Volume CDXXXVI- Holiday Hangover
For the Week of 12/24/13
Videoport says thank you for another great year from you, our ever-loyal customers. Here—continue to have a free movie from Videoport every single day of 2014!
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 suggests Superman Vs. The Elite (in Animation.) Videoport’s Sam (aka blues legend Samuel James} and have been arguing about the new Man of Steel Superman movie. He liked it much more than I did and while I’ll let you ask Sam to characterize his support for it, I’ll just say—well, a lot. Zack Snyder is not the guardian of my beloved childhood heroes I would ever have chosen (the same thing goes for JJ Abrams, by the way.) Frankly, I don’t think either of them actually care about making a Superman (or for Abrams Star Trek) movie—they want to say what they want to say about sci fi, heroism, morality, etc and are grafting their interpretations (badly) onto stories and characters that already exist—and that don’t fit. And in the case of Superman, I, lifelong comics geek that I am, am especially cheesed off. Offended, even. I mean, I could go on about the casting (Henry Cavill is a dull and un-charismatic Superman), or script (dour, poky, and too dark), but the real problem is that it betrays the essence of the character in favor of presenting yet another “edgy, realistic” portrayal of superheroism. One—Snyder’s already done that when he
transcribed Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel Watchmen to the screen—and he botched it there, too. (What power the film has is almost entirely derived from the source material—or what was left of it.) Two, and more vitally—that is not the Superman we need. And we do need Superman (especially in a world where people like Zack Snyder are allowed free reign to define superheroes for the cinematic universe.) Superman, as dull a character as he is often thought to be (and can be, in the wrong hands), remains the greatest superhero ever created because of his purity of purpose. In a world (either comic or real) where god-awful things happen, the very idea that a godlike being who could rule us all just using his little finger instead chooses not only to help us but to do so adhering to the closest thing a being who can punch through mountains can get to a pacifist code is achingly hopeful. Kal-El, the nigh-omnipotent alien who was raised in the very center of America with the most pure and unassuming of American values (thanks to good ol’ Ma and Pa Kent) chooses, amidst literally any path of action open to someone so powerful, the path of “truth, justice, and the American way.” (Where “the American Way” means the purest, least cynical ideals that phrase has ever meant.) Hokey? Again, in the wrong hands, or even the most complacent. But in the right hands (see: Grant Morrison), his struggle to maintain those ideals in the face of unthinkable horrors and impossible choices can be heartbreakingly moving. We don’t need a dark, brooding Superman who kills the bad guys because what else are you gonna do with them. We need the Superman from this animated adaptation of Joe Kelly’s classic Superman story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, And The American Way” in which Supes, faced with adversaries who decidedly do not restrain themselves from pursuing “justice” no matter who has to get hurt along the way, finds a way to stay true to those principles. Superman, doing good as usual, finds himself running up against a new, self-proclaimed super-team called The Elite, led by the roughneck British telekinetic Manchester Black and his equally violent comrades. Beating Supes to the punch, they take down a supervillain threat with lethal force, horrifying the Man Of Steel, but winning over the fickle public who decide that the world needs heroes who won’t just arrest the bad guys—but exterminate them. Kelly’s story is a brief, eloquent (and thrilling) takedown of the trend towards “dark and edgy” comics heroes. (The Elite are a thinly veiled pastiche of Warren Ellis’ The Authority.) And while Snyder’s Superman movie would no doubt have ended with a “real-world” Superman deciding that The Elite (whose “do what we say or we’ll kill you” philosophy of superheroism makes them Superman’s seemingly unstoppable opposite) has to be killed for the good of the world, Kelly finds another, vastly more clever and provocative way for the Big Blue Boyscout to reaffirm whose way is the truly heroic. I’m all for dark explorations of what the superhero concept can entail (The Authority is actually really good, and Watchmen [the comic] remains the greatest work on the topic.) But I reject utterly the idea that Zack Snyder’s Superman is my Superman. Or Superman at all. Laugh all you want at Ben Affleck’s casting in Syder’s upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie—I’m more upset that someone who does not understand the source material is being allowed to inundate us with his fatal misunderstanding of who the character truly is.
Editor’s note: Sam—fight me!
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 Casablanca (in Classics.) For an underrated reason—it’s hilarious. My favorite forgotten line comes when the evil Major Strasser confronts Bogart’s Rick with the Nazi’s carefully-compiled dossier of all Rick’s past indiscretions, intending to bully him into helping them corral Victor Laszlo. Taking a glance through it, Rick responds casually, “Are my eyes really brown?” Classic, indeed…
>>>Oh, and let’s apply the same standard to trying to entice you to rent Citizen Kane. When young upstart newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane is scolded by his financial advisor: “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.” Solid gold…
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!
>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (in Foreign Language/the Holiday Movies Section.) I only just learned about the historic event known as The Christmas Truce and I was so taken with it that I had to watch the movie based on these events. I’ve fallen into the Podcast vortex like many before me and it’s via Podcast that I’ve learned how the movie is not as inaccurate as most movies based on historical events usually are. Here are the two major challenges one faces with this film. If these challenges are, in your viewing opinion, insurmountable then by all means I respect your decision to forgo this film. However, if like me, you find these challenges to be worth overcoming for the right film, then I think we’ve found a Christmas winner. One, it’s an artsy fartsy foreign film. Which means it’s storytelling is not as transparent as one might be used to so it can get a bit confusing at times. And of course it also means that it has those pesky subtitles at the bottom. However, in the grand scheme of foreign films it’s much more palatable than the average person opposed to foreign films may find it. It’s three intersecting storylines representing Germany, France, and Scotland. So at least 1/3 of it is actually in adorably Scottish broguey English. That’s not so bad, right? Plus, it does have some familiar faces like Diane Kruger that chick who played opposite Nick Cage in the National Treasure movies and Gary Lewis who was the Dad in Billy Elliot. Two, it’s Christmas and war. Which if you’re me is like hearing this movie is about magical happiness and appalling death horror. Or if you’re someone who doesn’t care for Christmas, but finds war movies interesting it’s like hearing this movie is about sickly treacle and fascinating plot. Any way you look at it it’s probably two opposing sentiments that may make it difficult to stomach. Opposing sentiments though do make for a very impactful movie and as you can probably anticipate this one is no exception. It’s about early in World War I when a very limited truce broke out amongst the soldiers for Christmas. Sadly this was still years away from the war actually ending, but nobody anticipated it would continue for that long let alone that it had lasted until the holiday. I choose to find the magic in Christmas every year and despite what is a war torn epilogue to this story it still reinforced to me the beautiful, loving spirit of Christmas.
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 buying yourself some store credit at Videoport. Seriously—if you’re not doing this, um, why not. Here’s the skinny—give us $20 and you get $25 in store credit. Pay $30 and get $40 in store credit. That’s 5 or 10 free bucks in rental credit that you would have spent with us anyway since we’re so super and you love us. The downside? Um, nope. No downside. Free money. That is all.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>> It’s a free kids movie—you know, for kids! Sure you may scowl and grumble and be a Grinch about that, but you haven’t seen how happy it makes kids. What? You don’t like kids? You sicken me…
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests comedy sequels that don’t suck! With Anchorman 2 coming out recently (and which I understand does not suck), it’s time to take a look at the fact that comedy sequels are often the pits. Even though they’re much more rare than sequels in any other genre. Why is that? Glad you asked—the AV Club’s Jesse Hassenger, in a recent article, pointed out the fact that, even when a comedy makes a bazillion dollars, it’s rare to make a sequel. And that when there is one, it’s usually terrible. (Hassenger cites Wayne’s World 2, and Addams Family Values as a few of the only decent ones in recent memory—and they’re not that recent.) Hassenger suggests that successful comedy often relies on the element of surprise, and it’s a good point—the structure of a good comedy revolves around the resolution of a comic or satirical problem. A sequel faces the challenge of somehow reviving the same characters and having them tackle a necessarily similar setup, and often deadly foundation for comedy. Just look at the Hangover movies—the first one, while massively overrated, at least had its unique structure going for it. The second was just the first, ramped up and trying to out-outrageous the original. I bailed after that one, but from what I understand, everyone just seems bored and far too big for the third one—I’ll take everyone’s word for it. For a sequel to work, then, maybe the second film needs to be fundamentally different from the first: Get Him To The Greek simply spun off Rusell Brand’s character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall to his own movie—and I loved it. That being said, This Is 40 did the same thing for the underrated Knocked Up and I wanted to throw Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters head first into their swimming pool during one of their kids’ over-opulent birthday parties. Again, I posit that a comedy, as silly as it might be, has a structure that has to be more satisfyingly wrapped up than, say an action movie. Look at the action comedy Romancing The Stone and its sequel Jewel Of The Nile—the first satisfied its story in every sense by the end. The second seeks to rekindle our enthusiasm (and address the central issue) by having the characters (who literally sailed away into the sunset at the end of the first one) waking up on that selfsame sailboat and realizing they’re disillusioned with what happened after the comedy wrapped up the first time. Then the film underscores exactly why that is, trying to jump start what should have been left alone into a pale, backfiring simulacrum of the first film. So what other comedy sequels don’t suck? Ummm…well, the first Austin Powers sequel certainly does, but I was actually quite charmed by the third, Goldmember. Why? Maybe because it didn’t try to do anything too different from the original and just amped up the loopiness of the formula with inventiveness and inspiring freshness. I suppose the second Naked Gun film at least approached the original for the same reason—it, too, was very formulaic from the beginning, and successfully replicated the formula. (The third ran seriously out of gas.) Hmm…that’s all I’ve got.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Fat City (in Feature Drama.) Videoport got this 1972 boxing drama as soon as it (finally) came out on DVD. Aaaand nobody rents it. Your loss, as this powerful, convincing film is one of the most cynically realistic movie portrayals of the boxing game ever. Directed by John Huston (yes, that John Huston), it stars Stacy Keach as an aging palooka whose one, dim chance at stardom is a slowly but definitely receding memory as he sweats and punches his way down through the lower echelons of the sport. Crossing paths with a shockingly young Jeff Bridges, as a raw, not particularly smart or talented fighter on the way to brain damage, Keach fights for a few bucks, his fading dreams, and maybe his pride, and tries to set the kid straight before Bridges becomes just like him. With great support from Susan Tyrell as Keach’s equally down-and-out sometime ladyfriend, and Cheers’ Coach [Nicholas Colasanto], this time playing a decidedly un-loveable boxing coach whose lack of smarts could spell big trouble for Bridges. Vastly underrated sports movie.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Insidious Chapter 2 (remember that family that totally got haunted in Insidious? Well, they’re still having the bejeezus haunted out of them in this sequel! Can you imagine such a thing? From the director of The Conjuring and…Insidious!), One Direction: This Is Us (those floppy-haired Brits from that boy band that is your tween daughter’s favorite thing in the whole history of the world ever presents themselves to the world in their very own A Hard Day’s Night; I promise this is the only self-aggrandizing piece of corporate propaganda about a middle musical act Videoport got this week…), The Attack (intense Israeli drama about an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv who must cope with the unthinkable when his wife is posthumously accused of having been the suicide bomber responsible for a catastrophic terrorist attack), Katy Perry: Part Of Me (I lied! Here’s another self-aggrandizing piece of corporate propaganda about a middle musical act! This time it’s Katy Perry’s turn! Last one this week, I swear…), The Big C- season 4 (the ever-solid Laura Linney is back in this Showtime series as a woman who, diagnosed with cancer, decides to take that unfortunate fact as an excuse to indulge in her less-polite and responsible proclivities), InAPPropriate Comedy (this sketch comedy show, about a computer tablet loaded up with the world’s most offensive “apps” has some serious similarities to last year’s Movie 42—it’s a sketch flick, it’s got some surprisingly high-profile stars involved [Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez], and it’s been absolutely punched in the face by critics everywhere—enjoy!), Hell Baby (anybody who’s anybody who loves good comedy should be happy about this one; Tom Lennon and Ben Garant [think The State, Reno: 911] write, direct, and star in this horror comedy about a couple moving into a spooky house, getting knocked up with the titular demon spawn, and theoretically helped out by a pair of rude, unorthodox Italian exorcists; also starring funny people like Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan-Michael Key [Key & Peele], David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, and more of their great funny friends), More Than Honey (alarming documentary investigating the fate of the world’s honeybees through an examination of three different bee societies from around the world), Love, Marilyn (HBO documentary gives a truly impressive array of contemporary actresses [like Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Banks, Hope Davis, Lili Taylor, Viola Davis, and Jennifer Ehle] a chance to read the words of Marilyn Monroe from a cache of recently-discovered letters and diaries), Una Noche (drama about a young Cuban man who, after being accused of a crime, finally decides to make his dream of fleeing to America a dangerous, shark-infested, sunburnt reality), Sister (crime drama set in a swanky Swiss ski resort about a young guy convinced that his sister is stealing from the wealthy guests; Gillian Anderson’s in there somewhere…)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray at Videoport: Insidious Chapter 2
What were your favorite/least favorite movies of 2013? We’re collecting lists from staff and customers for the next few issues of the VideoReport, so get listing people! (Send them, and any stray reviews you’ve got kicking around, to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Facebook page Videoport Jones!)