back, as if some mad editor spliced together a great revenge tragedy with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers… and that admixture may be the key to its acclaim. (Watching it for the first time, I recognize moments that I’ve seen referenced everywhere from Inglourious Basterds to Twin Peaks to Taxi Driver; our greatest directors have appropriated and paid homage to The Searchers for three generations and counting.) Perhaps the very uneasiness of the blend gives The Searchers its power, never letting us relax into comfortable judgment of Ethan’s hate or sorrow for the predicament in which his nieces’ fates balance.

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!

>>> April suggests Small Apartments (in Incredibly Strange.) But only if you’re like me and love weird, slow-moving dark comedies where nothing much happens. Matt Lucas (Little Britain) lives in a run-down apartment in LA, spending his daus in his underpants drinking Moxie*. His only joys are Switzerland and the packages his brother (James Marsden) sends him from an institution. His landlord is dead on his floor, his teenage neighbor is a wannabe stripper, and Billy Crystal shows up. Also with Amanda Plummer and Rebel Wilson for two minutes.

*And, of course, Videoport carries Moxie in the cooler. God help us all…

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!

>>> Dennis suggests All Through The Night (in Classics). This 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie is only available on VHS. Which makes sense, as it is one of the most adorably hokey gangster flicks around. Seriously, if it were only available on a series of serialized Saturday Evening Post issues, that would make even more sense. What makes it so adorable? Well, it’s got Bogart as Gloves Donahue, the natty leader of a gang of bookies and gangster types with names like Starchy and Sunshine. He’s got a meddling, overbearing mom and loooves his favorite cheesecake made by an adorable German baker. When said baker is rubbed out, Bogie and the gang find out that there’s a secret New York underground of those filthy Nazzys! All Through The Night is one of those American films which took a stand against the Nazis before America decided that this Hitler fella was not our sorta guy officially—it’s worth a term paper for some enterprising film geek to seek out all the movies of the period that took a stand in advance of our official entry into WWII, by the way. Throughout, Bogart and the guys are constantly learning about the depths of Nazi dastardliness, especially when he meets a pretty dame whose father is imprisoned in some place which Bogart has to spell out as “D-A-C-H-A-U.” It’s all broader and sillier than you’d expect from a Bogart movie of the period (and, directed by the pedestrian Vincent Sherman, more than a little poky), but there’s fun to be had, as he’s surrounded by familiar, beloved character actors like William Demarest, Phil Silvers, Barton MacLane, a shockingly young Jackie Gleason, and, as those pesky Nazzys, all stars Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre. (Veidt even has a pet dachshund!) Added bonus—the final big showdown takes place on what, even for the 40s, is one of the most endearingly chintzy model boat sets in movie history. Like I said—adorable!

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

>>>You can just come in and get a free movie from the kids section–no other rental necessary. Because of loving the kids.

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

>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests Love Actually (in Comedy.) My 2nd best friend ‘Chelles and Cheese was shocked when I liked Love Actually because she believes me to be full of “piss ‘n’ vinegar.” But I do really love Love Actually. For plenty of reasons, but one is that it’s rated R. It contains nudity and some salty language. I like my romantic comedy dramas to have some semblance of actual adult lives. Not all! French Kiss is rated PG-13 and it’s f***ing delightful. But the rom-com market is flooded with PG-13 movies about adults but made for the rabid teenage girl who might go back and see it two or three times. Now ladies

Nina- "It's like his d**k is talking to me." Josie- "What'd it say?"

Nina- “It’s like his d**k is talking to me.”
Josie- “What’d it say?”

(and maybe three guys), this brings me to my request that you give the film Love Jones (in Feature Drama) a try. I’ve been trying fruitlessly to save this film from the sh*tcanned list. It’s sexy! It’s smart! It’s romantic! It as a very attractive cast including Nia Long (Soul Food), Larenz Tate (Menace II Society), Lisa Nicole Carson (the sassy roommate from Ally McBeal), and Bill Bellamy (so cute!) Now, unlike watching a Kate Hudson movie, which is as riveting as watching margarine spread on toast, you might feel something. So take a chance. It’s at least five times better than Bride Wars or Raising Helen or The Wedding Planner or Something Borrowed or Failure To Launch or Runaway Bride or One Day or any Gwynneth Paltrow movie (with the exception of The Royal Tenenbaums and Seven).

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests Murder, My Sweet (in Mystery/Thriller.) I admit, it’s hard for me to buy anyone but Bogart as Philip Marlowe, and I was especially skeptical that Dick Powell, a sunny-faced song-and-dance man who made his name in musicals like 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933, could discharge his duty as Raymond Chandler’s wry, hardboiled private eye. I thought he’d come off a palooka, a chump, a rube who’d take the hits that shoulda gone to the casting directors and producers, then bounce and take a powder — maybe just from the Marlowe job, maybe slink away from the whole Hollywood scene. But I’m gonna lay it down straight, kitten: Powell pulls it off and leaves us with nothing to kick about. He’s the business, kid, the real deal. He plays Marlowe with a cheerful quick wit and a breezy ease, but sharp as a drawer full of razors. He’s a right guy.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The House I Live In (terrifyingly eye-opening documentary about the millions of victims of the dimwitted “war on drugs” which has done nothing but make drugs cheaper and more available than ever while incarcerating millions of people and decimating poor communities), 6 Souls (overqualified Julianne Moore stars in this thriller about a widowed psychologist treating a guy with multiple personalities [Jonathan Rhys Meyers] who seems to be able to commune with the dead), 56 Up (director Michael Apted continues his lifelong documentary epic of checking in with the same group of Brits every seven years since they were seven; find all the Up series in Videoport’s documentary section), The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (acclaimed documentary about the late Romanian dictator), Durham County- season 1 (check Videoport’s Mystery/Thriller section for this Canadian thriller series about a cop whose absolutely convinced that there’s a serial killer living right across the street!!), Into The White (Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint stars in this WWII action drama about a group of Allied and German fighter pilots forced to cooperate to survive a brutal Scandinavian winter when they shoot each other down)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: I Vitelloni (new to Videoport’s recently-expanded Criterion Collection section comes this early autobiographical film from Federico Felinni about a group of young Italian men on the cusp of adulthood in a small Italian village; Martin Scorcese, in his excellent documentary My Voyage To Italy, calls this one of the most influential films of his career)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray at Videoport this week: Upside Down, The Call, No, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Godfather III, Barry Lyndon, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Get yourself some free money at Videoport! As if you needed another reason to rent here, Videoport has these deals which just plain give you free money. Check it out: pay 20 bucks up front on your rental account, and we turn that into 25 dollars worth of rental credit. Do the same thing but with 30 dollars, and we give you 40 dollars worth of store credit. That’s either five or ten free bucks, which you were going to spend here anyway eventually. So why wouldn’t you go for this deal? Um–you hate deals maybe? I’m not your psychiatrist…

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Published in: on July 3, 2013 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

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