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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

39. Brooklyn's Finest

Century 20 Great Mall

Milpitas's Great Mall was built in 1994 by converting a Ford auto plant that had shut down years before. The mall is enormous, and has a peculiar shape for an auto plant, so I'm not sure how much of the original structure remains.  Cinemark's Century 20 Great Mall theater anchors the mall's north end, with its entrance facing an attractive outdoor plaza.  (Leave plenty of time to get to the theater.  I don't think I've ever waited so long at a stop light as I did at each of the two lights nearest the theater's west parking lot.)

The theater's lobby features a full Cafe Cinema, with ice-cream, cookies, tea, and bin candy.

Century lobbies tend to be cavernous.  They don't do as much with the space as does the Paramount, but they do their best to decorate it.  Giant movie posters are hung above the front doors.

I'm just now realizing that the thematic collages are different from theater to theater, though sometimes repeating the same images overlaid in a different way.  Compare the collage below to that of Cinemark's Oakridge, Bayfair, and Tanforan theaters.  Collect them all!

This theater also has a San Francisco skyline silhouette stretching across its back wall, with spotlights shining upward from tiny buildings.  Very cool.

Can you guess the film advertised by this standee?

Twenty screens require a network of hallways to get patrons to their auditoriums.  My screen was at the end of a short hallway just around the corner from the end of a long hallway.  Illuminated movie posters and stone-finish tiles decorate the long halls.  A mini concession stand is located at the bend, but I seldom see these open.

The Century 20 Great Mall has auditoriums ranging from 104 to 414 seats, with a total seating capacity of 3630.  Thanks to the patient box office attendant who recorded for me the seating counts for all twenty screens.

The seats are tall, angled, and comfortable, covered in a crushed-velvet fabric that adds a bit of shimmer to the auditorium.

There were only five other people in the auditorium with me.


I've heard the slogans "Be all you can be" and "The few, the proud", but this is a new one to me: "Detect.  Deter.  Defeat."  Which branch of our armed forces entices new recruits with this catch phrase?  The Federal Air Marshal Service.  Detect and Deter seem appropriate, but Defeat is a strange word in this context.  At what point is the unseen enemy defeated?  Noone has commandeered our planes in the U.S. since 9/11.  Does that mean our enemies have been defeated?  I'm guessing this is the sort of conflict that is ongoing, just like any policing action.

A second spot for Kirstie Alley's Big Life is much better than the first.  Alley comes across as charming and funny, and the show looks a bit more interesting, even though much of the footage is recycled from the first spot.  The best moment (aside from all the shots of Alley on a couch giving sideways glances to pink frosted cupcakes) comes when Alley and her friend are auditioning personal trainers.  They ask a trainer what specific skills he would bring to the mix.  He stares at them like he has no idea how to answer.  They stare back at him.  He stares at them.  Finally Kirstie opens her eyes a bit wider, as if to say, "You flunk".

I need to retract a forgiving statement I made here regarding National CineMedia's statement that "1.4 billion people went to the movies last year."  The statement is actually "A record-breaking 1.4 billion people went to the movies last year."  Because of its specificity, this statement is actually less true than the previous statement.  Which record, exactly, is being broken?  A quick look at the MPAA's recently released Theatrical Market Statistics 2009 report (page 6) shows that 2009 has only the fifth highest attendance in the past decade.  2009 might be beating 2008, but it isn't breaking any records.  That same page of the MPAA's report shows a per capita chart, which indicates a steady decline in per capita attendance over the past ten years, with 2009 being the second lowest.  (People are being born faster than they can be trained to purchase movie tickets.)  Perhaps the only record being broken is how long a falsifiable statement can be used to promote a product.  Read some blurbs from NCM's "For Advertisers" page if you really want to feel like a stooge: "Imagine a campaign that reaches users during every step of the moviegoing process: while they search for movie showtimes online; as they purchase their ticket and walk through the theatre lobbies; before the trailers begin; on their mobile devices as they exit the theatre".  Wow.  Maybe they should just have someone sit with me in the theater and whisper name brands in my ear and taser me periodically if I devote too much attention to the film.

As long as we're on the subject of the MPAA's report, page 7 shows that just 10% of the population (visiting movies once a month or more often) purchased 50% of the tickets.  The report features a lot of other interesting information, so I recommend reading it over.

An ad for Sprint boasts seemingly incongruent moments of connectivity, such as watching Airplane on a mobile phone while at the airport, and playing a networked video game with a bunch of friends while sitting in a camp site (ignoring the forest around them).  If we could trace reclusiveness through time, I wonder which technological innovations would prove to be watersheds.  To take a simple example, one advantage of video games over board games it that a player can play a video game even if there are no available opponents, as required by a board game.  Thus the technology can fulfill a need.  However, video games also encourage us to play in isolation (I count networking as isolation), even if live opponents are available.  I've certainly fallen prey to this.  Television encourages people to be entertained at home instead of in movie theaters.  Cars encourage people to travel individually instead of on buses and trains with other people (riding on trains is so cool; who decided to scrap that idea?).  With portable devices (iPods, iPhones, iPads, but also car radios, in-seat airplane movies, and those little video screens at the gas pump), we can no longer presume familiarity with the experience of a passerby.  We're walking down the same sidewalk, but we're listening to different songs, watching different movies, reading different magazines (perhaps literature is the oldest isolating technology).  Proximity is little guarantee of a shared experience.  I'd love to see a visual representation of this, with a bunch of people walking down the street, but with friends and rock bands strapped to their ears, and writers and movie stars glommed to their eyes.

Discovery is promoting an upcoming, eleven-part documentary on Life.  Big topic.  I'm fairly anthropocentric, and so find it difficult to tell if I've seen that same blue whale footage before.  How about the duckling jumping out of a tree and bouncing on the forest floor below?  That's probably recent footage, but it so captures the essence of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, I feel like I've been seeing that baby duckling my entire life.  This Discovery series looks beautiful.  We live in a fascinating world (I give it five stars); show any one of our creatures up close, and that creature will look totally awesome.  Take that, Venus!



Julianne Moore suspects that her husband, Liam Neeson, is cheating on her.  So she hires a call girl, Amanda Seyfried (who is very busy this year), to test her husband's fidelity.  Seyfried does as instructed, but is a bit too successful for Moore's tastes.  Moore wants to end her financial agreement with Seyfried, but now Seyfried has taken a liking to the family, including to Moore.  At its most bare-bones, Chloe is Fatal Attraction.  But what will set it apart from other stalker movies are the following qualities: Moore intentionally introduces the threat into her household.  Seyfried doesn't seem psycho (I would think that most stalkers are more prone to interfering with the lives of their objects, rather than killing them if they can't have them, as depicted in most stalker movies).  And Moore, Neeson, and Seyfried together form an emotional powder keg.  I can't wait.  Many trailers reveal an entire plot arc, but few can successfully convey an emotional arc, as this one does.  (68 cuts)

Why Did I Get Married Too? (Trailer 2)

The Losers


Brooklyn's Finest
The film opens with Sal (Ethan Hawke) sitting in a car with Carlo (Vincent D'Onofrio), near an open field in some industrial part of Brooklyn at night.  The two appear to be waiting for someone, and are just chatting to pass the time.  Carlo is relating some story about being arrested, or being in jail, or something like that, and Sal is nervously laughing at Carlo's stupid jokes, occasionally accusing Carlo of embellishing.  Carlo is shot mid-sentence, at which point Sal takes from him a brown bag full of money, and hurries off into the night.  Sal is a cop.  He lives in a mold-infested house with his wife (pregnant with twins), four young children, and a teenaged daughter, and he'll do anything to move his family into a better home.

Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop who has infiltrated a drug distribution ring in Brooklyn's densest and deadliest neighborhood.  He's been undercover too long and is beginning to crack.  Urging his handler (Will Patton) to get him out, Tango relates a story in which he was recently pulled over by a highway patrolman.  Tango's armed passengers were prepared to shoot the officer, and Tango, so deep in the mindset of his deception, was prepared to let them.  Tango tells his handler that he needs a "desk, suit, tie" like he needs water.

Eddie (Richard Gere) has been on the force for decades.  With just one week before his retirement, he's looking to just cruise, and stay alive.  His security is compromised when, as part of a rookie-training program, he is assigned to bring a green cadet on patrol with him as his new partner.  His partner makes snap judgments with limited information, but Eddie is a veteran; he waits, watches, tries to slow everything down.  Even in sex he tries to keep the pace slow.  From his perspective, acting quickly will get him killed.

Brooklyn's Finest doesn't waste a scene.  Anchoring our perspective at street level, it absorbs us in these three conflicts (Sal getting a house, Tango breaking cover, Eddie retiring).  Every detail of their daily lives, however mundane, has life-or-death implications, and therefore demands urgent attention.  For Sal, each raid on a drug house presents opportunities for him to pilfer cash from the scene, but only if he can do so unnoticed.  Tango compromises himself by meeting with his handler, and he must convince his cohorts that he is hard, but without actually killing anyone.  Eddie berates his new partner for trying to stop a man from hitting his girlfriend, saying his partner shouldn't get involved.  At first, this is shocking; what exactly are the police supposed to do, if not get involved?  But then he reminds his partner that they are currently across precinct lines, and you never make a bust in someone else's precinct.  Eddie has spent his life mapping conflicts of all sorts, and walks cautiously as if through a mine field.  Sal, Tango, and Eddie are all so tightly wound, and have already crossed the line so many times, the threat of an explosion is omnipresent.

Marcelo Zarvos's score is exceptional.  I've seen several movies with his music (including the excellent Tully), but I've never noticed one of his scores before now.  The score never lets up.  Many movies have music that swells and pounds and lunges, jerking our emotions in different directions as dictated by the variety of scenes.  When I notice the music, usually it's because I'm finding it intrusive.  Every once in a while, though, a movie features a score that is either melodically memorable or emotionally relevant to the film.  Zarvos's score is the latter.  His strings ratchet up the tension even during innocuous moments.  Tango walking out of a store on a sunny day with a cool drink in his hand sounds relaxing, right?  Not according to the score; the score reminds us that Tango is cracking up.  His cover prevents him from lashing out at criminals around him, and so every civilian provides a potential target for his pent up wrath.  When our characters snap (and they do so repeatedly), it's always a surprise.  By maintaining itself so consistently at DefCon 2 the score has forfeited its ability to telegraph danger.

You know those tiny boutiques in malls that have glass shelves displaying dainty music boxes and little dolphin sculptures made of crystal?  Imagine packing fifty guys with baseball bats into that boutique during tax season after their favorite team just lost the big game, turning out the lights, and giving one of them a big shove.  Brooklyn's Finest starts at the moment the lights go out, and you know for a fact that a bomb is about to go off.

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