VideoReport #508

Volume DVIII— Time Warner Cable Customer Service: The Movie (a.k.a.12 Angrier Men)

For the Week of 5/12/15

 Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Netfl*x gives you gas, shingles, the grippe, the vapors, scrofula, scabies, and rabies. It’s a medical fact—you can look it up.

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!

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l-r: Crow, Joel, Tom

>>>Dennis suggests Mystery Science Theater 3000 (in Incredibly Strange). You know how you love movies, and laughter, and laughing at bad movies? Well, this is the show for you—if you like joy, that is. For ten seasons, this weirdball little series from some knuckleknobs in Minnesota got ahold of some terrible movies and mocked the hell out of them. Being from the Midwest, the mockery was sometimes gentler than it would be otherwise, a sort of sweetly silly riffing on the various shortcomings of, say, The Giant Spider Invasion, or Attack Of The Giant Leeches, or The Mole People, or Overdrawn At The Memory Bank, or, well, you get the idea. What made the show such an enduringly delightful experience was the framing concept—a poor working Joe (actually Joel—Joel Hodgson, and the Mike Nelson) gets kidnapped and shot into space by some evil scientist types (Dr. Forrester to start) as part of a scheme to take over the world by destroying his mind with terrible movies. Sounds practical. Anyway, what the evil scientists didn’t count on was that Joel would use his tinkering skills to craft a pair of robot pals to help him stave off the loneliness and the madness, that he’d give them sarcastic, goofy personalities, and that the three of them (Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot) would actually come to enjoy the experience, their bonding over goofin’ around at the expense of, say, Manos: The Hands Of Fate, providing more joy than insanity. It’s a delightfully silly-smart show that will appeal especially to movie lovers (if not bad movie lovers), but which is unendingly fun for everyone. Honestly, this show is one of the chief little pleasures in my life, and I’m not the only one. Paul Feig, creator of Freaks & Geeks, Bridesmaids, the upcoming Ghostbusters remake, and more is clearly a huge fan as well, seeing as how his new TV series (it’s on Yahoo, actually, because TV networks don’t know a good thing when they have it in their slimy claws) Other Space is about a rag-tag group of goofballs stranded in space—and features a goofy working stiff played by Joel Hodgson AND a wise-cracking robot pal named ART, voiced by the voice of Crow T. Robot, Trace Beaulieu! It’s a funny show on its own (and not on DVD yet), but the inclusion of two MST3k vets in the mix is a delightful surprise from one MST3k fan to the rest of us.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for $7.99!                                                            >>> Emily S. Customer suggests Camelot (in Musicals). It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of May! I’m not going to sugar-coat it: the 1967 film version of Camelot is a little too slack and overstuffed to retain the magic of the stage musical. It’s hard to imagine being stuck in a theater for three hours while this candy-floss confection plays out. But it’s a great candidate for home viewing, where you have the freedom to unwind and enjoy it on your own terms. As King Arthur and Guenevere, Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave chew some of that (award-winning) scenery, but they’re passionate, playful, and weirdly sympathetic for squabbling royalty stuck in a love triangle.

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

>>> Dennis suggests Key & Peele, Mr. Show, and Upright Citizens Brigade (in Comedy). Sketch comedy is hard—these are the three funniest & smartest sketch comedy series since Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Watch them make it look easy.

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

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests 12 Angry Men (in Classics/The Criterion Collection section). If you watch Inside Amy Schumer, read pop-culture sites, or just, like, have been on Twitter this week, you’ve probably heard about Schumer’s experiment in form last Tuesday, when she devoted the entirety of her show, usually filled with sketches featuring her, to a single episode-length sketch featuring 12 grizzled (and big-name) actors, with barely a peek at Amy herself. Entitled 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer, Schumer’s parody of courtroom drama is a daring move for a sketch comedy, and one that pays off royally, because it deftly balances note-perfect observation of 12 Angry Men — its set, its grain, its tone, its mercurial performances — with scathing observation of current cultural expectations. It’s a masterpiece, and if you haven’t revisited Lumet’s acclaimed12 Angry Men lately, with its roster of remarkable character actors wrangling between justice and convenience, now is a good time to do it.

Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary! OR get any three non-new releases for a week for $7.99!          

>>> It’s a free kids movie! There are a lot to choose from! For free!                                                                                

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

>>> For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests North By Northwest (in Classics). After this week’s Mad Men, (no spoilers here for the final season here, by the way, though I will discuss one major plot twist from Mad Men Season 1) viewers and critics alike are pointing out similarities to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. But these similarities didn’t start this week; they date all the way back to the show’s beginning, as a comparison of their credit sequences will show. Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is a Madison Avenue ad man who gets embroiled in international espionage through a simple case of mistaken identity, and soon he’s being chased across the country under another man’s name. It’s  thrilling adventure, and it’s also like a story the Don Draper of early seasons would spin about his own circumstances, simultaneously romanticizing his plight and displacing responsibility in favor of thrilling fantasy.

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Ryan M. suggests Female Trouble (in Incredibly Strange). When one hears the name, attention is either drawn to the grotesque excess of PINK FLAMINGOS or the far more commercially accessible HAIRSPRAY – so basically the two extremes. But to me, his magnum opus will always be the uproariously funny FEMALE TROUBLE. The film tells the story of Dawn Davenport, a suburbanite who pursues a life of infamy after running away from home on Christmas morning, played by the forever incomparable Divine. It’s a lot more complex than that – she gets knocked up, has a kid with serious psychological setbacks, robs houses with her clique from High School by night, gets married and almost immediately divorces to her hair stylist, etc. – but for the sake of time, I’ll spare the details. If you are familiar with the kinds of characters that Waters is most fascinated with (i.e. just awful, awful human beings), then you’ll know what to expect from this. Nothing is sacred, but the viewer is immediately thrown into the grimy little world that he has created, rather than building up to individually offensive moments. This way, one can appreciate the vicious attack on the nation’s obsession with celebrity that Waters dishes out through his obnoxious anti-heroine as well as the more genuinely witty elements of his writing. The characters are unmistakably his, and FEMALE TROUBLE contains a few of the best that Waters has ever written – I of course must give a honorable mention to Aunt Ida, the leather-clad neighbor of Ms. Davenport played by fellow “Dreamlander” Edith Massey who desperately wants her nephew to be gay and does not approve of his short marriage with the former in the Like-Sunday-Like-Rain-posterslightest. This is perhaps the most satisfying cinematic representation of the director’s personal beliefs and demented imagination; and much like the more technically accomplished POLYESTER, the film rests in the perfect crossroads between the earlier and later portions of a successful and positively scandalous career. An essential dark comedy.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Like Sunday, Like Rain (Sweet looking indie iLv6cJkQLvKLIWmBUFt2VYnvGkF[directed by actor Frank Whaley] about a lonely young cello prodigy’s unlikely friendship with an unemployed, aimless 23 year old musician, played by Leighton Meester [The Organges, The Roommate]), Beck- season 1 (You guys know how much you like Wallander, The Bridge, and all other Scandinavian murder? Well Videoport brings you this Swedish mystery series about a police commissioner and his eccentric partner solving crimes in Stockholm, Sweden. You’re welcome!), Halt And Catch Fire- season 1 (AMC continues to flail MV5BODA4MTA3MjQwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1MDk3MTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_around looking for the next Breaking Bad or Mad Men, and this 1980s-set drama is…their latest attempt. Set at a small computer firm at the birth of the computer revolution, Halt And Catch Fire has a good cast, with Lee Pace [Pushing Daisies] as the mysterious, charismatic executive out to beat IBM to the home computer market, and the oddly-named but talented Scoot McNairy as the downtrodden 5769_4290but brilliant programmer he enlists to actually build the thing. Your intrepid editor actually reviewed the entire series at the AV Club [http://www.avclub.com/tv/halt-and-catch-fire/] and wasn’t super-impressed or anything. But there’s some good stuff in there), Black Sea (Jude Law stars in this undersea thriller about a submarine captain searching the depths of the titular Black Sea for a sunken sub supposedly full o’ gold! Good cast features Ben Mendelsohn and…Scott McNairy?! It’s Scoot-mania all up in 84b0cbbae893d17ece8bb9ab8f319275here!), Last Days In Vietnam (Documentary miniseries examines the tumultuous, tragic [on many levels] final retreat of all American forces and personnel from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War), Cancer The Emperor Of All amira__sam_posterMaladies (Ken Burns presents this miniseries documentary about that disease that is basically the biggest jerk in natural history), Amira And Sam (The always interesting and cool Martin Starr [Freaks & Geeks, Party Down, Silicon Valley] stars in this indie drama about a returned soldier who finds himself drawn to an Iraqi immigrant facing deportation [newcomer Dina Shihabi]), Still Alice (Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here as a brilliant woman who begins to succumb to the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease [possibly the second-biggest jerk disease in history]. Great cast includes Alec Baldwin, Seth Gilliam, Kristin Stewart), Mortdecai (Oh, Johnny Depp, what are you up to here, with your huge still-alice-postermustache and your over-the-top upper class twit British accent? Depp seems to be enjoying himself as a bumbling art dealer and would-be adventurer, dodging MI5, terrorists, and the Russian secret police in an attempt to discover a priceless painting which might also Mortdecai-UK-Quad-Poster-1024x768contain a secret map to buried Nazi gold. Gwynneth Paltrow and Ewan McGeregor are along for support ), Blackhat (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth plays the world’s most improbably hunky computer expert, a convict sprung to help track down a notorious gang of cyber-terrorists in this thriller which no doubt will have a scene BKH_31_5_Promo_4C_3F.inddwhere he’s typing really fast while a loading bar ticks away on the screen. What? “404 Not Found”? We’re doomed!), The Cobbler (Up until this point, Tom McCarthy has only directed great movies. The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win—all great, thoughtful, satisfying indie movies. Critics have suggested, however, that McCarthy bit off more COBB_OneSheet_FM1.inddthan even he could chew by trying to make Adam Sandler a real actor in this film about a New York cobbler who discovers that he can enter the lives of his customers by putting on their shoes. There’s a good cast [Ellen Barkin, Method Man, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi], and the trick of using Sandler’s shlubby charm in a real movie has been pulled off to great effect before [Paul Thomas Anderson’s excellent Punch-Drunk Love, Judd Apatow in Funny People, James L. Brooks in Spanglish], so we’re willing to give this one a shot for McCarthy’s sake), Fifty Shades Of Grey (We mentioned it last week, but this came out on Friday, for some reason, so here it is again, the movie one or the other member of a couple will pick up as a joke while secretly hoping the other person is into it!), Black Or White (In what I’m sure was a well-intentioned idea sees grieving [white] grandpa Kevin Costner fighting for custody of his beloved granddaughter after his son dies. Octavia Spencer is the [black] grandmother who’s doing the same. Man, I sure hope these two can come to some sort of symbolically palatable understanding on race. Just, fingers crossed over here)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Selma, Black Sea, Fifty Shades Of Grey, The Gambler, Boy Next Door

Get some free money at Videoport! Yup, free money. Put $20 on your Videoport account, and we give you $25 in store credit. And a pre-pay of $30 gets you $40 in store credit! That…is free money, people. It’s money you’d spend at Videoport anyway, since we’re so super and you love us so much. But we give it to you for free. Why? Um, not sure really—come take advantage before we come to our senses!

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VideoReport #472

Volume CDLXXII- Portland, When It Sizzles

For the Week of 9/2/14

(Click the pics for more reviews!)

Videoport, your locally-owned, independent movie store also gives you a free movie every single day. Look—we’re not trying to be braggy over here. It’s just the truth.

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 the Videoport Blaxploitation tribute shelf (in the Staff Picks section). In a time when Hollywood had little use for strong black movie heroes (you know, not like now…oh, wait—sort of like now quite a bit), the Blaxploitation genre emerged. Sure, there were some problematic aspects of the genre (apart from the fact that such an alternative cinema for talented black actors, writers, directors, and composers was necessary in the first place)—the “ploitation” part of the name wasn’t joking around. Violent, filled with the same sort of junkie, hooker, pimp, and hustler roles that Hollywood shunted black actors into, the genre nonetheless provided some charismatic, talented black entertainers an opportunity at stardom. The main difference was, these actors got the chance to play leads just as cool, sexy, and central as their mainstream white counterparts—and that the best of these films presented black culture from the inside out. Of course, once Hollywood saw that there was a huge, untapped market for action flicks with black heroes, they swarmed in and watered the genre down, but still, if it weren’t for Blaxploitation, we’d likely never have seen some exceptionally talented, exciting actors and actresses (unless they were being arrested on Starsky and Hutch or something). People like Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Ron O’Neal (Superfly), former NFL-er Fred Williamson (Black Caesar, Bucktown, Hell Up In Harlem), impossible to describe party comedian turned improbable camp action hero Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite, Petey Wheatstraw), and character actor with the greatest name of all time Thalmus Rasulala (say it out loud). And, of course, the greatest gift the genre gave to us all, the stunning Pam Grier (Foxy Brown, Sheba Baby, Friday Foster) who, like most of the Blaxploitation stars, found her career left high and dry when the genre dies out. At least until Quentin Tarantino pulled one of his most successful career reclamation projects, casting Grier as the star of his brilliant Jackie Brown. The most stellar example of Tarantino’s signature mining of old exploitation genre films for new purposes, it’s his best film (yes, even better than Pulp Fiction), and provides the glorious Grier with the role she always deserved.

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 Buchanan Rides Alone (in Classics). The great Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher Western classic catchup continues with this, their oddest collaboration. In this one, Scott is Buchanan, a preternaturally cheerful cowpoke who crosses the border into Texas in the creepy, corrupt town of Agry, where everything seems to cost ten dollars, and the bent town government and law are all controlled by the same crooked family. When the worthless son of the clan is killed by a justifiably vengeful Mexican lad, the helpful, smiling Buchanan is roped into jail along with him. Bad move, Agry jerks. What’s so odd about the film is how passive and pleasant Scott’s Buchanan remains as bodies continue to fall all around him. It’s sort of like Yojimbo, with both sides of the feud dropping like dusty flies—except that Buchanan, unlike Toshiro Mifune’s mercenary samurai, doesn’t appear to be that invested in what’s going on. Weird little Western, but not in a bad way, and the rangy, genial Scott, as ever, is pretty much the soul of the Western genre.

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

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 Big Trouble In Little China (in Action/Adventure). As earlier editions of The VideoReport will attest, I have a long-time fondness for John Carpenter films. You might even call it a weakness. But there’s one much-admired Carpenter movie for which I’ve never had much affection. Big Trouble in Little China always left me cold, maybe (I thought) because I’m not steeped in the action and martial arts flicks of which it is such an affectionate parody. Then I heard a John Carpenter quote that blew the movie wide open for me. It’s so simple and so obvious, and somehow I missed it every time. Big Trouble protagonist Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is “a guy who thinks he’s the action hero when he’s really the comic sidekick.” BOOM. 

>>>Dennis suggests, as a follow-up Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (in the Incredibly Strange section). Then there’s this beefy macho action flick from around the same time where…it’s not entirely clear how in on the gag everyone is. Sure, it’s based on The Destroyer series—you know, those slim secret agent books your weird uncle loved, and it was clearly setting itself up as the first in a series (that did not happen). On the other, it’s got Fred Ward in the lead—now I love Fred, but he plays Remo like a big lunkhead most of the time. Also, it stars the very not-Asian Joel Grey (Cabaret) as the very racistly Korean martial arts master Chun, who teaches former cop Remo how to dodge bullets, punch his fingertips through hard stuff, and dive right through big piles of sand while running without leaving footprints. Is it a satire? I honestly don’t know, but it’s got a huge fight setpiece at the then under-repair Statue Of Liberty! Plus, Wilford Brimley as a grumpy spymaster!

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

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests My Neighbor Totoro.  I recommend My Neighbor Totoro so often as a gimme-grab for Free Family Friday, and I rarely tell you why. Today I will. It’s been a tough month, Videoporters. It’s been rough on me, it’s been rough on people I love, and a glance at the news tells me it’s been tough all over. When life puts too much on your plate, it’s okay to take a two-hour respite, to escape for the length of a favorite film to a world that’s less alarming, less painful, less tumultuous. But most movies don’t provide such a world: most movies thrive on amped-up conflict. But not the films of Hayao Miyazaki, and especially not the sweetly balanced world of My Neighbor Totoro. In this world, a mother can be ill—so ill that she’s stuck in the hospital, away from her husband and daughters, but never so ill that the specter of death looms over this sunny emotional territory. A family can move to a new home and discover it’s inhabited by mysterious supernatural creatures to first the shock and then delight of the tiny girls who’ll be living with them. It’s a world in which changes are sometimes challenging but not inherently scary, in which tiny girls can wander a field and waterfront full of excitement and curiosity. Totoro is filled with an unfettered joy and thrills that thoughtfully reproduce the actual joy and thrills we see in real children as they push the boundaries of their ever-expanding worlds, and it shows that thing we forget so easily, so early: that the world is bigger and brighter than we ever imagined, and magical in a thousand unexpected ways.

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

>>>For Saturday, Emily S. Customer suggests A Mighty Wind (in Comedy). Easily my favorite of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, A Mighty Wind walks the uneasy line between snark and sentiment without sacrificing compelling characters and affecting stories. Upon the death of a venerated folk music producer, his grown children ask three of his most memorable acts to gather for a tribute concert to commemorate his life. Its familiar loose, naturalistic style give the often broadly drawn characters punch and depth, and the drama ramps up naturally: will the rusty old musicians handle the pressure of media attention and a live audience? Will the slick, plastic perfection of a revamped, commercialized line-up evoke the heartfelt spirit of its original? Will the long-separated lovers rejoin to sing a duet for which the world has waited decades? There’s a reason A Mighty Wind holds a place in my affections higher than any of Guest’s other work: it balances so delicately between sweet and acid, sometimes bittersweet without ever quite dropping into true bitterness. The music is lovely, hilarious, and pitch-perfect… and the crowning song, “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” rightfully won an Oscar for its composers, star Michael McKean and his wife Annette O’Toole. 

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests exploring the delicate pleasures of the “so bad it’s good” cinema. Now, not to get down on the shole Syfy channel original movie nonsense—I know you crazy kids love your mega-piranhas, sharktopuses, and frognadoes and so forth, and I’m not trying to steal your fun. But what’s so galling to me about these deliberately awful, cynical crapfests populated by cringing D-list former celebrities waving chainsaws at CGI hybrid animals is that they represent a fundamental betrayal of the joys of actual hate-watching. These movies (all the rage, I’m told) are one giant, smirking wank-fest of audiences and filmmakers goosing each other for recognizing that they’re doing something essentially meaningless. What’s really entertaining for the seasoned hate-watcher is a movie that has absolutely no freaking idea it’s terrible. Watching a movie that a group of people have made flush with the confidence that they are, indeed, engaged in creating something beautiful which is, in reality, jaw-droppingly, funnybone-ticklingly awful. There’s a special glory in discovering a movie that is just…simply…wrong in every aspect—it’s like you’ve discovered the first, stumbling attempts of an alien species attempting to emulate human entertainment. Maybe as part of a plan for world domination—we can’t be sure. What am I talking about? Well, it can’t be winkingly bad, like those pandasaurus movies. And it can’t be something you find morally reprehensible—unless it’s also completely inept (if that’s your bag, I’d suggest the right-wing “satire” An American Carol, which proves, once again, that “conservative comedy” is a paradox). Nope, I’m talking about stuff like Birdemic: Shock And Terror (think Hitchcock’s The Birds made by your college sophomore roommate who just discovered iMovie). Or Miami Connection (neon drenched 1980s Miami Vice clone fueled by cocaine and actors rounded up off the street). Or even the big budget remake of The Wicker Man, where director Neil LaBute’s grim self-seriousness combines with Nicholas Cage sailing gleefully over the top while spin-kicking middle aged women in the face for the last third of the movie. Or the infamous Showgirls, which delves so deeply into cheesy sleaze (while obviously convinced it was going to be an erotic masterpiece) that you can only watch it in sort of glazed awe. Or Troll 2 (completely unrelated to Troll 1 and completely disconnected from storytelling or acting competence). Or Road House, which is the most 1980s thing that’s ever existed, with every single line an unintentional parody of macho, tough guy awesomeness. (Plus, Swayze at his Swayze-est!) Or notorious disaster Howard The Duck, which you can only watch in a sort of horrified nauseous schadenfreude (“at least I’m not George Lucas”). Or the insane, slurring grandfather of them all, The Room. Oh God, The Room. Written, directed by and starring something called Tommy Wiseau, this is what I’m talking about when I refer to aliens trying to make human movies. This erotic (I guess) drama (I suppose), in the hands of the burly, oddly-accented Wiseau (who gives himself numerous sex scenes where it looks like the poor lady involved is being humped by a butcher shop), seems like a Martian in a human suit who’s spent a year watching only Cinemax after dark and tried to make a softcore porn love triangle flick despite not knowing how human sexuality or human communication work. It…is…glorious. So keep your lazy octosquids—real “so bad they’re good” movies are so enjoyable because they’re not in on the joke. (Of course, for a master class in this form of entertainment, check out Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section for over 100 episodes of the classic movie-mockery series Mystery Science Theater 3000!)

New Releases this week at Videoport: Draft Day (Kevin Costner stars as a slicky-boy NFL agent trying to land all the guys who are the best at the blocking and the throwing and the hitting and so forth in this Jerry Maguire-looking football drama), Eastsiders (indie drama about a group of friends gathered for a wild party on the eve of the 2012 Mayan apocalypse [which, weirdly enough, did not happen] only to have their fun ruined when one guest realizes that his boyfriend has been cheating on him with another guest; adapted from the acclaimed webseries, you can find this one in Videoport’s Pride section), Mom’s Night Out (When some tired moms leave the kids with their significant others and head out for a night on the town, you know there’s gonna be some saucy, wacky hijinks—unless, as in this case, the whole thing is one of those “faith-based” Christian movies that have been coming out of late [see: God’s Not Dead, Heaven Is For Real, whatever Tyler Perry is up to this week], in which case lessons will be learned about being a good mother and lovin’ the Lord! Sean Astin is in here somewhere), For No Good Reason (Entertainingly weird documentary about cartoonist/artist Ralph Steadman, whose savage, jagged creations put some of the fear and loathing into infamous Gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson’s best works. With cool guy celeb fans JohnnyDepp, Richard E. Grant, Terry Gilliam, and Jann Wenner along for the ride.), The Musketeers- season 1 (Swashbuckling series from BBC America about…well, you know who it’s about. Starring the great Peter Capaldi [The Thick Of It, plus he’s the new Doctor Who] as the villainous Cardinal Reichelieu )

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: Draft Day, For No Good Reason

Free parking at Videoport! The parking lot behind the building is free for customers after 5PM on weekdays and all days on the weekends. Also, we can get you a free hour of parking at any downtown parking garage (including the courthouse garage which is, like, a one minute walk away). Just ask for one of our magic stickers!

Get your movies duplicated at Videoport!

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

VideoReport #468

Volume CDLXVIII—Videoport: The Indie Video Store’s Revenge

For the Week of 8/5/14

Videoport gives you a free movie every, single day. And since we have oh, about a jillion movies, you won’t run out of free movies to watch for approximately half a jillion years. I’m not a math guy, but that sounds about right.

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 murder all over the world! Everyone loves murder! Especially when it’s fictional and being solved by a dogged-yet-suspiciously attractive detective, preferably with a cool accent. It’s a universal love, this love of murder, so here are some favorite murder-series from all over the world!

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (BOTSWANA) sees Jill Scott’s Mma Precious Ramotswe open up the country first female-run detective agency.

Hinterland (WALES) sees rumpled copper Tom Mathias try to solve a brutal crime in the very Welsh-named town of Aberystwyth. Described as “a Welsh The Killing.”

The Fall (NORTHERN IRELAND)’s got the ever-stunning Gillian Anderson tracking down a serial sex murder played by the guy (Jamie Dornan) who’s going to be a sexy sex guy in that 50 Shades Of Grey movie. Man, he’s got the market cornered on sexy creeps…

Spiral (FRANCE) examines some Gallic murders alongside some sexy French cops.

Every British Detective Show Ever. (GREAT BRITAIN). Man, British people love to murder the hell out each other. Seriously, Videoport must have three dozen or more BBC mystery series, but if I had to pick one, I’d say go with Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series. (Also: Luther, Cracker).

Top Of The Lake (NEW ZEALAND) brings American actress Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men), doing a passable accent, as a big city copper lured back to her hellishly dangerous and strange home town to investigate a young girl’s disappearance. Directed by Jane Campion and costarring the likes of Peter Mullan and Holly Hunter.

The Bridge (DENMARK/SWEDEN). A body is found on the border and a pair of mismatched international cops have to learn to work together. (The American remake also qualifies for MEXICO, since it transplants the action to the US/Mexico border.)

Wallander (SWEDEN—only Sweden, so The Bridge doesn’t disqualify it.) The most dogged, bummed out detective in all of Scandinavia!

Detective De Luca (ITALY). There is being an honest cop in a corrupt system, and then there’s being an honest cop in Fascist-occupied Rome. —Lilyhammer (NORWAY) has American mobster Steven Van Zandt (The Sopranos) hiding out under an assumed name in Norway.

Haven’t seen it yet, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess there’s some killin’. Did I miss some of your favorite international murder shows? Well write in to the VideoReport at denmn@hotmail.com and yell at me about it!

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 Decision At Sundown (in Classics.) Another of the Randolph Scott westerns directed by Budd Boetticher, this one sees Scott’s typical loner cowboy riding into a town. Unlike earlier films we’ve talked about here before (The Tall T, Ride Lonesome, Seven Men From Now), Scott’s Bart is something of a jerk, rudely insulting everyone in the small outpost town of Sundown, especially anyone who mentions town mayor Tate Kimbrough, a glad-handing dandy who’s preparing to marry the daughter of a local cattle baron. It’s interesting to see Scott outside his traditional role of the taciturn but basically decent loner. This time, he’s got a secret that makes him obsessively force a confrontation with the slimy Kimbrough and offend everyone he comes into contact with, even his loyal pal Sam (Noah Beery Jr, who you know as Jim Rockford’s dad). Eventually, Bart and Sam find themselves holed up in he town stable, fending off Kimbrough’s hired guns while Bart’s secret agenda becomes clear, and the townspeople begin to reconsider their allegiance to their sleazeball mayor. It’s an unusual western, even for the already unusual Boetticher/Scott oeuvre, with a unique, oddly sophisticated climax that forces Scott to confront his past in a more complex way than you’d expect. Coming next week in this slot: The Scott/Boetticher Western Buchanan Rides Alone, which is even weirder.

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 Community (in Comedy). Check out the new releases this week for some shameless gushing about this show, since season 5 comes out on DVD this week. And then rent all of Community (except season 4 which never happened). Seriously, this show makes you so damned happy.

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 writing for the VideoReport! As you can see from this week’s issue, when no one chips in some reviews for the VideoReport, it’s just me rambling on. Even I’m bored with me. Send in your reviews to denmn@hotmail.com or to our Facebook page Videoport Jones. Do it, you!

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

>>> It’s free! It’s for kids! Or the very immature!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Simpsons, season 7, episode “Summer Of 4 Ft. 2” (in Animation.) I recently had/got to review this particular episode for one of my other jobs. (It’s the AV Club—I’m a little braggy about it.) I also have to review the new seasons of the show and—man—watching a season 7 episode after a season of season 25 Simpsons is like a cool rain shower in the desert. And if it’s this one—the one where Lisa tries to reinvent herself in order to make friends during a vacation at Flanders’ beach house—then it’s even better than that. I’m a sucker for Lisa episodes anyway—she’s my favorite character, especially when it comes to episodes like this one that finds the sweet spot between huge laughs and, well, sweetness. Yeardley Smith often gets forgotten since she only does Lisa’s voice and no others, but that only allows Smith to truly understand Lisa, and her performance here is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. Also featuring some great Milhouse, Homer playing Mystery Date, and the dreaded M-320 firecracker. One of the best episodes ever.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests some free money at Videoport! Put $20 on your rental account and we give you $25 worth of rental credit. And $30 gets you $40 in rental credit. No catch—just free, free money.

 

New Releases this week at Videoport: Need For Speed (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul [aka Jessie Pinkman] gets his first post-Breaking Bad starring role in…a video game movie. In it, he plays a guy who enjoys automobiles and chooses to drive said automobiles at a high, perhaps even illegal, rate of speed.), Oculus (Some good actors for this sort of thing, with Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan, Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff, and Mad Men’s Jared Harris starring in a horror flick about a young woman determined to prove that the murder her brother’s accused of is actually the diabolical workings of an evil mirror. That should go over well in court…), Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt And The Magnetic Fields (Documentary profile of the indie rock band headed by the best singer-songwriter you’ve never heard of. Unless you’ve heard of Stephin Merritt, in which case you are one of the cool kids. Free tip: Buy the Magnetic Fields’ 3-album set 69 Love Songs—it’ll do things to you.), Divergent (Since the descriptions of this Hunger Games wannabe action sci-fi flick sound like white noise in my head every time I try to read about it, so here’s what the IMDb says: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late. So there you go), God’s Not Dead (Busloads of church types made this right-wing flick something of a hit. In it, evil college professor Kevin Sorbo is a smug, condescending intellectual who makes his poor, impressionable college students acknowledge that God doesn’t exist if they know what’s good for them. Luckily, there’s one courageous kid in the class who stands up to all that book-learnin’ and independent thinking and starts a campaign to keep higher education based on narrow interpretations of the Bible and nothing else. Enjoy!), Adventure Time: Princess Day (Everybody loves this weird-ball, surprisingly grown-up animated series, so you should rent this and then talk about it online with all the other smart kids.), Secret State (British stalwarts Gabriel Byrne and Charles Dance star in this British political thriller series about the shifty, shadowy connection among government, banks, and big business. Who knew?), The French Minister (Acclaimed French comedy about a young political aide who discovers that the titular, respected French dignitary—a renowned politician and ladies man—may not be entirely what he seems), Cuban Fury (Everyone’s favorite comic sidekick Nick Frost [Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End] gets his first starring vehicle, with Nick playing a sad sack who decided to enter a Salsa Dancing championship to change his fortunes—and win the hand of ever-lovely Rashida Jones. Also starring Chris O’Dowd.), The Last Days (It’s the end of the world—and everyone in Barcelona does not feel fine. A mysterious plague kills you as soon as you go outside, but a desperate guy decides to team up with a stranger to try to make his way across the city through the sewers and subways in order to find his missing girlfriend.), Ping Pong Summer (Period comedy set in 1985, where a family’s Summer vacation becomes a contest of wills—fought out over the family ping pong table. Costarring certified funny people Amy Sedaris and Judah Friedlander.), Californication- season 7 (Another season of this Showtime series about an LA writer punching and sexing his way through the city en route to possibly getting his career back on track. Your enjoyment may depend on how much you enjoy the sight of David Duchovny getting copiously laid), Community- season 5 (After the —unpleasantness—that was season four, when brilliant and hilarious creator Dan Harmon was fired by the suits [always a great freaking idea, guys], Community is back! The real Community! Dan Harmon is back and so’s the show—one of the funniest, most innovative, and downright outstanding sitcoms in TV history. You really need to watch this show—and if you do, please remember, season four never happened.), and 4, count ‘em 4 new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on DVD: The Black Scorpion, The Projected Man, It Lives By Night, and Outlaw Of Gor!

 

New Arrivals at Videoport: White Nights (Finally on DVD, this 1985 dance-y drama finds Mikhail Baryshnikov, a ballet dancer who’d defected to America, forced back into dancing for the Motherland when his plane goes down back in Russia. It’s a semi-beloved melodrama, livened up by a great cast [including Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini], and some truly thrilling dancing from Baryshnikov and the late Gregory Hines)

 

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: Divergent, Need For Speed, Oculus

 

Free parking at Videoport! The parking lot behind the building is free for customers after 5PM on weekdays and all days on the weekends. Also, we can get you a free hour of parking at any downtown parking garage (including the courthouse garage which is, like, a one minute walk away). Just ask for one of our magic stickers!

Get your movies duplicated at Videoport!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VideoReport #458

Volume CDLVIII—Godzilla vs. a Redbox Machine

For the Week of 5/27/14

 Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. That’s some free happiness every single day. What can we say—we love making people happy.

 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 Home Movies (in Animation.) It’s tough out there for a voice actor, but now that the great Jon Benjamin is getting some long-overdue adulation (since he voices the lead characters of two of the funniest shows currently on television—Bob’s Burgers and Archer), it’s time to look

Brendan, McGuirk

Brendan, McGuirk

back at Home Movies, one of the most enduringly funny and surprisingly sweet animated series ever. The story of Brendan, a gradeschooler with aspirations of being the world’s greatest movie director, the show strikes an inimitable balance of goofy, sharp, and adorable—with more than a touch of heart, even melancholy. Despite his inseparable friendship with pals/costars Melissa and Jason, and his combative but loving relationship with his single mother, Brendan’s a lonely kid, and an outsider, his eccentricities and his hobby making him worry far more than a little kid should. Perhaps that’s why he forms an unlikely friendship with his irascible, irresponsible soccer coach, John McGuirk (played, as is Jason, by Jon Benjamin.) As lonely and isolated in his own way as is Brendan, McGuirk finds himself drawn into the orbit of his odd student and his friends and family, much to everyone’s confusion and annoyance, and our hilarity. Honestly, I’d put McGuirk in my top twenty of all time TV characters—a uniquely ignorant, complexly silly character brought to life by Benjamin’s signature overweening overconfidence. (Benjamin also voices the equally weird Jason—who might just miss that top 20 list.) There’s so much to love about Home Movies—there’s a jazzy, improv-y verbal style that makes the laughs just roll along, one after another. But it’s Benjamin—and McGuirk—who truly take the show into some loopily resonant places. Do yourself a favor—this one’s just waiting to be discovered.

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 Bigger Than Life (in the Criterion Collection section.) You should rent this along with Martin Scorsese’s documentary A Personal Journey Through American Film (in the Documentary Arts section). In it, Scorsese waxes rhapsodic (with typical Scorsese fast talking enthusiasm) about this ahead of its time 1956 drama from director Nicholas Ray. In it, James Mason gives his riskiest performance as a loving family man and schoolteacher who becomes addicted to a new “miracle drug” intended to treat his many ailments and turns into one of the most frightening parental figures in screen history. Mason’s great as always, bringing his signature silky gravitas to the role of a normal guy who goes off the rails and, so doing, deconstructs the role of the “perfect father.” Sure, the muckraking aspect of the film (look out for the big, bad new drug…cortisone!) may be a little dated, but the drama itself is not. Another interesting sleeper unearthed by the good people at Criterion.

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 Legit- season 1 (in Comedy.) Videoport’s owner Bill, doing some of his mysterious boss research recently, revealed that neither disc of this new comedy series has rented. Like, not once. In more than a month. I mean, I know this wasn’t a big hit or anything (it got a second season on FX, but was recently cancelled), but not one rental? In a month? Pretty unprecedented. Which is a shame, because Legit, a showcase for Aussie standup comedian Jim Jeffries, is actually pretty funny. Like Louie or Seinfeld, it’s a sitcom purporting to show the life of a struggling standup comedian. It’s not as good as either of those shows, but it’s well worth catching—Jeffries’ shtick is that of a slobby, sort-of boorish stoner, but he’s got a sharp sensibility underlying the crudity. An outspoken atheist, Jeffries doesn’t get into that as much on the show, but the same willingness to rudely challenge oft-unquestioned beliefs and prejudices is part of Legit’s makeup. Living in a crappy house in LA where he’s trying to make it in showbiz, Jeffries ends up living with his sad sack divorced best friend (character actor Bakkedahl from The Heat), and Bakkedahl’s wheelchair-bound brother played by DJ Qualls. They go through the usual jerky motions, taking the sheltered kid to a strip club, getting him high, and so forth, but the thing that leavens Jeffries’ comedy, and the show, is that his heart is always in the right place. Jeffries’ comedy is of the “I’m just saying the hard truths that no one else has the guts to say,” which can be a haven for mean-spirited a-holery (see: Denis Leary, Adam Carolla, all of the Blue Collar Comedy jerks), but Jeffries, with his chipmunk teeth and inquisitive eyes, generally falls on the generous side of the spectrum, and the show has something of a thoughtful, melancholy vibe at times. Plus, lots of weed and fart jokes. C’mon—rent it already. Legit is getting lonely.

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 Pennies From Heaven (in Musicals.) Last week, I recommended a retrospective of cinematographer Gordon Willis’ most influential films. But perhaps my favorite film of his was not only not especially influential; it was a flop. Pennies from Heaven, the bleak Depression-set musical starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, was promoted with woeful clumsiness, selling it as a lavish look back at a glitzy Golden Age of film, when in reality it’s an affecting (if grim) character study of a man unsatisfied – and unsatisfiable – with the real world. Willis’ command of light and dark illustrates the ironies and passions of Arthur Parker (Steve Martin), a down-on-his-luck sheet music salesman who rejects all the pleasures and profit of this life while daydreaming about the satiny, soft-focus pleasures of the Silver Screen. Willis made the most of the contrasts between the bright, light, frothy seductions of Arthur’s imagination and the drab realities of his everyday life, shifting from the dazzling light and precision of a musical number worthy of Busby Berkeley to the dankest, dreariest back alley in any Ashcan School painting.
It’s 1934, and two-bit sheet-music salesman Arthur Parker (Steve Martin) is deeply unsatisfied: with his work, with his marriage, with the drab everyday world he lives in. He wants to break out and seek adventure, romance, excitement, riches. He wants money to open his own record shop, he yearns to express his ardor, and he hankers for a little hanky-panky, but his prim and prudent wife Joan (Jessica Harper) won’t give up her nest-egg (if you know what I mean and I think that you do). Arthur takes up with a shy schoolmarm (Broadway baby Bernadette Peters) who harbors silver-screen dreams like his own. But nothing seems to make him happy, because nothing can. Arthur’s inner contradictions are crushing. He rejects tangible pleasure at every turn: he pushes away meals though he’s hungry; he brushes off his wife’s hard-won wooing; after his lyrical daydreams of wooing his true love, he presses for a hasty hump on the couch; when a lady of the evening asks if he’d like to “have a good time,” he growls “No, I like being miserable!” Moments later he coos dreamily, “But I want to live in a world where the songs come true.” This is the heart of his ambivalence: Arthur craves the flimsy joys of fantasy, not the modest but attainable pleasures of the real world. He doesn’t want plain ol’ happiness; he wants the glamour of a Happy Ending, Hollywood style. Coming on the heels of Steve Martin’s The JerkPennies from Heaven was woefully mis-marketed as a fond fantasy glancing back at the giddy musicals of the 1930s. That misreading must have made the actual film all the more jarring for contemporary audiences. Pennies from Heaven is a fantasy, all right, but a deliberately jarring one; the main characters break into song and dance to express their inner desires and fears, but after these glimpses into the dazzling paradise of their musical fantasies, the clunking return to the all-too-real world of grim Depression-era desperation stings viciously. In these tawdry studies in dark and light, director Herbert Ross deliberately evokes paintings from the ashcan school, a point that gets hammered home when we see Arthur and Eileen through the famous diner window from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Then the angle changes, placing us inside the famous painting. It’s a risky ploy that Ross carries off again and again with breathtaking ease, recreating several Ashcan landscapes that give depth to the film’s heart even as they blend seamlessly into Arthur’s garish gimcrack world. With its cruel interplay of luminous pipe dreams and dismal reality, Pennies from Heaven portrays the alienating effect of glitzy Hollywood fantasy as effectively as Sunset Boulevard or Mulholland Dr., raising us up along with the characters to grace the silver screen, then thumping us unceremoniously back to the dim, heavily shadowed rooms and streets of Arthur’s everyday.

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

>>> It’s free! It’s for kids! Or the very immature!

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests writing for the VideoReport! We want you! C’mon—maybe you’re shy, or you doubt your writing talents, but we know you’ve got opinions about movies and TV. So share ‘em! The VideoReport is Videoport’s weekly journal of movie-related stuff where the staff and customers (and pals) of the best, damned video store (remaining) in the world meet to argue. So send in your reviews to us at denmn@hotmail.com or our facebook page Videoport Jones. Throw your weight around, people!

>>>For Sunday, Dennis reprints his list of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes (in Incredibly Strange.) A pair of very nice customers asked me what my favorite MST3k episode was last night and I blanked for a second, so here’s my list (but feel free to rent any of the more than 100 episodes Videoport’s got—they’ll make you happy):

Mitchell. A very made-for-TV-looking cop movie starring a very made-from-beefy-burritos-looking Joe Don Baker as the titular, pork-faced cop who overcomes his chronic lethargy to collar bad guy Martin Balsam and bed dippy hooker Linda Evans. Watch for Joel’s horrified scream of, “BABY OIL?! NOO!!!” after spotting a bottle on Mitchell’s nightstand during an unappealing love scene between the already-lubricious hero and Ms. Evans. Historically, this was Joel’s last episode after five years of hosting the show, as he is jettisoned back to earth in the heretofore-unknown escape pod, the Deus-Ex-Machina.
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Taking over as host, head writer Mike Nelson ably fills Joel’s shoes as he and the ‘bots savage this sleazy 60’s mad scientist flick about a totally mental young doctor who keeps his fiancee’s decapitated head alive in a lasagna pan while he trolls strip shows, beauty contests and artists’ models so he can reassemble his beloved, preferably onto someone with a nice rack. Mike quickly gets into the swing of things: as the doctor, tucking the concealed head under his arm after the fateful car crash, runs through a park, Mike riffs, “He’s at the fifteen, the ten, no one will catch him!”
The Amazing Colossal Man. Joel and the lads take on the titular fifty foot atomic bomb survivor in this classic episode highlighted by very poor special effects, the whiniest giant around, and the spectacle of a huge, bald dude wearing an enormous, saggy diaper. In a skit, Joel sits in a cardboard dollhouse as the lugubrious, self-pitying hero, bemoaning his fate as Tom and Crow pepper him with irrelevant questions (Crow: How many fish can you name? Joel: Who cares? I’m immense, I’m huge, wahhhhhh). As the now-mental big guy complies with a soldier’s bullhorned order to release his understandably-upset girlfriend, Tom quips, “Thanks for putting down the girl. Now here are some bullets for you.”
Manos: The Hands of Fate. The legend. Although it has been said about almost every movie ever done on MST, this is officially the worst movie ever made, and Joel and the ‘bots let it have it with both barrels. A murky (Joel states that “every frame of this looks like someone’s last known photo”), sleazy, badly dubbed, atrociously acted tale of devil worshippers and a bland tourist family, Manos (yes, the title, translated, means “Hands, The Hands of Fate”) almost proves too much for our heroes, who periodically just break down and start weeping at its awfulness. All is saved, though, with Joel, dressing up as the berobed cultist from the film trying to subjugate the ‘bots, commanding, “Salutations, imperfect one! I am The Master and you are mysteriously drawn to me! Everything I say you must do right away without having to ask twice. I am evil and mean and unforgiving! In your brokenness, you have failed and now must repent. Bow down now before me! BOW DOWN!” Servo’s response: “Oh, hi Joel…”
Space Mutiny. Mike and the ‘bots vs a wretched space opera where all the space footage is purloined from the old Battlestar Galactica series, Cameron Mitchell plays the benevolent leader who looks like Santa in a mumu, the love interest appears to be about twenty saggy years older than the chunkhead hero, and all of the ‘spaceship’ interiors look suspiciously like decrepit warehouses. A running gag involves the boys yelling out alternative names for the bemuscled protagonist every time he does something ‘heroic’ (a partial list: Slab Bulkhead! Bridge Largemeat! Punt Speedchunk! Butch Deadlift! Splint Chesthair! Flint Ironstag! Bulk Vanderhuge! Thick Mcrunfast! Buff Drinklots! Slunk Slabchest! Fist Rockbone! Stomp Beefmob! Smash Lampjaw! Punch Rockgroin! Dirk Hardpeck! Rip Steakface! Crud Bonemeal! Brick Hardmeat! Gristle McThornbody! ) Watch for the Uwe Boll-worthy continuity error where a dead character suddenly reappears without comment back in the movie.
The Creeping Terror. Well, maybe this is the worst movie ever made… An alien (which looks suspiciously like a chinese dragon type thing covered with old burlap) shambles around an overexposed countryside in a very ineffectual attempt to do..something. It’s invaluably aided by the rock-stupid townies who just stand there screaming until it wobbles on top of them while they helpfully climb inside its mouth area. Most of the film is dubbed over by a supercilious narrator, reportedly because the original soundtrack was lost by the filmmakers; after one rare non-dubbed line emerges from someone’s mouth, Mike narrates, :”The sound of actual dialogue startled everyone”. Filled with odd interludes like the whitest high school dance you’ve ever seen (even for the 50’s), and a lengthy scene in which a young mother demonstrates the proper use of a rectal thermometer as soon as her baby starts crying (Mike: “How about talking to him? Or holding him even?”).
Cave Dwellers. It’s sword-and-sorcery time, with Joel and the ‘bots coping with this atrocious Conan ripoff by pointing out various continuity errors (like the medieval warrior wearing sunglasses. Crow: “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants? It’s OG!!”), logical inconsistencies (Joel: “Why is she limping?” Crow: “Because she’s got an arrow in her chest.” Joel: “Oh, I can see…huh?”), and the inexpressive, soloflexiness of former Tarzan Miles O’Keefe (“How much keefe is in this movie? Miles o’keefe.”)                           Night of the Blood Beast. Indie film maverick he may be, but there are few names that cause more collective horror to the gang on the Satellite of Love than Roger Corman, and this awesomely cheap sci fi thriller is the epitome of all that is Corman-tastic.  A cut-rate space program (consisting of six whole people in a shack in the California countryside) kill their only astronaut when their water-heater- rocket, unsurprisingly, crash lands.  Only he’s pregnant!  With alien sea monkeys!  And the outer space papa won’t be denied his visitation rights!  Mike and the boys are all over this one, and the riffing is as inspired as I can ever remember:  “This space program stinks!  I’m gonna go work for my uncle’s space program…”, “Look, they can launch their rockets in the morning and then sell corn out of their flat bed truck!”, and lots and lots of jokes about a doughy astronaut suddenly being all knocked up with brine shrimp.  Genius.  (Also includes one of the all-time bazonko shorts, the inexplicably phone-philic 50s ‘Once Upon a Honeymoon’.)

 

New Releases this week at Videoport: Grand Piano (Elijah Wood stars as a concert pianist battling stage fright whose comeback concert is made slightly more difficult when sniper John Cusack sends him a note saying he’ll shoot if Wood plays even one wrong note! No pressure, Johnny C, geez…), Suits- season 3 (Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams are back as the shiftiest, suit-wearing-est lawyers in town in this entertaining legal series; They wear suit, I’m told!), Endless Love (a pretty rich girl falls for a pretty boy from the wrong side of the tracks and trouble ensues in this adaptation of the same novel that spawned that Brooke Shields movie which everyone still makes fun of), Gambit (in oddball fact of the week that will make you want to rent a movie you might otherwise ignore news—this remake of the 1966 Michael Caine/Shirley Maclaine art heist flick was written by—but not directed by—the Coen Brothers? Weird, but true. It stars Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, and Cameron Diaz this time around ), Cheap Thrills (check out Videoport’s Incredibly Strange section for this ghoulishly comic horror movie about a pair of down-on-their-luck pals who accept eccentric millionaire David Koechner’s [Anchorman] offer to compete in a series of fiendishly escalating dares in order to win a lot of money; I’m sure things go fine…)

 

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: Endless Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VideoReport #449

Volume CDXLIX- Wait, “Videoport?” Because we rent videos and are in Portland. I just now got that.

For the Week of 3/25/14

 

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Like, every single day. A free movie. I genuinely cannot see anything bad about that.

 

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 suggests The Game (in Mystery/Thriller). James Rebhorn’s role in David Fincher’s 1997 thriller The Game is small but crucial. When corporate titan Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) takes his mysterious birthday gift and wanders into the slick, nondescript offices of Consumer Recreation Services to see what the heck his feckless little brother Conrad (Sean Penn) has signed him up for, presence provides a vital sense of reality. Unlike Conrad, James Feingold (James Rebhorn) knows the power of a necktie, a handshake, an office with your name on the door. Even his self-introduction oozes salaryman confidence: “Jim Feingold, V.P, E.D.A. – engineering and data analysis” as he plows over Van Orton’s questions and gets to business, the business of filling out forms. But it’s more than that. Rebhorn endows him with an undeniable naturalism, the bustling, mundane ease of a professional who’s maybe running a little late, maybe a little rushed, eager to brush past the questions he’s heard a hundred times, briskly ushering one more elite customer through his initial interview before he can finally sit down and shovel in the just-delivered lunch that sits cooling and leaking on his desktop. Some of this is the writing, of course, but Rebhorn’s Feingold gives the entire enterprise a concrete authenticity that anchors the film’s reality in a way that allows us to swallow what’s coming next. And there is plenty coming next.

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 checking out all of the Best Supporting Actor nominees! In honor of the passing of stalwart character man James Rebhorn this week, Why not take home some of the movies where guys in smaller roles stole the show. Seriously—we need guys like Rebhorn (never nominated for an Oscar, but he could have been), otherwise we’re stuck watching Kate Hudson and Gerard Butler make goo-goo eyes at each other. And no one wants that.

o    Joseph Schildkraut (The Life Of Emile Zola)

o    Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach)

o    Donald Crisp (How Green Was My Valley)

o    Charles Coburn (The More The Merrier)

o    Harold Russell (The Best Years Of Our Lives)

o    Edmund Gwenn (Miracle On 34th Street)

o    Walter Huston (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre)

o    Dean Jagger (Twelve O’Clock High)

o    George Sanders (All About Eve)

o    Karl Malden (A Streetcar Named Desire)

o    Anthony Quinn (Viva Zapata)

o    Frank Sinatra (From Here To Eternity)

o    Edmond O’Brien (The Barefoot Contessa)

o    Jack Lemmon (Mister Roberts)

o    Anthony Quinn % For Life)

o    Burl Ives (The Big Country)

o    Hugh Griffith (Ben-Hur)

o    Peter Ustinov (Spartacus)

o    George Chakiris (West Side Story)

o    Ed Begley (Sweet Bird Of Youth)

o    Melvyn Douglas (Hud)

o    Peter Ustinov (Topkapi)

o    Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns)

o    Walter Matthau (The Fortune Cookie)

o    George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke)

o    Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?)

o    John Mills (Ryan’s Daughter)

o    Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show)

o    Joel Grey (Cabaret)

o    John Houseman (The Paper Chase)

o    Robert DeNiro (The Godfather Part II)

o    George Burns (The Sunshine Boys)

o    Jason Robards (All The President’s Men)

o    Jason Robards (Julia)

o    Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter)

o    Melvyn Douglas (Being There)

o    Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People)

o    John Gielgud (Arthur)

o    Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer And A Gentleman)

o    Jack Nicholson (Terms Of Endearment)

o    Hang S. Ngor (The Fields)

o    Don Ameche (Cocoon)

o    Michael Caine (Hannah And Her Sisters)

o    Sean Connery (The Untouchables)

o    Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda)

o    Denzel Washington (Glory)

o    Joe Pesci (Goodfellas)

o    Jack Palance (City Slickers)

o    Gene Hackman (Unfogiven)

o    Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive)

o    Martin Landau (Ed Wood)

o    Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects)

o    Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire)

o    Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting)

o    James Coburn (Affliction)

o    Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules)

o    Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)

o    Jim Broadbent (Iris)

o    Chris Cooper (Adaptation)

o    Tim Robbins (Mystic River)

o    Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)

o    George Clooney (Syriana)

o    Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)

o    Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)

o    Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

o    Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

o    Christian Bale (The Fighter)

o    Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

o    Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

o    Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

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!                                                        

>>> Emily S. Customer suggests the works of character actor James Rebhorn. Man, I it when The VideoReport is easy to write. That usually means someone we admire and respect has died, often too soon. This week, it’s James Rebhorn who made the Videoport Jones household utter a shared “awwwwwww, no!” You might recognize him as Carrie’s father, Frank Mathison, on “Homeland,” as charismatic corporate titan Charles Szidon on “Enlightened,” as the distracted, affable doctor for the shadowy corporation that runs the titular game in David Fincher’s The Game, as the war-hawk Secretary of Defense in Independence Day, or as the irascible DA prosecuting the “Seinfeld” gang in the 2-part series finale, But in the Jones house, he’s most often quoted as Dr. Kaplan, the oral surgeon who gets so tired of Liz Lemon asking “When can I eat hard cheeses again?” that he has a pamphlet entitled “Hard Cheeses and Your Root Canal, Liz” printed up just for her and, when she vexes him, withholds her turn at the good-patient treat bin, costing her the wind-up Batman she’s had her eye on. “Yeah,” he taunts her, “and if you wind him up, he swims in the bath.” Goodbye, James Rebhorn, and thank you for giving us even greater joy than a wind-up Batman who swims in the bathtub.

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 great roles of April Grace. It’s important to honor our great character actors before they leave us, and this week I’d like to raise a salute to April Grace. If her name isn’t familiar to you, she herself will be. Her resume is thanklessly laced with roles like “police stenographer” and “ICU nurse #2,” but April Grace is a memorable face, a memorable voice, and a memorable presence. You may remember her as the mysterious Bea Klugh on “Lost,” as Joe’s shrewd and sympathetic partner, Detective Lee Bridgewater, in SciFi Channel miniseries “The Lost Room,” as transporter chief Maggie Hubbell on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or as Sgt. Toni Williams on “Joan of Arcadia.” But perhaps her most memorable role is in Paul Thomas Anderson’s staggering Magnolia as Gwenovier, the quiet, shrewd reporter who interviews pick-up-artist guru Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise). Frank makes his reputation and his living teaching angry, frustrated men tactics of rhetoric to disarm and te women, but Gwenovier is unflustered, unflappable, and impressively sanguine in the face of his bluster. And with good reason.

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

>>> It’s a free movie! It’s for kids! Or kids at heart! Only a monster would deny a free movie to the children! A monster, I say!

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!                                                     >>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Enlightened (in Feature Drama.) This is an outstanding (tragically short-lived) HBO series about an executive (Laura Dern, doing the best work of her career) who, after a breakdown and a transformative stay at a new age-y rehab, comes back to her high-powered position at a typically corrupt corporation to find that her newfound zealotry is incompatible with her duties. Exiled to the basement with a roomful of similar outcasts (including creator Mike White, stealing every episode as the contented nonentity Tyler), Dern’s Amy Jellicoe foments dissent, eventually drawing the attention of smiling corporate head Charles Szidon (played by the late James Rebhorn.) The great thing about Enlightened is how creator White plays with audience empathy. Upon her return, Amy Jellicoe is largely insufferable—even though she’s clearly saying things that White thinks are essentially correct. And Rebhorn’s reasonable, pragmatic, and outwardly avuncular Szidon is the opposite of insufferable, seemingly listening to Amy’s concerns about what’s wrong with his company and the world, and even offering to make some cosmetic changes to diffuse her wild-eyed reformer’s passion. If Szidon is a bad guy, he’s the kind of bad guy not only common, but necessary to be a successful American businessman, and Rebhorn cannily plays him that way. At least for a while. Rebhorn’s performance perfectly captures the shifting points of view on the show—and how viewer’s, unlike Amy, are never allowed to get too comfortable with their convictions.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests If Lucy Fell (in Comedy.) I remain one of the only fans of this forgotten indie comedy from the 90s (hi, Matt McMillan!), but while I concede that it’s got its problems, I maintain that its oddball energy lifts it above the average romcom—and it contains one of my favorite performances from recently-late character actor James Rebhorn. The story of a pair of platonic pals (writer/director Eric Schaeffer and Sarah Jessica Parker) as they, tired of the mid-thirties romantic and professional malaise in which they find themselves, revive a decade-old act to kill themselves if they don’t find someone to love in the next 30 days. One of the problems is that the stakes are never that great—as mopey as the two get, there’s never really a sense that the pact is a serious possibility. That being said, I really like the movie—Parker is weirder and more appealing than she ever would be on And The City, playing along gamefully with the undeniably weird Schaeffer. Look, I like Schaeffer and his work. And while I recognize that he’s a polarizing figure (that a lot of people find irretrievably creepy), and that his movies all have some weaknesses and self-indulgent touches, I think he’s got a unique voice and can really bring the comedy and the pain. Here, he’s Joe, would-be painter and enforced celibate who has been “saving himself” for the leggy supermodel type (played by leggy supermodel Elle MacPherson) who doesn’t know he’s alive. As part of the pact deal, though, he has to talk to the woman and his eccentric attempts to break through are weird and funny and actually kind of affecting. Schaeffer’s got a singular comic persona which, sure, is sort of creepy—but again, he just works for me. So does Parker, whose control freak shrink allows herself to be wooed {thanks, pact!] by flamboyant pop artist Ben Stiller (also funnier here than I generally find). There are laughs, there are tears, there’s talk of es and bowel movements—it might not be everybody’s thing, but again, I like it a lot. And Rebhorn, as Parker’s distant father, only has a few scenes but he makes them—especially the last one, finally telling his daughter how proud of her he is—count. James Rebhorn was one of those guys you figured would always be around—and that the movies always need. Bummer.

 

New Releases this week at Videoport: Delivery Man (Vince Vaughn stars in this feel-good comedy about an aimless middle aged guy [and one time champion sperm donor] who discovers that his many, many deposits over the years have produced 533 children—and that some of them are suing to find out his identity; co-starring the very funny Chris Pratt from Parks & Recreation, this one’s a remake of the Canadian film Starbuck, which Videoport also has of course since we’re so awesome), The Great Beauty (winner of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this crowd-pleasing Italian film is about an aging writer and ladies’ man forced to look back on his life on the eve of his 65th birthday; plus—gorgeous Italian scenery!), Cold Comes The Night (just remember—you love Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston; he stars in this thriller about a Russian mobster who, going blind, takes a woman and her daughter hostage in order to retrieve a big bunch o’ money; you love Bryan Cranston…), Wrath Of Vajra (No, this is not a giant monster movie about a rampaging monster [I would totally watch that]; instead, this one’s a martial arts action flick from China about a guy, kidnapped and turned into a machine by the Japanese in WWII, who throws off his conditioning and goes on one of those roaring rampages of revenge that make such exciting movies), Easy Money: Hard To Kill (Joel Kinnaman [The , the RoboCop remake] returns in this sequel to the acclaimed Swedish thriller Easy Money [which Videoport has of course since we’re so awesome] with his coke smuggler attempting to go straight, which goes about as well as those plans do…), Walking With Dinosaurs (animated big screen dinosaur action for the whole family, with John Leguizamo and Justin long, and did I mention DINOSAURS!?), Veep- season 2 (Julia Louis-Dreyfus is back after winning all the Emmys in this rudely hilarious HBO sitcom about the first female Vice President of the United States and how she copes with her squabbling, eccentric staff and the fact that her job is essentially meaningless), The Punk Singer (some of you saw this rockumentary when it played at SPACE Gallery a while ago; for the rest of us, this is the time to check out this portrait of pioneering lead singer of Kill Kathleen Hanna and why she hasn’t been heard from in a decade), Odd Thomas (the cool Antonin Yelchin [Star Trek, Huff] stars in this quirky horror adaptation of the Dean Koontz series of books about a small town fry cook who uses his ability to see people to fight ghosts and the like), Geography Club (comedy about a group of closeted and confused gay teens who form the titular after school activity in the hopes that no one else will be interested and they can all work out what their hormones are telling them in a safe space), The Conspiracy (when two young filmmakers pick as their documentary subject a crazy conspiracy theorist, their lives get seriously complicated when he disappears in this indie thriller with the crazy cover), Californication- season 6 (David Duchovny being all douche-y and , and y—if that’s your thing and you’ve come this far…), Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher (when the gun-nut killer [and somehow hero] Punisher discovers a conspiracy that might take more than his brand of t gunplay to solve, he teams up with Avenger and former spy Black Widow in this animated movie from Marvel Comics), The Broken Circle Breakdown (acclaimed Dutch film about a couple who love bluegrass music, tattoos, and all things American trying to cope with life and stuff; featuring a ton of great bluegrass music), Loves Her Gun (when a young woman flees big, bad, violent New York City for the presumed peace of rural Texas, her involvement with the local gun culture brings home the fact that isn’t just for city folk in this acclaimed indie drama), The Wolf Of Wall Street (Martin Scorcese and Leonardo Dicaprio team up again, this time for a raucous, filthy, exuberant portrait of real life swindler and Wall Street shark Jordan Belfort), Key & Peele- season 2 (HEY! Sorry to yell, but not enough people are watching this show and that annoys me; Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele are hilarious and brilliant and this is the best sketch comedy show in a decade; so watch it already…), Welcome To The Jungle (the improbably welcome Jean Claude Van Damme comeback trail marches on, this time with the former laughingstock actually trying to get laughs as the gung ho former Marine leading a corporate retreat gone wrong; costarring certified funny people like Kristin Schaal, Rob Heubel, and Dennis Haysbert), La Bestia (searing documentary follows several Central American migrant who, trying to cross illegally into the United States, must first traverse Mexico in the titular train, a legendarily brutal and dangerous journey)

 

New Arrivals at Videoport this week: King Of The Hill (long forgotten Steven Soderbergh film about a young boy coming of age during the Depression gets the full Criterion Collection treatment; one of those movies that’s called “a forgotten gem” so often that it’s practically your duty to see it now), The Spoilers (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, and Marlene Dietrich star in this 1942 film about the rambunctious, claim-jumping times of the Alaskan gold rush; oh, and John Wayne wears blackface at one point! Because he’s John Wayne!), and four, count ‘em four new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000!!! (Woo-hoo! If you’ve never watched MST3k, then you don’t know what joy is, so come get some joy at Mike, Joel and the robots make fun of four more classically terrible movies for your delight! This box set includes: Untamed Youth, Hercules And The Captive Women, The Thing That Couldn’t Die, and the gloriously inept The Pumaman!)

 

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: Delivery Man, The Great Beauty, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Frozen, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Walking With Dinosaurs, Odd Thomas, King Of The Hill.