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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

59. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

CineLux Delta Cinema Saver

I trekked one morning to Brentwood, the most easterly side of what I'm calling the Bay Area (though I'm guessing Brentwood and other nearby cities consider themselves part of the Delta, rather than having any relationship to San Francisco). Making my way through a farmer's market, and a few people with signs protesting Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, I came to CineLux's Delta Cinema Saver. According to Cinema Treasures, the theater was built sometime around 1936, twinned in the 1990s, and reopened by CineLux in 2000.

The "Saver" part of the title is no joke. This theater has the cheapest first-run prices I've seen, charging only $4.50 before 6:00 PM, and $7.00 otherwise. A glass façade encloses what looks to be the old box office area, including insets for posters.

The color scheme speaks for itself. Though the concession has the usual fare, a link on their website gives a full breakdown of their popcorn. If all food were that accurately described, I might eat out more.

The lobby is decorated with framed, autographed photos of old stars, like Mae West (below, center)... well as with this fun cabinet showcasing magazines and photos from Hollywood's gilded age.

The first auditorium, accessed directly from the lobby, seats 190. The second auditorium, in what must have been the front of the original screen, is reached by a long side hallway, decorated with posters from upcoming movies.

The second auditorium seats 130, bringing the theater's total to 320. The walls feature the same frosted glass fixtures as at the Almaden Cinema Five. Though the seats aren't rockers, they are incredibly comfortable, and are in a perpetual state of recline

This particular print of Prince of Persia, though only a day old, had a major blemish in it that bubbled across half the screen for nearly a minute.


CineLux's pre-show programming is put together by CineSpots, a company whose content appears almost exclusively in CineLux theaters (I can't quite make out from their webpage if they are actually owned by CineLux or not). Highlights include shout-outs from locals, amateur (and often bizarre) short films, and some surreal video pieces. And let's not forget the host, Jax. She has a perfect smile and a throaty, shrill voice (hey, that's my thing).

Peninsula Pop Warner is a local charter of a national program to keep kids out of trouble by involving them in sports (football, cheering). From their website comes this staggering statistic: "70% of all NFL players played Pop Warner" (Tim Brown, Oakland Raiders).

Emerging Artist Productions is hosting a 3 Day Film Challenge (exhibited tonight at BlueLight Cinemas). From the rules: "'Challengers' will receive specific information that must be included in their film, additionally each team will select a genre card, each genre card will have two distinct genres listed for that team, it is up to the sole discretion of the teams to determine which of the two genres listed they will decide to produce". Sounds like an activity my community filmed during our weekly HodgePodge session sophomore year of college. There's nothing like random requirements to get the creative juices flowing.

A short about jellyfish, called "Floaters of the Deep", is stunning. Jellyfish are impossible. There's just no way.


Toy Story 3 (Trailer 3)

(Previously reviewed)

The Karate Kid (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Sorcerer's Apprentice (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

When a movie begins with, "It is said...", you can be sure the writers are taking the lazy approach to steeping us in lore. This is right up there with "Long ago..." and "Once upon a time...", but without any sense of self-parody. I'll admit that when Gemma Arterton says it, my ears perk up a bit. Nonetheless, it is said that this is no way to begin a movie. It is said that this movie comes from a video game. It is said that most of the budget was spent on ensuring that each of Arterton's many lovely freckles were just so, and it is said that there just wasn't enough budget left over to work on Jake Gyllenhaal's accent.

A king, already with two sons, takes pity on a courageous orphan, Dastan (Gyllenhaal), and adopts him. Years later, Dastan is a commander in his adoptive father's army, along with brothers Tus and Garsiv. The three impetuously invade a holy city on false rumors that the city harbors weapons of mass swashbuckling. Dastan happens upon a magical dagger, is framed for a murder, and is soon on the run with holy woman Tamina (Arterton) in an attempt to clear his name. The law of the economy of characters assures us that Dastan has been set up either by one of his brothers, or by his uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley). Tus stands to inherit the throne, Garsiv is a bit of a war monger, and Ben Kingsley has been evil in the past four dozen or so of his recent films, so your money is good on any one of them as the evil mastermind behind Dastan's frame-up.

Here's the thing about magical daggers that can turn back time: very handy with the ladies. Nicolas Cage had one in Next (it was in his false hairline), Bill Murray had one in Groundhog Day (he uses it to carve the ice), and now Dastan has one. It's really a toss up whether to use the dagger to restore his own honor or to besmirch Tamina's. Medieval feminists (Maid Marian, Éowyn, Diana of Themyscira, etc.) only rebuff the uncouth advances of their lessers because they know that beneath the rugged exterior of every conniving, feeble-minded rogue is a conniving, feeble-minded hornball. Dastan, wise to the follies of his fellow courters, soon develops a romantic stratagem never before attempted with the fairer sex (at least not since Kindergarten): ignore her, be mean to her, and act like you're fighting off this band of elite snake-wielding assassins just because they're trying to kill you, and not because you're trying to impress her. Combine that with a romantic horse ride (in the desert, there's beach on both sides) between yourself and the movie's only female character, and you've got yourself a sure thing.

Having read my Top Ten Chase Scenes, and being threatened at quillpoint by the writers (who had a mere four pages of script written just eight days before the movie's opening), the film's choreographers were determined to give me my money's worth in the form of chases. Chases through streets, bazaars, markets, swap meets, and even the bustling commercial district or two. When the human actors get tired of running, ostriches take their place (Alfred Molina, as Sheik Amar, has a corner on the ostrich-racing market). I actually enjoyed these extended scenes because it showed off the wonderful sets, the colorful costumes, and lots of tasty-looking spices (which Dastan's pursuers, without fail, would topple into). Just when the guards think they have him cornered, Dastan, demonstrating that his biological father is Jackie Chan, will leap through a chimney or basket or large hoop earring to give further chase.

So why is this terrible movie deserving of three stars? Because it's fun. It has what its better looking but more boorish cousin Clash of the Titans lacks: verve. Both movies have Gemma Arterton, so that's a wash. Clash does indeed have a speaking role for a second female character, but just when you think they're breaking new ground in Hollywood (two women!), they reassure us that it's okay to kill an ugly woman with snakes on her head, even if she only has the snakes because a jealous god thought she was too pretty. Prince of Persia doesn't send mixed messages like that. It's not afraid to say that indeed there were weapons of mass distraction in the holy city: Tamina's pouty lips and brown, deer-in-the-headlights eyes. Can we really fault Dastan for trying to impress her with an (English?) accent?

A few miscellaneous notes. There's no more efficient method to get someone killed in a movie like this than to tell them your secret, nor is there a surer way to out the villain than to confide in him and wait to see if he asks, "Have you told anyone else about this?" Here's a question: if you've got the dagger, and you know it is the one and only thing that can pierce the Sands of Time and destroy All That Is, why would you go racing to the Sands of Time (with the dagger), trying to beat the villain to it? I mean, if the villain doesn't have the dagger, and therefore can't pierce the Sands of Time, exactly what danger does he pose if he gets there first? Shouldn't you be trying to get the dagger away from the Sands of Time? Finally, stick around for the credits, because we're treated to a good song by Alanis Morissette. Some of her best work is for closing credits ("Uninvited" for City of Angels, "Still" for Dogma), and this is no exception.


  1. This movie is awful.

    But if you know it is awful, and have zero expectations, and pay $1.75 instead of $9.00, it can be kind of fun.

    For the first half anyway, then it starts to get old.

  2. I came across this through Cinema Treasures. I wrote the initial write up of this movie theater on the site.

    I worked at that theater from late 2001 to early 2005. Those were the best days of my life. I have so many great memories in that building. I'd probably still be working there if I still lived in town.

    Your write up is tremendous, and I thank you for it and also for taking an interest in these smaller theaters. Nothing says they HAVE to die away.