VideoReport #470

Volume CDLXX- The Criterioning

For the Week of 8/19/14

(Click the pics for more reviews!)

Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. Just somethin’ to keep in mind…

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 checking out the sadly-relevant Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall tribute shelves in the Staff Picks section in the Middle Aisle. We’ve got a lot of movies by these two screen legends [and yes, I’m promoting Williams to legend.] Many you haven’t seen before. So now that the shocked grief-renting has subsided a bit, take home some of their movies and appreciate what’s been lost. Also, Death—we get it, you’re Death, you always win. But why not take it down a notch, just for a little while. No more cool dead actors, whattaya say?

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!

>>> Videoport customer Abby L. suggests Saturday Night Fever (in Musicals). In his 1914 short story collection, Dubliners, James Joyce captured the lives of everyday working-class Irish-Catholics and their struggles to prevail over not only poverty but a spiritual, emotional and mental hurdle known as “paralysis.” In Joyce’s world, paralysis was a combination of fear, self-doubt and self-sabotage that renders one immobile even in the opportunity for escape, a symptom of a hopeless life where endless struggle stunts the growth of one’s imagination and causes them to hesitate in the potential realization of even small, attainable dreams. Cut to 1977. At first glance, Tony Manero, the hero of the disco touchstone Saturday Night Fever, has little in common with the protagonists of Joyce’s English language masterpiece (most notably because he spouts gems like, “It’s a decision a girl’s gotta make early in life, if she’s gonna be a nice girl or a c**t”). Yet, the Catholic Damoclean sword of his blue-collar Italian family swings over his head. His hyena-like pack of goombah friends keep him preserved in childish arrogance and provincial Bay Ridge in-fighting. His followers and groupies, based in a single neighborhood disco, slobber over him with near-religious devotion and foster in the 20-year-old an unearned sense of accomplishment. The cautionary specter-like appearance of his disgraced older brother, who has just left the seminary, fuels Tony’s intense but impotent drive towards escape. The greatest articulation of class tension and anxiety in this film is the relationship between Tony and Stephanie, the upwardly-mobile, name-dropping fellow Brooklynite whom Tony befriends through dance. Stephanie is the only local the prodigy can call a peer, and she continually challenges his immaturity by reminding him of her own pursuit of glamour and betterment on the other side of the bridge. In the name of encouraging Tony to capitalize on his talent, she reminds the reigning king of the dance floor of what he really is: a big fish in a small pond. But her elaborate cosmopolitan act proves to be a smokescreen for her own crippling insecurity, an overcompensation for her naiveté which, as it turns out, presents itself constantly in her own professional life in Manhattan. Saturday Night Fever transcends its reputation as a mere 70’s time capsule in this delicate friendship, where the primary vulnerability shifts ceaselessly between Tony and Stephanie. In many ways, this film is the inversion of a film like Annie Hall, which also came out in 1977. Woody Allen’s depiction of the Manhattan intelligentsia so perfectly personifies the ranks Stephanie hopes to join, you can picture her character desperately trying to fit in at Alvie Singer’s cocktail parties. There are elements of this film that leave it stranded somewhere between class-conscious drama and 70’s camp. The dance sequences feature absorbing-but-dated visuals that today, despite the beauty of the flashing lights and smooth-flowing fabrics, are more at home in a thrift store than a dance club. A hackneyed action sequence between Tony’s friends and a cartoonish Hispanic rival gang only proves how un-tough these characters are. In short, these guys, in their silk shirts, salmon-colored skin-tight polyester pants and dainty gold disco chains, look like they got their laundry mixed up with their sisters.’ Today, John Travolta’s public image is closer to Battlefield Earth alien than Italian-American everyman. But the soundtrack, a record-shattering behemoth laden with the Bee-Gees at their most helium-voiced, is unimpeachable. It was Gene Siskel’s favorite movie, for God’s sake! The film’s shockingly dramatic conclusion reveals a few inevitable sacrificial lambs and reminds us that Saturday Night Fever is not the escapist slab of nostalgic, kitschy gouda the uninitiated viewer may expect. Tony’s future in dance, the ever-present threat of realizing fully his own greatness, fills him with the same internal doubt and dread Joyce’s Dubliners felt, the skepticism that dreams can be real, and the unanswerable question of who enjoys salvation, and why.

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 getting some serious free money at Videoport! You’re gonna spend your entertainment dollars with us, so why not get some free ones? No reason not to. $20 buys you $25 in store credit and $30 buys you $40. Boom—free money. Do that.

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!                                        

>>> Jeff el Customer recommends The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (in Feature Drama). The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was not a movie I wanted to run out and see. All I could think of was some boring short story they made us read in 7th grade. Maybe that’s what most of the reviewers were focused on when they panned this movie, too. But I, and the reviewers, were so wrong. Walter Mitty is brilliantly updated and made into a movie that will keep you pleasantly engaged for the entire 114 minutes. This is a fun time – from the moment Walter launches himself out the window of one skyscraper and crashes through into the burning building next door to save everyone inside (!) That scene is from Walter’s imagination, but soon he starts to take control of his life and his adventures become a reality of skateboarding, sharks, volcanoes, and mountain climbing. Great performances by Ben Stiller in the titular role, Kristen Wiig as his co-worker/love interest and tasty bit parts by Sean Penn as a deep, visionary photographer, Adam Scott as Walter’s annoying boss, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as a drunken helicopter pilot in Iceland, and Patton Oswalt as the best CSR in online dating. My favorite part: check the look on Walter’s face when a friend is trying to drive him away from the erupting volcano – I see real terror there, the kind that can’t be faked – as he screams, “Holy sh*t! Drive faster!” Have the rewind button at the ready kids, you’ll want to watch some parts of Walter Mitty over and over, or rent it often from your friends at Videoport!

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

>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Aladdin And The King Of Thieves. So, there have been many conversations both online and in person that have started with, “what’s your favorite Robin Williams film?” That’s always an easy question for me and I reviewed it last Videoreport, The Fisher King. As a person who has long adored making lists I want to immediately have an answer in my own head as to what the runner ups would be. Of course I love Dead Poet’s Society in every over the top inspirational way possible. But in all honesty I think the number two slot goes to Aladdin with a special nod to its underrated cousin Aladdin and the King of Thieves. We shall not speak of the Return of Jafar. It is not worth our time. Aladdin and the King of Thieves however, surprisingly entertaining! It brought back the original cast including Robin Williams who of course shines bringing the same level of humor he brought to the first. I always think it’s a sign of great character when a movie star is willing to participate in something straight to video. Aladdin and the King of Thieves ends up being sort of an Aladdin-Ali Baba hodge podge as Aladdin meets his long lost father. Spoiler alert…he’s a king…of thieves. Voiced by the ridiculously phenomenal John Rhys Davies which you would know from Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, and/or equally phenomenal cartoon series Gargoyles. The other cool aspect of this movie you get to see a post happily ever after that legitimately covers what a real couple would struggle and worry about it. Kudos to you Jasmine and Aladdin! I really think those crazy kids are going to make it work!  

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests closing you eyes and picking three movies at random from Videoport’s Criterion Collection section! Seriously—the CC is a company that has the best taste in movies anywhere. They put out deluxe editions of an impeccably chosen roster of classics, foreign films, choice new indies, and the occasional nutball head-scratcher (I’m looking at you, Equinox, Sweet Movie, and House). Basically, if you watched every film in Videoport’s Criterion Collection section, you’d be the most well-rounded movie expert in town. So take any three (you’ll get one for free all weekend) and begin the glorious journey into movie awesomeness. You won’t be bored, that’s for sure.

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Kevin H. suggests Adore (in Feature Drama). “Adore” is, apart from anything else, a stunningly beautiful movie. The setting is an isolated, lushly beautiful stretch of Australian coast. Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) have grown up together in this paradise as neighbors and best friends. Now in their 40’s, they each have a son; Lil’s Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Roz’s Tom (James Frecheville), respectively. As with their mothers, the boys are the same age (now 19) and have grown up together. Mothers and sons are rooted to this place, to their lovely beach homes, and to each other. (And let me be clear, they are all exceptionally beautiful people). Other people seem extraneous. There have been husbands, but Lil’s died years ago, while Roz’s spouse Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) is clearly just far too drab of a person to really fit in, and soon it’s just the four of them. The natural beauty of the surroundings functions, I think, like an enchanted forest in a Shakespeare play –  a place where normal rules and conventions cease to exist. The four of them live more or less communally, moving between their neighboring houses, and….each woman takes up with the son of the other. They all decide, rather frankly and openly, that they like this state of affairs, and carry on in this way for at least a couple of years. The mothers, at least, seem to accept that this cannot continue forever. Yet none of them are really willing to stop, so long as they can keep the outside world out (they can’t. Or, maybe they can?). The movie asks us to accept this conduct as a matter of fact; it shows intimacy without dwelling on it, the characters are not spared consequences. Underneath it all there are questions circulating about female desire, the roles women are nominally allowed, how aging affects one’s view of self; the movie’s literary pedigree is from a Doris Lessing story titled “The Grandmothers.” Watch it for that, or watch it for just how beautifully and artfully it’s all put together.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Boardwalk Empire- season 4 (Steve Buscemi is back as Prohibition-era gangster Nucky Thompson in this HBO series set in an Atlantic City even more decrepit than the Atlantic City of today; with a great supporting cast including Michael K. Williams, Geoffrey Wright, Michael Shannon, and Kelly Macdonald), The Quiet Ones (Mad Men’s Jared Harris stars in this horror thriller about an Oxford professor who decides to test his theory about poltergeists on a disturbed young woman in an old, creepy house. I’m sure everything turns out fine…), Only Lovers Left Alive (The cool Videoport pick of the week, this is the latest film from ever-fascinating independent film legend Jim Jarmusch [Down By Law, Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers, Mystery Train]. This time, he brings us his version of a vampire tale, with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston starring as a pair of artsy immortal bloodusuckers who are more interested in lounging around and listening to music than cruising for victims.), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Andrew Garfield returns in this superhero sequel to the superhero reboot. This time, both Paul Giamatti and Jamie Foxx are on hand as the baddies trying to spoil the downtrodden spider-guy’s high school experience by smashing up New York City and occasionally kidnapping his girlfriend.), The Good Wife- season 5 (Julianna Magulies returns as the politician’s wife-turned-lawyer in this series that seemingly everyone loves. Great supporting cast helps, no doubt: Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, Chris Noth, and more.), Low Winter Sun- season 1 (Someone who works at Videoport got paid to watch this cop show about a Detroit cop on the edge. He suggests that that’s probably the way to watch this grim ‘n’ gritty series, but you can pay to watch it, too…), Fading Gigolo (John Turturro, in addition to being a hell of a character actor, is also an

Click the pic to read a Videoporter's reviews in the AV Club. If you dare.

Click the pic to read a Videoporter’s reviews in the AV Club. If you dare.

interesting director [Illuminata, Romance & Cigarettes] and here he plays the titular sex-for-hire guy of a certain age, selling his greying wares to the likes of Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. Oh, and Woody Allen plays his pimp—wrap your mind around that one.), The Sacrament (Indie horror director Ti West has made two very good horror movies—House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers—so you should probably check out his new one, about an investigative news team whose investigation of a creepy cult goes very, very wrong.)

New Arrivals At Videoport This Week: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Two, count ‘em two new releases from the kooks at the Criterion Collection this week—first up is this sexy, controversial film from the master of such things, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. One of the first NC-17 films, it stars Antonio Banderas [never better than in Almodovar], an unstable former mental patient who kidnaps a porn star [the great Victoria Abril] in order to convince her to marry him.), Y Tu Mama Tambien (And speaking of sexy new Criterion releases, here’s the super-deluxe Criterion release of Alfonso Cuaron’s sexy, moving, funny road movie about a pair of Mexican teenagers [Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna] who find themselves taking an unexpected road trip with a mysterious, sensual older woman [Maribel Verdu])

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: The Quiet Ones, Boardwalk Empire- season 4, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Tie Me Up Tie Me Down!, The Sacrament

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