Volume DXIV— The Independent Video Store On Haunted Hill
For the Week of 6/23/15
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. It’s the sort of thing you don’t notice, but you’d miss if it were gone.
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 some Ray Bradbury! (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy). Phew! Elsewhere, I just finished reviewing a show (which shall remain nameless) loosely based on a Ray Bradbury short story — and I mean loosely. Like, so loosely as to be unrecognizable. It left me with nothing but a hankering to revisit the uncanny poetry and sweet sorrow of Bradbury’s stories. Let’s start with Something Wicked This Way Comes, the 1983 adaptation of the novel of childhood nostalgia and the bittersweet fumblings toward adulthood. Then move on to Ray Bradbury Theater, with weird little anthology stories like Jeff Goldblum as Cogswell, the city slicker looking for a little rural peace who alights from his train in “The Town Where No One Ever Got Off.” Finish up with Illustrated Man , a feature-length anthology collecting Bradbury’s The Veldt, The Other Foot, and The Long Rain. Soak in the small oddities and lavish poetry of his worlds.
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!
>>> The Videoport’s classic section is your friend. It’s sort of the soul of an independent video store—lost, forgotten stuff that you won’t find anywhere else. Take a chance—take two, in fact. One’s free today.
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 Best In Show (in Comedy.) I’ve extolled the virtues of Christopher Guest’s oeuvre — and this very movie — here before. So this time, I’ll just say that while revisiting Best In Show once again on an idle evening, and despite my many viewings over the years, a forgotten throwaway line caught me so by surprise that I laughed long and hard for minutes. “Minutes” might not sound like much, but it’s an eternity in comedy, and that’s a huge compliment to the film, the ensemble, and to Larry Miller, the secondary character who drops the line with such offhand precision.
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). This series about a Texas high school football team and its coach is a tough sell for some people. Not that those interested in quality television drama can’t love football, too, but there’s just something about the insularity of the sports genre that turns some people off. Not to worry, though—this is genuinely one of the best American television series in decades (I’ll go ahead and say ever, really), and one whose attraction has very little to do with good, ol’ American football. The show, one of the most sensitive and insightful about the high school experience ever, is more a layered, thoughtful (and, yes, also exciting and funny) examination of growing up, and how the adults in high schoolers’ lives can affect that experience, for good or, more frequently, ill. It’s also home to perhaps a dozen truly exceptional performances, none more indelibly impressive than those of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, who, as head coach Erik Taylor of the Dillon Panthers and Tami Taylor, high school guidance counselor (and later principal), who create on of the most realistic and emotionally truthful married couples I’ve ever seen, on TV or anywhere else. The most resonant aspect of Friday Night Lights is its depiction of how life is a continuum, and that kids will grow up according to the influences of the adults in their lives, and Erik and Tami Taylor are, simply put, two of the most hearteningly decent people these often troubled kids could hope for. My dad was a football coach (my coach, as it happens, for my high school years), and so perhaps my affection, bordering on awe, at Chandler’s Erik Taylor colors how thoroughly the coach gets to me. On the other hand—no, no it doesn’t. Erik Taylor—a resolutely honorable man teaching young men a violent game in a town where that game is the all and the everything—comes as close to mentor perfection as you can get, all without ever coming across as preachy or melodramatic. As a coach, he wants and expects to win—especially in the hotheaded football hotbed of Dillon, Texas—and he’s often faced with some serious contradictions and tough moral choices. That he always (eventually) does the right thing, doesn’t make Taylor predictable—it makes him extraordinary, one of the most complete and heartening examples of American male virtue I can think of. In Chandler’s watchful, forceful-yet-eminently decent performance, Coach Erik Taylor navigates the coach’s perpetual navigation of the pitfalls of his role in Dillon with a stalwart goodness that’s enough to reduce me to tears—of something like awe—about once an episode. And Tami Taylor—hardly the “coach’s wife”—matches, often exceeds him, her position in Dillon less prestigious, but all the more admirable in how she supports her husband completely while never giving an inch when she thinks she’s right and he’s wrong (about his job, their marriage, or their teenage daughter.) Honestly, the Taylors are probably the healthiest, yet most realistic, married TV couple around—you can see, in their shared humor and sense of morality (not to mention their playful sexiness) what drew them together. And that’s all not even taking the show’s football aspect (and the uniformly remarkable young cast playing the players) into account—you don’t have to care a whit about the game to care, deeply, about these kids as they try to find their place on their team and in their town—and beyond. There are the expected teen dramas and traumas, both on and off the field—but Friday Night Lights (except for a network-mandated silly plotline in season two we will never discuss again) never succumbs to obviousness. Far, far from it. Honestly, if a show is so good that I start tearing up while writing about it—which I unashamedly am—then you should give it a shot. Oh, and—“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” (You’ll understand when you watch it.)
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!
>>> Videoport customer and all-‘round cool dude Kevin H. suggests The Moon Spinners (in the Kids Section). Teenaged Hayley Mills, having survived summer camp, is off to Greece for adventures! Not unchaperoned, of course, it’s 1964 and a Disney film – she’s travelling with her folk musicologist aunt (Joan Greenwood). The intrepid pair visit a remote seaside village, where there are strange doings afoot, most of which involve Eli Wallach being menacing and belligerent. A mysterious but charming young English fellow is also hanging about, and naturally he and Hayley pair up to investigate matters (and make eyes at one another). Lots of beautiful Greek scenery, mildly thrilling but not too scary adventures, chase scenes, humor….sort of like a junior Hitchcock thriller, scaled down for the younger set. Disney’s live action films don’t have the acclaim of the animated films, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them: they treated their adolescent audience as actual people who deserve serious, age-appropriate stories and quality entertainment. While dated in some respects (this one is from 1964, after all) the Disney live action films consistently provided a good story, well told, that adults could watch – and enjoy – with the kids. I don’t know if people still watch these, but they – you! – should.
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 Workaholics (in Comedy.) Here’s a review of a good episode from season 5, out now at Videoport! (Originally published at The AV Club.) There’s a moment at the end of “Menergy Crisis” where the guys are standing on stage in the TelAmeriCorp parking lot, singing their friendship anthem “Best Friends,” where I actually got a little choked up. Yeah, I said it. And that in an episode filled with: poop-filled homemade stink-bombs, throwing stars, Everclear references, a police shooting, teriyaki pancakes, and more bare butts than Adam sees in any 20 minute window on his Brazzers account. And it’s not that the song itself is great—it actually sounds a lot like Dirk Diggler singing “You Got The Touch”— but the moment worked on me nonetheless, coming at the end of one of my favorite Workaholics episodes in years. Written by Blake Anderson, “Menergy Crisis” is Blake-centric. Like last week’s “Speedo Racer” (written by Anders Holm), the writer gives his character the spotlight to good effect, but “Menergy Crisis” integrates Blake’s journey into the group’s even better, with Blake being excluded from this week’s diversion and turning his rejection into some Blake-style supervillainy. The episode begins with the guys getting typically overenthusiastic about something—this time, an epic musical encapsulation of their unbreakable friendship bond. Sadly, Blake can’t sing. (I mean, Adam and Ders’ crooning isn’t especially noteworthy, but, as Ders puts it, Blake’s singing sounds “like life leaving something—like a child’s nightmare.”) So, with customary, hairtrigger speed, Ders and Adam kick Blake out of the band (“Menergy”) inspired by a song about how they’re best friends ‘til the end of time. As the engine of an episode, it’s right on. It’s not that the three don’t believe in their friendship—it’s that they lose sight of the fact that the three of them need each other more than whatever shiny thing is calling to them at that moment. Workaholics falters most often in comic tone. The guys’ irresponsibility and crudity can curdle with the wrong tone, their happy juvenility shading into braying boorishness, something that happened too often last season. Here, however, the guys’ schism provides the impetus for an episode that turns conflict into perfectly-pitched laughs, especially once the guys start trying to sabotage each other as musical guest at the TelAmeriCorp picnic. The return to TelAmeriCorp is a big part of why this episode works as well, something last season lost sight of. The guys’ slacker shenanigans are easier to root for when they partake of rebellion, and there’s no workplace more conducive to rebellion that this ridiculous, soulless telemarketing firm. Plus, the workplace setting allows the show to weave supporting characters Montez, Bill, Alice, and Jillian back into the show, which is always a good thing. The stars of the show are funny guys and all, but a steady diet of concentrated them gets a bit much. So when Maribeth Monroe’s boss Alice (in a plot device cribbed liberally from The Office) has to spend a surplus or lose it, her plan for a company party (including a velcro wall, pancake station, carnival games, and batting cage) sets the guys against each other to show off their musical skills. (Blake wants to co-opt their wizard rap act with the help of Karl and a pair of rod puppets in place of Adam and Ders.) Thus begins an epically silly prank war, with Ders and Adam getting Blake suspended from work with a phone call to the cops (who, assuming Karl’s filthy van is being used to kidnap Blake, shoot one of the puppets in a genuinely unsettling scene). This causes Blake to ingeniously sabotage every aspect of the company party while taunting the other two with stereotypical evil mastermind phone calls and some light mayhem. Naturally, Blake’s plan is only “ingenious” as far as Blake goes, involving throwing stars deflating the velcro wall just as Jillian is about to make her velcro wall dream come true, Karl’s patented stink bomb perched on the “ring-the-bell” strongman game Montez is about to try, and squishable fruit loading Bill’s pitching machine. Too often, the guys’ conflicts result in too-mean revenges (last year’s rotting skunk burrito sticks in the mind), but, here, the alternating petty vengeance is silly and goofy, and punctuated with copious mooning. (Having seen the screener, I can’t be sure how Comedy Central will come down on the nudity, but if you were longing to finish your anatomically correct Workaholics butt portraits, this episode’s for you.) So when the guys finally put their differences aside and their butts away and take to the stage to perform, it all comes together quiet nicely, with Blake’s newly-introduced sign-language skills (he doesn’t really know sign language) giving him a natural spot in the band that doesn’t involve having to subject the world to his voice. Their triumphant performance (only clouded when Alice suspends them from work, which they don’t care about anyway) is the culmination of a truly well-constructed episode of Workaholics, one that balances plot, character, and inventive silliness just right. As does “Friends Forever,” really—it’s a ridiculous song about three guys who don’t realize how ridiculous they are riding a musical wave of unwarranted confidence in their own awesomeness until it becomes something both ridiculous and, yes, awesome:
We’ve got respect for each other
We will protect one another
Don’t waste your breath on the haters
They’re jealous of our friendship
Friends til the end ride or die
Best friends I’ll trust you with my life
Excuse me—I think there’s something in my eye…
>>>For Sunday, Write for The VideoReport! This whole weekly blog/newsletter/thingy was started some 509 weeks ago as a place for people who work at/love Videoport to share their reviews, opinions, and occasional furious screeds about their favorite/least favorite movies. So do that! Send ‘em to email@example.com or our Facebook page “Videoport Jones”! Do it!
New Releases this week at Videoport: Survivor (MIlla Jovovich is a spy tasked with preventing a terrorist attack on the US, but then is framed for setting up a terrorist attack on the US! What?! Then Pierce Brosnan starts chasing her with a gun, and Dylan McDermott is involved? Man, it’s tough being Milla Jovovich), The Forger (John Travolta straps on his action hero wig in this thriller about an art forger , also suspiciously good at ass-kicking for an art forger, who gets embroiled in some big art forging shenanigans and has to save a cute kid and Christopher Plummer), Timbuktu (A cattle herder and his family find their apolitical existence swept up in the rising tide of religious extremism in the titular African city in this drama that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film), Workaholics—season five (It’s looking like this might be the last season for the three [mostly] endearing layabouts and their silly but enjoyable sitcom about a trio of the worst telemarketers in the history of the world. If so, it’s a good way to go out, as this fifth season can boast some of the best episodes of the whole run. Check out Saturday’s review, where a Videoporter who’s been reviewing the show on the AV Club for a few years runs down a particularly good one), Marfa Girl (Hey, did you like Kids? How about Ken Park? Or Bully? Or any other of Larry Clark’s movies where an increasingly aged movie director keeps making films where he gets to shoot barely-legal teens having lots of barely legal sex? Well, here’s another one for ya’!)
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