VideoReport #442

Volume CDXLII- 2014: The Year Videoport Said Goodbye To One Of The Best Actors Of All Time. Dammit…

For the Week of 2/4/14

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Except for that one day when—wait, what? Nope, we give you free movie on that day, too…

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 not watching any Philip Seymour Hoffman movies for a while. I mean, you guys can do what you want, but I’m going to resist the urge to dive in and wallow in depression for at least a bit—honestly, I’m just not sure I could take it right now. Especially as Hoffman’s specialty was the embodiment of desperate, wracking loneliness and sadness. Sure, he had a little fun along the way: he brought some needed gravitas and comic evil snap to his Big Bad in Mission Impossible III, was delightfully unctuous and slimy as hateful WASPs in Scent Of A Woman, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, goofed around with Amy Sedaris in Strangers With Candy, and confidently essayed the befuddled, decidedly un-confident screenwriter and would-be lover in David Mamet’s charming State And Main, played an uncharacteristic a-hole jock humorously in My Boyfriend’s Back and an uncharacteristic Hollywood dick livening up the otherwise forgettable Along Came Polly— and we’ll always have The Big Lebowski’s Brandt… But no, PSH’s wheelhouse was for pain—and I’m just not in the mood for more of that right now, especially not so peerlessly embodied by Hoffman, easily one of the best actors of the last 20 years. Look at even a small, seemingly insignificant role like his unnamed craps player in Paul Thomas Anderson’s mesmerizingly good first feature Hard Eight. Drunk and obnoxious, Hoffman’s gambler spouts catchphrases, makes odd noises, and taunts veteran gambler Philip Baker Hall—until he sees the old man whip out a roll and start making big, ballsy bets. Then Hoffman’s gambler latches onto him with admiration, changing his singsong dice-rolling patter to incorporate this dour old man, whom he begins calling “Big Time”—it’s a one scene wonder of a role, where Hoffman’s able to convey a whole lot of backstory onto a seemingly one-note part where, under the obnoxiousness, we see tantalizing, fascinating hints of the neediness, sadness, and desperation inside. Watch Hoffman when the old man, betting on Hoffman’s rolls, busts out—the complex interplay of emotions Hoffman takes him through in about ten seconds is heartbreaking, is astounding. (Hard Eight is a movie you should just see anyway.) Of course, Hoffman became a much, much bigger star since that point, winning the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in, well, Capote, a role where the mechanics of impersonation give way to a nimbly devastating examination of a desperately sad, tormented man who finds himself all but destroyed by truths too big for him to process. It’s a truly great performance (and you should team it up for a double feature with Infamous, where British actor Toby Jones essays the same character—both are outstanding.) But if there are roles more closely associated in my mind with Hoffman, it’s those where he brings to life characters so sad, so damaged, so isolated and lonely, so utterly crushed by life that, well, they’d be hard for me to watch right now. From the achingly-needy and awkward porno soundman Scotty J. in Anderson’s classic Boogie Nights, turning this possible pathetic figure of fun into a near-tragic figure of unrequited love, of unrequited everything. To the widower of Love, Liza, a man so shattered by his wife’s suicide that he cannot bring himself to open the last letter she left him but, instead, embarks on a days-long diversion where he tries to convince himself and others that he is capable of functioning like a person with a still-intact soul. To his sweaty, self-destructive turn as the real life protagonist of Owning Mahowny, a mild-mannered banker who simply cannot stop himself from embezzling money to feed his casino gambling addiction—maybe just for the sense of companionship and self-worth he derives from casino boss John Hurt. There’s his heedlessly longing high school teacher pining mournfully over student Anna Paquin and lending able best friend support to doomed-to-prison best friend Ed Norton in Spike Lee’s great 25th Hour. There’s his gross, creepy obscene phone caller/stalker in Todd Solondz’ still-wrenching Happiness, whom Hoffman somehow imbues with a tortured, paradoxical humanity…even as he’s doing some very unpalatable things. There’s my favorite PSH performance in Anderson’s Magnolia, as Phil Parma, male nurse to dying Jason Robards, whose everyman, commonplace decency amidst a world of pain and confusion is unutterably moving and hopeful—look at him navigating the tangle of anonymous phone tree of underlings in order to reach the man he believes is Robards’ estranged son and try not to feel poor, decent Phil is simply the kindest, most courageous man in the universe. If only for a moment. Everyone remembers him stealing scenes (and the whole movie) in Almost Famous as famed rock critic Lester Bangs, giving reassuring advice to neophyte writer Patrick Fugit about the virtues of “Not being cool.” He brought a soulfulness to the drag queen helping stroke-addled Robert DeNiro in Flawless. He brought an undercurrent of black self-loathing to the manipulative villain of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. He was, yes, masterful as the L. Ron Hubbard-esque guru of Anderson’s The Master. And then there’s Synecdoche, NY, which may be one of the most depressing, bewildering movies ever made—so, of course director Charlie Kaufman called PSH. In it, a sad, tortured, ineffectual artist receives a grant to stage his dream project—a life-sized replica of his own life inside a huge NYC warehouse. Only his vision is so sad, so all-encompassingly bleak and pervasive, that it seemingly starts to infect the whole world with a plague of futility, disappointment, heartbreak, and, ultimately, death. So I guess I’ll just stop there…

>>>Videoport customer Brooks says: “I watched Love, Liza awhile back and his performance was heartbreaking. One of those movies that touches you deeply, especially if you have known and loved an addict, but a movie you never want to watch again. Particularly tragic now.

>>>Videoport customer John D. says: “He gave everything to each role. I’m having a hard time dealing with this. Glad you took this route this week. Might as well go all month… To offer perspective, when JFK, RFK, MLK and John Lennon died, they were just guys in our milieu at the time, whose loss was crushing, but have since been elevated to exalted heights. Losing Phil Hartman was awful too. I can’t imagine how these heroes would have been handled in today’s internet era, but I do know, and feel, the same sense of loss. Even though the spread of information was slower, I’m sure the news of Lincoln’s death was equally devastating on the populace. In the end, regardless of our slice of time in this world, the heroes who fall in whatever manner, contribute mightily to our future, and the effect on us all are equally profound.”

>>>Nacy Rat Rat responds: “Thank you for comparing PSH to John Lennon, or someone of equal “cultural” important. He feels like sucha cult figure, like his death won’t resonate in pop culture the way it is in my personal experience, so it’s nice to hear someone give it that “weight”.”

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 Boogie Nights (in Feature Drama.) It’s funny: there’s so much to remember of Boogie Nights, so many highs and lows and intense, visceral moments. But for me, Boogie Nights always means one thing: Scottie. He’s a peripheral player at best, and that’s central to his character’s plight. Scotty isn’t a charismatic adult-film star or a self-assured producer or even a swaggering hanger-on; he’s the boom-mike guy. He’s right there, always on the sideline, watching silently and taking it all in. He’s all but invisible; that’s his job. When Scotty falls under the artless magnetism of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg’s puppyish porn star), no one even seems to notice. This role could have been pure buffoonery, a crass laugh line punctuating the drama and pathos of the larger narrative. But thanks to director Paul Thomas Anderson and the finely tuned mastery of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Scotty is more than a punchline: he’s poignant, a heartplucking balance of comedy and tragedy, a mirror turned upon us. Scotty’s open adoration could be repulsive, even sinister, but Hoffman makes him so affecting, so true and human. He stumbles, he stammers, he pulls his heart out for everyone to see… but they just don’t. Hoffman has played greater, more important roles, but perhaps none that displays his technical artistry better: even his complexion plays out Scotty’s inner self. He flushes with ardor and hope, he flushes or pales with self-loathing. Every inch of him yearns and suffers in turn, and every inch of me cringes or craves along with him.

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!

>>>Videoport customer Deb. T. apologizes. I actually thought about writing one up for you on a PSH film, but got overwhelmed by all the options and just how good – and different he was – in all of them. From Magnolia and Synecdoche NY to Doubt and The Master – he could play someone so sweet and sad to powerful and morally questionable. Happiness, Boogie Nights, Almost Famous. It’s too much to consider. I don’t think there’s another actor out there where I would just see the film based on the fact that he was in it. Sorry.

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!

>>>Emily S. Customer suggests The Invention Of Lying (in Comedy.) Most of the reflections on the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman will focus on his biggest, best, most dramatic roles – The Master, Magnolia, Hard Eight, Synecdoche, New York, Capote, Doubt – and fairly so. He’s a giant of the cinema, and he will be best remembered for those indelible characters. But his talent was both deep and wide. He had room in his repertoire for both those staggering, affecting dramas and for the lightest of fare, and whatever role he played, he played it absolutely: without a glimmer of doubt, without coming up for air. He treated a frill or walk-on as soberly as a starring role. For a stellar example of this dedication and immersion, you need look no further than the Ricky Gervais vehicle The Invention of Lying. Hoffman is on screen just a few gleaming minutes, as Jim the Bartender, upon whom Gervais’ Mark tries out his new-found strategy of (gasp!) not telling the truth. In a world where no one has ever thought to lie, this tactic is utterly effective, bowling over the credulous crowds like pins. And no one is more guilelessly, effortlessly accepting of Mark’s lies than Jim, the affable fella who pours you a drink and listens to your woes. Here, Hoffman is no titan or villain, no cringing second banana or put-upon Nice Guy. He’s every inch the unsuspecting everyman, immersed in his part with an open-eyed innocence and familiarity and humor that does more to sell the film’s deeply flawed premise than any other ten actors combined.

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, Emily S. Customer suggests Synecdoche, NY (in Incredibly Strange.) I approached this film with a combination of exhilaration and dread. And I’ll be honest: that’s about right. As Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut, it seemed too ambitious, too monumental, too l_383028_928c7d08sweeping a scale for a rookie to tackle. But the combination was unassailable, its appeal to me undeniable: Kaufman, sure, but also Philip Seymour Hoffman, the greatest actor of his generation. (I notice that headlines and eulogies are adding the weasel-words “arguably” and “perhaps” to that distinction, and I spent part of Sunday night trying and failing to name a greater actor of his cohort. I cannot think of one. He’s in the pantheon with Streep and DeNiro and a handful of others whose performances transformed cinema, made it greater and broader and deeper than it had been before.) The film grapples with loss and betrayal and the slow, inevitable depredations that time visits on us all. It namechecks Cotard delusion, a peculiar entry in the short catalog of medical curiosities I visit and revisit with near-obsessive fixation. There was no way to escape this film; it could have been custom-crafted to draw me in. The first time I watched Synecdoche, New York, I was more than frustrated with the film; I found myself actively hostile to it. The pace felt interminable, the story even more tangled and confusing than I expect, the characters insufferable. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it all night and all the next day. It haunted me: the images of recursion, the touches of perplexing and uncertain smoke here and there, the fragile relationships between characters. The very next night, I watched it again, all but cursing myself for the punishment it was sure to be. And it was revelatory. The crawling slack that had so tormented me – because it couldn’t possibly outpace my anxiety and anticipation – on second viewing revealed itself as the perfect pace to unfold this meditation on loss and love and ambition, on the terrible truth that we are all doomed to an unfinished life. Synecdoche, New York explores the tragedy and beauty of a life limited by this frail humanity, an elegiac rumination on the impossibility of fully realizing our dreams and desires, and the tremendous power in trying to do so anyhow.

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Nacy Rat Rat says: “Philip Seymour Hoffman is an interesting actor for anyone who came of age in the late 90s/early 2000s…. I think we all (meaning us who are currently 25-35) watched Almost Famous, knowing that we were either supposed to identify emotionally with the 15-year-old kid, the groupie, or the rock star… but actually identified with Lester Bangs and I think that is solely based on the power of Philip’s performance. So many little bit of his passive, cool-as-f*ck wisdom permeated my little psyche from that movie, and then I watched Philip “come of age” in his own sense as one of the most profoundly important character actors…ever. From then on, I think, for us, he became a character actor just universally known as “good”, no matter what film he is in. Not only was he good, but he was willing to be gross and wrong and true in a way few actors are. Jimmy Stewart could never jack off during a phone conversation with a stranger. The Master is probably the strongest and most f*cked-up character piece I’ve seen, ever, and he f*cking carried Synecdoche NY, all by himself, on his own damn shoulders. He is a shiver-inducing kind of evocative, with all of the beauty and craft of our generation’s more well-known character actors, without all the pomp, circumstance and douchebaggery. I do think, despite the fact that Johnny Cash, Lou Reed and James Gandolfini died in my lifetime, this is the saddest and most profound celebrity death I can remember. He had already knocked it out of the park so many times, but you still felt like he had more to give, because he did…. If you are someone who gives a damn about movies, likes it when things are done right, and wants characters to be loved with all of their f*cked-up complexity, than this is a sad day for you, and it’s kind of surprisingly hard to shake.


New Releases this week at Videoport: About Time (a young guy discovers that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time and uses it to manipulate his relationship with girlfriend Rachel McAdams; from the director of Love Actually, who assures us all that this is romantic and funny but not creepy in any way), Banshee Chapter (another horror film based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this time on his short story From Beyond; it’s about a reporter investigating her friend’s death and uncovering secret government drug experiments and more icky stuff; starring Ted Levine as an obvious Hunter Thompson character—pair it with Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond!), Chasing Shackleton (six guys decide to set sail in a replica ship and re-enact the ill-fated Antarctic journey of the titular explorer), Dallas Buyers Club (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in this fact-based drama about a sh*t-kicking Texas womanizer who circumvents the feds in order to obtain experimental medications for himself and other AIDS-afflicted patients in the 80s), Escape Plan (HGH fans Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for this action thriller about a security expert who gets thrown into one of the high tech prisons he once said were inescapable! I wonder if he’ll escape?), Justice League War (based on the unconscionable DC Comics reboot which destroyed everything comics nerds held dear [we’re not bitter], this animated feature follows the formation of the bastard, revamped Justice League; we might be bitter…), Got The Facts On Milk? (Wait, milk’s bad now? Well, watch this documentary and find out…), McConkey (documentary about the titular guy, who made extreme sports like Basejumping and freeskiing popular enough for you to never try them), Romeo And Juliet (another version of the Shakespeare—this time starring the girl from True Grit, the kid from The Road, and Brody from Homeland), The White Queen (Queen Elizabeth and other super-hot historical babes vie for power in this action-packed historical series that I’m sure is scrupulously accurate!), Downton Abbey- season 4 (does his lordship and the duchess find the…poacher…of the manor’s…pheasants? Confession: I have never seen this show. But you guys seem to like it!), Dario Argento’s Dracula (long-overrated “Italian master of horror” Argento brings out his version of the numbingly overfilmed Dracula story! everyone laughed at it! It’s got Rutger Hauer!), Charlie Countryman (serial plagiarist Shia LaBeouf stars in this thriller about an American guy whose infatuation with a Romanian beauty runs him into trouble with the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Ron Weasley), Free Birds (the likes of Amy Poehler, Woody Harrelson, and Owen Wilson give voice to animated game birds in this film about turkeys going back in time to try and convince humans not to eat all the turkeys), Cutie And The Boxer (Oscar-nominated documentary about famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his long-suffering wife Noriko), The Crash Reel (affecting documentary about snowboarding hotshot Kevin Pearce and his attempts to return to the extreme sports world after a horrific injury on the half pipe)

New Arrivals This Week At Videoport: 200 Motels (Videoport delights all the Frank Zappa fans out there by buying this typically-nutball Zappa flick from 1971), The Dream Team (Michael Keaton is still freaking hilarious in this 1989 comedy about a quartet of mental patients stranded in NYC when their therapist is knocked out during a field trip), American Girl: Sage Paints The Sky (based on the doll line! Girls like it!)

New Blu-Rays At Videoport: About Time, Dallas Buyers Club, Escape Plan


VideoReport #439

Volume CDXXXIX- 2014: The Year Every- One Finally Realized That Netflix Is The Devil’s Butt

For the Week of 1/14/14

Videoport gives you a free movie (out of our insanely-complete movie collection) every single day.

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Emily S. Customer just had her first cup of coffee in four months and OH BOY OH BOY LET’S TALK ABOUT MOVIES. Start off slow with Jim Jarmusch’s anthology Coffee and Cigarettes, which collects a series of lovingly textured black-and-white vignettes starring everyone from The White Stripes’ Meg and Jack White to Bill Murray to The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA. Ramp up your caffeine buzz with the inimitable Pam Grier as Coffy, a respectable nurse who becomes a one-woman vigilante force out to take vengeance on the scum who hooked her baby sister on junk. And ride out the last dregs of hot-coffee excitement with, well, Hot Coffee (2011), a documentary examining the effects of tort reform in the U.S. judicial system, with 1994 case Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Restaurants as a key example. Thanks to media oversimplification and a rash of jokes, Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Restaurants was popularly misunderstood as a case of an frivolous tort by a customer inconvenienced when she slopped hot drive-thru coffee on herself; in fact, Stella Liebeck spent eight days in hospital, required skin grafts, and needed two years of follow-up treatment from third-degree burns.

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!

>>>Videoport customer Baxter Van West (age 11) recommends Terminator 2: Judgement Day (in Action/Adventure.) Terminator Two is a very funny movie, if you don’t mind a little sick humor. In this movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays another terminator, but this one has been sent back to protect the now ten-year-old Jon Connor. The other terminator, a more advanced model (bad news for Jon Connor), makes his appearance under a highway, takes on the form of a cop, and then goes around looking for Jon Connor, who then has to flee the city. All around I think it was a good movie. 9.5 stars.

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 checking out the best of foreign language TV at Videoport! You guys are getting pretty heavily into TV shows from other countries? What, is America’s unending supply of vapid sitcoms and sex-crime procedurals not enough for you? Well good thing Videoport’s been bringing in some of the best shows from around the globe to fill the gap. First up, there’s Borgen. Maybe you wouldn’t think that American audiences would be into an intelligent political drama about Danish politics. But then you don’t know Videoport customers, mister. Often compared to The West Wing at its best, this drama about Denmark’s first female prime minister is flying off the shelves. Up next is Wallander, the Swedish detective series to end all Swedish detective series. (There’s a really good BBC remake starring Kenneth Branagh as well.) The ongoing tale of the most epically bummed out detective in all of Scandinavia, Videoport literally can’t keep the two seasons of this show in the store. (773-1999 to reserve, by the way). And then howsabout some intense French detective thriller-ness? Well then slide over to the ‘S’ region of Videoport’s foreign section for Spiral. It’s French. It’s intense. It’s…um, French. (I may not have seen it yet.) Anyway, the massage should be clear—pester Videoport’s owner Bill enough and he’ll bring in all the obscure foreign stuff you’ve ever heard about from your aunt who has better cable than you.

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 using the 3 movies for a week for 7 bucks deal to rent the near-entirety of great TV shows that were cancelled before their time (because Americans would rather watch contrived surveillance footage of the decline of world culture: aka reality TV.) Some shows die (or, you know, are murdered by dumb people) before their time. For great shows, that means that they exist forever as sort of perfect little gems that you can knock off in a week. Like these (all of which I’d recommend with all my immortal soul!): Firefly (best sci fi series ever. Only four DVDs and a movie.) Party Down (brilliant workplace comedy. Only 4 DVDs, because people are the worst.) Stella (hilarious surrealist comedy from three guys from The State. Only 2 DVDs and a single standup DVD). The State (brilliant sketch comedy from 11 people who’ve gone on to produce some of your favorite shows. Only 4 DVDs). Ultraviolet. (British vampire series costarring the great Idris Elba. Only 2 DVDs.) Enlightened. (Cancelled because people are the worst—Laura Dern is stunning. Only 4 DVDs). Andy Richter Controls The Universe and Andy Barker PI (Three in the former, two in the latter—it’s Andy. You love Andy!) The Upright Citizens Brigade (Only 2 of the 3 seasons of the best sketch comedy show since Monty Python have been released. With a pre-stardom Amy Poehler, and only 4 DVDs in toto.)

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

>>>Did you know that every Friday you can just walk in off the street and, without renting another movie or even spending one single penny, you can choose a movie from the hundreds of movies in Videoport’s kids section? For free? No catch, no questions asked? Why, it’s true! Who would complain about that? Hitler? Hitler’s meaner big brother?

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests The Zero Effect (in Mystery/Thriller.) We all have those movies, not a favorite or a top-ten greatest film, but the ones you return to over and over for no reason you can quite put your finger on. For me, The Zero Effect falls squarely and securely into that category. It isn’t A Great Film, but it’s a great movie: full of eccentric and idiosyncratic characters that the film fleshes out ably and believably, a twisty-turny plot that feeds out just enough to keep you on the hook as you swim along with it, and a lively blend of comedy, drama, and pathos. Bill Pullman stars as reclusive master detective Darryl Zero (Bill Pullman), who solves the most arcane mysteries from the privacy of his home Sherlock-Holmes style, sending his diligent representative Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) into the field to gather information and run errands. It’s only that buffer that conceals the truth from his powerful and prosperous clients: Zero is a mess, a shambling, rambling, drug-addled mess living in dismal, expensive squalor. He also happens to be a genius. His prestigious clientele pay Zero’s staggering (and non-negotiable) fee for his speed, his insight, and – of course – his discretion, but Zero only chooses on the most challenging, unlikely cases, like the case of The Man With The Mismatched Shoelaces: sought by kings and presidents, found by Darryl Zero with an hour’s work at his desk. The Zero Effect gives Bill Pullman a welcome break from his usual run of second-bananas and boyfriends to be jilted, and he leaps into Darryl Zero’s precarious neuroses with rare fervor, making this sad, confusing, infuriating character complex and weirdly engaging. Ben Stiller, too, brings something special to the role of Steve Arlo, employing his trademark snark and mercurial temper with sensitive restraint to give Arlo a crisp professionalism punctuated by tightly-controlled and riotous outbursts. Their chemistry keeps the frankly peculiar film ticking along nicely this side of “wacky,” which lets the audience focus on the characters and the action as the mystery of The Guy Who Lost His Keys gets deeper and darker.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Gasland II (in Documentary). Dear God, but corporations are evil. You should rent this alongside the equally-upsetting documentary The Corporation, which seeks to explain the underlying psychopathy which allows those corporations profiled in Gasland II to do what they do without their CEOs just open up a vein in the bathtub every night. Jesus. We all saw Matt Damon and Jon Krasinski adorably explain why fracking (releasing trapped natural gas in the earth under the land where, you know, people live and stuff) is essentially something only supervillains like Lex Luthor would try to perpetrate until the Justice League smacks him into the phantom zone. In a nutshell, companies grease enough politicians to perform this insanely unsafe gas-mining underneath the poorest people’s land, releasing not only the lucrative gas but a delicious cocktail of toxic chemicals (some used in the fracking process itself), thus poisoning the local water table and making everyone sick. But surely the affected people have some legal recourse, if not against the intrusive practice itself, that at the very least concerning the fact that your drinking water gives your kids cancer and you can, you know, actually light it on fire. Sigh—oh, you poor, poor, naive kid you. Nope. Watch the movie. The fix is in. Money makes morality irrelevant. Sorry about your kid’s leukemia. Oh wait, no they’re not. I hate everyone.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Forest Whitaker stars in this biopic about the long-suffering real-life White House butler who served under Nixon, for one; oh, and by the way, it’s only because of hideous, petty lawyer nonsense that that whole “Lee Daniels’” thing was appended to the title—feel free to refer to it as just The Butler), Riddick (Vin Diesel is back, continuing to insist that his character from 2000’s Pitch Black is an enduring sci fi action hero; it’s sorta cute!), Carrie (professional spooky girl Chloe Grace Moretz [Let Me In, Kick-Ass] stars in this horror remake of questionable necessity about the girl who can do stuff with her brain), Enough Said (you’re gonna want to see this indie romantic comedy/drama for a variety of reasons; directed by the cool Nicole Holofcener [Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing], and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini in his last role), You’re Next (it’s always a great day at Videoport when a half-decent horror movie comes out, so hooray for this decidedly above-average scare-fest about a family gathered together in their isolated, swanky country house; stuff does NOT go well…), The Spectacular Now (a brainy girl and a charming rich guy fall in love in this teen rom-dram that’s actually supposed to be good; sorta like this year’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower), Fruitvale Station (look for this one on Oscar night, people—the true story of the last day in the life of a young African American guy in the Bay Area who gets shot for no reason at the titular subway stop; starring the cool Michael B. Jordan who smart people already love from Friday Night Lights), Short Term 12 (acclaimed indie about a young woman trying to cope with the heartbreaking challenges of working at a foster care facility), 20 Feet From Stardom (You so want to rent this! At least according to everything you’ve all been saying for the last few months—so come and get the many copies we bought of this documentary about the most famous backup singers you’ve never heard of), Gasland: Part II (sequel to that other Gasland, which convincingly makes the terrifying case that “fracking” practices of energy companies are both horribly dangerous and fraught with corruption that stomps, Godzilla-style on Americans’ rights), A Single Shot (the great Sam Rockwell and the even greater Jeffrey Wright star in this thriller about an Ozarks mountain man who accidentally shoots a young woman with a mysterious briefcase full of cash), Rewind This! (Videoport’s Regan says this documentary about the history of the VHS tape is actually a ton of fun; never, ever argue with Regan…), I’m So Excited (NEW ALMODOVAR MOVIE!!! Seriously—for most of you, that’s all you need to hear, but if you still need convincing to pick up the new film from one of the world’s best and most consistently-great directors, it’s about the wacky passengers of a plane who start to go entertainingly nuts when they think they’re about to die. People—NEW ALMODOVAR.), How To Make Money Selling Drugs (yup, this documentary does offer ten solid tips about how to make money in the drug trade, all under the aegis of deconstructing the unjust cluster-f*ck that is the war on drugs; with the participation of Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon, Eminem, 50 Cent, and creator of The Wire David Simon), Copper- season 2 (the continuing adventures of the best NYC cop of the 1800s; I’m trying to think of a way that New York could have been worse 150 years ago…hmm….nope, got nothin’…), Tumbledown (Maine’s own Todd Verow’s new movie chronicles the way sexual obsession can get messily out of hand when a gay couple invites a hunky bartender to spend a weekend with them in their isolated cabin’ look for it in Videoport’s Pride section), Man Of Tai Chi (Keanu Reeves directs his first movie! Try to contain yourself! Actually, this martial arts movie, about a young delivery guy whose fighting prowess sends him into the world of underground fight clubs, is actually supposed to be pretty good as such things go…), C.O.G. (David Sedaris fans out there should be jumping up and down with NPR-level enthusiasm over the release of this, the first screen adaptation of one of his works; in it, a young gay man finds himself on an Oregon apple-picking orchard where he feels, shockingly, out of place)

New Arrivals This Week At Videoport: Neighbors (finally on DVD! John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd threw everyone for a loop with this still-unsettling dark comedy about a button-down suburbanite [Belushi, playing against type] whose duller than dull existence is thrown into chaos when a possibly psycho Danny and Cathy Moriarty move in next door), 47 Ronin (perhaps in protest of the Keanu Reeves big budget flop, Videoport brings in this 1941 film adaptation of the legendary Japanese tale of the titular samurai who, after the unjust execution of their master, roam the land seeking revenge)

New Arrivals on Blu Ray This Week at Videoport: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Carrie, Riddick, The Spectacular Now, 20 Feet From Stardom, Thanks For Sharing, I’m So Excited, You’re Next

VideoReport #427

Volume CDXXVII- Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of Who Thought Charlton Heston As A Mexican Guy Was A Good Idea

 For the Week of 10/21/13

 Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. Netflix just sent a nude selfie to your significant other.

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!

>>>Andy suggests Rosemary’s Baby (in Mystery/Thriller). I watch this movie every few months, whether it’s during the spookiest time of the year or not. Once, on the night before I took my SATs, I stayed up too late watching Rosemary’s Baby. I didn’t do particularly well on that test, but, well, no regrets. This is a real slow builder of a horror movie. It’s starts with Rosemary (so meek and vulnerable, played by Mia Farrow) and Guy (so charming and, I’ll say it, devilishly played by John Cassavetes), a hip, young married couple, renting an apartment in a spooky building. How spooky is the building? Elisha Cook, Jr. is their landlord. He is also a ghost*. Guy and Rosemary befriend their elderly neighbors, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in the most Ruth Gordon-est of all Ruth Gordon performances) and everything is very nice for a while. Guy and Rosemary decide to have a child and (SPOILER ALERT), they succeed in getting Rosemary’s pregnant! I mean, everything is pretty ducky if you disregard that strange, upsetting dream Rosemary has on the night of conception featuring Guy, Roman, Minnie, and possibly Nick Nolte and a coven of Nick Nolte-worshippers. Rosemary has a difficult pregnancy, which would make for a pretty wrenching movie by itself. But then she also begins to have suspicions about her neighbors’ intentions, and their possible involvement with Nick Nolte. Like I mentioned earlier, Rosemary’s Baby is a slow builder, but build it surely does, all the way to a conclusion that’s every bit as creepy and tense as you could hope! Also, I forgot to mention that Roman Polanski directed this movie, and it’s probably the best thing he has ever made.

*No, he’s not.

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 Sunset Boulevard (in Classics.) Not every monster is unearthly, and not every monster movie needs a literal monster. Billy Wilder’s Hollywood horror is all too plausible. Just seconds ahead of the repo men on his tail, down-at-heel screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) stashes his car in the garage of an abandoned mansion… but of course it isn’t abandoned. Reclusive, forgotten silent-screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) lurking in her sprawling, dilapidated mansion as regally as Dracula in his castle, as foreboding as Dr. Frankenstein in his family manor, as sinister as a spider waiting for a fly to come wandering into her web. And Joe wanders right in. Joe uses Norma: her home, her money, her protection. But Norma doesn’t merely use Joe; she feeds on him, drinking in his youthful energy, his talent, and – most of all –his smallest gestures of affection to sustain her waning vitality. Wilder emphasizes the classic-horror flavor of the film by repeatedly shooting Swanson like a classic Universal monster: facing the frame, gothic shadows looming all around her, as she fixes her mesmerizing gaze on the camera – and, by extension, on us. She is as menacing and macabre as Bela Lugosi, and as tragic a figure in the end.

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!   >>> It’s the Videoport dating advice column!

Q—I met this great new guy—he’s considerate, generous, and even gets along with my parents—but I saw him leave a rental DVD out of its case on the coffee table. Should we get married?

A—Dump him. He’s clearly of low character and cannot be trusted. You’re welcome.

Q—I came home to find that my wife had made us a delicious dinner and planned a romantic evening, but I noticed that the rental copy of Hope Floats she had rented for our post-dinner snuggle-time was covered with fingerprints made of our supper’s delicious gravy. Should I ignore it?

A—Dump her. She is clearly a serial killer.

Q—When I went through my date’s DVD collection while he was in the bathroom, I noticed his personal DVDs were pristine but the one’s he’d rented for us to watch had been left out where his cat had walked all over them and scratched them. Is he a keeper?

A—Get out! Get out of there! He’s clearly planning to kill you! Oh god—he’s right behind you…[static]

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 Chad suggests The Thing (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Just to see that head turn into a spider.

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

>>>It’s free. For kids!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Vikings (in Action.) I’ll write more at some point, but I will just say this—this show is outstanding in its approximation of a truly alien culture. Ragnar Lothbrok and company are legitimately, thrillingly…other. Good show.

>>>For Sunday, it’s Emily S. Customer’s five scariest movie endings. Many horror films tacitly celebrate and reiterate conventional values, both by punishing violation of the social order and by restoring that order at the end, maybe with a hint of future danger as a playful stinger.

But not these films. In these films, the end is the stinger, loaded with poison. There is no order; there is no safety; there is no peace or play or pleasure. There is only terror, repeated and rampant. [NB: This list is ALL SPOILERS. There are SPOILERS HERE. This is NOTHING BUT SPOILERS. SPOILERS, Y’ALL.]

Mulholland Dr. I’m a little shame-faced to admit how deeply the last few minutes of David Lynch’s twisty-turny neo-noir mindbender unsettles me, and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it does. When I obsessively watch and re-watch the film (and of course I do, oh, I do), if I’m alone, I almost always stop just short of the terrible booming knock on Diane’s door; if you could peek in my window at that moment (and of course you do, oh, you do), you’d see me lunge for the remote in comical terror to avoid having to see the shrunken, tiny figures of the elderly visitors creep under the door and then grow to loom over her as she shrieks. Just thinking about it is giving me the actual, literal creeps.

The Blair Witch Project. The Blair Witch Project was something of a phenomenon at release. The simple premise: three student filmmakers disappeared while shooting a documentary researching a terrifying local legend; this is their last known footage. The film’s eerie realism, achieved by casting then-unknown actors (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard) who improvised around a skeletal script as they trekked from campsite to campsite over an 8-day shoot, was reinforced by a then-innovative online promotional website tying in (fictional) police reports of missing film students, (faked) investigative interviews, and (embellished) reports of historical legends. The film hinges on the uncertainty of their fates, so it’s no surprise that the end is ambiguous. Some viewers were jarred by the sudden ending; some were annoyed by the lack of resolution. But for me, the mixture of simplicity and obscurity in The Blair Witch Project’s final moments is bone-chilling.

Night of the Living Dead. After a long night trapped in an abandoned house fighting off unending hordes of shambling corpses, only one of our characters survives, and deservedly so: even under attack by the inexplicable horror of shambling corpses, Ben (Duane Jones) is quick-thinking, capable, and tenacious. As the film draws to a close, Ben falls into a brief, uneasy slumber. He’s awakened to morning’s bright light by the sound of gunshots as sheriffs amble through the countryside, casually dispatching the last of the zombies. Thinking the nightmare is over, Ben approaches the window… and is shot dead by a deputy and tumbled onto the pyre of burning bodies. Given the social and political tensions in 1968 and the lazily assured good-ol’-boys cast as the posse, it’s not clear whether Ben’s killing is a moment of tragic negligence or an opportunistic hate crime, an ambiguity that caps off 90 minutes of supernatural horror with a far more resounding moment of mundane horror. Night of the Living Dead remains the only horror film that still leaves me sobbing – in sorrow, in frustration, in rage, in existential despair.

Let The Right One In (Swedish version). The contrast between the tone and the reality is jarring: in the moment, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is happy, smiling in the sunshine as the train zips through the frozen landscape, his new and dear friend Eli (Leana Leandersson) safely sheltered in the trunk at his knee, the sadistic bullies and negligent adults of his former life left behind, only adventure ahead. But in reality, we know what lies ahead for Oskar, and it’s the same fate Eli’s former caretaker suffered: to cut all ties of human contact, to stalk and slaughter victims for Eli to batten on, to practice and hone his appetite for violence and cruelty, and finally, inescapably, to grow older and older while Eli stays young, to lose his value to Eli, to see his charge’s affections wither and waste, and finally to be discarded for another. Oskar sees a world opening up before him, but that world is as empty and frozen as the winter terrain speeding by the window.

The Tenant. Polanski’s The Tenant feels like one long, sustained nightmare: oppressive, humiliating, paranoid, sweatily unstable. Meek expatriate Trelkovsky (Polanski) has been scouring Paris for someplace to live. Finally – what a lucky break! – he finds an apartment, newly vacated when the previous tenant threw herself out the window, smashing through the glass awning to the street. Trelkovsky snaps up the place despite the hostile proprietress (Shelly Winters) and standoffish fellow tenants. And that’s where the nightmare begins. The entire film is suffused with dread, but the first time I saw it – at the too-tender age of 11 – nothing in my small experience of the world prepared me for the horrors of the ending, when Trelkovsky’s doppelganger finally catches up to him.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Conjuring (from the director of Insidious [some people liked it more than I did] comes this pretty decent horror flick about a family calling in a pair of married demonologists when their new house starts haunting the bejeezus out of them; plus it’s “based on a true story” because ghosts are totally real and not the nonsensical products of dumb, gullible people’s childlike imaginations!), The Internship (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn try to recapture some of the Wedding Crashers magic as a pair of middle aged, laid-off execs who try to obtain the titular coveted gig at a certain internet company; will their undeniable comic chemistry triumph over the fact that the entire movie is just a poorly disguised exercise in product placement for Google? Rent it and see!), Before

You should really just rent all of these...

You should really just rent all of these…

Midnight (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are back as the formerly star-crossed lovers of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset; director Richard Linklatter and stars Delpy and Hawke reunite to drop back in on one of the most realistically-drawn couples in movie history, this time dealing with the pitfalls of marriage…and some other stuff I’m not going to tell you; just watch all three movies…), The Way, Way Back (great-looking indie comedy about a young guy who bonds with the oddball director of a water park; with an all-star indie cast including Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Maya Rudolph, and Allison Janney), Only God Forgives (everybody’s hunky boyfriend Ryan Gosling re-tems with Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn for this violent thriller about a disgraced guy running an underground boxing ring in Bangkok who has to deal with his mother [Kristin Scott Thomas] arriving looking for vengeance against the people who killed her other son [the one she really loved]; I’m hearing lurid, upsetting, and sordid—so enjoy!), Dead In Tombstone (busy awesome guy Danny Trejo stars in another bloody genre picture, this time as a murdered old West crime lord who makes a deal with Satan [Mickey Rourke, of course] to gun down the baddies who killed him; co-starring Anthony Michael Hall for some reason), A Hijacking (Danish maritime thriller about a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates; sure, Tom Hanks isn’t in it, but does he have to be in everything for you to watch it, people?), Psych- season 7 (James Roday and Dule Hill continue to be the most effortlessly funny comedy team in the “pleasant comedy detective show” TV universe), Vikings- season 1 (You should check out this History Channel series about, well, you read the title; it’s actually really good.), Foyle’s War- season 7 (everyone loves this British mystery series about a British detective investigating the murder of British people by other British people), Stuck In Love (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, and Kristen Bell star in this indie drama about a writer’s family dealing with…things indie things…), Star Wars Clone Wars- season 5 (these animated Star Wars shows are clearly better than the actual Star Wars prequels), Shepard & Dark (I will be watching this documentary about genius playwright Sam Shepard and his lifelong friend and correspondent Johnny Dark as soon as you guys are done doing so), The Wall (enigmatic German film about a woman who suddenly finds herself shut off from the world by an invisible barrier [aka wall]; it has to be better than Under The Dome…)

New Arrivals at Videoport: Wuthering Heights (Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon starred, at their impossibly beautiful best, in this sweeping 1939 adaptation of the Emily Bronte romance classic)

New Releases on Blu Ray This Week At Videoport: Europa Report, Dead In Tombstone, Pacific Rim.

Get yourself some free money at Videoport! As if you needed another reason to rent here, Videoport has these deals which just plain give you free money. Check it out: pay 20 bucks up front on your rental account, and we turn that into 25 dollars worth of rental credit. Do the same thing but with 30 dollars, and we give you 40 dollars worth of store credit. That’s either five or ten free bucks, which you were going to spend here anyway eventually. So why wouldn’t you go for this deal? Um–you hate deals maybe? I’m not your psychiatrist…

VideoReport #406

Volume CDVI- Indiana Jones and the Secret of How Keanu Reeves Keeps Getting Work

For the Week of 5/28/13

Videoport give you a free movie every day. And, as we have all the movies ever, you may run out of free movies sometime in late…never. The 31st of Never, Neverteen Neverty-Never.

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!

>>> JackieO suggests ‘Fringe’ (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) Fringe is ridiculous, but I can’t stop watching it. In fact, by the time its ridiculousness became evident, I was already hooked by its peculiar brand of villian-of-the-week plus heady pseudo-science and intriguing character development. I’m almost through season four, and they’ve …no, I can’t spoil it. Never mind. Yeah, so, uh, I like Fringe.

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 some stereotype-busting! This week: Humphrey Bogart! Of course we all love it when Bogart plays the cool, tough-talking dick (you know what I mean), but there was more to Bogey’s talents than Casablanca, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, and The Maltese Falcon. (I’d suggest that all of those characters have more shades to them that Bogart’s generally given credit for, but that’s for another article…) If you want proof, I’d suggests checking out Bogart in The Caine Mutiny, In A Lonely Place, and especially The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (all in Classics.) In The Caine Mutiny, Boart is the tyrannical Captain Queeg whose increasingly erratic behavior commanding a WWII minesweeper causes first mate Van Johnson to undertake the titular action. It’s in the court martial scene especially where Bogart shines, his gradual breakdown under defense counsel Jose Ferrer’s cross-examination growing more and more unsettling, and eventually sort of heartbreaking. In A Lonely Place is practically a deconstruction of Bogart’s screen persona, as he starts out as the awesomely named Dixon Steele (nicknamed “Dix”), a formerly successful Hollywood screenwriter on the outs. As the film begins, he’s smooth, funny, and taking no crap from the studio bigwigs who, we are led to expect, are down on him just because he won’t compromise. When a young woman he’d been last seen with turns up dead, though, we start to see cracks in Steele’s stucco, especially when new girlfriend (the ever-kittenish) Gloria Grahame starts to have doubts about his innocence when Steele’s temper begins to reveal itself. Watching Bogart come unglued there is one thing, but his performance as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. As pal (and AV Club writing superstar) Zack Handlen recently said, “Bogart’s Dobbs is one of the best matches of writing/performance I’ve ever seen—it’s like seeing modern cinema being born.” Since I can’t top that, I’ll just say I agree wholeheartedly…

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!


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 Old School (in Comedy.) Before wearing out his welcome with the increasingly-decreased Hangover franchise, director Todd Phillips cemented his bro-credit with this rowdy, bawdy college comedy about a trio of 40-something guys who decide to escape their stifling grown-up lives by creating an unlicensed fraternity at the local college. Sure, it’s crude, occasionally sexist, and features KY-jelly wrestling, but, apart from some genuinely funny work from Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn at peak Vince Vaughn-iness, the real draw of the movie is Will Ferrell, whose former party animal Frank (formerly infamous as Frank the Tank), takes to this flight from responsibility with hilarious, and oddly touching, enthusiasm. Two scenes really stand out for me: First is this speech where he initially declines some frat kids’ offer of a funnel shot. Just read it with a vision of Ferrell’s quiet, growing desperation and panic as he describes his plans for tomorrow: “Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.” Then later, when his understandably outraged new bride has insisted on couple’s therapy, when Ferrell unexpectedly lays the groundwork for the most respectable semi-dramatic roles to come (Stranger Than Fiction, Everything Must Go): [in response to the therapist assuring him he can say anything]: “Anything? Well, uh I guess I, deep down, am feeling a little confused. I mean, suddenly, you get married, and you’re supposed to be this entirely different guy. I don’t feel different.” It’s his reading of the last line- weirdly touching. Echoed later when his wife (again, understandably) says she wants a divorce. “A divorce? Like, a real divorce?” Crude and rude and pretty funny- with Ferrell providing the biggest laughs, and keeping you on your toes by creating something like a real human being inside Frank the Tank.

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

>>>You can just come in and get a free movie from the kids section–no other rental necessary. Because of loving the kids. Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests a triple feature movie education! This week’s topic: Unions! Movies can provide unique insight into the real life subjects they address. Of course, they can also be simplistic and useless in that capacity, but we’ll just concentrate on some films that got their subject matter right. The best film on the topic of workers’ unionization I’ve ever seen is John Sayles’ Matewan (in Drama.) As befits, maverick Sayles, the film is decidedly pro-labor, but then again, he was documenting one of the most egregious incidents of corporate thuggishness in the face of workers saying, hey- maybe we could have safer working conditions and a decent wage. All the more important for these workers as the film documents the strike of impoverished West Virginia coal miners in the 20’s, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and one of the most blatantly exploitative employment situations ever, with workers paid in company scrip rather than real money, workers charged for their own equipment and housing in company owned buildings, and no possibility of redressing any issues. (They can’t even quit until they work off the debt they owe the company for necessities of work and life- or else they’ll be charged with stealing from the company. That’s some evil right there…) All of this wouldn’t be worth watching if it were all just a big didactic screed/history lesson, but Sayles populates his ensemble cast with a veritable all-star team of great character actors (Chris Cooper, Bob Gunton, David Strathairn, James Earl Jones, Joe Grifasi, Mary McDonnell, Ken Jenkins, Gordon Clapp, Kevin Tighe) and, in the process, creates one of the most layered and authentic American films of all time. Along those lines, head next down the aisle and pick up Norma Rae, where Sally Field (never better) plays the titular blue collar mom and textile worker who finds a courage she didn’t know she had, or would be necessary, when she risks the very little she has in order to lead the fight to unionize her exploitative, unsafe mill. Again- preachy is deadly in a drama, and the real strength here (apart from Fields’ performance) is the conception of her character as a regular woman who discovers, once awakened to how unfair her employers are, that she simply will not stand for being treated unfairly. Each of these films, while decidedly pro-union, don’t shy away from the often troublesome nature of any such process (sadly, human-led movements are led by, well, humans). But for a real head-spinner and heart-wrencher of a union film, check out Barbara Kopple’s brilliant American Dream (in the Documentary section) which depicts the struggle of workers at a 1980s Hormel meat packing plant not only against the company’s attempt to get workers to accept a $2 per hour pay cut among other concessions, and their international union’s attempts to stop the workers from striking. Debates, schemes, coups, scabs, injunctions, strongarm tactics, and a workforce of regular people caught in the middle trying desperately to make the right choices. As thoughtful and multifaceted an examination of the American labor scene as has ever been told. (Other recommendations: Silkwood, Blue Collar, Wal Mart: The High Cost Of A Low Price, On The Waterfront [as confused as it is about its politics], How Green Was My Valley, The Man In The White Suit, I’m All Right Jack, North Country, Bed & Roses, Hoffa).

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Arrested Development (in Comedy.) One of the funniest comedies in TV history, Videoport’s got the first three seasons in the Comedy section. Look, we all know where the long-awaited fourth season is right now, but trust us- it will be on DVD soon enough, and Videoport will have plenty of copies for you all to enjoy without joining some internet conglomerate in order to check back in with the Bluth clan. Have a little patience- it’s like Netflix found yet another way to screw with local, independent video stores like Videoport, but we’ll take care of you. We’ll stay strong- hang with us, pals.

New Releases this week at Videoport: This Girl Is Badass (might not be the most high profile film of the week, but the title of this Thai action martial arts thriller wins it the top spot: she’s badass, don’t you understand?!!), ‘Longmire’- season 1 (based on Craig Johnson’s mystery novels, this hard-bitten modern western series stars Robert Taylor as the titular sheriff striding the Wyoming landscape in search of baddies; costarring Lou Diamond Phillips and Katee Sackhoff, aka Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck), ‘Doctor Who’- series 7, part 2 (Matt Smith’s Doctir has a new companion and some new, delightfully-weird adventures in time and space), The ABC’s Of Death (INSANELY-GREAT CONCEPT ALERT! 26 directors are given a letter of the alphabet and free reign to create a short horror film about death, based on a word beginning with that letter: what that means for you- 26 wildly different death-related movies all in one rental), If I Were You (always- good Marcia Gay Harden stars in this indie about a housewife who makes an unexpected arrangement with her husband’s mistress; good use of the subjunctive tense, by the way…), Lore (gripping German drama about the titular 14 year old girl forced to fend for her younger siblings once the Allies win, and her Gestapo parents are executed), Priest Of Evil (thriller about a Helsinki cop whose plan to assassinate the man who killed his daughter is complicated when he thinks he’s discovered a serial killer prowling the city’s subways), ‘Suits’- season 2 (Videoport’s Regan says this series, about a pair of high-powered lawyers involved in lawyerly shenanigans, is pretty good; costarring the stunning Gina Torres from Firefly!),

New Arrivals This Week At Videoport: Swimming To Cambodia (finally on DVD, this Spalding Gray monologue concert film directed by Jonathan Demme remains an absolutely mesmerizing piece of storytelling and filmmaking)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Barton Fink, The ABC’s Of Death

Get yourself some free money at Videoport!

As if you needed another reason to rent here, Videoport has these deals which just plain give you free money. Check it out: pay 20 bucks up front on your rental account, and we turn that into 25 dollars worth of rental credit. Do the same thing but with 30 dollars, and we give you 40 dollars worth of store credit. That’s either five or ten free bucks, which you were going to spend here anyway eventually. So why wouldn’t you go for this deal? Um–you hate deals maybe? I’m not your psychiatrist…

VideoReport #404

Volume CDIV- Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Three Men and a Baby Kid

For the Week of 5/14/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Movies are great. Therefore we make your life great every day. You’re welcome…

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 A Sound of Thunder (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) People like to throw around the phrase “the worst movie of all time” around here. We at Videoport have a lot of movies (like, a lot) and they’re not all great.

Right, dumptruck full of money is where?

Right, so…my dumptruck full of money is where?

In fact some of them are downright dreadful, loathsome, or downright crimes against cinema, if not humanity itself. But only a select few can be held up, marveled at, and, upon watching, dry-heaved over as the truly worst of the worst. And some of those aren’t even terrible in a fun way. They just make you feel all sad and bloated with despair for the human race. (Battlefield Earth, I’m looking at you…) Nope, to truly contend for true “worst movie of all time” there has to be something special. Or, you know, what the opposite of special is. Maybe it’s truly terrible acting, or a script seemingly written by a special needs chimp, or, in the case of A Sound of Thunder, the most laughable special effects of all time. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of low-budget, ancient, or amateurish special effects in movies. But what sets this one apart from the latest Syfy Chanel Roger Corman hybrid-monster cheese-fest (coming soon: Veloci-Panda! Hammerhead Frogbat! and Three-Headed Octo-Crab!), this adaptation of a five page Ray Bradbury story cost $52,000,000 dollars. Go on and rent the movie. I’ll wait. Great-now describe where you think they spent that money. Sure, Edward Burns has to cost, what, ten grand, and it’s got Ben Kingsley (a great actor continuing the Michael Caine legacy of “only appearing in anything, ever, where they give me a big pile of money”), but please, and take your time, explain to me where the rest of that money went. (To summarize the plot- in the future, companies go back in time to take rich jerks on safaris to dinosaur times. There are strict- I say strict!- protocols in place to prevent idiots from, say, killing a butterfly and causing massive disruptions in the space-time continuum and destroying the world as we know it but, well…) To render the unimaginable splendor of walking amongst dinosaurs, not to mention the havoc wrought by that whole space-time deal on the modern world, the film employs all the technological wizardry of an early Playstation game. Or maybe the visual sleight of hand of the Land of the Lost TV show. Seriously, I’m not just crackin’ wise here, people- watching the interaction of actors (in cheap plastic bubble time safari helmets) “interact” with things which appear to be projected on a drive-in screen somewhere in the background. I cannot do justice to the delightfully-batsh*t god-awfulness of the effects here (which, far from being used sparingly, or sheepishly make up more than half the movie)- I say just watch it, crack open all the beers, and marvel at…the worst movie of all time!!

(It might not be the worst. It’s close.)

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 a Bogart gumshoe back-to-back taste test with The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. These two Bogart detective classics tend to get lumped together in the public consciousness, since they’re both Bogart, both from around the same time, and both undeniably among the best detective movies ever made. There are essential differences however which leads to the inevitable question: which is better? For

That's Marlowe.

That’s Marlowe.

that, let’s go to the tale of the tape! The Big Sleep (1946, directed by Howard Hawks). The Maltese Falcon (1941, directed by John Huston). In Sleep, Bogart is Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, while he’s Daishell Hammett’s Sam Spade in Falcon. Both men are Bogart-cool, but there are significant differences. Marlowe’s a former cop with a code of honor who gets sucked into the shenanigans of the wealthy Sternwood clan, especially when he meets haughty daughter Lauren Bacall. Spade’s tough guy cool is accompanied by a more shifty, even sadistic streak, and he’s motivated by a dame, sure (Mary Astor’s compulsive liar and man-trap), but also by the tantalizing promise of untold wealth in the form of the titular maguffin- a legendary jeweled sculpture. Marlowe’s code, as cockeyed as it can seem, is more altruistic at heart- he’s hired to solve a case, but as it becomes apparent that something’s really rotten (and the impossibly formidable Bacall is in trouble), he plunges on, even after he’s been warned off, bought off, and beaten to a pulp. Because that’s what he does. Spade? Spade likes the danger, the dirt, and the dames (he’s even sleeping with his partner’s wife), and his eyes light up at the sight or promise of money. He takes on a case for it, endures beating and getting mickey-ed for it, sleeps with dames to get it (not really a hardship, but still), and takes a lot of chances on its account. He too, we find out, has a code- but it’s harder to pin down than Marlowe’s (which isn’t easy in itself). Motivated by the dough, he’ll still show equal courage to Marlowe, and ultimately do something like the right thing- this time, anyway. As far as the supporting cast of each goes, Sleep, has a great turn by diminutive character legend Elisha Cook Jr, the peerlessly smoky Bacall, and a

That's Spade.

That’s Spade.

weirdly sexy performance by Martha Vickers as Bacall’s spoiled, druggie, nympho little sis who, as Marlowe says, “tried to sit in my lap when I was standing up.” Sleep, though has what may be the all-time bonkers ensemble cast of greatness, with Sydney Greenstreet as the erudite-ly evil mastermind Kasper Guttman, purring and scheming with delicious abandon, Peter Lorre as foppish dandy Joel Cairo, absolutely hilarious, and deceptively dangerous henchman. There’s Astor, pathologically lying her way into Spade’s, um, heart, I guess, her self-consciously arch pretension and clipped dialogue a constant, and constantly entertaining babble of deception. And Cook’s here too, this time as one of the greatest snotty little punks in screen history, a too-tough talking henchman (“the gunsel”) whose too-big overcoat hints at just how effective he’s gonna be. In the end? I have to give the slight edge to The Maltese Falcon which, due to a once-in-a-lifetime cast and masterfully energetic direction by Huston might just be the most purely entertaining film of all time. Of course, if you use the daily deal to rent them both, the big winner is you, you lucky so and so…

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 After Hours (in Comedy.) After the “original” Hangover was overrated by frat bros leading to (soon, so very soon) a third installment of broad, boozy nonsense and Ken Jeong’s ass, I’d like to bring the concept of the “one crazy night” movie back to earth, and greatness, with this 1985 dark comedy from renowned comedy master Martin Scorcese! And starring beloved comic hero Griffin Dunne! Yeah- who’s with me? Well shut up, because this movie is great. Dunne brings his signature blend of squirrelly untrustworthiness to the role of a Manhattan office drone who, sensing an easy conquest with flighty Soho boho Rosanna Arquette, heads off to her apartment for a rendezvous. And thus begins the sort of night that would cause Bradley Cooper to try and make some snarky wisecrack before wetting himself and running away. Lost money, unexpected subway fare hikes, unexpected dead people, suspicious burglaries, spooky sculptures, Cheech & Chong, Dick Miller, several insane blondes, Monkees music, and an actual lynch mob later, and After Hours has become a unique sort of comedy nightmare, getting inside the skin of the average guy and revealing how our insecurities and weaknesses can lead us to some very dark and dangerous (and squirmily funny) places. Warning: there are no comically scatalogical monkeys in After Hours. Apologies frat brosephs…

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 getting some free money at Videoport! (admittedly, that’s advice good for every day, but no one gave me a review for Thursday- and send your reviews to Here’s the thing- you’re gonna want to rent movies at Videoport all day every day because we are so awesome and have all the movies and Netflix sucks and cable is too expensive and ridiculous. So why not get yourself some free money to discount our prices even more and stretch your entertainment dollar and so forth, etcetera. Check it- pre-pay $20 on your Videoport account and we give you $25 dollars in rental credit. And $30 buys you a whopping $40 in rental credit. That’s either a 20/25 percent discount or 5/10 free bucks depending on how you look at it. And that’s not including the added benefit of feeling superior to those dopes who don’t play it smart like you. Everybody wins.

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

>>>You get a free movie. You don’t have to rent anything else. We think that’s very nice.

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests ‘New Girl’ (in Comedy.) With the second season of this one finishing up last night, I’d heartily recommend checking out the first season of what has unexpectedly become one of the best sitcoms on TV. Fashioned as a starring vehicle for everybody’s favorite hipster-target Zooey Deschanel, it quickly established itself as one of the best ensemble comedies on TV with Jake Johnson (as slacker Nick), Lamorne Morris (as slightly more together voice of reason Winston), and Max Greenfield (certified scene stealer as would be ladies man Schmidt) sharing time with the funny and goofy Deschanel as roommate/pals. It’s not going to break any ground, necessarily but New Girl has become appointment viewing for me, with the cast’s fresh, improv-y chemistry winning me over to a ridiculous degree by this point. Funny is funny. New Girl is funny.

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests Silence of the Lambs (in Mystery/Thriller.) If you’ve been watching Bryan Fuller’s current series Hannibal, which follows FBI consultant profiler Will Graham as he collaborates with respected psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter to solve a series of serial slayings (and you should be watching it, btw: it’s eerie and tense and dreamy in a way that’s hard to describe), now is a great time to revisit the films based on Thomas Harris’ infamous book series. The large and small details of character and plot that flicker through the films’ background will give you a chuckle (or, depending on the detail, a chill) when they pop up — sometimes identically, sometimes repurposed — as background elements or plot details in the TV show. And you’ll see how both Silence of the Lambs and Fuller’s Hannibal tap into a crucial aspect of Lecter’s personality: his steely insistence on courtesy, no matter how dissonant or irrelevant it might seem. His peculiar brand of civility shapes almost all of his behavior in Silence of the Lambs. In fact, the entire story of SotL unfolds because he is trying to make up for another person’s crudeness to Clarice Starling. Think about it: Clarice Starling is just a student — an ace student, unusually diligent and intelligent, sure, but she’s completely uncredentialed and inexperienced, in no way qualified to face off against a notoriously brilliant fiend. Why does the FBI send her on such a vital mission? Well, they don’t. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), Agent-in-Charge of the Behavioral Science Unit, spells that out for Starling in her briefing: “I don’t expect him to talk to you, but I have to be able to say we tried.” Crawford quite reasonably expects Lecter to toy with Clarice briefly to break his boredom, then throw her back to the agency with her (and their) questions unanswered. And that’s almost what happens: Dr. Lecter spares little time for this green recruit, dismissing her fumbling with scalding precision and sending her back to Crawford with a scolding. It’s only after a fellow inmate humiliates her more crassly — and rudely — that Lecter summons Starling back and hastily offers to salve the indignity the only way he can. The phrase isn’t uttered until much later in the film, but this is their first quid pro quo, a reciprocal arrangement to atone for a transgression in his home: “Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me.” “Then do this test for me.” “No, but I will give you a chance for what you love most.” “What is that, Dr.?” “Advancement, of course.” Lecter offers his help and information to make amends for her humiliation at another’s hands. Like any good host, he shoulders responsibility for any indignity visited upon a guest under his roof, and he makes amends to right that wrong. It’s just that his idea of righting a wrong is, well, different from other people’s. Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s notion of hospitality is sinister beyond description, but he clings to it with unbending propriety.

New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Dexter’- season 7’ (Michael C. Hall is back killing his way through all the serial killers Florida has to offer; which is, unsurprisingly, a lot of serial killers), Cloud Atlas (Tom Hanks stars, and stars, and stars as nearly 50% of the cast of this epic sci fi drama about how one life’s impact stretches through time; directed by the Wachowskis [The Matrix] and Tom Twkwer [Run Lola Run]), Back to 1942 (Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody bring the Hollywood presence to this wrenching Chinese epic about the legendary drought which descended on China just in time for the Japanese invasion; man…), Beware of Mr. Baker (documentary about the titular Ginger Baker, the one-time drummer for Cream who has a reputation for being a tad, shall we say, ornery?), The Bletchley Circle (BBC series about a quartet of women working in the titular WWII codebreaking center who, in their spare time, track down a serial killer; man…), Escape (Norwegian action about a young woman, kidnapped from her slaughtered family in the days after the black plague, who must escape from the band of merciless marauders dead-set on doing the things a band of Viking-types do after the pillaging is done), A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (director Roman Coppola [CQ] recruits cousin Jason Schwartzman, alongside an interesting cast [Bill Murray, Kathryn Winnick, Aubrey Plaza] and, um, Charlie Sheen to bring us this indie quirk-fest about a graphic designer who has a dear-death experience and starts having a series of increasingly odd encounters), Liz & Dick (professional cautionary tale Lindsay Lohan and some guy with a gravelly voice impersonate the most insufferable celebrity couple of their time Elizabteh Taylor and Richard Burton in this TV movie; I saw about half of it! It’s as bad as you think!), Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety (ommmmmm…ommmmmm…my bed is not full of spiders…ommmm….), Texas Chainsaw (the undisputed horror classic!…is the inspiration for this unnecessary remake which was in unnecessary 3D in theaters; now it’s in good ol’ 2D! Enjoy!), Frankie Go Boom (Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy stars in this comedy about a guy whose brother has been filming, and humiliating, him his entire life; when the brother gets out of rehab, things should be better…or else his pranks will be more focused and cruel…), Stitches (check Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section for this one. Why? EVIL ZOMBIE PARTY CLOWN! EVIL ZOMBIE PARTY CLOWN!), Walk Away Renee (sort of a sequel to his acclaimed documentary Tarnation, this doc follows director Jonathan Caoette as he takes his mentally ill mother on a cross country road trip; I’m sure it goes fine…),

New Arrivals at Videoport: ‘Topper’ (Leo G. Carroll stars in this 1950s TV series adaptation of the classic comedy about an uptight banker haunted by a pair of charming, if meddlesome, ghosts), Jeff Dunham: A Very Special Christmas (holiday comedy stylings of a racist ventriloquist? Where do I line up?!), The Ritz (cult 1976 comedy about a straight shlub [great shlubby character actor Jack Warden] forced to hide out from the mob in a gay bath house; costarring Rita Moreno…as Googie Gomez!), ‘Ray Bradbury Theater’ (1985 anthology series consisting of adaptations of stories from sci fi master Bradbury; starring the likes of William Shatner, Jeff Goldblum, Leslie Nielson, Peter O’Toole, and on and on)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: ‘Dexter- season 7’, Frankie Go Boom, Naked Lunch