Tuesday, December 21, 2010

****new release list no.299

People of the planet, it is winter. Our constructs are disintegrating. Our financial systems are degrading. It is becoming more and more obvious that we are insects clamoring on top of each other for food. It is possible that the jig is up. Like the fate of the honeybees, our hives are corrupt and the buzz of activity is falling silent. Yet we rise to the occasion with positivity again and again! I admire that about us so much! Yet, alas, I am a bit pessimistic about Four Star Video, as I know so many of you are.

I read that even though Blockbuster has the same 28 day wait for Warner Brothers titles that Netflix has, they are still closing 182 stores in 2011 with a full bankruptcy and emergence from bankruptcy plan. Strangely, I don’t feel elation or anything about this. Just a somewhat distant numbness. What will happen with this industry?

Who likes a video store? Raise your hands. I know Four Star Video rules. I know we get crazy cool movies from all over the planet that you probably wouldn’t know about unless you saw them on our shelves. I know we have the only no-late-fee service in San Francisco. I know we spend more on movies than we probably should b/c we want to have as many copies as possible for new release Tuesday every week. I know we have the biggest Blu-ray section in SF with probably 6 or 700 titles. I know we are the only video/plant store on planet earth. Yet…I don’t sense we are what people want.

I hear every day people discussing Netflix with each other at the counter. I know many of my good friends who use the service. I have great friends who only steal their movies online, with their own funny justifications – or no justification at all. And I don’t blame them. Who knows what I would be doing if I didn’t own a video store.

I put out that survey a few months ago, and I got 300ish results. They were fascinating! And almost exclusively positive. Yet, we are down 12% this year, after going down 8% the year before. So I think that though you love yourselves a video store, you also love free movies (bit torrent, the library), easy access movies, money be damned movies(on demand, cable), internet services (streaming) and the gentle tushy-growing ease of sitting on the couch.

Am I grousing, riffing? Just babbling in a semi-stoned haze after a long day at the store? Yeah, yeah and, actually no. I know this kind of talk isn’t great for the store, and I know that you don’t really want my negativity, but I have trouble censuring my honesty in this situation, and so I must discuss it with you every few months, to remind myself that we are in this together. I like to talk to you people.

You are out there in the interverse, at the end of a long kite string that I am holding on to. I love you, actually. I want you to know that.

Also, I want you to know that we got a bunch of new movies at Four Star this week, including some big titles that will be sure to warm your Christmas vacation. WALL STREET 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is Oliver Stone’s attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. It’s been 20 years since Gordon Gekko got sent up the river for crimes against economy. Now, he’s out, and has the world changed? You betcha! We’ve had not one, but two awesome economical disasters, in this decade alone, and the entire world’s economy is teetering on the edge of disaster and now– cue the music – Gekko is ready to make a comeback. Problem is, he’s got no money…so what’s an ex-con trade-junky to do? Steal from his family? You betcha!

In SALT, Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent who is excused of being a Russian spy (really? In 2010?) and must go deeply uncover using all her crazy training to avoid being captured while she tries to exonerate herself.

DEVIL creates a claustrophobic and terrifying situation where a group of people are trapped in an elevator with a supernatural force that is killing them one by one. Chris Messina plays a detective outside the elevator trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

SOUL KITCHEN is a comedy from Fatih Akin (THE EDGE OF HEAVEN) about a restaurateur in Hamburg struggling to keep his dive afloat in the face of numerous personal catastrophes.

EASY A is American cheese food filled with great young actors about a high school girl who starts a bit of a business getting paid to confirm that she has had sex with other students at her school. With Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church and Malcolm McDowell.

There are also a couple really awesome looking foreign films out this week, ANGEL by Francois Ozon (SWIMMING POOL), LET IT RAIN by Agnes Jaoui, and MAP THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO by Isabel Coixet.

One last film related note: I am so sorry that EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is still not here! It is supposed to be delivered by Friday. Aarrrgh! Rest assured, it is coming.

Alrighty, that’s all folks, hope to see you at the stores.

Love and Kisses,
Ken


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............//NEW RELEASES//............

ANGEL.
Drama/Romance.
Romola Garai/Sam Neill/Charlotte Rampling.
Directed by Francois Ozon.
* This period piece, from the maker of SWIMMING POOL and 8 WOMEN, follows a young writer who lives in a bit of a self-created fantasyland while trying to be a professional writer.

DEVIL.****BD****
Action.
Chris Messina.
Directed by John Dowdle and Drew Dowdle.
Produced by M. Night Shyamalan.
* That nasty devil is always playing tricks…but according to this fable by the Shyamanamanator, the horned fellow follows a strict code of ethics. Hmm. The tale involves an elevator, and some supposedly random people stuck in it, who may or may not be ready for a trip straight to hell. Ah, but first there must be mystery, fear, terror, confusion, guilt, confession and perhaps even redemption. Messina (VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, HUMBOLDT COUNTY) plays an investigator who is trying to figure out what is happening to the people in the elevator and whether or not any earthly help can be had. In turns out yes, but not in the way you might imagine.

EASY A.
Comedy.
Emma Stone/Amanda Bynes/Lisa Kudrow/Thomas Haden Church/Stanley Tucci/Patricia Clarkson/Malcolm McDowell.
Directed by Will Gluck.
* This teen sex tale was on in the store about 12 times this weekend, so I kind of feel like I watched it. There actually isn‘t much sex that takes place. Emma Stone plays a young lady who basically takes cash from guys in exchange for saying that she had sex with them, but there is no actual contact, in fact she is a virgin! Somehow there is a bizarre parallel made in this film to Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter”. Thus, the title. Getting an “easy A” had a different meaning when I was in school.

FAMILY GUY IT’S A TRAP.
Comedy/Family.
Seth MacFarlane/Alex Borstein/Mila Kunis/Seth Green.
Directed by Peter Shin.
* Supposedly the finale of their Star Wars related feature length spoofs! I was stunned this afternoon at the store, while I thought I was listening to this film, at just how much it was exactly like Star Wars, until I discovered that they weren’t watching this, they were actually watching Star Wars.

LET IT RAIN.
Comedy/Drama/Foreign (French).
Agnes Jaoui/Jean-Pierre Bacri.
Directed by Agnes Jaoui.
* An ambitious feminist politician returns to the family home in the French countryside and confronts all the familiar issues that you‘d expect her to find there. This movie is supposed to be relatively hilarious.

MAP THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO.
Thriller/Drama/Foreign (Japanese and English).
Rinko Kikuchi/Sergie Lopez .
Directed by Isabel Coixet.
* This Japanese thriller is about a fish-market employee who also works as a hit-man. This film won an award at Cannes last year, and was nominated for the Golden Palm as well.

RIVERS WASH OVER ME.
Drama/LGBT.
Derrick L. Middleton.
Directed by John G. Young.
* A young teenager, whose mother has just died, leaves his home in New York and moves in with family in Alabama where he becomes awakened to his sexuality and forms a crush on his new friends‘ younger brother.

SALT.****BD****
Action/Thriller.
Angelina Jolie/Chiwetel Ejiofor/Liev Schreiber.
Directed by Phillip Noyce.
* A CIA agent with big puffy lips (Jolie) must go undercover to avoid being captured after she is accused of being a Russian double-agent.

SOUL KITCHEN.
Comedy/Drama/Foreign (German).
Directed by Fatih Akin.
* Akin (THE EDGE OF HEAVEN, HEAD-ON) has been known for emotional and intense films involving Turkish immigrants in Germany. In this comedic departure from his normal style, a restaurant owner, Zinos, is struggling to keep his dive afloat and his personal life in order. His journalist girlfriend has split for China, and his new chef is driving away the old clientele with his new-fangled gourmet food. His brother is using him for fake employment for his work-release program at the jail that he is currently housed, and his back has a crick in it that is making it terribly painful for him to even stand. Luckily, he’s super duper into funk music, and people who are super duper into funk generally figure shit out.

STEP UP 3.
Drama/Dance.
Sharni Vinson.
Directed by Jon Chu.
* Super high octant dance off!

WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS .****
Drama.
Michael Douglas/Shia LaBeouf/Carey Mulligan/Charlie Sheen/Susan Sarandon/Josh Brolin/Frank Langella/Martin Sheen.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
* Gekko is out of jail and estranged from his daughter who has hooked up with an idealist who is saddened by corruption and trusting of Gekko. Big money gets tossed around, and eventually Gekko ends up with a lot of it. There is redemption involved. But no one gets there lost retirement money back.

............//DOCUMENTARY/............

SCREAMING MEN.
Documentary//Foreign (Finnish).
Directed by Mika Ronkainen.
* This very funny movie enlightens us all about the Finnish Screaming Male Choir.

............//TELEVISION/............

HOARDERS: SEASON TWO PART ONE.
Television/Americana.
* They don’t share, they don’t recycle, they don’t consume; they hoard. And it’s funny! And not funny, too (don’t want to offend anyone!).(too much).

****

8 comments:

http://dkzody.wordpress.com said...

I'm probably not the person from whom you wish to hear, as I rent maybe two movies a year. This year it's been 4, and all from iTunes. But, I'm cheering for you. I love small businesses and people with entrepreneurial spirit (I taught entrepreneurship classes for 20 years). Neighborhood stores are the best and if I lived in Bernal Heights, within walking distance, I wouldn't be downloading from iTunes. I'd swing by. Thanks for sharing and I wish you a very Happy New Year.

yatima said...

I love your store and try to come in every week. My kids consider it a massive treat. Hold on!

Ian said...

Yeah, I think I remember that survey. I do love that store. But what a way to make their customers feel bad. The people in the store, customers of course, were given a survey why they stopped being a customers. Reminded me of the teacher who complained about how students dare to be late to class, yelling at the ones who were on time when class started. Since that survey I wasn't back to spend another dollar there. I want movies for fun. Not the staff's mood swings.
You have to have a product that people want. You can't guilt-trip people into doing business with you. No biz is entitled to loyalty just by being there.
Do the video store people do pilates? Maybe yes, maybe not. If not, how dare they harm the nice owner of the pilates studio! Do you employ vegetarians? Why do you want to hurt the great meat market across the street? Why do you write a blog? Do you know how much you hurt the local printers by not mailing a newsletter?
And the crocodile tears of Tod Lapin? Check the store records, how often does he rent at your store?
DVDs are not a product that many people don't want anymore. Like VHS before. Do we really need to have a local supply of plastic discs to hold files produced by mega corporations (going to dumps by the ton later)? Isn't it nicer to start a movie from your home when you feel the urge? Or switch to a different one after 30 minutes, if it turns out that this Nicholas Cage movie is one of his crappy ones?
It must hurt to peddle so much Hollywood crap next to the good films. Given by the tone of the blog, the store's staff appears to have good taste.
Given that it is a dying species, frankly, I'm surprised that the video rentals are down only 12%. That means 88% was still there. Amazing, with all these Netflix promotions! Enjoy the time you have left. Where is the Film Noir Club? The Aussie movie night? Help us discover your treasures. (I may forget the survey misstep) Don't make the customers you still have feel bad or guilty. Make the ride down fun, while you get ready dealing the other kinds of products that people still need. Or get out now if it's too painful. Hope you take the fun road.

Dominica said...

Four Star Video was the first business my kids went to on their own. That was a long time ago, and owners and workers have come and gone, but Four Star is irreplaceable to me, the *one* business on Cortland I would be absolutely devastated to lose.

The people who work there are inevitably cool, fascinating even. The movie selection never fails to please our household's variety of interests.

We upped our Kenflix last winter to a foursub for the holidays, but somehow never went back down; it worked so well for our family. I don't use Netflix or the library for movies.

I love you guys. I want your business to be happy in every way, because I can't imagine this neighborhood without it.

Once in a while, when none of us want to walk up the hill to Four Star, we fantasize about how cool it would be if you guys would deliver a movie to us. Realistically, that would be going too far -- we need the exercise.

It really sucks that money doesn't magically appear every time you make someone happy; maybe then capitalism would seem like a more happening system, and you guys would be raking in the bucks. Money can't buy you love, but if love turned into money, you could chill about the finances,based on my love for Four Star.

Four Star Video said...

Ian, thanks for your comment! Brilliant, of course. I want to make sure you know that our discs are made out of corn plastic with biofuels, and when they are no longer good, we break them up and sprinkle them on ice cream. xoxoK

Julie said...

Ken, Shila, Jeff, Andrew, Rachel- I think we got so wrapped up in our own torrid Autumn, that we forgot how a quick shot of video love at 4 Star brightens the day and warms the heart. We love the succulence of Succulence. We love the Lemons>Lemonade attitude. We can't imagine life without you. And to that end, you're one of our New Year's resolutions. Keep 4 Star Alive! Yeah, its us, Julie & Giorgia

Julie said...

Previously, I posted straight from the heart, but then I browsed the other comments. Shame on you Ian, I think you missed the point entirely. Clearly you don't really get what Ken and the 4 Star crew are about. Its about Community– not just Commerce. I think the residents of Bernal like their businesses and seem to try to support all of them. If Heartfelt was in trouble, or Avedano's, Progressive Grounds, or Vega, they might not take the same approach as 4 Star has, but for sure they'd hope that the community they served was aware of their situation and be given a chance to lend their support and patronage. Ken isn't a whiner. Or a manipulator. And he certainly isn't a capitalist pig on Prozac. Ditto for his staff.

4 Star began with a guy named Rick and his wife, then David Ayoob took over. He passed it to his workers, Jeremy and Jamie, who ultimately traded off to Ken and Amy. With each successive owner, I think we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief when things got better and better and also stayed the same.

Historically that place has been about good will and positive vibes. They've donated to schools, stood out front in costume with candy on Halloween, helped beautify the neighborhood and have exposed countless children to their first film experiences. They know their clientele and have cultivated real friendships and camaraderie with Bernal residents. They fill a hole that Netflix can't possibly fill. It's the one where the heart is. I doubt its just the drop in sales that hits the 4 Star Family when they ponder the possibility of having to shut their doors.

I appreciate Ken's candor. And his commitment. And his real life concerns, which are no different than many of ours.

As much as I like being able to decide to watch something at the last minute on Hulu or click onto my Instant Queue on Netflix, I know that whenever I take a stroll to Cortland, 4 Star is a definite Jewel in the Crown. With some minimal creative accounting, it wasn't hard to accommodate both worlds that I live in, the virtual and the real one.


Bah Humbug, Ian.

hairball said...

Ken-and all here-since moving far far away, to another city, i have missed you and your employees, and videos, more and more-it's bush league Ian, to blame Ken for his venting. Running a business is hard, and yeah, negativity come sup. Better to let it out in a constructive way, than let it fester. And the store rules! Please tell all the employees David misses them, their help and patience. Shoot, there in NO video store in my neighborhood, not even a crap one with 50% porn.... but i will not use netflix, i will walk faithfully to my library and see what they get, it's one way of keeping it local i can still manage here.