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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

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.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't remember seeing any previews for this film and any description of it would have turned me off completely. I'm not much into comedies, don't like teen movies, don't really care for Mical Cera, don't know or relate at all to the band culture, and frankly even the cover art looks annoying.

    I was wrong. This movie was fabulous.