Volume CDLVII—Videoport: The Videoporting
For the Week of 5/20/14
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. Why? We love movies and we want to share them with you. That’s why.
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 using the Monday-Thursday special (3 movies for a week for 7 bucks) to sample some Middle Aisle greatness! You know how you keep hearing about all these shows and movies that everyone says you have to see but then you forget them all or you make a list and look at it and get all daunted? Well, since you can load up with that special I was talking about, why not make yourself a Videoport sampler on the chaep? Some ideas? You got it: Firefly (in Sci Fi) is one of the best science fiction series I’ve ever seen. Hell, it’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen, a thrilling, moving, funny, imaginative space opera about a small band of outlaws and misfits banding together by chance and just trying to scape by in a totalitarian future where human dignity is scarce. Top-to-bottom great performances and brilliant writing, all thanks to the great Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, The Avengers, Cabin In The Woods). The Wire (in Mystery/Thriller). And this would be the best TV show I’ve ever seen. At root, it’s a story as old as TV—cops vs. drug dealers, this time on the very, very mean streets of Baltimore. But what this series does is take those well-worn raw materials and transform them over five stellar seasons, into the television equivalent of a great American novel. Fully a dozen of the most memorable characters in TV history come from this one show. Luther (in Mystery/Thriller.) Speaking of The Wire, Idris Elba, who plays Stringer Bell (one of those dozen memorable characters) stars (with his original British accent) in this gritty BBC cop show. In it, Elba is John Luther, tortured supercop. That’s really all you need to know—Idris Elba, supercop, awesome. The State (in Incredible Strange.) You love this 90s sketch comedy show and don’t even know it. I’ll prove it—have you enjoyed any of the following shows/movies: Wet Hot American Summer, Stella, The Ten, Children’s Hospital, The Baxter, Hell Baby, Burning Love, Wanderlust, Role Models, Reno 911—then you love The State, since the people involved in the still very funny sketch show went on to do all that other stuff.
>>>Emily S. Customer suggests Blade Runner (in Sci Fi). It was in the middle of one more argument in the interminable ongoing daily argument that is the life of even the most tepid feminist that I suddenly understood, with the dazzling flash of suddenness that is the hallmark of revelation – my affection for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Even an avid watcher and rewatcher like me can admit that the film, whichever version you watch, is flawed. As a woman, I have spent my entire life so far, and will doubtless spend the rest of it, being told in a thousand subtle ways that I’m not really human, even though I appear human and have all the necessary human traits and inside, I certainly feel like a full-fledged human. But there are plenty of people I would otherwise like and respect who’ve uncritically swallowed the dehumanizing sexism of our society, who’ve allowed themselves to be inculcated with the subliminal idea that men are the default human model and that women are… well, not quite. (Of course, it’s worse and more complicated than that: the default human template in the U.S. is youngish white heterosexual cisgender middle-class male; everything that deviates from that narrow demographic slice is tacitly treated as something suspect, something devalued, something not entirely human.) When you spend every day of your life learning the silent lesson that you aren’t entirely human, the social politics of Blade Runner become fascinating. Because no matter how completely human I feel, most days someone will come along to remind me that in his eyes, I’m not… but the real inhumanity lies in the bigots who deny that humanity, and in the safely privileged people who stand by silently and watch bigotry unfold. Every day, that tortoise lies on its back in the sand, and you’re not helping, Leon. Why aren’t you helping?
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 The Dogs Of War (in Action/Adventure.) At this point, Christopher Walken has become the movie industry’s weird, entertaining uncle. I’m not really complaining, Walken is exceptionally talented and always was, and whenever he shows up in one of the dozen or so crime thrillers he seems to do every year now it’s always strange and hammy and reliably thrilling. But if you go back in time (something Videoport is very good for), you can see Walken in movies where he was given a chance to be something different. I mean, he was always weird—those pale, koo-koo eyes were never going to cuddle up with Meg Ryan—but in movies like The Dead Zone, Pennies From Heaven, and even the reviled Heaven’s Gate, he could give some variety. For today (free on Tuesday with any other paid rental, of course), I’ll pick this 1980 war picture, where Walken applies his spooky intensity to the role of Jamie Shannon, a baby-faced mercenary who, betrayed and tortured while operating in a fictional African country, rounds up the guys in order to essentially overthrow the government. Don’t mess with Christopher Walken is the message, really. It’s a lean, muscular thriller, and Walken does a lot with a little—like I said, the young Walken had a blank-faced prettiness which makes his inevitable explosions of Walken-y violence all the more shocking here.
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 Like Someone In Love (in Foreign/The Criterion Collection.) A young Japanese call girl (Rin Takanashi) is engaged by an elderly widowed professor (Tadashi Okuno, looking like a much friendlier human version of the Muppet Waldorf). When she arrives at his tiny, book-lined apartment and finds he’s more interested in making her soup and talking than sex, she, already exhausted from her college exams, falls asleep. Accepting a ride back to Tokyo in the morning, she and the professor find themselves coping with Takanashi’s hot-headed, jealous boyfriend (Ryo Kase), mistaken identity and car trouble, leading to the typical Abbas Kiarostami ending: ambiguous, haunting and, to those less charitable, maddening. That ending — and most of the rest of this fascinatingly opaque film — worked just fine for me, as I remain a sucker for quiet, character-driven movies where again, the unsympathetic might say, “nothing really happens.” (See the films of Ming-liang Tsai, such as “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” and “What Time Is It There?” for more mesmerizing examples of the power of “nothing.”) I’d compare “Like Someone in Love” to the films of American auteur Jim Jarmusch as well, with its long, contemplative driving scenes (at least half of the film takes place inside the old man’s immaculate Volvo), welcome lack of exposition (we’re left to pick up on the characters’ situations as the story unfolds) and the driest of deadpan humor. It’s a delicate, minutely observed and quietly enthralling character study for people who, you know, are into that sort of thing.
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!
>>> Emily S. Customer suggests a tribute. Legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis died this week at the age of 82. It’s hard to overstate Willis’ influence on film of the past 40 years. Just a glance at his credits proves that. In Klute, he painted scenes in warm neutrals lavished with shadow, a look that defined an era of filmmamking. In The Godfather trilogy, he translated that glamorous contrast into the language of morality, letting the darkness and beams of light play over the films as moments of moral clarity play in the characters’ consciences. But that distinctive canvas of dark punctuated with color weren’t the only tools in Willis’ kit. The black-and-white of Stardust Memories and Zelig tell stories as crisp and clear as a great newspaper epic. The Parallax View makes dizzying use of space, angle, and reflection to suffuse the film with the paranoia and panic that would become the signature of ’70s political thrillers. Gordon Willis didn’t define one look of a generation of film; he helped to set them all.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>> It’s free! It’s for kids! Or the very immature!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests Malice (in Mystery/Thriller.) While I’m recommending so many of Gordon Willis’ great and well-remembered films, it’s a little anticlimactic to swan in and suggest you rent the overwrought, overheated, overplotted thriller Malice. (In his review of the film upon its theatrical release, Roger Ebert notes, “Offhand, this is the only movie I can recall in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere.” I can now add Mr. Brooks to the list.) But I’m doing it anyway. It’s a great example of Willis’ exuberant use of dark with just a splash of light to set a scene, to set a mood, to create something where there is… well, not nothing, but not much. I recently rewatched Malice, hooting with mixed pleasure and derision, and all the while marveling at how deftly this swampy mess dragged me in despite knowing exactly where it was going, and marveling at how excellently it was shot. Now that I know it was the work of Gordon Willis, the film’s adeptness and visual appeal make more sense. He knew how to play light and dark, the simple presence and absence of shadow, into a portrait of moral complexity.
>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests The Wire (in Mystery/Thriller.) ALERT, URGENT, ALERT. ALL VIDEOPORT STAFFERS RESPOND. I have just been informed by a denizen of another city, one not lucky enough to have access to Videoport, that “The Wire,” HBO’s prestige drama tackling urban decay and socio-political stagnation that drives our poorest citizens to crime or misery, is not available on N*tflix. That’s right: arguably the greatest drama of our time is not available from the popular streaming service, thanks to yet another of those exclusivity agreements and back-room deals that constantly reduce consumers’ access to the finest programming. This is why, however useful streaming services can be, there’s no replacement for the variety and consistency of brick-and-mortar indie video stores like Videoport. Videoport isn’t beholden to corporate overlords or restricted by back-room deals. Videoport just wants to get you the movies and shows you want to watch, when you want to watch them.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Monuments Men (George Clooney wrote and directed this fact-based WWII story about an unlikely team of soldiers who spent the last days of the war trying to recover all the stolen artworks the Nazis were trying to hide or destroy; Clooney stars as well alongside buddies John Goodman, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett; pair it up with the documentary about the same events The Rape Of Europa, which Videoport has because of course we do), 3 Days To Kill (Kevin Costner tries to jump start his own Liam Neeson, late-life action hero with this Taken-like thriller about a dying CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped, forcing him to ply his “certain set of skills”), Vampire Academy (they’re young! They’re sexy! They’re vampires starring in another mystical action horror comedy based on a young adult book series! Gabriel Byrne’s in it, no doubt trying to keep a straight face!), About Last Night (when people say “loosely based on,” they’re probably thinking of stuff like this broadly comic take on David Mamet’s nasty one act play Sexual Perversity In Chicago; still, it’s got the very funny Kevin Hart [Ride Along] in there, along with talented and pretty people like Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant in a story about a couple of very mismatched couples), Call The Midwife- season 3 (you out there in Videoport-land love this BBC drama series about a group of plucky midwives in 1950s England dealing with sexism, illegal abortions, and tons o’babies), Pompeii (a slave-turned gladiator [think Spartacus and, well, Gladiator] rushes through the streets of the titular island city to save his beloved from having to marry a corrupt Roman senator, and then a freaking volcano erupts! Bad-freaking-day for that gladiator guy! Directed by the guy who did all the Resident Evil movies—so you know it’s good…),Like Someone In Love (from acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami comes this typically enigmatic drama about an elderly Japanese professor who hires a troubled young call girl and has his ordered life turned upside down)
New Arrivals at Videoport: The Mirror Has Two Faces (for some reason, we didn’t own this Barabara Streisand movie on DVD; and for some reason, several people asked about it last week. So here you go—Babs is a frumpy lady who wants Jeff Bridges to notice her, but he thinks sex isn’t important so they get married with a strict no-sex policy. But then Babs puts on a dress and Jeff gets all moony over her. Will true love prevail? Well, you guys asked for it…)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: 3 Days To Kill, The Monuments Men, Pompeii
Free parking at Videoport! The parking lot behind the building is free for customers after 5PM on weekdays and all days on the weekends. Also, we can get you a free hour of parking at any downtown parking garage (including the courthouse garage which is, like, a one minute walk away). Just ask for one of our magic stickers!
Get your movies duplicated at Videoport!
You guys know we can make copies of your DVDs and VHSes at Videoport, right? No, it can’t be anything copyrighted (that’s sort of what that word means), so you’ll just have to buy another copy of Weekend At Bernie’s to replace that VHS you’ve played so often it finally shredded itself. But home movies or anything not copyrighted? We can do it! $10 bucks a pop and little Susie’s dance recital can be copied and sent to every relative on your Christmas card list!