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

Saturday, February 13, 2010

30. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Century 16 Bayfair
Cinemark's Bayfair theater was added to San Leandro's Bayfair Center (formerly known as Bay Fair Mall) in 2001. The theater is accessible by a nearby BART station and has lots of parking.

I don't know the theater's total seating capacity, but the lobby alone can hold 702 people. The concessions area (aka Cafe Cinema) has a full ice-cream bar, hot tea, and cookies. To one side is a substantial arcade (Starcade Arcade Lounge).

The lobby also features a wide assortment of standees. The favorite seems to be the "Get in the tub" promo for Hot Tub Time Machine, where kids can pose with their faces protruding through cut-outs of the actors. My favorite was a giant yellow fire hydrant for Marmaduke (I'm pictured below, left, with my college roommate and frequent movie buddy Matthew).

There were many families with children in the lobby, giving the theater a very lively atmosphere. There were also numerous security guards milling about, which indicates the theater might get some tough customers on occasion.

In the pre-show, Jewel sings in a flower shop as a tie-in for Valentine's Day. I can't recommend her singing these days; gone are her raw, sensitive songs; now she sounds like any number of other singers. A Sprite commercial that I've seen several times now has rapper Drake trying to record a song, "Forever". His creativity stalls, so he drinks a Sprite, which opens up his body as if he were a robot, exposing mix tables and speakers inside him. Once they are flushed out with Sprite, Drake is able to deliver his lines with conviction. Having now looked up the lyrics to "Forever", I can say that Sprite cleverly picked out the single stanza that is appropriate for a commercial. I'm not a Sprite drinker, but the idea of washing my electronic devices with Sprite makes me envision a sticky, electrical mess.


Alice in Wonderland (Trailer 2)

The Karate Kid
American transplant Jaden Smith ends up in Beijing where he must learn from master Jackie Chan to survive in the rough streets. Chan tells Smith that "the only way to stop them is to face them." And thus begin the obligatory (yet usually satisfying) training sequences, where performing repetitive actions (in this case, taking off his jacket and hanging it up) turns someone into a gladiator. (That's why I repeatedly open the snack cupboard each day; I'm training to be the ultimate fighting champion.) Jaden seems quite young to deliver any sort of forceful blows. I began to wonder if it is only my age that makes me think Ralph Macchio seemed older in the 1984 film of the same name, but as it turns out, Macchio was twenty-two when he made his movie, but Smith is only twelve. Smith's puniness and the trailer's hasty 109 cuts keep it from being enjoyable, but Fort Minor's song "Remember the Name", thrown in for the latter half of the trailer, helps me to take it more seriously.

Despicable Me (Trailer 3)

Eight cuts. Very conservative. And yet still it was enough to possess me of the opinion that I have no interest in seeing this live-action movie about a giant dog, Marmaduke. He's voiced by Owen Wilson. Movies about talking animals I can do without. I will be pleasantly surprised if someone can name even a single such movie that is worth seeing for an adult.

The Last Airbender (Trailer 2)
(not rated)
When I am super excited about seeing a movie I will often close my eyes during the previews. I'll get to see the movie for the first time only once, so I don't want anything spoiled. I decided to exercise that caution with this trailer. The teaser was perfect, enticing me to see the film, letting me know who is directing, and that it will have awesome effects. I don't need anything else. So, instead of reviewing this second trailer, which I didn't watch, I'll talk about the television show, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I have just finished watching the last of the show's three-season run. And it is absolutely awesome. Easily one of the best shows I've ever seen, with funny humor, absorbing drama, incredible action sequences, super-powers, a core team of enjoyable characters, and a beautiful mystical world. I would gladly rewatch this entire series. I will warn you that the show is animated (you can tell I'm a fan because I use that word; pooh-pooers call them cartoons), and produced for children. But second only to Justice League, it is the best superhero show I've seen. Unfortunately, the more I love the show, the more I realize that it will be impossible to capture its epic tale and enduring friendships in one (or even three) movies. I'm trying to keep that in mind, so I'm not unfairly disappointed in the movie.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A sixth grader, Greg, starts off by telling us, "Let me just say for the record that middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented." I have to agree with him there. It's certainly the longest, sickest, most inhumane experiment I've ever been part of. Greg, along with other unpopular cohorts Rowley, Chirag, and Fregley, must traverse his school's inhospitable waters. The trailer has several funny moments and is worth watching. Though I do take exception to Greg saying that he is surrounded by a "bunch of morons"; strong words to apply to children who haven't yet finished schooling. 63 cuts.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Although things didn't work out too well for Christ, that doesn't stop the rest of us from fantasizing about being the Chosen One, endowed with special powers and an important destiny. Last year alone saw this in Avatar, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Push, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Star Trek (sort of), Inkheart, Dragonball Evolution, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. What makes the fantasy so compelling is that it suggests we could each be a hero without even knowing it, and that eventually these powers will manifest of their own accord, without much effort, and we will suddenly do great things. In truth, this is pretty much what happens for all of us anyway, though in place of powers we get maturity, and instead of great things we accomplish meaningful things. Not a bad trade off. Still, it's a great fantasy.

Percy Jackson is your typical high school kid, in the sense that unbeknownst to him he is the rare offspring of a mortal (Catherine Keener) and a god, Poseidon, ruler of the sea. Someone has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt, the most powerful weapon ever created, and all fingers point to Percy, since his father would stand to gain from overthrowing Zeus. Soon Percy is off on a quest to learn about his heritage, clear his name, and, hopefully, finally meet his real father (not the deadbeat stepdad, Joe Pantoliano, who has been befouling his and his mother's life for as long as he can remember).

To transpose a phrase used by my best friend, this film is all lore, no gore. Unfortunately, it's also all lore, no interest. The tiny drama of Percy's quest seems insignificant in the shadow of the movie's mythology, touched on mostly through exposition. When the gods enter the scene, I am fascinated. How would you like to be a god for all eternity, like Athena, and never have the opportunity to become one of the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades)? That's quite a large glass ceiling. Percy makes his way to a camp where his fellow demi-gods (half god, half human) train for battle. We learn that it is the rarest of events for one of the Big Three to father a demi-god (meaning everyone else in the populated camp shares one of nine possible parents). I eat this stuff up; I want to know more about the gods.

Instead, we are stuck with three high schoolers as our main characters. Percy's two friends (Grover and Annabeth) are in the know, but Percy has a lot to learn. He starts off as a likable character, kissing his mother on the cheek when he gets home, and standing up to his stepfather's mistreatment of her. But once he begins his quest, his reactions to extraordinary events (and devastating losses) are unbelievably calm. As are the reactions of his fellow warriors; after one particularly astounding victory, saving everyone's lives, people nod and pat him on the back, as if his accomplishment had been something benign like reciting a poem well.

There are a few breathtaking sets, and the creature effects look good. And there are a few entertaining moments where Percy and others use their godly powers. But mostly the film just made me more excited to see the upcoming Clash of the Titans. That movie will have just as much meaningless action, but its mythology won't be diluted by being set in modern times.


  1. "I'm not a Sprite drinker, but the idea of washing my electronic devices with Sprite makes me envision a sticky, electrical mess."

    I despise that commercial. I think its gross and even a bit confusing. I suppose it suppose to be metaphorical but I can't help but think that he is a robot and that sprite is spraying all over the place. A "sticky electrical mess" is a very good description.

    Its also a complete 180 from Sprite's (admittedly quite old now) commercial message that makes fun of the idea that Sprite actually makes you perform better in anything as indeed it is just supposed to taste good.

    It doesn't help that Sprite tastes terrible.

    Now . . . if Pepsi had been squirting all over the place.

  2. Which reminds me, our preshow entertainment is at an all time low. The old coke commercial with the two cartoons on a train wasn't all that great but I never got annoyed either. And as I previously stated, Happy the Hench hog never got old and was usually more entertaining then the movie I was about to watch.

    Now we have this annoying Sprite commercial, right up until the point we actually hear his lyrics (which grate against my ears) and even worse, the zombies attacking the woman. I get uncomfortable every time my children see it. To my knowledge, they have never seen a zombie movie, so I don't know what is going through their imaginations when the screen pan ups, but I can't see how it could be anything good. They have never mentioned it.

    No new movie this week so I gave them the choice between The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Planet 51. To my surprise, Olivia said she would be cool with either. Since she had given Fantastic Fox an average review at best I thought she would want Planet 51. Then Sophie dashed my hopes with a strong vote for P51, despite the fact that her and I have already seen it twice.

  3. Are you keeping track of how many times you see each, and having them rate them after each viewing? It would be interesting to see how their rating immediately after seeing the movie correlates with their actual decision about whether to see it again in a subsequent week.

    Choosing Planet 51 over Fantastic Mr. Fox will haunt Sophia for the rest of her life.

  4. Are you keeping track of how many times you see each, and having them rate them after each viewing?

    In other words, am I actually Will M. Baker, owing my own consciousness to a fight-clubish split personality divergence?

    No, and no.

  5. But even if I were a clone of WMB, it wouldn't work. There aren't enough children's movies to have a new one each week, so it is inevitable that we will watch each movie at least twice, and if we are still have nothing to watch we generally choose to do something else. This is a rare time to consider watching one a third time, and that only because Olivia did not go with us on viewing 1.