VideoReport #384

Volume CCCLXXXIV- Holiday Hangover

For the Week of 12/18/12

Videoport sings: “fa la la la la, la la la…DONE.” Whew- holidays over, everyone- rent yourselves some movies and relax…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, 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 you give yourself a nice pat on the back, Videoport customers! As another year (our 25th!) comes to a close, we here at the ‘Port (nobody calls it that…) want to say a serious, sincere, and even sappy thank you to all, old friends and new, for your decision to choose to support an independent, local video store (that’s us). We’ve been doing this for a long, long time and we can only continue to be who we are and do what we do when people like you allow us to. You picked Videoport for your own reasons- maybe you live nearby, or maybe you hate faceless corporate institutions that care for money and not movies, or maybe you just like us. Whatever your reasons, we like you, and we thank you. Now let us recommend some movies for you, you kooks…

the-twilight-zone-4fd36d651f9f8>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘The Twilight Zone’ (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) I watched it in reruns as a little kid, and I still watch those same old episodes with the same childlike enthusiasm, chin propped on my elbows while I gaze unwaveringly at the screen. And those same old stories, the great TV parables of their time, hit unflinchingly on a handful of themes that even a child can appreciate: Be a good neighbor. Be kind to those less fortunate, especially when they come under your power. Temper your nostalgia with appreciation of the present. Be cautious and conscientious in the use of power. Honor the shared humanity of every culture and race, or risk losing your own humanity. At times, the moral gets pounded home a little hard, a little on-the-nose… but truthfully, I never mind that, because the child I was when I first watched these shows still wants to hear someone say those big truths out loud.

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!

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Shadow of a Doubt (in Mystery/Thriller.) If you asked me which was my favorite Christmas gift, I couldn’t possibly choose one. But I can easily tell you which of my presents will be your favorite of my gifts: it’s the copy of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt that Mr. Videoport Jones gave me. Now when I get a hankerin’ to watch the Hitchcock film that Alfred Hitchcock himself said was his favorite, I can pull it off my shelves, not off Videoport’s shelf. And I get that hankerin’ a lot. Like, a lot, and with good reason. On the surface, it’s a straightforward story: young Charlotte “Charlie” Newton wishes for something, anything, to liven up her family’s comfortable, humdrum days in thw white picket fence town of Santa Rosa, California. Impulsively, she rushes to the telegraph office to send a message to her namesake, her charismatic world-traveling Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten)… and discovers that he’s already on his way. Uncle Charlie arrives, bringing presents and money and exciting stories and — of course, this being a Hitchcock flick — an air of mystery and dread. Joseph Cotten plays his role to the hilt, shifting effortlessly from rakish allure to chilling gloom to sly deception. It would be easy to imagine that he and he alone brought depravity and sin to this sleepy little town, but it’s not so, and Hitchcock rubs our noses in it every step of the way. Under its sunny brightness, peaceful Santa Rosa bubbles over with the ferment of corruption, with small and large temptations and cupidity. When Uncle Charlie squires his teenaged niece around town, her friends look on with naked curiosity, obviously scandalized — and young Charlie revels in the attention and the gossip it will spur. When a glum and disaffected cocktail waitress (and classmate of innocent young Charlie) spots the costly ring Uncle Charlie gave his niece, her attention and gaze snap into focus and she dreamily intones how she’d do anything for a ring like that, “yes sire, for a ring like that, I’d just die.” Young Charlie’s father and neighbor while away their evenings in gruesome, detailed, and cheerful contemplations of how they would murder each other. The potential for corruption is everywhere, and especially in young Charlie, who fervently believes that she and her sometimes sinister uncle are an alike in personality as they are in name. Hitchcock reinforces this theme by showing Charlie and Charlie in parallel positions, reeling off similar ruminations on the emptiness of life and the futility of the mundane. Young Charlie insists on the importance of their emotional connection: that they are more than “just an uncle and a niece — it’s something else.” Not only does that reinforce the unnerving idea that niece and uncle share a monstrous nature, but it also hints at an idea tapped again and again in the story: that their relationship is not that of uncle and niece, but, well, “something else.” Notably, Uncle Charlie presents young Charlie with a lavish emerald ring and tenderly puts it onto her finger, looking more like a lover proposing than an uncle giving a gift to his niece. That ring is the source of Charlie’s rankling doubts; though a policeman later gives young Charlie even greater reason to doubt (and tries to supplant her uncle in her affections), the engagement ring with its tell-tale engraving plants the first shadow of a doubt in her fertile imagination.

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 Sleepwalk With Me (in Comedy.) A guy walks through a closed, second-floor window. That’s not the start of a joke. It was, however, the impetus behind “Sleepwalk with Me,” a one-man stage show,Sleepwalk With Me Poster_header comedy album, book and now feature film from comedian, monologist and now movie director Mike Birbiglia. A few years ago while on tour in Walla Walla, Wash., Birbiglia had a nightmare that a nuclear missile was heading straight for his hotel room. A longtime sufferer of a rare sleep disorder, he dreamed that he leaped out of bed and right through that closed window, landing on the lawn and then in the emergency room, where he received 33 stitches. And some great material for his stand-up act. Birbiglia’s stand-up, always autobiographical, has a dreamy, sleepy-eyed, everyman persona belying masterful storytelling skills that can turn a seemingly mundane tale into something spellbinding. (He’s like Spalding Gray crossed with Joel Hodgson of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”) The stage version of “Sleepwalk with Me” chronicled the comic’s struggles to find his voice, navigate his relationship with his longtime girlfriend (played in the film by Lauren Ambrose of “Six Feet Under”) and cope with a worsening condition that causes him to act out his dreams in often unpredictable ways. The film version, which was directed by Birbiglia and co-written with Ira Glass (“This American Life”) and others, is a trimmed-down version of the stage production and shaped into a more straightforward narrative in which Birbiglia’s problems stem from his unwillingness to confront things head-on. He doesn’t fully commit himself to his career, his relationship or, you know, finding a way to make sure he doesn’t jump out a window in his sleep — and finds out the damage that results. He addresses the camera directly, and his shared understanding of his own foolishness is both funny and sad. “I know,” he assures the audience after a particularly egregious misstep, “I’m in the future also” Like most one-person shows, it’s a journey of comic and personal growth with some killer jokes throughout, and Birbiglia (or his lightly fictionalized film version, Matt Pandamiglio) lends each development an utterly endearing layer of self-deprecation, even when his actions aren’t particularly laudable. If there’s a knock on the film, it’s that first-time director Birbiglia doesn’t yet possess comedian Birbiglia’s storytelling virtuosity. His decision to visualize some of his more unusual sleepwalking dreams yields some surreal laughs, but some sequences (like those with his parents, played by the undeniably talented Carol Kane and James Rebhorn) lack the snap of his carefully crafted anecdotes, coming more as service to the film’s streamlined plot. But I’m being picky. “Sleepwalk with Me” is a moving, hilarious and deeply personal comedy about one guy’s realization that just going along as if everything’s fine is a one-way ticket to, well, lying in your underpants on the glass-strewn lawn of a cheap hotel.

Reprinted from Dennis’ column in the Portland Press Herald, because it is Christmas Day and he is very tired and also somewhat lazy.

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!

>>>Dennis suggests bidding goodbye to the grandfather of all character actors, Charles Durning. Seemed like the kind of guy who’d show up in movies forever, didn’t he? Maybe it’s because hes been in literally every fourth movie you’ve ever seen in your life. I’d recommend your own Durning-fest with the following: During as Jessica Lange’s gruff, loving he-man dad (his best role) who, unfortunately, becomes smitten with Dustin Hoffman’s alter ego in Tootsie (Comedy), Durning as the bewildered private eye in Brian DePalma’s fun, twisted Sisters (Criterion Collection), Durning as the corrupt cop chasing Robert Redford all over The

Durning, barking up the wrong tree. RIP.

Durning, barking up the wrong tree. RIP.

Sting (Comedy), Durning as the overworked, New York cop trying to corral the media circus in Dog Day Afternoon (Action), Durning as the President, trying to hold off a nuclear coup in Twilight’s Last Gleaming (Classics), Durning as a shady, ill-fated doctor, reteaming with Brian DePalma in The Fury, Durning menacing Kermit as the comically evil frog leg-hocker Doc Hopper in the original Muppet Movie (Children’s section), Durning as the unscrupulous, winning-is-everything football coach in the really quite good North Dallas Forty (Drama),Durning as yet another cop, this time telling babysitter Carol Kane where the calls are coming from in When a Stranger Calls (Mystery/Thriller), Durning as buffonish Nazi “Concentration Camp” Erhardt in Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not to Be (Comedy),Durning squaring off with James Woods in the overlooked Cop, where he may play a cop (Mystery/Thriller), Durning as the comically conflicted corporate head in the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy (Drama), Durning as Santa in Elmo Saves Christmas (Children’s), Durning as the befuddled dad of the dysfunctional family in Home for the Holidays (Comedy), Durning as Santa (again!) in Mrs. Santa Claus (Comedy), Durning being blusterily evil for the Coen’s again in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Comedy), Durning as the put-upon mayor dealing with an invading Hollywood film crew in State and Main (Comedy), and Durning as Denis Leary’s gruff dad on ‘Rescue Me’ (in Drama.) Adios to one of the best working actors ever…

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

>>> Kids like movies. Take one for free.

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Manny & Lo (in Feature Drama.) This is one of those little indie films that no one remembers, no one ever rents, and, frankly, is ever in danger of fading away into the limbo where, regretfully, all such non-rent-paying minor films end up. (I may have saved it from that fate once or twice. Don’t tell Videoport’s owner Bill. Wait, what? Bill reads this newsletter? Heh- ummm…moving on…) I dunno- sometimes a little movie like this just finds a soft spot in a video clerk’s heart- cultivating such connections with us lowly drones should really be something indie directors should look into. It’s a gimmicky little tale on one level- two runaway sisters try to stay out of the way of everyone seeking to “help” them by sticking to America’s backroads and occasionally boosting what they need. Unfortunately, the elder sister is pregnant and, fearing that they won’t know how to deal when her time comes, the two kidnap a chatty clerk at a maternity store. For one thing, in the hand of director Lisa Krueger, this is one of the rare movies where the Bechdel Test meter is off the charts. You know the Bechdel Test, right? Coined by writer/cartoonist Alison Bechdel, it’s a simple yet mind-blowing yardstick to apply to any work of fiction- 1. Are there at least two women therein? 2. Do they talk to each other? 3. If so, do they talk about something, anything, other than a man? It’s not a high bar to set, but if you actually think about it, it’s absolutely shocking how many works, even great ones, fail to meet that meager standard but Manny & Lo is refreshingly at ease allowing three female characters to simply talk to each other. But unexpectedly, the real rewards of a minor-key film like this stem from the performances- that’s little Scarlet Johansson as the sensible younger sister, and, while she might not have ScarJo’s Avengers-style popularity, Aleksa Palladino, as the preggers elder sis has gone on to consistently solid work in things like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. And, as the seemingly flighty clerk, whose motormouthed patter gradually reveals some of those hidden depths that indie films truck in so effectively, old pro Mary Kay Place gives perhaps her best performance. So c’mon…help a good, little movie stay alive in the collective memory.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Jeff, Who Lives At Home (in Comedy.) Here’s what you should do: rent these movies at Videoport. The Puffy Chair (in Comedy), Baghead (in Incredibly Strange), Cyrus (in Comedy), The Do-Deca-Pentathalon (in Incredibly Strange.) Oh, and this one (in Comedy.) They’re all written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass (the Duplass Brothers) who, while nowhere near as famous as the Coen Brothers, have had a similarly, if more quietly, influential effect on the landscape of American independent film. Sure, they’re not household names as yet (although Mark, who’s acted in things like Safety Not Guaranteed and the funny show ‘The League’) has a little name recognition, and, sure, their signature brand of naturalistic, improv-heavy indie comedy/dramas have been slapped with the label “mumblecore” by the least original and creative film critics and viewers, but anyone who actually pays attention to what’s truly interesting in the American indie scene knows that the Duplasses, without fail, are producing some of the most satisfyingly unique films out there. In Cyrus, the DB’s were able to attract some name actors to their indie clubhouse (John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill) for a refreshingly, unnervingly, singular take on a potentially cliched comedy trope. Continuing that trend, their Jeff, Who Lives At Home takes a similarly shopworn idea (the slacker with a serious case of arrested development) and, in their hands and those of a great name cast (Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon) craft something consistently surprising and satisfying. Segel is Jeff, a thirtysomething pothead living his his forebearing (if weary) mom’s basement, seemingly content with watching TV and cultivating his obsession with, of all things, M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signs and its idea of the interconnectedness of things which seem, to the non-stoned, to be mere coincidences. Sent on an errand by his hardworking mom (Sarandon), Jeff finds himself accidentally (or is it?) reconnecting with his estranged elder brother (Helms), an unhappily married wage slave who views his little brother’s obsessions and scrounging with the same abrasive dismissiveness that typifies his relationship with wife Judy Greer. As the two brothers are tossed together on a series of misadventures and their office worker mom finds herself in the midst of a similar, seemingly random series of events at work, the film is never anything but winning and smart. And while canny viewers may suspect that there are plot twists based on the film’s premise coming, each step of the way is never less than engaging and surprising in the hands of the actors and the sure hands of the writer-directors. All four actors (and the aging-very-gracefully Rae Dawn Chong) create characters with real depth, and the end, when it comes, pulls all the threads together in a way that illuminates the film’s title in a way that made me view the main character in a particularly moving and surprising way. It was almost…Shyamalan-esque, except it didn’t make me want to smack someone.  Great work from all involved.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Words (Bradley Cooper made his first bid for serious leading man status with this drama about a struggling writer who tries to pass of the work of a reclusive old man [Jeremy Irons] as his own), They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Veil (documentary about one of the most perpetually-repressed countries in forever- the place known as Burma, or Myanmar), the following are COMING OUT ON MONDAY 12/31/12 (Because the holiday season has completely screw up everything): ‘Justified’- season 3 (Timothy Olyphant continues to squint and growl menacingly at all the lowlifes that modern day cowboy life has to offer), Looper (director Rian Johnson reunites with his Brick star Joseph Gordon Leavitt in this time travel tale of a hitman sent into the future to assassinate…himself!!! in the form of Bruce Willis)

VideoReport #383

Volume CCCLXXXIII- Holiday Wallet Massacre: The Walleting

For the Week of 12/11/12

Videoport will ease your holiday burdens. Let us count the ways: 1. A free rental every single day! 2. A free rental with every movie you purchase (from us, rather than some lame corporate chain!) 3. Get free money on your Videoport account any time ($20 buys you $25 in rental credit, $30 buys you $40.) 4. Our rentals are really quite reasonable…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, 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!

>>>Emily S. Customer says It’s a paranoid political-thriller Christmas! The 1970s were a turning point

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

for psychological thrillers and disaffected stories of disenchanted, disenfranchised anti-heroes, and two of the ’70s greatest tales of paranoid suspense take place in the midst of the bustling Christmas season, when the bright lights and cheerful crowds only emphasize our protagonists’ isolation and unease. In “Three Days of the Condor,” bookish government researcher Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is the sole survivor of an assassination designed to take out his entire office. Inexperienced, unarmed, and so little schooled in the finer points of espionage that he can barely stammer out his own code name (“Condor”), Joe has to scramble to survive on the streets of New York while he dodges the agents and assassins trailing him, not knowing who to trust or where to turn. “The Conversation,” arguably Francis Ford Coppola’s greatest film, features Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, an expert surveillance artist obsessed with maintaining his own privacy — and plagued by the knowledge of how easily that privacy can be breached. Both films take place in the bright bustle of December, and in both, the joy and fellowship of others is just a bittersweet background to the essential isolation of the individual. MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y’ALL.

>>>JackieO wises you up on a holiday rental. Did you know there’s a Christmas episode of “Homicide” (Psst: it’s season 3, episode 8: ‘All Through the House’)? Maybe more. Belzer and Braugher for Christmas? Come on, dummy.

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!

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests that you might want a break from the holly-jolly without completely forsaking the season. Fortunately, there’s a long tradition of movies set at Christmastime (or with their peaks at Christmas) but that aren’t what we traditionally think of as “Christmas-y.” The classic example, of course, is Die Hard, but there are a few more. Oh, just a few. The Lion in Winter. Brazil. Holiday. The Shop around the Corner. Toy Story. Doubt. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Better Off Dead. The

Even less Christmassy than you might think...

Even less Christmassy than you might think…

Apartment. The Proposition. Eyes Wide Shut. Meet John Doe. Twelve Monkeys. Three Days of the Condor. The Conversation. Bell Book and Candle. Gremlins. Diner. The Thin Man. Trading Places. Edward Scissorhands. The Ref. The Ice Harvest. Less Than Zero. The Matador. Eyes Wide Shut. Prometheus. In Bruges. Eastern Promises. Mysterious Skin. Lethal Weapon. The French Connection. The Square. Lady in the Lake. Metropolitan. Go. Profondo Rosso. First Blood. Female Trouble. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The Mothman Prophecies. Hellcab, aka Chicago Cab

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 Some more weird Christmas TV episodes! Yeah, sure all the copies (and we have many) of A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and A Charlie Brown Christmas

Just watch Community already...

Just watch Community already…

might all have been taken, since it’s, you know, that time of year and other people thought of calling ahead and stuff. But we here at Videoport excel at finding alternatives to the same old stuff that everyone else wants. So, first up, I’m gonna steer you toward one of my favorite shows of all time, ‘Community.’ Apart from the absolutely indispensable ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ (season 2, episode 11), which I may have already pushed on someone else by this point, I’ll definitely suggest you take on season 3, episode 10 “Regional Holiday Music.” In this one, the gang, continuing the running gag that they despise Greendale’s glee club, sees those chipper, insufferable cover artists get busted for ASCAP violations, only to find themselves falling under the sway of the creepily-cheery glee club instructor (SNL’s Tarran Killam). It’s a (pardon) gleeful takedown of ‘Community’s longtime competition, ‘Glee’ sure, but it, like every ‘Community’ episode with a hook, is also a loopy, inventive, character-driven work of hilarious art in its own right. I could point to Donald Glover’s chance to bring his rap skills to the fore (he has a quite respectable rap career under the name Childish Gambino), or the disturbingly hilarious “sexy Santa girl” deconstruction by the ever-amazing Alison Brie, or the weirdly appropriate conflation of “Glee” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but I think it’s best if you just let this episode, like all of ‘Community’ wash over you in a bubbly sea of giddy hilarity.

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!

>>>JackieO suggests a holiday movie alternative! You know what Christmas movie will NOT be checked out? Not Elf, not Scrooged, not A Christmas Story, no no. Christmas in New England. My wonderful wife and I have just thrown our second annual holiday day drinking party offering respite to shopping-weary friends in the form of ham, pie, microbrews, and cocktails, and the belle of our ball, the secret of our parties’ success, has been Videoport’s Yule log/snow fall video. Classical arrangements of traditional carols accompany the seemingly unending footage of a fireplace, but I recommend muting your TV and playing your own favorites, assuming your taste in music is as good as my wife’s and mine. (Also learn to cook as good as my wife does.) Solid!

>>>Overheard in the Holiday Movie section: “If you’re going to go Scrooge, screw Albert Finney- go with George C. Scott. He’s just a pissy old man and it’s great!”

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

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In the fuzzy reaches of memory, my own childhood viewings of the classic animated 1966 tv special How the Grinch Stole Christmas have gotten jumbled up cozily with the delight of watching it, year after year, Christmas after Christmas, with my many nieces and nephews. Like so many traditions, watching The Grinch has become a palimpsest of holiday moments: sitting on the floor in my footie pajamas, peeking around my fingers as the vewwwwwy scawwwwwy Grinch creeps around Cindy Lou Who’s house in the middle of the night; seeing the sheer disgust on my tiny nephew’s face as he sees The Grinch triumphantly haul away all their gifts; hearing the relieved giggle of my nieces as that overloaded sleigh barrels down into town to bring all those jingtinglers, whohoovers, and fluefloopers back to the joyful Whos down in Whoville. Watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a beloved family ritual older than I am, and made all the more wonderful by the way it melds together all the years of family togetherness of the sweetest kind. But there’s so much more to this lovely, loving tale of redemption. At its heart, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the story of an outsider, a pitiable creature whose heart is shrunken by solitude and bitterness. When he sees innocent joy in the townspeople below his mountain hermitage, The Grinch lashes out: since he cannot be joyful, he tries to steal joy from those around him — to make the happy masses as cold and bitter as he is. But he cannot. Even in the face of misfortune, we can marshall our spirits and find joy and love and fellowship in our hearts. Indeed, we must, because if we don’t, we’re lost. In this season, especially, we would do well to remember that: our greatest joy lies in our fellowship, in our ability to share love and joy even in times of cruel catastrophe.

>>>JackieO suggests A Wish for Wings That Work. I came of age when Berkley Breathed’s brilliant comic strip “Bloom County” was a thing, and it went a long way to form my teenaged comic sensibilities. The strip was as hilarious as it was bittersweet and sublime, like a “Peanuts” for a jaded modern age. There’s a “Bloom County” Christmas special called “Bill and Opus: A Wish for Wings That Work” which I have no memory of having aired on television. The characters’ voices don’t sound like how I’d imagined them on the funny pages, but that’s OK. This is good stuff.

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

>>>For Saturday, JackieO suggests Premium Rush (in Action.) Regarding Friday’s release of Premium Rush, JoGoLev does the best with the poor lines his more-or-less unlikeable, one-dimensional d-bag bike courier character was given, but the bicycle vs. car chase scenes through the streets of Manhattan are truly thrilling, and professional weirdo Michael Shannon of Take Shelter and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” is mesmerizing, in fact the main reason to watch this quickly-paced and fun thriller is to revel in Shannon’s turn as a banacakes crazy crooked cop on, of course, the edge. Even when he’s getting a beat-down in a Chinatown gutter, he’s somehow both riveting and hilarious. What’s this Michael Shannon guy’s deal? He’s great!

>>>For Sunday, April hopes someone will do a double or triple feature of Videoport’s selection of gay and lesbian holiday movies, of which there are only three: Visions of Sugar Plums, Treading Water, and 24 Nights. They may be low budget with bad acting but that can be kinda fun, right? And look! Just look at the cover of Visions of Sugar Plums– why aren’t you renting it right now? And 24 Nights has David Burtka (Neil Patrick Harris’ better half) and is actually kinda funny. Of the three, Treading Water is the only one I watched to the end, so that’s something. I know I’m not winning you over right now. Would a lame gay yuletide joke make it better? No? Okay.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Premium Rush (this “bike messenger gets chased by crooked cop for the package he’s carrying” action thriller would probably be a snooze, except that it stars the undeniably-talented Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as the bike guy and the incontrovertibly-weird and terrifying Michael Shannon [Boardwalk Empire] as the evil cop; plus, I hear it’s actually pretty good; since this comes out on Friday, ridiculously, check out Jackie’s Saturday review!), Pitch Perfect (Portland’s own Anna Kendrick [50/50, Up In the Air] stars alongside April’s #1 crush Rebel Wilson in this musical feel-good comedy about a college student who joins the school’s misfit a cappella singing group and sings her little heart out in order to win the big singing competition; for fans of Glee, singing, feelgoodery), Trouble With the Curve (Clint Eastwood is a crusty old baseball scout with failing eyesight who crustily accepts the help of his estranged daughter [Amy Adams] on one last big recruiting trip; for fans of: Clint, crust, baseball. Not for fans of: Moneyball, subtlety), Total Recall (Colin Farrell takes over from Arnie in this remake of the sci fi semi-classic about a guy who may or may not be living in a world created by implanted memories; for fans of: unnecessary remakes, 3-boobed prostitutes), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2nd sequel to that movie based on the kids books with the stick figures; for fans of: the first two movies based on kids books with the stick figures), ‘Shameless’- season 2 (William H. Macy is back, reddening his neck as the shiftless patriarch of the white-trashiest family on TV, you know- now that Downton Abbey is on hiatus), Resident Evil: Retribution (I believe this to be the fifth of these, so if you aren’t already a fan of Milla Jovovich gunning down zombies while wearing a leather catsuit, then you’ve got a lot of catching up to do; for fans of: loud noises, shiny things, Milla Jovovich in a leather catsuit: ATTENTION- for some dumb reason, this isn’t being released until Friday, 12/21- don’t ask…), Arbitrage (Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Roth star in this financial thriller about a fraudulent hedge fund manager whose chicanery threatens to bring down his perfect life; for fans of: rich people, watching rich people lose all their stuff), ‘Californication’- season 5 (David Duchovny continues to sleaze his way through the bedroom’s of LA’s hottest trophy wives as a perpetually-blocked novelist in this boobful Showtime comedy series), Killer Joe (from director William Friedkin [The Exorcist, The French Connection, Bug] comes this over-the-top [in every way] tale of a sleazy, psychotic Dallas detective/hitman [Matthew McConaughey] who starts doing very unpleasant things to the life and family of a loser [Emile Hirsch] who can’t pay him: ATTENTION- also coming out on Friday, for no earthly reason…), Sleepwalk With Me (comedian Mike Birbiglia turns his autobiographical one-man show about his misadventures in relationships, his standup career, and his struggles with a rare sleep disorder into a funny, poignant feature film; for fans of: standup comedy, good things), Liberal Arts (have you ever watched ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and wished it were all about Ted? Well, me neither, but HIMYM’s Josh Radnor wrote, directed and stars in this comedy/drama about a stuck-in-a-rut college admissions adviser who meets the fetching young Elizabeth Olsen [Martha Marcy May Marlene]; also starring the great Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney; oh, and Zac Efron, too, if you’re into that sort of thing), 10 Years (cool-ish cast including Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt, Rosario Dawson, and Justin Long liven up this high school reunion comedy), ‘House of Lies’- season 1 (the great Don Cheadle stars as a slick, if conflicted, corporate fixer in this comedy series costarring the not-too-shabby Kristen Bell [Veronica Mars] and ‘Parks and Recreation’’s Jean-Ralphio), ‘The Sarah Silverman Program’- season 3 (America’s favorite potty-mouthed yet adorable comic is back being weird and adorably offensive!), Red Hook Summer (Spike Lee’s newest film features ‘The Wire’’s brilliant Clarke Peters [he was Detective Lester Freamon] as a young boy’s terrifying preacher grandfather in another of Lee’s Brooklyn coming-of-age stories), The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (documentary about the implosion of the titular public housing project, whose failure is examined as a metaphor for the failure of low-income housing projects across America)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: World War III (a very, very 80s cast including the likes of Rock Hudson, Brian Keith, David Soul Cathy Lee Crosby and more star in this 1982 depiction of a fictional invasion of America [well, Alaska] by Russian troops; darn those Ruskies!)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Total Recall, Trouble With the Curve, Arbitrage, Killer Joe, Premium Rush, Resident Evil: Retribution, ‘Girls’- season 1, Pitch Perfect.

And, hey, happy holidays from us at Videoport. Thank you all for another great year. We love ya’, you crazy kids…

VideoReport #360

Volume CCCLX- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Florist

For the Week of 7/10/12

Videoport is one of the last remaining video stores in the country. But even when there were a million of them, we were still the best. Since we’re still standing, there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, 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!

This is only the 43rd weirdest thing you’ll see in this movie.

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests movies sooooo incredibly strange that they will MELT YOUR FACE OFF*. So, the Incredibly Strange Films section isn’t Incredibly Strange enough for ya? You want the movies so strange that they will MELT YOUR FACE OFF*? Here’s a start: Hausu [in Criterion]. In this 1977 Japanese flick (fiiiiiinally released in the U.S. in 2010), a seven schoolgirls (named Gorgeous, Mac, Kung Fu, Melody, Fantasy, Sweetie, and Prof) spend their vacation in a haunted house… or a ghostly house… or a demonic house… or some kind of jacked-up house, okay? The A.V. Club describes Hausu as veering “from crazy to batsh*t, piling up horror-comic setpieces that marry the wacky and surreal with a manic style that’s perpetually reinventing itself.”

*As promised this weekend by Videoport Jones him-/her-/them-selves on Facebook. Friend us on Facebook!

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!

>>>Dennis suggests you stop complaining about the Incredibly Strange section or it will melt your face off! I hear you out there. You wander past the Incredibly Strange section and, invariably, someone in your party (always the dumbest one- why do you hang out with that guy/girl?) zeroes in on a particular movie and says, with typical dumb guy/gal disdain, “Huh- this movie ain’t even weird?” before lumbering off to look at something starring Kate Hudson or, I dunno, Steven Seagal or someone. Seriously, what do you see in this person. Anyway, I know what happened- when confronted with the mind-twisting awesomeness of the ISS, the average (or in this case, below-average) mind recoils, freaks out, and hones in on the first movie it can actually comprehend. Sure, we may have stuck a few odd (meaning not especially odd) choices into the ISS over the years, but we had our reasons, and they are the exceptions to the face-melting rule. (To answer the most frequently cited objection: The Mexican is in the Incredibly Strange section, maybe due to the complete lack of chemistry between the megastar leads, maybe because of some sudden bursts of Tarantino-esque violence in its otherwise lightweight comedy, and maybe because we felt like it.) So, for all the naysayers out there, here are some of my picks you can rent to silence those who would doubt the integrity of Videoport’s Incredibly Strange Section. And warning: these movies will melt your face…clean off. The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre, Fando and Lis, and El Topo: director Alejandro Jodorowski thinks he’s making surrealist, symbolist masterpieces. Most viewers think he’s both pretentious and bats*t insane. Whichever ‘s true, his movies are full of some of the weirdest, most extreme stuff you’ll ever see. El Topowas reportedly John Lennon’s favorite movie-

At midnight, I’ll totally put a spider on your boobs…

make of that what you will. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul: director/star/banana nut muffin Jose Mojica Marins portrayed his monstrous movie alter ego Coffin Joe a number of times, none more effectively than in this supernatural freakshow where CJ, sort of a Svengali/Dracula/stage magician figure lives in a castle, murders people with spiders and fire, and rapes his way through the townsfolk trying to sire an heir. Nothing I say can accurately describe how this movie will get inside your head. The Family That Eats Soil:from one-named Filipino psycho Khavn comes…this. Shot in ultra-grimy no budget grub-o-vision, this one gives you: a midget in a diaper breast feeding blood from a grown woman, claymation rape, cockfighting, invisible rape, sloppy satanic sex parties, and, yup, a family that eats dirt. Extra Weird Sampler: sure, Videoport’s got more than a few films released by Something Weird Video, guardians of the grimiest cinematic sleaze of all time (The Adult Version of Jekyll and Hyde, Night of the Bloody Apes, Two Thousand Maniacs, Satan’s Children, Christian Scare Films, and more!), but most SWV releases are so awful that this sampler, containing trailers for over 100(!) of the greatest/worst they have will give you more than enough. The sheer volume of gore, boobs, and gory boobs in this compilation will leave you numb. You know, in a good way. Possession: This twisted, disturbing flick features a love triangle including Sam Neill, Isabelle Adjani, and…something. That’s really all I should say, except to add that the performances by two respected actors here are the most over-the-top, insanely-indulgent examples I’ve ever seen. This one’s…well, this movie exists, that’s for sure. Street Trash: how does your garden variety horror movie about a crate full of mysterious hooch that causes derelicts who drink it to melt into screaming puddles of fluorescent blue goo qualify for Incredibly Strange status? Well, that could probably do it right there, but throw in some highly un-PC, and frequently funny, black comedy (especially from a guy named James Lorinz from Frankenhooker), and the fact that that cover drawing is not just artistic license and we’ve got a deal. Tromeo and Juliet: of course we could include all of the freakazoid films from the infamous Troma company (the Toxic Avenger movies, Sgt. Kabukiman: NYPD) here, but I’ll give the face-melt nod to this completely-insane version of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of young love, seen as it includes: onscreen nipple piercing, a toothy penis monster, mutants, incest, amputations, and a woman giving birth to…things. Plus, the Chorus is played by Motorhead’s Lemmy! Written by James Gunn (Super, Slither.)

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!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Big (in Comedy.) You know the basic plot line. Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin is tired of being treated like a kid, of homework and bedtimes and chores. He makes what seems like a simple wish: “I wish I were big.” When his wish is granted, he sees how not-simple it is. There are so many classic comedy bits in this perennial favorite —- the tiny corn! the trampoline! the in-floor piano! the sleepover, which is actually pretty creepy in retrospect… where was I? the silly string gag! the garnish! — that it’s easy to remember it as just a slapstick comedy with some decent set pieces. But the pitch-perfect casting makes Big a classic. Who else but big, sweet, dopey Tom Hanks could so clearly portray a child in a man’s body? He brings Josh’s vulnerability, goofiness, and exuberance into full blossom without making him infantile or inane. Elizabeth Perkins plays the quintessential 1980s power-dressing businesswoman with plenty of toughness and spark, but also with an underlying tenderness that many ‘80s flicks eschewed in their paint-by-numbers approach to female execs. Robert Loggia balances his grizzly-bear tycoon with juuuuust enough boyish twinkle to be winning. [I was already reminiscing over “Big” when Regan and I started rhapsodizing over the many great roles of Mercedes Ruhl, and Regan chipped in, “And she played the mom in ‘Big’!” I waved that off with a casual “Naaaaaah.” Later that night, I noticed Mercedes Ruhl’s IMDb page pulled up on my laptop. In fairness, I’ll point out that A) Regan was right, that TOTALLY WAS Mercedes Ruhl, and B) she was too kind to say even the tiniest “I TOLD YOU SO, that TOTALLY WAS Mercedes Ruhl.”]

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!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Inland Empire (in Mystery/Thriller), which will also MELT YOUR FACE OFF. David Lynch is arguably America’s premier weirdo director, letting his films’ stories rise (or sink) into the ether of fantasy and surrealism, barely tethered to reality by a tenuous thread of narrative consistency. In Inland Empire, he lets go of even that thin skein of reality and lets the film float off unfettered into the clouds of the unconscious. Lynch himself describes it as the tale of “a woman in trouble” — but which woman, and which trouble? Is it the story of an aging star (Laura Dern) desperate for a comeback, of an unfaithful wife (also played by Dern — or maybe played by Dern’s actress character, Nikki Grace) terrified of a husband’s retribution, of a nameless Polish woman locked in the limbo of a hotel room watching a film of her own sorrows, of Doris (Julia Ormond) who commits a crude and brutal murder at her husband’s command, of a little girl who gets lost in a marketplace and finds a palace, or of the several girls and women we see who live along the margins of Hollywood, eking out their dismal days as party girls, hookers, junkies, or street people? The film is deeply unsettling, by turns ominous, beautiful, hilarious, squalid, and dreamy. Even the glitchy digital artifacts and uneven emotional tone, which would detract and distract from most stories, enhance the blanketing sense of chaos and confusion that make Inland Empire an enigmatic masterpiece.

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

>>> You know- for kids!

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

>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests 13 Going on 30 (in Comedy.) This movie made me cry like a baby. I don’t particularly care for Jennifer Garner who I think has a face like a Persian cat, but I love this movie. It’s exactly what you think it is, except surprisingly okay.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests ‘Louie’ (in Comedy.) The best show on TV right now? The best show on TV right now. I’m gonna go ahead and second the lovely Ms. S. Customer’s recommendation of this show from last week’s VideoReport, not because I think I can say anything more eloquent than she did, but because I want to make sure more people check out this series from comedian Louis C.K. And when I say “from,” I mean “from” in every sense of the word. When FX offered CK a higher budget if they could give him notes, he made a deal for less money as long as he could have complete creative control. He writes, directs, and edits (on his computer) every single episode and the network doesn’t get their mitts on it until he delivers them the finished product. And what that product is is damn-near unclassifiable. On one hand, it’s very Seinfeldian, with a standup comedian’s life and act interspersed, one commenting on the other. It’s a sitcom, I suppose, although I genuinely think Videoport would have to come up with a new category for it; simply put, Louie is unlike any show I’ve ever seen. Of course, CK is probably the best standup comedian in the world at the moment (and has been for a few years), but what he’s doing here transcends standup, transcends sitcoms, maybe even transcends existing definitions what a show could be. Intensely personal and insightful about its subject (recently divorced comedian coping with single parenthood, romantic misadventures, and that thing called life), Louie is also prone to philosophical musings on what it means to be a decent person, a modern man, a father- all the while delivering some of the hugest, most satisfying laughs ever. And then there’s CK’s elastic approach to reality, sometimes manifesting itself in weird flights of magical realism (an excruciatingly bad date abruptly ending when the woman dashes into a waiting helicopter), sometimes in an utter disregard of continuity for the sake of it (he has a brother! No wait, two sisters! His white kids have an inexplicably African American mother!) It’s disorienting, then completely exhilarating; CK is throwing conventions out the door if they get in the way of what he wants to do dramatically from episode to episode. Of course, all of this wouldn’t mean anything if the man and his show weren’t funny, and it is funny. As hell. And not in a particularly comfortable, Seinfeld-y way, either; CK’s takes on men and women, on being a parent, and especially, terrifyingly-honestly about himself, are often as shocking and uncomfortable as they are hilarious. But there are some episodes (like the one where he examines his non-relation to God, the one where he finds unexpected goodwill from a neighbor, the one where he confronts the father of a high school bully who humiliated him in front of a date, the one where an estranged comedian friend tells him he’s planning to kill himself) where the show just is…itself. How many “sitcoms” have reduced you to tears lately? Or wonder? Something completely different, unexpected, and awe-inspiringly brilliant. Wow. Just…wow. You should rent this.

At least there’s Aly…

New Releases this week at Videoport: American Reunion (time and comedy may have moved on, but the entire gang from this once-relevant raunchy comedy series is back for a fourth helping; some [Sean William Scott, the lovely and talented Allyson Hannigan] coming back clearly as a favor, while others [Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, those two guys no one cared about in the first place] just grateful for the paycheck; plus, we can almost be certain that Jason Biggs’ penis will be inserted into something inappropriate), ‘Warehouse 13’- season 3 (the quirky sci fi series about a trio of government agents tasked with tracking down the dangerous artifacts housed in the titular warehouse marches on its weird little way), Margaret (remember how great the indie film You Can Count on Me was? Well, after sitting in studio hell for a few years, director Kenneth Lonergan’s followup movie, about young woman’s troubled reaction to witnessing a fatal bus crash finally gets a release; starring Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Allison Janney, Jean Reno, and more of the cool kids), The Flowers of War (Christina Bale takes off the batsuit to star this historical drama about the Rape of Nanking from director Zhang Yimou [Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers]; costarring Xinyi Zhang and Paul Schneider), Being Flynn (Robert DeNiro seems to be trying for a change in this indie drama about a young writer [Paul Dano] whose accidental encounter with his estranged, homeless father [DeNiro] causes all manner of juicy drama), Zoom In: Sex Apartments (After being raped by a masked man, a woman begins to investigate why the residents of her apartment building are being murdered…and their genitals set on fire; it’s a Japanese version of an Italian Argento-style giallo- you’re welcome!), A Tale of Two Cities: The Circuit City Story (documentary about the improbable rise of one guys tv repair shop into an electronics super-chain, and the shockingly sudden death spiral that cost thousands of people their jobs.)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Mac & Devin Go to High School (Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa star in this comedy about an overachieving high school senior’s friendship with a guy in his 15th go-round at senior year,) The Hunter, God Bless America, American Reunion, Being Flynn, The Flowers of War.

VideoReport #342

Volume CCCXLII- The Revengening

For the Week of 3/6/12

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Take a chance on something weird. We like it when you’re weird…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental!

>>>Videoport customer Jenna G. suggests The Gift (in Mystery/Thriller.) I picked up this mystery-psych-thriller because Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spiderman) directed and Billy Bob Thornton co-wrote. Also, the story is supposedly inspired by Billy Bob’s psychic Mother. What?! Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) reads cards in a deep southern town full of crazies and drunk rednecks. Giovanni Ribisi gives the best performance as a tortured mechanic among a cast of pre-Tom Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves and Greg Kinnear. While dialogue and characters border lazy or cliche at times, the plot gets interesting when Annie helps investigate the disappearance of a local girl. Her “gift” is presented in a believable way throughout and the “whodunit” second-half of the movie has some fun twists. Ultimately, this is a dark movie with some good ideas and a solid lead. Sidenote: Raimi directed Billy Bob in a not-to-be-missed film: A Simple Plan.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental!

>>>Andy suggests The Asphalt Jungle (in Classics). John Huston’s 1950 thriller couldn’t differ more severely from his first film, The Maltese Falcon (1941). Both are noirs, but that’s all they have in common. In fact, The Asphalt Jungle more closely resembles Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing than Falcon (Sterling Hayden’s presence helps), though Jungle is more realistic and less stylized than either of those films. It’s also more compassionate and forgiving of its flawed characters, instead of judging them from an amused distance. The story is simple: a man masterminds a jewel heist and recruits some criminals to execute his plan. The plan is solid, except that it doesn’t account for the human element. In that way, The Asphalt Jungle is the same as every other film about crime (or any other endeavor). People have a way of gumming up the works. That’s a noir attitude. But if this is a noir, where is the femme fatale? There are two femmes in this film, though there’s very little that’s fatale about them. One is Jean Hagen, who portrays Doll, Sterling Hayden’s devoted ex-fling. She sticks by her man no matter what trouble he gets into, and even cleans his apartment! The other, played by Marilyn Monroe, does nothing but look beautiful and let her hopelessly smitten sugar daddy (Louis Calhern) drive himself to distraction. She doesn’t love him, but she likes him just fine, and he’s sweet to her. Together, these women are the most passive femme fatales in film history. They’re both decent women who let their men make all the mistakes. Noir is typically a man’s world, and The Asphalt Jungle is full of greedy, violent men, but the women in the film provide shades of warmth that make the story more realistic, and ultimately more tragic.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental!

>>>Former Videoporter Stockman suggests D.E.B.S. (in Comedy.) My brother and I first rented this, I’m profusely sorry to say at Blockbuster*. But we learned a fun and valuable lesson at Blockbuster because as sad yet entertaining as this story is, it would never happen at Videoport and that’s a good thing. Let me first say, I knew nothing about this movie other than sexy women in school girl outfits with guns were on the cover and based on the tagline they were spies, because of a secret test hidden in the SAT’s. A SECRET TEST! A TEST HIDDEN INSIDE THE SAT’S TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE A SEXY LADY SPY! Done and done! My brother was pretty easy to convince to rent this! At the counter, the young Blockbuster lady was kind enough to allow us to rent this (yes, I just used the word allow, without sarcasm). We were WARNED in harsh undertones, lest someone hear her apparently horrifying, filthy words, that we should be careful because it had *girls…kissing…each other*. Sorry to offend you lady, but done and done! Needless to say, this movie is everything I ever dreamed it would be! It has sexy lady spies! It is ridiculous! It is ridiculously magical! It includes a most entertaining gratuitous lip syncing music montage to Erasure’s A Little Respect! And, girls kissing each other! Thank goodness this fun, silly, romantic, highly entertaining movie was made, the world is a better place for it!

*Of course, as an honored competitor in the field of video rental battle, we mourn the loss of our erstwhile foe. Sure, they were bloated, under-movied, garishly-formica-ed, and their employees knew as much about foreign language films as they did about the large hadron collider, but… Wait, I had something here….

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store!

Herc. He’s an idiot.

Lester Freamon. He’s like the Anti-Herc.

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘The Wire’ [in Mystery/Thriller], even if you’ve seen it before… and especially if you’ve seen it twice through. Watching David Simon’s deservedly legendary HBO series “The Wire” for the first time is a bit like learning to swim: you’re thrown into the complicated worlds of Baltimore’s overtaxed Homicide division, a special unit developed to study drug kingpin Avon Barksdale’s syndicate, and the many members of the syndicate itself. It’s a sprawling cast of characters with dozens of interweaving story lines and realistically complicated relationships, spread out through several separate but intersecting subcultures. The closest we get to a traditional first-episode dramatis personae is a police photo board putting names to faces — but only of a handful of the gang’s street-level soldiers. (Rewatching the first episode last night, I suddenly looked at the DVD counter and thought “We’re more than eight minutes in and we’ve learned one person’s name — the corpse lying in the street” — who never comes up again in the entire series.) After the spoon-feeding that most dramas do to keep viewers up to speed, this reserve is a bit jolting, but “The Wire” demands your attention and then utterly, completely rewards you for it. That’s the first time through. The second time through, you know the characters and the story arcs. The second viewing, like the second reading of a great novel, allows you to fully immerse yourself in the characters’ arcs. This time, you know who they are, where they came from, and — devastatingly, in many cases — where they’re going. Now that you’re not struggling to follow the complex stories, the show’s greater theme of institutional decay becomes strikingly clear at every turn, even in the first few episodes. The D.A.’s office with its staggering stacks of paperwork on every desk, lining the walls, and precariously propped on office chairs: that’s not just set-dressing for an overworked office but a symbol of a legal system smothering under its own weight. The parallels between cops and robbers become strikingly clear. When a hand-to-hand drug dealer commands a crowd of waiting junkies “You all know what this is! Up against the wall!,” it’s not hard to imagine why he chose those precise words. When a surveillance van drives off having given up on finding the dealers’ stash, the camera shifts to the van of the rival criminal crew (as yet unnamed, of course) who watched longer and smarter than the cops. Again, like a great novel, the third time through, even greater resonances and symbols emerge. To pick just one example, let’s look at Detective Thomas “Herc” Hauk. At first, Herc seems as dumb and as dangerous as an untrained and neglected dog, but as the series develops, he is the very embodiment of the institutional decay and socio-political resentment that obstructs true and meaningful changes. Lazy, abusive, shiftless, untrustworthy, and almost hopelessly naive, Herc nonetheless believes his initial stagnation in the ranks is the consequence of affirmative action or favoritism, not of his own woefully poor police work. Herc routinely and off-handedly refers to his whiteness as a mark of some obscure authority: with his (black) partner in a pointless argument about which of them is Batman and which is Robin; with a citizen while phonebanking for a (black) mayoral candidate. His simmering racial resentment only fuels his apathy for police work; Herc cuts more and more corners as the show proceeds. But, dumb and destructive as he is, Herc is a constant unwitting catalyst, both for his colleagues and for those outside the police force. [SPOILERS] It’s astounding how many major events in the universe of “The Wire” are precipitated by some fool thing Herc says or does. To list just a few: Prez beating a teenager, the identification of the elusive Avon Barksdale, linking the dock workers to the drug trade, Carver’s life-altering introduction to Major Colvin, the dissolution of Hamsterdam (and the end of Bunny Colvin’s largely productive police career), the release of Marlo Stansfield, and — most heartbreakingly — innocent Randy Wagstaff loosing his stable home and enduring daily beatings as a snitch. Herc is like a force of nature, a tornado, moving heedlessly through the landscape with destruction trailing behind him, blissfully unaware of the miseries he visits upon those in his wake. Perhaps the answer to the riddle of both Herc’s destructive nature and his personal success lies in his utter lack of integrity. Most of the characters on the series, cops and criminals both, struggle to align their personal morality with the strictures of their institutions. As Omar points out so poignantly, “A man’s got to have a code.” All the players recognize that their wins and losses occur within those strictures, that they are, in some greater sense, a consequence of the system. “It’s all in the game, yo,” even though the game is rigged. But Herc has no code, no guiding principle, no sense of a greater system, no passion or ambition other than bettering his own circumstances. Tellingly, we see him switch alliances over and over: from unit to unit, commander to commander, from candidate to candidate, from cops to robbers (by taking a job with Levy, the lawyer representing Barksdale, thus working against his former units’ interests), and finally (though briefly) betraying Levy to his former partner, only to accept Levy’s fraternal embrace at the end. Levy’s no fool; despite his words, he probably knows that Herc is no one’s mishpocha. Herc’s only loyalty is to Herc.

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

>>>Former Videoporter Stockman suggests ‘Phineas & Ferb’, ‘Fairly Oddparents’ and ‘Avatar The Last Airbender’, A.K.A Kids TV Shows that don’t Suck! If anyone is wondering how to turn me into a raging ranting infuriated hulk monster, which I’m sure you were, I can give you a tip.  Just say something like this “Yeah, that movie totally sucked, but…it’s a kids movie, it was made for kids.” NO! NO NO NO NO NO! WRONG! There are no strings attached to quality. Movies aren’t awesome because they were made for adults, they’re awesome because they were made well. (The worst offender, Star Wars: Episode I. It’s not bad because it was made as a kids movie. It’s bad because it was made awful in every way humanly possible.) This sentence is even worse in these days of Pixar, for the most part Pixar makes a damn fine movie and it reaches out to all ages. Why? Because it’s just a damn fine movie with quality filmmaking and a quality story. It used to be Jim Henson was my only relatively main stream go to example of this! But now, I have all of Pixar, even some non-Pixar Disney (The Emperor’s New Groove, Lilo & Stitch), and Dreamworks (Madagascar, MegaMind, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon). These are all solid films. Truly solid, for any age, you can’t discount them just because they’re kids movies. Well made is well made, why does the main intended audience matter? Wow. You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m actually recommending? Well aside from every one of these completely bitchin’ movies, I thought maybe you’d also be interested in some great kid’s TV shows of merit! They’re hilarious and entertaining for kids and adults alike! Kids will watch most anything. I should know, it’s how I spent pretty much the first 18 years of my life. So keep your kid watching stuff you’ll like too! Because it’s quality! Quality is good! So rent some Fairly Oddparents or some Phineas & Ferb! These shows regularly make me laugh out loud! I’m completely taken by surprise by the humor! I mean, if it’s Friday, they’re free so why the f*** not?! Or for the love of Bob take home Avatar the Last Airbender! Crappy movie aside (crappy because it’s crappy not because it’s for kids. Because this show is for kids and it’s fanflippintastic), this is one of the best dang TV shows!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests you re-read Ms. S. Customer’s Thursday review of ‘The Wire.’ It’s brilliant, and so is the show. It’ll make your life better.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Rabbit-Proof Fence (in Feature Drama.) From 1915 to 1940, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), known among his subjects as “Devil,” held the title of Chief Protector of the Aborigines for all of Australia. Rabbit-Proof Fence shows how a dedicated protector can be far more dangerous than the most vindictive enemy, if only because a protector can control or persecute with a clear conscience, believing with all his heart that it’s for your own good. Aboriginal adults were made wards of the state, barred from acting on their own behalf in even the smallest of matters (as the film so effectively shows us in Branagh’s first scene when he blandly denies a subject’s formal request to buy a new pair of shoes, since she bought a pair just last year), while their children were taken from them in the name of child protection and the desire to “civilize” the next generation. (And, not incidentally, these children are trained for a life of servitude to Australia’s white population.) Among the countless children taken over a hundred years were young Molly Craig and Daisy Kadibil, daughters of wise and wise-cracking Maude, and their cousin Gracie. But the supposed benefactors in the church-run internment camp and the bureaucrats overseeing them were unprepared for Molly’s mettle. Refusing to be separated from her mother, she proposes an audaciously simple plan: the three of them can return to Maude — and to freedom — by walking the 1,500 miles to her, using the continent-wide rabbit-proof fence as a guideline. This true story (based on the book by Molly’s daughter Doris Pilkington) is dramatic, to be sure, and director Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American, Salt, Dead Calm) is maybe a touch heavy-handed with the emotional imagery, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work. When Maude puts her hands on the fence’s top wire and, a thousand miles away, the girls sway it back and forth in a wordless greeting, I get teary-eyed despite myself. But it’s not the sentimental sweetness that makes this film so watchable; it’s the unflappable certainty that Molly (Everlyn Sampi) shows at every turn and the quiet intelligence that she projects throughout the film. When her tiny sister can walk no farther, young Molly calmly says “I’ll carry you only once” as she scoops up Daisy in her slim arms. (And then everyone watching starts crying. Okay, just me.) Molly’s eyes are always thoughtful, always reckoning: gauging the best route to take, calculating the right moment to move, eking out their resources and deftly extracting helpful information from anyone they come across without disclosing too much of their now-celebrated escape. Everlyn Sampi projects a curious, affecting mix of calm certainty and occasional alarm — with flashes of glee that remind us how young she is to be carrying such responsibility on her shoulders. This is a girl who could walk across a continent.

We are all shiny and mad!!

New Releases this week at Videoport: Immortals (directed by the one-named Tarsem…KNEEL BEFORE TARSEM!!!!…comes this typically-visually-stunning, 300-style sword-‘n’-sandals mythological action flick), The Song of Lunch(Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman

Hello. You know you want to watch this. Just look at us. Look…

are in this; that should be enough to get you to watch this British drama), ‘Game of Thrones’- season 1 (HBO delivers another blockbuster series, this one, a Lord of the Rings-type deal about seven noble families fighting for power; costarring the ever-delightful Peter Dinklage [The Station Agent]), Footloose (the world needed a remake of the 1980s dance flick? If you say so…), The Skin I Live In (it’s the new Pedro Almodovar movie; again- that should be all most of us need to know…[if you need more details, Antonio Banderas plays a haunted plastic surgeon inventing a new type of synthetic skin and turning a young woman into an echo of his lost love]), Senna (everybody’s excited about this documentary about a legendary race car driver), Jack and Jill (Adam Sandler plays two Adam Sandlers! One’s a girl Adam Sandler! It won the Razzie for worst movie ever made, or something! Enjoy!), Like Crazy (immigration policy spells trouble for a young couple [Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones] when she’s deported for overstaying her visa; but don’t they know she’s adorable!?!), Columbus Circle (a young shut-in woman is forced to deal with the outside world when her neighbor is murdered in this thriller starring Jason Lee, Selma Blair and Giovanni Ribisi), London River (two disparate parents come to London to discover the fates of their respective children in the wake of the 2005 terrorist bombings and learn more about their children than they expected), High Road (for fans of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade or, you know, just funny people doing funny things, here comes an improvised film directed by the UCB’s Matt Walsh and starring the likes of Joe LoTruglio, Lizzy Kaplan, Rob Riggle, and more), Killing Bono (comedy about two high school friends whose dreams of rock superstardom are overshadowed because they go to the same school as U2), Treasure Buddies (puppies! They do puppy things!), Retreat (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton are taking a vacation on an isolated island when a crazed young man [Jamie Bell] shows up, claiming that a devastating plague has wiped out the rest of the world; sound like a great set-up for a thriller, no?)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Steppenwolf (Max Von Sydow starred in this 1970’s adaptation of the Herman Hesse classic).

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: ‘Game of Thrones’- season 1, The Skin I Live In, Immortals.

VideoReport #341

Volume CCCXLI- The Vengeance-izer

For the Week of 2/28/12

Videoport welcomes back former customers of the recently-defunct Blockbuster Video. And we would like to reassure those customers that, yes, there are more than 100 movies in the world, and Videoport has ’em all. It’s okay, we’ll ease you back in…

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental!

The titular character and his titular object.

>>>Andy suggests Hobo With A Shotgun (in Incredibly Strange). More authentically sleazy and satisfying than Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, Hobo With A Shotgun is as reminiscent of a ‘80s Troma release as a ‘70s grindhouse* picture. The violence and dialogue are over the top to a cartoonish level. “When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat covered with razor blades,” says one villain. The movie begins with spaghetti western music over images of a train arriving in a run down, graffiti-painted town and depositing The Hobo (Rutger Hauer). The Hobo wanders, Yojimbo-like, through the violent streets, initially minding his own business. But soon he becomes friends with a benevolent prostitute, and finds powerful enemies in the gang of psychotic killers that rule the town. Terrorized by the gang, The Hobo is pushed too far and turns vigilante. Oh, and he gets a shotgun. You know how this goes. It’s an old formula, but somehow I never get tired of seeing it done well. All it takes is some villains that are so despicable that you want to see them get their comeuppance, a commanding actor as our righteous hero, and a little filmmaking flair. Hobo With A Shotgun meets all those requirements, and throws in a few extra buckets of blood, just to be safe.

*HWAS is referred to as a Grindhouse movie, like Planet Terror, Death Proof, and the spinoff movie Machete, even though there was no trailer for it in the original feature and Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s names don’t appear anywhere in connection with this movie.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Owning Mahowny(in Feature Drama.) This is one of the best movies you’ve never heard of. What’s more, it’s more-or-less factual; the names have been changed, but the facts and figures are roughly accurate. Powerhouse actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (known ’round these partly simply as “The Hoff”) plays mild-mannered Dan Mahowny. His colleagues at the bank know him as quiet, dependable, maybe a little dull. They don’t know that he has a crippling gambling addiction… and his

Why, yes, I AM feeling sweaty and desperate! Thank you for asking!

recent promotion has given him access to more and more money to feed that compulsion. And it turns out that the casino bigwigs (including an urbanely sinister John Hurt) are only too happy to help him feed it, no matter where they suspect the money is coming from. This could have played out as a flashy potboiler or a slick heist flick, but in the able hands of director Richard Kwietniowski (who also directed John Hurt in the excellent Love and Death on Long Island), it’s a powerful portrait of obsession. For the first time in his life, Mahowny has the means to gamble virtually without limit, and that is what the film is about: a man single-mindedly immersing himself in the mixed pleasure and misery of an all-consuming passion, pursuing it wherever it leads him. He keeps gambling, knowing it will likely cost him his job, his reputation, his home, his fiancee, his freedom. The Hoff’s performance is more than masterful; it’s the very portrait of intensity, of self-containment, of completely internalized mania. It’s riveting.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Harold & Maude (in Comedy.) Harold Mason (Bud Cort), the sheltered son of a wealthy family, is obsessed with death and all its cultural trappings. He drives a hearse, avidly attends funerals, and engages in elaborate death-play, much to his distant, controlling mother’s chagrin. His life is changed when he meets Maude, a spry almost-octogenarian who urges him to “try something new each day.” If this sounds saccharine or moralizing, I promise you it is not. Not only is it a touching romance, but it’s deliciously, darkly, irreverently hilarious. In fact, The American Film Institute (who, after all, should know) ranked Harold and Maude right smack in the middle of AFI’s 100 Funniest Films.

Funniest guy in France? Probably.

>>>Dennis suggests OSS 117: Cairo-Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (in the Foreign Language section.) Now that the delightfully-goofy Jean Dujardin has won the Best Actor award for The Artist and everyone loves him and stuff, I get to play smarty-pants know-it-all (like, what else is new) and tell everyone (as I have been for years!!!) about these James Bond spoofs Dujardin and The Artist director Michel Hazanavicious made. In them, the peerlessly-silly Dujardin stars as the super-suave(-ish) titular French secret agent, a Bond stand-in whose every move serves to point out the buried sexism, racism, fascism, and every other kind of ism inherent in the 007 character. Tracking Nazis and other assorted baddies, shooting indiscriminately, bedding smarmily, and generally behaving like a smug, strutting douche, Dujardin is an absolute hoot; his strapping, impeccably-dressed agent recalls Dr. No-era Bond to a ‘t’, but Dujardin tweaks everything just enough to make OSS 117 subtly (or, in some cases, not so subtly) ridiculous, and hilarious. Dujardin’s a world-class physical comedian [think Clouseau], and his toothy smile, when deployed in its full, smarmy glory, is enough to make me burst out in a giggle-fit. Now that the star and director are poised for some mega-stardom stateside, check out these earlier comic gems. You know, if you like to laugh and stuff…

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store!

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Millennium’ (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Following the success of “The X-Files,”creator Chris Carter’s next show delves even deeper into the dark. Lance Henriksen stars as Frank Black, a one-time FBI profiler with a unique ability to glimpse the into killers’ minds. This odd talent shattered Frank’s sense of well-being, forcing him into early retirement. But the story is darker still:

That’s about as warm as the show gets, right there…

Frank now works for The Millennium Group, a criminal-consulting agency that helps out law enforcement on the hush-hush… and also investigates a larger,more sinister case only hinted at in the first few episodes. “Millennium” is unusually in its almost unrelieved darkness, both literally and figuratively; except for scenes in Frank’s bright (and presumably doomed) happy home, the show is dripping with darkness in every set, in every corner. More sobering still, it eschews the endearing goofiness of Mulder and Scully and embraces the utterly devastating emotional depths of a man burdened with visions of petty evil he’s never committed and burdened with the duty to defeat a greater evil.

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

>>>We’re just gonna say this one more time- no touching the shiny side of one of our DVDs. (We’re going to go ahead and pretend only innocent children crap up our DVDs here; but we all know that some of you guys behave like unsupervised babies with taffy-hands around our precious movies. Seriously, people…)

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

>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests ‘Southland’ (in Feature Drama.) After high praises from Videoport customer Chelsea, I finally took home ‘Southland,’a Los Angeles-based cop/detective drama. And I blew

Do what Regan says.

through the first episodes like I blow through a bag of Uncle Ray’s kosher dill chips. Right Quick! If and y’all have enjoyed the show ‘Boomtown,’ which sadly only lasted one and a half seasons, then ‘Southland’ is kind of in the same spirit. A look at Los Angeles crime from all angles, rich and poor, and how the cops deal with a non-stop shatpile of hot go-go. And it doesn’t wear out its welcome like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ with that ensemble cast of monkey-turds and desperate houseives? Who cares! Put down that trite sh*t and spend a measly eight house with ‘Southland!’

P.S.- Stockman, if you’re reading this, customer Scott really likes your reviews and he just rented that movie your brother made and he thinks Ben McKenzie is a crap actor. See you next month! Get ready to rock your butthole off!

Editor’s note: Apparently, the VideoReport, in addition to being the place where Videoport staff and customers can share their thoughts about movies and tv shows and the like, can also be used to send messages to Stockman! Anyone interested in writing reviews for the VideoReport, or writing to former Videoporter Stockman, should send them to us at denmn@hotmail.com.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests The Square (in Mystery/Thriller.) Different people mean different things when they describe a film as “Hitchcockian” or “noir-y.” Some are describing a particular aesthetic; some might mean a preoccupation with icy blonds. “Noir-y” might mean a grim dark city setting or a grim dark moral vacuum. Whether I’m thinking “Hitchcockian” or “noir-y,” I’m really thinking about two things: characters and tension. Noir is all about the average person led into temptation, and about how a simple plan goes horribly, tragically wrong. Hitchcock loved to put everyday characters into untenable situations. He also loved to show you what could go wrong, then let you squirm while you wait for it to happen — or not to happen. That sums up Australian thriller “The Square” pretty well: everyday people who get themselves into a terrible situation, leaving them and us squirming with uncertainty as a simple plan turns murderous. An adulterous couple daydream about collecting a nest egg and running away from everything: from their spouses, from their homes, from their jobs. When one of them stumbles across a sack of cash in her own home, it seems like their ticket to freedom. But you’ve seen enough noirs to know that a sack of cash is just the beginning of a long, bad road — a road that “The Square” wanders down with excruciating deliberateness.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Hugo (Martin Scorcese directs this Oscar-winning [lots of technical awards] fantasy about the early days of filmmaking, where an orphan hiding out in a Paris train station discovers a robot, a key, a cranky old man with a cute daughter, and a mystery involving his long-lost father; by all accounts, this is pretty damned delightful…), Johnny English Reborn (Rowan Atkinson [Blackadder, Mr. Bean] brings back his hapless British secret agent in this comedy wherein he, presumably, creates comic chaos as per usual), ‘Todd and the Book of Pure Evil’- season 1 (Canadian teen horror comedy series about a high school loser who finds his life seriously complicated when he comes into possession of the Canadian version of the Necronomicon; costarring Kevin Smith stoner stalwart Jason Mewes, if that’s a selling point…), The Myth of the American Sleepover (acclaimed indie sleeper about four teens in suburban Detroit having those indie coming-of-age adventures on the last day of summer), The Catechism Cataclysm (Steve Little [from Eastbound and Down] stars in this exceedingly-odd comedy about a mild-mannered priest who embarks upon a canoe trip with an old high school pal, only to have things go completely bonkers in what one hopes are interesting and hilarious ways), Justice League: DOOM (DC Comics animated movie about League enemy Vandal Savage’s plan to, what else, destroy the Justice League; only this time, he may actually succeed since he’s stolen the secret files that the ever-prepared [and suspicious] Batman had prepared on each of the members of the JL; NERD ALERT: adapted from Mark Waid’s excellent ‘Tower of Babel’ storyline), Rabies (billed as the first Israeli slasher film, this one, about a brother and sister running away and running afoul of a madman in a nature preserve, is actually getting some decent, if unpleasant, reviews), I Melt With You(an interesting cast

This one’s for the ladies…

[Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, Tom Jane, Christian McKay] star as a quartet of middle-aged friends whose yearly reunion at an isolated beach house is disrupted by their various personal problems, and a long-buried pact from their college days…), ‘Beavis and Butthead’- season 4 (after laying low for a decade or so, the sub-moronic MTV animated duo are back, headbanging to music videos and alarming parents everywhere.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: The Invisible Boy (1957 sci fi adventure about a kid teaming up with Forbidden Planet‘s Robby the Robot to prevent a supercomputer from controlling the earth from a satellite; somehow, I’m guessing the Ruskies are involved…), Someone to Watch Over Me (director Ridley Scott [Alien, Blade Runner] brought his trademark visual style to this 1987 thriller about a married detective [Tom Berenger] hired to protect a sultry witness [Mimi Rogers] and, shocker, falling for her; man, just typing those names screams 1987…), Blood on the Sun (James Cagney starring in this, in retrospect, pretty darned racist 1945 thriller about a hard-drivin’ reporter in pre-WWII Japan who uncovers the Japanese government’s evil Japanese plans for world domination…from Japan!; featuring a cast of guys named Marvin, John, Robert, Leonard, and Frank as the evil Japanese! From Japan!!)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Dances with Wolves, Forbidden Planet, Last of the Mohicans (Daniel Day Lewis version), Johnny English Reborn, Puss in Boots, The Crow, Good Will Hunting, Rounders, Tower Heist, J. Edgar, Dead Man, Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Get free money at Videoport!

Pay ahead $20 on your Videoport account and we’ll give you $25 worth of rental credit. Pay $30 and we’ll give you a whopping $40 worth. Free money? Yup.

Park for free at Videoport!

Of course, the parking lot behind the building is open for free parking after 5pm on weekdays and all day on weekends, but we’ll also get you a free hour of parking at any downtown parking garage. Just ask for one of our magic stickers!

Get free rentals at Videoport!

Any time you buy a movie from Videoport (and remember-we can special order anything you need), we’ll give you a free rental on your Videoport account. Think of it as $3.50 off the purchase price, think of it as a nice little reward for yourself when you buy someone else a gift, think of it as a way to support local business instead of some soulless corporation- any way you think of it, you’re getting yourself something for free…