Sunday, March 29, 2009

You Never Forget Your "First"

Venturing through Boston's Chinatown yesterday on the search for the Hong Kong import DVD of the recent John Woo movie, Red Cliff, I walked by an old haunt: Kneeland Electronics.

I say old haunt, but that's not quite accurate. It's a spot I've stopped by a number of times, perusing their DVDs and admiring their various posters, doo-dads and appliances. It's one of those places -- a neighborhood shop that seems like it's always been there. Never touristy or overdone in it's decor, bright, clean and well-operated by the same people; friendly folks who enjoy making suggestions and helping the consumer decide what's right for them.

Kneeland also has a special significance for me, as well. It's the store where I bought my very first Asian DVD, something I've become quite practiced in over the years. The movie was Dream Of A Warrior, a not-great Korean action flick with Leon Li. The film wasn't a classic by any means but I was intrigued enough to continue seeking out cinematic fare of the like -- a Jackie Chan film or two, works by Zhang Yimou (Hero), Steven Chow (Shaolin Soccer), Johnnie To (A Hero Never Dies) and how many others I can't recall. My purchasing has waned a bit recently, but I always stop into the store for a brief moment whenever I'm in the neighborhood, if not to buy then to just enjoy it's presence.

But sadly, those days are over. Kneeland Electronics is gone. Showroom empty, shudders down, window posters removed. This is nothing new in our current economy, of course. Lots of our favorite stores, coffee shops and such have vanished in recent times, be it due to changes in customer needs or the difficulties of business operations. Walking by, I stopped in my tracks almost disbelieving what I was seeing. I was struck with a sadness at the sight of the place being locked up. I find myself thinking of those who ran Kneeland, hoping that they're okay and provided for. With all the changes happening to the downtown Boston area, especially in Chinatown with the arrival of several incongruous, new high-rise luxury condo towers, I couldn't help but wonder how much longer the neighborhood has...

Moments later I found the Red Cliff disc I was looking for at another nearby shop that I frequent and purchased it, along with three or four more DVDs. I didn't really need them, and in the end I might have to skip a meal or two in order to afford them. But I guess it's my small way of making sure that another local merchant can stick around a little while longer. The next time you get a chance, and if you have the extra time and money to spare, think about doing the same. And feel free to discuss a shop that means or meant something to you in the comments below. :)

Dedicated to other cool spots from the past: Disc Diggers (Davis Square), Mystery Train (Newbury Street), Flipside (Brookline), CD Spins (Newbury Street), Fuddrucker's (Boston), Oasis Video (Lechmere), City Video (Boston), Cinemasmith (Brookline), Sony Theaters Nickelodeon and Cheri (Boston), Gary's '50's Diner (Keene, NH), Luke's Record Exchange (Pawtucket, RI), Tri-Boro Cinemas (North Attleboro, MA), Mon Kou (Attleboro, MA).

Knowing **1/2

DVD/Home Video:
Contact (1997) ****
Space Ghost: Coast To Coast Season Five ***1/2
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) ***1/2
Under the Volcano (1984) ***1/2
Red Cliff II (Hong Kong) ***1/2
Red Cliff (HK) ***
Once Upon A Time in Corea (Korea) ***
One Night in the Tropics (Abbott & Costello, 1940) **1/2
National Treasure: Book of Secrets **1/2
Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem **1/2
The Producers (2005) **1/2

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Your Friendly Neighborhood Crazy Man

A few weeks ago I was walking around Boston on a particularly snowy Saturday, which probably didn't help my oncoming bout with bronchitis any. Returning from Micro Center over on the Charles, I took a shortcut through a large-quad sort of park over by Boston University, just off Comm Ave.

On this particularly snowy Saturday, though, the cold and wind and snow/freezing rain combo was a bit much, so I made my usual move. I wrapped my scarf all the way around my head and neck about four times (it's long, like "Doctor Who" long), slipped on my 'round-the-back-of-the-head-style earmuffs and pulled by faux-wool winter hat down over my head.

When I do this, naturally, heat is the main concern -- not fashion sense, which I don't have anyway -- and as a result my head is completely bundled up aside from the eyes. At times like this, as friends can vouch for, I sort of look like a large-economy version of Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story crossed with your garden variety convenience store robber. This day, though, I seemed to remind someone else of someone else...

Passing through the aforementioned park, I spotted, a few yards up in the pathway before me, a woman and child, possibly baby and babysitter but more likely mother and son, playing in the snow... or, more accurately, kicking a ball back and forth in the cold, miserable slush storm. My oncoming bronchitis must've been making me irritable as my first thought as I saw them ahead of me on the pathway was, "Way to take your kid out in the crappy weather. Nice momming, Mom!!" Then I remembered what I must look like -- a large, masked man approaching silently in the near dark of the otherwise-empty park. Not wanting to appear as some sort of troublemaker, I slowed my pace until there was a decent enough moment for me to pass through. As the kickball reached the little boy and he bent down to pick it up, he looked my way. And froze.

"Uh oh," I thought. "I've scared him, now."

I waved, unthreateningly and uber-friendlily, and suddenly his eyes widened. He excitedly announced... "Wow! You look like Spider-Man!"

This was probably the most flattering thing I'd heard in a while. (Me and Spidey go way back.) I didn't really look like Spider-Man at all; dressed in grey and pushing 220 pounds on a good day. But I went with it.

"That's right, kid! I am Spider-Man! This is what I wear in winter!"

The mom starts laughing nearby, so I turn it into some sort of stand-up routine for them both.

"Yep, have you ever noticed in my movies that it's never winter when I'm fighting the Green Goblin and all them? That's 'cause my other suit is freezing in this cold. And the ice makes it impossible for me to stick to the buildings and I can't shoot webs with my gloves on. So I come to Boston and hang out until New York warms up again. Spidey hates catching the flu."

The kid's mouth just hangs open, eyes wide.

"So, bundle up, be good and I'll see ya' later. Let me know if you see Doc Ock... I heard he was around here somewhere."

The mom giggles. The kid twitches, looking all around the park like a squirrel evading a german shepherd. I wave them both a happy goodbye and move along my way. So, long story short... Apparently, I'm Spider-Man. Which is cool enough for me...

But... if Gwen, Mary Jane and Betty Brant were here... Then we'd be on to something. :)

Friday, March 06, 2009

"Blogspot is afraid of me. I've seen it's true face."

Hell yes.

**** stars.

More later...

The Third Man (1949) ****
The Dark Knight (IMAX) ***1/2
Gran Torino ***1/2
The Spirit **1/2
Quantum of Solace **

DVD/Home Video
The Godfather (1972) ****
The Godfather Part II (1974) ****
The Godfather Part III (1990) ***
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Criterion) ****
The Sugarland Express (1974) ****
Get Carter (1971) ****
Bullitt (1963) ****
Charade (1963) ****
M*A*S*H (1969) ****
Duel (1971) ****
Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom (1984) ***1/2
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Korea) ***1/2
Henry Rollins: Talking From The Box ***1/2
The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) ***1/2
Wet Hot American Summer ***1/2
Batman Returns (1992) ***1/2
Legal Eagles (1986) ***1/2
An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder ***
Zatoichi and the Fugitives (1968, Japan) ***
The Truth About Charlie (2002) ***
Henry Rollins Goes To London ***
Public Enemy Returns (Korea) ***
The Living Daylights (1987) ***
Happy Times (China) ***
Silverado (1985) ***
Backdraft (1991) ***
Scrooged (1988) ***
Sparrow (HK) ***
Ip Man (HK) ***
Speed Racer ***
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life **1/2
Be A Man! Samurai School (Japan) **1/2
Joe Strummer: Let's Rock Again **1/2
Crows: Episode Zero (Japan) **1/2
Dangerous Game (1993) **1/2
Blue Remains (Japan) **1/2
Chocolate (Thai) **1/2
Batman (1989) **1/2
G.P. 506 aka Guard Point (Korea) **
Painted Skin (HK) **
The House Bunny **
Max Payne **
Bolero (1984) *1/2
Tarzan: The Ape Man (1981) *
Malice@Doll (Japan) *

Moonlighting: Seasons One & Two ****
Moonlighting: Season Three ***1/2
Moonlighting: Season Four ***
Moonlighting: Season Five ***
Miami Vice: Season Two **1/2
Miami Vice: Season Three **1/2
Miami Vice: Season Four ***
Heroes: Season Two ***1/2
The Henry Rollins Show: Seasons One & Two ***
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume Six ***
Henry Rollins Uncut In Isreal ***