Volume CDXCIV- The Superb Owl
For the Week of 2/3/15
Videoport gives you a free movie every day! If we don’t give you a free movie every day, then you are not at Videoport but somewhere else. Please leave that place and return to Videoport—where you will receive your free movie.
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 $7.99!
>>>Emily S. Customer suggests Fruitvale Station (in Feature Drama). Winner of the 2013 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize, the Cannes Prix de l’Avenir d’Un Certain Regard, the Humanitas Prize, New york Film Critics Circle Best First Film and Best First Director, and a slew of other awards, Fruitvale Station opens with actual cell phone footage captured when Oscar Grant III (played in the film by Michael B. Jordan of The Wire, Chronicle, Friday Night Lights, and soon to be The Fantastic Four‘s The Human Torch!) was stopped and ultimately fatally shot by a BART officer in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009. Kenneth Turan calls Fruitvale Station an “unexpectedly devastating drama” that is “made with assurance and quiet emotion” by its first-time feature-film director. David Denby hailed it as “a confident, touching, and, finally, shattering directorial début.” Claudia Puig praises Michael B. Jordan as “superbly multi-dimensional as Grant,” and Stephanie Zacharek says, “Fruitvale Station is intimate in the best way, thanks largely to Jordan’s deft, responsive performance,” while A.O. Scott says director Ryan Coogler allows “the intrinsic interest of the characters’ lives to keep overt sentimentality and messagemongering to a minimum.”
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 $7.99!
>>> Dennis suggests The Longest Yard (in Action). The original, obviously. While he’s never gonna win an Oscar (although I thought he was actually a legitimate nominee for Boogie Nights), there was a time when Burt Reynolds was not a much-parodied laughingstock, but a relatively respected actor. Especially before Hal Needham got a hold of him and he started to coast on smarm, cars, and countrified, corn-pone humor, Reynolds turned out some solid, macho character work in films like Deliverance and this grubby, profane prison flick. In it, Reynolds is Paul Crewe, a former hotshot NFL quarterback sentenced to hard time for drunk driving, among other things. Once incarcerated, Crewe finds himself being forced by the corrupt warden to helm the prison’s football team in a big game for big bucks, all the while becoming more sympathetic to his fellow prisoners’ plight. It’s a contrived set up, I suppose, but Reynolds is actually really good as the spoiled yet conflicted former star. (Plus, he’s genuinely convincing as a football player; he was as college star at FSU and was actually drafted by the Baltimore Colts.) You can see that it once was not such a laughable idea that Reynolds was considered for the same roles as Paul Newman, at least for a while; he’s got charisma, and, at least at this point in his career, he wasn’t always content to just coast on it. Plus, the climactic, absurdly-violent big game against a team made up of the guards, is as rudely-entertaining as the one the concludes MASH, and the film’s even got a great last line/scene. Forget the Sandler version (although Sandler also has proven himself a capable dramatic actor when he’s not being so damned lazy), and check out the real deal.
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 $7.99!
>>>Emily S. Customer suggests 30 Rock (in Comedy). Octavia Spencer received well-deserved acclaim for her role in Fruitvale Station and an Oscar for her performance in The Help, and all her accolades are well-deserved. But if you’ve only seen Octavia Spencer in serious, heavy-hitter roles, give yourself a treat and watch her perform as herself (sort of) in “Game Over,” S7 ep9 of 30 Rock, when Tracy Jordan casts her as Harriet Tubman in his Very Serious biopic. Spencer gets to unhinge every inch of the comedy packed into her wide eyes and wry smile as her flaky work habits, her entourage, and her outrageous ego show Tracy what it’s like to work… well, with Tracy.
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 $7.99!
>>> Dennis suggests‘Friday Night Lights’ (in Feature Drama.) Credit Videoport’s sports-loathing Regan’s incessant badgering for finally getting me to watch this universally-acclaimed football drama series. It really shouldn’t have been that hard a sell: the nonfiction book by Buzz Bissinger was good, and the Billy Bob Thornton feature film was pretty solid, too. Plus, I played the feet-ball when I was a younger fellow, and my dad was my feet-ball coach, so I know the high school football milieu from the inside (although one might suggest that my and my dad’s experience at a tiny Catholic high school in Massachusetts was not exactly representative of the insanely high-pressure, utterly-fanatical Texas football machine as depicted in the series.) Still, I just didn’t watch the damned thing. But, as I said, Regan was relentless, as only Regan can be—and Holy crap. What a great show. From the portrayal of the aforementioned nutty Texas football nonsense to the realistic high school dramas, to the on-field football heroics/heartbreaks,‘Friday Night Lights’ is a well-written, well-acted, an uniquely-compelling show. What really makes it, however, is the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor. He’s the coach of the Dillon Panthers, and she’s his long-understanding wife (and Dillon guidance counselor), and, without exaggeration, they form one of the most realistic and healthy married couples in TV history. It’s a delicate balancing act- neither is a perfect person (although they are in the top 99% of parents I’ve ever seen), but they consistently address the obstacles and occasional heartbreaks of married life with understanding, honor, and great makeup sex. It’s a tribute to the show that Connie Britton’s Tami, despite being “the wife” to a football coach who, to be honest, is the reason we’re here, is strong, smart, and, more than occasionally, the voice of reason. And Kyle Chandler’s Coach Taylor is, simply, one of the most decent father figures on TV ever. A fundamentally good man, Taylor finds himself in the midst of parental pressures, fanatical Texas football a-holes, familial responsibilities, his own ambitions, and the myriad crises involved in shepherding a team-full of testosterone-ful teenage boys through life, all the while trying to deliver the state championship Dillon expects, and he takes on each challenge with taciturn, yet genuinely decent, aplomb. I could talk about all the other great performances in the show (like bad boy Tim Riggins, golden boy faced with unexpected obstacles Jason Street, flashy running back with a heart Smash Williams, coach’s daughter Julie, unexpectedly-strong cheerleader Lyla Garrity, football-hating geek Landry Clarke, and, especially, soulful underclassman thrust into the spotlight Matt Saracen), but it’s Chandler’s pragmatic but ever-honorable Coach Taylor that really gets to me. He reminds me of my dad. Even if you hate sports, you’ll love this show.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!
>>> It’s a free kids movie! There are a lot to choose from! For free!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!
>>> For Saturday, Dennis suggests North Dallas 40 (in Feature Drama). If you’re feeling some feetball withdrawal (or just hate football), I heartily suggest this surprisingly-resonant 1979 gridiron drama. A still young and shockingly-handsome and mustachioed Nick Nolte stars as the hardworking, pill-popping, but clear-eyed wide receiver of the titular professional team and his best friend, the drawling prettyboy star quarterback (played with surprising ease by Mac Davis) navigate the ups and downs of a hard-fought season, and deal with injuries, money and woman troubles and the pressures put on them by ownership to “do whatever it takes” to stay on the field. Along with the rambunctious partying, sex, and football action, North Dallas Forty gives equal time to the harsh realities involved in the daily grind of being a football player. Sure, players are millionaires (although at the time the movie was made, they were decidedly less pampered), but they’re in constant pain, have no real job security, and face shortened lives, chronic injuries, and diminished mental function from the incessant punishment the game entails. And, in the film’s most powerful scene, the team’s “madman” bruiser, played by real-life NFL-er John Matuszak, lets loose, after being manipulated by ownership’s conflicting manipulative messages, screaming “Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game.” Big John (who you might remember as Sloth in The Goonies) died at 38 after his playing career ended. He admitted before his death that he’d taken painkillers all through his playing days in order to keep going. (Oh now the owners’ desire is to extend the already-crippling 16 game season to 18 games. Seriously, somebody’s gonna die. I picture the last Super Bowl after the inaugural and inevitable 18 game season endingRollerball-style with the last living player standing (I’m thinking it’ll be Ray Lewis) skating around past the dead and mangled corpses of all the members of both teams like James Caan and screaming up defiantly to the luxury boxes, “ARE YOU NOT AMUSED?!?!?!?”) Football’s a great game, a heartless business, and a really, really hard job.
>>>Former Videoporter Dennis (aka Disco, aka Dutch Dennis) suggests Cast Away (in Drama). I guess it’s been fifteen years since I watched Cast Away at the movie theater. I cannot believe that I did not notice this is basically a two and half hour commercial for FedEx. I am sure you’re aware of the story, but just in case: Tom Hanks works for FedEx, is flying somewhere for work, crashes into the ocean, ends up on an island, survives for four year surrounded by FedEx boxes, gets picked up and goes home to Helen Hunt, who tells him that other people basically forced her to marry Big from Sex and the City and have his baby. Now, he leaves one box unopened and delivers it four years later. You know, FedEx-style. Why he does that is beyond me. I mean, what if this box contains matches, gasoline, fried chicken, knives, guns, fishing equipment, marmalade (all this is still allowed, remember, it was before 9/11). Anyway, I watched it again because I couldn’t find anything else to watch and there are definitely scenes that aren’t terrible! The crash? Not terrible. Him surviving on an island (my favorite thing to think about when walking around Mackworth Island)? Not terrible. Also, nice to watch a movie about a tropical island when there’s three feet of snow outside.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Best Of Me (Decent actors Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden star in yet another adaptation of the “novels” of Nicholas Sparks. Like other such things [The Notebook, The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, Nights In Rodanthe, etc] it stars a pair of star-crossed lovers trying to overcome all the obstacles that traditionally stand in the way of such people. Or, as The AV Club’s film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky puts it, succinctly: “One of the quirks of Sparks adaptations—which can either be endearing or irritating—is that they’re incapable of treating romance on its own terms; as far as they’re concerned, it’s not true love unless it’s predestined and somebody gets cancer.”), John Wick (Keanu Reeves stars in this action thriller about an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement after some criminal types do something he does…not…like), Dracula Untold (Luke Evans stars as Transylvanian prince Vlad, who, desperate to protect his kingdom from an invasion, does the sorts of things that get you a set o’fangs), Ouija (Some of those foolish teens do that foolish thing where they mess around with one of those ouija boards and unleash some of those demons that live in there. Foolish teens—will they ever learn?), Dear White People (The coolest indie of the week, this comedy from director Justin Simien follows the daily struggles of four black students at a traditionally white Ivy League college. Seriously—this one’s good), The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby (James McEvoy and Jessica Chastain star in this romantic drama about a once-married couple after they decide to go their separate ways), Hector And The Search For Happiness (The always-watchable Simon Pegg [Shaun Of The Dead, The World’s End] stars in this feel-good travelogue about a doctor who leaves his native England on a journey around the world to find out what happiness really is), Starred Up (Super-intense British prison drama about a troubled, violent teen who gets sent to the adult prison where his even-more-brutal father is serving a life sentence), The Overnighters (Award-winning, controversial documentary about the desperate men who flee to find work in the North Dakota oil fields and the dedicated pastor who dedicates his life to helping them), Starry Eyes (Super-disturbing horror flick about a would-be actress who goes to a super-shady audition and makes a super-ill-advised deal for success), Coffee Town (Glenn Howerton [so good as Dennis on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia] stars in this indie comedy about a website designer who enlists his two friends [Ben Schwartz, Steve Little] to keep the coffee shop that doubles as his office from turning itself into a bar), Maison Close—season 1 (Sexy French drama series about the women making a living in the titular 19th century brothel), Food Chains (Another of the spate of recent food-based documentaries that teach us that everything we eat harms ourselves or others, this one examines the exploitative conditions and institutions that employ the people who pick our food)