VideoReport #423

Volume CDXXIII- Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of How Jim Parsons Won Another Damn Emmy

For the Week of 9/24/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every, single day. If only there were some sort of weekly publication that would tell you all about that. Oh well—we can dream, right?

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 three movies for a week for 7 bucks!

>>> Dennis suggests checking out all the Emmy nominated Drama series at Videoport! What do you know—the Emmys actually got this one right, giving the award to the stellar Breaking Bad (in Drama). But there’s also the likes of Game Of Thrones (1st two season in Sci Fi/Fantasy), Homeland (in Mystery/Thriller), House Of Cards (in Drama), Downton Abbey (Drama), and Mad Men (also Drama.) Get crackin’, people—that’s a lot of very good-to-great TV to catch up on!

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR get three movies for a week for 7 bucks!

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests a “Dexter” and “Psych” double-feature. Y’know, every so often, our household goes on a little “Dexter” binge, blowing through a few episodes of the lurid serial-killer series with gusto and, let’s be honest, some hilarity. But after a “Dexter” spree, I have a hard time returning to our customary viewings of “Psych” with the same cheery delight it usually brings. Once I’ve watched a bunch of flashbacks where Harry Morgan (James Remar) controls and shapes his young son’s instincts with a crafty menace disguised as paternal concern for Dexter’s oh-so-sinister* leanings, suddenly the flashbacks of “Psych”’s Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen) training and molding young Shawn to a freakish degree of keen observation suddenly feels a little… icky.

*GET IT? DEXTER. SINISTER. Super-subtle, writers!

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 three movies for a week for 7 bucks!

>>>Dennis suggests Robot & Frank (in Comedy.) No actor in recent memory has embodied the idea of the inevitable decline of the formidable male than has Frank Langella. Perhaps because he’s so frightening. Forget about his turn as 1979’s Dracula, where he was equal parts scary and sexy (on Angel, David Boreanaz’ century old vampire claims that Langella’s was the only screen vampire he ever believed), just look at his turn as a Dick Chaney-esque presidential adviser in the still-great comedy Dave—the guy just has always had the mien of someone you do not want to mess with. As Langella’s gotten older, his fascinating, severe face and measured cadences have served him well as he’s transitioned into sinister-seeming authority figures (he was the best part of the batsh*t-lunatic The Box), but when pressed into service in more sympathetic roles, the juxtaposition of his still-imposing frame and visage with characters in physical and mental decline has been heartbreakingly affecting. Definitely check out his work in the indie Starting Out In The Evening (in Feature Drama), where his once-esteemed author copes movingly with his fading talents and the attentions of a pretty young graduate student. And, more recently, Robot & Frank, a charmingly slight indie comedy/drama about a former second-story man with fading memory whose son gets him the newest in personal helpers—a shiny plastic robot. (The film is set “in the near future.) It’s the gentlest of sci-fi premises—no spaceships or aliens, with things essentially the same as they are now. Only with a few realistically nifty gadgets, like the unnamed robot whose white plastic frame looks like something Apple should be trotting out in about fifteen years or so. The film is essentially just another in the “cantankerous old coot learns to open up” genre, only with a helpful, polite robot cast in the “outsider who teaches the old coot a few things” role, and, again, the whole sci fi aspect of the film is so almost apologetic that it threatens to evaporate in front of your eyes. What makes the film so enjoyable, even moving, is Langella, of course, his once-notorious Frank a portrait in stubborn pride unwilling to succumb to the inevitable. (Robot’s also a treat, voiced as he is by the ever-compelling Peter Sarsgaard [Kinsey, The Dying Gaul, Year Of The Dog], whose placidly earnest tones prove improbably affecting, too.) As Frank, rattling around his empty old house, gradually adjusts to the robot’s initially unwanted presence, the two begin to form an equally improbable bond that shouldn’t work (since the film is pretty scrupulous about the fact that Robot is not actually human, or sentient beyond its programming), but most assuredly does, in the hands of the two actors. Langella’s work here is a heartbreaking marvel of restraint and playful comedy as he enlists his new comrade in an eccentric caper involving the near-obsolete local library and the pretty older librarian he habitually flirts with (Susan Sarandon, also very good as another aging person being passed by.) There are even a few twists along the way, one of which almost unbearably sad. (And, no, I won’t tell you—again, anyone who uncaringly spoils a movie for someone else should spend a night in the box.) It’s a little movie, to be sure, but Robot & Frank is also, thanks mostly to the great Langella, a worthwhile one. It’ll at least make you want to call your dad.

>>>Dennis suggests checking out all the Emmy nominated comedy series at Videoport! Sure, the wrong show won again (Modern Family? Again? Seriously?) but Videoport’s got you covered, with that show and the other nominees, Veep, The Big Bang Theory, Girls, 30 Rock, and Louie (which should have won, by the way) in the Comedy section. (Louie season 3 hasn’t come out yet unfortunately, since the world hates us, but you should catch up on the first two seasons anyway.) Oh, and by the way—giving another Emmy to that guy from The Big Bang Theory over Louis CK? C’mon…

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR get three movies for a week for 7 bucks!

>>>Videoport customer Doug B. suggests Henry Poole Is Here (in Drama.) I recommend 2008’s little sleeper film Henry Poole is Here, starring Luke Wilson. Henry Poole (Wilson) moves back into his old neighborhood, to a dreary, somewhat rundown nondescript house that he willingly overpays for, shocking his realtor (Cheryl Hines-in a slightly toned down role from her brassy Barbie-dollesque ‘usuals’…see: Suburgatory) and brushing aside her offers to have it cleaned and repainted. Henry keeps the house dark, has very few possessions and has a main diet (observed by the sweet, Coke-bottle glasses-adorned cashier at the local grocery mart) of frozen pizza and various alcohols (mainly Vodka.) Clearly this is not a man who is seeing rainbows and unicorns in his daily joyous life. His favorite piece of furniture seems to be an old, generic Walmart white plastic lawn chair, cleverly set by the director in the middle of Henry’s expansive back lawn, as a metaphor for the smallness of his being amidst the grand scale of everyday life. Henry’s neighbors fill in the supporting framework for his own unfolding story, each with their particular sad history. Esmeralda’s neighborly busybody comings and goings eventually lead to the discovery of a ‘religious sign’ appearing on the side of Henry’s house, much to his dismay and frustration. Her ongoing efforts to share this rare find, and it’s subsequent escalation, blend nicely into the development of his reason for being there and lead us forward into the understanding of his character. To the other side of his house lives a ‘suburban beautiful’ single woman (the always impressive, though never bursting onto the scene, Radha Mitchell, who again turns in a solidly understated performance) and her young daughter who does not speak and records conversations she overhears with her coveted tape player. Rounding out the cast is George Lopez, in a caricature type role of a Hispanic Priest from Esmeralda’s church. The movie is somewhat slowly paced and sneaks up on you, like movie popcorn you really know isn’t that good or fresh but you end up emptying the bucket despite that fact. It’s a sweet story, in the ‘feel good’ genre but not overwhelmingly so or sugary sweet in its progression and climax. It offers subtle laughs and ‘low anxiety’ drama but doesn’t try to oversell itself or attempt to be something it isn’t. There is nothing grandiose about it but Luke Wilson’s performance holds it together and leaves you feeling it was worth roughly two hours of your life.

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests Mad Men (in Drama.) How did our household take the news that the eagerly anticipated final season of “Mad Men” will be broken up, Sopranos-style, into two 7-episode runs airing in spring 2014 and spring 2015? NOT GREAT, BOB.

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

>>>It’s for kids. It’s free. So sue us.

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer has some thoughts about Twin Peaks (in Mystery/Thriller.) I’ve been thinking about Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), the sheriff of Twin Peaks [SPOILERS for “Twin Peaks” Season 1.] Visiting investigator Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI (Kyle MacLachlan) takes to him right away, and it’s easy to see why: Harry’s welcoming and professional, quietly competent and well-respected, but completely without the posturing and rivalry Cooper faces from some local DPs when he steps into the lead on a hot case. Harry’s appeal lies his down-home folksiness, his easy pace and unflappable manner. Even our putative hero, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, sums him up with “Harry, you’re alllll right!” But is he? Is Sheriff Truman all right? Is he a good guy? Is he the boy scout he’s presented as, upright and true? You tell me. He’s no match for Dale Cooper’s lightning-fast wits; indeed, at least twice, Cooper shows Harry a photo and then has to ask “Did you notice [ENORMOUS PIECE OF EVIDENCE] in the background?” (And when I say “enormous,” I mean “enormous.” Once, it was A GREAT BIG TRUCK.) But questionable skills aside, Harry’s credentials are a little suspect. He heads up The Bookhouse Boys, the wholesomest name ever for a secret backwoods vigilante group that stalks, spies, and kidnaps shady characters who can’t be legally detained or investigated. And by the way, a handful of The Bookhouse Boys are still in high school. Because y’know who shows great judgement, especially when they’re completely without legal or moral supervision and freed from all consequences? Teenagers! And Harry might not be a great role model, since he resolves personal conflicts with threats of punching and follows up with actual punching. At least, that’s how he treats Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), the gifted — and specially requested — forensics expert who schleps his way out to Twin Peaks from D.C. to investigate the homecoming queen’s brutal murder and is understandably vexed when he’s not given time to do so. Compounding his iniquity, Harry stands by gratefully while Cooper counters Albert’s formal grievance with private intimidation. Oh, and Harry’s threat? Was accompanied by a homophobic slur. Not too great, Harry.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis gives his smarty-pants picks of who should have won in every Emmy category. —Best Drama Series: Breaking Bad. What do you know, they got one right. Close behind: Mad Men and the un-nominated Rectify (in the Drama section,) and Hannibal (in Mystery/Thriller- out today!)

—Best Comedy Series: Louie. It’s not even close, but worthy runners-up: 30 Rock, Girls, Veep, and the criminally-un-nominated Enlightened (we keep it in the Drama section.)

—Best Miniseries or TV movie: Behind The Candelabra. Hey—they got another one right!

—Best Actor-Comedy: Louis CK. Again, not close, but great stuff also from Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock.

—Best Actress-Comedy: Laura Dern for Enlightened. Tight race in a stunningly-good field of actresses. I’d have been happy with Tina Fey (30 Rock), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), winner Julie Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), or Lena Dunham (Girls) too.

—Best Actor-Drama: Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad. With Jon Hamm (Mad Men) right on his heels. And the un-nominated Aden Young of Rectify a close third. (You should really watch that show).

—Best Actress-Drama: Elizabeth Moss for Mad Men. Just outstanding.

What are your choices? Wanna fight about it? Send ‘em to the VideoReport at denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page Videoport Jones! Fight! Fight! Fight!

New Releases this week at Videoport: Iron Man 3 (Robert Downey Jr. is back, alongside cool guy Don Cheadle and celebrity baddie Ben Kingsley as the Marvel Comics armored super-guy, cracking wise and lasering guys), Modern Family- season 4 (this show won another Emmy the other night, which is, of course, a damn travesty, but it’s still very popular and benignly pleasant, so you guys enjoy… ), Foyle’s War- set 7 (it’s that British mystery series where that guy solves post-WWII murders…in England! Seriously–for a small country, England seems to have as many fiendish murders as we do, at least according to BBC mystery series), Family Guy- volume 11 (this animated show still exists. It remains popular with some people. I have no power to stop either of those things.), Hannibal- season 1 (Hi there—this is the best acted, most frightening horror/thriller series of the year…and it would be just as good if The Silence Of The Lambs never existed. In fact, I’d say it’s better than The Silence Of The Lambs. Yeah, I said it…), Doctor Who- season 7 (Matt Smith is back as the Doctor, alongside a new companion, which means that this might be the end for awesome former companions Amy Pond and Rory; I mean, it’s on the box art…), Redemption (Jason Statham brings his bullet-headed, thuggy charisma to the role of a damaged ex-special forces soldier who assumes another guy’s identity and goes on a vigilante spree in London’s criminal underworld), Room 237 (Are all Stanley Kubrick fans koo-koo conspiracy theorists who think that his film The Shining contains secretly-coded messages about how he helped fake the moon landing? Well, probably not all, but definitely the subjects of this documentary…), The Neighbors- season 1 (typical New Jersey family finds out their new neighbors are wacky aliens! Videoport’s Dennis once reviewed this for the AV Club until the site told him not to anymore; I hear it’s gotten better…), Once Upon A Time- season 2 (second season of that show where fairy tales are real! No, not Grimm—the other show where fairy tales are real…), I Spit On Your Grave 2 (it’s a sequel to a remake of a notoriously reprehensible rape/revenge horror movie—so you know it’s good!), VHS 2 (another installment in the super nasty horror anthology franchise), The Kings Of Summer (good-lookin’ indie drama about a group of friends who decides to spend their summer secretly building a house in the woods; costarring real-life spouses/cool people Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally), Disconnect (Jason Bateman stars in this intriguing looking thriller about various people whose lives intersect dramatically through their dependence on technology; proposed tagline: INTERNET BAD!), Unfinished Song (crowd-pleaser about a contented curmudgeon [Terence Stamp] who’s pried off the couch when his wife [Vanessa Redgrave] introduces him to a local singing group), Something In The Air (director Oliver Assayas [Irma Vep] brings us this coming of age drama about a young couple caught up in the student uprisings if 1968), One Track Heart (documentary, recently seen at SPACE Gallery, about the former folk singer-turned spiritual leader Krishna Das), In The House (from French master of unbearable unease Francois Ozon [Swimming Pool, Under The Sand, 8 Women] comes this tale of the subtly terrifying carnage caused when a percocious student worms his way into a peer’s wealthy household; starring Kristin Scott Thomas), Fill The Void (Israeli drama about a young woman whose dreams for a perfect marriage are threatened by her family’s desire that she wed her late sister’s husband in order to keep her child in the country)

New Arrivals This Week At Videoport: Dora’s Fantastic Gymnastic Adventure (it’s that show…for kids!)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Iron Man 3, Behind The Candelabra, Disconnect.

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