Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (29Mar05)

We always put so much thought into deciding which movie to see (see yesterday's explanation). Sometimes we're right...sometimes we're wrong.

Like this week.

It was the most gorgeous day -- so gorgeous that even I almost wanted to stay home and go for a nice long walk instead. So we figured the theater would be dead, Cheap Night or not.

Not so much.

When we got to the theater, the parking lot was full. And when we hiked up from our distant parking space to the theater, we found monstrous lines leading to the ticket booths. For the first time ever (that I'd seen), they had three lines open. And, of course, we chose the slowest one (which had me constantly looking at my watch, worried that:

1) We'd miss the beginning of the movie. (Or...okay, I'll admit it...the previews. I'm one of those people who loves watching previews.)

2) We'd get in, and there wouldn't be any seats left. (Or we'd end up seated in the front row, way off to the left side -- I know this from experience.)

I couldn't believe the crowds. Paul suggested that there must have been some ad or something -- there had to be something that would make the entire city suddenly need to go to a movie on the most gorgeous Tuesday night of the year so far.

The lobby was packed, too. As I made my way through, I felt like I was trying to shove my way through the mosh pit at a Pearl Jam concert. And then we had to wait in another line just to get our tickets ripped.

Crap, I thought. We'd chosen a first-week movie. I just prayed that this line wasn't for The Life Aquatic.

Fortunately, it wasn't. Now that I think about it, I'm guessing they were all headed for Finding Neverland. The Life Aquatic, on the other hand, was in a small theater -- and not a full one, either. So we chose a pair of seats about halfway down the aisle. Paul went in first and let me take the aisle seat. After last week's experience, I think he's a little concerned about me. Probably for good reason. If there's a thing as Movie Theater Rage, I definitely had a case of it last week. Fortunately, I kept it under control -- but I probably couldn't have done so two weeks in a row.

As the previews showed, more and more people walked in, several of them climbing over us to take seats in our row. By about 15 minutes into the movie (some people even showed up a half-hour in!), the theater was pretty full. Apparently everyone in the theater had had a lot to drink before the movie because people kept getting up, walking out, and coming back in. Didn't their mothers teach them to go before the movie?

Other than the outrageously small bladders of my fellow moviegoers, the experience was surprisingly relaxing -- and quite uneventful.

I recently read an article or two about the fall of the R-rated movie. According to the articles I've read, people don't go to R-rated movies anymore. They just don't make any money. But I have to say that I often enjoy my experiences at R-rated movies more -- not because I'm into nudity and violence but because the audience is (obviously) more grown-up. I love low-brow humor as much as the next guy, but I just don't tend to love many of the other people who love low-brow humor. Many of them act as though they were raised in a barn -- no one ever taught them how to behave politely in a crowded movie theater.

So as long as the seat-kickers and loud-talkers and commentators and theater-seat-directors are shying away from R-rated movies, I'll keep going.

As for the movie, I loved it. It's got the exact kind of dry sense of humor that I was raised with. My dad would love it.

To read my review of the movie, check it out at

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Choosing a Movie

Paul and I put a lot of thought into each week's movie selection. In fact, we've made it sort of a scientific process. Sure, we choose movies that we want to see, but there are always a few that we want to see on any given week (there's only one week that we weren't all that thrilled about anything in the theater, so we spent four times the money and rented something). So we have to choose the right one to see -- which, in the end, is the best movie with the least annoying crowd.

Basically, we consider four main factors:

1) How long it's been in the theater

It's hard to really know how long a movie's going to stick around. Smaller indies could be there one week and gone the next. Newsworthy blockbusters could be there forever (Ray, for instance, ran for months. In fact, it had been out on DVD for a few weeks before they took it out.)

This factor effects two things:

a) How busy it'll be. If it's the first week, it's usually packed, which means you'll end up having to fight for a seat -- and you'll most likely end up getting popcorn dumped in your lap.

b) Chances of not seeing the movie. The longer you wait, the greater chance you have of checking listings next weekend, only to find that the movie has been replaced by the latest Vin Diesel action flick.

2) Rating

Crowds vary by rating. If you go to an R-rated movie, it's less likely to be filled with screaming kids (though, in our experience, there's usually one or two there anyway -- what are their parents thinking?). The more adult the rating, the more adult the crowd. And once kids are removed from the equation, that wipes out a large movie-going group -- meaning that the theater is less likely to be packed.

3) Initial popularity

This one's pretty obvious. If the movie was a mega-hit in first-run theaters, it'll be just as huge on Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater. At the same time, the more popular it was initially, the more likely it is that it'll stick around for a longer run (see 1). So with a mega-hit movie, it's best (and pretty safe) to wait a week or two.

4) Outside factors

There are a lot of additional factors contributing to the crowds in theaters. Consider the following:

a) Sporting events: If, for example, it's the Saturday afternoon of a big college football game, chances are you'll have the theater to yourself. The same goes for Superbowl Sunday or the night of a World Series game -- if the hometown team is playing.

b) Weather: If it's the first nice day of spring, everybody's going to want to be outside, playing football or going for a walk or sitting out on the front porch with the hounds or whatever they like to do. They're not going to say, "Hey! I know! Let's go to a movie and sit inside and waste this gorgeous night!" If it rains, though, people would rather be inside -- and why not go to a cheap movie? If it's the hottest day of summer, they'll head to the theater's air-conditioned comfort. But if there's a blizzard or a huge storm, they'll most likely just stay home. You get the idea.

So each week, Paul and I weigh the factors and try to pick the right movie to see. This week, we chose The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for the following reasons:

1) It was the first week in the theater
2) It's rated R
3) It wasn't a huge blockbuster, so who knows how long it'll stick around
4) It was easily the most beautiful day of the year so far. 65 and sunny. Everyone was outside. In fact, even I was hesitant about going to a movie and wasting it. This time of year, you never know when the weather's going to change -- and it'll start snowing again.

So we figured that we'd have the theater to ourselves. We'd walk right up to the ticket counter and get our tickets. We'd have our pick of any seat in the theater. And then some theater employees would come up and hand us a free bag of popcorn because no one was there, so no one was buying popcorn -- and they didn't want it to go to waste.

But that's not exactly the way it went. Sometimes the system works. Other times...not so much...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events (22Mar05)

Tuesday's movie-going experience was truly an unfortunate event.

Paul, my husband/partner in cheap movies, came home at the usual time and perused the list I'd provided for him. We had four movies to choose from, and we agreed on Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events because it had been in the theater for a while, which meant:

a) It might not be there much longer, and if we didn't go, we might miss our chance

b) The crowds would have diminished enough to make us feel confident that we'd get a seat without being surrounded by kids. That may make me sound like a horrible person, but admit it -- it's not fun to try to really focus on a movie when you're surrounded by kids who laugh loudly at things that aren't funny and who have not yet learned that they're supposed to be quiet in movie theaters. It's like going to a movie with one of my high school friends, who always spent the whole movie yelling, "Where's he going?" "Is he gonna die?" or "Who's that guy?" -- as if we knew any better than she did. I have to hand it to the kids -- at least they're young enough not to know much better.

Anyway, when we jumped into the line leading to the theater's sole ticket-ripper, it seemed like all the people in front of us in line were headed to the first theater on the left. I figured it had to be a movie like Closer, which just came to the theater last weekend. Unfortunately, he directed us to the first theater on the left, too, which was my first bad omen of the evening.

We walked in, and there were still plenty of seats left, so we were still doing okay. We chose a seat in the middle, on the aisle -- behind three college kids (college kids being regular patrons of Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater) and in front of a couple of guys.

It soon became painfully clear that the guy seated behind Paul wasn't exactly the brightest one in the bunch. He was one of those guys who thinks he has the funniest comment for anything that happens -- and he wants to bless everyone around him with the joy of hearing it. That, mixed with the fact that he apparently can't read anything unless he says it out loud (in his outdoor voice), made watching the previews an irritating experience. But I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he simply had no respect for previews (unlike those of us who take notes on what's coming and what we want to see), and he'd shut up when movie started.

I have good news and bad news. The good news: the guy behind Paul did, in fact, shut up when the previews were over. The bad news: the guy next to him (and behind me) took over -- starting when the lights dimmed, and he shouted out, "So I guess the movie's starting now, huh?"

It was quite clear from the very beginning of the opening credits that the man behind me was seriously bored out of his mind. Poor guy. He sighed as though the weight of the world were on his shoulders and no one cared. He started babbling about anything and everything -- usually totally unrelated to the movie. Even his chatty friend in the seat behind Paul shushed him -- and he quieted down a bit (except for the world-weight-carrying sighs). And then he began kicking the back of my seat in a perfectly rhythmic -- yet still entirely annoying -- manner, so hard that my whole seat shook. In fact, it was so hard that it even shook Paul's seat, causing him to turn around regularly and give the guy the "Do you mind? We're trying to watch a movie here," look.

Meanwhile, I was trying to decide whether I should turn and ask him politely to stop kicking my freakin' seat -- or if I should just grab his ankle on one rhythmically-placed THUD and pull until he fell out of his seat, flat on his butt on the Coke-coated cement floor. Just the sheer thought of it gave me great pleasure.

As I was contemplating my ankle-pulling, two little people joined us in our row. I was slightly distracted by the kicking and fantasizing that I didn't really take notice of the first -- other than to note that she was especially diminutive, though a lot of people seem to be rather diminutive when you're especially tall. The second person, however, I noticed as she lifted her booster seat over my lap and plopped it down on the seat beside me.


Instantly, the little girl beside me started talking about the movie, about what was going on, about what was going to happen (all the while smacking my arm, which was resting in my lap), her comments and questions punctuated by the rhythmic THUDs on the back of my chair.

Eventually -- after a few dirty looks from Paul and plenty of bad vibes from me -- the guy behind me stopped kicking. But as soon as he stopped, he apparently came down with a serious illness, causing him to clear his throat loudly, as well as to cough and sneeze without considering covering his mouth to combat the earth-quaking noise of it all or the germs that attached themselves to the back of my head. I was annoyed, but I also felt bad for this man, who was obviously knocking (quite loudly, I'm sure, since I don't think he could possibly do anything quietly) on death's door -- and his friend sitting next to him didn't seem to care at all.

And the child continued her running commentary. She made it quite clear, during the course of the movie, that she thought that the baby was especially chubby. And at one point, the dear little angel shouted out, "Get out of there! Are they STUPID? GET OUT!!" About halfway through, she got especially antsy and decided to go to the bathroom. She hopped off her booster seat, climbed over us, and left. It was around this time that I realized that the diminutive female who accompanied our little angel was not, in fact, a diminutive mother. It was a diminutive sister -- probably no older than ten or eleven -- which would explain not only why she allowed the little one to leave and apparently wander the theater by herself but also why she was not seated with a hand firmly planted over the little one's mouth.

Shortly after the little one returned, a woman appeared in the aisle beside Paul. "Excuse me," she mumbled, leaning on top of my husband, handing over two little grease-stained bags.

"POPCORN!" the little one shouted. It was then that it occurred to me that not only was the little one accompanied by her sister, but her mother was also in the theater -- but had decided that he didn't want to be bothered by her little angel's incessant babbling, so she took a seat in the back of the theater to enjoy the movie in peace and quiet. And believe me -- despite the fact that the trio had shown up ten minutes into the movie, they still could have found three seats grouped together. Instead, the mother chose to tell her children, "See that angry-looking lady? The one with the guy kicking the back of her seat? Go sit next to her. Have fun!"

So the little one cheerily munched her popcorn, which didn't prevent her from chatting about the movie. But then, as the film progressed to its climax, she curled her little legs up to her chest, covered her face with both of her hands, and announced, "I'm SCARED!!" Her sister was rather disturbed by the situation, and the two of them had a rather heated conversation about what the little girl was going to do about the situation -- the options of which included her return to the bathroom or a trip to the back of the theater, by her mom -- but she kept insisting, hands firmly planted on eyes, that she was, in fact, scared. Really, really scared.

Apparently the guy behind me was, too, because he cleared his throat loudly and returned to kicking the back of my seat.

And at that point, something inside me snapped. While others around me watched on in suspense, wondering what was going to happen next, I leaned forward, put my head in my hand, and laughed until I cried (silently, of course, so as not to be rude -- because I would never dream of disrupting others' movie-going experience).

So what did I think of the movie? From what I caught, it was dark. And scary (really, really scary, if you happen to be a little kid in a booster seat -- despite the fact that her general knowledge of what was going on suggested that she was familiar with the books...). (And apparently, according to the little girl next to me, the baby was quite chubby.) Paul thought it was just too depressing. The visuals were cool, but the story was pretty weak. But you can read all of that in my review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The journey begins...

Actually, the journey has already begun. I just didn't realize it until last night.

My husband and I moved to town in late November. We didn't know anyone in town, so we were pretty much on our own for finding stuff to do. I was surfing around one day when I discovered The Cheap Theater -- the local discount theater, playing second-run movies (the ones that aren't brand-new but usually aren't out on DVD yet, either) for dirt cheap. I was in heaven.

After our first visit to The Cheap Theater (which just happened to be close to our house), Paul and I decided to make it a regular event. Tuesday night is Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater, so we decided that we'd have Date Night at The Cheap Theater every Tuesday night. And we've been doing it ever since. Every Tuesday, we battle the crowds -- all, like us, in search of dirt-cheap entertainment -- and take our seats in the theater to watch a not-so-new movie. And each Tuesday, I learn a little something more about the people who are seated around me. Thus, the blog. From here on out, I'll share my experiences at the cheap theater with you, my dear reader. I'll talk about the movies, but I'll mostly talk about the people who watched the movie with me. Believe me. Every Tuesday is an adventure at The Cheap Theater...