When I was a senior at Linfield, I managed Videoland. Yes, Videoland. It was awesome. I ran the schedule and deposited the money at the end of the night, and I talked about movies with customers and tried to keep from ripping my hair out over our battles concerning late fees.

God, we are a country of extraordinary excuses.

That's time I can't get back, friends.

We had a Blockbuster on the other side of town, and we hated them (the funny thing was, we were also a chain, whose headquarters were, supposedly, in the Midwest). Our Videoland, at least, was the proverbial anti-corporate joint. I hired a bunch of soccer players from Linfield and a bunch of Mac High kids; we had loads of fun.

Years after I left Mac, Jeanne and I returned for some rolled tacos at Muchas Gracias. I was sad to see that Blockbuster had since taken over the space. No more Videoland mojo.

Now, I'm actually sad that Blockbuster is going under. Seriously, it pains me to think of a world without a physical video store, as much as my rational mind tells me it's the second-most irrational thing that should exist (the first is a book by Snooki).

But I love movies. I really love going to the theater, and I plan on making a movie or two in the near future (more on that as events warrant). We watch a few DVDs each week, and we subscribe to Blockbuster (love the in-house swaps).

But our BB on Monument is closing, so we have to head over to University. Not terrible, but also not cool. I knew where all the movies were in the one on Monument.

At any rate, we looked at a couple of fine rentals recently.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) is okay. The critics graded it out as a B-, and that's not unkind. I like it as a 'B' overall. Michael Douglas is very good. He does a fantastic job, and it's worth it to watch him alone. LeBeouf is forgettable as the film's conscience, and the plot is a little skimpy. Oliver Stone does cool stuff with movies. I like his work. He has fun, and you can never miss his signatures.

But the original film had so much more grit and energy. This one, still, carries on...but it lacks the teeth of the original (a film I often show as a solid 1980s offering, as an occasional alternative to Do the Right Thing or Full Metal Jacket). I would have liked a more equivocal skewering of the financial meltdown of 2008 (yes, a contemporary of mine is still floating on the bonus he won when the bubble popped--he loves it). It seems like a hurried film in the first third; couple that with a forced family-reunification theme and it falls a little short.

Still, Stone returns to the split screens (I'm glad he didn't go eight deep, as that would have been old hat) and the occasional flirtations with whimsy (the bubbles).

I liked it more than I thought I would. It's a fine film. Not a great sequel, but certainly a worthy continuation of the Gordon Gekko mythos...

The American (2010) was also pretty good (B).

The film is quiet and plodding. It has tiny bursts of energy and a stylish overall feel. There is some passion and some intrigue. The story's central idea is telegraphed. The ending, as abrupt as it is, is okay. I thought it appropriate.

George Clooney is a suave killer with a brutal quotient of blood on his hands. His next assignment is a tough one--that final kill (my wife called it from two miles away)...

We see where it's going, and yet it's still an enjoyable film. The scenery is pretty. The dialogue is sharp. The conflict is compelling.

Short bursts of action keep the pace pleasantly varied. Solid--not great--but worth the time to take a look at, The American is, ultimately, kind of a sad film.

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