Category Archives: video stores

A Shock to the System


A Video Review of A Shock to the System

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

When you work in a video store you get to know the regular customers pretty well. The subject of conversation is usually movies. What’s good. What’s bad. Sometimes you can become fairly friendly and talk about real stuff. Lisa was one of those regulars. She was and still is a good friend. Her taste in movies however was hideous. So when she recommended A Shock to the System to me as ‘the best movie she’d ever seen’ I dismissed it right away based on the crap she usually rented. Having just seen this Michael Caine epic I owe her an apology. A big apology.


It begins as an office drama a la Wall Street or Working Girl, which would normally put me to sleep. I don’t work in cubicle hell and I don’t want to watch it for entertainment, “Dilbert” be damned. Michael Caine is an aging businessman overlooked for a promotion that goes to a younger more cutthroat man. Circumstances allow him to off his shrewish wife, get into the pants of his secretary and ultimately murder the man who took his job.

This web of lies and destruction is all undercut by Caine’s narration as a man obsessed with a magician analogy. The writing of Andrew Klaven based on the Simon Brett novel is perfect. The direction of Jan Egleson is eclectic and non-stop tension.

It is not often that a murderer is your protagonist and even rarer that you root for him. You actually want Michael Caine to win. You want him to get away with it. This is a credit to the script and of course the talent of Caine himself. Bravo.

A Shock to the System is an excellent film not to be missed. My apologies to Lisa for doubting you.


What Not to Rent at the Video Store


Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

It’s Friday night and you don’t want to go out. You just want to snuggle on the sofa with your honey with a few videos and some Orville Redenbacher‘s Sweet ‘n Buttery Gourmet Popping Corn (the absolutely best popcorn on Earth, no contest).

So it’s off to the video store, yes, one of life’s great adventures. First you have to choose a video store. If they want blood and urine samples to rent, that’s a bad choice of video store. If their foreign section is only one shelf, the sign says “F’ern,” and the staff thinks Fellini makes pizza down the street, bad choice. If the employees are playing makeshift basketball with a mannequin head and a trash can on the counter, bad choice. If the movie posters in the window are for Titanic and Patch Adams and are bleached white from the sun, no. If they have a Jean Claude Van Damme section under ‘drama,’ uh uh. And if they have Moulin Rouge playing on the monitors, run, don’t walk to the exit.

Once inside, how do you know what to look for? There are so many movies, literally thousands. Or more importantly, how do you know what not to look for?

First if you’re at Blockbuster, avoid the staff picks at all costs. If these people knew anything about movies they wouldn’t be working at Blockbuster, right? At any other store the staff picks might be worth a look.

The new movies, if there are more than five copies left, forget it. It sucks and obviously no one wants it, unless it’s the first week it’s out and the public at large doesn’t know any better yet.

Ask other customers what to see. Don’t ask the staff (unless you actually know them outside the store) because they’ll say anything to get you to rent anything. It’s their job, it’s what they get paid to do. Other customers are in the same quandry you are and word of mouth is always the best recommendation (my opinions notwithstanding).

When walking through the store tapes with dust on them are usually bad choices. Now, when you find a tape hidden behind other tapes (especially those with dust on them) this is a good choice. Someone has hidden it so no one else can rent it and they’re saving ot for next time. This is a winner.

Look for warning labels on the movies. For instance, avoid any films whose boxes carry words like “Adam Sandler,” “Robin Williams,” “Billy Crystal,” Moulin Rouge or any movie with numbers after the title. Any thing that has Ebert & Roper giving a ‘thumbs up’ to is also a bad sign.

So remember: no staff picks, no dust, no Blockbuster and no Adam Sandler. Good luck!

Reprinted from the Project: Popcorn website at: