movies

VHS Archives #91: It’s 1998. Are you ready for DVD? (MuchMusic FAX)

Ah, 1998, a simpler age for simpler folks.  We had just finished upgrading all our cassettes to CDs.  Those old LPs that were gathering dust in the garage finally hit the curb and the landfill where they belonged.  The digital age had arrived!  Time for another new format to sweep away the old.

Are you ready for Digital Versatile Disc?

This segment was from the MuchMusic news program FAX, during a period when they used “videographers” carrying cameras on their shoulders at all times, to catch those always-breaking stories. Oh, the late 1990s.

#807: Freestylin’ 3 – V.I.P.-stylin’ (plus vote results)

GETTING MORE TALE #807: Freestylin’ 3 – V.I.P.-stylin’

As a family tradition, any time there is a new Star Wars saga film, my sister and I have to take my mom and dad out to see it.  My dad won’t go see movies very often.  After all, he did make a scene at Lord of the Rings.  He just doesn’t like going, and doesn’t enjoy sitting still for two hours watching just one thing.

But we got him out to Rise of Skywalker, and to make it a treat for everyone, my mom decided she wanted to do the V.I.P. experience.  This V.I.P. stuff was new to my dad and I as well.

There are a number of things to talk about with this experience, so get a warm coffee and let’s go.

We went to a noon matinee.  Nobody ever seems to go to movies at noon on a weekend; it’s the perfect time.  I was told that the V.I.P. section had a full menu of food and service right to your seat, so I skipped lunch that day intending to make the movie theater my lunch.  I was not disappointed.

We went upstairs to the V.I.P. area where I was stunned by a cool looking lounge/bar/restaurant setup.  I suddenly felt under-dressed in my khakis and “Pickle Rick” T-shirt.

The seats in the V.I.P. theater are like individual recliners.  They were so incredibly comfortable that I just plopped right down, and didn’t move for the next two or three hours.  Who doesn’t shift around in an uncomfortable and too small movie seat?  The V.I.P. section eliminates that.  The serving staff (all friendly and helpful) got our drink orders right away.  My mom ordered wine.  Once we decided on food, we just paid by debit.  Well, my dad paid for me — apparently it was his treat.  We split a pizza with olives, tomatoes and feta cheese, and my mom ordered Hawaiian, finishing half.  My sister and her mainman Drew had beer, chicken wings and popcorn, and the wings smelled amazing.

“This is the best pizza I’ve ever had,” I said incredulously.  Who goes to a movie theater and says that?  I love pizza, folks.  I’ve never been to Italy, or even New York or Chicago, but I’ve eaten a lot of pizza.  That was a good one, right there.  I’m not saying “best in the world” or anything like that, but certainly “best in my limited Canadian experience.”  I’m saying that unless you’re from Naples or New York, you’re going to like the pizza.

We arrived early when the theater had just opened up so we’d have plenty of time to finish our lunch.  (We sat through the same boring trailers as last time, so I’ll warn you now:  there’s a new Harrison Ford version of Call of the Wild coming out with a CG dog and it looks utter shite.  I cannae understand why they used a fake looking CG dog.)  The lights stayed on until the trailers were over and the movie rolled, because I don’t think you want to be working your way through pulled-pork tacos or calamari in the dark.

On went the 3D glasses.  Since I’ve already reviewed the movie I’ll just talk about a few things that we didn’t discuss before.  The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t need to be seen in 3D.  While I enjoy it, I find things look less sharp in 3D, and there were few scenes that really jumped in 3D.  For The Rise of Skywalker, it’s not necessary like it is for, say, Avatar.

My father did say if they ever have a theatrical re-release for Lord of the Rings in 3D, he’d go out to see a movie again.  Make it happen, Peter Jackson.

He really enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker.  “That was the best movie I ever saw!” he said at the end.  I’m sure that’s the rush of coming out of a theater.  I don’t think The Rise of Skywalker will really replace The Lives of a Bengal Lancer or Beau Geste for him in the long term.  The point is, he liked it.  And he didn’t like The Last Jedi very much at all.

In our post-movie discussions, I pointed out that J.J. Abrams seemed to stick it to Rian Johnson a bit.  Luke Skywalker says “I was wrong,” in regards to his decisions seen in The Last Jedi.  “I felt like it was J.J. saying The Last Jedi was wrong,” I told my sister who agreed.

One of the guys at work complained to me that The Rise of Skywalker is too similar to Return of the Jedi, in the sense that the state of the galaxy is returned similar to the way things were at the conclusion of that earlier film.  “Of course,” I explained.  “That was always going to be the case.  The sequel trilogy was never planned like Lucas makes it sound.  It was always tacked on.  Return of the Jedi was his intended conclusion.”  It tied up two threads that he originally set up for a sequel trilogy, which is the search for the Emperor, and the search for Luke’s sister.  Instead of saving those for the three sequel movies, Lucas concluded the saga in Return of the Jedi.  Period.  Oh sure, Lucas had story ideas for a sequel trilogy featuring midichlorians and a proto-Rey named KiraRey and the Midichlorians of Doom, I call it.  So let’s all cool our jets a bit when talking about the sequel trilogy.  We all played with Star Wars toys as kids.  We all had our own ideas for a sequel trilogy.  J.J. came up with a decent one, and while I am sure there is better fanfic out there, I’ll remind you that in the early 90s there was also far better fanfic depicting the prequels, too.  Because we never thought we’d get those either.  My own ideas for the prequels had Vader turning evil in Episode II, falling into a volcano then.  By Episode III he was already in the armor, hunting Obi-Wan and the Jedi.  To me this would explain why Obi-Wan immediately recognized Vader in his armor in Episode IV – he had encountered it before.  And my prequel series would have been better than George’s, just like your sequel trilogy would be better than J.J.’s.  We all think that.

Funny enough, the sequel trilogy ends the same way as Lucas’ original concept for Episode IX.  The hero slays the Emperor.  That’s how he envisioned it when he sketched outlines for nine films in the late 70s.  His midichlorian trilogy idea with Rey/Kira was something he concocted later, after Return of the Jedi already ended the saga.  Like it or not, that’s the sequence of events.

I will say that The Rise of Skywalker, like many Star Wars movies, was better the second time.  There are cameos and clues to pick up on, not to mention that incredible John Williams score.  The triumphant anthems during the final space battle really bring a tear to the eye.

Exiting the V.I.P. theater, we chatted with the manager a bit.  Apparently you can just saddle up in the restaurant area for dinner if you just want a nice movie theater pizza, or sit at the bar.  She said they have special super-hot pizza ovens there which helps explain why mine was so good.

This experience was an early new year highlight.  Usually I walk out of a theater with a sore neck, sore back, or both.  I admit I did have sort of a mild headache behind my eyes; this happens sometimes with 3D movies.  Or it could be that I only had five hours’ sleep.  Don’t know; just sayin’.  The point is, I want to do it again sooner rather than later.

One problem.  There’s absolutely nothing coming out that I want to spend that kind of money seeing.  Nothing.  Oh sure, the new Bond looks badass and Daniel Craig is cool, but I can never follow the twisted plots of those movies.

So I don’t know when I’ll be doing this again.  If James Cameron comes out with Avatar 2 anytime soon, I bet I could drag my dad out for that one!

 

 


UPDATE!

VHS Archives vote results!

You guys chose DAVID LEE ROTH for the next instalment of VHS Archives!  Your wish is my command.  One third of you wanted Roth, which is a good one from 1988, the Skyscraper tour.  The interview is by Steve Anthony.  I’ll post that one next in the coming days!

I do want to comment on a couple things and maybe scold you readers a little bit.

Nobody voted for Kane Roberts and Alice Cooper.  For shame!  That is one of the best in my entire collection.  Two very, very funny guys there, like a comedy team.  Sample quote.

“Alice has an incredible presence on stage, and he gives me some of those presents every once in a while.”

Come on, that’s funny stuff!

And technically nobody voted for Paul Stanley either, because that’s my vote and it only got one.  Shame!  Dan Gallagher did that whole interview in Gene’s makeup, and then Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum also sat in.

Roth is next on the VHS Archives, thanks for voting!

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker [Spoiler free] 2019

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Directed by JJ Abrams

The greatest saga of a lifetime; the story that began in 1977 when I was 4 years old has finally come to its end.  And what a satisfying end it is.

JJ Abrams had an unenviable task: fix the mess that Rian Johnson created with 2017’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.  Instead of winding towards a logical conclusion, the Johnson film steered the story into strange new directions poorly suited to the second-last film in a nine movie saga.  The death of Carrie Fisher the same year threw a giant wrench into the whole thing.  How was JJ to wind up a massive story like this, finishing not only his trilogy but the other two as well?

I’m not going to tell you, except that he managed to do it.  It’s not perfect, but no Star Wars movie has been perfect since 1980.  Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the best movie of this final trilogy, and is certainly better than 66% of the prequels.  He managed to pick up the ball that Johnson shat out, weave it tighter, and make lemonade from lemons.

The Carrie Fisher scenes are somewhat difficult to watch.  You know the actors are not reacting to her, but performing to pre-recorded scenes.  Her dialogue is necessarily vague and cloudy.  It’s unfortunate because Episode IX was supposed to be her film.  Nothing can be done about that.  But wisely, JJ recruited Billy Dee Williams back into the fold as the debonair rogue, Lando Calrissian.  Lando’s role is larger than expected which will please many fans.  The film is also bolstered by cameos from just about every living Star Wars actor (no, not Jake Lloyd) in ways that brought nothing but smiles.  Look for Hobbits and late-night talk show hosts too.

The villain this time, as you know from the trailers, is Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine.  How did he survive the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi?  It only takes one line of dialogue to sell it.

With the stakes higher than ever before, the Sith and the Jedi meet one last time.  If you’re looking for an inkling of the plot, read the old Dark Horse comic series Dark Empire.  Not only did that series feature a resurrected Palpatine, but also Luke Skywalker doing Force projections.  It’s highly likely that JJ Abrams took inspiration from Dark Empire, though The Rise of Skywalker is far superior to that old book.

Suffice to say, our heroes once again must face incredible odds with little on their side except friendship and heart.  The movie stumbles after we are told repeatedly that they must succeed, or all of this – everything – has been for nothing.  Then they go on a silly rescue, instead of completing their mission.  There are also, perhaps, too many meetings between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) which blunts their overall effect.  At least the heroes, Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) bond like the classic trio.  You’re aware that you are watching a knockoff Luke-Leia-Han trio, but don’t forget, that’s the kind of stuff fans used to say they wanted.  “No more wooden crap like the prequels,” they moaned.  Now they moan when it’s what they said they wanted before.  Sceptics will not be won over by The Rise of Skywalker.

Another possible weakness that fans might resist is a tenuous connection to the Disney+ TV series The Mandalorian.  Rey and Kylo Ren can do something that a Mandalorian character can do.  Some will accept it as fitting in with classic Star Wars lore.  Others will baulk and call it “Disney ruining Star Wars again.”

The cutesy stuff is kept to a minimum (though there is a new droid called D-O introduced for no reason) and emotions run high.  Nostalgia is heavy.  Action is fast, though JJ unwisely resorted to slow motion techniques again, which breaks visual style from the six Lucas-guided movies.  He would have insisted on the movies being consistent.  Lens flare, though, is gladly reduced.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and The Rise of Skywalker must stand up to repeated viewings and further analysis.  It does drag at various times in the middle, but when it drops bombs, it goes nuclear.  Special mention to Keri Russell for a fine performance as spice runner Zorri Bliss, and again to Billy Dee Williams.  He never abandoned Star Wars, you know.  He returned in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels as suave as ever.  And of course, John Williams.  His score contained some really cool motifs, like a re-imagined Emperor’s theme that fit like a glove.

The Rise of Skywalker is probably the best ending to a saga we could have expected (and certainly better than what Lucas had planned).  If you want to live your life as a person who only has six Star Wars movies in their head-canon, that is absolutely fine.  (I know people who to this day consider Star Wars to be three movies.)  It can easily be argued that this entire trilogy was just tacked on.  But JJ did his best for it not to feel that way; for it to appear like this was always the ending.  Did he succeed?  That’s up to you.

4/5 stars

#457: Making the Best Buy (Or, making lemonade from lemons)

SOUTH PARK

GETTING MORE TALE #457: Making the Best Buy
(Or, making lemonade from lemons)

In Getting More Tale #326, we lamented that the once-mighty retail chain Best Buy isn’t what it used to be.  This time, we’ll take a look back at the store’s history.

Who doesn’t love those fact-filled Uncle John’s books and calendars?  Here’s the entry for December 2 2015.  Before reading this I had no idea, nor did I really care how Best Buy started.  Uncle John changed my tune:

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Scan from the Uncle John’s 2015 desk calendar.

Back at the Record Store days in the early 2000’s, the Boss was bracing for a new Best Buy store to open nearby.  He figured that we’d probably feel some short term pain, but in the long term the store should draw more customers to the area and we’d benefit from their presence.  He also strongly encouraged us not to shop there, a big US chain edging into our turf.

I tried to avoid shopping there at first, but the convenience was too much to resist.  When I needed printer ink, computer supplies, or a new movie release, they were right there, and they usually had everything I came in for.  That made it hard to avoid.  I still tried to shop locally — I remember making special trips to Steve’s TV in Frederick Mall to buy the Star Wars trilogy on DVD.  Between big items like TV sets, and small ones like candy, I know I have easily spent thousands of dollars at our local Best Buy stores.   They also had hard to find items, such as the rare ZZ Top box set that came in a little box shaped like a barbecue shack (Chrome, Smoke & BBQ).  The guilt felt for shopping a big US conglomerate was tempered by the savings and convenience.

That was then.  As mentioned in chapter #326, Best Buy took a serious dump a few years ago.  Still, a few weeks back, I had the chance to stop by one with my friend and sometimes contributor, Thussy.  We had an hour to kill before a work dinner, so we popped into Best Buy, prepared to spend money if they had something we wanted.  We spent an hour in the store, but no dollars.

The one thing I would have bought would have been the new Adele CD, 25, for my mom.  (Yes, it’s for my mom.)  I know Best Buy pretty much cut audio CDs from their stores completely, but hey, it’s Adele.  Worth a try, right?  Even my grocery store has the new Adele.  Best Buy did not have the new Adele.  I wasn’t really surprised.

We were tempted by some of their blu-ray deals.  We saw a reissue of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I have already bought thrice, no more no less, over the years: VHS, DVD, and special edition DVD.  This new version was a blu-ray, with the same features as the DVD, but a neat little castle set and plastic animals to catapult over it.  Very tempting indeed.  But both of us said no.  We survived their $7.99 cheapie blu-ray bin without spending a penny.   The only thing that was almost a serious temptation was that new remote controlled Star Wars Sphero BB-8 toy. It was $180, and it is definitely a neat little toy. But what the hell was I going to do with it? With a big record shopping excursion in Toronto on my horizon, the $180 would be better saved.

It was a pleasant trip to Best Buy, and we marvelled at all the new televisions and gadgets.  We were asked by one pleasant employee if we needed any help, and only once, which is exactly how you want it.

Best Buy, what happened to you?  Obviously, their story didn’t end with opening 1000 superstores.  They continued to grow, by acquiring other electronics and music retail chains, such as Sam Goody.  Their presence in Canada was felt in 2001, when they bought out our own, similar chain:  Future Shop.  That’s when they began horning in on our territory, and freaking out the Boss.  They continued to expand and acquire, and their services such as the Geek Squad became household names.  It seems this is where Best Buy and I parted ways, as they focused more and more on electronics, and less on the media that I often came in for.  They bought mobile phone stores and services, and became the first non-Apple distributor of the iPhone in 2008.   Phones, game consoles and tech support took over the spaces once designated for music.  Meanwhile online, Best Buy’s on-demand movies, improved web sales services, and quick delivery began to dominate.  I bought my laptop online, and it was at my door to me a few days later in the post.  Around 2010 however their sales began to dip, but Best Buy shed some weight in order to continue to survive.

It just hasn’t happened with much of my help.

This year, Best Buy’s Canadian acquisition Future Shop bit the dust.  I hadn’t done much shopping there lately either, for the same reasons as above.  The two stores were all but identical, and sometimes existed side by side!  It was no wonder they shut their doors.  Others re-opened under the Best Buy banner, but it was a major hit for the company.

I think Best Buy will continue to exist, but as online ordering and home delivery becomes the norm, I think the stores will be able to shrink in size and survive.  Large items like televisions might remain in-store for customers to try out, or to pick up after ordering online.  Small items like movies might be phased out altogether, since Amazon’s own home delivery is the king of convenience.

I will continue to watch Best Buy, and sure, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.  I would very much like to buy something cool at a great price from them again, some day.

 

SEAN BEAN MEME

 

#408: Record Store Tales – The Movie

Re-enactments of actual in-store events

#408: Record Store Tales – The Movie

On our old store applications/music test, one of the questions we asked was, “Who would play you in the movie of your life?”  (It may have said “musical of your life”, I don’t quite remember exactly.)  We had some good answers to the question. I always said that if I had taken the test, I would have answered “Meat Loaf”.

The musical or movie of my life would have be centred on Record Store Tales, obviously.  That would require a lot of creative casting in order to fully capture the eccentric personalities.  We couldn’t just try to re-capture the vibe of High Fidelity or Empire Records.  We would strive for finding the perfect actors for the roles.

In addition to writing and producing the feature, I would also insist upon the last word when it comes to casting.  I’ll be a control freak a-la E.L. James on set.  I would seek out Martin Scorsese to direct.

The movie would not be without its challenges.  How, for example, do we film the famous Open Door Shit scene?  I would insist on it being in the movie.  Otherwise, what’s the point of it?  I would throw a Christian Bale-sized temper tantrum if it were to be cut.  We’d also have to get permission to use a lot of great songs, which can be tricky to secure.

But what about the cast?  This is how I picture it.

  • BRAD  T-Rev – Brad Pitt
  • GUY CABELLERO  The Owner – Joe Flaherty (as Guy Caballero)
  • KIT  Iron Tom SharpeJon Snow err I mean Kit Harington
  • RIP TORN  Uncle Meat – Rip Torn
  • STATHAM  Aaron – Jason Statham
  • MARGARET HAMILTON  She Who Shall Not Be Named – Since Margaret Hamilton is dead, we will have to audition this role.
  • SCHWIMMER  Joe Big Nose – His lookalike of course, David Schwimmer.  If Schwimmer is unavailable, we go down the list to Freddie Prinze Jr.
  • ANDY DICK  Dandy Douche – Andy Dick
  • ROMANY  Jonathan the Accountant – Romany Malco
  • KATE UPTON  Mrs. LeBrain – Kate Upton
  • CRUISE TRAVOLTA  Annoying solicitors – Tom  Cruise and John Travolta
  • MEAT LOAF  and featuring Meat Loaf Aday as “LeBrain”

What about you?  Who would you like to play you in the movie or musical of your life?  Consider it deeply and leave a comment!

#336: Garage Sales

IMG_20141031_171118RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#336: Garage Sales

I used to love garage sales and yard sales as a kid; both going to them and having them.  As a buyer, you never know what cool things you will find at a garage sale, from books to gadgets to movies.  As a seller, it’s a quick way to de-clutter your house and liquidate junk that’s sitting around.  In our last few garage sales, I made several hundred dollars and cleaned out a ton of space.

It’s a lot of work, packing up the stuff and getting it organized, priced and displayed.  Making and putting up the signs.  Creating online ads.  Opening for business.  But you’re not here to read about the tedious aspects.  You’re here for the stories.

Some of the most irritating people on this Earth are the early-morning hard-core garage salers.  They scour the newspaper ads each week and want to be first to arrive.  Since I live in a condo, the last bunch of garage sales we’ve held were at my parents’ house.  I would drive over early on the Saturday morning to open up for business.  I’d arrive around 6 or 6:30, in order to open up at 7, our advertised time.

I remember driving over on that lovely summer morning, still dark outside, and seeing a dude sitting in his car on the side of the street.  “He can’t be here for the sale,” I said to myself.  “I advertised that it starts at 7:00.”   But I had underestimated the tenacity of serious hard core garage salers.  I parked, opened the garage door, and began moving things out onto the driveway.

Next thing you know, I notice a guy in the dark garage behind me!

“Where are your Star Wars things?” he asked.

I said, “I’m not even close to being ready.  They’re here in boxes somewhere but I have to dig everything out.”

“Do you have the vintage ones from the 70’s?”

I laughed.  “No.  I would never sell that stuff at a garage sale!”


I laughed just like this.

Without a word the guy left and drove off to the next sale.  Over the next 30 minutes, while I was setting up, cars would drive by, slow down to look at what I had, and drive off.  If they didn’t see what they were looking for (presumably big items like bikes and appliances) they kept going.

Typically at a garage sale, you don’t make any money for the first hour.  The first hour is only serious salers who are looking for those specific items.  They ask what you have and leave.  After that things begin to pick up.  Most people are pretty nice.  As the day goes on, friends and neighbors drop by, but it’s the cheapskates that drive me nuts.

A garage sale is a place where you can buy things dirt-cheap, but even so, I have my limits.  The guy that pissed me off the most at the last one was a douchebag in a big black pickup truck.  (Why do the douchebags always seem to drive big black pickup trucks?)  I had about a dozen DVDs and a couple Blu-rays out for sale.  The prices on them were pretty reasonable: I had the Blu out for $4 and none of the DVDs were over $3.  And that’s just the stickered prices, I was always willing to make deals with people who bought more than one.  Within reason.

The pickup truck douchebag grabbed all my movies and said simply to me, “50 cents each?”

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I said, “No, I can’t go that low.  If you take them all you can have ‘em for $2 each.”

He laughed, “$2 each?  Are you nuts?”  Laughed again.  “You’re not going to get $2 each for these.”

“I already have,” I said.  “I’ve sold a few already.”

He chuckled again and said, “You’re not going to sell these for $2 each.  50 cents and I’ll take them all.”

“No thanks,” I responded.  “I’d rather sell them separately at full price.”

He began walking away.  “Good luck buddy, you’re not going to sell any of those movies.”

Again I laughed.  “I already have!”

Then he said to me, “You know, that place [name deleted] will only give you 50 cents each for movies.”

The funny thing is the place he mentioned was the Record Store in which I used to work!  And they were not giving 50 cents each for movies at the time.  I had worked there long enough, and sold enough stuff since, that I knew he was full of shit.

I told him who I was, and called bullshit.  He drove off.

I admit I was pretty steamed up.  But the guy was a total dillhole.  Just the kind of garage saler that everybody hates.  Like I would have given him the movies with that kind of attitude!

An hour or two later, he drove back!

“Hey buddy!” he shouted from the window of his truck.  “How much for your movies?”

“Same as before,” I responded.  “$2 each.”

He said something rude and drove off.  I responded with something rude and was promptly scolded by my mother!

“He was a dickweed, mom,” I reasoned.  He then drove to my sister’s place, who had a garage sale going at the same time, and bought one of her movies for $2 without a single complaint!

I sold all but three of my movies at that sale and raked in a few hundred bucks.  I was happy and I just gave the remaining movies away to friends.  Although I may still have my copy of Reefer Madness that nobody wants.

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After the garage sale, my parents went on vacation for a week.  While they were away, one of the items we sold at the garage sale turned up sitting on my parents’ front porch, with a note attached.

Somebody had bought a VCR at the garage sale, and a few movies to go with it.  Everything worked.  The VCR was missing its power cable, but that was all.  I have lots of spare power cables around the house, and they’re easy enough to find, so I figured that was not an issue.

Well, some dumb lady “returned” the VCR ($5) and left it, with the movies, on my parents’ porch saying she wanted her money back because it “didn’t work”.

You sure can’t fix stupid.

Fortunately when my folks returned from vacation they settled the VCR issue.  The lady came back; she was from the neighborhood, and my parents gave her the money back without incident.

Still, I wondered to myself, “Who the hell tries to return something they bought at a garage sale?”  Weird.

That was the last sale we had.  Though I am sure we will have more, they certainly are not as much fun as they were when I was a kid!

#326: Not the Best Buy (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#326: Not the Best Buy

I don’t shop in the big corporate record stores that often anymore. Hell, I don’t even really shop in stores anymore! I used to, even at the big stores. When I started working in Cambridge, my buddy Chris and I would go to Future Shop once a week at lunch time to check out the new releases. I would typically buy a new movie and a new CD release at least once a week, sometimes more.  I’d stock up on blank CDs, or just impulsively buy a guitar there.  It happens!

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We would do the circuit around the store. We’d start with the new releases up front, then head to the movie section. I would detour over to CDs while Chris would look at electronics and computer games. We’d meet up at the bargain bin as we left. It’s there that Chris and I acquired two copies of Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield on DVD for $4.99 each. The girl at the front counter was jealous and asked if there were any left! She always knew us as the “Tuesday new release guys”. We sometimes wondered if she thought we were a gay couple since we rarely went in without the other!

Sometime in the last few years, both Future Shop and Best Buy (which are the same company) really started to change. They moved the music and movie section to the very back of the stores, providing more room for cell phones and tablets. It was a sign that things were getting worse for people like myself who enjoy owning physical product. Chris is similar to me. He likes to own “whole collections” of movie or TV series. Some of us are just like that.  He always likes to own the ones he really loves. (Such as the Police Academy series. Yes Chris I just outed you.)

So, we stopped going to Future Shop at lunch. In fact we haven’t been in ages.  Same went for Best Buy.  Strangely enough, a Best Buy soon opened in Cambridge, right next to the Future Shop.  Even the new Best Buy store didn’t have much in the way of music and movies, so we just stopped spending our money at lunch time.

IMG_20141004_123453I can tell you exactly what CD it was that I purchased the last time I bought one at Best Buy. It was the 2 CD/1 Blu-ray/1 DVD version of Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day (2012) which was a brand new release.  And even a release that monumental was hard to find at Best Buy!

I walked into the store a few days after the initial release.  I saw that all they had on the front “new release” display was the DVD combo sets. I went over to the Zeppelin section in music – nothing there. I checked the same in the movies.  Nada.  Then I found a Zeppelin display at the side of one of the aisles. All they had there was CD and DVD; none of the 2 CD/1 Blu/1 DVD.

I found a customer service person that wasn’t chatting up her co-workers, and asked her where they kept the brand new Zeppelin Blu-rays?

In the back room, apparently! She found one for me and I purchased it, a little confused why a Led Zeppelin new release on the hot newest format would be in their back room.

So I bought the package; the very last CD set I have purchased at Best Buy. Best Buy have really abandoned the physical music releases, and that’s too bad. I used to enjoy buying music and movies at that store due to the prices, two nearby convenient locations, and the fact that I could usually find everything I was looking for. No longer. Sorry Best Buy: you and I are no longer besties!


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Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 2: Movies, TV and the rest

If you missed the Top Five Albums of 2013 lists, click here!

Some people got carried away and submitted more than 5 in their lists this year, Uncle Meat being the number one offender. But since Tom & Uncle Meat were good this Christmas, here are the Top Five (or Six) (or Ten) Movies of 2013.  And while we’re talking about movies we may as well do a Top TV Shows of 2013 as well huh?

Tom

SMAUG

Movies

6. Sound City
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. This Is The End
3. John Dies At The End
2. The World’s End
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

TV Shows 

SCHANGhhhhhhhh10. Rick and Morty
9. PTI
8. Colbert Report
7. Daily Show
6. Eagleheart
5. Venture Brothers
4. The Jeselnik Offensive
3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
2. Community
1. Game of Thrones

Meat

Movies

SOUND CITY
10. Carrie
9. Kick Ass 2
8. Pacific Rim
7. This is the End
6. Man of Steel
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. 42
3. Sound City
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
1. The Wolf of Wall Street

TV Shows

Meat came up with a Top Nine.  Sure, why not!

HEISENBERG9. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
8. The Following
7. The Killing
6. Walking Dead
5. Californication
4./3. Tie: Mad Men/Breaking Bad
2. American Horror Story: Coven
1. Game of Thrones

Seb

Movies

man-of-steel-25. Iron Man 3
4. Pacific Rim
3. Star Trek: Into Darkness
2. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
1. Man of Steel

Seb also had some Top Concerts he wanted to mention:  “Brian Setzer and Meshuggah….. Yeah, I know its weird….he he he!”

Mrs. LeBrain

SHELDONTV Shows

5. Jeopardy!
4. Dragon’s Den
3. Blue Bloods
2. The Big Bang Theory
1. Hockey Night In Canada

LeBrain

For a variety of reasons I don’t get out to the movies often, so I decided to just post Five Movies I Saw in 2013!

MoviesGARY KING

5. Man of Steel
4. This is the End
3. Sound City
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
1. The World’s End

TV Shows

When Mrs. LeBrain wasn’t watching hockey, I watched these shows in 2013:

5. Star Trek re-runs (best I could come up with)
4. The Liquidator
3. Toy Hunter
2. Survivorman
1. Breaking Bad

LES

MOVIE REVIEW: Man Of Steel (IMAX 3D)

MAN OF STEEL

Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013 Warner Bros.

I’m a child of the 70’s, therefore a long time Superman fan.  I’m also a fan of Zack Snyder’s The Watchmen.  I wasn’t sure if those two worlds should ever meet, and to be honest, after seeing a preview screening of Man of Steel, I’m still not sure.

The Good:

Michael Shannon as General Zod.  Rather than copy Terrance Stamp’s Zod, Shannon’s is grittier, more passionate.  His motivations are different.  Rather than revenge, this version of Zod seeks only what is best for the Kryptonian people.  As a general, he was born, bred, and trained for nothing but the betterment of his people.  Unfortunately, this is at odds with the interests of Earth.

Also great was Henry Cavill as Kal-El.  Nobody will ever forget Christopher Reeve, but Cavill’s talent, chiseled looks and physique will certainly have people forgetting Brandon Routh.  Cavill’s Superman was 100% flawless.

And finally, Russell Crowe as Jor-El.  I’m a not a Russell Crowe fan, not in the slightest, but he was great.  His Jor-El had a much larger role than the Marlon Brando incarnation had.  Jor-El is the architect of everything that unfolds.

The Bad:

I have problems with the wanton destruction.  Kal-El’s prime motivation is always the safety of others.  Yet he, Zod, and Zod’s henchmen pretty much destroy all of Metropolis and reduce it to dust.  Even though Zod seeks and needs Kal-El, our hero doesn’t use this to his advantage.  He doesn’t, say, fly to the Pacific Ocean to battle Zod.  Or Antarctica.  He stays right in the middle of Metropolis and is a party to damn near every building coming down!

I also didn’t like the look of the Kryptonian technology.  It was too monochrome and Cybertronian for my tastes.  (Yet, somehow Kal-El ends up with the only blue, red and gold suit on the planet?)

The Ugly:

I left the theater with a booming headache.  I don’t know if it was the 3D or the overly loud sound mix, but my head hurts.  To sum up the experience, the last hour of the film had too many missiles, airplanes, spaceships and carnage flying around.  The brain can’t process that much information.  I didn’t feel that the 3D really enhanced my experience.  (My brother in law Martin said the movie felt like a Michael Bay film, with all that crap blowing up.)

Man_of_Steel_37095Man of Steel had a decent story, that begins where Superman and Superman II did, but then goes in its own direction.  In many regards this movie is Superman:  First Contact.  It’s funny how often we forget that perhaps the most remarkable thing about Superman, is that he’s an alien!  Living among us!  Plotwise, the McGuffin here is something called the Codex, which contains the genetic blueprints for an entire generation of new Kryptonians.  As Krypton’s last defender, Zod wants it.  But his interests and Kal-El’s are at odds, since Zod plans to exterminate humanity and move in here!

I have to admit I’m surprised that Snyder got such great performances out of this cast.  Not that the cast are a bunch of hacks; they’re not.  Amy Adams was fine, and so was Diane Lane.  But let’s face it…we’ve seen other directors in the past get wooden performances out of Lawrence Fishburn and Kevin Costner.  Fishburn amounts to little more than a background character, but Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is much more important than the version in Superman.  He filled the role appropriately.  My mother always said that Costner is best when he’s playing a farmer.

Much like The Watchmen, Snyder tells stories in multiple timelines simultaneously via flashbacks.  In Man of Steel, these flashbacks are all critical moments of character development.  This was done very well, with Cavill playing Clark Kent’s evolution perfectly.  At the same time, I’m surprised Snyder didn’t use more popular and classic rock music.  He did use a little bit, but certainly not on the scale of The Watchmen or even Suckerpunch.

I noticed two Battlestar Galactica alumni:  Tahmoh Penikett had probably 1 second screen time, but Alessandro Juliani had a bit more.  Why were they in it?  Because Man of Steel was partly filmed in Canada!

Although I will probably buy Man of Steel on blu-ray to “have the whole collection”, I don’t have an immediate craving to see it again.

Man of Steel opens today.  Time for an Advil.

3.5/5 stars

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MOVIE REVIEW: FUBAR II (2010)

“Knowledge of non-knowledge is power. “  – Dean Murdoch

FUBAR II

FUBAR II (2010 Alliance, directed by Michael Dowse)

Most sequels aren’t worth owning.  Fubar II is.  Plus, it comes with a bonus disc: Fubar, the original complete film. This was a total surprise to me. I had no idea it was going to be in there. I’m a little bummed that I bought the original film on blu shortly before this.  I gifted it to my buddy Cliff at work who also adores the exploits of Terry and Deaner.

Synopsis:  5 years after surgery, Deaner is celebrating these years of good health. Even though an eviction is looming, he and Terry have no real worries.  During a drunken house-trashing party, Tron tells them they have jobs waiting in Fort McMurray. Terry and Dean pack up their meager belongings and head to work in the oilsands.

As with the first Fubar, tragedy must eventually strike. Terry and Dean come to blows over a girl, Trish, who Terry has moved in with. Dean gets some bad news, and Terry gets even more unexpected news from Trish. For a while, Fubar II becomes much darker than the first film.

Unbelievably, a stroke of scripting genius turns Dean’s tragedy into triumph. This ending was as satisfactory as it gets. I ended Fubar II with a huge smile on my face. This sequel does something very unusual: it is funnier than the original, it has more emotion than the original, yet it doesn’t copy it. I have to say this is one of the best sequels I’ve seen.

The footage of the oilsands is really cool.  It looks like a cross between Vegas and the Mustafar system – a whole other planet. One thing about this movie, you can tell it had a budget this time, compared to the original. There are some really nice looking shots, and the movie itself looks great. The graininess has been replaced by slick production. The documentary style has been mostly dropped in favour of more traditional storytelling, although a few interview segments are scattered within.

For music geeks, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness has a vocal cameo near the end.  You’ll know it when you hear it!  The movie also features excellent tunage by Ronnie James Dio & Black Sabbath, The Gun, and Dean’s own classic “Whale Hunter”.

I mentioned the bonus disc with the entire original film, bonus features intact.   Other special bonuses in this set include a ton of deleted scenes. While some were overly long and you can seen why they were edited or pared down, others add to the story and comedy. There were several regarding Dean’s illness that might have worked well in the movie. One, “Mixing Meats,” was a shorty that just had me howling. Also, like the original film, this one comes with a commentary from Michael Dowse and others. Better though will be the in-character commentary by Terry and Dean. This was a real treat on the original film, and I’m sure this one will be too. I’ll have to check that out on next viewing.

Pick this up. Just give’r.

5/5 stars