VideoReport #478

Volume CDLXXVIII- Fellini’s Portland

For the Week of 10/14/14

(Click the pics for more reviews.)

Videoport has all the movies ever. So when we give you a free rental every day (which we do), you’ll still never run out of movies. Ever.

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!

Good bye, funny lady.

Good bye, funny lady.

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests Saturday Night Live (in Comedy.)  This week, we say a sad farewell to Jan Hooks, the wide-mouthed bright-eyed broad who lit up every Saturday Night Live sketch she entered — and inspired a generation of girls and women to reach for comedy greatness, just as Gilda Radner inspired us in the ‘70s. Enjoy one of her greatest performances in “The Diner” on “SNL: The Best of Alec Baldwin,” boasting all the slow-burn innuendo of a Hayes-era flick.

>>>Dennis suggests Banshee Chapter (in Horror.) The Halloween spirit always drives me to catch up on the year’s horror movies. I love horror movies, but most of them are terrible, so it’s sort of a fool’s errand every year. Still, you take your little pleasures where you can find them, like this low-budget 2013 flick which is about half a good horror movie. Still, half… The premise is nice ‘n’ promising, following a female reporter who decides to follow up on the research of her college sort-of boyfriend, who was planning a book about the infamous MK-Ultra government experiments, which dosed often unsuspecting subjects with hallucinogens in order to develop mind control techniques. Like you do. Mixing in footage and references from the factual, genuinely creepy US government policy lends the spookiness a level of unease, as does the found-footage tapes of the missing journalist’s experiments with a helping of the long-lost LSD compound purported to produce maddening shared hallucinations. There are a couple of extremely well-executed jump scares along the way—ump scares are cheap, but I still jumped, so I give props. Sure, the movie gets pretty half-assed at times, and the lead (Katia Winter) is a drip (she’s an “intrepid reporter” because the script says she is), but things pick up once she seeks out the guidance of a legendary gonzo reporter played by character actor Ted Levine (Monk, Silence Of The Lambs). Clearly intended to be Hunter S. Thompson, Levine is a ton of fun in the role, a half-crazy, wily old druggie dragged reluctantly into perhaps one final, dangerous story. Half a good horror movie is sometimes enough, especialy with such a fun performance at the center.

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 getting some serious free money at Videoport! You’re gonna spend your entertainment dollars with us, so why not get some free ones? No reason not to. $20 buys you $25 in store credit and $30 buys you $40. Boom—free money. Do that.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!                                                        

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests The Simpsons (in Animation). Jan Hooks, who knew that the soul of comedy is in specificity, brought a lively brightness to the role of Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, imbuing a relatively small recurring role with vivid personality and intelligence. Manjula, who could have been a sketched-in “wife of” cutout, first appears at the end of “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons” (S9, ep7) entering Springfield as Apu’s intended bride in a marriage arranged by their traditional-minded parents. (Young Manjula shows up in a flashback in an earlier episode, but for this brief appearance she’s voiced by Tress MacNeille.) In “I’m with Cupid” (S10, ep14), Manjula is the happy recipient of Apu’s ever-escalating Valentine gestures, which become so outrageous that the other men of Springfield are moved to protest. And you can guess what all that romancin’ leads to: in “Eight Misbehavin’” (S11, ep7), Manjula and Apu are run ragged by their octuplets (which they conceived with a whole lot of help from Springfield — not that kind of help, you perv).

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!                                        

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests 30 Rock (in Comedy). The Videoport Jones household takes Jan Hooks prettttttty seriously. How seriously? Your editor started a conversation with a friendly “I don’t want to start a fight, but…” before gently essaying a correction of a Jan Hooks reading from her brief but indelible arc as Verna Maroney on 30 Rock. As Jenna’s estranged mother in “Verna” (S4, ep 12) and “The Moms” (S4, ep 20), Verna tries to leverage her daughter’s volatile combination of resentment and guilt to her advantage. We never got enough Verna, which is a sadly inadequate epitaph for the life of Jan Hooks herself.

>>>Dennis suggests Damnationland (in Horror). First of all—head out to the State Theatre this Friday. Everyone in the know knows that Damnationland is kind of a big deal. Started by some former Videoporters, it’s the annual Maine horror anthology film where the best Maine filmmakers come together to scare your pants clean off. Consisting of a number of Maine-shot horror shorts, each Damnationland offers a wide variety of chilling tales to choose from. So go on Friday (check for full screening details), then come in to Videoport and rent the four previous installments. Ever wonder what the scary soul of Maine filmmaking looks like? Well, the full run of Damnationland is where you find out—if you dare. (Seriously though, you should dare. They’re really good.)

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!          

>>> You get a free kids movie every Friday, no other rental necessary. And Videoport just put a few hundred new movies in there—try it out. You don’t have to be a kid, even!

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!                                              

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (in Comedy). Keeping with the Jan Hooks love, Hooks only has one scene in this classic bonkers comedy, but it’s destined to live forever. As the perpetually, incessantly chipper tour guide at the Alamo, she makes poor Pee Wee wait through an interminable walk-through of the dusty national monument before letting him in on the regrettable fact that the Alamo does not, in fact, have a basement. Hooks did a lot of stuff well, but she really nails the soulless, faux-friendly customer service persona that makes you want to set a national monument on fire.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Beneath The Harvest Sky (in Feature Drama.) I got to interview co-directors Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet who made this Maine-based coming-of-age film. It’s getting great reviews, and is, by all accounts, as authentic a portrait of life in rural Maine as you’ll see anywhere. From the interview: AG: It’s about two boys whose lives are pulling each other in different directions. One’s hoping to buy a car and get out of town, and the other starts dealing prescription drugs with his father and uncle across the border. GP: It’s about that vulnerable age when friendship is the most important thing in your life. I look back at ’80s films like “At Close Range,” “Stand By Me” and “Rumble Fish,” which, in the world of “Twilight” and stuff like that, is missing today.

>>>Dennis suggests Under The Volcano (in the Criterion Collection). The great Albert Finney got nominated for an Oscar for his almost-unbearably painful role in this adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s cult novel. As Geoffrey Fermin, the British consul to Mexico at the dawn of WWII, Finney is heartbreaking as a terminally alcoholic lost soul, stumbling through his days despairing the loss of wife Jaqueline Bisset and the coming war, heralded by the infiltration of glad-handing German agents in his domain. There have been a lot of great, showy drunk performances in the history of the movies, but Finney’s might be the best, simply because of how unadorned it is. Fermin’s given to venting his drunken pain through bursts of florid verbiage—but they’re short chunks of half-remembered culture still accessible through his perpetual alcoholic haze. There are hints of the man Fermin was, and of what brought him to this state, but they’re unsentimental and sketchy as is Fermin’s memory. He’s charming but embarrassing, sympathetic and pathetic, especially when Bisset unexpectedly turns up one day, apparently having decided to return to Mexico, and him. Fermin’s brother, a handsome journalist chasing the story of Nazi infiltration in the region, has been playing Geoffrey’s caretaker—and was Bisset’s lover once. Together, the two people whose love for Fermin is mixed with layers of betrayal take care of Geoffrey as he rages and drinks. He drinks a lot. And Finney is magnificent yet contained—there is no sentimentality in Geoffrey’s drinking. He’s a drunk, and Finney embodies him so completely that you feel like you can see the man’s soul seeping away in front of you on the hot, dusty Mexican streets. There are times when Fermin simply stops and looks—at nothing. It’s the closest to a completely blank mind I’ve ever seen in a performance. Directed by John Huston, the film is clearly a personal, idiosyncratic project, as many of his later films were. The story of the sad, beautifully tragic end of a man.

New Releases this week at Videoport: X Men: Days Of Future Past (After the Brett Ratner-ed atrocity that was X Men 3, the Marvel mutant superhero team rebounds in a big way with this time-traveling adventure where all the old and new X Men meet each other and fight and try to prevent humanity from being big, mutant-hating jerks; Peter Dinklage is in this one, people—you know, if you need added incentive), Beneath The Harvest Sky (Made in Maine, this acclaimed independent film follows the dangerous journey of two teenaged friends up in the County as they face the prospect of life after high school. From director couple Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet), Lucky Bastard (NC-17 thriller time, kids! [Seriously, though, no kids.] A found footage thriller about a porn enthusiast invited to have sex with his favorite online porn actress. Strangely, things go very, very, sleazily wrong…), Himizu (Award-winning Japanese thriller about a young man who goes on a vigilante killing spree after a massive tsunami throws his town into lawlessness. A young woman becomes obsessed with him, and they join up in an escalating rampage), Venus In Fur (From director Roman Polanski comes this erotic thriller about a famous director unable to find the right actress for his erotically charged new production. Luckily [or not] a brash, foul-mouthed, sexually provocative would-be actress forces herself into his life. Starring The Diving Bell And The Butterfly’s Mathieu Almaric and Mrs. Polanski Emmanuelle Seigner), Whitey: The United States Of America Vs. James J. Bulger (Documentary about the grade-A evil bastard Bulger, the Boston gangster who was also an FBI informant, which means that the FBI let him go on murdering people as long as he kept blabbing. Pretty much a moral nightmare all around, guys), Witching & Bitching (From excellent cult director/weirdo Alex de la Iglesia [The Perfect Crime, Day Of The Beast, Dance With The Devil, 800 Bullets, As Luck Would Have It] comes this typically dark and twisted flick about a failed bank robber who ends up fleeing with his young son—only to end up in the middle of a family of witches preparing for their big evil ritual), You And The Night (There’s no better seeling pont for this French erotic cult film than its IMDb description: Around midnight, a young couple and their transvestite maid prepare for an orgy. Their guests will be The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen.” Boom—it’s a kinky Breakfast Club. Now you wanna see it), Chinese Puzzle (Audrey Tatou and those other French people you care less about return in this third film about a group of friends dealing with love and sex and other things—it’s the next sequel to L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls), Fort McCoy (Eric Stolyz stars in this autobiographical WWII era drama about a Wisconsin family who live next to a prisoner-of-war camp), Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Look! It’s a movie about that time-traveling dog and his dumb kid sidekick that only people over 50 remember! That’ll bring in the kids! Starring the voices of Ty Burrell from Modern Family and Stephen Colbert), Penny Dreadful- season 1 (A lot of great TV this week, starting with this great, bloody, exciting horror series about a team of monster hunters in 1800s England. Good cast, including Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Rory Kinnear, and Billie Piper, liven up a dark horror tale—incorporating real and fictional figures, it’s like The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen except not excruciatingly awful!), Fargo- season 1 (Along with the excellent Hannibal, this series is a terrible idea that miraculously turns out to be really, insanely good; Sort of a spiritual sequel to the classic Coen Brothers’ film, it follows dogged, super-competent female cop Allison Tolman dealing with the intrusion into her small town of diabolical hitman Billy Bob Thornton and put-upon local murderer Martin Freeman), Jack And The Cuckoo Clock Heart (Stylistically bold animated film about a little boy with a clock heart—I dunno, it looks cool), Dracula- season 1 (Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as the most famous Dracula of them all—Dracula! In this series, he comes to 19th century England to develop an energy company—oh, and suck on a whole lot of necks), The Honorable Woman- season 1 (Maggie Gyllanhall stars in this critically-adored thriller series about a woman who inherits her father’s arms business and finds herself caught smack in the middle of the Palestinians and the Israelis. Who do not like each other.), Space Station 76 (Matt Bomer, Patrick Wilson, and Liv Typer star in this sci fi spoof about the most 1970s space station in the universe; Co-written and directed by the very funny weirdo Jack Plotnick [Wrong, Reno 911])

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: X Men: Days Of Future Past, Jack And The Cuckoo Clock Heart

Get your movies duplicated at Videoport!

You guys know we can make copies of your DVDs and VHSes at Videoport, right? No, it can’t be anything copyrighted (that’s sort of what that word means), so you’ll just have to buy another copy of Weekend At Bernie’s to replace that VHS you’ve played so often it finally shredded itself. But home movies or anything not copyrighted? We can do it! $10 bucks a pop and little Susie’s dance recital can be copied and sent to every relative on your Christmas card list!