Volume DX— The House On People With No Self-Preservation Instinct Hill
For the Week of 5/26/15
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. You love movies, so have a free one. That’s juts common sense, really.
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 Looper (in Sci-fi/Fantasy), with reservations. Director Rian Johnson made a name for himself with his first feature film, the celebrated, mannered teen noir Brick. His sci-fi action thriller Looper is a completely different kind of device: It’s smart, stylish, and fun to watch, but like Brick, it has a gimmick at its heart. It’s a time-travel crime tale, with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a hitman named Joe, 30 years apart. Bruce Willis is, well, Bruce Willis, with all his familiar tics and mannerisms; JGL is crisp and tightly controlled as young Joe. It’s a heck of a parlor trick to see him rein in his broad, mobile face to master the impersonation, and the resemblance is sometimes eerie, sometimes distracting. But it is a parlor trick. Gordon-Levitt’s one of the most interesting actors of his generation, and this gimmick constrains his performance and the movie as a whole.
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 Macbeth (in Classics.) The Orson Welles 1948 version. With Michael Fassbender ready to bring his big budget version of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy to the big screen, why not look back at the funky, oddball version that Orson Welles made on a frayed shoestring. An early example of how Welles’ ambitions were to be constantly thwarted by the people with the money for the rest of his career, this expressionistic adaptation was, out of financial necessity, shot on leftover sets from Republic Pictures’ westerns in less than a month. Welles freely re-jiggered the dialogue and plot, and had the actors dub their lines in post-production. The critics of the day hated it, and, like a shocking number of Welles’ projects over the years, it received only spotty distribution over the years before being cleaned up for the DVD release that came out a few years ago. It’s an odd experience—the dubbed Scottish burrs are alienating and unnerving, which actually sort of works. For Shakespeare nerds (like me) it’s essential.
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!
>>> Dennis suggests Bob’s Burgers (in Comedy). I don’t know if you out there in VideoReportland still watch current episodes of The Simpsons (as opposed to the classic episodes available to rent at Videoport), but it’s something of a bummer. Actually, it’s more than a bummer—The Simpsons (say, seasons 3-9) was one long run of classic comedy. Not just classic TV, or classic cartoons, but all-time classic comedy, possessed of a unity of plot, character, and inventiveness that was, at its best, essential. Seriously, think back at how central The Simpsons was—and remains—to American comedy. Now—eh. It’s a solid B-minus show, where the residual affection for the voice actors’ interpretations of their characters and echoes of past glories bump an indifferent show up a half-grade. There are flashes here and there—the Lego episode from last season could actually hold its own in a good season—but it’s mostly just there. Which is all a long preamble to me saying that Bob’s Burgers is the new Simpsons—a smart, delightfully silly, and improbably affecting animated family sitcom that combines huge laughs, great voice acting, and characterization. The family unit matches up precisely, with a mom and dad, and three kids (a boy and two girls.) Here, they live not in Springfield, but some unnamed New England seafront tourist trap of a town, where Bob Belcher (voiced by animation all-star Jon Benjamin, also the voice of Archer, which is also great) runs a dinky burger joint with the help (sort of) of his enthusiastically goofy wife Linda (John Roberts), and his kids, perpetually weird and longing Tina (Dan Mintz), happily strange and boisterous Gene (Eugene Mirman), and manically self-assured (and weird) Louise (Kristin Schaal at her Kristin Schaal-iest). Like early Simpsons, the Belchers are perpetually losers, their socioeconomic and social underdog status central to their storylines and their appeal. Bob is the mostly-sane one of the group, continually trying to rein in his clan’s propensity to follow their eccentric whims into disastrous places, but Bob’s hardly a killjoy. While the pressures of being a business owner and family man seem to dictate that he be sensible at all times, in Benjamin’s performance, Bob’s reactions to the strangeness all around him are delightfully deadpan. Plus, there’s always the hint of how family man Bob carries the seeds of oddity that have blossomed to wildly in the rest of his family—the chalkboard in his restaurant always carries evidence of his stifled creativity in daily punning names of his experimental burger specials (like the “We’re here, we’re gruyere, get used to it” burger), and his occasional bursts of defiance against life’s indignities. Linda is one of the most endearingly weird TV mom’s ever, Roberts’ performance always making her irrepressible enthusiasm and loyalty to her brood as funny as it is admirably unique. The kids are all originals, too: Gene is the master of bodily functions, farfetched dreams, and unashamed self-expression, Louise is all bright-eyed, crazy id, and Mintz’s Tina is one of the most singular representations of confused but hopeful adolescence ever, her owly monotone and crippling anxieties never keeping her from hopefully navigating her way through teenagerdom. This is just a warm, silly, uniquely hilarious sitcom that can match up with The Simpsons at its best.
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!
>>> Emily S. Customer suggests Edge of Tomorrow (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy). In the future, the nations of earth combine forces to battle an alien race that’s ravaging Europe and posed to take over the planet. (I ended up watching Edge of Tomorrow over Memorial Day weekend, not realizing its frequent references to somber landmarks of WWI & WWII would make that weirdly appropriate.) When Major Cage (Tom Cruise), a military public affairs agent and admitted coward, is unwillingly assigned a role in the first beach attack on the French shores, he gains an eldritch power that has him reliving the same day, the same storming of the beach, over and over. Only Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) understands what a tactical advantage that could give Earth’s forces in this battle, and in the war on which humanity’s fate hangs. Blunt’s Sgt. Vrtataski is huge fun to watch: strong, confident, tough, plenty of swagger but not an ounce of bluster. She’s every inch a soldier. And Edge of Tomorrow demonstrates Cruise’s understanding of his own uneasy appeal, and the public’s ambivalence about him. As in a videogame orGroundhog Day, Cage’s power to restart the day is triggered only by his death, and the film shows this initially unlikeable character dying — over and over, inevitably or suddenly or just repetitively — with a canny grasp of his potent charisma, which makes audiences enjoy and resent him in turns.
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!
>>> Dennis says, 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 Undead (in Horror). Sometimes you just need an over-the-top Aussie zombie flick. You know it’s true. Well, this visually inventive first film gorefest from the Spierig Brothers (who’ve gone on to do the interesting Daybreakers and Predestination) is right up your alley, with the requisite meteor strike causing the residents of a tiny Australian fishing village to become the requisite flesh-eating zombies. The twin directors clearly worship at the altar of the pre-Lord Of The Rings Peter Jackson (he of the spazzy, giddily fun splatter flicks Bad Taste and Dead Alive), mixing so-gross-it’s-fun gore with offbeat dialogue and characters and hyperkinetic camerawork. There must be something in the Aussie water to keep turning out inventively silly horror filmmakers like this. Plus, it’s not every day you watch a horror comedy starring someone named Mungo McKay who spouts lines like, “…time is short. So you gotta ask yourself: Are you a fighter, Fish Queen, or are you zombie food?” in an Australian accent.
>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Space 1999 (in Sci Fi). (From something I wrote somewhere else.) What’s it about? In a very 1970s-looking 1999, 311 multinational crew members peacefully man Moonbase Alpha, Earth’s first space colony, under the no-nonsense command of Martin Landau’s Commander John Koenig. But when a massive explosion sends the moon flinging out of Earth’s orbit, Koenig finds himself the captain of an isolated outpost of humanity, hurtling into uncharted space and dealing with dwindling supplies, the occasional mutiny, and each week’s requisite alien encounter. Essentially, the moon is the Starship Enterprise, with Landau as a much more dour Kirk, Barbara Bain as an even less-expressive Spock (and she’s completely human), and a wry Barry Morse as a less-excitable Bones. Why you should watch it: Because its inexplicable combination of deadly seriousness, utterly lazy (and bonkers) science, and sterile-yet-funky ’70s design produces a singularly schizophrenic viewing experience that’s as entertaining as the episodes themselves. Space: 1999 is always a minute recalibration away from unintentional self-parody, but every time you’re tempted to go full Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the action (as MST3K itself did in its UHF days), there’s a poetic interlude, a thoughtful philosophical theme, or an overqualified guest star (Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Brian Blessed among them) to bring you back to attention. Plus, the multi-ethnic cast (in the first season, anyway) was bold for the time, and Space: 1999 still boasts the most exciting theme song/opening sequence in TV history. Who should watch it: Sci-fi geeks (earnest or ironic); scientists (ironic only); jumpsuit enthusiasts.
New Releases this week at Videoport: Seventh Son (Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore class up this fantasy adventure tale about a young apprentice monster-hunter sent to recapture Moore’s evil witch with the help of grizzled ol’ Bridges), Sons Of Liberty (In this History Channel miniseries, hunky young versions of George Washington, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock kick some Redcoat arse as they build the country that would become ‘Murica! Starring the likes of Henry Thomas, Rafe Spall, Martin Csokas, and Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris as Ben-freaking-Franklin! Watch out British jerks! Here come the Founding Fathers!), Ray Donovan- season 2 (The always-interesting Live Schreiber returns in this Showtime series as professional L.A. “fixer” Ray Donovan, the go-to guy for rich jerks who need their latest misdeeds swept under the rug. He’s all morally compromised, as most cable protagonists are, with a decent supporting cast including Jon Voight, Dash Mihok, Eddie Marsan, and Steven Bauer), The Loft (A group of skeevy married guys [including Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, James Marsden, and Eric Stonestreet] share a swanky bachelor pad for all their extramarital hijinx. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, right, dead lady in the communal bed.), Hello Ladies- season 1 (The very funny Stephen Merchant [Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show] stars in his own HBO sitcom about a terminally-awkward single guy trying to score in Los Angeles. Or with Los Angeles. Anyway, it’s another example of very solid cringe comedy from our uncomfortable British pals. ), Da Sweet Love Of Jesus (Have you ever heard of the cult horror film Ganja and Hess? Well, you can rent it at Videoport, of course, possibly on a double feature with this oddball remake of the already oddball original from Spike Lee of all people. In it, a professor is cursed by an ancient African artifact with a thirst for human blood!), Supremacy (Based on a depressing true story, a young neo-Nazi gets out of prison and promptly takes an African American family hostage. Meanwhile, the head Nazi jerk scowls disapprovingly from prison, presumably because the young jerk is giving Nazis a bad name? I guess?), Two Men In Town (Another remake of a movie you don’t know, this drama sees Muslim ex-con Forest Whittaker forming an unlikely friendship with his parole officer, finding a good woman, and settling down, only to see a racist copper and his own past conspiring to pull him back into big trouble once again. Remake of the French film of the same name [but starring Alain Delon and Jean Gabin], which you can, of course, rent at Videoport, since we are so awesome.)
New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Seventh Son
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