In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

13. Leap Year

Century 20 Daly City
The Century 20 Daly City was built in 2002. A few theaters and drive-ins have come and gone in the Daly City area. In a sequence of cascading deletes, the Serra Theater (1950-1974) was outstripped by the Serramonte Six Theaters in Colma (1972-?), which in turn fell prey to Colma's UA Metro Center 6 (?-2002), closing just as the Century 20 Daly City asserted itself.

The theater is located across the street from BART (use the underpass on the west side of the BART station to cross John Daly Blvd.; it's a long walk around using sidewalks on the east side). There is also a parking structure beside the theater; I believe this parking is free.

Contrast my photo to this photo taken just a few years ago. The marquee looked much better in the past with the Century Theater logo. I like electronic showtimes, but they would be more useful if they indicated which showtimes were next (perhaps by removing times half an hour after those films begin, so that I didn't need to scan an entire day's worth of times to find the one that was about to start). I have seen some times toggle with "Sold Out", which is helpful.

Long indoor escalators lead up to the concessions area and the entrances to the auditorium hallways in this otherwise typical Cinemark structure.

When I exited the theater, it was raining. Quite inconvenient; I would think that the Bay Area's largest theater circuit would have at least a little pull with such things.


Have you ever used online ticketing, like Fandango? I have for non-movie events where there is limited capacity or assigned seating, or when it is cheaper to purchase ahead of time (such is often the case with local dance performances). But is it really necessary to guarantee a seat for a movie like Avatar that is playing every fifteen seconds? In a few rare cases, when trying to coordinate with friends, I have pre-purchased a ticket, but I did this by visiting the box office ahead of time. In my experience, most showings don't sell out, and it's predictable when they do (e.g. opening night of a sequel at a multiplex where the movie is only on one screen). There is something to be said for paying a bit extra to avoid some hassle. It's more romantic to see a movie on Friday night than Saturday afternoon, and if your date has his or her heart set on the 7:00 PM show, some extra precautions might be in order. Bypassing the box office lines could be a plus, but a movie in danger of selling out will often have a line for ticket holders too.

When I lived in Galway, Ireland, theaters enforced assigned seating on opening nights of big movies. This means you could swing by the theater ahead of time to pick out the perfect seat for Alien: Resurrection (and later wish that you hadn't), or that, if you were neglectful, and tried to see Tomorrow Never Dies at the last minute, you'd be in a front row love seat with a man you've never met, having to guess who James Bond was talking to on the other hemisphere of the screen. Ushers with tiny flashlights escorted patrons to their seats after the lights dimmed. If we had that sort of service here in the States, I could be persuaded to shell out the extra dollar or two on occasion. As is, I take my chances.

The pre-show featured an ad for the DVD release of Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove, starring Beau Bridges and Bindi Irwin (daughter of the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin). Irwin says that although she saw a lot of amazing things with her parents, on this film she's been able to work with animals in new and interesting ways.

(This reminds me of an Orlando Bloom interview for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in which he states that his sword training for the film was more intensive than he had ever experienced. His sword master was Bob Anderson, who also coached Bloom during The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We all know that Legolas Greenleaf could drop Will Turner without batting an Elvish eyelash, so my guess is that Bloom was just talking up his movie, even at the expense of accuracy.)

In what little I've seen of Irwin's dad's show, I can say that her parents do some crazy things. Steve Irwin once investigated a plague of mice infesting a grain store, and to demonstrate how many there were he opened a bin and lifted out a solid mass of mice as big as a basketball. Meanwhile, his wife, Terri, had mice crawling all over her, into her collar, and in her hair. Only love or seven million dollars can make someone crazy enough to endure that, so we can be sure that Bindi was raised by loving or rich parents. I can't quite believe that working with an orca could top anything she experienced with them.

This is the fourth installment in the Free Willy series. You might be familiar with the word "sequel" as applied to theatrical releases, which typically entails the same characters but on new adventures. In the home market, it means new characters on the same adventure. If it worked once, do it again, but with actors willing to do it for less. This has lead to the derivative yet enjoyable Bring It On: All or Nothing (the third installment in what has now stretched to five movies), Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (through shear attrition a once-supporting character has now become the star), and more The Land Before Time videos than anyone but your five-year-old can count. Do you remember in The Player when a screenwriter pitches The Graduate 2 to Tim Robbins? It's twenty years later and now Mrs. Robinson lives with her daughter and Dustin Hoffman? Believe it or not, movies like that do get made; but you'll need to enjoy them from the privacy of your home. Don't worry, when the Rapture comes, we'll only be judged on theatrical releases.

Have you heard of Har Har Thursdays? It's a programming segment on the Cartoon Network that won't take "rock bottom" for an answer. We've seen many great cartoons over the past ten years (like Justice League and Avatar: The Last Airbender), but Har Har Thursdays traces its visual and tonal lineage to the grotesque Ren & Stimpy. This ad is so terribly unwatchable, I suspect it was actually aired by a competitor of the Cartoon Network.


When In Rome
Kristen Bell, in Rome for her sister's wedding, meets Josh Duhamel, a charming, available man. Bell is a Hollywood archetype that you will see ad nauseam in Leap Year: she is beautiful, impossibly single, has a job most people work forty years to get, and, luckily for the plot, is a klutz. I've met people who weren't mindful of their surroundings, but Hollywood klutziness must be a gene inherited from Charlie Chaplin. At her sister's wedding (it's always funny to destroy the biggest day of your sister's life, especially when the guests have flown thousands of miles to attend), Bell ruins a symbolic ritual, shatters the champagne fountain, and shorts out the electricity. Duhamel, of course, is enamored, because men can look past superficial traits like social awkwardness and careless acts of destruction, instead appreciating the woman's inner beauty, like her face. But don't worry, you won't be forced to watch two people just fall in love; there will be hilarious hijinks as well. Bell, in desperation, steals a few coins from a mystical fountain and wishes for true love, unaware of the fountain's fine print that will now cause to fall in love with her each of the men who first tossed in those coins. Duhamel must compete with an array of ridiculous suitors, and Bell must determine if Duhamel is in love with her, or under her spell. But if you thought Family Man was hilarious, or that Daredevil was a masterpiece of direction, you already know what you're in for. Why is this review so long? Because the trailer has earned it with 159 cuts, a new record.

Despicable Me
This third trailer features but a single scene, without dialog, of a pill-shaped minion giggling while playing with one of those cow-in-a-can contraptions. The trailer is predictable but amusing. I like any trailer that finds a way to tell us what to expect from the film, but without showing a single frame of it. 9 cuts.

Valentine's Day
Nearly twenty big-name stars appear in this many-threaded exploration the day of love. This second trailer is much like the first; you should skip both if you want to see the movie. The film will be amusing, sentimental, and sappy, but like others using the same story-telling technique, the most fun will probably be in trying to figure out how all the stories interrelate (if at all). 98 cuts.

Letters to Juliet
When people say that something has "changed their life forever", shouldn't that appraisal be made many, many years after the event? Even in human terms, "forever" is a long time. Later in one's life it might become apparent that meeting that cute boy in Verona did indeed affect all the choices and events that followed. But just a year or so after the meeting, Amanda Seyfried might be better served simply by saying, "Wow."

Anna (Amy Adams) is a New Yorker who stages apartments for realtors to boost the apartments' aesthetic appeal. She has been happily dating a kind but dense cardiologist, Jeremy (Adam Scott), for some time, but so far he has neglected to propose. Anna's hopes are raised at a romantic dinner when Jeremy reveals a tiny jewelry box, but, alas, it contains earrings. The romantic dinner is interrupted (by, you guessed it, a cellphone!), and Jeremy is called away to a conference in Dublin. Anna's father relates to her for the umpteenth time an Irish custom by which a woman, on leap day, is permitted to propose to a man. Anna, having missed out on Women's Lib, thinks the idea ridiculous. But her frustration grows until finally (a good minute later) she hops on a plane, intent on proposing to Jeremy.

Bad weather grounds Anna's plane in Wales, where she hires a boat to take her to Cork (already a long shot from Dublin), but instead ends up in the rural town of Dingle on Ireland's western shore. She hires a barkeep, Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her to London. They immediately hate each other, and the movie occupies itself with conspiring to thwart their means of transportation so that they might have sufficient time to fall in love.

Declan is a complete jerk, but also good looking and quippy. If you're ever confused in a movie about whom the heroine is meant to like, just look at the hair. Declan's moppy haircut is attractive; Jeremy's is just so-so. Case closed. Declan clearly has some heartache at the root of his chauvinism; there is nothing more romantic in a movie (and I mean this sincerely) than a man with a broken heart, because it demonstrates his capacity for love and loyalty. My problem with Declan's, though, is that he is mean to Anna. Being mean to Amy Adams is like stealing from the collection box or polishing your boots with the American flag; it defiles an icon.

But, to his credit, Declan is given ample opportunity to witness Anna's dominant trait in action: klutziness. She is saddled with a bad case of Ugly Americanism, presuming that rural folk are as keen on using a Blackberry as she is. She is in full swing when wrecking furniture, cars, weddings, and clothing (hers and other people's). Her ineptitude is so extreme that the good people of Dingle would have been justified in suspecting Anna to be the first wave of an American invasion. The accidents are somewhat humorous, though familiar from the trailer, and portray Anna as a cartoon, undermining my sympathy for her.

Declan and Anna share much screen time together. Declan eventually comes around, causing Anna to miraculously shed her clumsiness. Amy Adams is fun onscreen, even though ridiculous. Matthew Goode is handsome. I never believe his Irish accent; he sounds quite unlike the locals in his own town, who are either better linguists or actual natives. The only serious notion to bring away from the movie is Declan's question to Anna: if you awoke to a fire in your house, and had only 60 seconds to escape, what would you grab on the way out? There are of course correct answers, and we watch as her values predictably alter from the incorrect.

I can recommend the trailer, but not the movie. It is silly throughout, and the ending is both common and far-fetched. I don't ask for a lot in a romance; two people fall in love, and we get to watch it happen. That's all there is to it. But apparently it's not so easy to do well.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I wasn't able to meet you for this film.

    FYI, you may also add Pacifica's Seavue Theater to the area theater carnage list. It was still open when we moved here in 2002, but closed promptly when they finished the Century 20.