VideoReport #440

Volume CDXL- 2014: The Year Videoport Made Netflix Wish It Were Never Born

 For the Week of 1/21/14

 Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. Who else does that? Not Netflix, that’s who.

 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!

>>>Videoport customer Caleb C. suggests Maniac (in Horror.) This 2012 re-imagining of William Lustig’s film from 1980 was as joyfully hard to watch as the original. Written by French men Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur (Hills Have Eyes 2007, High Tension, P2), directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2, High Tension), and produced by Lustig, this movie had a budget that could have paid for the making of it’s predecessor 10 times over (that’s not really saying much.) Khalfoun’s version takes us though the daily events of a serial killer named Frank Zito. He owns a mannequin shop in New York City that has been in his family for 3 generations. He drives a van. He breathes heavy. He admires beauty. He collects the scalps of women. He tacks said scalps to mannequins and keeps them set up around his apartment. The original Maniac was a dark, gritty, and dangerous look into a man’s sinister lust and mental sickness. It was shot in a different New York, a scarier New York. It was written by, and starred Joe Spinell (the bookie from Rocky, Cicci from the Godfather I-II, the guy that hires DeNiro in the beginning of Taxi Driver). It features an exploding head and many other impressive gory effects courtesy of Tom Savini (who got to shoot off his own head with a shot gun!) …… wait, I’m not reviewing this movie, I’m reviewing…. This new film looks through the eyes of the killer. 99%  of this was shot POV (point of view). We catch glimpses of Frank (Elijah Wood) in mirror and window reflections. We see what he sees and what he sees is his hand and his knife. He also sees a lot of woman die. Zito meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a young, attractive, likable fine art photographer who becomes enchanted by his mannequin shop and they strike up a friendship. He’s so cute and quirky, what’s the harm? Frank is able to keep his murderous tendencies separate from her…. and then he finds out she has a boyfriend. Why is this always the case? And that’s right, you guessed it, ……. he’s a total DICK!Wood played the part of the misfit psychopath well (sorry, there won’t be any cheap Hobbit breaks bad jokes here). One can see he had a lot of fun getting into the psychology of this madman, and relished the roll. There’s lots of talking to himself, hallucinations of living mannequins, and flash backs of a prostitute mother. It’s very obvious the filmmakers want the viewer to empathize with him, but after the opening scene, it’s brutally clear that this dog needs to be put down. As ghastly as the subject matter was, there were few surprises. This was a slasher movie that relied on anticipation of what WE KNOW is about to happen. We aren’t waiting for the killer to jump out at us. We ARE the killer. We ride along with the jumping. While I was watching this movie I felt as if I was doing something wrong. Great flick or no, that is effective film making. Maniac should please fans of the genre, but few others. The performances are convincing, and The effects are gory, realistic, and cringe-worthy. Slasher fans rejoice, but exercise caution, this ain’t yer grandmother’s horror movie! But who wants to see your grandmother’s horror movie? ME, that’s who! Note: Please ladies, be careful who you meet on dating sites. There’s a lot of creeps out there.

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 says, Let me introduce you to some friends from the Classics and Action sections: Gilda, Harvey, Marty, Mr. Skeffington, Laura, Mildred Pierce, Stella Dallas, Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Rebecca, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Ben Hur, Becket, Spartacus, Beau Geste, Hud, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Dirty Harry, Cleopatra, and – of course – my Auntie Mame.

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 “Community” [ominous chung CHUNG sound] In the entertainment-justice industry, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the audience, who observe the proceedings, and the critics, who contemplate the content. These are our stories. In “Basic Lupine Urology” (“Community” S3, ep17), when the study group’s biology project is smashed, they team up to investigate and uncover the the yam-smashing perp. Each member finds their role with an effortless ease: Troy and Abed as the wisecracking detectives who’ve seen it all, Shirley as their no-nonsense chief, Jeff and Annie as the driven DAs who prosecute the offense… and Britta and Pierce Britta-ing it whatever they do, which I don’t know exactly, what am I, a “Community” staff writer? I am not. I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR. Oh, I didn’t? Well, GOOD DAY, SIR.

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 “30 Rock” [ominous chung CHUNG sound] Whiskey-based offenses are considered especially heinous. At 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious depredations are members of an elite squad: the stars of TGS. These are their stories. In “Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whiskey,” someone drinks Pete’s special birthday whiskey, which he was counting on to bribe the writers into hanging out on his birthday and listening to his Billy Joel song adapted to recount the story of that time he saw Phil Donahue at the mall, and who wouldn’t want to show up for that? The mystery spurs Jenna (Jane Krakowski) to adopt a persona from her failed pilot, Goodlooking; she played Alexis Goodlooking, “who was also good-looking, and my special ability was being good at looking for clues,” and co-star Tracy (Tracy Morgan) tags along gamely, as is his wont until he gets distracted by his pet snake or a solid-gold candy bar or a pigeon failing to demonstrate adequate self-respect. Together, the two dig in and solve the mystery, or do they?

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

>>> It’s a free movie for kids! And you don’t have to rent anything else to get it! Only a Grinch would object to that! (Oh, and you can totally rent How The Grinch Stole Christmas with this special…)

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests You’re Next (in Horror.)I love horror movies. Have my whole life, ever since I was sneaking them on cable after my parents went to sleep and renting them from the TV repair shop/video store which didn’t give two craps about preteens renting R rated movies. Unfortunately, it remains true now as much as then that fully 93% of all horror movies are tediously dreadful. I mean, at least 75% of all movies are lousy, but the horror genre is even more fraught with lousiness—the genre just generally doesn’t attract the best and the brightest. It’s a prejudice, but it’s true. Anyway, in that blasted landscape of half-baked bloody nonsense and cheapjack crap, an even half-competent horror flick makes everyone at Videoport, staff and customers, practically giddy with relieved pleasure. That’s where You’re Next comes in. Directed by horror up-and-comer Adam Wingard, who helmed a pair of horror shorts in the anthology films VHS and VHS2, You’re Next boasts a passel of attributes most horror flicks just can’t be bothered with. First, it’s got good acting. Perhaps keyed in by the presence of fellow indie directors (in acting roles) Joe Swanberg [Drinking Buddies, Kissing On The Mouth, Nights And Weekends, LOL] and Ti West [House Of The Devil, The Innkeepers], the movie partakes of an almost mumblecore acting aesthetic for its first 20 minutes. It’s about the members of a wealthy family gathering to celebrate the parents’ wedding anniversary at their isolated country home. For this opening sequence (apart from the pre-title slammer that clues everyone in that they’re actually in the right theater for a horror movie) this might be an American remake of the Danish The Celebration. Family tensions and buried animosities are hinted at, relationships are strained, and dark family secrets are hinted at—and then an arrow whizzes through a window. The actors are uniformly solid—apart from West and Swanberg, who have proven their chops in films of their own and others, everyone brings more to their roles than the average horror movie cast could dream of. Apart from indie horror mainstay AJ Bowen [House ORe-Animator,f The Devil, The Signal], also look for a very handsome-looking Barbara Crampton [ for cryin’ out loud] as the family’s troubled matriarch. There are some twists, some smart fake-outs, and some creative nastiness, plus every horror movie could do with a strong , strapping Aussie female lead. Seriously, Sharni Vinson is like a Zoe Bell who can act. Again—good horror movie! It’s like a Videoport national holiday.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests A Decade Under The Influence (in Documentary Arts.) For a variety of reasons, the 1970s were the last time that movie studios actually put their muscle behind independent filmmakers. Sure, every once in a while these days a studio-proclaimed “indie film” will get some press, but that’s just marketing. In the 70s, actual studios put actual money and actual creative control in the hands of some truly independent-minded directors, resulting in the all-too-brief flowering of a genuine American movie renaissance. And sure, guys like Michael Cimino (Heaven’s Gate) came along and used that indulgence to ruin everything for the rest of us, but at the time, the decade became home to what is easily the greatest period of American cinema, with directors like Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Bob Rafelson, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, William Friedkin, John Cassavetes, Paul Mazursky, Sidney Lumet, Peter Bogdanavich, Monte Hellman, and pre-bloat Steven Spielberg and George Lucas producing dozens of the best films you should rent from us at Videoport right now. Let’s run down a partial list, shall we: The Godfather I&II, Taxi Driver, Five Easy Pieces, Two Lane Blacktop, Harold And Maude, Coming Home, The Exorcist, Sorcerer, THX1138, Duel, Jaws, Dog Day Afternoon, Bob + Carol + Ted + Alice, Nashville, The Long Goodbye, Serpico, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Easy Rider, Klute, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Husbands, A Woman Under The Influence, MASH, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Chinatown, The Last Picture Show, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, California Split, Thieves Like Us, and on and on. What do they all have in common? Well, they’re all in the top tier of the best American films of all time. And they’re all covered in A Decade Under The Influence, Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese’s compelling documentary which seeks to explore the reasons why conservative Hollywood suddenly started throwing money at the eccentric, singular visions of some scruffy independent directors. Rent it and come out with a list of great movies you are gonna have to rent. And, of course, Videoport has them all…

New Releases this week at Videoport: Captain Phillips (Barkhad Abdi is nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this purportedly gripping tale of an American ship hijacked by Somali pirates; oh, and Tom Hanks is nominated for Best Actor blue_jasmine_ver2and I guess the film itself is nominated for Best Picture as well…), Blue Jasmine (the ever-stunning Cate Blanchett stars in this latest Woody Allen movie about an oblivious society dame who goes to impose on her working class sister after her financier husband gets busted for being a Bernie Madoff-style scam artist; costarring the typical Woody amazing cast, including Louis CK, Peter Sarsgaard, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Michael Stuhlbarg, and, um, Andre Dice Clay?), Machete Kills (Robert Rodriguez’ over-the-top grindhouse throwback action series continues with Danny Trejo returning as the blade-happy Machete, this time working for the man to take down a crime lord who plans to launch some sort of deadly space laser; with the Robert Rodriguez version of a Woody Allen cast: Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Michelle Rodriguez, Walton Goggins, Lady Gaga, Tom Savini, and Cuba Gooding Jr.), Instructions Not Included (this Mexican comedy drama about a single dad whose happy relationship with the daughter left on his doorstep is threatened hen her birth mother shows up is one of the most successful Mexican films in US box office history; it’s also supposed to be very good ), In A World (great buzz around this indie dramedy about a female voiceover artist [the cool Lake Bell from Childrens Hospital, who also write and directed] trying to break into the competitive movie trailer game), Bad Milo! (horror comedy starring certified cool people Ken Marino [The State, Wet Hot American Summer] and Gillian Jacobs [Community] about a guy who has weird stomach problems…which are…unusual…and…oh, hell, it’s a butt demon!), Bullet In The Face- The Complete Series (remember that 80s TV cop-parody series Sledge Hammer!? well, it was weird and funny, and so is this new crime parody from the same creator, this time about a psychotic criminal who finds himself working for the cops and shooting people, possibly in the face), Sunlight Jr. (Matt Dillon and Naomi Watts strap on their designer poor-people clothes to play a subsistence-level Florida couple in this indie drama; from the director of Sherrybaby), Best Man Down (a newlywed couple [Justin Long and Jess Weixler] rush home from their honeymoon to attend the funeral of their party animal best man, who dropped dead after the wedding celebrations), The Prey (French action thriller about a convicted bank robber who busts out of prison in order to protect his family when his former cellmate turns out to be a serial killer), Adore (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play two friends who each start affairs with each others’ grown sons in this mother-kissin’ drama), Straight A’s (Ryan Phillipe, Anna The-Prey-2011-Movie-Poster-600x889Paquin and Luke Wilson star in this drama about an addict who, after the death of his mother, returns to the family he abandoned), Detective De Luca (Italian TV detective series about an honest cop in Fascist WWII Italy—Videoport customers Adore_posterhave been totally getting into foreign TV lately [Borgen, Wallander, Lilyhammer, Spiral], so we brought in a new one! You’re welcome!)DeLuca-MHz

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VideoReport #428

Volume CDXXVIII- Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of How Robert Altman Never Won A Best Director Oscar

For the Week of 10/28/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. Oh, and they have all the movies ever, so you’ll never run out of free movies. Oh, and their prices are low, their employees know everything about movies, and they’re locally-owned. Trying to think of something negative about Videoport in fact….nope. Can’t do it.

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 The Woman (in Horror). After I saw May and the Masters of Horror episode Sick , I became a fast devotee of director Lucky McKee and his favorite leading lady Angela Bettis. And yet, it took me three years to get around to watching their latest collaboration, The Woman. The reason, as some of the horror lovers out there may have guessed, is McKee’s disappointing follow-up to May, The Woods (at least Bettis can’t be blamed for that disaster, as she wasn’t given a role). But I was wrong to have given up on McKee so easily. The Woman is a stunning horror film. Without giving too much of the story away, it’s about clean cut family man Chris Cleek (played by Sean Bridgers*) who finds a wounded feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) in the woods while hunting. Naturally, he captures her and brings her home to tend to her wounds and attempt to “civilize” her. We soon realize that Chris only looks clean cut, and his family is deeply troubled. Like May, this movie intrigued me with its horror premise, and then surprised me with its intelligent writing and senstitive performances**. The Woman is a much darker, more brutal movie than May, however, and it has barely a trace of the earlier film’s sense of humor.

*Between this movie and Nell, Bridgers just keeps finding lone women in the woods.

**McIntosh has the showiest role, and she’s excellent and very credible as the wild woman. I even found myself wondering at one point where the filmmakers discovered a real feral woman to play this part!

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!

>>> It the Videoport Advice Column!

Q: I’m meeting my fiancee’s parent’s for the first time this weekend and I want to make a good impression. How do you suggest I get in good with the future in-laws?

A: I suggest swinging by Videoport and picking up a selection of elder-friendly movies to watch after dinner (maybe something like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the recent Unfinished Song), and then dazzle them with your careful disc-handling skills [obviously never touch the shiny side and never leave the DVD out of its case]. But be careful—all right-thinking parents will toss you out on your arse if they see you damage a rental DVD. That’s just good parenting.

Q: My child is 2 and he loves playing with rental DVDs. I know they’re delicate and completely vital to the local video store where I rent them, but I just can’t say no to my sweet l’il smoopsy. What should I do?

A: Wait calmly for the authorities to arrive. I have called child protective services for the good of your child as you are clearly an unfit parent and bad person.

Q: What’s the fastest land animal in the world?

A: The cheetah. And keep your damned hands off of Videoport’s DVDs.

>>>Dennis suggests Vikings (in Action/Adventure.) Honetly I wasn’t really looking forward to reviewing this show (I review shows sometimes), but, boyoboy was I wrong. The first scripted series from the History Channel, this show exceeded pretty much every expectation I had for it, gradually becoming my pick for overlooked TV show of the year. (Well, maybe except for Rectify. And Enlightened. Oh, and Orphan Black. You people should really watch better TV in general, by the way.) Anyway, the think that impressed me the most about Vikings was how committed it was to creating a world completely alien from our own. Sure, there’s a protagonist (Australian actor Travis Fimmel is outstanding) as sorta historical figure Ragnar Lothbrok with whom we’re meant to identify. But the show proved astoundingly adept at keeping me off guard about what Ragnar was going to do at any one time, simply by remaining true to the idea that Viking society had values completely different from ours. Yes, Ragnar seems to love his kids and his formidable, y wife Lagertha (the also excellent Kathryn Winnick), but he’s also a Viking. Viking society was not our society with swords and leather jerkins—it developed on its own path a long time ago, and Vikings mines that essential difference for consistently fascinating conflict. This comes to the fore when, early on, a Viking raid brings back young Christian monk Athelstan (the also great George Blagden) as a captive, where he becomes Ragnar’s slave. Or confidant. Or almost friend—it’s that kind of relationship. The monk is our eyes, finding much of the Viking culture strange, even horrifying, (as we do). But gradually Athelstan gets seduced by the action, the freedom, (and the y Viking wenches), only to, again and again, be taken aback by something the Vikings (including Ragnar) do which he just can’t understand. It’s a fascinatingly well-drawn portrait of an ancient culture—with lots of hot Viking action thrown in. (I may have used the phrase “Viking threesome ” in reviews more than once.) Plus, there’s an all-time great supporting turn from Gustaf Skarsgard as Floki, Ragnar’s friend and boatbuilder/priest/jester/slinky weirdo. Great little show. You should watch it.

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 Ghostbusters (in Comedy.) I have failed in my auntly duties: my teenaged niece recently mentioned in passing that she had never seen Ghostbusters, and we all know what that is. That’s right, it’s a youth heading toward a disaster of biblical proportions. Fire and brimstone raining down from the sky. Rivers and seas boiling. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together! MASS HYSTERIA! Have you done right by your kids, your nieces and nephews, your various charges and wards? Are you sure? Better safe than sorry. Rent Ghostbusters today, for the sake of a generation.

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 Frank M. suggests Deep Water (in Nonfiction/Sports). If you’re a fan of seafarin’ tales, 16mm film, and documentaries loaded with crazy/courageous people, this movie’s for you. Deep Water is the story of the 1968 London Sunday Times Round The World sailboat race, in which nine men set off singlehandedly on a chance for the title of the 1st nonstop circumnavigation before the days of GPS or emergency radio beacons. Featuring a haunting soundtrack and matched with harrowing accounts of hundreds of days at sea, Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell’s treatment and framing of this true story is part thriller, part mystery, with equal parts comedy, triumph, farce, and tragedy. These parts are told through interviews and archival footage of the journalists, competitors, as well as their wives & children. Much of the film’s sea footage was shot by the competitors themselves, on grainy, scratched, and dirty 16mm and super 8 chrome film, which will be a delight to film purists. Not to be missed are some additional interviews in the ‘sailors’ stories’ chapter of the special features, specifically Chay Blythe, Bill King and Robin Knox-Johnston. Na by Tilda Swindon.

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

>>>It’s free. For kids! What, you don’t like kids? Well then why not get back in touch with your neglected inner child with a beloved film from your childhood! And then maybe you’ll find yourself no longer complaining about getting a free movie!

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

>>>For Saturday, JackieO suggests (in haiku form) Miller’s Crossing (in Feature Drama.)

Fire is blazing.

From his bed, Leo sees smoke.

“O Danny Boy” plays.

 

Casper advises:

“Always put one in the brain.

I tell all my boys.”

 

Tom stares at Bernie.

Bernie won’t answer the phone;

it isn’t for him.

 

Tom sees the angles,

leaves Mink calling up the stairs,

“Dammit, Tom! Jesus!”

 

Eating cereal,

reading The Katzenjammers,

Drop is visited.

 

Verna, a sick twist,

won Tom’s hat playing poker.

Won it fair and square.

 

As he speaks the words,

the Dane’s eyes don’t drift from Tom’s.

“And we’ll see who’s smart.”

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests The Simpsons (in Animation.) As we say thank you and goodbye to the late great Marcia Wallace, “The Simpsons” will be saying goodbye to Missus Krabappel, the ribald, cynical schoolteacher with the irascible laugh. All the way back in S3, the episode “Bart the Lover”(S3, ep16) explored and expanded Edna Krabappel’s background, showing how the once-idealistic teacher had soured and shrunk into bitterness and how a a mere breeze of freshness and friskiness (in the form of romantic letters from an unknown suitor) breathes the spirit back into her. In “Grade School Confidential” (S8, ep19), Edna pursues a more tangible romance with straitlaced Principal Skinner, who throw caution to the wind and canoodle at a child’s birthday party. Aaaaand let’s not forget her indelible performance in the teachers’ talent show (“Screaming Yellow Honkers, S10, ep15), where she belts out a sultry rendition of “Fever” as she performs a burlesque balloon-popping dance. (NB: if you’re watching “The Simpsons” reruns on TV, you’re missing a lot of the show; syndication requires significant cuts in running time, and Missus Krabappel’s best lines are an all-too-frequent casualty.)

New Releases this week at Videoport: Leviathan (critically acclaimed avant-garde documentary is an almost wordless examination of the lives of the crew of a commercial fishing vessel in the North Atlantic), Byzantium (always interesting director Neil Jordan [Interview With The Vampire] returns to the sucking vein with this moody, y film about a mother/daughter duo of vamps on the prowl and operating out of a ; starring Gemma Aterton and Saoirse Ronan), Monsters University (Pixar goes back to the sequel well once again—at least this time the results are pretty good, with Monsters Inc buddies Mike and Sully flashing back to how they met at the titular institute of higher monster learning; a Pixar Animal House, if you will…), RIPD (it’s about time the brave men and women of the Rhode Island Police Department got their own movie—wait, what? Oh, this is that suspiciously Men In Black-looking action comedy about Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges fighting supernatural menaces as undead police coppers. My apologies…), Family Tree- season 1 (Christopher Guest [Waiting For Guffman, A Mighty Wind, Best In Show] brings his gift for loose, hilarious improv-y narratives [and his usual stable of brilliant improvisers] to this shaggy, genial HBO sitcom about a British regular Joe [Chris O’Dowd of The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids] as he heads to America to uncover the truth of his family’s long-lost relatives), The Indian Doctor- season 2 (you loved season one, Videoporters, so here’s another season of this British series about the titular immigrant physician whose arrival in a 1960s Welsh mining town causes some serious attitude adjustment), Last Tango In Halifax- season 1 (Much-loved BBC series about a pair of senior citizens [British Treasures Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi] who were teenage sweethearts, married other people, and now find each other again after 50 years; everyone loves this one, people…), I Give It A Year (as a happily married couple approaches their first anniversary, the combined skepticism of their family and friends that they can stay married despite their differences puts their relationship in jeopardy; great cast for this comedy, including Rafe Spall [Hot Fuzz], Rose Byrne [Damages], Stephen Merchant [Extras], Minnie Driver, and Anna Farris)

New Arrivals at Videoport: Hanging For Django (Following the great Italian cinematic tradition of surreptitiously changing movie titles to cash in on a good thing, this spaghetti western about a couple of suspiciously European-y cowboys stumbling upon a border baron’s evil, ous immigrant-smuggling/killing scheme has nothing to do with legendary gunslinger Django; which is sort of unethical, if you think about it…),

New Releases on Blu Ray This Week At Videoport: Monsters University, RIPD, The Conjuring, The Internship, The Way Way Back.

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 deals maybe? I’m not your psychiatrist…

VideoReport #393

Volume CCCXCIII- Star Wars: Episode 7- The Girl With the Dragon Tatooine

For the Week of 2/26/13

Videoport give you a free movie every day. And since we have all the movies, that means you’ll run out of free movies to watch in approximately…never. Never o’clock.

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!

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests Gosford Park (in Mystery/Thriller.) Oh, bother! The scandalous doings at Downton Abbey have concluded for the season (my dear, you know nobody who is anybody spends the off-season on the estate) and left us bereft of diverting amusements. In its lieu, may I suggest you setle in with a cup of tea (or even a spot of sherry if you’re feeling saucy) and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park? It proffers all the upstairs-downstairs intrigue one desires when deprived of one’s wont.

>>>Dennis suggests The Holy Mountain (in Incredibly Strange.) You should see this utterly berserk Alejandro Jodorowsky insanity-fest for many reasons. But I’ll let the IMDb “plot keywords” search do my work for me. Where else will you see a film that contains all of the following: camel, buddha, striptease, transvestite, nun, pelican, laxative, fan dancer, hippopotamus, midget, hermaphrodite, Santa Claus suit, eunuch, mohawk haircut, balloon fight, lederhosen, teleportation, and Jesus Christ? I mean, except for Downton Abbey, of course. But other than that…

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!

>>>Check out the Classics section (and/or the New Arrivals section in the middle aisle) for two new additions of those movie obscurities that Videoport loves to get for you so you can pick them up and say, “Huh- that’s weird” and then move on to rent Argo! First up is the 1972 British crime drama The Offence [that’s how the Brits spell it, spellcheck…] starring a still relatively young and definitely still trying Sean Connery breaking out of his Bond tuxedo straitjacket to play a much more conflicted, down-low sort of copper, a detective gradually unhinged by his interrogation of a suspected child molester. And then there’s The Landlord, a 1970 counterculture comedy about a rebellious rich boy [Beau Bridges] whose decision to buy a Brooklyn tenement and transform it into chi-chi condos comes apart when he decides he likes his worldly new neighbors. So come on and support Videoport’s unending mission to stock the joint with shelf upon shelf of stuff that only 3% of you will ever want to see!

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 watching the first three seasons of Community (in Comedy) and forgetting the present ever happened/is happening.

(A brief playlet.)

(Scene: A TV executive office. Two TV execs are doing a mountain of cocaine off of a very bored-looking stripper.)

Exec #1: “Man, that Community is getting all sorts of love from critics, smart people, internet bloggers, and generally the best minds watching TV today.

Exec #2: Yeah I know- what I like to call “the worthless demographic.”

#1: But no one apart from those nerds are watching it. All the real people out there love great f***ing shows like Two and a Half Men and that reality show where those really tanned idiots have sex with each other.

#2: Man, I wish we’d thought of that one!

#1: Seriously. Anyway, so we cancel Community, right? And finally get that smarty pants creator Dan Harmon out of our receding hair, crunchy with product?

#2: I guess… (Snorting a cereal scoop’s worth of cocaine.) No wait! I have a better idea! Let’s get rid of that jerk Harmon…but keep the show on the air!!

#1: (Checking his hairline in a cocaine-streaked mirror.) Wait, what? That makes no sense- no one’s watching the show now. If we remove the one guy who’s making it (according to those nerds we hate and really don’t understand because of all the big words they use) “the best, smartest, funniest, and most inventively-goofy sitcom in recent memory” then won’t the few viewers it does have just get furious, confused and sad?

#2: And?

#1: Oh, my God- that’s brilliant! We’ll take away the driving force behind Community and let it dribble out as a pale shadow of its former self so that the nerds get punished for liking it in the first place and pestering us with internet petitions full of words we have to look up and any new viewers will go around saying they don’t see what the big deal is about Community in the first place!

#2: Exactly! We’ll get revenge on those braniacs for their good taste and burn down the legacy of the show at the same time like a flash fire at a cocaine factory. All for the low, low cost of a day’s worth of stripper cocaine- and of making TV that much more soul-suckingly awful!

#1: And the only remnant of Community’s former glory will be lonely DVDs gathering dust on the shelf of some independent video store in the middle of nowhere. Maine, maybe.

#2: And what could a place like that ever do to us? BWAH-HA-HA-HAAAA

(Annnnnnnd- scene.)

Rent the first three seasons of Community. They’ll make you happier than TV executives doing cocaine off of a bored-looking stripper right before they both get arrested for possession of cocaine by an undercover policewoman posing as a stripper.

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

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests The Accused (in Feature Drama.) How I see Jodie Foster’s performance as an outspoken real-life gang-rape survivor in The Accused: an epic, fearless, Oscar-winning performance that gave a voice to too many voiceless women at a time when our nation’s long silence about the pervasive reality of rape had finally started to erupt into a cry for justice. How Seth MacFarlane saw it: hee hee, boobies.

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

>>>It’s free. It’s for kids. There’s some stuff that will awaken the kid in all of you, so stop yer complainin’…

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

>>>For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Silkwood (in Feature Drama.) What I think Silkwood is about: one marginalized worker’s struggle to expose a corrupt and dangerous institution despite the personal cost to herself — her job, her peace of mind, her safety, her comfortable home, her loving relationship, and maybe her very life. What Seth MacFarlane thinks it’s about: Nipples.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Boys Don’t Cry (in Feature Drama.) What I took away from Boys Don’t Cry: a powerful statement about the power of love and of self-determination under horrific pressure from a hostile world; the pain of being terrorized by a dominant culture that tries to define you by its own narrow parameters and that cruelly punishes any perceived infraction against those narrow social strictures; the fear that fuels homophobia and transphobia and powers the brutality that they can harbor. What Seth MacFarlane took away from it: Hey, knockers!

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Master (here are the films of Paul Thomas Anderson up to this point: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood. He is really, really good is what I’m saying, and this is his new movie, which means it’s really good too. Plus, it probably made Tom Cruise really mad, so there’s that…), Chasing Mavericks (Gerard Butler brings his rumpled unlikability to this tale of an aging surfer having a midlife crisis…about surfing), The Awakening (a young woman set on the-awakening-posterdebunking paranormal phenomena in WWI England runs up against a possible real ghost at a spooky boarding school; costarring The Wire’s McNulty, Dominic West), Holy Motors (this bananacakes French flick from director Leos Carak [Mauvais Sang, Pola X, 1/3 of Tokyo, The Lovers on the Bridge] about an eccentric billionaire riding around in his limo and messing with people appeared on the top 10 lists of 2012 from every cool movie critic), Fun Size (Nickelodeon gets into the PG-13 business with this teen comedy about a perhaps less-than-responsible sister who loses her toddler brother while babysitting on Halloween night), Absentia (indie horror film about a bereaved woman who, after her husband has been missing, is urged to have him declared dead; but do those creepy tales about the tunnels under their apartment building have some secrets?), Freaky Deaky (based on a novel by Elmore Leonard [Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown], this crime comedy stars the likes of Christian Slater, Michael Jai White, Crispin Glover, Bill Duke, and Andy Dick in a tale of two sixties radicals whose desire to make money in the seventies involves selling their bomb-making abilities to the highest bidder), Chicken With Plums (French drama about a renowned violinist [Quantum of Solace plague_posterand A Christmas Tale’s Mathieu Amalric] whose decision to give up on life when his beloved violin in broken leads to a series of flashbacks revealing the reasons for his drastic decision), How to Survive a Plague (the stirring, tragic true story of the early AIDS activists who challenged the bigotry of the public and the ignorance of the medical establishment at the start of the crisis), The Loneliest Planet (another 2012 top pick of all the coolest film critics, this gripping drama details a young couple’s hiking trip where one pivotal moment fairly explodes everything the seemingly loving couple thought they knew about their life together; starring Gael Garcia Bernal), Silent Souls (Russian heartwarmer about a man and his fried on an odd pilgrimage to scatter his wife’s ashes on the riverbank where they spent their honeymoon), A Simple Life (a successful actor [Infernal Affairs’ Andy Lau] returns home to help deal with his family’s beloved childhood maid when she has a stroke and must move into a nursing home), Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Pirates (documentary about those modern-day ship-nappers who, for some reason, people seem to like less than Johnny Depp; Yaaaarrrrrr!), Creep Van (my pick for the Videoport title of the year so far, this horror thriller is about a guy who buys the titular vehicle, somehow not realizing it is the notorious…CREEP VAN!!!), Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (some hunters attempt to defend a 19th century village against some sort of…I don’t know…I had it written down somewhere; costarring the long-suffering and quite talented Stephen Rea), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns- part 2 (the conclusion of this estimable animated adaptation of the classic Frank Miller [before he turned racist hack] alternate future Batman story where the Dark Knight comes out of retirement to save Gotham City one more time in a creepy fascist future where Superman has become a government pawn), and then there’s some movie called Twilight: Breaking Dawn- Part 2 about vampires and werewolves and such which comes out, for some reason, on SATURDAY, MARCH 2nd. No, we don’t know why they’re making you wait until then. Please don’t twinkle at us- it’s not our fault.

New Arrivals at Videoport this week: The Offence (Sidney Lumet directed this 1972 cult film about a harbitten British detective [Seas Connery] whose interrogation of a suspected child molester pushes him to the edge), The Landlord (the first movie from director Hal Ashby [Harold and Maude, Coming Home, The Last Detail] was this 1970 comedy about a rich kid [a startlingly young Beau Bridges] who runs away from home, buys a

Seth MacFarlane thinks this poster is hilarious.

Seth MacFarlane thinks this poster is hilarious.

tenement in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and decides he likes living amongst the ghetto’s soulful residents, including Louis Gossett, Jr. and Pearl Bailey), ), Triangle (spooky, Twilight Zone-y thriller about the passengers on a pleasure yacht whose sudden disaster at sea is saved by the appearance of one of those creepy abandoned cruise ships you read about…in the Bermuda Triangle!!!), Patty Hearst (the late Natasha Richardson starred in this biopic of the life and seriously messed-up ordeal of the titular heiress whose kidnapping by a bunch of self-styled revolutionaries led to her becoming a bank robber and eventually a costar in John Waters movies; directed by Paul Schrader), The Ballad of Narayama (the Criterion Collection comes through again! Those enigmatic arbiters of all cinematic taste have bestowed their blessing on this Japanese cult classic, a mesmerizing, disturbing tale of the denizens of a tiny, primitive 19th century village where, among other upsetting traditions, the village’s elders are packed of to the titular isolated mountaintop to die once they’ve hit 70. The one decent man in the town balk at the prospect of carrying his still-vital mum off to die in the wilderness, and thus begins a journey of horrors and madness.)

New Releases on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: The Master, Chasing Mavericks, Brick, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, Oldboy, Headhunters, Life Is Beautiful.

                              VideoReport #1,000,000 is coming!

Yup, in just seven more issues (#400, duh) the VideoReport will hit its one millionth word written about movies, TV shows, how Blockbuster, then Movie Gallery, then Redbox, then Netflix all suck, and all subjects relating to how Videoport is still, after 25 freaking years, then best damned movie store anywhere in the world. (400 issues X and average of 2,500 words per issue = close enough, dammit). So keep thinking all of you out there in VideoReport-land: we’re gonna be looking for your reviews, your thoughts on movies, TV and Videoport, and your thoughts on what that 1,000,000th word should be. There may be a contest. There may be prizes. Dennis’ computer may finally just disassemble itself like the car at the end of The Blues Brothers- we don’t know. Just keep reading, keep watching, and keep writing- and of course keep renting at Videoport.

                                  Get free money at Videoport!

Look, we know you love us. And you’re gonna keep spending your hard-earned rental dollars here (and not on some scratched DVDs plunked out from a plastic vending machine in a scabby 7-11 parking lot), so why not get yourself some free money. Yup- prepay $20 on your Videoport account, and we give you $25 worth of rental credit. And if you prepay $30, we give you $40 worth of rental credit. That’s just free money you’re leaving on the table, people.

VideoReport #320

Volume CCCXX- Rodan Holiday

For the Week of 10/4/11

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. And, since we have thousands upon thousands of all the best, worst, and weirdest movies in the world all right at your fingertips, why not just take a chance and rent something you’ve never heard of. Be bold, you!

Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Dennis suggests checking out the Employee Picks section in the middle aisle, where Andy and I are neck-deep in a movie geek recommend-a-thon! Both of us have a shelf of “good movies

Andy...

that nobody ever rents” going on and I’m not saying anybody’s keeping score about whose picks rent better (and therefore prove who is loved more), but you should check out our selections of great, underrented flicks. Sure, you might go for Andy’s Japanese faves, like The Cherry Orchard or All About Lily Chou Chou. Or maybe a VCR-riffic Dennis double feature of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World and John Sayles’ City of Hope. Or howsabout the criminally-underrated crime drama One False Movewith Bill Paxton, or the similarly-neglected

...or Dennis?

Police Beat, about an African immigrant’s daily travails as a Seattle bicycle cop. Check out the young Scarlett Johannson kidnapping a lady to help her deliver her sister’s baby in Manny & Lo, or Holocaust survivor Ron Silver juggling three wives in post-WWII Brooklyn in Enemies, a Love Story. Remember, there are more movies at Videoport than you could see in a lifetime, so let two of our biggest movie nerds point out some hidden gems. (And remember, whichever shelf you choose from indicates which of us you like more!)

Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer does not suggest How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying(in Musicals.) Every so often, I review one of Videoport’s rare VCR-only offerings (it’s VCRiffic!), usually a movie that inexplicably hasn’t been released on DVD. Well,

Robert Morse (annoying version.)

this one is available on DVD, but why Videoport hasn’t procured it is anything but inexplicable. I watched it — okay, tried to watch it — out of “Mad Men”-inspired curiosity: How To Succeed takes place in a bustling 1960s office strikingly similar in decor and social structure to MM’s Sterling-Cooper, and it exploits the same mores and double standards — and even stars an impish young Robert Morse (MM‘s shady sage, Bertram Cooper) as J. Pierpont Finch, the self-helping prodigy who skyrockets from window-washer to bigwig in short order. I figured that there’d be something to recommend here… but I couldn’t come up with a blasted thing. The acting is rigid, the singing weak, the score uninspired, and the comedy flat. Just watching the movie became a terrible slog, and even Morse’s Jerry-Lewis mugging couldn’t save it. About halfway through, we just plumb gave up. What I recommend instead, to give you a sense of the swingin’ sexism of the times: The Seven-Year Itch, The Apartment, Pillow Talk, and of course the inimitable “Mad Men.”

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental…OR…get 4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks!)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests you use the super-awesome Videoport Wednesday special (4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks) to take out an entire season of ‘Mad Men’ (in Feature Drama.) At a party, a friend asked me “So, I watched a coupla episodes of ‘Mad Men’and it seemed like a soap opera. What do you like about it?” I couldn’t give him a satisfactory off-the-cuff answer then, but I’ve been thinking

Robert Morse (insane, cool version.)

about it… kinda a lot. Allen, here’s your answer, or the first part of it, anyhow: I suppose that the chief story lines of “Mad Men” do superficially resemble a soap-style drama: [spoilers for the first two seasons! If you haven’t watched, you can safely skip this list] a secret identity, adultery, the appearance of a long-lost family member, a surprise pregnancy, two secret office affairs. [end spoilers] But MM delves far below the plot-driven soapiness of these devices, novelistically exploring the characters’ emotional lives and motives in a way you rarely see play out on TV. I’d compare it not to old-school evening soaps like “Dallas,” but to the great (and relatively recent) novelistic series like “The Wire” or “The Sopranos.” Like those shows, “Mad Men” presents us with real existential crisis, our anti-hero’s fear that life is nothing beyond the moment he’s living. And like those shows, MM gets better upon repeated viewings, which allow the viewer to notice subtle parallels in the characterizations and plotlines, images and metaphors that weave through the entire series (one obvious example: the reappearing motifs of cowboy and astronaut, which sums up the series’ tension between nostalgia and progress), and a staggering attention to wardrobe details, which are not only period-appropriate but are even subtly attuned to characters’ state of mind. (A simple example: when Joan wears purple, sorrow or vulnerability cannot be far away.) One of the biggest complaints about “Mad Men”— and I agree that it’s vexing — is the conspicuous absence of minority characters. Though the civil rights movement is peeping in around the edges, it’s still a very marginalized matter in the show. There are three arguments to make: 1) Matt Weiner et al. have consciously chosen to portray a very narrow slice of culture, including a focus on women’s challenges

Mad Men style...

this robustly chauvinistic world — and they have done so with a thoroughness and empathy that wrenches my heart. 2) Check out a few episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (in Mystery/Thriller) or most other 1960s anthology series (but notably not “The Twilight Zone,” (in Sci Fi/Fantasy) which routinely grappled with issues of social and political injustice) and you’ll see minority actors playing the same magically silent, blandly accommodating roles. The recurring African-American characters on “Mad Men” — the largely silent, pleasantly efficient attendants who open doors, empty ashtrays, and operate elevators — seem like a conscious recreation of (and a commentary on) the way actors of color appear in the era’s shows — and, presumably, the way minority servants and support staff were perceived by middle-class white audiences in real life. There’s a certain eerie meta-realism at work here. But the third argument is the one I’m hanging my hope on: 3) That quietly patient support system could grind to a halt any day now. When season 4 closed, our characters had reached autumn 1965: last year, MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize; LBJ recently signed the Voting Rights Act and an order promoting greater strides in affirmative action; the march on Montgomery was just this spring. Here’s hoping that MM‘s central characters start to see the effects of the civil rights movement more and more in their daily lives. We’ve already seen it weaving in around the edges, highlighting to the viewer the overwhelming white privilege that the characters don’t even know they are reaping. (Think of Paul Kinsey asking “Why can’t it wait?,” or Betty Draper blithely telling Carla, her African-American maid, that “Maybe now isn’t the right time,” or Peggy’s utter ignorance of a client’s racist hiring practices, which are so well-know that they’ve sparked a boycott. They don’t know because they don’t need to know: their obliviousness costs them nothing, and they simply do not see how deep-seated systematic racism benefits them as it oppresses others.) If Weiner can incorporate this ever-more-crucial piece of social history into his drama and present the challenges of racism as clearly, complexly, and poignantly as he has the challenges of sexism, “Mad Men” will catapult beyond “novelistic” or “great” and land squarely in “masterpiece” territory.

Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)

>>>Dennis suggests ‘Bored to Death’(in Comedy.) I keep thinking there should be a specific word to describe what Jason Schwartzman does, an adjective to describe the essential [Schwartzmanitude? Schwartziness?] of his onsceen persona. There’s really nobody remotely like the guy- in movies like

They're all pretty Schwartzmanic...

Rushmore, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Funny People, I Heart Huckabees, Shopgirl, and this HBO series (where he plays a writer playing detective), Schwartzman’s characters are invariably a combination , in greater or lesser degrees, of the following: they’re smug and smarmy about their abilities, but seem, at the same time, acutely aware that they’re putting people on. They’re completely self-centered, yet possessed of great self-doubt. They proclaim complete straightforwardness while engaging in almost complete self-deception. He’s creepy and endearing in equal measure. You know what he reminds me of? Like Tom Cruise’s more neurotic little brother; he’s knows he’s short and kind of a megalomaniac, but he’s self-aware enough to play around with his own image (and, unlike Cruise, you generally don’t want to punch him in the face.) In ‘Bored to Death,’ JS is at his most Schwartzmanliest (hmm…) as writer Jonathan Ames, a semi-successful but writers blocked novelist/journalist who, for very Schwartzman-y reasons takes out a Craigslist ad as an unlicensed private eye and starts going on cases with the wary help of his comic nerd best friend Zach Galifianakis (great as always) and super-rich, super-bored boss Ted Danson (stealing every scene.) He tackles every case with a self-aware Schwartzmanitude, bumbling along, relying on his knowledge of detective fiction and film noir and his genially-befuddled ordinariness to carry the day. It’s sharply written by the real Jonathan Ames who created the show (and who, apparently, did do this stuff in real life, which is odd, since I never really cared for Ames’ actual writing (he comes across like a poor man’s Spalding Gray. And as for JS, he drifts through his character’s cases, and the show, with an impressively, and entertainingly Schwartzmanic aplomb. (And “Schwartzmanic” is the winner!)

Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).

>>>Free kids movie. No other movie necessary. Dig it.

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)

>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests A Wedding (in Classics.)

–“What the hell is that?”

-“That’s a glass of milk.”

–“Stuff will kill you.”

-“Doctor, you should know that the body is a temple of the holy spirit.”

–“You mean you don’t drink.”

-“No.”

–“In other words, when you get up in the morning, that’s as good as you’re gonna feel all day?”

Hey now! This is a quote from the Robert Altman movie A Wedding. And I hadn’t heard anything about it, but it came out in 1978 and so did I, so it has to be fan-freaking-tastic, right? Yeah.

>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Manhattan (in Comedy.) Though it plays into so many of Woody Allen’s now-notorious failings, this movie has one of the great optimistic endings. (Note: I didn’t reveal whether it’s a happy ending, because I wouldn’t ruin a movie’s ending for you… but in Woody Allen movies, I’m not even sure the idea of “happy ending” applies.) Sometimes when I’m feeling a little blue, I think of Isaac (Woody himself, natch) lying on his sofa rambling into a tape recorder, listing the things that make life worth living. It’s such a believably random tumble of the mundane and the sublime, from Cezanne’s still lifes to a crab dish at his favorite Chinese restaurant, and it always brings a big smile to my face. Give yourself a big smile. Rent Manhattan.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (BIG ROBOTS GO SMASH!!! AAAIIEEEEE!!!), Fast Five (Vin Diesel and Paul Walker bring The Rock [I mean Dwayne Johnson, of course] to beef up this fifth, count ’em fifth, Fast and the Furious sequel about the cars and going the fast in them), ‘Lie to Me’- season 3 (the ever-magnetic Tim Roth continues to elevate this ‘Mentalist’- style detective show with his little weirdo charisma), African Cats (Samuel L. Jackson narrates this stunningly-photographed nature documentary about, well, African cats, I’m guessing), Buck (everyone wants to see this documentary about real-life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, so, well, here you go…), Scream 4 (Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and the gang are all back on board in this sequel that asks the question, “is there anything left in the horror genre to be self-aware about?”), The Undefeated(did

Currently riding a 1.6 on imdb.com. You're welcome!

Videoport only buy this shoddily-produced documentary/infomercial about historical footnote Sarah Palin for the giggles? Well, check the Incredibly Strange Section, where you’ll find it along with other right wing extravaganzas like Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and An American Carol, to find out), The Red Chapel (comic documentary about a pair of Danish-Korean comedians pretending to be on a cultural exchange program to Korea, when they’re really making a documentary about how much they hate Korea- should be fun…), Phase 7 (Argentinian horror about a couple trying to stay alive inside a quarantined apartment building full o’ psychos), A Boyfriend for My Wife (Argentina again, this time a comedy about a guy trying to rid himself of his troublesome wife by hiring a notorious womanizer to seduce her; see, foreign countries make dumb romantic comedies just like us!), Amer(a French erotic thriller

The original poster didn't have the strategic hair...

about, well, I’ll just let the imdb tell it: “Three key moments, all of them sensual, define Ana’s life. Her carnal search sways between reality and colored fantasies becoming more and more oppressive. A black laced hand prevents her from screaming. The wind lifts her dress and caresses her thighs. A razor blade brushes her skin, where will this chaotic and carnivorous journey leave her?”…um, yeah, that’ll work), The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway (Pee Wee’s back!!!), Nothing Personal (intriguing-looking drama about a Dutch woman who gives everything she owns away, then hitchhikes across Ireland and meets a taciturn hermit [Stephen Rea]), Submarine (check to British Comedy section for this coming of age story about a 15 year old guy trying to 1. get laid, and 2. get his mom laid; directed by ‘The IT Crowd”s Richard Ayoade), The Hide (intense, oddball British thriller about an isolated bird researcher who befriends a bedraggled young man who stumbles into his remote cabin…and then things get twisty…), ‘The Hour’ (‘The Wire’‘s Dominic West [McNulty] stars in this gripping 1950s-set British newsroom series about BBC journalists investigating a government/espionage situation), Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos (everyone’s favorite, vaguely-racist ventriloquist has a new special!), ‘Bored to Death’- season 2(Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson return in this hilariously-deadpan HBO series about a struggling writer who decides to take on cases as

Funny.

an unlicensed detective), ‘In Treatment’- season 3 (Gabriel Byrne is back in this HBO series about a dedicated shrink, with his own share of problems), ‘The League’- season 2 (great, improv-y comedy series about a gang of middle-aged friends staving off adulthood through their fantasy football league), ‘Prohibition’ (Ken Burns brings his documentary skills to bear on this examination of an utterly utterly-dimwitted chapter in our nation’s history.)

New Arrivals on Blu-ray this week at Videoport: African Cats, Scream 4, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Fast Five.

Videoport presents…ZOMBIE NIGHT!!

Come to this...if you dare!!! But seriously, come to this...

Come on out to the State Theatre on Halloween Night for a Videoport-sponsored double-zombie-feature of the original Dawn of the Dead followed by the brilliant, hilarious Shaun of the Dead! And, as a zombie palate-cleanser in between, we’ve got local zombie short “Last Call” by Christian and Sarah Matzke! Get your tickets for just $6 at Videoport in advance ($8 at the door!) Plus, a zombie costume contest will win some Videoport gift certificates for some lucky ghouls out there!

VideoReport #260

Volume CCLX- Paul Blart: Bad Lieutenant

For the Week of 8/10/10

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. If anyone has a problem with that, well, I guess you don’t have to take one…

Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.)

>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Primer (in Sci Fi). SPOILER-Y!! The action starts as I imagine most great discoveries start: when someone notices something unexpected in the lab or at the workbench. Huh. That’s odd. And down the rabbit hole you go. Primer broke my brain, and I loved every minute of it. This shoestring indie (written and directed by Shane Carruth, who also appears as a chief character)

I'll just put this thing into the thing...and then, well...

is the rare sci-fi film that focuses on the sci. Two engineers tinkering in a garage come up with an invention… um, of some kind. Unlike splashy big-budget blockbusters, Primer is a film of ideas, not of spectacle. The restricted budget works in its favor: the clodgy cardboard-box aesthetic is weirdly persuasive, because it conjures up the grubby nuts-and-bolts reality of engineering. More crucially, instead of using splashy effects, this film focuses on the dynamic that arises between the characters, and on the consequences of their actions. To say more than that would be to risk a spoiler… and in any case, the proceedings get indescribably convoluted amazingly fast. It’s a little hard to follow even before the events get confusing; Carruth’s characters talk like engineers, not like expositional devices, and Carruth does us the courtesy of assuming we’re smart enough and attentive enough to keep up. It’s disturbing, it’s dizzying, it’s delicious.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests A Wedding (in Classics.) This is one of Robert Altman’s lesser known films but it definitely deserves an audience. Similar to Altman’s Nashville in its satire of American society, Altman shows us the wedding of a young couple and the reception that follows. We meet the many dysfunctual members of the groom’s and bride’s families (one priviledged,

Lesser Altman? Still better than most anything else.

one not) and find out about the many skeletons in their closets. One of Altman’s trademarks is his overlapping of dialogue, which make his films seem so real. Althought there is a script, much of the dialogue is improvised by the very talented cast. There are about 40 different speaking parts in the film and you really get the feeling that you are there milling around with the other guests at the party; eavesdropping on the multiple conversations. The large and diverse cast (another Altman hallmark) includes Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Lauren Hutton, Pam Dawber, Paul Dooley and Lilian Gish. Altman films definitely are an aquired taste (it took me years to really appreciate his work), but they are always entertaining, able to make an important statement on American life and are great for repeat viewings.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)

>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests A Mighty Wind (in Comedy). Do you remember the breathtaking moment in 1984’s This Is Spınal Tap when the founding members perform a lovely a cappela version of “All the Way Home,” a skiffle song from their early days? A Mighty Wind captures that sweetness and wraps it up in satire. This 2003 mockumentary from Christopher Guest purports to tell the story of

The Folksmen/Spinal Tap.

three once-prominent folk groups now gathering to memorialize their late mentor and producer. The characterizations and songs are eerily well-drawn. Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Guest himself (the trio made famous as Spinal Tap) appear as The Folksmen, a fictional fusion of folk groups like The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgins head the New Main Street Singers, a second-generation pop-folk neuf-tette that make their bread & butter playing to bored crowds at amusement parks. Mitch and Mickie (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) are the sweethearts of the folk world, once madly in love but now face to face for the first time in decades. Here, Guest manages the delicate balance that characterizes the finest satire: he knows his subject inside-out and understands what makes it great as well as what makes it absurd. We’re treated to a loving send-up of folk excesses all swaddled sweetly in the lovely music (much of it written by the cast). Mitch & Mickey’ beautiful theme “A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow” received an Academy nomination for Best Song — and deservedly so — but I’d argue that there are even finer songs in this film. A particularly fine example is The Folksmen’s “Never Did No Wanderin’.” At first listen, it’s perfect piece of folk music: haunting, mournful, potent, stirring. But then the lyrics sink in and it reveals itself as a deliciously witty indictment of folk’s cozy niche in the hearts of comfortable well-heeled suburbanites. It’s a wicked bite of parody and a fantastic song all rolled up together, indivisible.

Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)

>>> Dennis suggests Departures (in Foreign Language.) Every once in a while a larger number of people than expected will latch onto a foreign film for unknown reasons. It happened with Sin Nombre last year and it’s happening with this unassuming little Japanese dramedy right now. Not that we’re complaining, of course- we at Videoport absolutely love it when the general public (or, in this case the Videoport community which is more ‘awesome’ than ‘general’) shows some unexpected enthusiasm about a dark horse on the rental shelves. As to why this one has reaped its modest groundswell, well, it did win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2009, although that doesn’t necessarily translate into rental gold for ol’ Videoport (witness the lackluster response when 2008’s winner The Counterfeiters is mentioned). Word of mouth is important for a foreign/indie/utterly weird movie to gain any traction rental-wise, and that seems to be the case with Departures. Which makes sense. This gently comic story of a failed cellist who leaves Tokyo [with his smiling, adorable wife in tow], moves back in to his childhood home [a former coffehouse left to him by his mother] and ends up as an assistant to a kind, masterful old mortician is exactly the sort of sweet mixture of comedy and sentiment that people can’t help but like. Sure, there’s some gross stuff with the dead bodies, but it’s always matched up with sweet scenes of our hero dealing with his supportive but spooked wife, his childhood memories, his feelings of failure, and his taciturn but kind-hearted and eccentric new mentor (the charismatic, avuncular Tsutomu Yamakazi.) As a leading man, Masahiro Motoki maybe mugs a little too much at the beginning, but gradually gains some gravity as the film goes on, and his guileless, wide-open face is nicely expressive. A nice movie.

Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).

>>> Dennis suggests that teaching your kid about responsible DVD handling now will prevent your grandkids from having to band together to keep him from trying to take over the universe (after he’s been encased in black armor and sliced off his own grandson’s hand after dramatically revealing that he’s actually the grandson’s father.) That will happen…

Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)

>>>For Saturday, Videoport customer Mark Magee suggests Tom Jones (in Feature Drama.) A groundbreaking film in 1963, ‘Tom Jones’ captures the spirit of the classic Fielding novel in all its bawdiness and witty adult humor. The film was hugely popular for its realistic depiction of 18th century England in all its dirt and grime and its sexually open subject matter. Even though Albert Finney,

Saucy.

Susannah York and the rest of the cast are all excellent, the real star is Tony Richardson’s direction. It fits the subject perfectly; haphazard, comic, fast-paced and a little less sophisticated than serious period pieces. He uses many comic touches (sped up chases, characters speaking to the audience and creative special FX) and one can tell he truly enjoyed having fun with the content. The production values, locations and music are all excellent and enhance the mood of the film. ‘Tom Jones’ has gotten alot of flack for winning Best Picture of ’63, but given the time when it was made, I can understand its popularity and accolades. Tom Jones is still a classic comedy full of wit and great entertainment.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests Together (in Foreign Language.) My theory is that somebody ran over director Lukas Moodysson’s cat after this movie. Hear me out. In his previous film (the delightful lesbian coming-of-age dramedy Show Me Love) and this one (about the culture clash when a battered wife and her two very modern kids come to stay with her brother at the contemporary commune where he lives), Moodysson displays a warm generosity of spirit

Warm in the cold.

that makes the films practically glow from the inside. After Together, though, Moodysson’s films have gotten nothing but bleaker, progressively: Lilya 4-Ever, A Hole in My Heart, and the recent Mammoth show a world defined by exploitation, cruelty, innocence destroyed, and a decided lack of hope. They’re all supposedly great movies, too (A Hole in My Heart hasn’t been released here yet), but I can’t recommend the two films from his ‘sunnier’ period enough. Together takes the potentially-sitcommy setup and avoids every cliche, every dramatic pitfall, every opportunity to create an outright villain in favor of a generous, but clear-eyed, examination of everybody’s motives and character. The mom’s a victim, sure, but she’s also not the nicest person in town, as her initial contempt for her brother’s lifestyle shows. The people in the commune (always easy targets for lazy jokes) are treated with utter fairness; their political convictions are treated with respect, and yet their foibles and occasional hypocrisy aren’t left out either. Even the sister’s brutish husband isn’t really portrayed as a complete bad guy. Add to that the best cinematic use of ABBA ever, and you’ve got a funny, wise, and genuinely touching movie. Lighten up again sometime, Lukas- we could use another movie like this one.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Date Night (comedy super-team Tina Fey and Steve Carell play a married couple who get sucked into a delightfully-silly action comedy on the titular night out; I’m watching it right now…it’s funny), ‘Stephen Fry in America’- season 1 (British comedian/actor/author/genius Fry, possibly one of the funniest people alive, takes a cab across America and is, one would assume, incredibly witty and wry at our expense), Wilco: Ashes of American Flags (everybody likes Wilco! Here’s their new concert movie! Your welcome!), The Good Heart (the ever-awesome Brian Cox [Super Troopers, L.I.E., Manhunter] stars in this acclaimed indie drama about a crusty old bartender taking in a young homeless man because, well, presumably he has a good heart…), ‘Trauma’- season 1 (Videoport brings you this already-cancelled ‘hot paramedics in San Francisco’ drama series), Multiple Sarcasms (Timothy Hutton stars in this indie dramedy about an unhappily married guy who decides to quit his job and write a play about how unhappy he is with his wife, his life, and everything; strangely, his family is displeased with him…), La Mission (Benjamin Bratt stars, in this film written and directed by his brother, as a custom car maker and former convict who tries to deal with his son coming out of the closet), Death at a Funeral (just an odd idea: remake a pretty-well-beloved British comedy from just two years ago in America, with all all-star, mostly black cast [Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana], get the great character actor Peter Dinklage [The Station Agent] to play the same role he did in the original, and hire the never-before-notably-funny Neil Labute [In the Company of Men] to direct the whole thing; can this possibly work out?), The Joneses (David Duchovny and Demi Moore star in this satire about a seemingly-ordinary family who move into the suburbs in order to seduce their neighbors into buying the products they’re hired to represent), My Name Is Khan (a young Muslim man with autism has his behavior misinterpreted as shifty by authorities after 9/11 [a date used by bigots everywhere to legitimize their own jackassery] and heads off to try and meet with President Obama to clear his name.)

New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Tapped (the bottled water industry gets its own furious expose with this documentary revealing how stupid and wasteful it is; I mean, I’m guessing that’s its position on the issue…), The Thorn in the Heart (unsurprisingly odd documentary from ever-interesting director Michel Gondry [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep] about the relationship between Gondry’s steely aunt and her mentally-ill grown son), Louie Bluie and Crumb (director Terry Zwigoff’s brilliant documentaries, the former about a legendary blues musician and artist and the second about infamous underground comics legend R. Crumb, get the deluxe Criterion treatment!), Children of Invention (two illegal immigrant children are forced to fend for themselves in a model home outside Boston after their mother disappears), The Cyclops (cult sci fi director Bert I. Gordon [The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants] just can’t stop making people huge! Here some people traipsing around in Mexico run afoul of the titular, 50 foot tall, one-eyed menace.)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Date Night.

Extended Rates and Free Money!

Yup. Turn your 1 night rental (new releases) into a 3 night rental for just $1.75 more, and turn a 3 night rental (everything else) into a 7 night rental for just an additional 69 cents! And, buy yourself some free rental credit with Videoport’s pre-payment plans: buy yourself $25 worth of rental credit for only $20 or, if you’re feeling saucy, buy yourself $40 of rental credit for only $30!

Park for free at Videoport! Yup, just pull into any downtown parking garage and then ask for a Park & Shop sticker from your friendly neighborhood Videoporter and we’ll get you a free hour of parking therein. (And remember: parking meters are off after 6pm, Monday-Saturday and all day on Sunday, and the parking lot behind the building is open for free one hour parking after 5pm Monday-Friday and all day on the weekends).

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