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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

33. Cop Out

Vallejo 14
Cinemark's Vallejo 14 opened in May, 2001, according to this source. I could have sworn this is where my dad and I saw Armageddon in 1998, though. I remember clearly that from the freeway heading north out of town I could see the theater off to the right in a shopping center. When I visited the Vallejo 14 on Saturday, it did seem to have moved just a tad, and was no longer easily visible from the freeway. Well, thanks to this source, I now know that there was another theater in the Gateway Plaza shopping center, called the Cinedome 8, operating from 1989 until the new theater opened. (That's a very short lifespan for a theater.) That location is now occupied by a Kohl's.

The Vallejo 14 is mostly unremarkable, though I did notice the auditorium had a good rake to it.

Nine Bay Area Cinemark theaters are participating in a Best Picture & Best Director Festival this Saturday, March 6th. For $25 you can see the following five movies back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back: Precious, Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, Avatar, and Up in the Air. That would be quite an epic experience; I'd love to hear from anyone who actually does this (I've now seen all five of these, and so will be spending my Saturday in pursuit of other fare). It's humorous that, in opening up the Best Picture category to ten films, the Academy has only motivated gimmicks like "Best Picture & Best Director" to identify the real five Best Picture nominees. We're not fooled.

I was perusing Cinemark's latest SEC filing, which reports a surprising 21.2% increase in attendance for the last three months of last year, contrasted to the same three months in 2008. That's quite an increase in just a year. In looking at the movies available during those months, 2009 seems to have a $300 million lead over 2008, roughly the amount taken in by The Twilight Saga: New Moon before the end of the year (source: The Numbers). That alone could account for nearly a 20% increase in revenue. It's amazing that a single movie could have so positive an impact on the industry. Just like how some retail stores live or die by the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The document also claims that Cinemark "outperformed the overall domestic box office" (though it doesn't say by how much). When one of the nation's leading circuits does better than average, that worries me for the everyone else (specifically, independent theaters).

On March 1st, Cinemark Holdings, Inc. presented a routine update to shareholders, available for a limited time as a webcast. Here are some of the more interesting thing discussed during the conference.

In praise of its conversion to digital projection, the presenter mentions that on the eve of the release of the first Twilight movie, one of Cinemark's new, all-digital 14-screen theaters was selling out their midnight showings of the film. They had not anticipated the demand for the film, but as showings sold out they merely allocated additional screens to the movie (which they could not have done if they needed a tangible print for each screen). Before the evening was done, they had sold out all 14 screens, all for the same movie.

The circuit has begun rolling out a line of auditoriums called XD, which have wall-to-wall screens, leather chairs (not vegan, and therefore no ticket from me), and an "upcharge" of $5 for seeing a 3-D movie on an XD screen. So far there are three such auditoriums in the Bay Area. At the San Francisco Centre 9, for instance, you could be looking at a ticket price of $16 for this "premium" experience. The presenter says that Cinemark has been "conservative" with price increases in the past year, with respect to the recession, but Cinemark and AMC top the list for most expensive tickets in the Bay Area. (I've started to compile some numbers to substantiate this.)

Discussing why movies tend to perform well during a recession, the presenter had this to say: "Going to a dinner . . . you probably have to sit across the table from your wife or your husband and talk about how much money you just lost or the job you lost . . . [whereas] you can go to a theater and not talk." I've always thought this a compelling argument for going to the movies on your first date, but I hadn't thought of it for your seven hundredth date. "Movies: we keep couples from talking."


The Black Eyed Peas will soon broadcast a performance to 475 theaters across the country. Here are some compelling reasons why this might not be a total waste of time. Those who watch live events via a recording often have better seats than people who were actually there. In the case of a music performance, the recording can sound better too (I saw Alanis Morissette at the Paramount, but could barely recognize a song, it was so garbled through the speakers). Next there is the issue of their recent album. I'm not a follower of their music, but decided to preview the thirty-second clips on iTunes when the album was released. Total trash. And yet that song, "Boom Boom Pow", is infectious. Finally, there's Fergie. Of all the actors in Nine, she did us the biggest favor by keeping her scenes short, and thus hastening the end of the film. Thank you, Fergie, for making America a better place. She's got a cool name, has cool eyebrows, and has been married to When in Rome star Josh Duhamel for an entire year, which is both record-breaking in Hollywood and bestows on Duhamel a little much-needed street cred. My best friend loves to use the word "Geezer!", thanks to some studio chatter at the end of a Fergie song, and I do find myself wondering what I'm going to do with all the junk in my car trunk. Will Ferrel gives props to the group in Blades of Glory, and Alanis Morissette (it all comes back to her), in a wonderful parody of "My Humps", both tears it a new one, and makes it all the more lovely.

A young man tells us how in high school he couldn't swim, but then he joined the Marines, and now he can. That is facing your fears. It is also a bit like becoming an astronaut to overcome your claustrophobia; yes it might teach you a valuable skill, but if not, you're in it deep.

Some interviews with stars of Clash of the Titans spoiled more of the movie than did either trailer I've seen thus far. If you see this interview come on, close your ears.

The suspicious claim that "more people are going to the movies than ever before", which I discussed here, has now been changed to "1.4 billion people went to the movies last year." It's as if they read my blog. I brought the establishment to a grinding halt with my guerrilla fact-finding tactics! Though they still conflate 'people' with 'admissions', and are trying to make it sound like 1.4 billion is a lot (relatively, it is not), at least they are no longer just plain wrong.

Kirstie Alley's Big Life is an upcoming reality show. The ad for it should be enough to convince you that her life is no more interesting than most people's, though she does have many pet lemurs, which is always useful to break the ice when having over the new neighbors. ("My son's on the football team." "My lemur's rifling through your purse.") The crux of her show is that Alley is overweight and wants to shed some pounds and keep them off. I'm not sure how this show differs from Fat Actress, which I also didn't see, but Alley's tone troubles me. If her show helps others of a similar mindset to lose weight, great. But the commercial suggests to me that Alley, in demonizing obesity, might end up just making people feel bad about themselves (or about others).

An ad for I don't know what has two women swap looks (shirts, hat, glasses, hair-dos, car canopies), and, eventually, boyfriends. Very odd. If anyone wants to swap boyfriends with you, you can be sure of one thing: he's no keeper.

Boondock Saints was a pure movie. Pure slow-mo violence. It was good once, and bad twice. Last October a sequel surfaced. Despite only earning ten million dollars, it somehow limped along for more than three months. Luckily, for "one night only", the original will return to theaters in celebration of its tenth birthday. You can relive all the great moments on the big screen, like jumping from a window with a toilet handcuffed to your hand, or spinning upside down and shooting more gangsters than you thought the film had budget for. Remember, when all hope is lost, say some prayers, and the villain might just take you under his wing. It worked in The Mummy, and by golly it works for the Saints.


Death at a Funeral

Get Him to the Greek
A junior music executive (Jonah Hill) is entrusted with transporting a British rocker (Russell Brand) to an anniversary concert. The rocker just wants to party, get Hill drunk and into trouble, and sleep around. Hill, bless his little heart, plays the sort of role where he gets hit by a trashcan, and we feel so bad for him, because he's such a sweet guy, but we're also thinking, "hit him again, hit him again!" Brand is reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (didn't see it). He's colorful and provides much visual flare to the trailer. He also seems to genuinely like Hill. Hill has the best moments, getting injected with adrenaline, walking into a studio covered in his own vomit, and waking up hungover and confused. 117 cuts.

Hot Tub Time Machine (Trailer 2)
Skip it. This trailer is more hurried than the first. In a rush to get past the premise, and show us the zany situations our characters will get themselves into, the trailer begins to spoil what will probably be the few surprises the movie has to offer. 72 cuts.

Our Family Wedding
A goat on viagra, are you serious?

The Losers
I'm unfamiliar with the comic, but this movie seems to be based on the trailer for The A-Team. It improves on that trailer, though. It gives us more close-ups of the leads, does a better job of explaining that the government betrayed our black ops team, and shows Zoe Saldana shooting a rocket launcher. The movie is probably terrible, but the trailer is well edited, with effective slow motion money shots. Chris Evans wears lots of pink shirts. Zoe jumps in a bathtub. A sniper wears a cowboy hat. Booyah! 163 cuts, just shy of the title.

Clash of the Titans (Trailer 2)
As buddy cop movies go, Cop Out breaks the mold by having partners who actually get along. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan have been partners for nine years, and the love is palpable. Traditionally, Willis plays the tough cop while Morgan plays the zany cop. But in an effort to switch roles, Morgan takes the lead in an interrogation, quoting and pantomiming every movie he can think of to express to the prisoner just how tough he is (this trait becomes tiresome quickly). Willis, accompanied by half the force, mocks Morgan's performance, but eventually intervenes and between the two of them they are able to get the name of the prisoner's drug supplier. The prisoner, now an informant, is set free, and during the stakeout to apprehend the drug supplier, the informant is murdered. At this point, every element of the movie has manifested: silly cops who are actually competent, facing off against a brutally violent drug cartel.

Willis and Morgan work well together. They mock and express affection for each other interchangeably. When they are both suspended because of the botched stakeout, Willis, well short of the forty-eight thousand dollars he needs to pay for his daughter's wedding, decides to sell his prize baseball card. Unfortunately, the card is stolen by a manic, Parkour-practicing crook, Seann William Scott, but Morgan comes to his partner's aid to help retrieve the card. Morgan has problems of his own, thinking that his wife is cheating on him (the film's funniest moment takes the shape of a nightmarish encounter Morgan imagines his wife having with the neighbor while taking out the trash, set to "Rhythm Is a Dancer"). Here it is Willis's turn to be supportive, and assure his partner of his wife's fidelity.

Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody have a recurring role as partners embroiled in their own self-worshipping work romance. Because they've seen it done in other movies, they pester our heroes (even though our heroes are actually pretty good cops). When Willis and Morgan are suspended, Pollack and Brody inherit their case. They begin following a trail of bodies that, wouldn't you know it, lead them to the very same person who has Willis's baseball card. The only thing that could make this tidier is if the drug lord were sleeping with Morgan's wife.

Morgan's wife, Rashida Jones, is the only one to shine in the background. Jason Lee, who nailed the voice of Syndrome in The Incredibles and therefore should quit while ahead, is limited by a tiny role as the new husband of Willis's ex. Michelle Trachtenberg (Willis's daughter) is also given very little to do.

There are many humorous moments in this movie. Sadly, though, the film is boring. Despite the warm fuzzies between Willis and Morgan, this is just another cop movie. The humor is sharply punctuated by graphic violence (the villain likes to beat people up by hitting baseballs at them), and most of the plot points (the baseball card, and Seann William Scott's entire role) feel contrived. Willis gives a flat performance. He appears humorless beside Morgan's extreme acting, but also not serious enough given the severity of the crimes they are investigating. In the final sequence, Willis and Morgan actually joke about shooting off someone's head. Yuck.

I found myself not really caring if Morgan's wife were cheating on him, or if Willis would be able to afford his daughter's wedding. The bad guys will get caught in the end, one way or another. I would have enjoyed the movie more if it were just about the two teams of screwball partners playing pranks on each other back at the police station. Who needs bat-toting gangsters when Pollack and Brody have matching boots?

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