Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (28March06)

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when we arrived at The Cheap Theater this week. There were plenty of people milling about, but they all seemed perfectly normal. There weren't any big lines. The men in suits were standing guard. It seemed like just another night -- one in which nothing especially out of the ordinary would happen, and I'd once again find myself with very little to write about the next morning.

We did, however, notice that lots of people were buying tickets to see Narnia, so we picked up the pace so we could beat them all to the good seats. We sped past the extra-polite ticket-ripper (who actually said "You're welcome," when I thanked him for ripping our tickets). We were speed-walking our way down the hall to our theater when I caught a glimpse of someone familiar. Someone I recognized instantly -- because no one else has ever worn cut-off jean shorts quite like that. Yes, my friends, we were met in the hallway by Hooker Boot Guy and his posse.

Two thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the old guy approaching in his cut-offs:

1) Obviously, spring is just around the corner -- because Hooker Boot Guy has pulled the Daisy Dukes back out.

2) Hooker Boot Guy has fake legs! That's why he's been wearing the knee-high hooker boots!

But I was mistaken. Sure, spring really is just around the corner -- but those weren't fake legs. Those were new boots. Tan.

My guess is that Mrs. Hooker Boot Guy got sick of having to accompany her husband when he got all dolled up in his Daisy Dukes and his knee-high black vinyl platform boots, and she begged him to go with something a little less noticeable -- something more neutral. Something tan with a little less heel.

I hate to break it to her, but it didn't work. The posse was still followed by a group of giggling women who were discussing, as they passed by us, how it was like being on a TV show.

But this ain't no Candid Camera, sisters. Welcome to The Cheap Theater.

Paul and I were still snickering about our latest Hooker Boot Guy Sighting when we found our seats at the back of the theater. Despite the fact that we were seeing a movie based on a kids' book, it seemed like a pretty decent crowd.

But then The Family arrived.

Mom, Dad, Gramps, Granny, Little Girl (I'm guessing about four years old), and Baby (who was so young that he/she came in a stroller). They parked the stroller right across the aisle from me -- and I knew I was in trouble.

Mom, Dad, and Baby took the back row seats, while Gramps, Granny, and Little Girl sat two rows ahead, in front of a man who was sitting alone, stuffing his face with movie munchies. It didn't take a genius to see that this man was in even more trouble than I was. Before the movie even started, he had given up and traded rows with them -- after Dad had walked up a couple of times to chat with the rest of The Family and the others had walked back a few times to chat with Mom and Dad and Baby. But I was still pretty sure that Munching Man was in for even more trouble. I watched and waited.

The Family turned out to be nothing but trouble -- as expected. Right before the movie started (ironically, just as the "Please be considerate to others and silence your cell phones" message came on the screen), Dad got a phone call. He answered it and carried on a conversation while yelling over the sound of the movie. After a few minutes, he got annoyed and walked out. Upon his return, he picked up Baby and began patting him/her on the back. Actually, though, it sounded like he was punching Baby on the back. SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! As I'd been predicting, it wasn't long before Baby started shrieking that ear-piercing Baby Shriek. Instead of removing Baby from the theater, however, Dad chose to stand up and do the bouncy-walk thing around the back of the theater for a while as Baby continued to shriek.

Just when my very last strand of sanity was about to snap, Dad took Baby out. Every time the door opened, the theater was flooded with the sound of Shrieking Baby. And while Dad tried to bring Baby back in several times, it just didn't work. After about 30 minutes, The Family gave up and left.

Unfortunately, that's more than I can say for a woman up the aisle, who spent the entire movie walking in and out with her crying baby.

And I just ask, WHY? It's pretty obvious that the kid doesn't find the whole movie theater experience enjoyable. Just leave her home with her toys and a sitter, and everyone will be much happier.

After The Family left, however, things didn't get any quieter. The kid next to us lost all ability to sit. He stood. He knelt. He sat for a second. He talked a lot. Once he even fell right off his seat -- a sure sign that his mom really needs to stop putting vodka in his juice boxes.

During one particularly suspenseful moment, the older woman sitting in front of me screamed and jumped about a foot out of her chair (which, I have to admit, was almost the highlight of the week, second only to Hooker Boot Guy's reappearance -- and it had Paul and me giggling for quite a while).

Meanwhile, two rows ahead of us, a man held a loud, movie-long conversation with his daughter. On the other side of the theater, a mother held an even louder conversation with her child. It was The Night the Indoor Voices Died.

And everywhere I looked, there was a constant stream of parents and kids and teenagers and young adults walking in and out and in and out and in and out of the theater.

You know those scenes in the movies where there are just so many voices and so many people walking around and everything just gets louder and louder and blurrier and crazier until the character just can't stand it anymore -- and then she screams and everything's quiet again? That's how I felt. Only I didn't scream. I should have, though -- maybe things would have quieted down a bit.

That, or I would have gotten thrown out. Because that's just my luck.

For a while, I was worried that it was all just in my head -- that it wasn't really noisy or circus-like in the theater. I started to think that I was losing my mind (which, really, after a year or so of The Cheap Theater, wouldn't surprise me much). But then I noticed that the two couples in the center of the row ahead of us also looked annoyed to the point of screaming. They'd lean forward. Then they'd look at the crazies on the left. Then they'd look at the crazies on the right. Then they'd whisper to each other before leaning back again.

So it's not me. It's everyone else who's crazy.

In starting to fear, however, that the money I save each week at The Cheap Theater is nothing compared to the therapy bills to which all this craziness may someday lead...

Pride & Prejudice Review Published

My review of Pride & Prejudice was published this morning. Check out that week's Cheap Theater Experience -- then head over to to read the review.

Monday, March 27, 2006

New Review

My review of Chicken Little was published over the weekend. Check out the review -- and, while you're at it, read about what happened at The Cheap Theater that week...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Producers (21March06)

I had a difficult decision to make this week. My friend's husband was called in for a last-minute business trip, meaning that one of their hockey tickets was available. My boys, the Blue Jackets, against Gretzky's Coyotes, with Cujo in net. Normally, I would have jumped at the chance to go -- but Paul had just gotten home from his week-long business trip, and I was still recovering from the overtime I'd put in while he was gone.

Not only that, but it was Tuesday.

Yes, my dear friends, I chose The Cheap Theater over hockey tickets. I've obviously lost my mind.

Okay, so The Cheap Theater wasn't the only deciding factor, but there I was, getting ready for a 50c movie, when I could have been taking my seat at the arena. It was pretty pathetic.

It was a pretty hectic week once again, and since there were a ton of great movie options this week, we decided to make our decision based on showtimes. If we were ready early, we'd go to one of the earlier shows. If we were running behind, we'd go to Good Night, and Good Luck at 7:45. But by the time 5:00 rolled around, we'd both pretty much given up. I got started on dinner on time, and Paul packed up and came home earlier than usual. So we figured we'd have no problem getting to The Producers at 7:10.

Despite the fact that it was the second day of spring, we'd been hit with a snowstorm. Okay, not a storm. But more snow than we'd gotten in a long time. I drove my car instead of taking Paul's Mustang, which didn't get its snow tires this year (since we didn't get snow this year). Being a little rusty with the whole driving-in-sown thing, I found it to be a bit terrifying, which I thought was pretty funny -- since, just two winters ago, we were living in a place where getting a foot of snow overnight wasn't all that uncommon. Now a dusting of the stuff freaks me out.

Of course, I wasn't the only one -- nor was I the most freaked out. Around here, when it snows, people either drive like maniacs with a death wish or 95-year-old ladies. I, of course, am the only one who drives correctly on the ice.

So, needless to say, I was pretty relieved to pull into the parking lot.

Just as I found a parking space, I heard the radio announcer on the Blue Jackets pre-game show talk about Sergei Fedorov, who would be returning that night after being injured.

"Aw, man," I whined, "I didn't now Sergei was going to be back."

"You can still go," Paul joked. "Just pick me up on your way back."

Secretly, though, I was happy to be there. I was glad that I didn't have to go alone again -- and I was glad, after a crazy week, to just sit down in a dark theater and unwind for a couple of hours. I was even happy to see the ticket-ripper. Because while she's been especially distracted and/or indifferent recently, she actually seemed relatively happy tonight. She pointed us in the same direction as the people ahead of us, and as we followed them down the hall, I said a prayer that they weren't back row kind of people.

Fortunately, they weren't.

Unfortunately, the back row seat that I chose was completely lacking in padding -- which, considering that the movie was over two hours long, ended up being a very bad thing. My butt is still angry.

As we settled in, Paul took notice of the screen. "New commercials!" he said excitedly.

"I know!" I told him. "They were here last week, and I was so excited!"

We actually got to watch previews of movies that aren't even out yet. It was all so very exciting.

Meanwhile, the theater filled up with a large amount of elderly people -- who, I'm guessing, were fans of the original movie. There were so many of them, in fact, that I found myself worrying that they'd fall on the ice outside the theater and break a hip. If there weren't so many of them, I would have brought them back out to the parking lot myself, to make sure they made it to their car safely. Then again, I'm pretty clumsy, and I tend to slip on the ice a lot, so I probably would have done more harm than good.

But anyway...I've found that watching comedies at The Cheap Theater is always especially entertaining. Sure, the movie is (sometimes) funny. But the crowd is even funnier. It's a little bit like going to the zoo -- a squawk here, a honk there, a howl over there, a roar back there... I think Paul and I laughed even harder at our fellow moviegoers than we did at the movie itself.

After the movie ended, we shuffled through the parking lot (because of both the coat of ice on the pavement and the numbness in my butt) to the car. We were just in time for the post-game radio announcer to inform us that the Blue Jackets had lost, 5-2. Not a surprise, really, but it did make me feel better about passing up the ticket. Though we weren't totally enamored with the movie, at least it hadn't been a big downer, like a 5-2 loss.

This morning, I felt even better about going to the movie instead of the game. As it turned out, my friend had the date wrong. Her tickets were for the 9th -- not the 21st. So after she and her daughter failed to get in, they ended up turning around...and going to a movie.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pride and Prejudice (14March06)

This week, I was once again flying solo at The Cheap Theater, while my darling husband was on a business trip to Arizona (poor guy). Since my first solo trip had gone so well, I was excited about doing it again. After a long day of work in a quiet house, I made myself dinner, packed my knitting bag, and headed out the door.

This week, I decided to see Pride and Prejudice -- because, as a former English geek, I am bound by law (or perhaps just duty) to see it. Yet I'd feel guilty for the rest of my life if I made my husband (who's both male and a computer geek) sit through it.

This time, though, there was no miraculous good parking spot waiting for me in the parking lot. And I actually had to wait to buy my ticket. Inside, everyone was buying $5 sodas and $10 popcorn to go with their 50-cent tickets. I actually contemplated it, too, for a second -- but then I decided against it and turned to face the ticket ripper. There she was, at the end of the long, empty hallway, 30 feet away. She focused her attention on me as I took the Walk of Shame -- me, a young-ish woman, at the theater all by herself. It felt like an eternity. It felt like I was moving in slow motion. But then I reached her. She ripped my solitary ticket and directed me to the first theater.

While the theater I was in last time had that one back-row seat that seemed to be waiting just for me, this time wasn't quite as perfect. The movie was in one of the bigger theaters -- one with two aisles. I chose one side and walked in, to find that all the prime back-row seats were already occupied. I was about to walk down the aisle a bit when I realized that all the people around me were loud and obnoxious, yelling at each other from rows away. So I turned around and walked out the door and back into the door on the other side of the theater. I took a seat on the aisle, a few rows down.

When I first sat down, I was a bit hesitant. On the screen was an animated musical number -- and I began to wonder if I'd walked into the wrong theater. I could have sworn that I'd seen Pride and Prejudice on the sign above the door, but I could be wrong. This wasn't a movie that I recognized. Perhaps I'd walked in on a private party.

I stayed for a couple minutes, contemplating what to do -- and then the cartoon ended. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the theater had actually changed its pre-show entertainment -- a cartoon instead of the same trivia questions they'd been showing since, I think, October. There were new commercials, too -- and I settled in and watched them excitedly.

What can I say? I'm easily amused.

For a while, I was a little hesitant pulling out my knitting in the middle of the theater -- but then I thought again. After all, this was a Jane Austen movie. It would fill up with Cat Ladies -- the prissy literary types who live in a dark apartment with their cats and their collection of BBC DVDs. Of all people, they should understand the value of knitting. So I got right to work.

As expected, the audience was pretty predictable. Around me were seated the following:

1) A few young couples -- the male half of which is obviously still trying to impress the female half.

2) Frumpy middle-aged women, seated alone, munching popcorn.

3) Girls. Lots of 'em. I'm guessing English majors. And if the rest of them were anything like the two seated ahead of me, they spent the entire movie whispering and giggling.

4) Men who teach English. The guy with the cowboy hat who climbed over top of me to take a seat obviously fell into this category. Clearly a literary type who found the entire movie highly amusing.

There were also a few others -- like the scruffy-looking old guy who appeared to be a "poet" -- though he's really just an out-of-work English professor. But what it all comes down to is that I, with my knitting needles working away through the movie, was nowhere near the most unusual creature in the theater.

I really enjoyed the movie -- and the people around me made me laugh. But that's because I did my time in literary academia. These are my people. I've seen Jane Austen movies. I've loved Jane Austen movies. Secretly, I still do. But as I looked around the theater, I also realized that the movie -- and those who sat there with their loud literary-elite chortles (the ones that say "I'm laughing right now -- but the joke is probably far to clever for you to understand") would have scared the crap out of my computer geek husband. The Cat Ladies and Professors take some getting used to -- much like the people at a Star Trek convention do.

After the movie ended, I went home and did what every good Jane Austen loving lit geek would. I poured myself a glass of wine and finished up my knitting before curling up with some good literary fiction.

All that was missing were the cats.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Chicken Little (7March06)

This week was another one of those running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off (pun not entirely intended) Tuesdays. In the afternoon, I called the eye doctor's office to ask if our new glasses were in yet. For a second, I felt guilty for calling -- because they said they'd call us. But then the receptionist got back on the line (after putting me on hold for so long that I'd had enough time to have a snack, go through my recipes, plan dinner, and get some chicken out of the freezer) and told me they were, in fact, in and ready to be picked up before 7. So I called Paul, and we synchronized our watches. He'd be home -- and I'd have dinner ready -- by 1745. We'd eat and get out of the house by 1815ish. We'd go to the eye doctor, pick up the glasses, get them all tried on and fitted, and be on our way to The Cheap Theater by 1845.

But things went a little too smoothly -- and by about 6:20, we were sitting in the car in our new specs, with tons of time to spare.

"Now what?" Paul said as we glanced around the parking lot.

"Let's go to Pier 1," I suggested. It was, after all, right next door. So we got back out of the car and wandered in.

It's been five years since I last owned a pair of glasses that I could actually wear in public -- and I'd forgotten what it feels like to walk around with curvy lenses over my nearly-blind eyes. It's a strange feeling -- and it actually made me sick in a way that I can only liken to motion sickness. I'm used to contacts. I'm not used to lenses that (though they look really cool) take away your peripheral vision and make the ground look all curvy. I had a hard time walking a straight line. So Pier 1 probably wasn't the best choice -- with all the glass items around and all. But, fortunately, despite a close call or two, I got out without breaking anything. But we still had extra time to kill -- so we ended up wandering around the bookstore by The Cheap Theater before going in.

Seeing kids' movies at The Cheap Theater always makes me a little nervous. I have, after all, had some bad experiences with it. And I know that parents love Cheap Night. Heck, if I had kids, I would, too. Heck, I love it anyway. But I know how rowdy it can get -- and this week was really no exception.

By the time we bought our ticket (Paul threw the poor ticket girl off by handing her a twenty) and made it past the painfully-bored-looking ticket-ripper (who obviously thought he was much too cool for his job and his candy-cane striped uniform), the theater already looked (and sounded) like Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, little kids like to sit up front -- not in the back row -- so we took our seats in the very back corner.

Once settled in, I looked up at the screen and realized that I couldn't see it. I knew there was a trivia question there, but the words were a blur. Needless to say, I immediately freaked out just a tiny bit, worried that there was something wrong with my glasses. The slide changed, but I still couldn't make out a thing.

Out of the corner of my eye, in my blurry peripheral vision, I could see Paul adjusting his new glasses. I turned to look at him and noticed that he looked just as perplexed as I felt.

"The screen's blurry, isn't it?" I said, and we both breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't the glasses. It was the yahoos in the projection room.

Sure enough -- a few minutes later, the projector lens was adjusted, and we could see again. I felt much better.

I can't really say that the rest of the experience was all that bad. Sure, the standard kid chatter was constant -- and pretty loud (so loud that I sometimes couldn't hear the movie) -- but I guess that's to be expected when the theater has a 2:1 kid-to-adult ratio. We were just lucky that the kids in front of us were pretty well-behaved. I'm sure the experience wouldn't have been quite so positive had we been sitting in the middle of the theater, but it was just fine back in our dark little corner.

As is often the case at kids' movies, the biggest distraction wasn't the constant hum of kiddie conversation. It was the one dad, on the other side of the theater, who kept laughing a deep, loud belly laugh over top of the kids' giggles. It was so loud that I kept waiting for the kids around him to shush him. It didn't happen -- but wouldn't it have been funny if it had?

Next Tuesday, Paul's going to be in Very Important Meetings, so I'll be on my own. I've already decided on the movie -- Pride & Prejudice -- because it's a movie that I'd feel guilty if I made Paul watch it. While I'm at it, who knows...I may just take myself out for dinner at the pizza buffet, too.

But one thing is for sure -- I'll definitely bring my knitting.

Yet Another New Review

It's been a busy week for new movie reviews! Check out my review of Prime -- and don't forget to read about the Cheap Theater Experience, too.

Monday, March 06, 2006

New This Week...

My review of Just Friends was published today! Head on over to to check it out -- and, while you're at it, check out that week's Cheap Theater Experience, too.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (28Feb06)

I think I may have mentioned (once or twice or possibly a dozen times) that Tuesdays can get pretty hectic at our house. Sometimes, things just fall into place -- but not often.

This week, I'd had a pretty busy day of work -- yet, for some reason, I decided to make an elaborate (for me...on a Tuesday) meal, complete with fresh salads and homemade dressing, mini meatloaves, and steamed veggies. I was hoping that if I worked ahead a bit, Paul would catch the early vibe I was sending out and come home before 6. But alas, no matter how hard I try to get him to read my mind, it rarely works. He showed up at 6:05, meaning that the 6:50 showing up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was pretty much out of the question.

In all the afternoon insanity, I hadn't put together my usual list of showtimes -- so we discussed our options without knowing showtimes. After dinner, we cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher -- then I went to my computer.

"We missed everything," I told Paul.

He didn't believe me.

"Well, we can see Cheaper By the Dozen 2, but I didn't even like the first one. Or we can see Yours, Mine and Ours, but I'm pretty sure that's the same thing. Our only other option is the 7:50 Harry Potter, which will get out at 10:30 -- and we still need to stop at the store for milk."

Oh, the logistical mess!

I was almost tempted to forget about the whole thing this week, but then I remembered how weird it felt to skip last week...

Harry Potter it was.

Since the 7-ish movies had long since started -- and even those people who always show up 20 minutes late were already settled in -- the parking lot was packed. When we finally hiked from our car to the ticket window, everyone around us was buying tickets for Fun with Dick and Jane -- so we were relieved that we'd already seen it. Else, we'd have to battle the crowds.

Our ticket-ripper was surrounded this week -- but not really by moviegoers. As always, the security guy was hovering nearby. There was also a small, silent, scowling older woman standing right behind him, glaring over the ticket-ripper's shoulder at everyone in the lobby. I don't know why she was there, but I found her to be much more intimidating than the security guy. Even the ticket-ripper seemed flustered.

The 7:50 showing of Harry Potter was filled mostly with young-ish couples -- like us. When we came in, there was a couple seated on the other side of the theater, toward the front. Not long after we sat down, she got up and walked out. No big deal -- we all need to take a bathroom break before a long movie. A few minutes later, though, her male companion walked out, too, putting his big puffy coat on as he did -- just as the commercials started and the lights started to dim.

I started to wonder if they'd changed their mind -- or if she'd come back and find him gone. And a few minutes later, she returned. She walked down the aisle and stood there for a while, looking around. Then she just sat back down. I was intrigued by the story unfolding ahead of us -- and I only paid partial attention to the previews, watching to see if the guy with the big, puffy coat would come back.

He did -- several minutes after the movie had started (and after I'd given up on seeing him again) -- with his arms full of a plethora of gourmet theater food.

Apparently, he didn't ration his soda very well -- because after that point, he kept walking in and out of the theater. I figure he was either going to the bathroom, or they'd taken their kids along and dropped them off at Chicken Little -- and he was just going to make sure that they didn't cause too much trouble.

Speaking of kids, the theater had its share -- some so young that they were carried in. This bothered me for two reasons:

1) The movie got out at 10:30! At night! On a TUESDAY! What's wrong with you people? What ever happened to the 8:00 bedtime I used to have when I was that age?

2) I realize that Harry Potter was once just a kid thing. But Harry's all grown up now, having awkward scenes with girls. And with scary skeleton guys in black robes. People bleed. People die. And Voldemort is icky. This stuff will probably give me nightmares! It's PG-13 for a reason, people! This isn't something your five-year-old should be watching at 10 on a school night.

You may think you're saving all kinds of money by taking your kids to see Harry Potter on Cheap Night, but just think of all the money they're going to have to pay for a lifetime of therapy...

By the way...if you'd like to read a review of the movie, check out Angela's review.

Another New Review

My review of
The Ice Harvest
was published this morning. Before you read it, take a minute to read about our Cheap Theater experience that night, too...