Monday, February 27, 2006

Fun with Dick and Jane (24Feb06)

This week, our Tuesday night movie turned into our Thursday night movie. Then our Thursday night movie became our "Let's Just Clean Up Tonight and Go Tomorrow" Friday night movie. It almost became our "I'm Too Lazy to Go Tonight -- Let's Just Wait Until Tomorrow" Saturday night movie, but we finally managed to get off the couch, turn off the Olympics (though we were a little later than planned because I had to watch the end of the speed skating finals), and get to the theater.

This week's experience was totally different than our usual Cheap Theater experience. Not only did we got to the late show instead of the early show (weekend bedtimes are, after all, negotiable), but we went to an actual full-price Cheap Theater weekend show. Sure, it's still only $1.75 a ticket, but that's 3505 of what we usually pay.

But, as it turned out, the extra $2 made a difference.

That's not to say that the seats were more comfortable -- or the screen was bigger. All that stuff was the same. There were, however, two major differences.

1) It was busy.

There were people in line. There were people at the concession stand. The second concession stand -- which I've never actually seen open -- was in use. And there were two ticket-rippers on duty to accommodate the crowd.

Our ticket-ripper looked totally flustered. The poor girl had probably been pulled up from popcorn-buttering duty and was totally unprepared to have to direct people to the right theater. In fact, when we walked up to her, she almost forgot to tell us where to go, and I was so confused. How would I know where to go without the ticket-ripper telling me?

The poor kid looked like she needed a drink. Unfortunately, she also looked like she'd have to wait another three years or so to get one.

2) It was busy, but it was...normal.

It wasn't that insane, mass-hysteria, freakshow kind of busy that the Cheap Nights tend to be (especially during the summer -- and on Valentine's Day). It was buzzing with moviegoers, but they all seemed so...grown up.

We didn't get our usual back-row seats this time, but even though we were a few rows up, there weren't really any distractions. No one conversing through the movie or kicking my seat or laughing loudly during the serious parts of the movie. People laughed -- some of them so loudly and distinctively that I could make them out in the front of the theater. But they weren't obnoxious about it. They laughed when the movie was funny -- just like non-Crazies should.

The audience enjoyed the movie in a subdued way. They laughed. They chuckled. They snuggled with their dates. I even saw one guy try out the old Yawn-and-Stretch Maneuver.

It was all so normal that it was just plain strange. It actually seemed much like I remember my experience in regular movies. And that was almost as distracting as a pair of Loud Talkers.

But not quite.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We Interrupt This Week's Movie Night...

...for home improvement.

My parents were in town for the weekend -- and while Mom and I bonded at the mall(s), Dad and Paul bonded by cutting down trees and painting Paul's bathroom. Unfortunately, when they left on Monday night, the bathroom wasn't totally finished. So Paul, determined not to have to share a bathroom with me any longer, decided to do the unthinkable -- and postpone movie night. ARG!

To make matters even worse, we had to run a few errands before he could get back to work on the paint, and those errands involved driving past our beloved Cheap Theater. It was painful.

I know it's really strange, but it just felt wrong not to be at the theater on a Tuesday night. I kept feeling myself craving a good (or not-so-good, as the case occasionally may be) movie all night. I felt like something was totally missing. And I have a feeling that it's going to screw up the rest of my week. Paul promised that we could go on Thursday instead, but I just don't know if it'll be the same...

In somewhat Cheap-Theater-related news, however, we did manage to visit the new pizza buffet over the weekend. Yep, we took my parents. Are we great hosts, or what? To be honest, though, they were blown away. All four of us ate for $22 -- and we left happy. I dare say that this is the best pizza buffet in the area. The food was good (we all flipped for the cheeseburger pizza) and cheap, and the service was excellent. Dad was so impressed that he even tipped the busboy. And I was tempted to run up to the manager and give him a big hug. It was that good.

Either that, or they put crack in their pizza.

If a weekly dose of all-you-can-eat pizza weren't guaranteed to make me horrendously overweight, I'd go to the pizza buffet every Tuesday. Dinner and a movie for two for $12 -- you can't go wrong there.

New Reviews Published

I've got two new reviews for you this week:

First of all, my review of Rumor Has It... has already been published. If you missed last week's entry, be sure to check it out.

But wait...there's more! My review of The Weather Man was also published this week. Check it out at -- and, while you're at it, be sure to read about that week's Cheap Theater Experience.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rumor Has It (14Feb06)

This week was a tough call. Valentine's Day. Do I go out for a nice dinner with my husband to celebrate the five-year anniversary of our engagement, or do I just forget it, grab some fast food, call it good, and head to The Cheap Theater? I mean, sure, it's Valentine's Day. But it's also Tuesday. Can I really skip a Cheap Day at The Cheap Theater -- especially during that exciting time of the year when all the holiday movies are finally arriving?

I was torn.

When Paul came home from work, he pretty much made the decision for me. He had a headache and was suffering from the effects of Bad Chinese Food. He wasn't really feeling like going out for a nice dinner, so, after much deliberation, we threw together a quick dinner and rushed out the door.

What we found at The Cheap Theater this week was highly disturbing and seriously pathetic. The parking lot was packed -- more crowded than even the busiest of summer Tuesday nights. Apparently, taking your Valentine to see a 50-cent movie is the epitome of romantic gestures around these parts. And that makes me sad. Sure, we were there, too -- but we're always there. It's tradition. To the rest of these people, it was a special Valentine's Day treat. And that's just wrong.

So if you spent your Valentine's Day with your Valentine at The Cheap Theater this year -- and you're not a high school student or an obsessive regular -- I have three words for you:


Needless to say, by the time we made our way past the overwhelmed yet talented ticket-ripper and through the door to which he'd directed us, the theater was already pretty full. We had, after all, been running a little behind to begin with -- and then there was all the time it took to hike through the crowded (and deadly) parking lot. So when we got inside, the back row was full. In fact, the aisle seats were occupied in the whole back half of the theater -- so, instead of taking seats in the front, we chose to climb over a couple to get seats near the back.

Just before the movie started, we were joined by another couple, who decided to fit into the two seats between us and the couple on the aisle. Our new row mates, I soon discovered, had emptied out their pantry before leaving the house and had smuggled in enough food to feed every last person in the theater (even the big scary Solitary Guys). As soon as they sat down, the man produced a can of soda from somewhere inside his coat. But I know that's nothing new -- I've heard many an opening soda can in The Cheap Theater. Next, the woman opened her purse and pulled out a bottle of water (which she placed in the cupholder in our shared armrest) and a little box of what may have been raisins. Or Junior Mints.

The man then produced a giant potato-chip-sized bag of what appeared to be popcorn. And a big box of SweeTarts. I have no idea where this stuff came from, but he definitely hadn't been carrying a shopping bag with him, so I could only assume that he'd fully stocked his winter coat (which he'd purchased two sizes too big, just for this reason). I can imagine that, in case of nuclear holocaust, this couple will be able to survive on the food they've stashed somewhere on their person.

I was so fascinated by their four-course meal that I barely noticed the serious technical difficulties that we were having in the theater. From time to time, the sound would almost go out, and the screen would get a green tint to it. Some people got angry and started shouting whenever it happened. I, on the other hand, was too engrossed in my gorging neighbors.

Once she got sick of the popcorn, the woman then went back to her purse and produced a little package of cookies. And all this had me wondering:

1) Did these people rob a convenience store on the way here? And if so, are they hiding a can of Vienna Sausages as well?

2) Why did the security guard, who's always guarding our dear ticket-ripper these days, not notice that these people were carrying 20 pounds of contraband? What's he there for, if not to catch Smugglers?

It also made me very sad for these people. Not only did they consider a night at the 50-cent movie theater the ultimate romantic Valentine's Day treat, but they were too cheap to even spring for, say, fast food. Or movie theater popcorn.


As soon as the movie ended -- and the couple next to us had finished their meal -- the credits started rolling, and everyone in the theater got up to leave. Everyone, that is, except for the couple at the end of our row, who remained firmly planted in their seats. Now, there was nothing fun to see here. No crazy credits or outtakes or anything. Just a black screen and a bunch of names. But they weren't budging. Paul, who had popped up as soon as he saw the first of the credits, had his coat on and was about to push past me and climb over the four other people between us and freedom. But I stopped him.

"Just hold on," I told him. "Their son's probably the Second Best Boy or something."

When they finally got up, we determined that their son was the caterer.

After we made our way through the crowds and hiked back to our car, we splurged and went out for dessert. At a real restaurant. With real cutlery. We felt very classy.

If you'd like to know what I thought of Rumor Has It..., check out my review at

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Zathura (7Feb06)

A lot of frantic, last-minute planning goes into our weekly trip to The Cheap Theater. I've got to get all of my work done in time to throw dinner together (and I often find myself racing from my office to the kitchen and back, trying to do both at the same time). Paul has to make sure he leaves work on time -- because he knows I'll start calling and harassing him if he's not seated at the table at precisely 6. Then, while we eat dinner, we discuss our movie options and choose one based on a number of factors, including:

1) Show time
2) How packed the theater will be
3) Our general movie-watching mood

Then we finish our dinner, scramble to clean up the kitchen (at least a little bit), brush our teeth, and race out the door. All this for a 50-cent movie. But I'd say it's worth it -- wouldn't you?

This week, we had an added time factor -- I had a CD on reserve at the library, and if I didn't pick it up, they'd put it back on the shelf, and I'd have to wait until my name made it to the top of the list again. I hadn't had the time to make the trip during the day, so we'd just have to do it on the way to the movie. With that in mind, we purposely chose a movie that started later -- but we still didn't leave as early as planned. We hurried to the library, where Paul dropped me off at the door and I raced in, hoping to grab the CD and run. But of course life is never that easy. It's times like these when the line is at its longest, and it's filled with people who need new library cards and moms with a bunch of kids who want to check out bunches of books. As I waited in line, I contemplated just giving up and forgetting about the CD -- but I really wanted it. So I stayed. And as soon as I had it in my hands, I politely wished the librarian a good evening (we're polite like that here in the Midwest) and sprinted out the door to the getaway car.

It's also times like these when every light seems to be red -- and every slow driver in town pulls in front of you. Or perhaps I'm just being melodramatic. What can I say? I really hate being late -- especially for movies. Even the 50-cent ones.

We finally made it to the parking lot, and as we raced to the theater, I took notice of the newly-opened pizza buffet (yea!). While we were eating dinner on Saturday night (I'll admit it -- at another pizza buffet), I happened to hear a guy telling the couple at the next table (yes, I was eavesdropping -- so sue me) that his family had almost gone to the new pizza buffet next to The Cheap Theater -- but then they realized that the employees were just setting up, and it wasn't opening until Monday. I was pretty darn excited -- but, just for the record, we ate dinner at home on Monday. (We will, however, be trying it out soon.)

The interesting thing about the new place: it's already changed its name. Since last week. That can't be a good sign.

Once at the theater, we were lucky. There weren't any lines. Not to buy tickets, and not for the ticket-ripper, who was way to engrossed in a conversation about sports with the security guard to pay us much attention, other than to direct us to our theater mid-sentence.

Since Zathura has been in The Cheap Theater for an age, the theater wasn't very full. And there were very few kids in attendance -- which I thought was odd, considering we were seeing a kids' movie, and there are always kids at The Cheap Theater. Perhaps they were all too busy watching Saw 2. Mostly, there were older couples, popcorn-munching little old ladies, and a random smattering of generally-creepy-looking, middle-aged Solitary Guys. I watched one of said Guys (one of the not-so-creepy-looking ones), who arrived shortly after us, attempt to switch seats a few times in an attempt to find one that was somewhat padded. Obviously, he's not a regular Cheap Theater patron. We regulars have learned that if you want a padded seat, you need to bring your own pillow -- or maybe one of those fold-up bleacher cushions.

We got there just in time to catch the commercials -- and I was thrilled to find that they'd actually gotten a couple of new ones. Very exciting.

The theater crowd was pretty spread out this week -- though I could still hear the little old ladies munching popcorn on the other side of the theater...and the kids doing the same all the way down in the front.

Most unfortunate, however, was the couple seated nearest to us -- a row ahead and to the side. These poor people were not only able to sit still without fidgeting for more than ten seconds at a time, but, sadly, they were born without the ability to whisper. I felt bad for them, all chatty and jittery. Their lives must be very difficult. I had a coworker like them once. He never shut up, and he always ended up saying something totally stupid and/or inappropriate -- especially if there were clients around. And he was so jittery that whenever he sat at the big conference room table, the whole table would shake, making it really hard for anyone else to take notes. It's a sad condition, really. There's got to be something we can do about it. I think I'll write a letter to Bono to see if he can start an International Foundation to Raise Worldwide Awareness and Support for Chronic Fidgeters. Together, maybe Bono and I can find a cure for these poor people. Together, we can make a difference.

(For my review of the movie, check next week.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Waiting... Review Published

Be sure to check out my review of Waiting... on And, while you're at it, read about how we splurged at The Cheap Theater when we went to see it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Ice Harvest (31Jan06)

This week, my dedication to Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater was tested. On Monday morning, I woke up with a bit of a scratchy throat. By Monday night, I was shivering under a blanket on the couch, falling asleep while watching TV. I spent most of Tuesday asleep, trying to throw back whatever it was that I'd managed to catch.

Things weren't looking good for our weekly trip to The Cheap Theater.

At four o'clock, when I woke from my afternoon nap, I decided that I was feeling a little better. Maybe I'd be able to go after all... I sat up and got a little work done while still curled up on the couch -- and then I got up and made dinner.

By the time Paul got home, I was eager to get off the couch and get out of the house for a while -- and, I explained, watching a movie at The Cheap Theater wouldn't be much more strenuous than sitting on the couch, watching TV. Paul, however, was a bit skeptical. After all, I did kinda look like I'd been run over by a bus.

When we'd finished dinner, I went to my office to check the schedule. There were only three decent movies that we could still make -- two that weren't all that appealing and one (The Ice Harvest) that was in its first week at the theater. I was tempted just to give in and stay home. But then I checked next week's schedule and found that The Ice Harvest was making a quick departure -- and if I didn't catch it this week, my chances of catching either the four o'clock show or the nine-thirty show next week were less than slim.

And since it's no secret that I've had a bit of a crush on John Cusack ever since I saw Better Off Dead in middle school, my decision had been made for me. Fever or not, I was going to The Cheap Theater -- even if it meant infecting all the other Crazies. I put on some makeup to make myself look a little less pasty, I threw on my favorite old sweatshirt, and I was ready to go.

As we made our way to the theater, I noticed the Now Hiring signs on the pizza buffet window -- but still no sign of a Grand Opening date. There were, however, filled napkin dispensers out on the tables, so it can't be long now...

We walked up to the ticket booth, and the girl behind the glass gave us that, "It's you again" look. It made me wonder if there are more like us -- or if we're the only ones who religiously attend the weekly Cheap Night. I have a feeling it's just us.

This week, the lobby was much livelier than it had been in weeks past. There was a line at the concession stand, and people were milling about the restrooms. There were even a pair of men -- a security guard and a guy in a spiffy suit -- guarding the ticket-ripper, who was thus much friendlier than usual, despite the fact that he was wearing just the standard-issue candy-cane striped shirt. I was intrigued by the extra security -- especially since I've never seen the need for it. But if there's a Cheap Theater Brawl someday, I hope I'm there to witness it.

I expected our movie, on its quick pass through The Cheap Theater, to be hidden in one of those tiny theaters in the middle of nowhere. Instead, it was in one of the big theaters -- one that was already filling up when we arrived and took our back-corner seats. Paul took off his coat and threw it over my lap to help keep me from shivering. Then he tried to strike up a conversation about the difference between PG and PG-13, but I was much too stoned for debate.

This week's crowd was fascinating. We were surrounded by Random Gigglers and -- my personal favorite -- Commentators. You know the type -- the ones who yell things at the screen. At one point, when someone did something particularly nasty to John Cusack's character (on Christmas Eve, no less), one of the Commentators yelled (in a moment of amusing sarcasm, which he felt that he needed to share with the rest of the theater), "Merry Christmas!" At another point, after two characters had battled to the death, another Commentator shouted, "She wanted to kill him!" as if he were pointing out a fascinating insight that the rest of us hadn't figured out after seeing the razor blade that had dropped from her hand.

To be honest, the people in the theater were just slightly more entertaining than the movie itself -- the most entertaining of all being the guy seated across the aisle from me. To begin with, he was a Loud Breather. I have never, in all my life, heard anyone breathe that loudly while healthy (or so I assume, since he had no other symptoms) and awake. He was probably 20 feet away, yet I could still hear every breath over the noise of the movie. It had an effect similar to that of the Chinese Water Torture.

But then, out of nowhere, he'd chance from the Loud Breather to the Howler. He'd let out such a loud, high-pitched howl that he sounded like an injured little girl. And I never knew when to expect it. He could start howling at any time -- whether the scene was funny or not. It was scary -- but definitely entertaining.

Once the movie was over, I had Paul carry me to the car, and I went straight home to bed. All the Gigglers and Commentators and Loud-Breathing Howlers were enough excitement for one night...