Volume DI— Di, Monster, Di
For the Week of 3/24/15
Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. That’s one, small, good thing you can count on every day.
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!
>>> Andy suggests All Good Things (in Mystery/Thriller). I hadn’t heard anything positive about this movie, and only rented it because of the connection to HBO’s documentary miniseries The Jinx, which is getting rave reviews and making headlines. Frankly, I was just glad the subject, Robert Durst, was not related to Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit. That would have been a deal breaker for me. Several years before The Jinx, that show’s director, Andrew Jarecki, brought his considerable filmmaking skills to All Good Things, a barely fictionalized version of Robert Durst’s crimes. And it’s pretty good! First of all, Ryan Gosling (as “David Marks”) and Kirsten Dunst (as his [spoiler alert] doomed wife) are compelling actors to watch, though the screen is often hijacked by the supporting cast of your flippin’ dreams: Frank Langella, Philip Baker Hall, Nick Offerman (everyone’s favorite Ron Swanson), Kristen Wiig, and Trini Alvarado (anyone remember her in The Frighteners? I do!). If you’ve read a synopsis of The Jinx or read one of the headlines about Durst’s confession, I’m sure you know the story. The surprising thing, to me, about All Good Things is how Jarecki chooses to tell this story. I would expect he would use a narrative film to attempt to delve deeper into Durst’s psyche. But, as played by Gosling, whenever we expect to peer through a window into David Marks’ mind, that window promptly shuts. There doesn’t seem to be anything there. We never see his psychological wounds; we only see the scar tissue. I think Andrew Jarecki enjoys not being able to fully explain a character, even in a fiction film, where he could explain away to his heart’s content! But Jarecki’s craftsmanship is apparent. He uses the artifice of a non-documentary (even when he’s mimicking “real” home movie footage) as just another reason to distrust what we are seeing on the screen. There’s a scene in the movie that is repeated several times. There’s a man on a foggy bridge at night. These are beautifully staged shots, with that artificial nighttime look that clearly doesn’t look real, but we recognize it as what nighttime looks like in movies. The man throws black trash bags full of what we assume is body parts off the bridge into the water below. The same scene is shown at different points during the film. Each time we think we know what’s going on, but only after our minds make some leaps. Now that it’s over, I wonder… when does this scene happen? Where is the bridge? Whose body is it? I think Jarecki enjoys not knowing.
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 A Face In The Crowd (in Classics.) What with Tea Party dipstick Ted Cruz entering the 2016 presidential race, thus officially kicking off another soul-crushing election cycle, why not rent this 1957 political parable about a pseudo-folksy southern singer-turned-political candidate. The great Patricia Neal plays the political operative who discovers the bumpkin-y Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes and turns him into a “straight-talking, outsider” politician only to see him embrace his conservative ideals to a monstrous extent, stoking his own ego on the adulation of the easily-manipulated masses who fall under the sway of his manufactured right-wing sloganeering. Why am I bringing this up now, when Fox News is juust ramping up their ludicrously biased political coverage on behalf of the fringe conservative candidates hand-chosen by their plutocratic corporate overlords? No reason.
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 UHF (in Comedy). From a recent oral history of this cult classic comedy from Weird Al Yankovic, here’s Weird Al: I got pretty pumped up, thinking that I was going to be a movie star for a brief period of time. That was certainly the way Orion was positioning it. They said that I was going to be their new Woody Allen. They were looking forward to a long career with me. Well, that didn’t happen, but Weird Al’s still cool, and this movie’s still very, very silly fun.
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 Banshee (in Mystery/Thriller.) Gone are the days when Cinemax was just HBO’s gleefully sleazy little brother-in-law, peddling endless Shannon Tweed erotic thrillers and British 1970s soft core skin flicks. (Not making a value judgment here, just sayin’.) Nope, with the third season of this Cinemax original series wrapping up on TV last week, the former “Skinemax” is now a mid-major player in cable television programming. (I hear their Strike Back [in Videoport’s Action section] is pretty good, too.) Not that there’s not a generous dollop of gratuitousness in Banshee—it’s just that the show’s undeniably copious sex and violence is all surrounded by a genuinely solid, even stirring show, one where genre clichés are spun, twisted, then punched in the face repeatedly. The plot is patently ludicrous—mysterious, compactly hunky stranger (Australian Anthony Hood, doing one of those perfectly nondescript American accents that all Aussies and Brits are getting so good at) who arrives in the small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, only to walk into the middle of a gunfight between some jerks and the newly-arrived new Banshee sheriff. The sheriff—named Lucas Hood—is killed, along with the jerks, and, since no one has met the sheriff yet, the (always-unnamed) stranger takes his place with the help of former boxer, ex-con, and barkeep Sugar (good ol’ Frankie Faison from The Wire, Do The Right Thing, and Silence Of The Lambs) and the stranger’s old frenemy Job (the outstanding Hoon Lee), a world class computer hacker and transvestite ass-kicker. See, he’s in town to find the woman who got away (sort of—I’m not going to spoil anything), now a happily married mother of two. Oh, and the town is in Amish country and is run by the corrupt former Amish meat packing millionaire Kai Proctor (the icily brilliant Ulrich Thomsen from In A Better World). And there’s an army base, run by a corrupt colonel. And there’s an Indian reservation, ruled through fear by a Native American gang run by the absurdly huge and fearsome Chayton Littlestone (the formidable and ridiculously sonorous Geno Segers). Oh, and the stranger’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of gloweringly evil Ukrainian gangster Rabbit (Chariots Of Fire’s Ben Cross, sounding more like a vampire than ever), who has a secret connection to that woman Hood (we’ll call the stranger Hood from now on) has come to see (Ivana Milicevic). It’s all over-the-top nonsense, but then again so are most thriller action series. What’s great about Banshee is, well, several things. One, the acting is outstanding: Starr’s Hood is of the “grim man of few words” ilk, but the actor has a boyish soulful thing going on that’s very affecting, and he’s as formidable in the show’s many, many fight scenes as anyone in recent TV history. It’s not that he’s a martial arts master—his moves are more MMA than kung fu—it’s that he, and literally everyone else on the show is utterly convincing in what they do. (Milicevic is as—or even more—formidable in the fight scenes. Honestly, she’s the best action heroine on TV right now.) The actors are all great at playing the drama completely real and straight in the midst of all the carnage (and the frequent sex scenes—it is still Cinemax, after all). What Banshee does is to craft compelling, human drama from the most lurid ingredients of pulp. (For a more extensive—and coherent—account of Banshee’s goodness, check out the great Les Chappell’s episodic reviews at the AVClub.com).
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, Videoport customer Ryan M. suggests Ratcatcher (in the Criterion Collection). To watch a film by Lynne Ramsay is a sensory experience comparable to opening the closet door of an old, deserted house and having an entire childhood – that includes both the incredible highs and the intense lows – tumble out onto the viewer. These are more like spells than they are films at times, though the filmmaker nonetheless always has great insight in regards to the mad world of men, women, and children. Especially the latter. Ratcatcher is a prime example of an artist in full control of her craft from the very beginning; just an exceptionally assured and dramatically arresting debut that displays mastery of tone, form, and essential humanism. Ramsay finds an unlikely protagonist in a guilt-stricken young boy living in Glasgow during the garbage strike of the early 1970’s – immediately, the director lets us into his world, and I expect it isn’t all that different from her own, and we feel everything. His pain, his passion, his (possibly misguided) hope for a better tomorrow. The film is grim but hardly a slog because it adopts a POV that is suitably more innocent than cynical, thanks to its main character, and also because it’s just damn fine aesthetically. Ramsay gets that everything is heightened for a child, so in representing the kid’s worldview, we get a totally immersive soundscape as well as imagery that is so simple yet so poetic. A beautiful film, and one of the few that hits the nail on the head as far as seeing the universal truth in one’s youth.
>>>For Sunday, Get some free money at Videoport! Yup, free money. Put $20 on your Videoport account, and we give you $25 in store credit. And a pre-pay of $30 gets you $40 in store credit! That…is free money, people.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (At long, long, [long] last, the over-extended epic of the unassuming original Hobbit comes to an end with this action-packed, CGI-heavy final chapter. At least the great Martin Freeman has another chance to show that he was the perfect Bilbo Baggins, and now maybe Peter Jackson can get back to doing weird, cool stuff he actually cares about), Into The Woods (Star-sprinkled musical adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical promises people singing who are not know for their singing, Johnny Depp in another funny costume, and Meryl Streep doing her thing), Unbroken (Angelina Jolie directs this true-life biopic about Louis Zamperini, the juvenile delinquent-turned-soldier-turned POW-turned Olympic champion runner. Seriously, with this guy’s actual life out there, I can’t believe it’s taken so long for someone to make this movie), Wolf Cop (He’s a wolfman cop! What do I have to do, make you a roadmap? Rent it in the Incredibly Strange section already.), Sebastian Bergman: Dark Secrets (You know how you love Wallander? We’ll here’s another dour Scandinavian detective series, this time with a dour police psychologist solving shadowy crimes), Song One (Anna Hathaway stars in this music-heavy drama about a young woman who comes back to New York when her musician brother gets into an accident, only to fall for his hunky bandmate on an indie-rock tour of the city), Low Down (Great character actor John Hawkes [Deadwood, The Sessions, Winter’s Bone] stars as real life jazz great Joe Albany in this biopic about the musician’s troubled life. Based on a memoir by Albany’s daughter, here played by the always-interesting Elle Fanning [Somewhere]), The Red Tent (Big religious miniseries about the troubled history of the twelve tribes of Israel told through the eyes of Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Based on the novel by Anita Diamant, an starring the likes of Morena Baccarin, Minnie Driver, and Debra Winger), The Last Of Robin Hood (Another tale of an aging actor’s inappropriate attraction to a much younger woman, only this time it’s real! Kevin Kline plays the late-career Errol Flynn’s scandalous affair with the 15 year old starlet Beverley Aadland. Yup, 15. Dakota Fanning stars as the jailbait, while Susan Sarandon is more age-appropriate), Outlander- season 1 (Sexy adventures in 18th century Scotland! When a WWII combat nurse is inexplicably sent back in time to 1743 Scotland where she gets caught up in various kilt-y intrigues and romances), Life Partners (Community’s Gillian Jacobs and Leighton Meester star in this female-friendship comedy about a pair of lifelong pals whose bond is threatened when one falls in love with Adam Brody), Ask Me Anything (When a sexy young woman spends her year before college making a blog chronicling all of her sexual exploits with a variety of men, things get out of hand; starring Britt Robertson as the lass, and the likes of Christian Slater, Justin Long, and Martin Sheen as some of the chronicled)
New Arrivals This Week at Videoport: Alex In Wonderland (In this 1970 movie from the late director Paul Mazursky [Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Down & Out In Beverly Hills], Donald Sutherland plays a boy wonder director struggling to find a subject the follow-up to his first successful movie. It’s like a Hollywood version of 8 ½, and Federico Fellini actually shows up at one point, a movie director’s exploration of his own creative process, with the always-interesting Sutherland at the peak of his leading man fame. ), The Accountant (In this short film, which won an Oscar for best live action shot in 2002, an unconventional accountant finds a series of increasingly bizarre ways to bail out a failing family farm. Starring, written, and directed by character actor Ray McKinnon [Deadwood], who also created the stunningly good drama Rectify, which lives in the Drama section at Videoport, and which you should watch right now. Seriously. )
New Arrivals On Blu Ray This Week At Videoport: Top Five