VideoReport #419

Volume CDXIX- Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of How Firefly Got Cancelled And Two and a Half Men Is Still on the Air

For the Week of 8/27/13

Videoport offers you a free movie ever, single day. What you choose to rent with it—we’re not here to judge…

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 Rapture-Palooza (in Incredibly Strange.) Starring Portland’s own Anna Kendrick, this is exactly the sort of weirdball high-concept comedy the Incredibly Strange section was invented for. And it’s actually sorta good. Kendrick plays a nice, intelligent young woman whose solid relationship with her boyfriend (Freaks and Geeks’ John Francis Daley) is complicated when the apocalypse hits. That’s the biblical apocalypse, with billions of people called up suddenly to Heaven, leaving a few billion poor dopes to try and get on with lives suddenly complicated by blood rain, plagues of human-faced locusts, flaming rocks from the sky, and some seriously foul-mouthed crows. Oh, and the Antichrist, formerly a small-town politician now the nuke-wielding, unquestioned ruler of the world calling himself The Beast, complete with creepy sexual appetites and a killer wardrobe of bright, primary colors. Things get even worse when Kendrick catches the Beast’s lecherous eye. It’s a droll little setup for an apocalypse, with everyone left on Earth coping with their newfound hellscape with surprising aplomb, at least until they’re ripped apart by zombies, and Kendrick and Daley are funny underplaying in the face of all the seemingly-unnameable horrors. And and The Beast, we’ve got Craig Robinson (The Office, This Is The End) who brings his easy comic charisma to the role of the ultimate evil. He, and the rest of the excellent cast (including Tom Lennon, Rob Corddry, Ana Gasteyer, John Michael Higgins, Ken Jeong, Rob Huebel and more) aren’t always served well by the uneven script, which could use more and better gags, but it’s more than entertaining enough watching these pros invest their characters with comic life. Robinson creates an interesting Antichrist, a crude, hairtrigger evil despot who nonetheless layers his foul deeds and words with a suaveness and charm he doesn’t need but seems to enjoy playing around with. And Kendrick is great, playing straightwoman to Robinson’s lecherous advances and her seemingly horrifying position—she’s developed a genuine deadpan thing that serves the film well. And if the film, as so many high-concept flicks often do, runs out of gas, at least there’s always another funny person ready to pop up around the bend.

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!

>>>Elsa L. Customer sets the record straight. Requiem for a Dream (2000) is Darren Aronofsky’s gritty, twitchy exploration of the desperation and delusions driven by addiction. Rod Serling’s Peabody’s award winning Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) stars Jack Palance as a failing boxer struggling to adjust to a life outside the ring. Requiem (2006) is a German-language dramatization of the real-life tragedy of Anneliese Michel, whose priests performed a grueling and lengthy exorcism upon her, believing her epilepsy to be the signs of possession.

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 Gate Of Hell (in The Criterion Collection.) Videoport continues our love affair with those kooks at Criterion, bringing in this visually-striking 1953 samurai film from director Teinosuke Kinugasa. (Other recent Criterion acquisitions: Marketa Lazarova, I Vitelloni, Babette’s Feast.) The story of a brutish 12th-century samurai who, remaining loyal to his lord during a coup, is granted one wish which cannot be refused. He chooses the hand of one of the lord’s waiting women. Only the woman (whom the samurai had spotted during a daring rescue) is already married, to another government official. Turned down, the samurai simply refuses to take no for an answer, pursuing the poor woman in an escalating series of provocations against her husband, leading to serious civil and personal unrest. It’s an unusually-perceptive film about gender roles in Japanese society from Kinugasa, who was renowned for such things (he started out as a female impersonator on stage and screen.) While the acting and story might not be as sophisticated as something by Akira Kurosawa, Gate Of Hell is pretty stunning in its own right, emphasizing the lavish colors of the court attire and the surrounding countryside, and painting a deft deconstruction of the place of women in Japanese culture.

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 invites you to play “This movie, not that movie!” Set in 1965, Lucky McKee’s The Woods (2006) follows a troubled teen (Agnes Bruckner) to her boarding school, where her classmates begin dropping hints about… the woods. The Wood (1999) stars Omar Epps and Richard T. Jones as longtime friends of a missing groom (Taye Diggs), and the film lays out their memories as they seek him out.

>>>Dennis suggests Upstream Color (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) From Shane Carruth, director of the mind-bendingly great Primer (also in Sci Fi/Fantasy) comes his second feature, a, well, movie, I guess. No, here we go—it’s a movie about…nope. See, Carruth has quickly set himself up as one of the most inventive writer/directors in the sci fi field. Oh hell, in any field. The thing is, if you watch one of his films, and I highly suggest you do, you’re going to have to accept a certain amount of frustration, confusion even. But that’s balanced out by some of the most ingenious plotting and conceptual ideas ever in the sci fi genre. As for Upstream Color, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m loath to spill too much of what it’s about. (I’m spoiler averse.) I will say that, unlike Primer, you may not need a flow chart and a series of online pals to ferret out just what the hell happened by the end. I mean, I sort of did, but then again I’m not very bright. The lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer, who watched it with me, had no such trouble, but anyone who know us, knows she’s the brains of the outfit. I guess what I’m saying is, if you want a mesmerizing, ambitious, visually stunning science fiction film of ideas, then this is your baby…

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

>>>Here—have a free kids movie, no other rental necessary! No, we insist—it’s on us!

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer plays “This movie, not that movie again!” In Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), disillusioned medieval knight Antonious Block (Max von Sydow) returns from the Crusades to find his homeland devastated by the black plague. When he sees Death (Bengt Ekerot) stalking him, Block tries to buy time by challenging Death to a game of chess. The Seventh Sign (1988) stars Demi Moore as a modern Cassandra figure who believes the signs of the Apocalypse have come upon the earth. (Here’s a fun game you can play at home: one of these movies is widely acknowledged as a cinematic classic. Try to guess which one!)

>>>Dennis suggests Repo Man (in Incredibly Strange.) “You know how everybody’s into weirdness right now?”- Miller (Tracey Walter) That could be the defining line of Alex Cox’s 1984 cult comedy “Repo Man.” Of course, there are a lot more candidates for the most memorable line in this eminently quotable flick—most of which I’d get fired for quoting in this fine family newspaper. If I had to pick one, even more representative utterance from the cast of borderline-insane characters therein though, it’d have to go to Harry Dean Stanton’s grizzled repo man Bud, “See, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.” And hilarious, dangerous, ludicrously insane situations, which is what makes this anarchic fan favorite so enduringly popular, and a perfect choice for Bayside’s outdoor film series, where aging film freaks and rookies alike can experience what still remains one of the most delightfully twisted cinematic examinations of American consumerism. And aliens. And shrimp. (That’ll make sense once you watch it.) The tale of a brashly disaffected Los Angeles punker named Otto (Emilio Estevez, perfect in his one memorable performance) who, after storming out of his soulless supermarket job and getting cheated on by his even more blasé punk girlfriend, is unknowingly roped in to a car repossession job by Bud, the world-weariest, booze-bleariest repo man in the world. Reluctantly joining Bud’s equally quirky crew of repossessors, Otto finds himself learning the decidedly dodgy ropes of the repo biz, and running afoul of angry car owners, rival repo men, and the sinister government agents in pursuit of a Chevy Malibu with some decaying aliens in the trunk and a propensity for barbecuing anyone who pops the lid. It’s that sort of movie… However, the plot description, as wacky as it decidedly is, barely conveys the sheer giddy exhilaration that comes with watching “Repo Man.” Director Cox brings a cockeyed Brit’s fresh eyes to 1980s plastic America, where every food product comes in the same generic packaging (setting up the film’s funniest throwaway gag), bored suburban punks clumsily commit unending petty crimes, and Bud’s “repo code” sounds suspiciously similar to Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics, but with more swearing. Oh, and there are aliens. Cox’s sense of humor is both outrageous and deadpan, leading to a gradual aggregation of loopiness that suggests the placid surface of American life is coming apart in a tide of anarchic madness, an experience thrillingly enhanced by the film’s vintage punk rock score (Iggy Pop’s instrumental theme might be the greatest opening song in movie history.) Like Bud says, “A repo man’s always intense.” To which I’ll add, “And ‘Repo Man’ will always be hilarious.”

(Originally printed in Dennis’ Press Herald column. Because he’s lazy. And because no one except the lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer sent in any reviews this week. To avoid this in the future, send your reviews to us at denmn@hotmail.com.)

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests paying close attention before choosing between these. In Black Sheep (2006), New Zealand (which has more sheep than people) is menaced by a deadly experiment that turns harmless sheep into slightly-less-harmless sheep, confirming the worst fears of sheep-phobic protagonist Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton). In Black Sheep (1996), Chris Farley stars as the goof-off brother of a prominent gubernatorial candidate (Tim Matheson), and David Spade is the campaign aide assigned to keep Farley out of the news camera’s spotlight.

>>>Dennis suggests the best new TV shows you’re not watching that you should be watching because you deserve to be happy, dammit. Girls (in Comedy), Rectify (in Feature Drama), Enlightened (in Feature Drama). Just trust me on this one.

teaser-headerNew Releases this week at Videoport: The Walking Dead- season 3 (ZOMBIES!!! I mean, I’m sure there’s more to say about this successful TV program, but I think we all know we’re just here for the ZOMBIES!!!), Sons of Anarchy- season 5 (BIKERS!!! I mean, sure there’s more to this successful TV program, but…well, you get the joke. BIKERS!!!!), The Great Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio reteams with his Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann for another hyper-visual, stylized literary adaptation; it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s turn this time), Elementary- season 1 (hey fans of Sherlock, this American update of the Sherlock Holmes stories is actually pretty darned good, with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu making a surprisingly good team as Holmes and Watson; Benedict Cumberwho?), Pain & Gain (Michael Bay blows some stuff up real good in this action comedy, based on a true story, about a pair of musclehead bodybuilders [Dwayne “don’t ever call me The Rock again” Johnson and Mark “don’t ever call me Marky Mark again” Wahlberg] who run into trouble when they decide to get into the crime business), Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf’s (who wants to watch a documentary about a big store?! The storied history of legendary fashion house Bergdorf Goodman), Kon Tiki (the legendary journey of anthropologist/adventurer Thor Heyerdahl is dramatized in this 2012 film; trying to prove that pre-Colombian people could have crossed from South America to the Polynesian islands, Heyerdahl and his crew set sail across the treacherous ocean on a balsa wood raft; did they make it? Please don’t let the fact that this is based on Heyerdahl’s book about the journey be a spoiler…), A Company Man (darkly comic Korean hitman film about an experienced contract killer who allows his crush on a target’s mother to cloud his judgement), Doctor Who- The Snowmen (Matt Smith’s Doctor goes up against an evil Richard E. Grant and some evil snowmen, and yet it doesn’t come off as ridiculous), NYC Underground (action thriller about four people running for their lives through the New York subway system after a drug deal gone bad), Even The Rain (Gael Garcia Bernal stars in this film about a film crew caught recording the local Bolivian protests against the attempted privatization of their water supply by one of those evil corporations)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Pain and Gain, The Walking Dead- season 3, Sons of Anarchy- season 5, Kon-Tiki

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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