New feature on DreamingAnt.com – Movie Reviews!

The web team have implemented a new “Movie Review” feature on DreamingAnt.com. Our website is already one of the best independent rental store sites I’ve seen, with a database searchable by title/director/actor/genre, movie descriptions, you can see which Dreaming Ant location has the movie you’re looking for, and you can see if the movie is in or out in real time. Now all members can review and rate all the movies in our database! Seriously! It’s like we’re a mini IMDB.com, but you can walk over to our brick-and-mortar and rent any movie you read amazing reviews on.

I think this new feature has the potential to make everyone’s dvd renting and viewing experience much more rewarding. The future may bring an in-store kiosk for easy reference, and maybe bonuses for customers who write the most, or most helpful, reviews, although these ideas aren’t finalized yet.

Rating and reviewing movies is pretty easy:

First, log in.  If you’ve never logged in to DreamingAnt.com before, follow the instructions under “Create new account”.  You’ll need the email address you gave us when you signed up for your membership..

Now that you’re signed in, you have two options. You can either click “Rate movies from your rental history” and bring up a page with multiple movies and a drop down box to rate each from 1 to 10, or you can click “View your rental history”. You can then click on any movie you’ve rented and click the button at the bottom that says “Review/Rate”. Type up your little Siskel/Ebert/Roeper, click submit, and congratulations: you’re a Dreaming Ant critic.

I hope everyone takes advantage of this amazing new feature. The feedback will help both you, the customers, get the most for your rental dollars, and us, the employees and owners, to better understand what our fellow Ant renters enjoy and supply you with more of that sweet, sweet celluloid honey.

-RW

Director Spotlight: Kitano “Beat” Takeshi

Better known as a comedian and game show host in his native Japan, actor and director Kitano Takeshi’s films have gained a substantial international art house and gangster aficionado following. He has cultivated a style unique among his contemporary directors, oscillating between playful, childlike innocence and explosive scenes of realistic violence. The result is an offbeat, life affirming atmosphere heavy with pathos, usually driven by the laconic performance of Kitano himself. The downbeat counterpart to the Miike Takashi’s gratuitous magical realist yakuza pictures, Kitano’s films offer a slower experience heavy with tension, and rich with emotions often lost in his contemporaries’ gunbattle epics. These are some of my favorites:

Violent Cop (1989): Kitano’s stripped to basics directorial debut. Stillness, misanthropy, and an odd naiveté explode periodically from Kitano’s detective Azuma. His personality bruises the people around him, police and criminal, like a blunt weapon. The world he occupies is a real-life Tokyo, complete with consequences and repercussions, far removed from the fantastic cinematic realms of Die Hard or John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Essential.

Sonatine (1993): Available as the second disk on Zatoichi (2006). A mid level yakuza boss travels to Okinawa to settle a dispute, but it soon becomes apparent that he has been sent there to die. The yakuza retreat to an abandoned beach house, passing the hours as pleasantly as they can under the unspoken knowledge of their inevitable deaths. The film is saturated with Kitano’s bittersweet atheistic nihilism, more powerful than in his other films as evidenced by his suicide attempt immediately after its release.

Brother (2000): His first release for American audiences. Kitano is an exiled yakuza who casually transforms his brother’s small time Los Angeles gang into an organized crime powerhouse. The translated-to-English dialog can seem stilted, its delivery cumbersome, but the oddness fades as the story gains momentum. Omar Epps’ friendship to Kitano’s “big brother” figure drives the second half of the film, lending a poignant weight to the unavoidable conclusion.

Also recommended: Fireworks, Kikujiro, Boiling Point, Zatoichi.

-RW

The First Time I Saw Red

Many people I know witnessed a lot of firsts while watching movies as children; most of these filmic first encounters had to do with sex. I know tons of people who could remember what movie introduced them to the image of people doing it (the original Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields seemed to be a popular one) and for those of you who watched nature documentaries when young, you got David Attenborough imparting to you the whole concept of “animal instinct,” minus the human players. In any case, while you may be able to credit some fine cinematic feature with giving you your first glimpse of ‘The Deed,’ it’s doubtful that you would, or could, recall in which film you first saw the color red.

I realize that the full spectrum of colors are probably experienced by a kid long before they are plopped down in front of a TV screen or hauled off to the movies (maybe the kids are hauling the parents here), but I would personally like to romanticize the origins of this color from my own childhood, because no memory of red stands out more strongly than from when I first watched Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge). I recently watched this movie again and decided that everything I have seen of that color since has stemmed from that brilliant balloon’s redness. The blood that drenched Carrie from above, the dress of kidnapped Princess Buttercup, the flashing of the Stone in The Secret of NIMH… all these shades of red are the descendants of Le ballon rouge. Perhaps this is a rather frivolous claim, as all reds are related, what with belonging to the same wavelength and all, but it’s my way of respecting one of the standout movies of my childhood. Try to deny me that, and I’ll be seeing yet another shade of red. -a brick

Bridget Fonda has a huge crush on Jet Li

Working at Dreaming Ant has its ups and downs when it comes to watching movies. Ups: watch whatever movie, without having to worry about wasting money, whenever, for as long or as many times as you want. Pretty good ups. Downs: BURNOUT. I watch a lot of movies. Too many sometimes. To give you an idea, when business was slow I’ve found myself half or fully watching four movies a day, more or less. You can imagine that although I love them, movies are no longer on the top of my list for every day post work activities, and neither is internet or computing. I think it’s called screen fatigue.

Anyways, now at work I don’t really face the screen a lot. I rarely watch a movie a day, if that. But I do a lot of listening to movies. More than anything else I listen to commentaries.

When you rent a movie you only have a couple days with it. I don’t think many people have the desire to watch the same movie two days in a row. I certainly don’t, and that’s why until now I didn’t listen to commentaries, ever. But let me let you in on a secret – COMMENTARIES ARE AWESOME. They tend to be closer to a book on tape than a movie. Half the time you have a director and an actor or two getting drunk, letting the anecdotes and jokes at each other’s expense flow in direct proportion to the beer for an hour or two (Big Trouble in Little China), and the other half they’re a director, writer or actor narrating their experience during filming, getting the film made, technical explanation (of creature effects in John Carpenter‘s The Thing), and their philosophy about the film and movie making in general (all of Sidney Lumet’s exceptional commentaries). In a way listening to them talk, and what they choose to talk about, is a mini autobiography of people you’ve known until now only as characters, voices and styles. The director of Shoot ‘Em Up is a Tarantino-level jackass (although the movie is great). Val Kilmer thinks he’s funnier than he really is (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Vin Diesel is well spoken with a natural air of education. He’s a sci-fi nerd. Bridget Fonda, although she tries to cover it up, has a huge crush on Jet Li. He’s so handsome, and powerful, and professional, and quiet… and good looking, and fast, and he can kick things. And he’s good looking, and small and handsome (Kiss of the Dragon). Sometimes the creative forces behind a film are exposed as only mildly talented, but the film itself grows and solidifies out of a million milquetoast decisions into something unique, even great. Most of the time after you’ve heard the commentary, movies are better.

My advice for commentaries is don’t watch them right after the movie. Wait a day or two, and then while you’re writing emails or folding clothes or working in Photoshop or stuck inside for whatever reason, turn on the commentary track (usually under Special Features and sometimes accessible by flipping through the sound options with your remote), turn your back to the television, and listen. -rw