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Monday, September 30, 2019

'Roxanne' DVD: Steve Martin As Wild and Crazy Cyranno de Bergerac

The Mill Creek Entertainment August 13, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1987 Steve Martin/Darryl Hannnh comedy "Roxanne" is among the latest (mostly '80s and '90s) cult classics in the MCE "Retro VHS" catalog with fun videotape-style packaging. The (review pending) James Woods/Robert Downey, Jr. drama "True Believer" is a fellow August 2019 addition to this series. 

"Roxanne" is a perfect example of the glee associated with another bite of the apple as to those of who saw it in the theater and is a chance for younger folks to see what they missed the first time around, The second bite refers to the '80s and '90s being an era of so many movies that either are so good that they are good or that are bad but have an appeal that makes them good. The curse as to this embarrassment of riches is that "Roxanne" and similar fare in the middle of the bell curve either does not make the cut for a cineplex visit or is not fully appreciated on a  first viewing.

The following "retro" trailer for "Roxanne" does not provide much insight into the film but does highlight the talent of Martin and the '80ness of the film.

The titular astronomer (Hannah) is the new girl in the Pacific Northwest town of Nelson, Washington. Unlike source material "Cyrano de Bergerac," comically large-nosed fire chief C.D, Bales is not the cousin of this object of affection. Handsome dim-witted new firefighter Chris (Rick Rossovich) is the subordinate with no play who (at least temporarily) gets the girl.

The rest of the initial premise is that C.D. is a martial arts master who dos not gladly suffer fools who make fun of his huge schnoz. One of the best scenes has C.D. making a long series of self-deprecating jokes before the inevitable flattening of a barroom bully.

Roxanne and C.D. meet in a typically romcom-style manner. She is in an embarrassing state when she comes to the firehouse seeking aid. Martin being Martin mines great comedic potential from this vulnerability. The bonding continues when Roxanne takes asking for help moving a couch up a notch.

A comedy of errors leads to Roxanne believing that Chris has brawn and brains; Chris wanting to maintain the misperception as to the latter leads to C.D. putting words in his mouth and on paper. 

The funny because it is happening to someone else trauma and drama amps up when the "Roxanne" variation of the handsome suitor wooing the girl while the ugly guy feeds him his line gets Chris in the bed of Roxanne. The lack of callousness relates to these young lovers not knowing about the romantic feelings that C.D, has toward Roxanne. 

Of course, the truth ultimately comes out despite the frantic efforts of C.D. to maintain the charade. It is equally predictable that Roxanne is irate as to being duped, The outcome drives the remainder of the film. 

The appeal of the film itself extends beyond improving with age now that it is not competing with a flock of competing fare. It is a cute, charming, amusing film that reminds viewers of a better time in which "adult" comedies did not heavily rely on being crude and rude. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

'Hart to Hart: Movies & Murder Collection' DVD: Harts Afire

Mill Creek Entertainment once more proves itself to be the champion of sofa spuds everywhere as to the August 13, 2019 DVD release of "Hart to Hart: Movies and Murder Collection." This four-disc set includes all 8 1993-96 made-for-TV reunion movies of the 1979-84 ABC light-hearted mystery series.

Having a handful of "B-listers" guest in each movie provides a wonderful hybrid vibe of "Murder, She Wrote," which gets its own set of made-for-TV reunions, and "The Love Boat." These celebrities include Joan Collins, George Hamilton, Alan Young, Mike Farrell, and Jason Bateman. The roster truly goes on and on and on from there. 

MCE follows this up with a Halloween treat in the form of an October 2019 Blu-ray complete-series release of "Charlie's Angels." 

The titular couple is an '80riffic "lifestyles of the rich and famous" version of one-percenter silver-screen amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Desmond of "The Thin Man" fame. 

As the voice-over narration in the "Hart" series and movies reminds us, Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) is a self-made millionaire. This exposition includes that "it was murder" when Jonathan met "gorgeous" spouse/free-lance journalist Jennifer Hart (Stefanie Powers). The rest of this part of the story is that gruff but loving live-in servant Max (Lionel Stander) "takes care of them, which ain't easy."

A typical "Hart" episode finds a series of unfortunate circumstances embroiling the soulmates in a crime that often involves murder. It is just as likely that someone embezzling funds from a charity for which Jennifer is organizing a fashion show kills an assistant who discovers that crime as it is that Jonathan must clear his name as to Hart Industries being accused of nefarious business dealings.

The aptly titled first movie in the series is "Hart to Hart Returns." This one stays the closest to the spirit of the series while including a notable development that is too momentous to the lore to even remotely spoil. The central plot involves a pending business deal of Jonathan with an old friend prompting the corporate villains of the week to take desperate measures in response to the desperate times as to the aforementioned pursuit of profit. 

The next one, "Home is Where the Hart is" arguably is the best one in that it virtually is a live-action "Scooby-Doo" mystery. The death of the mentor/first boss of then cub-reporter Jennifer brings our heroes to the small town where Mrs. H. begins her career.

The list of usual suspects and the spooky subterfuge that is concealing covert activity make one long to see family pet Freeway, Jr. speak English and Jonathan to pull a rubber mask off the villain. An "I would have gotten away with it except for you meddling millionaires" would have made this one purely sublime. 

"Old Friends Never Die" is another memorable one due to both its campy fun and its homage to another genre; this time Agatha Christie books are taken to Hart. A publisher tells the couple that wanting to add Jennifer to his stable of writers is why he is inviting them to a weekend party at his lavish estate. The rest of the guests are eccentric scribes. 

The plot thickens on Jennifer overhearing a detailed murder plot; the explanation that the conversation relates to a novel concept wears thin on life imitating alleged art. This culminates in the truth ultimately coming out, and the Harts finding themselves playing the most dangerous game. 

More of the same occurs in the other films, which culminate in the aptly titled "Til Death Do Us Part." An early scene in this one indicates that Jonathan may be dyslexic in that Dog is his co-pilot. 

The rest of this story is that the Harts travel to Germany so that Jennifer can donate bone marrow to a young cancer patient. The intrigue this time relates to our dynamic duo encountering a French woman who is a doppelganger of Jennifer. Of course, Powers plays this crazy pair. 

"Death" ends on the same concept as the last several films in the series in that the epilogue involves the Harts in a fantastic or fantasy situation. These include this pair magically transforming into a couple performing a song-and-dance number on a stage or being transformed into lovers in a cuckoo clock.

Old and new fans should take all this to hart; the series and the movies are good cheesy fun that show that entertainment need not  be edgy. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

'Ugly American' BD: Classic Brando Film of Cold War Diplomacy

Mill Creek Entertainment releasing a crystal-clear Blu-ray of the 1963 Marlon Brandon Cold War classic "The Ugly American" on August 13, 2019 along with an eclectic assortment of other titles shows that MCE can be considered the "man" for all seasons,

Fellow August titles include the (reviewed) Steve Martin/Darryl Hannah romcom "Roxanne," the (reviewed) ABC period primetime soap "Pan Am," the (soon-to-be reviewed) James Woods/Robert Downey, Jr. drama "True Believer," and the (soon-to-be-reviewed) collection of all eight made-for-TV reunion films of the vintage ABC mysedy series "Hart to Hart." 

MCE will further earn the devotion of fanboys with an October 2019 bonanza of "Ultraman" fare, 

"American" easily is the most substantive of the highly entertaining group of releases of which it is a member. Marlon Brando stars as rookie ambassador Harrison Carter MacWhite in this ripped-from- the-headlines tale of "fictional" Southeast Asian country Sarkhan.

The arrival of MacWhite coincides with a strong anti-American sentiment that a communist organization from the north is exploiting; this timely evokes thoughts of the similar 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel "It Can't Happen Here" about an American president who exploits fear to become a not-so-benevolent dictator. 

Our story begins with the locals executing a well-planned sabotage of a highly symbolic American-back road project in Sarkhan. The propaganda of this rebellious act far outpaces the loss of life and property that it causes. 

Meanwhile back home. MacWhite is the victim of other propaganda in the form of a contentious conformation hearing for his new job. His prior time in Sarkhan both qualifies him for his new post and raises potentially disqualifying concerns.

An aspect of both aforementioned arenas is the once-and-future association of MacWhite with Sarkhan native son/influencer Deong. The latter is very vocal regarding his anti-American views but cannot be proven to be a communist; MacWhite fully vouching for the guys has strong implications later in the film.

MacWhite and wife get far from a warm welcome on landing in Sarkhan on what is anticipated to be a quiet Sunday morning; stating that they encounter a mob scene is a gross understatement.

Virtually every person over the age of 30 can relate to what occurs when MacWhite and Deong reunite soon after the diplomat comes back to town. Just as the wild and crazy guy from college become a completely different person in the decade since not wearing anything under his robe at graduation, Deong and MacWhite soon conclude that the years have not been kind to the other. 

The aforementioned road becomes one of many bones of contention between the men; this animosity reaches a boiling point when they find themselves the opposing heads of a violent "Yankee, go home" campaign. "American" being an early '60s major studio film requires that the conflict and the resolution strongly reflect a massive anti-communist sentiment. 

The broader nature of the film requires that both of the friends turned foes be wiser but not happier at the end of "American."

The good news for audiences of 2019 is that this engrossing movie truly is one that they don't make 'em like anymore. This extends beyond skillfully telling an intelligent and thought-provoking tale, It reflects the type of strong political view that used to prompt people on both sides of the aisle to check it out, rather than incite the folks who find it offensive to (sometimes literally) get up in arms and vigorously rally for a boycott and an exile of all involved in bringing in to the (now tarnished) silver screen, 

Monday, September 23, 2019

'Supernatural' S14 DVD & BD: The Boys Are Back In Town With 'Cousin Oliver'

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.]

The WBHE September 10, 2019 separate DVD & BD releases of "Supernatural" S14 help keep the CW joy going strong ahead of the October 2019 season premieres of these fun-for-all-ages series. This run begins with the August 2019 releases of (reviewed) "Arrow" S7 and (reviewed) "Flash" S5. 

The September 17, 2019 releases of "Supergirl" S4, and the September 24, 2019 releases of "Legends of Tomorrow" round out this run, 

The blessing and the curse related to "Supernatural" S14 is that premature rumors of the death of this series result in episodes that awesomely cover all bases and leave fanboys wanting more but being content about where things stands in the season finale. The same is true as "Arrow" and "Flash." It is known that S15 will be the end for "Supernatural" and that Team Arrow has decided that eight is enough.

The following trailer for S14 shows that "Supernatural" has not lost any of its creepy edge in its adolescence. This promo being in perfectly clear standard def. reinforces that spending a few more bucks for the enhanced images and sound of Blu-ray is WELL worth that extra cost.

The last hurrah elements of S14 begins with grim brothers/expert monster hunters Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester back in our world after an S13 adventure in an alternate universe known as "Apocalypse World." One change is that their core group of the siblings and long-term literal angel Castiel (Misha Collins) now includes "Little Nicky"/"Cousin Oliver" Jack (Alexander Calvert). This new kid on the block is the two year-old son of Lucifer in the body of a late-teens boy. 

"Mom" Mary Winchester and mentor/father figure Bobby Singer also are back with the band after extended death-related absences from the series.

Everything old is new again in that S14 commences with the "surviving" sibling dealing with the sacrifice of his brother at the end of the prior season. In this case, Sam has the aforementioned inner circle and his army of hunters desperately seeking Dean, who is the new meat suit for archangel Michael. This brings things back to the primary S5 story arc in which Michael and Lucifer want to respectively possess Dean and Sam in order to hold a death match.

S5 further rears its ugly head as to former Lucifer vessel Nick also being on Team Winchester. Subsequent events indicate that that former tenant has a lingering effect on his prior landlord. 

The standard murder and mayhem result as to Michael having Dean do his bidding, Sam and Dean teaming up to evict that squatter, and the standard demons and numerous other creatures of the night preying on innocent and not-so-innocent humans. All of this occurs in the background of the latest plan of Michael to turn earth into his idea of paradise.

Meanwhile at the fortified bunker that the Winchesters call home, Jack faces his own personal crises. S13 events have robbed him of his grace that makes him different than other boys. He also faces a comparable crisis to one in which "cousin" Sam struggles in S6.

Staying alive requires that Jack sacrifice a portion of his soul; a few subsequent desperate times require that he resort to the desperate measure of giving up a little more of his soul to defeat a foe with extreme prejudice, 

Team "Supernatural" does the series proud as to the milestone 300th episode "Lebanon" (a.k.a. "Winchester Family Reunion.") This one starts strong with our boys on a scavenger hunt that goes awry when a trio of slacker teens who at least suspect what goes on in the bunker temporarily (and hilariously) gets the better of their elders.

After dealing with the meddling kids, the Winchesters try black magic that does not work as intended. The compensation for not getting the desired wish fulfillment is the return of deceased family patriarch John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). This resurrection allows the Winchester clan to once again be a relatively happy nuclear family. This also arguably is the happiest periods for the boys in the entire series.

The writers remain true to the entertainingly cynical nature of the series by not allowing the bros to be happy for long and by showing that magic has its price. Learning of the negative consequences of Dad coming back forces the boy to once again try to find a quick fix while contemplating a major sacrifice for the greater good. 

"Leabanon" also is notable for providing INARGUABLY the best fodder for the gag reel that is a special feature. The Winchesters are having a very serious moment when a prop malfunction has Padalecki and Ackles literally rolling on the floor in laughter. 

The aptly named "Mint Condition" Halloween episode is another season highlight; often angry and/or morose Dean is ecstatic as to a Shocker network marathon of classic slasher films and a real "job" that involves action figures and other memorabilia coming to life to attack a comic-book store employee. Usually more cheerful Sam is experiencing annual depression regarding this holiday.

This outing perfectly blends the well-produced horror and the dark humor that contributes to "Supernatural" being able to celebrate its Quincenera. 

Humor fully takes center stage in a "Pleasantville" style outing in which a "job" brings Sam and Castiel to a real-life town that is straight out of a TV Land sitcom. All of us living through our current dystopian times can relate to the desire of the power-that-be behind this Utopia to want a more cheerful existence than our winter (and spring, summer, and fall) of discontent, 

All of this culminates in a truly epic season-finale story-arc that involves the end of the world as we know it, Jack becoming an especially excitable boy leads to teen angst that leads to a "we need to talk about Jack" moment.

The inability of the Winchesters to properly parent their jinx of a ward leads to the "Dad" coming downstairs to put the kids in line. The climax to all this proves that the boss may not always be right but always is the boss. The other moral is that Hell literally has no fury like a powerful entity scorned; suffice to say that our existence is chucked.  

Although the gag reel shows that boys just wanna have fun, the other special features demonstrate the love of the game that comes through in each episode. You will not believe in angels, demons, and the stuff of "Scooby-doo" episodes  but will believe that the folks in front of and behind the camera do believe in spooks. 

All involved share their perspectives and devotion in "Exploring Episode 300," the even more series-encompassing "The Choices We Make," and the 2018 Comic-Con panel that will make you mourn the 2019 panel likely being the end times for that event at that Con. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

'The Narcissists' DVD: Tenants of Love in Brooklyn

The clear homage to quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen adds awesome irony to the studio named Gravitas Ventures separately releasing the 2017 Quincy Rose afternoon-in-the-life-of urban comedy "The Narcissists" on Blu-ray and DVD on September 3, 2019. The BD format adds a great deal to the travelogue quality of the cinematography of what looks to be late October footage of Manhattan. 

Folks who savor the "video killed the radio star" aspects of home video also can watch "Narcissists" on Prime Video or iTunes

The following "Narcissists" trailer provides equally strong senses of the Allen and the related "its funny because its true (and because it is happening to the other guy)" aspects of the film. The scenes of 30-something NYC friends discussing "nothing" additionally will evoke Seinfeldian thoughts; not that there is anything wrong with that. 

The aptness of the film title begins with the I bet you think this movie is about you (don't you, don't you) vibe of it, A personal example of this is having a friend whose financial status requires continuing to share an apartment (and a bed) with an ex-partner after a break up,

Hitting closer to home, "Narcissists" seemingly reflects the real life of Rose (Oliver), whose other "joints" include the (reviewed) "Miles to Go" and (reviewed) "Friends Effing Friends Effing Friends." Interviews with Rose and his castmates that blur the line between fact and fiction at the end of "Narcissists" reinforces that Rose personally knows that of which he writes.

As an aside, concluding "Narcissists" with the interviews is highly reminiscent of use of that technique in some episodes of the '60s musical kidcom "The Monkees" and the '80s Cybill Shepherd/Bruce Willis dramedy series "Moonlighting." 

Rose fully shows his genius by putting a spin on a seemingly compulsory expository technique for modern films. The opening scenes include Oliver standing on a subway platform opposite whom we soon learn is live-in (ambiguously on-a-break ala a classic sitcom NYC couple) girlfriend Cassi (Jessica DiGiovanni). The Rose variation on the common theme is only discovered at the end of the film.

The action then shifts to a voice-over of a meta-conversation in which Oliver and best bud Max (Zack Tiegen) are discussing the next film of Oliver. Their topics include confusion of Max as to the extent to which Oliver wants him to play himself or his character in the film within the film.

Although there is no direct reference to Rose muse Woody Allen, conversing about specific considered elements of the fictional project unambiguously refer to borrowing from the master of New York-based films. Good laughs come later as Oliver consciously adopts a do as I say, not as I do attitude. 

All of this leads to Oliver and Max and Casi and her best friend Letty (Augie Duke) spending the next hour separately wandering the streets of New York hashing out whether Oliver and Casi should stay together. 

Rose, who wears Allen-esque horn-rimmed glasses in real and reel-life,  particularly shines in a scene in which he slouches and stammers in a heavy New York Jewish accent in response to what he considers an offensive remark by Max. This should make the real-life '70s-era employer of the father of Rose very proud. 

The voice of Rose comes through more clearly in Cassi and Letty discussing a man who apparently is from Nantucket sustaining an equally embarrassing and painful injury while teasing a cat. Every male viewer is defied to not cringe at this (mercifully off-screen) image.

The impetus for the soul-searching accompanied by copious witty banter and wry observations is that the lease on the apartment that Oliver and Casi share is expiring. They must decide if their love is adequately strong to commit to staying in a place that neither can independently afford. This analysis includes a very close-to-home (no pun intended) observation (recalled as being by Max) about never living in a place that requires pooling financial resources.

As both Oliver and Rose observe, love in one's 30s is observed from a more practical perspective than in one's 20s.

The oft-mentioned realistic aspects of "Narcissists" ensure that the ending is neither especially happy nor unhappy. Both Oliver and Cassi will get on with their lives either way.

The bigger picture is that the strongest appeal of "Narcissists" is (ala his other films) the talent and the integrity of Rose. His aforementioned interview emphasizes that he values art over commerce and chooses making a quality (seemingly largely improvised) film with his own limited funds over potentially having to sell his artistic soul in exchange for being touched by an angel. 

The most apt final thought is one can only hope that Rose continues the grand tradition of the late '70s Woody Allen comedies that include "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." This relates to a scene in the brilliant semi-autobiographical 1980 Allen film "Stardust Memories" in which a fan tells the fictionalized version of himself that Allen plays that that admirer likes his older funnier movies than his more recent serious fare. ​

Thursday, September 12, 2019

BOYCOTT BEST BUY!: Modern CEOs Murdering Customer Service

Another horrific experience has called for deviating from the normal (mostly) non-bloggy style of which this site is proud; your indulgence is appreciated, and we will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow,

The micro element of this trauma and drama is a molehill of an issue with Best Buy absurdly turning into a mountain that is behind a call to boycott that company that has a virtually stranglehold on the US brick-and-mortar market for electronics.

The Best Buy media-relations department did not respond to several calls to discuss this article. 

The macro view is that new Best Buy CEO Corie Barry and her fellow new breed of "suits," including Kevin Johnson of Starbucks, have rewarded customers who have helped the companies that provide them multi-million dollar compensation packages by completely throwing them under the Geek Squad van.

The straw that becomes a major pain below the back of your not-so-humble reviewer is addressed below. It comes a few months after figuratively telling Johnson, who has willfully turned a callous blind eye to his public, where he can pour his grossly over-priced (and more-often-than-not improperly prepared) beverages. (I have saved $100s and lost a few pounds in the interim.) 

Even more spot on, a pledge to never contribute another cent to the income of Barry and her fellow equally insulated executives comes a month after reading a New York Tines article illustrating how corporations determine the point at which customers jump ship and how those models of capitalism come perilously close to crossing it. A cited example is a cell-phone service provider waiting until a long-time customer cancels her service before providing an incentive to not switch carriers.

Suffice it to say that I have been a very profitable customer of Best Buy for more than a decade.


Before sharing the tale of woe behind this radical move, I want to state that I have communicated it many times to people at Best Buy in telephone messages, e-mails, and even tweets to Barry (@Corie_Barry). Barry has not acknowledged these communications in any form.

The other efforts to have my concerns heard either were similarly ignored or directed to the senior customer-service rep., who has become far more of the problem than the solution. He continues taunting me as to he being the only one whom Best Buy will have address my concerns. Team Barry has ample notice of this.

This all began a few Saturdays ago when I went to a Best Buy to buy a wireless doorbell. The employee who helped me asserted that she was trained in that area. Both the outcome and a subsequent discussion with a store manager proved that that was not the case.

The next morning, I followed my Sunday routine of checking the Best Buy website for the weekly specials. I learned that the company was running a promotion in the form of giving away an Amazon Echo Dot (a.k.a. Alexa) with the purchase of the basic Ring doorbell that I had purchased. I also saw that that promotion was ending that day.

Experience during the reign of CEO (now Executive Chairman) Hubert Joly inspired confidence that Best Buy executive service quickly would make all things right with the world. I copied and pasted the product page (which included the offer) and mailed it to myself for good measure. I will add that no one has acknowledged an e-mail to Joly. 

On calling executive customer service, I got the aforementioned rep. He was unresponsive from the start and stated that I could have forged the e-mailed copied-and-pasted product page from the Best Buy site.

The rest of this story was that the issue of the rep. was that I did not include a weblink in the e-mail with the product-page that I sent him. I responded that accessing a link on Monday would not document an offer that expired the prior day. The rep. responded that the link would reflect the expired deal because it would go to my computer. He would not acknowledge that that was inaccurate.

I then asked to speak to the supervisor of the rep. The rep. refused that request, stating that he was the only Best Buy employee to whom I ever would speak.

I then called the store where i bought the doorbell; an hour later, the store acknowledged the validity of the offer and pledged to send an Alexa. They did so later that day.

I called executive customer service back to report the development with the store. I got a different rep. than the first one. He told me that he would have his supervisor call me back; that never occurred. That rep. also stated that the first rep. easily could have looked up the offer that had expired the prior day. 

The second rep, promised to confirm the offer and call me back; he never called back.

The first exec. rep. with whom I spoke called back two hours later and stated that the offer was to buy a doorbell that was $100 more than the one that I bought to get the free Alexa, which had gone down from $50 to $25 since Sunday. In other words, his solution was to spend $75 more than I needed to in order to get a free $25 item to which I had an undisputed right.

This time, the rep. seemed unable to grasp that the offer that existed on Monday differed from that of the day before. He again refused to have his supervisor get involved. I hung up.

All this led to the extensive aforementioned efforts to get someone at Best Buy to address both my frustration and the deplorable manner in which the first rep. handled the matter; the futility as to that led to this article.

My "demands" are a meaningful conversation with the VP of customer service for Best Buy, an equally substantive acknowledgment of the offer and the poor job of the first rep., and credible assurance that Best Buy will reasonably act in the future to put right what once went wrong. 

Armchair Management

Cutting back on customer service is understandable; murdering it is not. 

Easy solutions for funding better service include a little pain "today" in the form of cutting the pay of anyone earning more than $100,000 by one-percent in exchange for an additional personal day each year to avoid having to eliminate their position "tomorrow." 

Corporations also could expand tele-commuting programs by offering that option in exchange for offering eligible employees that option in exchange for a five-percent pay reduction. 

On top of this, Barry and her fellow CEOs could make the gesture of a 5% pay cut to help their companies remain viable, 


I likely have saved $100 in impulse purchases by not shopping at Best Buy or looking at its website in the past month. Unless and until things change, I further expect that I will save countless hours and massive levels of stress not fighting when the inevitable molehills surface.

I will splurge on a special treat if and when Best Buy announces a need to close numerous stores due to poor sales.