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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

75. Going the Distance

Regal Crow Canyon

The Regal Crow Canyon, in San Ramon, is just eight miles northwest of Regal's Hacienda Crossing theater in Dublin, placing one of Regal's smallest theaters in the Bay Area in competition with its largest.

The theater is just two blocks from where stood the original village in the 1800s that would eventually incorporate into San Ramon in 1983 (source). The city, now home to more than 74,000, has only ever had this one theater, as near as I can tell.

It was a long, slow-moving line to get into the theater, but once inside I was greeted by wonderful air conditioning on such a hot day. The theater's exterior and floorplan are very similar to those of the Century Regency 6 in Gallinas and the Contra Costa Stadium Cinemas in Martinez. I would guess that they share a similar architect, and were probably all built in the early 1980s.

Yellow, orange, and purple chevrons decorate the walls, perhaps in honor of Chevron's corporate headquarters down the road. The largest auditorium seats 275, with a total theater capacity of 1200. The Crow Canyon showed ~94 unique movies during 2010, 15th of 71 Bay Area theaters with at least 6 screens.


A Calvin Klein underwear ad asks if we want to see the model's "bleep".

A strange Simpsons ad from way back at the Super Bowl sees Mr. Burns losing his fortune (a topical jab at financial executives?), moping around in the park, but then perking up when Apu offers him a Coke. Coke: We Make Evil People Feel Good.

A Diet Coke ad shows a semi-variety of people drinking Diet Coke and commands us to "stay extraordinary": a young urbanite going to a party; an artist painting a concrete wall; a fashion designer watching her models; a nurse while on night duty; a director filming an explosion; and an actress about to step out onto the red carpet. The odd one out is the urbanite, whose extraordinary accomplishment seems to be the ability to awaken from a nap just in time for the evening's activities. The almost continuity between the fashion designer, director, and actress is a missed opportunity to show a variety of people contributing to the movie process (costume designers, producers, gaffers, etc.). It's bizarrely interesting to live in an age of advertising when companies compete to coin the most inspirational phrase, yet somehow also want to capitalize on that. "We've trademarked being extraordinary, so every time you do something super neat, you are legally required to buy our soft drink."


Easy A

(Previously reviewed)
This trailer single-handedly turned me into a Lady Gaga fan. I subsequently watched all her videos and was blown away by her costumes and concepts.

My Soul to Take

Wes Craven crams all his tools into one movie. On the sixteenth anniversary of a serial killer's death, he seemingly returns, this time to stalk seven teens who were all born on the date of his death. One of those kids, Bug (Max Thieriot), might be the killer's son; might share a psychic connection with the killer; and might actually be the killer. His friend asks him, "Have you ever killed anyone, Bug?", to which he replies, "Not that I can remember." Here's some advice: friends don't let their friends not remember killing people. Frank Grillo, whom I enjoyed seeing as a cop in The Gates, tries to catch the killer before all the kids are offed. That's the brilliance of the seven-kid formula: it's just the right number of potential victims to grow attached to each, but be able to lose several in easily avoidable "alone in the woods" scenarios before our hero must finally confront the villain alone. 131 cuts.

Morning Glory

(Previously reviewed)

Life as We Know It

(Previously reviewed)

You Again

(Previously reviewed)

The Town

(Previously reviewed)

Going the Distance

I'm shocked that Drew Barrymore, who has been acting since the beginning of memory (i.e., E.T.) could be paired with Justin Long, who was born yesterday. Okay, maybe he was in Galaxy Quest and those Mac commercials, and is actually only a year younger than me. But there's just no way this boyish actor could aspire to be with Hollywood royalty.

Romantic comedies have a very simple formula: two people who aren't together at the beginning end up together at the end, with humor in between. Life is funny and relationships are fascinating, so this formula shouldn't be difficult to pull off. Yet most wide-release romantic comedies, rather than focusing on the relationship, rely on a plot-centric gimmick to carry the movie. He is a match-maker who can't find a match (Hitch). She is hired to toughen men up (Failure to Launch). He made a bet they'd break up, but she made a bet they'd stay together (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). They're in witness protection together (Did You Hear About the Morgans). She's trying to propose on Leap Day (Leap Year), or to fulfill a wish from a fountain (When in Rome) or from a wall (Letters to Juliet). To be fair, these gimmicks make for comprehensible trailers, and get us to buy tickets. But they also tend to distract from the relationship, because of the absurd pressures they exert on our fledgling couple. The writer, obligated to keep the lovers apart until the end, seldom employs the real-world reason that perhaps they just don't know each other well enough to decide to be together forever. Okay, maybe not inherently funny, but more interesting. (Want to see a good romance with well-rounded characters and little to no gimmick? Try Save the Date with the amazing Lizzy Caplan.)

Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett (Long) meet in New York City while she's in town for a summer internship. She's an aspiring journalist, and he works in one of those hip brick-walled offices with an open floor plan that seems to employ only young people (perhaps he's a sports writer?). In a hurried montage the movie establishes that they enjoy pub trivia while hanging out with his friends, and that they laugh together. In a different movie, this montage could have been paired with the closing credits to promise their Happily Ever After; in this movie we're reminded that relationships require constant tending. When Erin's internship is ending, and she prepares to move to San Francisco for a job at a newspaper, Erin and Garrett, reluctant to let their romance evaporate, decide to give it a try long distance. And so we have the movie's gimmick.

Dating while apart can be tough (when I saw this movie, I had just begun a long distance relationship of my own), but especially so in their case, for a variety of reasons. They are still in their honeymoon period, which can be a powerful motivator, but during the dry spells it might be better to have years of history as a foundation. Their nascent careers require high levels of devotion, leaving little time for pining; absence only makes the heart grow fonder when the heart isn't otherwise occupied. Erin and Garrett also find themselves at opposite ends of the continent. Clashing time zones are a nefarious impediment to casual contact: every phone call must be carefully planned. When they orchestrate a weekend reunion, one of them wastes half the weekend on an airplane, and once together they are challenged to secure privacy (Garrett shares a thin-walled apartment with his two friends, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis; Erin lives with her sister and brother-in-law, Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan). Soon they are missing phone dates, neglecting text messages, and weary from all the travel with too short payoff.

The real problem, though, is not distance, but rather that Barrymore and Long do not have cohesive chemistry. Typically, even in bad movies, the actors inhabit their roles well enough that by the movie's end it's difficult to imagine different actors having filled the parts. With each scene between Barrymore and Long making me more uncomfortable and squeamish, I began to wonder which winding route the casting process had traveled to have arrived in this uncanny valley: they are neither comically opposite, nor believably compatible. It's not enough to have Erin think that Garrett's cleverness is laugh-out-loud funny; that only works when the audience agrees. This reminds me of a Mad Magazine panel where a movie crew is in stitches over a pie-in-the-face scene they are filming, contrasted in the next panel to a completely sedate theater audience watching that same scene. A movie fails if it cannot inspire in the audience an emotional reaction that at least approximates that of its characters.

Going the Distance also makes the common mistake of too tightly siloing its romantic leads. With the plot entirely about their long distance relationship, and with the main characters frustrated in sharing screen time, all the other characters are relegated to foil status. The Bechdel Test could be applied to supporting cast members in general: do the supporting characters share a scene together (without the lead) in which they talk about something other than the lead? Do they have lives of their own, or are they just comic relief and surrogate dialog partners for one of the full-fledged humans? With the exception of one of Garret's roommates, who lusts after co-worker Kelli Garner, the auxiliary characters are just here for laughs.

Limiting the other characters to one-dimensional status does help the audience understand why the two leads would be so desperate for the company of another full-fledged human. But the movie, with its clumsy passage of time, does too good a job of keeping them apart. When Garrett tells Erin that she's his best friend, it sounds hollow and premature. There is one nugget of wisdom in this movie, however. In a car ride to the airport at the end of a weekend together, it becomes apparent that, although still in each other's company, their minds are already drifting apart. He is thinking about making his flight, and the trip back, and what he has to do when he returns; she is thinking of the drive home, and cleaning up, and getting to work in the morning. What should be a shared moment of focused, discreet passion is instead filled with distraction. The artificial pressure exerted by a time-bound phenomena like catching a flight intrudes into our thoughts and steals time from our partings. Go now, grab your loved ones, and give them your full attention, because the modern condition is conspiring against you.

74. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium & IMAX

The Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium opened in Dublin, CA in 2000 (source). (That name is a mouthful, so I'll just call it the Hacienda Crossings for the remainder of this article.) The theater anchors the Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center. Though the interior is mostly unremarkable, the exterior is adorned with an enormous decorative glass structure, as grand as for any theater I've seen. It's equal parts old mill, art deco, and modern skyscraper. The lobby looks up at the exposed, white cylindrical girders of the tower.

Stretching along the north side of the 580 corridor in Tri-Valley, Dublin is wedged between San Ramon to the north and Pleasanton to the south. Though Dublin didn't incorporate until 1982, the city began, in the 1700s, at the crossroads between Stockton and San Francisco, east to west, and Martinez and San Jose, north to south (source). Dublin's population was 46,036 in 2010 (source), and is one of the fastest growing cities in the state.

The Hacienda Crossings is the only theater in Dublin and nearby Pleasanton, but both cities have had their share of theaters in the past. Dublin's San Ramon Auto Movie was a 2-screen drive-in built in the 1960s, and closing in 1981. The Dublin 6 Cinema began as a single screen theater in 1969, but had expanded to six screens by its closing in 1998. Pleasanton has the richer history, with the Gem Theatre built in 1910, the New Lincoln Theater circa 1920 (later the Roxy Theatre), and Rancho Theatre in 1945 (source).

With its 20 traditional screens and single IMAX screen, the Hacienda Crossings just beats out six 20-screen theaters to be the second largest theater (by screen count) in the Bay Area, trailing behind the Century 25 Union Landing. The largest auditorium seats 422, and the theater seats 4,567 in all (also the 2nd-most in the Bay Area, again behind the Union Landing). What the theater chooses to do with those screens is a bit less impressive: its ~182 unique movies shown during the year ranks 13th for the Bay Area.

The IMAX screen, one of only two true IMAX screens in the Bay Area, is 55.8 feet tall and 76.4 feet wide. As impressive as that is, it is still only 58% as large as the Metreon's IMAX screen (75.6 x 97.6 feet) (source). More of my thoughts on this here.


A new version of Hawaii Five-0 has a great cast: Scott Caan (Ocean's 11), Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica), and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, though I know him from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager). (It's not clear if Grace Park's character is actually part of the team, or is just an eye-candy surfer.) The ad says "You know their names", even though, having never seen the original show, I do not. Though I'm happy to see that all four characters were part of the original series, which ran for an impressive 12 seasons. Writing this up in 2013, I'm also surprised to see that this reboot is now in its 4th season.

An ad for the original Samsung Galaxy phone depicts an impressive fantasy/medieval battle that I expected to turn into a Capital One-esque spoof, but remained cinematic and sincere, culminating with a giant hand emerging from the ground to hold the battlefield. There's usually a stark difference between battles filmed for movies, and their simpler television counterparts, and the still-simpler sequences for commercials. This ad is by far the best commercial battle I've seen.

A spot for NBC's Undercovers has all the makings of a make-up ad, with a woman in a glittering dress walking up a red carpet into a back-tie ball. There, she spies a handsome man on the other side of the room; she narrates, "It only took one look, and I knew." They make their way toward each other in slow motion and with obvious passion. The big reveal is that they are actually moving toward someone with a gun, whom they incapacitate with professional precision. A promising beginning to a series about a husband and wife team who re-enter the CIA as a way to rekindle their lost mojo. (Canceled mid-season.)

Lastly, an ad for oven-ready corndogs demonstrates that if kids don't like science, it's because invisible, crab-clad supervillains are manipulating them, and if only a sun-themed superhero would toss the kid a corndog, he'd become a science wiz. Not quite as impressive as Popeye's spinach-induced strength, or the man who doesn't kills his entire family in a car crash thanks to the timely delivery of a juicy apple, but high school science is important nonetheless.


Easy A

(Previously reviewed)


A good trailer conveys the tone of the advertised film, but none of its content. Teasers tend to adhere to this rule. Each subsequent trailer reveals more, culminating in the home video trailer which basically says, "You've already seen it; here are the best parts; now see it again." All we know about Skyline from this very brief teaser is that aliens have come for us. All of us. A few news clips reference Stephen Hawking's warning that any alien species advanced enough to reach us would pose a threat similar to Europe's exploration-era threat to North America. Blue balls of light fall from the sky; then massive, claw like ships appear; and thousands of people are sucked up into them. Our only characters are depicted from the back on a rooftop, one in a vest and carrying a gun, the other in a white tank top. And... scene. Could be good. 16 cuts.

Jackass 3D

(Previously reviewed)


(Previously reviewed)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

It's cheating to have Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) play a vegan rockstar with superpowers: any permutation of plot with that character will get all my money.

Having missed Arrested Development, I wasn't aware of Michael Cera until 2007's Juno, so his mild-mannered hipster schtick is still new to me. Cera is cast as Scott Pilgrim, a twenty-something loafer dating a high schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). But that doesn't stop him from immediately falling for pink-haired, unsmiling Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In the world of grown-ups, when a man already has a girlfriend and begins secretly dating someone else, that's called infidelity; in the perpetual youthscape of Scott Pilgrim, I'd downgrade this to mere juvenile "two-timing".

The problem is that Ramona comes with baggage. Dangerous baggage. If Scott wants to be with her, he must first defeat her seven evil exes.

Stop the presses. Did a non-samurai movie just use the word 'defeat'? I'm all in. At this point, the movie would need to pour sewage on my face to be anything less than completely absorbing.

The movie's central arc finds each of Ramona's evil, super-powered exes challenging Scott to a duel, Street Fighter style. Meanwhile, adorably naive Knives slowly realizes that Scott's already tepid affections have further cooled. Her motivation for staying with him can be partly explained by his being the bassist for a screeching, nearly unendurable band called Sex Bob Ums. Added to Scott's long list of less endearing qualities: he is annoyingly indifferent to the feelings of fellow band member Kim (Alison Pill) who clearly is not over their breakup; and he sees no conflict in bringing fangirl Knives to their rehearsals.

The band's infrequent and probably gratis gigs are seemingly Scott's only source of income. His sister (Anna Kendrick) and her friend (Aubrey Plaza, in a hilariously snarky and deadpan performance) have jobs, and Ramona delivers parcels by roller skate, but otherwise this world exists in some ethereal leisure limbo, where restless souls drift from garage to arcade to music shop to night club. Noone in the movie looks older than 25, and quite possibly all of the characters were born orphans and raised by the internet.

In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Rufus reveals that Bill and Ted's music will someday unite the planet in peace. There's no way for a film to deliver on that promise. Anyone who could score such a soundtrack for the movie would be making their fortune putting their own face on the album cover, rather than those of Bill and Ted. What little we do hear of Bill and Ted's music disappoints. It's much easier for a movie to suppose its characters to produce bad music. And the Sex Bob Ums are bad. The movie does a great job establishing how terrible they are, and yet how they might nonetheless establish a following in this cultish world. But when the movie introduces Scott's own ex, Envy, a Gwen Stefani-lookalike and lead singer of a famous band, there is a hugely appreciable difference in quality between the two bands. There is no wonder how Envy's music has made her famous, while Scott languishes in Toronto.

All the characters are absurdly cartoonish at times, but they are each nuanced as well. Like when evil ex #2 (Chris Evans) punches Scott over the horizon, then says to Ramona, "He seems nice." Or when evil ex #3 (Brandon Routh) pauses his onslaught to explain a dis, reasoning that a fictional cleaning lady wouldn't take out the trash (i.e., Scott) until Monday, because it's Saturday now, and she has Sunday's off. The movie is generous to its supporting characters, gifting them each with great dialog and allowing them to interact with each other in various ways independent of Scott. His roommate (Keiran Culkin) is alive in every scene, and more multi-faceted than allowed to most gay characters. And for a boy-centered movie with strong video-game influences, the movie has a surprising number of strong female roles (six, by my count). That's no Romney binder-full, but it's more than most movies have.

Scott Pilgrim never runs out of steam. At times it employs subtitles, pop-up labels to identify objects of interest, and Catch-22-inspired dialog. The characters wear an amusing array of clever t-shirts, reminiscent of those on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A lesser movie might have concluded that the impossible battles were happening only Scott's mind, but this film is brave enough to stage them in the real world, and yet somehow have the spectators unimpressed to be witnessing something so incredibly awesome. The movie has catchy phrases ("hasbian", for ex-lesbian), epic demonstrations of love ("He punched a hole in the moon for me"), fun animations, and great fight sequences.

The film was exhibited ~5,544 times among 53 different Bay Area theaters in 2010, making it the 68th most accessible movie of the year. Its box office is a mere 96th for 2010. Regardless, I loved every minute of it, and it is easily my favorite movie of the year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

73. The Other Guys

Century Capitol 16

Trying to catch up on my blog three years later, I'm finding that some of these theaters have actually shut their doors in the interim. In the case of southern San Jose's Century Capitol 16, I visited less than two months before its final showing in October, 2010 (it has since been demolished).

A comment on Cinema Treasures cites a zoning controversy that lead to this theater opening, in 1994, immediately adjacent to the 6-screen West Wind Capitol 6 Drive-In. I could watch the Drive-In's screens from the Century theater's parking lot.

I liked the lit trim on the ceiling. Made me think of Pac Man pellets. My journal doesn't indicate much else of interest about this theater, so I'll just note that I bought my ticket with a gift card from a baby shower party bag (thanks, Kim!). Obviously, a movie gift card is a perfect gift for me, and wouldn't necessarily be great for infrequent movie goers. But my own hobby aside, a movie gift card is a carte blanche Choose Your Own Adventure. Kim picked the medium, I picked the movie. If I were fabulously wealthy, I'd hand out movie gift cards to everyone.

Double-doors lead from the hallway directly into the auditoriums (all that was missing was a trophy case to simulate the entrance to a school gym), admitting some ambient sound and light. The theater's 16 screens ranged from 139 to 598 seats. With 4,094 seats in all, the theater ranked 4th among the 78 Bay Area theaters for which I obtained seating data. The seats themselves were old-style, short-backed chairs with fraying red fabric.

Not so impressively, it ranked 37th for unique movies shown during the year among Bay Area theaters with 16 or fewer screens. Its ~133 movies shown during the year was comparable to what the adjacent Drive-In showed with 10 fewer screens and only at night. A reminder that more screens means more frequent and convenient showtimes, not more variety in the movies themselves.


A massive pre-show filled with advertisements. Some, like for Def Jam Rapster or Madden NFL 11, are forgettable. A Jeep commercial worships Americans for being a people who "make things". An add for Dark Blue Season 2 ends with a money shot of the entire cast on a rooftop. I don't care how dumb a show is: pose its cast on a rooftop with a slow motion wide-angle, and the show will look awesome.

An ad for The Event has me intrigued, except that it's a television show, rather than a movie. Sure, most television dramas end up being about interpersonal relationships, regardless of genre, but I'm bothered by the shows that start out as plot-driven, single arc narratives, yet devolve into simple dramas. They promise some sweeping lore and world-building, and answers to big questions, but inevitably spend an entire episode focusing on one character being an alcoholic, even though the show is about everyone on earth losing eight minutes of memory (FlashForward); or an episode about a girl's father disapproving of her boyfriend, set against the much more interesting backdrop of a post-war Earth where aliens and humans band together to stave off an invading army (Defiance). These lore-to-bore shows are much worse than the simple four's-company premise of New Girl, which doesn't try to trick me.

Falling not far from the above tree, No Ordinary Family promises the same family drama I might get in any other show, except in this one the family members have super powers. Julie Benz gets to show off some awesome speed powers, seldom handed out to a female character (Heroes being another notable exception). The rest of the family gains powers that are both stereotypical for their gender (the man gets strength, the girl gets telepathy), and for requiring a tiny effects budget. (Like Wolverine's heightened sense of smell, telepathy requires zero dollars to film.) I'm waiting for the show that's a simple drama, where characters just happen to have super powers (a more extensive No Heroics), but this isn't it.

Trivia informs me that while researching Russian for his role in Iron Man 2, Mickey Rourke decided half his dialog should be in Russian. I don't speak any Russian and so can't attest to Rourke's competence, but I will say as an English speaker familiar with his acting that his delivery was believable. When a familiar actor speaks in an unfamiliar accent or language, I'm typically critical and disbelieving, being too accustomed to their typical affectation. In the case of Australian actors, I'm always surprised to learn that their 'usual' accent is not, in fact, their native accent. And in the case of Rourke, if I hadn't seen any previous movies, I would have thought he was cast directly out of some Siberian coal mine.

A trailer for the video game Metroid: Other M features a woman in a blue jump suit walking slowly through a time-paused battlefield of her own memories. I'm not drawn to video games in general, or action games like this in particular (I did play the original Metroid on Nintendo way back in the day), but when the woman narrates, "What's past is prologue", it's not only poetic and intriguing, but meaningful as well. We're always right in the middle of our own story. What was once a narrative climax becomes over time just more backstory, lending dramatic weight to the current moment.


Due Date

Red (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Green Hornet

(Previously reviewed)

Jackass 3D

I can't quite calculate the depth of this franchise, but the trailer seems transparent in what this 3D outing contributes: sketch comedy mixed with pranks and endurance performance art. While mildly amusing to see people flung violently into the air, falling off trees, and getting slapped with giant-sized hands, nothing in the trailer makes me want to endure more than what I've already been shown. I'll stick to Johnny Knoxville's fictional roles. 31 cuts.

The Social Network

(Previously reviewed)

The Other Guys

If you had asked me twenty years ago, I might have said I enjoyed buddy cop movies. What’s not to like? All the intrigue and action of a cop movie, but tempered with the hilarious hijinks of two mismatched partners. Think City Heat, Running Scared, Dragnet, Armed and Dangerous, Loose Cannons, the later Beverly Hills Cop movies, and 48 Hrs. (to a degree). Not exactly a list of all-stars, but as a teenager I enjoyed these movies. For my adult tastes, however, the only buddy cop movie to have survived this era is the much more serious Lethal Weapon.

A buddy cop movie follows a very simple formula: pair up two cops on opposite ends of a personality spectrum, and force them to work together to bring down some big conspiracy. The conspiracy is key, because it allows the bad guy to commit lots of little crimes throughout the movie, much to the dismay of our bumbling detectives; but then just as the villain is about to pull off the big heist/score/deal/murder/McGuffin, our two cops finally gel as a team and bring the whole thing crashing down. It’s especially sweet when another pair of cops, who have dogged our heroes the entire movie, are humbled in the process.

Here are two rules to be weary of: if your cops get along at the beginning of the movie, then this is a serious movie, and one of them is about to die. (To make way for the mismatched partner.) And if the villain isn’t planning a big job, it’s probably not a buddy cop movie, but rather a suspense thriller, where each crime is just as vicious as the one before. But if one of the cops mistakes the other for a criminal when they first meet, or if one cop looks at the other like having someone to share your workload with is the worst thing that has ever happened to him, you are deep in buddy cop territory.

All this is prologue to say that buddy cop movies are mostly garbage. Just light fluff that is quickly forgotten. So what about The Other Guys? The movie opens showing us just how awesome the precinct's two top cops are, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. The other guys, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, languish in their shadow. Ferrell, unliked by everyone except his gorgeous wife (Eva Mendes), is nonetheless very comfortable in his own skin and openly admires Jackson and Johnson. Wahlberg resents being in the their shadow, and is embarrassed at Ferrell's hero worship. He thinks he'll never prove his own worth while shackled to such a dud of a partner.

The two are assigned to a case that will strain their partnership, turn out to be bigger than anyone thought, get them thrown off the case, and ultimately inspire them to work together. I'm pretty sure that's how it goes down. As expected. Along the way, there are indeed some funny moments, not all of which are spoiled by the trailer. At several points Wahlberg invokes the peacock as his metaphor of freedom, perhaps unaware that although they do fly, they don't fly very far. With another animal metaphor, Wahlberg says he's a lion and Ferrell is a tuna; Ferrel inquires whether they're fighting on land or in the water, because in the water he'd actually prefer to be the tuna; Wahlberg is disgusted that Ferrell doesn't even know when he's being insulted.

Consistent with many of Ferrell's man-child roles, the movie is filled with inappropriate jokes about women. Considering Wahlberg's charm and list of film credits, I would have expected a less objectifying view of half the world's population. The only female role of substance belongs to Mendes, who walks on camera repeatedly for the sole purpose of inspiring Wahlberg to wonder how someone with her beauty ended up with a pencil-pusher like Ferrell. The joke wears thin after her first entrance.

The movie is typical and skippable, except for two parts. The first, when Wahlberg dances to win back his girlfriend. The second, when Ferrell and Wahlberg finally bond over drinks at a bar. This latter scene is presented in a photo-zoom technique (is there a name for this?), in which we linger on a still image of them in one position, then zoom past them and rotate to find them now in another position somewhere else in the bar, more drunk than before. The montage is set to the Black Eyed Peas' "Imma Be" and is outstanding. Luckily, now that the movie is well out of theaters, you can skip it and head straight for the montage.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

72. The Kids Are All Right

Camera 7 Pruneyard

Built in the 1970s as a 3-screen theater, but renovated and expanded in 2002, the Camera 7 Pruneyard anchors Campbell's thriving Pruneyard Shopping Center. The shopping center features several restaurants with outdoor patios, and even on a Tuesday evening, each of these patios was packed. A roundabout in the middle of the parking lot doubles as a small park.

Campbell, population 39,349, has been home to five theaters. The Orchard City Theater (later the Campbell Theatre and Gaslighter Theatre) opened in downtown Campbell in 1920 with silent fare, and closed in 1966 (it would later reopen for live performances, lasting until 2005). On the western end of town, the Campbell Twin Cinemas operated from 1970 until the end of that decade. A Drive-In theater was in operation as early as 1963 and as late 1984. (Source: Cinema Treasures, Jack Tillmany's Theaters of San Jose.) Today, the small city supports both the Camera 7 in the north, and the 5-screen Cinelux Plaza Theater in the south.

The theater's lobby is conjoined with an adjacent pizza parlor, making the Camera 7 one of the few theaters I've visited that serves actual food (though I don't think we're allowed to bring the pizza in with us). The lobby also contains a D-Box demonstration (my review here). Upstairs, the restrooms have a classic, tiled decor.

The theater advertises both its own upcoming movies, and the showtimes for the other three Camera theaters in the area. Matinee prices last until 6:00. 10-ticket bundles are available for $60. In a long angled hallway, tables of freebies include postcards advertising Get Low and Alamar; the Camera Cinema Club membership forms; Camera Cinemas Legacy Series (next up: Harold & Maude), Camera Cinema News playbill; Maya Indie Film Series; and a Cine Source tabloid.

The Camera 7 seats a total of 1019, with its largest auditorium seating 282. Of the 124 Bay Area theaters I tracked in 2010, the Camera 7 ranks 49th with its ~132 distinct movies shown. Considering only theaters with 7 screens or fewer, it ranks 9th. Multi-colored fabric decorates the walls. The seats and cushy and bouncy, but although they were comfortable at first, by the end my back was really hurting.


Music played softly in the auditorium, and the onscreen slideshow displayed the CD cover for the current track. Trivia mentioned that the Hollywood sign used to read Hollywoodland. Another factoid seemed to suggest that at one time, the term "movie" referred to actors.

Kyle T. Bell's animated short, The Mouse That Soared (trailer), chronicles how a hairless baby mouse, parents killed by rat poison, is taken in by pigeons (?) and taught to fly like the rest of the family. Very touching and entertaining.



I had to look up whether this was a work of fiction or a documentary (it's the latter), because the patient, day-in-the-life examination of a father and son fishing team doesn't seem to follow a particular narrative. Though I would be turned off by the killing of sea life, the land- and seascapes are beautiful and mesmerizing. Feature filmmakers could take some notes from this documentarian's eye for framing a shot, and ear for capturing natural sounds. The film isn't in a hurry, yet there is some sort of dread hanging over it, reinforced in the end by the boy nonchalantly drinking from a cup on his seaside porch while just feet below, an alligator waits in the water. 37 cuts.

Life During Wartime

Ensemble cast makes do in Florida during the 1950s or 1960s (I'm not keen on recognizing styles). Starts out strong with amusing exchanges between Charlotte Rampling and Ciarán Hinds; Paul Reubens and Shirley Henderson; and Allison Janney and her daughter. As the trailer progresses, what at first seemed light and whimsical becomes meloncholy and reflective, with a repeated theme of painfully remembering the past, or simply forgetting it. 71 cuts.

Adjustment Bureau

(Previously reviewed)
I get chills every time Terrence Stamp says, "Just remember: we tried to reason with you." What an ominous warning.

Get Low

A cranky hermit (Robert Duvall) stages a funeral party in advance of his own death, where members of the community are invited to come share stories about him, and to hear his own account of his life. Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black co-star. We aren't given many hints about what stories there are to tell about him, other than a glimpse of a burning house at the beginning, and the suggestion that Duvall and Spacek once had a romance. Duvall is a misanthrope whom nobody likes, and the movie will need to walk a fine line if we aren't to feel the same way. 94 cuts.

Eat Pray Love (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Awkward teen Keir Gilchrist is committed to the adult psychiatric ward (the teen ward is undergoing renovations) where he is befriended by Zach Galifianakis, and develops a crush on fellow teen patient Emma Roberts. Great supporting cast in Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Aasif Mandvi, Zoë Kravitz, Jeremy Davies, and Viola Davis. Gilchrist's unassuming, robotic naivety is endearing, and Galifianakis is in his element, posing as a doctor at times, and dishing out sage advice while being a bit of a wreck himself. The biggest turn off is stoic Roberts; when I see her advertised in a movie, I think back to Mean Girls, in which Rachel McAdams admonishes Lacey Chabert for trying too hard to coin a phrase: "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen." I'm sure there is an inexhaustible supply of talented young actors; do we really need to see Emma Roberts in so many of these roles? 114 cuts.

The Kids Are All Right

Jules and Nic (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) are a comfortably married couple with two teenaged children, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson). Each of the children is the biological child of one of the mothers, and of the same anonymous sperm donor father. When the kids set out to identify and meet their biological father, the film's plot is set in motion.

The trail leads them to Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an easygoing ladies man who runs a cafe/bar/restaurant, but otherwise seems to have few priorities or attachments. The kids introduce themselves; Paul is appropriately astounded; and soon he's invited over for dinner to meet "moms".

Paul, unintentionally but also irresponsibly, exposes fissures in the family's stability. He's all too happy to dish out fatherish advice to the teens, solicited or not. He takes too keen an interest in Jules for anybody's good. And Nic, before even having met him, sees him as a threat to her life, which she has micro-managed into perfection. (Later she tells him to go "make your own family".) He is naive to think he can glide into their lives without consequence. Though their family dynamic needed some catalyst to change, Paul's introduction is too abrupt and his gravity too inescapable.

What follows is a very human drama (that poster is a lie), with each character forced to make choices where before there were none to make. Jules is captivating, constantly wiggling, trying to breathe beneath Nic's suffocating attentiveness. In Paul she finds a careless flirtation that lacks all the safety and structure Nic has proscribed for their life together. The kids, though they initiated the contact with Paul, are nonetheless reserved and pragmatic as they get to know him. He has many charming surface qualities, but as they spend more time together, the kids find less and less to be impressed by. Nic's is the most difficult journey, in that the others' attraction to Paul reveals shortcomings with how she's been managing the family's tone. Paul's intrusion is an opportunity for Nic to strengthen her ties with her family, but he's perhaps also too much a threat for Nic to have the luxury of reflection.

Spoilers to follow.

This film bothers me. Though the movie focuses more on Jules and Paul than on Nic, it is Nic whose character has the most opportunity for growth, and is therefore the most interesting. Her challenge, among her many flaws, is to recognize how her attentiveness is alienating the other three. Paul’s intrusion into her perfect life ruffles her feathers; she is confused and jealous when she sees the others becoming fond of him. Her journey could have been exquisite to watch.

But then the film decides to entice Paul and Jules into an affair. This is entirely consistent with Paul's character, who seems incapable of peering into the future to see how ugly it could be to insert oneself into a stable family. I can also see how Jules could be tempted. But now Nic has a lazy out: now it’s perfectly okay to hate Paul, because he is directly attacking her marriage. Nic no longer needs to grow; instead, it is the other three who must repent from liking Paul and his lechery. The affair retards the growth they were getting as a result of his presence.

When the family finally unites to distance themselves from his influence, it is surprisingly Paul who is suddenly given an opportunity to grow. He so smoothly and incautiously insinuated himself into their lives, he didn't prepare himself for the emotional pain of being isolated, when suddenly noone wants anything to do with him The other four, with the immediate threat extinguished, can resume life per the status quo (that's an oversimplification, but one the movie leaves us with); but Paul will be writhing as the abandoned lover.