As this is The Video Station’s final newsletter, I opted to say a little about a bunch of our last batch of New Releases instead of just writing about one:
ALLIED – A big-studio-grade World War II film (it was Oscar-nominated for Best Costume Design) from director Robert Zemeckis, in which Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play a Canadian intelligence officer and a French Resistance fighter, respectively, who partner up in Morocco in 1942 to assassinate the German ambassador. Then they marry, but is Cotillard who she says she is? The film looks smashing, the mystery is compelling and Cotillard is quite good. Pitt, however, is far too stiff, which drains some of the tension out of the proceedings.
DOCTOR STRANGE – The latest Marvel-world entry casts Benedict Cumberbatch as an arrogant surgeon who becomes crippled in an accident and finally seeks out help from a temple in Tibet, where he heals and gains mystical-magic abilities. Cumberbatch is well-cast, Tilda Swinton is perfect as Strange’s mentor (despite the whitewashing that is her being cast as the character), and the Oscar-nominated effects are absolutely dazzling (especially in 3D). I also liked Chiwetel Ejiofor. On the negative side, Strange’s conversion from jerk to hero felt a little too rushed, and the main villain, played by Mad Mikkelsen, a little too generic.
MOONLIGHT – A very good Best Picture winner in which we watch Chiron, a young black boy in Florida, grow up. Writer/director Barry Jenkins splits it into three arcs: Chiron when he’s about 8 or 9 (Alex Hibbert), when he’s a teenager (Ashton Sanders) and discovers he’s gay, and when he’s in his late ‘20s (Trevante Rhodes). Jenkins’s script is a wonderfully sensitive thing, his camerawork is marvelously fluid, and all three actors playing Chiron nail the part. Even better is Naomie Harris, deservedly nominated for playing Chiron’s drug-addicted mother. The first two arcs are excellent, while the third feels a little too drawn out. And while I liked Mahershala Ali, who won an Oscar for playing a father-figure drug dealer, he disappeared too early to make much an impression on me. Still, nicely done overall.
OFFICER DOWNE – Probably my favorite this week. Based on a series of comic books, it features Kim Coates as a police officer who gets constantly resurrected from the dead so he can continue to take out really nasty bad guys. It’s directed by Shawn Crahan, one of the founders of the heavy metal band Slipknot, and produced by Mark Neveldine, who co-directed the Crank flicks, so it’s vulgar as all get out — sex, violence, language. You name it, it revels in it. Crahan maintains a marvelously amped-up, comic-book-like energy level, and throws in quips and explosions, a trio of villains in animal masks, and nuns with guns. Fun for everyone!
SHUT IN – If you pay attention to Rotten Tomatoes, you probably won’t want to see this one, as it only has a 3% rating. Nonetheless, for what it is — a trashy scary-thriller — it’s actually pretty effective. Naomi Watts plays a psychologist whose husband dies in a car accident that paralyzes their teen son (Charlie Heaton), whom she cares for in their house in the mountains. A storm moves in, and Watts realizes there’s something other than her and her son in the house. Hardly original, but Brit director Farren Blackburn generates some solid suspense, and throws in the reliable Oliver Platt and Room’s Jacob Tremblay for good measure. A good arm-grabbing flick.
THE VIDEO STATION (1981-2017)
Well, I’m afraid that’s all she wrote, folks. It has been my pleasure, alongside my co-workers, to write these reviews and provide you with my humble opinion(s). As well I cannot offer enough thanks to you many, many customers who supported The Video Station and kept us going year after year after year. Meeting all of you and talking with you about movies or politics or whatever happened to come up was the best part of this job, and helped make my (nearly) 20 years here truly special. I will miss those conversations, I will miss you, and I will miss The Video Station.
Thank you, Scott Woodland and Ivory Curtis, for taking a chance and hiring me in back in 1997. Thank you, Bruce and Sheri, for keeping me on when you bought the store in 2002. Thank you, Shannon Stein, guardian of the newsletter, for your wonderful and tireless work, week after week. And a big, big thank you to those whom I worked alongside — there are too many of you to name individually. From those who were here when I started and all the way through to the current crew, you were like a second family to me. I learned from you, laughed (a lot) with you, fought with (some) of you, and gained friendships I will cherish always.
Sorry for getting all misty-eyed, folks. This store meant so much to me, as I know it did to everyone who worked here and rented here. So it is with a heavy heart that I say, goodbye, farewell and amen.