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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Some new additions to the blog!

A short and sweet update for today. There are now some site links, and - more importantly - I am now contactable!

As odd as it sounds, for the past couple of years I've not bothered to include a way for my readers to get in touch, other than via commenting on the articles themselves. This is partly due to my lack of computer proficiency with Blogger, and partly out of laziness - for which I can only apologise on both counts.

If you wish to get in touch with me, you can now do so using the e-mail link on the right-hand side of this blog. Interesting and pertinent messages, posts and comments from readers will be responded too and posted on my site as well, for everyone to see. So feel free to get in touch, and if anyone has any sensible opinions on subjects or issues they'd like to see me write about, let me know, and I'll consider them.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Few Bits Of This-And-That, And Why Arrow Has Signed Its Own Death Knell, Once-And-For-All! (It's another screw-up!)

First, a link to an article that you should all check-out, regarding the recent BBFC report on sexual violence (the one undertaken with just 35 participants, I might add)! Go have a look, and I hope you all enjoy it. It's the kind of quality article I wished I had written. Kudos to the Strange Things Are Happening gang! A most impressive read!

Strange Things Are Happening

Secondly, there is now hope on the horizon for the beleagured UK retailed HMV!

A restructuring specialist, called Hilco, has been put in charge of HMV's finances. Now whilst Hilco don't technically own HMV yet, they do have the ability to start making changes and to hopefully putting the company on a much safer, and surer ground. At the current time, HMV owe £176 million! Hilco have already bought HMV Canada, so there is real hope that they can save HMV UK and turn it around. The fact that film and entertainment organisations like Twentieth Century Fox are also planning on trying to make things work for HMV, by offering lower retail prices to the chain, can only be a good thing. If it costs HMV less to stock something, then it will cost you the customer less to buy it!

More on this story, as and when it breaks. And now, for some very late news... Arrow are up to their old tricks again! (Good God, not again?!) As some of you may know from a previous thread on the issue - see   this link here.  I have given Arrow Video a very hard and unforgiving time. When they originally announced that they were going to release ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS onto UK Blu-Ray, I originally posted a 1-Star Review on Amazon, basically saying that I was sure they would screw it up in some way.

When the release came out, I was lambasted for daring to criticise Arrow. Many people said the image was better than the film had ever looked before. Which, to be fair, was true. The film has never looked better than on this specific home viewing release.

Well, in spite of the great picture, it looks like I was actually right. (Yes! Ha ha ha!)

Once again, Arrow have managed to screw-up yet another release in their cult, horror, and exploitation range. (For more on this subject, go read my article  here  where I talk about all of their previous screw-up's in detail!) Quelle surprise, as they say on the continent.

It may not be much to some of you, but because Arrow chose to use three different sets of opening credits on their release of this seminal zombie classic, namely the Italian "Zombi 2" credits, the British "Zombie Flesh-Eaters" and the "Zombie" US titles, they have inadvertently chopped-off six seconds of the opening sequence, where the boat arrives in the harbour of New York! (The issue was first officially mentioned in their forums - see  this link  here.) Instead of the boat slowly and lovingly arriving in N.Y., what you get is a huge jump in the image, as it "pops" into view, and a noticeable "jump" in the audio as well. Totally and utterly unforgiveable! Are Arrow really this stupid, to once again, screw-up another film? Well, it seems, the answer is a resounding "YES"!

And here's what the opening scene SHOULD look like:

On 4th January 2013, Arrow made this announcement:

I am afraid we will not be running a replacement programme, we are very frustrated that this error was introduced by the seamless branching but there isn’t anything we can do about it at this stage. I can only apologise profusely. I hope you are enjoying the disc nonetheless. Best regards. Francesco
Four days later, on their Facebook page, they said this: (taken from their website - all errors have been left in also):

After three independent QCs and literally hundreds of reviews, no one noticed the missing footage, this was brought to our attention by an eagle eyed customer and since then we have been looking into how to fix this. The missing six seconds are caused by the seamless branching 'in point' being incorrectly positioned 6 seconds late and causes a shot of the New York harbour and the movement of the boat into screen to be missing following the credits. We did not initially consider a replacement programme as the replacement programme for The Beyond has not been in a success in that sadly it has been abused as we have now issued many more discs than we actually manufactured. We have therefore decided that we will have a replacement programme for Zombie Flesh Eaters but at a small cost in order to deter those who have claimed discs by forging proof of purchase. Simply the disc may be purchased from our website so there is no need to send us your disc, or proof of purchase making the process very simple and as pain free as possible. Discs are now being manufactured and we will endeavour to make these available as soon as possible, this will likely be a week or so. The replacement disc can be purchased here: Arrow ZOMBIE Replacement Programme

In light of this situation we have amended our processes for authoring and disc QC and we will endeavour for this not to happen again. We can only apologise and hope you are enjoying your Zombie Flesh Eaters packages otherwise. We have a bumper year ahead with some pretty fantastic titles that we intend on doing justice to, more restorations are planned and we hope there will be a few tricks up our sleeve you will enjoy.
It gets better! Arrow KNEW about this problem, BEFORE the discs went to press. See  this link  here. So not only were they told about it, they then failed to fix it, before thousands of faulty copies were authored and manufactured.

Want more?

They claim "Hundreds of reviews" and "Three independent Quality Control tests were undertaken. They claim the error was caused by a "seamless branching" issue? Oh, really! And it gets even juicier still. If you click on the link, you get taken to a page where they wanted you to pay them money to fix their mistake, but thankfully reneged on that shitty idea!

Well, you know what Arrow - FUCK THE LOT OF YOU! You're a bunch of cheap-arsed, lazy, useless, incompetent bunch of ingrates, who wouldn't know their backsides from their brachial artery's. You have the temerity to not only not apologise properly to every one of us who paid you our hard-earned money, but on top of that, because of your errors, we, the customer have to now not only send you our faulty discs back, at our expense, but we then have to pay you £5 to get a replacement, AND we have to do this, because YOU can't get your act together when trying to fix your disc replacement programme for THE BEYOND. Are you fucking kidding?!

Clearly, you are not! And that's what hurts most! You seem to think that this kind of action is not only acceptable, but that it is ok for you to charge us to fix your mistakes. Not only are you incompetent, but you are now LEGALISED THIEVES as well! You're asking us to pay you for your screw-up in spite of the fact that under English Law, it is for you to fix a fault, at your expense and not the customers!

You're scum-sucking parasites!

Since then, there's been no further word from Arrow, about what customers should do with their faulty Blu-Ray discs, that no longer contain the "definitive" release of one of the greatest zombie films ever made. Why does that not surprise me in the least?!

Everyone, please, if you were a purchaser of Arrow's films, take this as your final warning! This company is useless! This company will screw you over, and will make you pay for its mistakes! For your own sanity, DO NOT BUY ANY MORE ARROW DVD'S AND/OR BLU-RAYS UNTIL THEY LEARN THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS! BLACKLIST THEM. IGNORE THEM. But whatever you do, DO NOT buy their products!

They've had ten previous releases, riddled with errors, mistakes, problems, issues, or whatever other name they wish to label the screw-up as, and each time, they've fumbled the ball! Let's all take a stand against this kind of corporate arrogance! Stop letting companies (of any size) walk all over you!

DO NOT BUY ARROW/CULT-LABS PRODUCTS! (Specifically, and so as to cover my own arse, only, the titles in the white cases, that appear on  this list  ! No other Arrow films, releases, or titles apply to this thread!)

Maybe then, and only then, will they learn that they need to stop messing with film fans, and people who pay good money, only to end-up getting second-rate goods!

And if Arrow want to try suing me for libel, then let them have a go at me! Let's see them take me to the courts, and then tell me that everything I've written here is 100% false, and that I should be paying them for "lost revenues" or a "damaged reputation"! They haven't got a (maggot-infested) leg to stand on!

Hopefully this will be the last time I ever have to mention Arrow again! Good Night, God Bless, and don't let Arrow be the thorn in your side any more!

ADDENDUM #1: Here's what "Stephen" thinks of the whole debacle - Best. Spiteful. Comment. Ever!  (Sincere apologies to genre author Stephen Thrower, who I previously attributed this comment too.)

And this is what another few members of the Cult Labs Forums thinks:
 - I told you I was right!
 - Soothsayer?

ADDENDUM #2: I note that some indivudals from the Cult Labs Forums who enjoy trashing me over on their little fanboy section of the Internet, are having a go at me again.  That's fine. If that's what they want to do, then so be it. However, comments such as "This is a man who drinks alone." and "pooches just comes across as childish vindictive nonsense peppered with a degree of narcissism." really make these guys come across as deeply immature people. Considering I had another 117 page-views overnight, and other sites and blogs link to my articles, I'm definitely doing something right.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

EXCISION - A Cutting-Edge Movie!

Oh how I truly love browsing in my local HMV, discovering a new film amongst all the racks of DVD's and Blu-Ray's that I know little about, then going to purchase said film, taking it home (there-and-then), and watching it, waiting to see if I'll be disappointed or dazzled. The possibility that your latest purchase could turn out to be a potential turkey, or a stellar gem, is always a little exciting, and risky. And where would we be, if we didn't take a risk in our film-viewing?

And so it was, with EXCISION (2012, Richard Bates, Jr): the film that I purchased on Saturday, and it has to be one of the most thoroughly-enjoyable horror-comedies I've ever seen. The joy of watching something so totally and utterly original and unique is rare these days, considering so much of what comes out in the US is stodgy, patronising, and extremely fatuous remakes, re-imaginings, and third-rate sequels, aimed at the younger end of the teen-market.

Here we have one very full-blooded horror film. And boy, what an absolutely jaw-dropping film it is!

AnnaLynne McCord (who co-incidentally played Eden Lord in Season 5 of NIP/TUCK) stars in the title role as Pauline, a shabby and ever-so-slightly psychotic teenager, who lives with devout mother Phyllis (Traci Lords, in a bravura performance), father Bob (Roger Bart from TV's REVENGE and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), in a white-picket fenced, suburban part of the US. Her life is diabolically boring. Friendless, misunderstood, and frequently misguided, she slumbers through each dead-end day, going from one disaster to the next, never knowing why she bothers fighting through life at all, because it all seems so vacuous. Enforced attendance at weekly therapy sessions with Father William, (Baltimore native John Waters, in one of many cameo roles the film features), in which the subject of sex and revenge are frequent bed-buddies, Pauline trudges through life, disenfranchised. Her one anchor to reality, is her Cystic-Fibrosis-inflicted younger sister, Grace (Ariel Winter), the one person she can truly talk to, about boys, school and the pains of adolescence, and keep her feet firmly planted to the ground.

When Grace becomes seriously ill, and the Cystic Fibrosis starts to attack her lungs, Grace's body starts to shutdown. Surrounded by self-loathing and hatred, Pauline finds her family and her teachers completely disenfranchising, to the point that torturing her Maths teacher, Mr Cooper - Malcolm McDowell in fine form - becomes the highlight of her day, in a scene, I might add, that no viewer will quickly forget!

After losing her virginity to the school's most desirable stud, Adam, she rebels and strikes out to try and reassess her very existance, whilst making her stake in the world, by aiming to become a world-class surgeon. It is on this premise, that Pauline decides to go all-out, firstly against Adam's girlfriend Natalie, in one of the most viciously barbed scenes of retaliation ever committed to film, and then slowly, and surely, against everyone else - from friends, her neighbours, the school principal (Ray Wise), and even, her immediate family.

What follows, is 81 minutes of darkly comedic, but genuinely scathing satire that synthesises the best parts of AMERICAN BEAUTY (2000, Sam Mendes) and HEATHERS (1988, Michael Lehmann), with the medical/self-beautification subject matter of that recent TV hit NIP/TUCK (2003-2010, Ryan Murphy), in a film that is more audacious and shocking than anything I've seen in a long, long time.

Neither wholly horror, nor wholly comedy about the growing pains of adolescence, EXCISION is a first-rate shocker, that completely deserved to win its selection at both the FantAsia and Sundance Film Festivals last year. Every scene, every joke, every shock, comes across as the most humanely-portrayed, infused with all of the passion and barbarity that so often come to fruition in real-life. At no point do you feel that Pauline, Adam or Phyllis wouldn't say exactly the dialogue they portray. In fact, it is the witty nature of the dialogue, the razor-sharpness of Pauline's put-downs, that makes this film such a joy to watch, from beginning to end, as it crackles along with an incredibly profound sophistication that is sorely lacking from many modern-day films. Not since DEAD SNOW (2009) or PHONE BOOTH (2002) have I sat through something, and been on the edge of my seat, as through this film. I won't even post any quotes, as memorably nasty and cruel as they are, simply because I personally feel that the less you know about this film, the more you are likely to "get" it, and the higher the chances you are to have one of the most enjoyably sinister and hilarious films of your entire film-viewing career.

Whilst hardcore horror fans may wonder why I am recommending this film so much, the horror elements that feature in EXCISION are dark. I mean borderline serial-killer dark. Dead fetuses in an oven. A teenager performing cunnilingus on a girl, during her period. Organ harvesting. Surgical procedures on a dead bird. The consumption of a dead bird's blood! And more! This is twisted stuff indeed. The film consistently bounces from extreme horror to black-comedy, as it weaves its incredibly story: from shock to side-splitting hilarity in seconds, and back again. Director Richard Bates, Jr really has gone to town with his first feature, and I would even go so far as to say that he is a talent that is well worth keeping your eyes peeled for. If ever he were given the money and time to create something truly barbaric, he would definitely be up there amongst the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Tom Six, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Lucifer Valentine, and Stephen King. From this, his first major film, Bates is definitely an impressive writer-director, and someone with something to say for himself!

The UK Region 2 Blu-Ray from Monster Pictures, a sub-division of Eureka Cinema, is a fairly plain release, featuring just the film, a trailer and an audio commentary from McCord herself. But seeing as it can be picked-up for about £10 online, and about the same in HMV stores, this is still worth a purchase. I would dearly have loved to have seen an interview with the other cast, especially from Ray Wise, Marlee Matlin, Matthew Gray-Gubler, Malcolm McDowell and John Waters, as to why they chose to be in this film - not exactly a career-enhancing title by any means. I'd also have liked to have seen Bates Jr talk about the film's inception and how he came up with its plot, and the filming of it. Alas, none of that features in the extras, but hopefully in the future, this oversight will be corrected.

The 1080p HD picture looks sublime, with every incision-cutting scene of terror amply delivered in crystal clarity. From Pauline's nightmarish visions and dreams, to the brilliantly sick ending, the palette of the film is a delight to behold. The sound, a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track, is very good, although it is extremely quiet. You may well find yourself having to increase the volume on your TV or sound sytem to double the level you would normally have it set at, as it's so tranquil. Whether this is a fault with the film itself, the transfer by Eureka, or something else, I can't say, but it is very low nonetheless. I haven't had the chance to hear the Audio Commentary, but that gives me a good reason to rewatch EXCISION again very soon.

All-in-all, I cannot recommend this film highly enough! Simply put, this film is cinematic nirvana, for any hardcore horror fan, and you owe it to yourself to see this amazing movie! Here we have originality triumphing over cack-handed sameness, and it's guaranteed to entertain and sicken you in equal measures.

The very fact that on Amazon, one review says...

This film tries to be clever by being shocking. I get horror, I get gore, but this film was just sick to the extreme.
...was a good enough reason for me to try this film out! Anyone who gives an 18-certificate horror film a one-star rating, because it was "sick to the extreme" is a vote of confidence in my eyes!

To tease you all, the trailer is shown below. I hope it tempts more of you to rent or buy this grotesquely sinister film!

I shall be back again soon. For now, though, I bid you farewell.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

His Master's Voice Goes Temporarily Silent!

Happy New Year to you all.

Doesn't Christmas now seem eons ago? Here in the UK, we're also getting our first flurry of snow. And, as usual, the motorways, railway services, and airports are all slowly grinding to a halt... again! Considering we're supposed to be one of the most forward-thinking nations on the globe, we still can't seem to cope with theslightest bit of snowy weather! Still...

Alas, I start 2013 with some bad news, for UK readers. I apologise to my non-UK fans, but I hope you will still read this article nonetheless.

One of the last surviving major retail companies, HMV, went into administration yesterday - 14th Jan 2013. HMV, for non-UK readers of my blog, is the big music, game and movie retail organisation. There are 237 branches across the United Kingdom, who employ around 4400 staff. Yesterday, Administration started, and whilst stores remain open today, the future of HMV now looks decidedly shaky.

Now, I'm not going to go into why HMV has failed. Nobody can say exactly why, and any discussion of "why" is going to be moot. What I wish to really talk to you all about, is you - the customers. HMV was the last great high-street DVD/Blu-Ray company, and where I and many other people would buy their films from. Yes, Amazon is great, and I've used them too, but HMV were a great high-street company. One I've worked for in the past, and one I've got a lot of respect for.

HMV sold genre cinema. They championed horror films, and had a dedicated horror section in almost all of their branches. Likewise with anime and foreign-language films too. As such, their potential passing-away, is going to damage the UK horror and world-cinema industry quite heavily in terms of what films are available and what films get released over here.

The saddest thing I find, is that once HMV goes - and right know, it's looking extremely shaky that a buyer will make a deal and buy them up - there will be no competition. Once HMV goes, other than online sites like Amazon, UK film-purchasers/collectors will only be able to buy films from supermarkets. Online companies will be able to charge whatever they want, and free delivery could soon disappear also. What's to stop Amazon from raising prices and charging for postage as well?!

In the UK, most supermarkets only stock a small-to-medium-sized range of films - at best! Most only have a Top 10 or Top 20. This wouldn't be too awful, except that their Top 10 or 20, isn't based on a national chart of any kind. In fact, most supermarkets base their charts on what that store thinks will sell well, to their customers. So, unless you want mainstream, Hollywood romantic comedies, or major blockbuster titles like HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT, then the chances of these supermarkets having what you want, is going to be - qite literally - zero. Fancy buying a complete series boxed set of HBO's THE WIRE? Looking for that rare LAUREL & HARDY film to complete your collection? Want to see why everyone raves about Carl Theodor Dryer's VAMPYR: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR from 1932? Forget it! You ain't going to find it anymore, unless you go online. And online means Amazon. A few other companies exist, but they are now few and far between, especially if you are a UK film-fan!

I love online shopping. Probably 65% of all of the films I've ever purchased, were bought online, predominantly because I import films from all over the globe, so they aren't titles HMV would have stocked anyway. The other 35% would have been bought from HMV, and a few other high-street stores. Whilst I accept that HMV's prices weren't perfect, (what retail stores prices are?), they weren't as bad as many have claimed. I've seen reports on the Net of people claiming that HMV sold new films at £25-£30 each. This is complete garbage, to put it mildly! Some occasional older and rarer titles may have been sold at their price, but such prices were few-and-far between. They were definitely not the norm! In fact, HMV had become more competitive in the last few months, than it had been for a long time. New Blu-Rays releases were selling for between £12-£15 each, which is pretty much what Amazon (and many supermarkets) were charging, and new DVD's were retailing for £10-£12 in general. In some cases, they did Two-For-£20 offers on Chart DVD's, whereby you could purchase two brand new titles - such as THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and TED for £20. On Blu-Ray, they regularly did Three-For-£20, and Five-For-£30 sales, which were great too.

The problem for me, is the customers, of which I include myself in this. Anyone who has ever worked in retail will have some horror stories of one sort or another, about bad, rude, insensitive or just obnoxious customers. It's inevitable. I've got plenty. And before anyone lambasts me, I know most customers are nice, decent, kind and understanding people, so please, please, please don't get me wrong here. I'm not suggesting for one moment that the majority of customers are rude or bad. I'm talking about the very minority: the arseholes, the ingrates, the morons. The people who have IQ's only marginally bigger than their shoe-size, and whom you have to worry as to how they get out of bed each day, and manage to be able to dress themselves properly! We've all seen them. The customers who ask truly dumb questions. I'll give you an example:

If you're into computer games, you will have probably heard that GRAND THEFT AUTO V is being released in the Spring of this year! It'll be one of the most hotly-anticipated game releases ever. When I was working at HMV over Christmas, I was asked by this one particular individual, the following:

Him (standing beside giant, 5ft-tall standee with release info on it): "When's this out?"
Me: "Sometime in Spring 2013."
Him: "When's Spring?"

Oh for fuck's sake?! Are you kidding me?! Really?!

Same customer: "How much is this, mate?" (The game was HALO 4 on XBox, with all stock clearly priced at £40, or thereabouts).
Me: "It's £40."
Him: "Can I have one for free?"
Me: "Yes. You give me £40, and I'll let you take one for free!"

He left the store, scraping his knuckles along the way. I mean, seriously, have human brains shrunk so sharply in the past few years, that customers have resorted to asking truly vacuous questions, that even the average five-year-old child would find mildly insulting, if they had to answer them? Have we reached the nadir in Customer Services where people need every little thing explaining to them? I know the Education System is supposed to be in dire straits, but this is taking the piss a tad.

Okay, now I'm aware that some of you will be thinking to yourselves: "Hang on a minute, Pooch. Not everyone has the same standard of education you do. And not everyone will have been lucky enough to be as well-read, or as fortunate as you. And have you considered that this guy, may have some kind of mental retardation?"

And you'd be right in arguing that with me.

I shouldn't take the mickey out of him. He may well not have been as fortunate as I have been - and I have been fortunate, if I'm fair with you. And yes, he might have had a low I.Q. due to some kind of retarded mental faculty. But, I doubt that that would have been the case. I mean, I've met and served customers with real mental health issues such as those with impaired cognitive functions; people with manic depression; people who appeared to have schizophrenia and other similar mental impairments. I've served people who were blind, deaf, and with other severe disabilities, so I am acutely aware of how to deal with people who may not be as lucky as myself. Plus, as someone who themselves suffers from Severe Depression and Suicidal Ideation, I know what it's like to not feel like you are "normal", or "different" - whatever "normal" and "different" might be to the rest of the world!

In my defence, though, this did not seem to be the case with this guy. I think he was just genuinely stupid. Six cans short of a six-pack, so-to-speak. But that's not my point.

My point is, that some customers seem to be devoid of any kind of intellect. They ask you mind-staggeringly dumb questions. They don't engage their brains, before they engage their mouths. It's one thing to ask a stupid question, or to not realise something because you made a minor error in judgement. It's another, though, to ask something that is so surprisingly dumb, so brain-numbingly obtuse, that it beggars any concept of brain-power! And so it is, today, on the Internet, that I have seen "customers" moaning about HMV, and what it did wrong.

I've seen people say "Well, I never shopped there", and then proceeding to whinge about everything that HMV allegedly did wrong. I've seen people write on online Forums, that they are glad HMV is shutting its doors (although this isn't actually the case, in the first place), and saying that all the staff were idiots who knew nothing. I've read comments from people who are angry that they can't spend their Christmas gift of HMV Gift Tokens now, because the Administrators have been called-in. (For those who don't know: any company that is in Administration, will almost-always cease allowing vouchers, tokens and gift-cards to be used, as such devices count as "store credit", and therefore even though the company already has your money, you become one of the many creditors that that company now owes money too. As such, you are way-down-the-list of creditors, and in many cases, you probably won't see your money again.) I've also seen people whinge that HMV didn't do this, or didn't do that, as if "this" or "that" was going to somehow magically transform HMV's viability overnight.

It's all a bit "me, me, me" and it annoys the hell out of me!

The biggest, and possibly stupidest, complaint I've seen, is when people have suggested that all HMV needed to do to save themselves, was to be more competitive on pricing: to lower their prices to those found on the Net, and ergo, they would see more customers through their doors, and ergo, have made more sales, and made more profit.

No, people, that is NOT how a retail business works! You can't just lower your prices, and therefore make more profits. It's not that simplistic!

A website, has little to no overheads. You create the site. You get the stock. You have a paying and delivery system, and then you let people pay for, and deliver the stock to them. It requires minimal outlay. And as long as people buy stuff from you, and as long as you can get their order(s) out to them, in a timely fashion, you'll probably be successful. The rest, is then about promotion. Get  your website name out there, and promote the hell out of yourself. Once people know you, and trust you, they will probably buy from you. Your site can remain open 24/7, come rain or shine, or major crisis of any other sort.

A bricks-and-mortar retail store, however, has a lot of overheads. One, it needs a lcoation site. Other than actually finding somewhere to rent, which can be a hassle in itself, you'll have to rent your premises. Renting costs mucho casho! You often have to pay three-to-six months in advance, and you'll usually find yourself on less-than-favourable terms with the landlord or lettings agency. Secondly, you then have to stock the store with your goods. You have to secure them, to stop them from getting stolen, and you have to display them nicely, making everything look attractive. You also need to make sure you have sufficient quantities of stock available, for purchase. Next, you need to staff your store, and heat (or cool) it. If your store is open Mondays to Saturdays, from 9am-6pm, then you need to be staffed during those hours.

You need to be staffed during those hours, even if you get no customers coming through your door.

You need to be staffed during those hours, even if you are making no sales.

Essentially, you need to be battle-ready, just in case someone comes in to buy something.

And this, is before you even actually open your doors, and invite people into your business!

You will obviously need to promote the hell out of your business, and persuade people to come and buy your stock from you (rather than any one of hundreds of your competitors - both on the high-street and/or online)!

Now, let us say, that you are a well-established retail store, that isn't doing too well - such as the predicament HMV have found themselves in recently. You've tried lowering prices. You've tried expanding your stock range. You've shut some of your less profitable branches. You've reduced your staffing levels to the absolute bare-minimum. You've negotiated a "sale-or-return" deal on most of your stock, which is where you are sent stock without having to pay for it first, and then if you sell it, you pay for it, but if you don't sell it, you can simply return it back to the distributors for free. You've expanded the kinds of stock you sell, to include stuff that you wouldn't normally have chosen to sell, such as snacks and drinks, and other types of goods. And you're still competing with businesses who...

1) Pay no Corporation Tax (or at least evade paying it, or pay so little that it becomes moot), and/or
2) Will sell the same products you do, but at below cost price, and/or
3) Are online, and thus, don't have the overheads that you do

... and you soon see, that things get tough. Customers don't care who you are. They just want what you're selling, but at the cheapest price possible.

If your prices are even a few pennies over your online competition, they moan you aren't as cheap as your rivals.

If you don't have a particular item in stock, they complain that your online rivals always have it in-stock, even if you explain to them that just because a website advertises a product, it doesn't necessarily mean they do actually have it available right-there-and-then to purchase.

If you open your store, and (hypothetically) for an hour each day, no one buys anything, you've still got to have your business filled with staff; with stock available to purchase, and heated or cooled to the appropriate temperature - even if no one is doing anything, and the tills aren't ringing! Likewise, if the weather's very cold, very hot, or very wet. If there are no customers around town, you can be the best shop with the best products in the worlds, and you won't last long if no one comes in!

Your rent bill and staff overheads remain the same, but if you aren't making sales (whether it be for an hour, an entire day, or longer), then you're still having to spend money. Your rivals online, however don't. They can just sit back and wait for things to happen. On top of all of this, you have other high-street competitors who will happily sell the same things you sell, but at below-cost price. In other words, they sell these items at less than it costs them to buy in, because such items aren't their core business, and in essence, are simply trying to get your customers through their doors, via temptation.So how is all of that fair?

The answer is, that it isn't fair. It's a very unfair fight. Moreso, when your customers expect you to be as good as, as cheap as, and as reliable as your internet-only competition. It's a distinctly unfair playing field, in which HMV has to compete (or fight), with its opponents having a distinctly unfair advantage over them. But your customers don't care about that. They just want their music, games and films as cheap as possible, and don't want to pay for you to actually house all of that stock in a building in a suitable city centre location. Nor do they want to pay for you to have great, knowledgeable staff who really know their facts inside-out.

Is it any wonder, then, that HMV are effectively losing the battle, after a tough few years of fighting? Amazon has become the de-facto standard by which almost all Internet companies are rated against. Amazon has many pluses: its prices, its stock range, its customer service. And all of that, is on top of the other major benefit that HMV can't offer: people can buy from Amazon at any time of day or night, because Amazon is always open! HMV does have an online presencem, and has tried to compete, but it simply can't. The might of Amazon is just too big, too dominant, too ingrained into people's psyche and mindset.

And I haven't even mentioned that Amazon delivers everything to your front door, so you don't even need to leave your home to get your goods!

I love browsing (and buying) in HMV! I love handling the goods, reading the back-covers, and seeing if a film grabs my attention enough to buy it. I've made many choices of horror films, in this manner. Some of my favourite films have been discovered in this fashion, and it's one of the joys of browing in a high-street store. You get to expand your choices, and discover new stuff you might previously have never heard about! That's something you can't do online. Lots of sites have reviews, but Amazon's review system is deeply flawed. Too often, I see reviews by idiots complaining the item wasn't what they expected, because they simply failed to read about the product, or because it didn't turn up on time for little Jimmy-Lee's birthday! Come on folks, this isn't what the review system is for! The staff have also recommended stuff to me, and when I worked there, I liked being able to recommend stuff to customers. That was one of the great joys of the job! Sharing your own love of films (or games, or music) with other people, and expanding on their love of that stuff too!

Remember in the early days of the Internet, when there were numerous different search-engine providers? Do you remember the likes of Alta Vista, Google,,, and many others? Now, when you search online for something, which provider do you use? I would suspect that - if you are anything like me - you just use Google. The Oxford English Dictionary has decided to include the term "googling" in their latest online version of their tome, because it has become common-parlance for people doing searching on the Internet. We all just "Google" it!

As such, any other Search Engine provider has to try and compete against a well-established and ultra-efficient search engine with the might of Google, and for the most part, they lose out, because Google is the Goliath in the world of Search Engines, to everyone elses David.

Well, HMV is still a well-known and trusted brand. After trading for almost 92 years, it would be a real tragedy to see them disappear from what little remains of our high streets. I will miss them greatly, and I really hope that someone, somewhere will have the money and business sense to rescue them, and maybe spur them onto become bigger and better! The world of film will be a lot smaller without a high-street presence, and I know that genre cinema will flounder without them too.

So, if you take anything away from this blog post, it is this. Shop at your local businesses, be they tiny, little independent stores, or branches of big chain companies that sell lots and lots of stuff under one roof. Just every once in a while, buy something. If they give you good service, tell them. Without your business, and in the current economic climate, there's a high chance that these stores may soon disappear forever from your high-street, without you, and you will be left with only being able to browse and buy for your films online. Trust these shops, and value them, as once they have gone, they won't be making a return, ever again! Here in the UK, we've already lost one company this year, and we're only two weeks into 2013. I don't want HMV to be the second victim!

For that would be something genuinely unforgiveable!