Maya Cinemas, a 14 screen megaplex in Salinas, was built in 2005 on the same site where once stood two other, single screen theaters, the White Theatre and the Crystal Theater. Salinas had its own heyday of movie going, with approximately seven different theaters in operation during the 1940s and 1950, when the population was still relatively small. Today, each of the historic single screen theaters has either been torn down or repurposed. What remain are Maya Cinemas, in downtown Salinas, and Century 14 Northridge Mall to the north.
I won't spend too much time on Maya Cinemas, since most megaplexes, including this one, have many similarities and few distinctions. Maya Cinemas has an interesting facade, partly meant to emulate that of the torn-down Crystal Theater. There is ample paid parking (a garage around the side and a lot across the street). I took my chances in a 2-hour zone and escaped unscathed.
The theater is located on a historic stretch of main street, where still stand the Fox Theater (open for live performances, among other things) and Cinema 1 Theater (closed). This part of town is attractive, with several restaurants nearby and the National Steinbeck Center at the end of the street.
Inside Maya Cinemas, there isn't much to note, other than all aspects being adequate. Access to its many theaters is via a long hallway. I wonder if it would be better to imitate street address numbering convention, with odds on one side and evens on the other. I find it a bit odd to have theater 1 right across from theater 14.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey are a married couple looking for a night out on the town to disrupt their routine. They commandeer the dinner reservations of an absent couple, are mistaken for that couple by two police officers looking to make a drug bust, and hilarity ensues. This preview is funny, with lots of clever lines and visual gags. To top it off, we see a sexy, shirtless Mark Wahlberg. At a not-so-slim 114 cuts, it manages to actually stage the story quite well without giving an indication of how it will resolve.
Letters to Juliet
Amanda Seyfried, in Verona with her boyfriend Gael García Bernal, finds an unanswered letter, decades old, from Vanessa Redgrave asking for guidance regarding a man she loves. Seyfried tracks down Redgrave, and along with Redgrave's grandson, Christoper Egan, sets out on a journey to find the man Redgrave once knew. If that story appeals to you, avoid this trailer and skip straight to the movie. At 115 cuts, the trailer (in typical Romance genre fashion) steps us through the entire plot, revealing everything, right down to who ends up with whom. Seyfried has great onscreen presence, so I'm sure she'll make this film bearable. I'd be more interested if Bernal (The Science of Sleep) were more heavily featured.
Taking its cue from Letters to Juliet, the trailer for Leap Year shows it all, and with a whopping 145 cuts. Amy Adams (always darling) ends up in Wales on a quest to propose to her boyfriend. Her ferryman, Matthew Goode (no slouch in the darling department himself) belittles her intentions, and, naturally, sparks begin to fly. This film looks sweet and funny. Many humorous moments in the trailer, but skip it if you think you want to see the film.
This film has a simple yet novel premise. Jane (Meryl Streep) begins an affair with her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin), who has since remarried, to the woman with whom he cheated on Jane. On its surface, this is a recipe for us to think Jake is a philanderer and Jane pathetic for even considering him. However, some additional nuances make the film more interesting than I thought it would be.
Baldwin is given a backstory that makes him just slightly more sympathetic than your typical cheating husband. He's having a sort of post-mid-life-crisis crisis, seems to genuinely appreciate his ex-wife, and isn't afraid to discuss his feelings honestly with her.
Meanwhile, in the years since the divorce Jane has become a successful owner/operator of one or more restaurants and has recently met an attractive architect (Steve Martin). Also (and moreso than Jake) she has a great relationship with her three children and her future son-in-law (John Krasinski).
Martin's role is mostly benign, and Jane has a small circle of friends whose infrequent appearances feel tacked on. But otherwise the characters are enjoyable, with many funny moments (much appreciated by my fellow viewers, who were laughing out loud throughout).
I was particular impressed by the range of facial expressions through which Streep and Baldwin cycle. Streep manages to convey confusion, happiness, intimacy, realization, and guilt in just a few seconds, and convincingly.
The highlight of the film for me was Krasinski as the future son-in-law. I've missed most of his series The Office, so I recognize him most from Leatherheads. As in that film, in It's Complicated Krasinski is just adorable. He's given great lines, and great opportunities for reaction. His role was perhaps originally written with more slapstick in mind, but he manages to deliver a funny, sensitive, realistic character.
A few other picky points. There is an obligatory drug scene, used to lazy effect as in many comedies as a quick way to get our characters into funny situations. I can do without these as they are tired and obvious. Also, like so many modern films, and much like modern life, cell phones play an intrusive role. Having characters talk to each other on the phone is not satisfying; it gives new meaning to being able to phone-in a performance, as actors are no longer required to share screen time together (watch any episode of Smallville and you might wonder if the actors have even met each other). And using phone calls as a device to interrupt scenes is just annoying. Here's a novel idea: if someone is about to tell you something important, don't answer your phone.