VideoReport #445

Volume CDXLV- 2014: The Indie Video Storepocalypse

For the Week of 2/25/14

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Netflix sideswiped your car that one time and drove off without leaving a note. We saw it…

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 seven bucks!

>>>Dennis suggests that all of the coolest people in the movies stop dying unexpectedly. This week: Harold Ramis. This one just hurts. You love Harold Ramis, even if you don’t know you do. Of course, everyone loves him in Ghostbusters as Dr. Egon Spengler, and maybe as Bill Murray’s sardonic best bud in Stripes. But the man was one of the most important comic minds of the last century. Think I’m overstating it? Well, he wrote/cowrote: Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Meatballs, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters, SCTV, Back To School, and Groundhog Day (one of the most perfect comedies ever made.) He also wrote Analyze This, which a lot of you like as well. He directed a lot of those movies, along with the underrated comic thriller The Ice Harvest, and some of the best episodes of The Office. And he was, by all accounts and everything I ever saw, a kind, funny, unassuming, avuncular presence—honestly, “avuncular” is just right, as he seemed like the favorite uncle you wished you had. He was as formative to my ideas of comedy as Bill Murray, SNL, Monty Python, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, or anyone/anything else I ever saw. I’ve been getting teary all day and feeling silly about it. And then I don’t. This just plain sucks…

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!

>>>Free money at Videoport! Come and get it!!!

Seriously. Not a joke, people. This is not a drill. Anytime you want, you can get either 5 or 10 free bucks in rental credit at Videoport. Put $20 down on your Videoport account, and you’ll see it magically transformed into $25 worth of rental credit. And, if you’re feeling especially spendy/smart, $30 will buy you $40 worth of credit. (Which you would have spent at Videoport anyway, since we’re so great and you’re so intelligent.) There’s no down side to this deal, people. Come get your free money.

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 Knocked Up (in Comedy.) As a huge Judd Apatow admirer, I’ll be the first to admit that there are some things that don’t quite work. Katherine Heigl is tragically miscast in the female lead, for one—honestly, she’s one of the least-appealing romantic leads in rom-com history. And like all Apatow movies, it’s too long, and the guy-centric improv can get a bit trying if you’re not into that sort of thing. But it’s still funny as hell, and can come at you with some sneakily-affecting moments, many of which are supplied by the great, late Harold Ramis. He’s only got a couple of scenes, as Seth Rogen’s father, but these scenes—which were all improvised by Ramis himself—form one of my favorite all-time screen father-son relationships. Rogen, having, well, knocked up a woman he barely knows, comes to his dad for advice on what to do. And he gets practically none—none practical, at least. But what Ramis’ divorced father does give him is the sort of honest, warmhearted, yet realistic parental advice that his son really needs. No platitudes, no easy answers, but a palpable sense of understanding and love, all delivered with Ramis’ signature warmth and twinkling eyes. He’s a man who has been around, loves his son, and cares too much about what’s actually best for him to pretend to have any answers. It’s honestly one of the warmest, most realistic father-son relationships I’ve ever seen—and I feel improbably bereft that Ramis won’t be around any more.

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!

>>>Videoport customer Katie B. suggests paying tribute to Harold Ramis by get a little worked up over Stripes (in Comedy.) I’ve always loved Harold Ramis as a director, writer, and his characters. Rewatching “Stripes” once when I was home sick and grown up I was floored at the bathtub scene with Sean Young (bless her crazy heart). In my lusty delirium I rewound the scene a couple of times – suddenly I was lusting after Harold Ramis. He became a sensual nerd. I never got over that. I’ve been crushing on him since.

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

>>>It’s free.

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

>>>For Saturday, A throwback from 2009, when the great Justin Ellis and I commiserated over Ramis’ disappointing Year One—and comforted ourselves with our mutual love for the man. Dennis: “I had high hopes for this one, and why wouldn’t I? I think both Jack Black and Michael Cera are funny guys. The script was co-written by a couple of writers from ‘The Office.’ It’s got supporting parts from surefire funny folks like David Cross, Oliver Platt, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hank Azaria, and Bill Hader. And it was also co-written, and directed by, Harold Ramis, who, in addition to being a really charming and funny guy, has, if you check out his resume, had a hand in some of my all-time personal comedy favorites. ‘Caddyshack?’ ‘Meatballs?’ ‘Ghostbusters?’ ‘Stripes?’ ‘Animal House?’ ‘Back to School?’ ‘Groundhog Day?’ I cannot overstate how important this guy has been to the development of my own sense of humor. (‘Gee, thanks,’ I can hear some of you say). Well, I gotta say this knockabout comedy, about a hapless pair of bumbling cavemen who stumble into some of the Bible’s most popular set pieces, is a big letdown. And I am bummed out. Shooting for a ‘Life of Brian’ level hilarity, ‘Year One’ ends up delivering ‘Wholly Moses-level laughs’ (look that one up on IMDB.com – yeah, ouch). Actually, I compared it to Mel Brook’s ‘History of the World – Part 1′ as I was watching it; lazy script going for easy laughs redeemed, when it is, by some inspired, loony performance bits from funny actors, but ultimately a flabby disappointment. In the movie’s defense, and to make myself feel better, I will say that Black and Cera make a funny team, with Jables’ trademark comic bluster blending nicely with Cera’s trademark time-released underplaying, and Cross is especially funny as a predictably-untrustworthy Cain. (Those who babble on about ‘being tired of Jack Black and Michael Cera’s schticks’ are just white noise to me; the guys are funny and good at what they do. So sue them.) Still and all, a mildly-disappointing timewaster. The commentary with the two stars and the ever-affable and warm Ramis is more enjoyable. (And, yes, the Ramis’ commentary does make Year One worth a rental.]”     Justin: “Way to bring us all down to earth compadre. Do you feel a little personally wounded by a Ramis misfire? Do you need some time to compose yourself? Should I come over with a six-pack of PBR and some Oreos? I’ll do it buddy. It’s not easy seeing your heroes take a bit of a tumble, and that’s the case here. You joke that Ramis played a part in developing your humor, but I would lay good odds that he’s had a role in EVERYONE around our generation’s sense of humor. I defy you to not name at least ONE Ramis flick you like America. Do it. As for ‘Year One,’ this is shades of what we talked about last week: the parts not adding up to the whole. I absolutely LOVE Cera and Black, but for me, this has a knock-it-out-of-the-park comedy support staff. Rudd, Cross, Azaria AND Hader? Gold. While I see your comparison to ‘History of The World Part 1,’ I think Brooks almost always plays for the hard schtick over a solid script, so maybe not the best comparison. (Also, I love ‘History of the World’ more than anything. The FIRST Brooks movie I saw as a kid. Changed me. I could sing you ‘The Inquisition’ right now.) Maybe Ramis is getting a little long in the tooth, maybe the historic comedy is a tough sell, or maybe this one is just a miss. We’ll put it near the back of a long list of hits from the man that gave us ‘Caddyshack.’”

>>>For Sunday, Dennis (cannibalizing his column from the Press Herald) suggests Muscle Shoals (in Documentary.) Spurred by the release of the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a few weeks ago, I devoted this column to examining the difficulty in trying to depict a musical genius in a movie. Eventually, not being a musical genius, I resigned with a shrug, concluding that a great piece of music comes from innate talent, individual history, and that elusive stuff I simply will never understand. But can musical greatness arise from a place? That’s the argument put forth by the new musical documentary “Muscle Shoals”, a beguilingly entertaining history of the tiny, titular Alabama town which is the unlikely birthplace of a truly startling array of classic popular music. Focusing on the hardscrabble life story of legendary producer Rick Hall, Greg Camalier’s film, apart from providing an intriguing and surprising history behind some of your favorite songs and artists, also posits that there’s something ineffably inspirational about Muscle Shoals itself which made those songs what they are. An alchemy of place, and history, and the ever-murmuring Tennessee River running beside the deep, dark Alabama earth which seeped into the music made there, and the musicians who made it. Unfortunately, that theme of the film remains as elusive. I’m all for appreciating the unknowability of the creative process, but, even coming from the mouths of musical legends like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Jimmy Cliff, Percy Sledge, Bono, Gregg Allman, and Etta James, the idea that the town of Muscle Shoals can impart some mystical flavor to music made there comes off more like self-mythologizing. Apart from blurry assertions like, “Being there does inspire you to do it slightly differently,” or “People go to a place with a sort of magic to it,” or “There are certain places where there is a field of energy,” the film offers little explanation of why the “Muscle Shoals sound” was so fertile. More convincing, and fascinating, is the documentary’s portrait of driven producer Hall and his chosen backup players the Swampers, possibly the least-likely soul, R&B, and rock gods imaginable, and how Hall’s modest Fame Studio became the most sought-after recording facility in the world. Hall, presented as an irascible, exacting perfectionist needed a backup band to record with local African American singers and hired the Swampers, a group of white teenagers. Backing up black singer Arthur Alexander, the Swampers provided a layered, shockingly funky groove which soon led to Alexander’s songs being covered by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones—and brought the world knocking on Fame Studios’ doors in search of its signature sound. They were in for a shock (as was I)—as Bono puts it, “People came expecting black guys and instead found a bunch of white guys who look like they work at the supermarket.” The racial aspect of the film is both idealized and underdeveloped, but never less than fascinating, with numerous musicians extolling how Fame operated as an oasis of harmony in the 1960s Deep South, with black and white musicians coming together in harmony in pursuit of, well, harmonies. The present day Swampers (who eventually broke off to set up the equally-legendary 3614 Jackson Avenue Studio across town) indeed look like nothing less than everybody’s soft-spoken uncles, but they, indeed provided the backbone to some of the most indelible R&B songs of all time. Aretha Franklin, who admiringly states, “I didn’t think they’d be as greasy as they were,” sings in front of them on “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” and “Respect.” They were Percy Sledge’s band for “When A Man Loves A Woman.” That’s them on the Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” and Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting In Limbo.” And when the Rolling Stones came to Muscle Shoals in order to partake of the town’s soul history, the Swampers (aka The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) were the session men on “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar.” The list of artists who enlisted the Swampers and/or Rick Hall to bring that Muscle Shoals sound is astounding. The film, which ambles alongside the soft, Southern voices of now-old men and languorous shots of the unassuming Alabama countryside that, for reasons that remain unclear, gave rise to one of the most unsung and influential movements in American music, may not provide many answers. But it, like Muscle Shoals itself, provides a hell of a lot of great music.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Thor: The Dark World (He’s big! He’s blonde! He’s got a really big…hammer! Strapping Aussie Chris Hemsworth is back battling Tim Hiddleston’s deliciously evil Loki in this entertaining Marvel Comics movie), Gravity (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stranded in space in this Best Picture-nominated sci fi flick from talented director Alfonso Cuaron [Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children Of Men]; heard it’s great, as is this joke from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”), Nebraska (Another Best Picture nominee, this indie road movie from director Alexander Payne [Election, Citizen Ruth, Sideways] with Bruce Dern and son Will Forte heading cross country and sorting out their issues), Adventure Time- season 3 (everyone loves this supposedly-for-kids animated series; except Videoport’s April—she’s still a nice person…), Blue Is The Warmest Color (the good people at Criterion are putting out their typically-gorgeous, deluxe treatment of this acclaimed French drama, a years-spanning love story about a young woman whose tumultuous, passionate affair with another woman changes her life), Muscle Shoals (music documentary about the titular, legendary Southern recording studio, which was instrumental in more of your favorite songs than you could possibly know), Legit- season 1 (funny, rude sitcom starring brash Aussie comic Jim Jeffries as himself, plying his trade and basically being slobby and disreputable every week), Mr. Nobody (Oscar nominee Jared Leto stars in this trippy sort-of sci fi drama about a very old man in the future who, looking back on his life, imagines the alternate timelines he thinks were caused by one fateful decision; pair it up with the Community episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” [season 3, episode 4] which explores a similar idea—and is undoubtedly more fun), Twice Born (intense drama about single mother Penelope Cruz, who decides to return to Sarajevo years after her husband was slain there), Narco Cultura (documentary about how, shockingly, poor people from depressed and exploited countries often turn to illegal drug trafficking to escape their hideous, hopeless lives ), Diana (Naomi Watts stars as the inexplicably beloved former member of a figurehead royal family who died; apologies to everyone’s mom…), Memory Of The Dead (crazy horror from Argentina, with a widow luring a group of people at an isolated mansion in order to resurrect her dead husband—and probably kill a whole bunch of people in the process; good reviews and an over-the-top look)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Space Jam (now back at Videoport on DVD, watch Michael Jordan smirk his way through a half-animated movie playing basketball with the Looney Tunes! And Bill Murray! It’s actually kind of funny…)

New Blu-Rays At Videoport: Miracle, Gravity, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Mr. Nobody, Thor: The Dark World

Be nice to our DVDs. Seriously.

There’s literally nothing we here at Videoport obsess about more than the health and safety of our precious movies. It’s our crusade, our raison d’etre—it’s given us nightmares, and made us wake up in cold sweats. As a small, independent video store, you might say that the safety of our movies is the most important thing in our jobs. So, when someone—not you, dear reader, never you—returns a movie that is: scratched up, smeared with prints, bearing water spots (at least we hope it’s water), etc, you might understand our skepticism at the “it was like that when I got it” lip service we often get. Like, super-skeptical, since we inspect and clean every single movie that goes out and comes back!! Look, sometimes a DVD won’t work right—anyone who claims differently is lying. But we here at Videoport clean every disc that goes out, buff any disc that has scratches on it, and basically treat our precious movies better than you do your (or we, our) kids. So, if you wanna lessen our night-sweats, and help Videoport out:

1. Never touch the shiny side of a DVD,

2. Never leave a DVD out of its case.

3. Don’t let kids handle our DVDs.

4. Get a real DVD player—computers stink at playing DVDs.

5. See 1-4. We love you. Don’t touch the shiny side.

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The Last Justin and Jonesey Press Herald blog: The Fired for No Reason edition!

It’s been a heroic run with Videoport Jones these past few years, savaging movies, playing favorites and generally committing acts of aggression against taste and decency. So this week we’ll go out just like every week, looking at the line-up of new releases. Looks like we’ve got “Sherlock Holmes” and “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” and…I’m sorry. The what? Squeakquel? I must have read that wron…SQUEAKQUEL?!? It’s NOT A WORD! CAPS LOCK IS ON! Murderous rage is rising! RISING! I can’t go out like this! JONESY, HELP!

Videoport Jones: Here, for no reason whatsoever, is a list of our favorite films and TV shows where good people are laid off for no good reason. What do they have in common? Well, the corporate entity doing the firing is never, ever remotely sympathetic. Try to think of a film or show that is on the side of the fire-ers. I couldn’t do it.

Justin: Feeling better. Wait, Jonesy. This doesn’t have anything to do with my predicament, right? I mean I’m taking a voluntary parachute. I’m on good terms with my compant…

VPJ: I know, I know, times are tough all over and all the rest of it. But the people in these stories being fired are never at fault. In fact, their firing invariably smacks of the lowliest injustice; people, often who’ve worked for that same corporation for years and years, and doing a commendable job, forced out because of the company’s inability to run itself with economic or creative vigor, or due to managerial greed. And sure, the response, invariably, is “It’s the market,” “It’s nothing personal,” or “It’s just business.” Whatever helps you sleep at night. I would propose the counter argument that, if your employees are doing the jobs you hired them to do and doing them well, with competence and honor, and your company suddenly has no place for them, well, perhaps it’s business…but it’s not good business. Anyway, here are my picks:

Broadcast News

VPJ: Well, this is timely… James L. Brooks’ 1987 tale of the creeping, money-driven decline of the news media is trenchant, insightful, and prescient, all the while being damned funny, with network producer Holly Hunter choosing between hunky but dim prettyboy reporter/anchor William Hurt and snarky but brilliant and principled, but shlumphy, Albert Brooks (who’s hilarious), both romantically and professionally. In a situation that has absolutely no bearing on the current professional situation of anyone writing this column, budget cuts and ratings declines cause a wholesale series of layoffs during the film, threatening the most committed and professional reporters with undeserved unemployment while rewarding those most willing to play corporate ball. The movie’s packed with memorable, quotable scenes, but for some reason I keep flashing on the one where the high-powered network anchor (an uncredited Jack Nicholson) deigns to visit the newsroom alongside the weaselly exec there to announce the layoffs. When Nicholson intones, “This is a brutal layoff”, the exec, in an unguarded moment, quips, “Well, you could make it a lot less brutal if you knocked a million or so off your salary…”, only to, in the face of Nicholson’s silent death stare, cave immediately with, “A joke…a bad joke…” A bad joke indeed, but a great movie.

JE: “Sex, tears, this must be the news!” Great movie really, and I’d argue one of Albert Brooks best. I think what makes me like this movie more on repeated viewings is that it’s a love story that sneaks up on you. You think you’ve got this poignant, timely (and still timely) story about the news business (which is great), and then this love story jumps on your back. And you find you’re OK with it. I’d say Brooks knack for dialogue and characters was never more on point than in this movie, but it would be hard not to deliver when he’s playing opposite Hurt and Hunter. There is something about Holly Hunter that despite the fact I sometimes find her voice funny, I am transfixed by her. Even when it’s JUST her voice (“The Incredibles” for instance). Sure this one is not as timeless as say, “Network,” but it’s just as honest and twice as funny. And absolutely in no one has any bearing on anything happening currently in local news circles. Plus, it’s no “Switching Channels.” Yikes…

Sports Night

VPJ: Hey, look – it’s another example of a group of dedicated, passionate journalists (in the sports world in this case) being squeezed and threatened with extinction by their corporate overlords, more concerned with ratings, money, (and dumbing their content down in order to achieve same) than with their principled pursuit of truth, beauty, and all that hippie crap. Aaron Sorkin’s pre- “West Wing” sort-of sitcom, set at an ESPN-type sports channel is, like ‘WW,’ an inspired workplace drama/comedy, with great turns by Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Robert Guillaume (as the best boss in TV history), Felicity Huffman, Josh Malina, and my secret crush Sabrina Lloyd as the most adorable Gal Friday anywhere. Again, my mind, for no particular reason, fixes on the final story arc, where, faced with their corporate parent’s impending plug-pulling, which mirrored the network’s real-life decision to cancel the series (SPOILER ALERT), Sorkin writes in a happy ending. A mysterious billionaire fairy godfather buys the network and decides to keep the ratings-challenged but brilliant Sports Night on the air, saying (in a line Sorkin must still giggle over), “It’s a good show…anyone who can’t make money airing Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” Any billionaire media mogul out there with room for a similarly-good and principled writer, should give Justin a call.

JE: “Sports Night” continues to be near the top of my “Brilliant, But Canceled” list. It was just so flippin’ smart and had these great, well-thought out characters who you’d love to have a beer with, or work with. The cast is so untouchable (let’s not forget some great guest work from William H. Macy) that I still associate all of them, no matter what they’re on now, with this show. It remains one of TV’s biggest injustices (right up there with axing “Firefly.” Honestly, I don’t know why I still watch Fox). But on the other hand you have to wonder if “Sports Night” continued would we have gotten the mind-blowing awesomeness that was “The West Wing?” If we peeked into an alternate reality where “Sports Night” ran for seven seasons would we ever have gotten the Bartlett Administration? Tough, tough choice. You have to figure Sorkin’s experience with “Sports Night” is part of what made “The West Wing” come to life. And yes, billionaire media moguls who happen to read this blog, do call. Or stop down at Videoport!

The Corporation

VPJ: Sure, I’m one of those socialists that Tea Party activists like to spit on and call names. (I’m such a pinko that I think poor people should have health care, just like rich people. That’s how much of a jerk I am.) But I gotta say, the central premise of this documentary examining the nature of big business capitalism tickles me; A corporation as a sociopath. Concerned only with it’s own success and needs, to the exclusion of all others, even to its long-term detriment because of the negative effects it has on the society in which it lives. Umm. Yeah. It’s a fun premise, carried off with aplomb by the filmmakers who make the case that there’s something rotten and ultimately self-defeating at the root of the unprincipled corporate system and hammered home with the interviews with those hurt so badly by it.

JE: You sir are un-American. I don’t know why I should associate with such a socialist, hippie, commie, left-wing nutjob. You are a cancer on this great republic. I think in most scenarios it’s hard to make large multi-national corporations seem warm and friendly. How can you? There’s no way to hug a conglomerate is there? (Sorry, that was a little crunchy.) I’m really of two minds on this topic, because on one hand I like having money and being able to buy things, which is the nature of business and the great beast in question here, Capitalism. That said, the pursuit of money and power for their own sake is, well, I think that was covered well in Star Wars. And this documentary, which, like any good documentary breaks down maze-like organizational chart that corporations have become into easy to understand pieces. And just like it’s hard to sympathize with a large, faceless company, it’s hard NOT to sympathize with the people left behind, strewn in the wake like ex-girlfriends. Available at Videoport!

Up in the Air

VPJ: Ahhh…The Cloon. So cool, so suave, so reassuringly wise. It’d be a pleasure to get fired by him (an independent consultant brought in to fire employees their actual bosses are too chicken to fire themselves) and handed a useless folder called something like “Passages,” “Transitions,” or “Don’t Leave Your Ass Prints on My Door on Your Way Out,” I bet. Well, the Cloon is as good as ever in this, again timely, dramedy, plying his patented Clooney magic as he soothes the way out the door for the victims of the current economic…unpleasantness. It’s a good movie, too, putting a human face on the fact that good people are often out of work for no good reason. Over to you, Justin!

JE: You know I had to go to a “career counseling” session recently and it was nothing like The Cloon led me to believe. I feel cheated. I mean, sure, I got plenty of useful information on unemployment benefits, health insurance and how to look for a new career (even a packet titled “Transitions”), but it didn’t reach into my soul with eyes that could stop a rabid momma bear at 20 paces. Ah…The Cloon. This movie is remarkable for a number or reasons, first being that I think we get a different side of Clooney here, one that turns out to be a little more vulnerable then we’re used to. Second, we gotta give a shout out to local girl Anna Kendrick who more than carries her own weight against that smoldering monument of manliness and Vera Farmiga. Finally, I really enjoyed how director Jason Reitman used actors (an amazing turn from J.K. Simmons) and real people who have been laid off in the scenes with people being “reduced.” It hit home then, and, gulp, now.

Finally, Jonesy, let me say it has been a pleasure and my honor working with you these past few years. We’ve strangely always been on a similar wavelength, which made getting to know you so easy. Maybe it was our shared devotion to Joss Whedon (thanks to you and Mrs. Videoport Jones for getting the NXT Gal on the Buffy train finally), our love of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, or our disdain for Saw films, but I feel like we’ve been friends forever. People may be surprised to find out that this little collaboration started thanks to MySpace of all places, where I one day randomly asked if someone at Videoport would be up for DVD reviews. And there you were, just in the nick of time. You sir, are the wind beneath my wings. You are the Chewie to my Han, the Tango to my Cash, The JD to my Turk and now, as ever, the Butch to my Sundance.

VPJ: Well, with Justin accepting the Press Herald’s golden (yet seaworthy) liferaft, that means that I, the unpaid barnacle on his professional dinghy (yeah, I said it), will be cast adrift too. Double secret unemployed, I think that makes me. Or would, if I weren’t lucky enough to be employed at a company that, unlike those in the films above, treats its employees fairly and operates on a set of principles somewhat more enlightened than unprincipled money-grubbery. Yup, it’s time to unmask on the way out the door: I’m Dennis Perkins, the company is Videoport (the pseudonym may have clued in the sharper of you), and I’d like to thank you all for reading my silliness, for chiming in with your own, and especially Justin, who gave me this opportunity and showed me that it’s possible to make new friends when you’re all grown up and stuff. So, to all of you out there, hire Justin, (or, you know, me, if you’ve got an extra film reviewer spot open), rent at Videoport, check out my movie blog (look out for possible guest shots from Mr. Ellis), and keep watching movies, you knuckleknobs.


Our heroes enjoy a moment at Videoport with “The Blind Side”

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm  Comments (4)  
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Justin Ellis (Portland Press Herald…for now) & I on the New Releases for 3/23/10

Clooney, Clooney and more…wait, Sandra Bullock? Really? And hunky teenage werewolves? What is the world coming to? In contending with this week’s new crop of DVDs Videoport Jones and I can barely our glee over the Cloon, or our disdain for one freshly minted Oscar winner’s award fetching performance. Buckle up.


The Men Who Stare at Goats


Videoport Jones:
Everything about this oddball military comedy, from the advertising to the posters to the cast, goes to great lengths to draw comparisons to the Coen Brothers, and it’s a smart strategy; the Coens have patented a certain brand of disorientingly weird dark comedy which allows for unexpected depths of meaning and sentiment. It is also very lucrative. Hence the attempt to tie this film to their oeuvre. Problem is, “The Men Who stare at Goats” is like the Coen Brothers on a decidedly mediocre day. Perhaps something from their fallow “Intolerable Cruelty”/”The Ladykillers” period. Ewan McGregor stars and narrates (in a too-effortful American accent) as a small town newspaper reporter who, in an effort to win back the affections of his estranged wife, decides to run off to the brand new Iraq war and prove himself. Once there, the earnest but over-his-head journalist finds a hot lead in the form of a tanned, buzzcut, mustachioed Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who quickly convinces the desperate-for-a-story Ewan of his past as part of a top-secret Army program to create psychic super soldiers. And, by ‘top-secret’, one might substitute ‘completely-bananas,’ led as it was by the mysterious Bill Django (Jeff Bridges is hilarious as the career soldier-turned-New-Age-guru, basically The Dude as Army Man), and consisting of various psy-ops experiments culled from the MK-ULTRA program and other far-out reaches of espionage history, along with a certain amount of dancing and psychedelics. Soon, Ewan and the Cloon find themselves stumbling through the desert, getting kidnapped, occasionally blown up, and generally having encounters where the Cloon’s stories, and purported powers, walk the thin line of believability without, you know, ever manifesting themselves in any proof. It’s a ramshackle road movie, with flashbacks breaking up the action, and its charms aren’t negligible; Clooney is compelling (and funny) as the ‘how crazy is he’ Cassady, and Colonel Dude is money as ever, but McGregor doesn’t work, either as a character or a narrator. I like the old unreliable narrator gag, but the fact that he’s so uninteresting and sort of dim, along with the basic unevenness of the script itself throws the whole thing out of whack (his meanderings with Clooney in the desert have an unpleasant Ishtar limpness); the best Coen Brothers movies, as convoluted as the plots are, have a masterfully-controlled tone. “The Men Who Stare at Goats” is third-rate Coen.

Justin: One has to wonder then, what exactly is second-rate Coen? Would it be a “Raising Arizona” knock-off? Interestingly enough, your Coen-lite argument may have more weight than you think. Having not been familiar with the directorial work of Mr. Grant Heslov, I paid a visit to the ol’ IMDB, which not only told me that he has largely been an actor, but he co-produced a Coen brothers movie. One guess? Anyone? “Intolerable Cruelty” is correct! So, really, that’s all you need to know. Look, I’ll give this movie the time of day because it combines funny Clooney (a totally underrated side of The Cloon as far as I am concerned) and the Academy Award-winning Dude. (Feels nice to say doesn’t it?) But back to your bigger point, should we be concerned with either filmmakers or studios trying to trade on someone else’s style, or has the time to be worried come and gone? As we’ve talked about before studios get caught up in trends, which results in a wave of movies with similar themes (natural disasters, robots overthrowing humanity, Eli Roth…shudder), but what about aping someone’s style? Is that a criminal offense? Or is it just criminal if they do it poorly? Who knows, but I think “unpleasant Ishtar limpness” should have made the DVD jacket.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

VPJ: I still haven’t seen “The Darjeeling Limited.” I’m too scared to. Director Wes Anderson’s first three films (“Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore,” and “The Royal Tenenbaums”) are not only three of my favorite films ever, but three of the best films I’ve ever seen; Anderson’s cinematic signature, a perfectly-balanced blend of deadpan humor and stealthily-soulful sentiment (and surgical-strike applications of the perfect music) operates on my heart and mind like the most beautiful drug ever created. Then his fourth film, “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” absolutely crushed me. Everything that had, in his previous films, been effortless and unerringly just right was suddenly forced and too contrived. It’s like the table shifted and everything was suddenly out of balance, and his movie was like a Wes Anderson parody. It’s not a bad movie, not at all, but it bummed me out like no other movie I’d ever seen. So when “The Darjeeling Limited” came out and everybody started out their reviews with, “Well, it’s good, but…”, I just chickened out and have chickened out ever since. I need my heroes. But, speaking of chickens, I did watch this sixth Anderson film, a stop-motion animated adaptation of the apparently-beloved Ronald Dahl book (again, I have never read it – I guess my parents just didn’t love me or something…). I think I just viewed this as something of a cinematic time out, a doodle in the margins before Anderson makes his next real movie. Not fair or accurate, I’m sure, but it allowed me to check it out and – it’s great. A great little doodle. The story of a legendary fox chicken-stealer who, at the behest of his wife, settles down and gives up his foxy ways, only to get tempted back into action by their proximity to the three biggest farms in the country, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” is charming, with just the right edge of oddball Anderson weirdness and humor to keep me happy. The voice cast is a big part of that, with the Cloon (again!) bringing a perfect mix of cockiness and fatuousness to the sneaky lead fox, Jason Schwartman making Fox, Jr. into an endearingly-resentful little dude, Bill Murray bringing his innate Bill Murray-ness to an irritated badger/lawyer, and two relative unknowns (Anderson’s brother Eric and ‘Simpsons’ writer Wallace Wolodarsky) absolutely killing it with their deadpan delivery as Fox’s nephew and an opossum, respectively. Meryl Streep is Mrs. Fox (to be honest, I didn’t recognize her, which is either a mark of her chameleon-like ability or a nice way of saying she didn’t make much of an impression). Add to that the deliberately low-tech (think “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year”) and inventive stop-motion, and some genuine danger and surprising violence (what, exactly, do you think the Fox was stealing the chickens for?), and you’ve got a real winner. I wait, in nervous anticipation, for Wes’ seventh (real) movie.

JE: Show us on the doll where Mr. Anderson hurt you Mr. Jones. It’s OK, take your time. Wow, is this what it’s like when your heroes fail you, when the world you thought you knew gets struck by a Bruckheimer-like asteroid? I feel sorry for you my friend. Do you need a little Wes Anderson therapy buddy? Ya gonna be OK there champ? have an animal cracker, I’ll take it from here. Let me tell you a story of a quirky filmmaker with an imagination and vision that marked all his films with a signature all too easy to recognize. This director, who seemed to draw the best out of his actors in simple, understated ways, then decided to venture into the world of kids films, or, pseudo kids films. You see, anything with a touch of Dahl is sneakily mature, and anyone who read “James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Danny, the Champion of the World,” can tell you it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. What am I getting at? This seems like the perfect fit of subject matter and auteur. If you ever wondered what a Wes Anderson movie would look like in stop-motion, this is it. Give it a shot. Also, I just like the story because Mr. Fox decides to get a job working for a newspaper! Someone’s gotta do it.

The Blind Side

VPJ: Here are some reasons why I am disposed not to watch this movie. 1. Sandra Bullock wins Best Actress. Ew. While I think Sandy is cute as a bug and all, she is emphatically not the best actress of anything. She’s a pretty lady, seems quite nice and charming (although perhaps marrying less of a country music Nazi next time would be wise), and is generally a well-scrubbed, competent romantic comedy female lead. The idea that Miss Congeniality (that’s her appropriate title, by the way) would win an Oscar for best actress follows the Academy’s dubious pattern of over-rewarding successful pretty people who rise, marginally, above what anyone expected of them (see: Halle Berry, Charlize Theron). 2. “Thank goodness there are conservative-valued, gun-totin’ Southern whites to turn otherwise animal-like inner city black kids into upstanding (lucrative) members of polite (white) society.” Sure, it’s not “The Blind Side’s” tagline, but it’s its subtext. And it creeps me right the hell out. 3. The film’s subject, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, isn’t particularly pleased with the film which (unlike the fine Michael Lewis book upon which it’s based) takes a lot of liberties with Oher’s real story. Sure, that’s par for the Hollywood course, but the changes serve to turn Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) into a hulking, ignorant, childlike figure (all the better to be raised up right by the whites), even claiming that he knew nothing about football when he came to their benevolent attentions (when, in fact, he was already a star player in high school and was being recruited, without conservative assistance, to many big-time colleges). It’s just unseemly to do that to a living guy who’s gonna get teased in the huddle. 4. Despite my love of the feetball, and of sports movies in general, I have never wanted to see this movie, even for a second. That’s not a good sign. Pass.

JE: Ugh. Do we have to do this? I really don’t want to. I really was just going to keep my mouth shut and move on. But we gotta have it out. Alright then: I call shenanigans on the whole freakin’ thing. I am no Jason Whitlock, no Michael Eric Dyson, I am not one who looks for the racial undercurrent and need to tap into for a fix. But you really can’t argue about those overtones in this movie, the whole theme of “white salvation,” which is, frankly, insulting. I remember when Oher was drafted and first hearing about his story and thought it was great. Read the reviews of Lewis’ book and was convinced it was a solid read. Somehow this flick, which is frankly a movie of the week at worse and a Disney afterthought at best, manages to be a disservice to Oher, the Tuohy’s and Lewis’ book. I’m really not sure how the director did that…actually, yes, yes I am. He wanted a story that sells better, even when the truth is pretty gripping enough. Look, I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole and chase after conservative America quite like you my friend, because no one is better at that then you, but I’ll just say I think this movie is offensive because of the way it handled an otherwise good and affecting story. As for Sandy, well, just yikes. The woman was in “All About Steve” for pete’s sake. There’s nothing wrong with her, but if you’re telling me she beats out Meryl Streep – let alone Gabourey Sidibe – I’d probably throw up on your shoes. Coincidentally, that’s the same reaction I have at the suggestion of renting “The Blind Side.”

Brothers

VPJ: Here’s another one I haven’t seen. At least I’m a little torn on this one. I framed my debate, as I often do, in the form of Homer Simpson deciding whether or not to accept the Monkey’s Paw – it was directed by Jim Sheridan, whose done very good movies like “In the Name of the Father,” “The Boxer,” “In America,” and “My Left Foot.” That’s good. It stars Natalie Portman, whom I personally can not stand. (Her whole, “I’m Hollywood royalty even though I haven’t ever really earned it” vibe bugs me; plus, one word – “younglings”). That’s bad. It was written by David Benioff, who wrote the screenplay for Spike Lee’s excellent “The 25th Hour.” That’s good. Benioff’s since written the films “Troy,” “Stay,” and “X Men Origins: Wolverine.” That’s bad. It stars both Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhall. That’s…fine. The story, two soldier brothers, one is presumed dead, the other sleeps with his brother’s wife, the other brother turns up alive – well, it’s sort of delightfully-old-fashioned in its contrivance, I suppose. Staring blankly. Justin…tell me if that’s good or bad, will you?

JE: That’s a PUSH. Unlike you, I gots no problem with The Ports. Wait..does that only work with The Cloon? I think The Ports sounds bad, don’t you? ANYWAY, yes, she was abysmal in the Star Wars movies THAT SHALL NOT BE REFERENCED, but really, everyone was. It’s like someone asked hostages to make a movie, three movies, in front of a green screen, with the promise they’d be free one shooting wraps. Uh, wow, tangent. Again, ANYWAY, this one was supposed to be this timely drama dealing with murky issues and the effects of America’s wars overseas. Instead, you just get the feeling “hasn’t this been done before?” Also you get the feeling “Which one of these guys played Spidey?” Which is to say, this movie doesn’t have a lot going for it. So pass.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

VPJ: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. No. Nope. Nuh-uh. No.

JE: “Love at First Bite,” “Vampire in Brookyln,” “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” “Bordello of Blood,” “From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money,” “Forever Knight,” “Blade Trinity,” “Van Helsing” I could go on, but you get the point. All of these, ALL OF THEM, are vampire fare I would watch before seeing anything with the word Twilight in it.

LIGHTENING ROUND: And the rest: Damage (An ex-con gets into illegal cage fighting in order to save the daughter of the dude he killed that one time; why should you care? He’s played by ‘rassler ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin…RRRAAAARRRRR!!), and Videoport brings you eight, count ‘em eight! new horror flicks from this year’s After Dark Horror Fest: Lake Mungo (Love that name, by the way – 16 year old girl’s drowning begins all manner of ghostiness), Dread (Three college students’ project is to discover what people, well, dread the most in this adaptation of a Clive Barker story), ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction (ZOMBIES! What else do you need to know?), Kill Theory (College students at a remote house are told they must kill each other before dawn or…dum-dum-dummmm…they all die), The Graves (Two sisters vs. maniacs, cultists, and horror semi-legends Tony Todd and Bill Moseley) and The Final (Sort of like if the kids from The Breakfast Club decided, “enough with the bonding, lets just kill all the jerks making us miserable”).

PARTING SHOTS:

– Which do you prefer, funny Clooney or dramatic Clooney?
– Overreact much? Is “The Blind Side” as bad as we think?
– Vampire movie(s) you’d watch before the Twilight series?

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Justin Ellis (Portland Press Herald) & I on the new releases for 3/16/10

It’s been over a week since Oscar night and Jonesy and I have fully recovered from that night of mayhem. Many thanks to all of you who were involved in the hijinks. On this week’s docket for new DVD releases we have fresh work from Pedro Almodovar, a set back for Laurence Fishburne and an unsatisfying ninja movie. Who knew that was possible…

Broken Embraces

Videoport Jones: There are a few names in the current cinematic landscape that I take as guaranteed solid-fried gold when it comes to movies: Pixar. Miyazaki. Coen Brothers. Mirren. Raimi. The Cloon. Anderson (Wes). Anderson (Paul Thomas). And Almodovar. Say it with me- “Almodovar.” Now say it with a seductive Spanish accent- “Al-mo-DO-varrrrr.” Ahhhh. For those of you who don’t know the decades-long filmic output of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar, well, I actually both pity and envy you; pity because you’ve missed out on nineteen of the weirdest, sexiest, funniest, most downright affecting and beautiful films you’ve ever seen, and envy because you now have the opportunity to experience them all for the first time (if you listen to my smarty-pants advice).  “Broken Embraces,” like most Almodovar, is a peerlessly-balanced mixture of high melodrama, gorgeous visuals, creatively kinky sex, absurdist comedy, and genuine emotion. This one is an intricately-flashbacked tale of a blind former film director coping with the present-day fallout of a tumultuous affair he had with the voluptuous star (voluptuous star Penelope Cruz) of his last film who happened to be the former-prostitute mistress of a powerful industrialist who financed the film to keep her happy and to keep an eye on her. Whew – you got all that? Anyway, like usual, Almeda takes this would-be convoluted plot and imbues it with a lush, resonant thematic weight. Plus, did I mention sexy? Seriously, Penelope Cruz is never more breathtakingly beautiful or magnetic than when she teams up with Pedro; if I were an American actress justifiably upset at the dearth of decent roles for women in Hollywood, I’d start taking Spanish lessons and get Almodovar on speed dial. Great movie.

Justin: Oh Jonesy, you’re placing too much faith in Hollywood and it’s actresses. How many American actresses do you think are open to staring in a foreign film? It doesn’t seem like you often hear of Reese Witherspoon or Rachel Adams rolling the dice to star in a movie where they speak anything other than English. While understandable on one hand (learning other languages is hard), on the other hand who wouldn’t want to give it a shot? You could potentially build a bigger fan base, right? Anyhoo, you are correct on several counts, Almodovar has a singular eye for combining humor, drama and yes, a little naughtiness, that I think makes for good movies regardless of what language is being spoken. But I’d also say his films, though they often have these emotionally wrought themes at the center (Anyone see “Volver?”), I’d say they’re more than accessible to American audiences. And since Almodovar has a thing for Ms. Cruz, that doesn’t hurt.

The Fourth Kind

VPJ: The undeniably-hot, yet increasingly-seemingly-less-than-copiously-talented Milla Jovovich stars in this alien abduction scare flick and, well, she’s still very, very pretty. As for the movie, it’s a blend of sci fi thriller and “documentary” recreations of the Alaska abductions which are still going on to this day, which I’d find a lot more compelling if alien abductions weren’t silly, easily-explainable, new agey koo-koo crap. There a couple of decent (fictional) scares here and there, and some decent support from actual actors Elias Koteas and Will Patton, but like all of the “based on a true story” supernatural films (like the supremely silly “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), “The Fourth Kind” hopes that audience gullibility will make up for its inherent mediocrity. (Oh and for anyone trotting out the “based on a true story” business with wide-eyed, new agey fervor, just direct them to the IMDb’s trivia page…BOOM, lawyered!)

JE: Did someone just get SERVED? Legal-style?! I love it when that happens. Look, I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say I don’t particularly fancy Ms. Jovovich. She doesn’t really, ahem, raise the meter for me in any significant way through her acting or her looks. In fact, the acting just undermines everything else. So let’s start from there. Second, I am so flippin’ tired of this “based on a true story” hokum. Yes, hokum. If you are using that tag line, please, please save it for a political drama, autobiography or war epic. All you’re doing by slapping that nonsense on a 3rd rate thriller or horror flick is making a desperate grab for credibility and shock value. That’s pathetic. Make a better movie or get out of the way.

Astro Boy

VPJ: Anime nerds went bananas over the changes made in the original. Right-wingers went bananas over the plot’s transparently pro-environmentalist, anti-militaristic politics. And while I am pleased on general principles whenever right-wingers are thrown into a tizzy, I have to say I have never had any feelings for the titular robotic hero, a Bob’s Big

I'm Astro Boy!

Boy/Lard Lad-lookin’ little guy with rockets in his butt. The participation of Nicholas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Billy Nighy, Samuel L. Jackson, et al is the standard “I’m doing it for the money/the grandkids/the IRS” overqualified-yet-undistinguished voice actor shuffle, and, well, I’m just gonna trail off right about here…

JE: Uh, no Jonesy, everyone knows Astro Boy’s rockets are in his feet, which is the way Dr. Tenma designed them to give Astro better stability when…wait, oh crap…I just went into obnoxious nerd mode. Everyone I am so, so sorry. I have no genuine feelings for Astro Boy, I can’t say I’ve watched all the cartoons and collected all comics. I have not. But I’ve seen enough that I can say it is moderately enjoyable fun, minus the almost Disney-like origin story where the doc creates Astro to replace his dead son. Yes, Dead. Son. So THAT’s creepy. Still, I think it’s a fun little trip and in this case the CGI, while not great, is not a detriment. And if it’s got a few famous voices (let’s not forget Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy and Charlize Theron), all the better.

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

VPJ: Having never read the late hipster god David Foster Wallace’s source book (Back hipsters! Back! I’ll get around to it, geez…), I can’t speak to the difficulties encountered by writer/director/costar/’Office’ cutie-hunk John Krasinski as he sought to turn Wallace’s typically-sprawling, aside-laden treatise on man-woman relationships into a movie. However, since the adjective most often applied to the book in reviews is ‘unflimable,’ well, I guess it was pretty hard. What I can say is that our own Jim Halpert has done a creditable job crafting a funny, moving, and decidedly oddball indie flick with more to say about those pesky relationships than a shelfload of Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, or Gerard Butler flicks combined. Basically, the film takes the form of a series of monologues where pretty much every famous friend Krasinski has tells their own story of romantic misbehavior. Sure, he grafts a framing story about a recently-dumped young woman conducting the interviews in order to gain some insight into what went wrong and to gage the effect of feminism on relationships in general onto the proceedings, but really, the film is just an excuse for some really interesting actors to do their thing. Chris Meloni, Chris Messina, Timothy Hutton, Will Arnett, Will Forte, Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon from “The Wire!”), Bobby Cannavale, Josh Charles, Frankie Faison, and more bring their own particular gifts to the party and, if it’s a little uneven in tone, and perhaps a tad self-indulgent that Krasinski gives himself the final, and most important interview, well, Halpert really knocks it out of the park. By the way, this seems like a perfect compromise for that ‘date night’ movie; it’s got a certain chick flick pallor to it, but is loaded with cool actors and has more substance than anything Kate Hudson’s slinging this week.

JE: Sweet fancy moses…what if you’ve hit on something? Can such a thing as the perfect date night movie exist? Something to satisfy the pining for emotionality and gooeyness that your lady wants combined with cool, identifiable actors? They said it couldn’t be done! I have not seen this one yet, but it is nearing the top of my list, largely because it is based on Wallace’s book and because Krasinski took a chance on it. I’m gonna say Halpert is at a crucial point in his career now, he could go on being the guy we know and love  (and will be typecast as) from “The Office,” or he could branch off and see what happens. I liked him a lot in “Away We Go,” and am anxious to see what he does here. I’d say it’s probably best to measure this on whether it’s a good film and not whether it lives up to Wallace, because really, nothing can ever do that.

Ninja Assassin

VPJ: “NINJA ASSASSIN!!!” How could I not watch a movie with that title?! I mean…”NINJA ASSASSIN!!!” Ninjas! Assassinating things! Wahoo! Yeah…this movie sucks. Here’s a (partial) list of its cinematic crimes against ninja-osity: 1. The lead character, the titular N.A. is simply the most boring ninja the world has ever seen. An expressionless, charisma-less wispy-thin little fella, Rain (a mono-named Korean boy-band superstar) clearly has no real martial arts skills (although he can do a mean handstand on a bed of nails and has been doing his crunches). 2. CGI blood anyone? Lots and lots of it! N.A. overloads on it, and on strategically-placed and wholly-uninvolving over-the-top gory set pieces, also populated by the only Asian action actors in Hollywood who haven’t got “martial arts” on their resumes. 3. All the talking taking up the space in between the unconvincing “ninja” action is as dull as it is humanly possible to be, spoken by the most nondescript collection of knockoff actors you’ve seen outside of a Lifetime original movie. Seriously gang, this is the ninja movie for people who’ve never heard of Sho Kosugi (who has a supporting part in the film, and who could snap Rain-man into tiny, little faux-ninja pieces, even at 62). Disappointed!!!! Ninja Assassin, my ass…

JE: Is there anything worse than a crappy ninja movie? Is there nothing that won’t make a grown man more angry than a lackluster, underwhelming ninja film? (Well…other than trauma involving their favorite sports team, or body part, or running out of beer, or being stuck in an elevator with your lady and Jon Hamm. Seriously, no one wants that. You’re doomed.) Though hearing your assessment of NA does save me the trouble of watching this one, it’s more disheartening than anything else. I mean…it’s a ninja movie! There are only a few things in life as pure and enjoyable as a ninja movie. Stealthy butt-kicking against impossible odds, that’s a ninja movie, right? And seriously, if you’re casting a ninja movie and your lead has no discernible martial arts chops or ability to learn some convincing moves, you should be arrested. See what happens when you give us a bad ninja movie? We turn into Andy Rooney.

Armored

VPJ: Take an overqualified cast of movie tough guys (Fred Ward! Laurence Fishburne! Jean Reno! Matt Dillon!), throw in a halfway decent armored car heist plot, toss in a dash of the fact that you’ve never heard of this movie despite the cast, and that it’s essentially heading right to DVD, and what have you got? Well, this, of course. I wanted to see it, sort of. But then, well, you know…

JE: No, no, no! NO JONESY! Do not be deceived by false promises of awesomeness. Look, we all love Laurence “Don’t call me Larry. Don’t you dare” Fishburne, but that doesn’t mean he’s gonna get me to watch this one. I watched “Fled” and that was the last time he tricked me. I’m a man of reasonable tastes, who enjoys heist movies and even Matt Dillon in small doses, but this one has an unreasonable odor of mediocrity. You can do better Jonesy. Laurence can sure as heck do better. Dare I say, America can do better.

The Princess and the Frog

VPJ: New Disney animated flick. First African-American princess lead character, which is fine, if, you know, fifty years kind of late. Some decent voice actors (John Goodman, Keith David, Oprah, Terrance Howard). Not by Pixar, though. Pass.”

JE: I’m of conflicting minds on this one. While I have no desire to see it, I recognize the significance (no matter how late). It may not seem like much, but for kids it does help to have cartoons or characters who look like them (just ask the spazzy young nerd growing up in Minneapolis who wondered why the only black dude he’s seen in the Justice League if Black Lightning. That’s another discussion). On the other hand, Disney has clearly run it’s course creatively. While I give them some respect for trying to make a more modern fairy tale, I think the kids have passed them by. Not that they don’t want fantastic fare or fun stories, but I don’t know if the whole “princess” thing holds as much sway as it once did. Dear Mouse House – leave it to Pixar.

RAPID FIRE – And the rest: Breaking Bad – Season 2 (Everybody’s favorite drug dealer hero – well, except for ‘Weeds’, but…), Wonderful World (Matthew Broderick stars, alongside “The Wire’s” Omar himself, Michael K. Williams!), the last season of Monk, and a new four movie set of Mystery Science Theater 3000, (featuring “The Beatniks,” “The Crawling Eye,” “The Final Sacrifice,” and “The Blood Waters of Dr. Z!”)

PARTING SHOTS

– Why don’t more American actresses work in foreign films?

– Name a good use of the “Based on a True Story” tag for a movie

– Is there anything worse than an underwhelming ninja movie?

Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The 2010 Oscars Liveblog: The Aftermath

Click the link to see the results of the first annual Oscars Liveblog from the Press Herald’s Justin Ellis and yours truly.  A fun night was had by all, especially thanks to Justin’s special ladyfriend and the ever-awesome Mrs. Videoport Jones who fed and beveraged us while we slaved away, making lame wisecracks over hot keyboards.  Enjoy!

The 2010 Justin/Jonesey Oscar Liveblog!

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 10:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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