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!