VideoReport #469

Volume CDLXIX- Wherein We Could All Use A Good Laugh

For the Week of 8/11/14


Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. Maybe a free Robin Williams movie will cheer us all up. Maybe…

 (Click the pics for more reviews—and a couple of great articles about Williams.)

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!

>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests The Fisher King (in Drama) and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (in Sci Fi/Fantasy). In the onslaught of sadness after Robin Williams passing I was exceptionally moved by the words of Terry Gilliam. “Robin Williams, the most astonishingly funny, brilliant, profound and silly miracle of mind and spirit, has left the planet. He was a giant heart, a fireball friend, a wondrous gift from the gods. Now the selfish bastards have taken him back. F*** ‘em!”. There’s something comforting and particularly poignant I’ve always found in the marriage of anger and death so when someone lashes out while still remaining respectful and expressing love it sticks with me. If I were to spend an evening appreciating the career of Robin Williams I think I would choose the two Terry Gilliam films that I’ve seen him in. For one I think Terry Gilliam is a brilliant filmmaker and artist. For two I think he utilized Robin Williams in a way not enough people did. People so often get awards for drama, but rarely for comedy. I think comedy is often considered lesser as though it is easy to do whereas drama is difficult. And yet I see comedic actors time and again wipe the floor with drama and when a dramatic actor does comedy they more often than not fizzle. The ones I fall the most in love with of course are the ones that display a comedic actor making the most of both sides of their abilities. The Fisher King runs Mr. Williams through the gamut of his abilities and I think the result is one of my favorite movies. I can only imagine now as I think of the character he played, someone struggling significantly with reality being too great to bear with any sanity, how much it must have resonated with him as a person. The other film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Robin Williams played only a small role, but as always he gave it everything he had. Munchausen, like the persona I knew as Robin Williams is light hearted in nature, but as might have been the person that was Robin Williams is also deeply dark.  Both movies have always made me appreciate the marriage of comedy and drama and how well Robin Williams could pull off both. 

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 The Best Of Times (in Comedy.) Robin Williams and Kurt Russell make an unlikely successful comedy team in this 1986 comedy about middle aged desperation and what guys will do to redress the humiliations of their past. 20 years before, Russell was the star high school quarterback and Williams was the lowly receiver who dropped the ball in the big game. Now they’re both facing divorce and lives of gradual humiliation, so Williams cooks up the unlikely, movie-friendly plan to replay the big game and set things aright. The burly, laid-back Russell humors his friend until the prospect of recapturing that old teenage mojo and winning wife Pamela Reed’s affection back causes him to give in. This was one of those films where Williams was allowed to goof around, but that actually works here, livening up the predictable premise. Plus, he injects a dose of that Williams sentimentality as his nebbish becomes more and more desperate to give his disappointing life a do-over.

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

>>> Videoport customer Abby L. suggests The Birdcage (in Comedy.) One element that made Robin Williams’ career legendary was the element of surprise. The Juilliard-trained actor-comedian could shift effortlessly from comedy to drama, and The Birdcage is an admirable showcase for his many talents. Williams plays Armand, the devoted partner of and director for Albert (Nathan Lane), who moonlights as the marquee drag queen, Starina, in the film’s titular nightclub, which the couple own and live above. The cabaret they stage nightly is an institution in South Beach, and the decadent home they share is maintained by their kooky, effete housekeeper, Agador (Hank Azaria). When Armand and Albert’s son, Val, the product of Armand’s lone experimentation with a woman, announces that he intends to marry the daughter of conservative senator Kevin Keeley (the 20- and 18-year-old lovebirds are played, per usual, by 30-somethings Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart), a number of screwball accommodations must be made to futilely convince Armand and Albert’s future in-laws (Gene Hackman and Diane Weist) that they’re a wholesome natural family (that’s papa bear, mama bear and baby bear) who just happen to live in the gay epicenter of Florida. Naturally, the meeting dinner is arranged hastily as the Keeleys escape the scandal caused by the death of the senator’s conservative counterpart in the arms of an underage hooker. Ironically, Williams must play the straight-man in this wild Miami setting, which frequently appears to inhabit the same pastel-heaven universe as The Golden Girls. Lane’s performance as the mincing, shrieking grand-dame Albert, hilarious as it is, relies heavily on a sort of caricature, as does Azaria’s role. Williams plays the humane, patriarchal, sensible center of the film, the glue that keeps his family together. Many may remember this film by the clip of Williams hastily performing a brief history of American dance, concluding with frenetic voguing and shouts of, “Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!” In fact, this is one of very few instances in this film where Williams utilizes his signature physicality and feverish celebrity impersonations. At one point, Armand tells his son authoritatively, “Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle-aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took my twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that.” Armand proves to be a tough, fiercely protective, loyal father and partner, even when he’s delivering lectures to his son poolside in a tacky tiger-print robe or wise-cracking the love of his life in the middle of one of her diva tantrums. It’s easy to forget that almost 20 years ago, when The Birdcage was released, it was a bold choice for Williams to take a role like this. For a straight actor to avoid the low-hanging fruit of tired tropes and stereotypes to bring humanity to this character, to make such surprising and delightful choices, it is a testament to his skill and compassion as a performer and one of the many reasons Williams will be sorely missed.

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 Fisher King (in Feature Drama).  Like all of director Terry Gilliam’s best work, The Fisher King is hilarious, heartbreaking, and often hard to watch. Shock-jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is at the crest of his career — his radio show a smash success, a sitcom deal in the works, his glib badgering of minor celebrities feeding an ugly hunger in his audience and himself. Badgering a politician’s mistress, he lectures “we want to hear about the backseats of limos, about the ruined lives of people we want to be,” but it’s not just the glamorous or outrageous that Lucas targets; he’s got a stable of sad-sack listeners who call in for a helping of invective and bile, and Jack delivers it unstintingly, unthinkingly, cloaked in the confidence of certain success. But success is never certain. The only thing certain is loss, and Jack Lucas is about to find that out. And no matter how much you’ve lost, you could always lose more. When he meets Parry (Robin Williams in an Oscar-nominated role), a man whose life he unwittingly destroyed, Jack determines — perhaps for the first time in his selfish life — to atone for his sins. The entire cast delivers tremendous performances. Mercedes Ruehl deservedly won an Oscar for her incandescent, ever-shifting blend of love and rage and pain and tenderness. Amanda Plummer scuttles in suspicion, her entire body as narrows and tight as her eyes. Michael Jeter radiates a fragile flamboyance that touches me every time. But the leads — well, the leads. Both Bridges and Williams reach down into themselves to delve into something that’s lovely and hateful and playful and somber. Like Robin Williams himself, The Fisher King is a mercurial mess of a film, beautiful and chaotic, silly and sentimental and sardonic, overblown and loud. And it uses Robin Williams’ rare talent for mayhem with an unabashed glee that keeps teetering over into terror. 

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

>>> Aladdin and Ferngully

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

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Club Paradise (in Comedy). Robin Williams anchors this shaggy 1986 comedy as a Chicago firefighter who spends his big injury settlement on a rundown Caribbean resort. Directed by the late Harold Ramis (and can we just cool it the f*** out with killing all the best people, 2014? Seriously…), and written by Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Harry Shearer, the film is a rambling, genial goof-around—everyone in the absurdly talented cast was encouraged to contribute to the dialogue. It’s more a collection of set-pieces with the likes of Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Peter O’Toole, Mary Gross, Robin Duke, and others playing off each other and seemingly having a great time. Is it the best comedy ever? Well, no—but it’s incredibly likable and silly, and Williams presides over the hijinks as occasional straightman, who still has plenty of room to screw around. Plus, reggae legend Jimmy Cliff is on hand to sing and kick the plot (about the exploitation of the island’s population) into gear from time to time. If you’re looking for a relaxed Williams sleeper you might not have seen, this one’s worth a rental.

>>>For Sunday, Dennis suggests the Robin Williams tribute shelf (in the Middle Aisle). I know it’s ghoulish that everyone rushes to watch someone’s movies right after they die, but with something like this, it’s so unexpected and shocking, I think we can be let off the hook. Look, this sucks. I’m old, but there isn’t a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of Robin Williams as a constant, welcome presence in my life. And sure, I got annoyed—even sort of contemptuous at times, to my shame—at some of his movie choices. But even in movies I genuinely loathed (if I ever meet the real Patch Adams in person, he’s going to have to cheer himself up in the emergency room), there was always something unusual, something weird, or warm, or off-the-wall funny. One example is the drippy, nonsensical What Dreams May Come—in the midst of the shameless schmaltz, Williams is in there acting his heart out and damned if he’s not affecting. So watch the great stuff (Moscow On The Hudson, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, World’s Greatest Dad [a pitch-black comedy featuring his best performance], Insomnia, One Hour Photo, The Fisher King, Popeye), and then watch some of the rest—there’s always something to see. Robin Williams was funny and comforting. Again—this sucks.

New Releases this week at Videoport: Filth (Based on a novel from Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, in this one James McAvoy stars as a, well, filthy Scottish copper whose actions revolve more around drugs, sex, and cash than doing cop things. Costarring a lot of good British actors), The Railway Man (Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this fact-based drama about a former British army officer who sets out to confront the Japanese guard who tormented him as a prisoner of war during WWII), Bears (Disney documentary about bears! They’re bears! They’re adorable and will rip your face off! Bears!), Muppets Most Wanted (Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais join in on this, the second reunion Muppets movie where the Muppets find a Kermit The Frog double who may be up to no good), A Haunted House 2 (Marlon Wayans returns as the spazzily beleaguered boyfriend of women who keep getting possessed in this sequel to that horror spoof he did and some people enjoy. Costarring Gabriel Iglesias, Jaime Pressley, and Cedric The Entertainer), The Past Is A Grotesque Animal: A Film About Of Montreal (Another acclaimed documentary about a cool indie band [see last week’s film about The Magnetic Fields for more], this one concerning the band Of Montreal, which all the cool kids are listening to and such), Batman: Assault On Arkham (Priming the ground for the upcoming video game, here’s a DVD film about the Bat infiltrating Gotham City’s most notorious—and poorly-secured—insane asylum), The Blacklist- season 1 (James Spader seems alternately bored and delighted by the responsibility of hamming it up in order to save this middling TV crime series. In it, he’s a criminal mastermind who turns himself in to the authorities in order to bring down a series of criminal masterminds slightly less mastermind-y than he is), Stand Off (From the director of Hotel Rwanda comes this Irish crime caper thriller about a botched heist at a fish market. Starring Brendan Fraser [who plays an American, thankfully], and cool guy Irish actors Colm Meaney and David O’Hara), Breathe In (The first of two Guy Pearce movies out this week, this one starring as the father of a typical American family thrown into confusion upon the arrival of a sexy exchange student. Good cast, including the great Amy Ryan [The Wire, The Office, Gone Baby Gone], and Felicity Jones), Hateship Loveship (And here’s the second, with Pearce starring alongside former SNL-er Kristen Wiig in a drama about a wild teenage girl who conspires to pair up her addict father and Wiig’s family nanny), Locke (Ever-fascinating Tom Hardy [The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson] stars in this intense, unusual thriller about a building executive who spends the evening before the start of the biggest project of his career driving frantically around and fielding a series of mysterious phone calls which threaten the project—and his entire existence)

New Arrivals At Videoport This Week: Fun With Dick And Jane (No, not the Jim Carrey remake, this is the 1977 original, a comedy starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as a professional couple whose sudden poverty causes them to turn to armed robbery to make ends meet), Moon Over Parador (perhaps in response to the recent death of director Paul Mazursky, Videoport brings in the DVD release of his 1988 political comedy about an out of work actor [Richard Dreyfuss] roped into impersonating the deceased dictator of a South American country. Costarring the Sonia Braga and the ever-outstanding Raul Julia. Former Videoporter Jeremy loves this movie—and since he’s the funniest person in the world, you should probably listen to him), Doctor Detroit (Back in 1983 when Dan Aykroyd could open a movie, this comedy still flopped. In it, Aykroyd stars as a timid college professor who reluctantly steps in the alligator shoes of a pimp and finds himself enjoying the pimp life. Pair it up with Night Shift, where Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton discover the same exact thing. Different time, the 80s…)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: Filth, Locke, Bears, Muppets Most Wanted, A Haunted House 2