Movie Reviews: “The Last Blockbuster” and “Class Action Park”

The Last Blockbuster via netflix
The Last Blockbuster via netflix

I know it’s Oscar season, but I’ve been reviewing a number of movies and documentaries that alas, were not nominated, but which are all worthy of your time. 

If you’re like me and lament the declining market for DVDs (as well as the in-person stores that either sold or rented them) you should enjoy “The Last Blockbuster” (which can be seen on Netflix), which is indeed the story of the last surviving Blockbuster store, located in Bend, Oregon. (There had been two, but the one in Alaska closed.) The film lovingly, nostalgically, and occasionally pointedly recounts the rise and fall of the home video industry and Blockbuster in particular, and the events and decisions that led to its precipitous decline.

The narrative is enhanced by reflections from some celebrity renters and video enthusiasts (like Kevin Smith), a few Blockbuster executives (who have some ‘splaining to do—as Blockbuster could have acquired Netflix a number of years ago).

More than the celebs however, the managers and employees of the last remaining store take both pleasure and pride in maintaining this in-person business that has long since been superseded by streaming and online orders. These stalwart, industrious individuals and the customers who continue to patronize this last Blockbuster (not to mention all those who visit because it is the last Blockbuster) are the heart and soul of this engaging and evocative documentary. 

Postscript: the well-received documentary itself has brought even more welcome attention to the store, hopefully ensuring its longevity.

Speaking of nostalgia, if you’re like me and are from New York (or the “tri-state area”), you may remember the growing enthusiasm for water parks, theme parks, and amusement parks in general. Perhaps you even ventured (like me) to Action Park in New Jersey, which was split between the water attractions and the land “rides” (split is the word, with a highway running through it!). And then, if you survived the cliff jumps, the alpine slide, the water slides, with barely a scratch or two—then you wore it as a badge of honor until the next visit (unless you decided that once was enough).

Class Action Park” depicts the “creative” vision behind the park (which consisted let’s make it as alluring and ingenious—and reckless—as we can), the reflections of those who both worked and partied there (often one and the same), the youth culture that perpetuated its popularity.

The reminiscences are often bittersweet, with the admissions of enjoyment tempered by their acknowledgement of the irresponsibility that also ran rampant. The last third is dominated by a recounting of the many lawsuits and casualties, with the victims’ survivors painfully reflecting on the senseless loss of life and the heartless evasions of the Action Park owners.

The film does a good job of navigating these shifts of tone, and in the end, one emerges both entertained and uneasy—which might sum up one’s feelings after a day at (the now shuttered) Action Park.