Bargain Bin(ge): Orange Beach, AL

Over this past summer, I spent a little time on the Alabama gulf coast in Orange Beach, AL. It is a pretty small town even during the tourist season, so I wasn’t expecting to find any Bargain Binge locations to spotlight. However, it turns out that Orange Beach still has a little local video rental shop up and operating. I’m honestly not sure what the name of the place is, but I am pretty sure it isn’t “BOOKS DVD Rentals”.

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Typically, I adore local video shops. I have featured a good number of them on this blog, and I look for them in all of the places I travel to. That said, this place was shitty. I went a number of times over the course of the week, and nearly every visit was horrible.

The first time I went into “BOOKS” was on a whim after a grocery trip, when I first spotted the place. It was roughly 3:00pm, and I was alone in the store for about 5 minutes before the old lady behind the counter kicked me out to “go to lunch”. This, for the record, is not a stellar business practice.

The second time I went into “BOOKS”, it was with a mission in mind. We all decided that we needed to watch “Deep Blue Sea” and “Twister” to break up the Great Gamera Marathon, and I wasn’t about to pay full price for either of those DVDs. To the credit of “BOOKS”, at least the store had both of those movies. Unfortunately, the visit was once again sunk by the customer service. The same old lady was in the store, this time sitting quietly next to the entrance. She didn’t say anything when I walked in, and made no motion during the handful of minutes that I stood at the checkout counter, movies in hand. I actually gave up and left the store, as she once again gave no signs of recognition as I left the store. Once again, this is not an ideal business practice.

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A few minutes later, after spot-buying some groceries, I went back into “BOOKS”. Because damn it, I wanted “Twister” and “Deep Blue Sea”, and this old woman was going to take my money whether she wanted to or not. This time, she was standing behind the counter, which was already an improvement over the last visit. I brought the movies up, and so began the marathon of membership registration.

Most video rental stores need to keep some information (via a membership typically) so that they can track you down if you abscond with a movie. Typically this is a quick and painless process: they might make a copy of your ID or have you fill out a form, and you’ll be on your way in a minute or two. At “BOOKS”, this process lasts a lifetime. She first asked if I was already a member, to which I said “no”. She then asked me if I was sure, and transitioned into the story of the 20+ year business and it’s many re-brandings and relocations in that time. I know I rented at least once from a store down here before, so I figured I might as well see if I was in the system. I mean, it could save me a minute or two, right? As she started hunting and pecking at her ancient keyboard, I instantly knew I had made a mistake. Even after she discovered I was not in the system, she kept looking and saying every name aloud that sounded like a vague permutation of “Gordon Maples”. I eventually had to interrupt her to ask for a new registration.
Around this time, one of my friends walked into the shop, wondering what on earth was taking me so long. As soon as he came in, the lady looked over my shoulder and said, in a unnecessarily harsh tone, “Can I help you, sir?”, as if he was about to steal her precious collection of beach reads on display.

Apparently the looming threat of having two individuals in the store caused her to pick up the pace, because the rest of the process went relatively smoothly. She hunt-and-pecked my information into the computer at a steady pace, and I was on my way.

The last time I went into the store, to return “Twister” and “Deep Blue Sea”, nothing eventful happened, which I was kind of disappointed by at that point. When you get that far, you have to hope for a thrilling conclusion to the epic, but that was not to be. The same elderly lady was there, but she was quick, pleasant, and sufficiently acknowledged my existence. It didn’t make up for the previous encounters, and the prices were ridiculous ($4 per night per movie as I recall), but it was definitely improvement.

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I do not recommend going to “BOOKS DVD Rental” if you happen to find yourself in Orange Beach, AL. Bring your own movies, or download something, or hope your vacation internet can sufficiently handle streaming. Or, shit, go outside. The place is gorgeous, enjoy it. Don’t be like me and spend your vacation watching Gamera movies.

choose wisely

 

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Bargain Bin(ge): Edward McKay Used Books

On this entry of the Bargain Binge, I’m going to spotlight one of my favorite little used media chains: Edward McKay used books of North Carolina!

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Not to be confused with the similarly-named regional chains “McKay Used Books” or “Mr. K’s Used Books”, “Edward McKay Used Books” has locations throughout North Carolina, specifically in Fayetteville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh. I have been to three of them (the only exception being the Fayetteville store), and I absolutely adore the wide selection of DVDs they typically have had to offer.

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I have most recently visited the Raleigh location, which seems significantly smaller than the others to me. It also is located right next to one of my favorite bargain hunting locations: “Trade It!”, and it is probably hurt by the direct comparison. That said, the chain has a unique charm to it, and I always aim to pick something up when I go through. I mean, just look at these t-shirts:

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If you ever find yourself traveling through North Carolina, definitely seek out a local Edward McKay. I have found some great obscure and rare stuff in their cult section before, and almost picked up the Hasselhoff “Nick Fury” movie on my most recent visit. They are mighty cool spots with decent prices on DVDs, books, and albums, so you are bound to find something you’ll like there. They also usually have an extensive DVD bargain section of movies between 3-5 dollars, which certainly isn’t bad.

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Plotopsy Podcast #2 – BlockBusted

BlockBusted: The Fall of the Video Store

On episode 2 of the (Plot)opsy Podcast, I decided to talk about something a little different. Instead of a movie, I decided to take a look at the aftermath of the collapse of BlockBuster Video, and the current state of the physical media market for movies. There is more to movie shops than just movies, after all: there is the movie shop culture to be considered.

You can check out episode 1 of the (Plot)opsy Podcast, on “Guardians of the Galaxy” and James Gunn, here.


Direct Link

Pvideo
Potomac Video, of the DC Metro area, shutting down in May 2014.

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A MovieStop location in Huntsville, AL

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McKay Used Books of Nashville, TN
McKay Used Books of Nashville, TN
One of the last BlockBuster video stores, just days before closing in southern MS.
One of the last BlockBuster video stores, just days before closing in southern MS.
Videodrome of Atlanta, GA
Advertisement for Scarecrow Video of Seattle, WA
Video Central of Columbus, OH
Video Central of Columbus, OH

IMDb Bottom 100: On Deadly Ground

On Deadly Ground

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“On Deadly Ground” is a grand tale of the many loves of Steven Seagal: explosions, tasseled clothing, wanton murder, the environment, fighting bears, and bad film-making. It is almost like a visual scrapbook that allows one to peer into the mind of a man who some have referred to as an “actor”.

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JACKET-TASSLES

If you cut 45 minutes out of “On Deadly Ground”, you could have an amazingly entertaining (yet horrible) 50 minute TV movie. Unfortunately, this movie is filled with massive lulls in the action where little-to-nothing happens. You are presented with all of the lovely scenery Alaska has to offer, but that sort of spectacle starts to get old after a few minutes without any plot momentum. As with many bad movies, the lack of cinematic pacing is the #1 problem with “On Deadly Ground”, but it is far from the only major flaw with the movie. I will say that it becomes mildly more watchable (and significantly more hilarious) if you watch through all of the dragging scenes at 1.5x speed.

Next on the laundry list of problems with this movie: the acting and directing (read: Steven Seagal). All of the villain characters in “On Deadly Ground” at least do an excellent job of hamming it up and making their screen time count, including notables such as Michael Caine, R. Lee Ermey, and John C. McGinley. However, unfortunately, most of the screen time in this movie is devoted to the never-charismatic, gargantuan wood block that is Steven Seagal. The fact of the matter is that Seagal just cannot act, and his presence never improves a film. In the unfortunate case of “On Deadly Ground”, he is not only the lead of the film, but he was also given the directorial reigns of the movie (for reasons that I will never comprehend). Apparently this decision led to some rather questionable calls on Seagal’s part, which significantly inflated the budget. My guess is that he needed more dramatic explosions, tasseled clothing, and oil for Michael Caine’s hair than initially projected. This movie being Seagal’s directorial debut almost certainly explains the aforementioned poor pacing as well, a not-uncommon issue for first-time directors.

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“On Deadly Ground” has an excellent cast of villains, including R. Lee Ermey’s moustasche…
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…Michael Caine…
"On Deadly Ground" has an excellent cast of villains, including R. Lee Ermey's moustasche
…and John C. McGinley of “Car 54, Where Are You?”

If you have heard anything about “On Deadly Ground”, you have heard about its heavy-handed environmental message and plot. The plot centers around Michael Caine’s character, an oil baron, and his plan to deny land right to a native tribe through the construction of a massive oil refinery-thing. ┬áSteven Seagal, whose character is a member of a local tribe, is introduced to the audience as a high-level employee in Caine’s company, who specializes in resolving oil disasters and other such shenanigans. Seagal turns on Caine and ultimately destroys the refinery for the good of the local peoples, but not before murdering and exploding a significant number of people. In most movies, the credits start rolling after the resolution of the plot. In “On Deadly Ground”, however, the movie doesn’t end until after a significant, rambling lecture on environmentalism delivered by Steven Seagal over a montage of stock footage. It isn’t an epilogue so much as it is a debriefing of the film’s message: just in case you didn’t get that oil companies are bad from Michael Caine’s cartoonishly evil performance. This message isn’t heavy-handed: it is lead-fisted.

For all of the issues with “On Deadly Ground”, it almost classifies as a good-bad movie for me. There are some ridiculously over-the-top deaths, an extensive sequence where Seagal booby-traps a forest for no reason, and all of the villains are just astoundingly silly. Seagal also take a significant vision quest where he fights a bear. All of that aside though, this is a boring and poorly-paced movie, so it is certainly not ideal for a bad movie night. I would recommend looking up a couple of clips from the movie, though. In particular, there is a brilliant game of slaps that features some of the worst, most unexpected dialogue in movie history. I mean, just check this out:

Also, there is a brilliant environmental commercial in the movie, featuring what is sure to be Michael Caine’s career low-point. Fun fact: there is a cameo in there from famed director Irvin Kershner. That has to be one of the least fun ‘fun facts’ in history.

There you go! That’s pretty much all you need to see from “On Deadly Ground”. Don’t forget to recycle.