Volume CDXLIII- 2014: The Year People Realize Netflix And RedBox Are The Snooki And Jwoww Of World Culture
For the Week of 2/11/14
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. You know that really bad day where you could really use a free extra movie to cheer you up? Yeah—we’ll be here for you.
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 RoboCop (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Now that the new, shiny, probably really unnecessary remake will debut to middling business, why not revisit the original, a hyper-violent, slyly satirical sci fi action bloodbath from director Paul Verhoeven (who also slipped some seriously subversive satire of right wing, militaristic culture in Starship Troopers). While the new film apparently takes similar aim at the whole armored drone thing, the original, in which an evil corporation resurrects dead Detroit copper Peter Weller and turns him into the half-machine titular peacekeeper was more of a scattershot broadside against every excess of the 1980s. And it was frighteningly prescient, lobbing satire grenades against vapid, conservative TV news (in the years before Fox News), private security firms and prisons (read the news), and generally the entire 80s violent movie culture. Weller’s just right, using his classical movement training to imbue the actions of the at-first impassive RoboCop with an affecting pathos. Ronny Cox makes a super-slimy corporate villain, 70s=80s stalwart Nacy Allen brought some spunk to the role of RoboCop’s parter, Miguel Ferrer is the quintessential 80s executive d-bag, and on and on. And the once-shocking violence is, well, still pretty shocking (the goopy death of henchman Paul McCrane is the stuff delighted audience squeals of disgust are made of.) Violent, sly, and much smarter than its given credit for—RoboCop.
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 Beat The Devil (in Classics.) For several reasons. First of all, this is a really fun movie, with people like Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre, and Robert Morley all scheming and smooching and overacting as a mismatched rabble of world travelers vying for a big treasure and so forth. It’s fun, and entertaining and very weird, which makes sense, since: Two—legendary director and rapscallion John Huston (who directed Bogart and Lorre in the superlative The Maltese Falcon) decided to basically treat the whole enterprise as something of a goof—and didn’t really tell Bogart. Huston hired young novelist Truman Capote to rewrite the script with him and they turned this tale of high-seas heist-ery into a sly satire of big budget caper movies. Again, without telling too many people what they were up to. So, in the same scene, you might see a half dozen people, two of whom are playing it straight, two of whom are playing it big as parody, and two caught in the middle trying to keep up. Plus, for trivia fans, Bogart was out of commission for a while after a serious car accident which cost him a few teeth, and Huston brought in a young British actor to dub some of Bogey’s lines. They’re still in there—dubbed by Peter Sellers. A loopy nutball of a movie!
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 saying goodbye to the great Danish director Gabriel Axel who died this week with a rental of his Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast (in the Criterion Collection.) It’s about a young servant woman who uses her unexpected good financial fortune to prepare a sumptuous banquet for the people of the small, severe Danish village where she’s toiled for years. Everyone loves this movie.
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 The Crash Reel (in Nonfiction/Sports.) For me, the true test of a documentary is how much it makes me care about a subject I previously cared nothing about. Recent films that have passed the test: “Blackfish” (orcas in captivity), “Bending Steel” (self made strongman), “Drew: The Man Behind The Posters” (guy who created cool hand-drawn movie posters). And now the new documentary “The Crash Reel” (snowboarders). “The Crash Reel” centers on Kevin Pearce, a snowboarding prodigy who rose to the heights of the sport, vying for a 2010 Olympic berth while dueling with, and actually surpassing eventual gold medalist Shaun White (currently ripping it up at the Sochi games). While still a teenager, Pearce went pro, scored countless endorsements, and started besting White in competitions around the world. And then he fell. In footage, the fall, after missing a training move on a 22-foot half pipe, doesn’t look especially dramatic. We’ve all certainly seen worse, thanks to Youtube and the ubiquitous “crash reels” that come out of extreme sports competitions like the X Games. But Pearce landed squarely on his face, was choppered to a hospital, and diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury which left him comatose, then facing months of intensive rehabilitation. The film, from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker (“Devil’s Playground,” “Blindside”) follows Pearce, and his close-knit family, as Kevin slowly recovers and contemplates a comeback. So far so by-the-numbers for a sports documentary, except that as “The Crash Reel” progresses, it becomes less the expected “athlete overcomes obstacles” tale and more about both the way “extreme sports” are simply a poorly-regulated tragedy waiting to happen, and how Kevin Pearce learns, with his family’s help, that all those macho jock platitudes serve to distract young, invincible-feeling athletes from the fact that youth, and health, are very fragile commodities indeed. As an avid non-skier/snowboarder/risker of personal well being by showing off, I admit to feeling a little worn out by the beginning of the film, a typical montage of best buds bro-ing out on the slopes and saying “dude” a lot. But Walker’s approach serves a purpose, showing the beginning of a breezy, feel-good ski film before yanking the board out from under the viewer once the lively, graceful Kevin goes down and his toothy, cocky grin becomes the glassy, terrified stare of a young man suddenly unable to think clearly or move his limbs. As Kevin’s rehab progresses, we see him try to reassert his formerly world-class physicality with heartbreaking results, and witness how his dogged determination to return to pro snowboarding (and the physical and mental limitations resulting from his injury) try the understanding of his warm, supportive family (including his Down’s syndrome-afflicted little brother David, a Special Olympian who should probably get his own movie next.) So is “The Crash Reel” saying that you snow-fiends should hang up your boards? Not really. If there’s a target here, it’s more the proponents of extreme sports, who, promoters and fans alike, insist on more and more dangerous stunts to whet the public’s appetite for spectacle. Apart from pointing out the lack of insurance and safeguards for athletes, the film makes the point that other dangerous sports such as car racing eventually put limits on how fast and how perilous their sports should be. Not so for the X Games, where the ethos of “higher, faster, more dangerous” rules. Of course, pushing the physical limits of what humans can achieve is the essence of athletic competition, and I love the Olympics as much as anyone. But as the film shows its montage of crippled and dead extreme athletes (in harrowing footage), and we see Kevin try to impart what he’s learned to a twice-brain-injured snowboarder who has chillingly lost the ability to control his impulses, the X Games announcer who pays tribute to deceased freestyle skier Sarah Burke with the pronouncement, “It’s said that the brave do not live forever but the cautious do not live at all” seems like just the sort of person who should see “The Crash Reel” before he goes on TV again.
(Reprinted from Dennis’ column in the Press Herald—if you’d like to avoid this sort of blatant recycling, send in your reviews to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Facebook page Videoport Jones!)
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests GETTING FREE MONEY AT VIDEOPORT! There’s no reason you wouldn’t do this, so listen up, gang. You love Videoport and you’re gonna spend your hard-earned entertainment dollar here. So why not get some free, not-at-all-earned entertainment dollars with our mega-awesome deals. Listen up: $20 gets you $25 in rental credit. $30 gets you $40 in rental credit. It’s free, and it never expires, and it just sits there on your account until you decide to use it. Free…money. Seriously.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests The Americans- season 1 (in Mystery/Thriller.) Another one of last year’s shows that was way better than I thought it would be (see: Vikings), this one, about Russian sleeper agents in 1980’s Washington DC, has a lot going for it (look for outstanding supporting roles from Margo Martindale and Derek Luke), but will grab you right by the throat in the very first sequence, a chase/fight scene scored to an era-appropriate but very unexpected pop song that I won’t spoil here. (Even though it’s got one of the most fun one-word names of any song ever and it’s a lot of fun to just yell out for no reason.) Good show.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Sherlock- season 3 (everybody’s favorite weirdo sociopath supersleuth is back, with your boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch returning to solve a trio of mysteries alongside his stalwart companion and BFF John Watson [the ever-wonderful Martin Freeman]; chief among them—hey, didn’t Sherlock die at the end of last season?), The Best Man Holiday (it’s 14 years since that romantic comedy movie about a group of African American friends and lovers that you sort of remember came out, so here’s a sequel where the truly excellent cast [Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, and Terrance Howard] reunites to see what’s going on in everyone’s lives), Ender’s Game (big budget sci fi adaptation about an alien invasion of Earth that can only be stopped when Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford find a precocious little guy who’s the chose one of some kind; adapted from the novel by sci fi mainstay and noted homophobe Orson Scott Card), Austenland (Kerri Russell stars in this comedy about a Jane Austen-obsessed woman who flies off to vacation at the titular, Jane Austen-themed resort, only to find that things are slightly less stately and romantic in the real world; costarring Flight Of The Conchords’ Bret McKenzie and Baltar), The Americans- season 1 (more Kerri Russell, although slightly different this time, as she, alongside the very good Matthew Rhys, portray a typical 1980s suburban couple—who are secretly Russian spies!! Seriously though, this series is really good…look out for the opening action sequence, set to an unexpectedly-effective 80s pop song…), All Is Lost (Robert Redford stars in this sparse, gripping adventure tale about a lone sailor forced to battle for survival when his sailboat is unexpectedly struck by a rogue shipping container in the middle of the Atlantic; it’s a late-career one-man show from Redford, who’s the only man on screen—it’s like Castaway, except he’s not babbling to a volleyball and doing FedEx product placement the entire time), The Counselor (a huge all-star cast, including Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt, coupled with a major director [Ridley Scott], in an original script by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy [No Country For Old Men, All The Pretty Horses, The Road]—this violent crime thriller sounds like a must-watch to me…), Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon (prequel to the super cool Detective Dee, about a 7th century Chinese super-detective; this time director Tsui Hark flashes back to Dee’s first case, where he investigates reports of a sea monster terrorizing a small coastal town), Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (directed by Spike Lee, this film version of Tyson’s one-man show, where he dishes some brutal [and actually quite disputed—cough—convicted rapist—cough] truths about his long, puzzling, often-tragic career in and out of the ring), The Returned- season 1 (chillingly acclaimed French series about a remote Alpine village shocked by the unexplained reappearance of several of it’s inhabitants—years after they died; and then a series of gruesome murders start turning up while the confused undead attempt to reconnect with their former loved ones; seriously, folks—this is a good one…), Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (just in time to shed some light on the oppressive Putin regime [while he sits grimly at the Olympics on your TV every night] here comes the DVD release of this documentary about the titular all-female Russian punk band who were thrown in prison after offending the government with their music—and possibly their name), The Human Scale (documentary about famed architect and urban planner Jan Gehl, whose innovative ideas about city living may one day make you not look out your window and feel all sad inside), How I Live Now (in a near-future England, a disaffected American teenager [Saoirse Ronan] finds herself fleeing to the countryside to fend for herself when a European conflict causes society to break down; from the director of The Last King Of Scotland), The Artist And The Model (alluring French drama about an old sculptor [the great Jean Rochefort] in occupied WWII France who finds his creative spirit restored when a young Spanish refugee girl inspires him to return to his last, unfinished sculpture), The Adventurer—The Curse Of The Midas Box (Michael Sheen and Sam Neill star in this British family adventure about a young boy who, after his parents disappear and his young brother is kidnapped, delves deep into the mysteries of a sinister old hotel), Baggage Claim (comedy about flight attendant Paula Patton who decides she needs to get engaged in the 30 days before her little sister’s wedding; luckily [?], her friend cooks up a scheme where she can reconnect with all of her ex-boyfriends to see if any of them are the one who got away; costarring Taye Diggs! Again!), Marc Maron—Thinky Pain (host of one of the best podcasts out there [WTF?], standup comedian Maron brings his signature brand of self-lacerating ranting to the stage for this standup special), Mother Of George (a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn find their new marriage rocked by the pressures put on them to have a child by their families, and their inability to conceive in this well-reviewed indie drama starring The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira and the great Isaach De Bankolé [Ghost Dog, Night On Earth, The Limits Of Control]), Burton And Taylor (reportedly about 37 times better than the Lindsay Lohan-starring Liz & Dick], this biopic about the tumultuous romance of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor swaps first names for last and real actors Helena Bonham Carter and The Wire’s Dominic West), Bridegroom (heartbreaking documentary about a gay man whose dreams of marrying his boyfriend once California’s gay marriage law is passed are doubly dashed when his fiancee dies and the man’s d-bag family refuses to allow him to attend the funeral; seriously, family? Seriously?), 22 Bullets (Jean Reno stars as a retired mobster who gets seriously un-retired when he seeks revenge against the former friend who left him for dead with the titular number of slugs inside him), Spinning Plates (hellooooo, Portland foodies! Check out this acclaimed documentary about the eccentric owners of three unique restaurants!)
New Blu-Rays At Videoport: Sherlock- season 3, The Best Man Holiday, All Is Lost, Baggage Claim, Free Birds, 22 Bullets, Miami Connection