So a guy walks into a video rental store…
That’s the joke. Pretty funny, right? Can you even remember the last time you entered one of those wonders of the ancient world? The last time you bandied about in a Blockbuster, milled around in a Mr. Movie, hunted for your favorite flick in a Hollywood Video or meandered through a Movie Gallery? Just as Professor Trelawney prophesied years ago, as the sun rises on Redbox, so shall it set on video rental stores (after the introduction of streaming content by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others, Professor Trelawney amended her prophecy to read, “Oh yeah. Video rental stores are screwed”). Our favorite divination teacher was not wrong as this millennium has seen the slow fade to black of our beloved video rental stores.
And I do mean beloved. I remember fondly the video rental stores of my youth. We had a Mr. Movie across the street and a Hollywood Video just down the road. I can remember being on the way home from some activity or another on the weekend and asking my parents if we could rent a few movies (there seemed to always be some sort of deal that encouraged you to get three movies. Why three? I do not know). It would usually be my mom and me and I would always go straight to the back wall for all of the new releases. You knew these were the good ones because you could only rent them for five days as opposed to seven. The struggle for us was always finding movies that my mom, my dad, my sister and I would all like. There was lots of searching, lots of phone calls home to get opinions, lots of compromising and LOTS of movies to choose from. Eventually, we’d realize that we had spent the better part of an hour in the store and end up getting the three movies we had in our hands at that particular moment. When we went to check out, I would always try and convince my mom to buy the movie theater snack pack. You know the one that had a bag of the most over-buttered microwave popcorn you could imagine and a couple of boxes of overpriced candy all crammed into a popcorn tub that was JUST LIKE THE ONE’S YOU GOT AT THE THEATER! Of course, my mother being the smart woman she is, never relented and I was forced to eat our own microwave popcorn out of kitchen bowl. Can you imagine?
So why am I talking about the death of video rental stores? Because (spoiler)…they’re not all actually dead! Sure the major chains have all closed their doors for the most part, there are still a few independent shops that are keeping the video rental dream alive. In fact, my local video rental store, 9th Street Video, was the only place I could find this week’s selection, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. So you all owe a debt of gratitude to the video rental industry for making this wonderful review you are about to read possible. Enjoy.
25. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Released: 1982 (more on this later)
Big names: Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore
One sentence summary: An alien is left behind on Earth where he meets and forms a special bond with a young boy.
Scene that sticks out: Watching an alien bum around a house getting drunk had me flashing hard on the movie Ted in the best way. Adding in a drunk Elliot (Thomas) at school inciting a free-the-frogs riot and topping it off with a John Wayne kiss was just gravy.
Thoughts: Why did I wait so long to watch this movie? It was fantastic. It was fun. It was funny. It was heartwarming. I am a sucker for movies about friendship and this was right in my wheelhouse. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how quickly Elliot accepted and adapted to the craziness that was going on. Let’s not forget, he just made first contact with a freaking alien. From outer space. Who’s short and slimy and does this weird thing with his neck. And yet he is totally cool with it. Flying bicycles going over a cliff? Doesn’t bat an eye. And the connection that is built between the two is as powerful for the viewer as it is for the characters. These two beings with no apparent common ground form a bond so tight that they are actually tied together. Elliot refers to them as, “we.” It’s a powerful statement on friendship and disregarding differences, and it comes from a 10-year-old boy and an alien. I would also be remiss if I did not mention how much I loved the acting of Henry Thomas (Elliot) and the wee baby Drew Barrymore. Elliot’s bond with E.T. transcends superficiality because Thomas makes it happen. And Barrymore is hilarious and heartwarming as little Gertie who grows to love E.T. like another brother.
Ranking (out of 10): – If I stumble across this movie while channel surfing, I’ve found my entertainment for the next two hours.
A Whole New World
Maybe it’s just me, but when I opened up my E.T. video rental, there were two disks. The first one I saw was the 2002 20th Anniversary Edition. What? If 2002 was the 20th anniversary, then that means that movie came out in…1982? For some reason, that seemed way too early. I always thought of E.T. as a mid-90s film at the latest so seeing that it was actually from the Reagan years threw me a bit. When I combined that with my video rental nostalgia (and a recent list I saw of all the things that have happened since my Chicago Cubs won the World Series…), I started to think about how much movies, film and the entertainment industry have changed since E.T. was released. So without further ado, take a look at my horribly cliched list of how things change over the past 32 years.
NEXT WEEK: With the help of our friend, The Critical Cinephile, we watch one of Hitchcock’s four AFI 100 films, Rear Window.