VideoReport #432

Volume CDXXXII- A Videoport Thanksgiving

For the Week of 11/26/13

Videoport says thanks to all of you who’ve stuck with us through all these years. We truly appreciate you and are thankful that Videoport is still your place for movies. Now here—have a free rental every day.

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, 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 gives you one of the things he’s most thankful for this year—TV shows that were way, way better than he thought they’d be. I watch a lot of TV (take that, mom!) I also deliberately do not watch a lot of TV. Life’s too short for me to ironically watch crappy television these days, so I get pretty selective. But every once in a while, some whim, or luck, or actual paying assignment tricks me into tuning in to some show that I otherwise might have passed over. And while most, like most TV, suck, occasionally I accidentally discover a genuine gem. In 2013, I really had no intention of watching the History Channel’s “first scripted series,” but I ended up thinking that Vikings (in Action, duh) was the most pleasant surprise of the year. Lean, mean, and briskly-paced, the series accomplishes one of the most impressive feats of any period fiction—it convincingly crafts a world that is recognizably other. Lead Travis Fimmel (as Ragnar!) also walks that delicate line—as our protagonist, he’s necessarily the smartest and the ballsiest Viking around, but he’s also a Viking. Which means that his actions and reactions, along with the rest of the characters, conform to the rules of the time and culture in which he lives. There’s good and evil as we see it, and there’s good and evil as the Vikings of Vikings see it—and the interplay between our expectations and the show’s convincing otherness creates a thrilling undercurrent of danger and unpredictability to all the undeniably cool Viking violence! Added to those kooky Norsemen, I’ll give my second Thanksgiving thanks to Orphan Black (in Mystery/Thriller.) A sorta cheap-looking Canadian show airing on BBC America, I only watched it because some twitter-pals started freaking out over it—thanks, twitter-pals! Because the show is consistently exciting and twisty and features easily one of the best performances of 2013 (TV or otherwise) from someone named, delightfully, Tatiana Maslany. (She’s Tom Haverford’s new love interest on Parks and Recreation at the moment.) And here’s the thing—I’m not gonna tell you much about the show because, unlike the show’s own ads (and loose-lipped jerks who don’t understand they make the world a worse place by blabbing our the secrets of a good TV show), I’m not going to rob you of the pleasures of discovering the show for yourself. I will say it’s got some sci fi, some thriller, some drama DNA mixed in—and that Maslany will know your socks right off. Bring extra socks. And third, let’s give it up for Rectify (in Feature Drama), which is my pick for the fourth best TV series of 2013. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. It aired on AMC and, no one watched it (although it will return in 2014 for another season!) The story of a guy imprisoned on death row since he was 17 who gets released due to DNA evidence. Returning to his small Georgia town while the authorities decide whether to retry him, Daniel Holden (played by the astounding Aden Young) attempts to reconnect with his family, and the way the world has changed in 19 years. Young’s Holden is watchful, thoughtful, and preternaturally still—as is the show. Critics (like me!) have called it “Terrence Malick-esque” and I’ll agree (with me!) From what some other series might have turned into an overheated mystery melodrama, Rectify turns Holden’s journey as a mesmerizing, meditative, and visually stunning exercise in existential storytelling. And while that might explain why no one watched the show, it also makes it the sort of brilliant, unexpected TV for which I’m always very thankful.

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 Don McLeod, world’s foremost gorilla actor! After replacing an actual gorilla in the soon-to-be-famous American Tourister suitcase commercials in 1980, Don McLeod had a calling: to become the world’s leading gorilla actor. And he has: dubbed “world’s foremost gorilla actor” by People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, McLeod has played gorillas in print and television ads, in TV series, and more. As a master of mime, movement, and Butoh dance, McLeod studied with Marcel Marceau, performed for President Carter, was chosen as a resident Living Statue/mime performer for the World’s Fair, and toured with Diana Ross’s world tour. (His listing at livingstatue.com also declares his work as primate-movement coach on big-budget projects like King Kong and Planet of the Apes, but fails to specify which versions; IMDb doesn’t back up these claims with credits.) You can check out his gorilla film work, too! He appears in Trading Places (as the gorilla), in The Man with Two Brains (as the gorilla and as Dr. Schlermie Beckerman), in Born to be Wild (as the gorilla), and in The Howling (as, anti-climactically, a dude in a fur vest who – spoiler alert – is prob’ly gonna turn out to be a werewolf and not, say, a weregorilla, though I think it’s a safe bet McLeod pitched that idea, and I would pay good money to watch it).

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 continues his parade of thanks with the show that’s a total mess but is still reliably funny every time! Yup, it’s The Mindy Project (in Comedy). This show’s a mess. Recasting, dropping and bringing in new characters seemingly on a weekly basis, introducing a theme in the pilot only to forget about it immediately. This show’s a mess. But I still watch it (now in its second season) every week, and I laugh out loud several times an episode, reliably. That’s as much as you can ask from a sitcom, and this one, a vehicle for former Office costar/writer Mindy Kaling, is the perfect encapsulation of her comic voice—scattered, goofy, and delightfully silly.

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 being thankful for Videoport. We’re still the best damned video store in the world. Locally-owned, staffed with friendly helpful, knowledgeable movie nerds, and stocking everything you could ever want. Tell your friends.

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

>>> Today in Guided by Internet Memes!, Emily S. Customer suggests you take advantage of Free Family Friday to rent Cars BECAUSE RACECAR.

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (in Documentary Arts.) “To me, Big Star is like something that got posted in 1971 but didn’t arrive until 1985—like something that got lost in the mail.” That quote, from perennial cult rocker Robyn Hitchcock, perfectly sums up the enduring legacy of semi-legendary 1970s Memphis rock band Big Star, whose brief, three-album career is depicted in “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. The documentary chronicles the hard-luck tale of perhaps the quintessential cult band, a critical darling who never broke through but whose fans (apart from that guy who always corners you at parties) include the likes of R.E.M., The Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, The Flaming Lips, Cheap Trick, and of course The Replacements, whose rocking ode to the Big Star frontman “Alex Chilton” proclaims, “Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round/ They sing ‘I’m in love. What’s that song?/ I’m in love with that song’.” But who were Big Star? Springing up amongst the Memphis music boom in the mid 60’s, Big Star was the brainchild of high schooler Chris Bell who quickly gathered bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens and then reeled in Memphis native Chilton who, as the precocious 16 year old singer for the Box Tops already had a four million-selling single under his belt (“The Letter.”) Recording at Memphis mainstay Ardent Records, the group proved adept at creating a layered sound which, as Hitchcock states, does feel ahead of its time. Coupled with Chilton’s plaintively evocative voice, Bell’s gift for production, and an almost preternatural gift for irresistible choruses (just try to resist the hooks in the likes of “September Gurls,” “Watch The Sunrise,” and “The Ballad Of El Goodo”), Big Star’s sound is an arresting blend of exuberant sadness. So what went wrong? The film seems less than certain about that too, with former band members, critics, and famous fans all extolling the band’s innovative sound while at the same time theorizing that the music’s very ambitiousness may have been the root of its lack of popular success. As one critic explains about Big Star’s second record “Radio City,” “This was not a record that revealed itself fast.” Along the way, the band was beset with some bad luck (Stax Records went bankrupt, leaving that second album mouldering in a warehouse), and some internal strife, with the sensitive Bell spiraling into depression at the band’s commercial failure the fact that Chilton began to overshadow him. Add to that both Chilton and Bell’s increasingly idiosyncratic artistic ambitions (and some good ol’ drug and alcohol issues), and Big Star’s journey to oblivion seems, in the film, all but inevitable. And while the filmmaking aspect of “Nothing Can Hurt Me” isn’t particularly novel (pan ‘em, zoom ‘em, color ‘em, and re-jigger ‘em all you want, but looking at period photographs is never going to be arresting cinema), the film does successfully convey both the inherent sadness that such an ambitious and talented band never hit the big time, and the perhaps pyrrhic victory that the band is so well regarded to this day. (Big Star’s only three records were all included in Rolling Stone’s list of the best 500 albums of all time.)

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests a Mad Men Thanksgiving! The 6th season of “Mad Men” is newly available on DVD! Are you renting or buying? Either way, Videoport has your back with a free rental: with each DVD or Blu-Ray purchase, you get a free rental added to your account; with each full-priced rental, including brand-new shows, you can pick out an older favorite free! For this festive week, I recommend “Mad Men” Thanksgiving episodes, which will mostly have you giving thanks that you don’t have to share the holiday table with these folks. (There’s nothing like good ol’ midcentury repression to put your own family squabbles into perspective.) In S1 finale “The Wheel” (S1, disc 4), Don uses his recent partnership at SCDP – and an unexpectedly heavy workload courting Kodak – as an excuse to duck out on Betty’s family Thanksgiving, while Peggy has a, um, unexpectedly heavy workload of her own to contend with. In the S4 premiere “Public Relations” (S4, disc 1), Thanksgiving 1964 is all about ham: Peggy and Pete scheme to win over the fickle clients at Sugarberry Ham, while Don fails to ham it up for a crucial Advertising Age interview. “Dark Shadows” (S5, disc 3) finds Betty – newly enrolled in Weight Watchers – trying to find some other indulgence and, not surprisingly, she finds it in making trouble for Don with little concern for collateral damage to their children. In the office, both Peggy and Don find themselves eclipsed by their new copywriter’s moment in the spotlight. At home, Megan scoffs at a friend’s audition scene and gets fed some cold facts about her own easy circumstances by an actress friend who’s scrambling to make rent. A record-setting toxic smog blankets New York, just in time for Thanksgiving.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Breaking Bad- The Final Season (One of the best TV shows of all time? One of the best TV shows of all time…), Red 2 (Bruce Willis reassembles his team of suspiciously not-dead-yet operatives like Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins to do suspiciously athletic assassin-type things in this action sequel which, I’m just guessing, had a veritable army of stunt-people), Jobs (Ashton Kutcher stars as the Apple computers founder in a biopic starring the least-likely person you can think of…), Getaway (Ethan Hawke stars as a former race car driver forced to perform a series of time-dependent challenges in order to ave his kidnapped wife for some reason; essentially, it’s video game side mission: the movie! Plus, he’s stuck ferrying around some Disney starlet for some reason…), Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (maybe you saw this excellent documentary about the unsuccessful, yet influential, 70s rock band at Space Gallery last month; if not, well, now’s your lucky day—see Saturday’s recycled review!), The Canyons (talk to Videoport’s Andy about this super-sleazy trainwreck of a movie; it stars human trainwreck Lindsay Lohan and human penis/pornstar James Deen and was written by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis and directed by acclaimed/crazy screenwriter Paul Shrader [Raging Bull]; seriously, ask Andy…), Animals (oddball coming of age story about a 17 year old guy whose entry into sexual maturity is complicated by his longtime imaginary best friend—a talking teddy bear named Deerhoof; think of it as an indie Ted, if that helps you…), Goats (David Duchovny stars is a bearded, semi-wise goatherd who’s mentorship of a teenaged guy comes to an end when the kid [meaning human, not goat] heads off to college), IP Man 4 (more stellar martial arts action about the legendary martial arts guy—who does martial arts!), Poirot—season 10 (more delightful murder starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie’s punctilious Belgian sleuth).

New Arrivals at Videoport: Red 2, We’re The Millers, Getaway, Jobs.

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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