The End of an Era – Video Stores

Everything in this world changes. The old gives way to the new (notice I didn’t say better there). From my perspective, it’s usually down to one of two things as to why things change. Money, you say. Partially. Time maybe? It certainly is a factor. I see these two factors of change as cultural evolution of thinking and technology. I know I may be simplifying things a bit, but this is my blog, so button it.

For example, Telephones have evolved from the clunky behemoths with a big slowly moving dial on the front that was so heavy that on more than occasion if was probably logged into police evidence as a murder weapon, to the sleek and small handheld digital devices we all have today that contain more computing power than the super computer that put men on the moon almost 50 years ago. And with those changes comes a new way of thinking about the concept of the telephone. People choose to text rather than to speak to another human being, countries have altered the way traffic lights work for pedestrians due to these little amazing devices containing a camera, digitals music play, games platform and access to the internet are taking the attention away from clueless people walking across the road where the road become the lights to say, ‘Stop!’.

The change I have hopefully gathered you all here for today is not as impressive and urgent. Not a bit. But never the less it is something close to this movie geek and pop culture nerd. That of the humble video store.

The evolving media mediums have always been a topic of worry for the people making their livings in the medium that previous. Moving pictures was thought to kill radio when they became talkies, television was a possible death blow to the Hollywood studios and their product, home video and the rise of video stores where anyone could rent something that they wanted to watch was seen as a possible death knell to both network television and the Hollywood machine. This is where I am going to stop the ‘next thing that could kill the previous thing’ barrage. Why, you ask. Because after this point, things do really change.

I am fully aware that the Hollywood style movie houses died out and was replaced by multiplexes, but people still go to the movies. Radio no longer air radio dramas and adventures, but get in your car and turn a certain knob and there is music, commercials and chatty disc jockeys to accompany your journey. But what if you wanted to go and rent a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray (VHS having already been replaced)? Sorry to say, no. At least not the way you used to.

The humble video store has been replaced by vending machines that are dodgey at best, digital downloads where you can rent or buy movies or TV shows, online streaming subscription services and the generally cheap DVDs and Blu-Rays on offer to buys in many stores. The video rental stores just haven’t been able to keep up and one by one have been shutting up shop.

I know what you’re thinking, “So what? Thinks are better now than they were.” Different, yes. Better? I’m not so sure. It is true that now you can get your hands on any kind of film ore TV program very quickly, almost instantaneously is some cases, but the revere for the material is not the same.

Now I did already point out this was an opinion of mine and I am looking through these with nostalgia goggles, but I think it is such a same. When I was younger I didn’t read for myself, I read for school. I played with other kids whose parents knew mine. I played the sports my parents wanted me to play. But when we went to the video store, surrounded by thousands of mini movies posters of the VHS cases, I was told I could wonder these isles of imagination a pick something that I wanted to watch. Me. Not Mum or Dad or my sisters or my brother, but me. I was overwhelmed with choice and I almost cried. I chose a VHS tape of the Masters of the Universe. And I watched it three times before it had to be returned. And again, I got to choose something. And one choice turned into two, two to three. And when I was old enough, I would walk or ride my bike down to the local video store and chose whatever I wanted. And I sampled everything I could. Everything I was on the table there was not restrictions. The world opened up for me then, my mind soaked it all in like a sponge, my imagination became mighty and my education began, truly began in the isles of that video store.

Now my adult brain is still soaking up everything I can find, but the experiences of finding what you want is no longer an adventure with a cinematic outcome as close to a religious experience as I can get. It has become a little more clinical. Anticipation replaced with a waiting game with the postman.

The closest to that feeling I have gotten in recent years is going into JB Hi-Fi (anyone outside Australia, it is a huge chain of stores loaded with every kind of media) and wondering the isles viewing the titles on the spines of the DVDs or Blu-rays. I will continue to go to these places and lose myself in the past, when the choices I made helped make me the person I am today.

The last video in my area is closing soon. It is selling off all its stock and closing its doors. I know eras end, and everything changes. It is the one constant in the universe. But we all must mourn the passing of the end of even the smallest things in our lives, because without them, we wouldn’t be who we are, be it man, woman, child or mutant.

I raise my glass to the video rental stores. You will be missed.

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The End of an Era – Video Stores

Corman is King. Reviewing Death Race 2050.

Death Race 2050 (2016) Dir. G.J. Echternkamp

Starring Manu Bennet, Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller, Burt Grinstead, Folake Olowofoyeku, Anessa Ramsey and Yancy Butler.

Holy Jumping Shitballs! This movie is amazing. Award winning? Not on your life. Fun? Without a doubt. Cheesy? You can bet your sweet ass it is.

Released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2016, Death Race 2050 is a remake of one of Corman’s own films, Death Race 2000 (1975) which is considered a cult classic of American exploitation cinema.

I know what you’re thinking out there, dear reader. Wasn’t Death Race 2000 already remade in 2008 with the Brit machismo Jason Statham? Why yes indeed, it was. It was fun and brutal and had an angle of social commentary with a nice side order of core. So why remake it again? Well, it seems Roger Corman wasn’t happy with the remake excising a lot of the political commentary, dark satire and the broken society elements for the storyline. Which is fair enough, as a lot of filmmakers are sometimes less than happy about remakes of their films. But that was back in 2008, what took Corman so long?

Well now, gentle fluffy bunny slipper wearing reader, it wasn’t until a few years after 2008 that Mr. Corman got an idea for a remake. He was being interviewed by an Italian journalist who remarked that The Hunger Games had similarities with Corman original Death Race 2000. That was when the ideas fell into place and the dollar signs in front of his eyes.

He contacted the studio Universal, who had the rights to produce the remake (and it two sequels) and made a deal. And what a deal it was. Universal released the film straight to disc and a little after the new year, it landed in the mighty land of skin cancer. (Ptssh! That’s Australia I’m talking about).

Now for many decades now Roger Corman has been making films independently in Hollywood, even as far back as the old Hollywood studio system. He has made his films fast, cheaply, often reusing sets and actors, and while many of his films are pretty terrible there remains within them a weird kind of charm. And occasionally he produces a gem that lasts and is even studied in academic circles. And even more amazingly, none of his film have EVER lost money. That is right, he never technically had a flop in all his years in the film business. Which I believe is because he has an eye for talent, hires them while they are cheap and supports them. Joe Dante, Ron Howard, James Cameron, amongst others, have all got their starts with Roger Corman. Corman himself has directed 56 films, and while he hasn’t directed a film since the beautiful gothic sci-fi horror film Frankenstein Unbound in 1990, he has continued to produce films cheaply, on time and in demand. And while his mainstays of drive-ins and video rental have changed, he has produced films for cable networks and streaming services with such titles like Supergator (2007), Dinoshark (2010), Sharktopus (2010), Camel Spiders (2011), Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012), Piranhaconda (2010), and Sharktopus Vs Whalewolf (2015). And you thought only the Asylum boys had a stranglehold on the cheesy CGI monster movie because of Sharknodo. How very wrong you are, silly mortals.

But Death Race 2050 is up there with the crazy, cheap exploitation films that made the original such a fun ride. If I could use one phrase to some up this film, it has to be a glorious ‘Over the Top’.

In the near dystopian future, everyone is addict to reality television they watch on headsets, all day, every day because the is basically on employment. The Corporation owns and runs everything and they produce all produce and entertainment in the United Corporations of America, and the most popular spectacle is the Death Race. A cross country motor race where drivers race supped up death machines whose sole purpose it to mow down innocent pedestrians for points on the way to the finish line. The most popular of these drivers is the mysterious masked Frankenstein. Add ridiculous competition for Frankenstein, like Jed Perfectus and Tammy the Terrorist, and rebel resistance (I know, right), gore from laughable to awesome, cheesy television presenters, outrageous costumes, a crazy amount of terrible CGI and the chairman with worse hair than Donald J Trump and this movie is a gem of ridiculous fun that barely hides its brilliance. I see this remake very soon having the same cult status as the original.

And the disc even comes with special features. Three documentaries (The Making of, The Look of 2050 and Cars! Cars! Cars!) that look at the production, and there are also deleted scenes. Yes, that’s right. There was crappier stuff that they had to cut out. Whaaaaaaaat?

If you want some awesome, crazy, ridiculous fun that you can actually have a intelligent conversation about (or even hit it with a Rifftrax or MST3K treatment) this movie is a must.

GET SET! READY! LAUGH!

Corman is King. Reviewing Death Race 2050.