Thursday, August 03, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (29July06)

People seem to have almost as many opinions about film critics as they do about lawyers. Or used car salesmen. Even some of my own friends have told me that the fact that I’m a film critic means that I’ve become bitter and cynical—and I no longer see movies as just good entertainment. Apparently, critics have no sense of humor, and we take all the fun out of the movies. We couldn’t enjoy ourselves if we tried. But I beg to differ—and this weekend proves my point.

It had been an age since we’d been to The Cheap Theater. But, you see, I’ve been busy. I’ve been really, really busy sitting around the house popping pain meds for the last month or so. I have all kinds of good stories about how I ended up with a broken rib and a bunch of other various injuries—my favorites being the old “snakes on a plane” story and, plainly, “You should see the other guy.” But the truth is I fell in a big hole. Let’s just leave it at that. I’ve also been pretty busy going to screenings for all those fabulous summer blockbusters. Many of these screenings are held on Tuesdays—and all of them are held in theaters that still have padding in their seats. So I’ve been spending a lot of my Tuesdays elsewhere.

Over the weekend, though, we decided to head back to The Cheap Theater—just for fun. After all, sitting in a movie theater is pretty much all the fun one can have with a broken rib. To make matters worse, it was our birthday weekend—mine was on Friday, and Paul’s was on Monday. In past years, I’ve spent my birthday taking helicopter rides through the mountains, dining in cafes in Paris, and touring museums in Amsterdam. This year, I had to settle for dinner at Applebee’s, followed by an evening in front of the TV.

On Saturday, we decided to continue our birthday celebration with dinner and a movie. By dinner, I mean the Pizza Buffet. And by movie, I mean The Cheap Theater. The plan was to stuff ourselves with pizza before walking a couple of doors down to catch X-Men.

I think I should take this opportunity to point out that I was going to see X-Men purely for enjoyment. I didn’t need to review the movie, since there’s already a review on the site. It was just for fun. Really. I actually go to movies I don’t have to review—because I like to watch movies. See? I’m not bitter and cynical, thank you very much.

Anyway…we got all dolled up for our big night out. It was all very exciting, since:

1) I hadn’t been able to get out much in the last months, thanks to the broken bones and the narcotics I’ve been on. Lately, going to Target has been a pretty exciting excursion.

2) We hadn’t been to The Cheap Theater in weeks, and we couldn’t wait to check out all the new construction. We kept our fingers crossed, hoping there would be a sign, telling us what the heck they’re building. (Note: there was no sign, but I just looked it up—and, heaven help us all, it’s another Wal-Mart.)

After rubbernecking around the construction site and trying to guess what the big new building was going to be, we pulled into the parking lot and wandered toward the Pizza Buffet. It was then that Paul pointed out, “It looks really dark in there.”

“Yeah,” I replied confidently, “must be tinted windows.”

But alas. The windows aren’t tinted. Instead, the lights were turned off. The doors were locked, too.

Rest in peace, Pizza Buffet. We hardly knew ye.

So we were left with a short amount of time and about 40 restaurant choices, most of which were within walking distance (though we wouldn’t want to walk too far, since it was about 300 degrees outside).

“Let’s see…” I said, looking around the parking lot. “There’s Subway, Asian, pizza, pizza, pub, burgers, steaks…McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Rally’s…or Mexican.” We settled on another pizza place—one within easy walking distance. But we weren’t really happy about it—because we had to agree on one kind of pizza instead of getting a slice or two of whatever we wanted. It’s all my fault—I let the Pizza Buffet down. If only I’d eaten there more often….

After dinner (which was actually pretty decent—though it was no Pizza Buffet), we walked over to The Cheap Theater. It being a Saturday night, it was Full-Price Night, and they were charging a whopping $1.75 per ticket. Still, despite the inflated prices, the place was pretty full of Big Spenders. People lined up for tickets. Other people swarmed the concession stand, buying huge buckets of rubbery popcorn. And, unlike those who frequent the place on Cheap Night, they all looked totally normal—very clean-cut suburban Midwest. No hooker boots, even. For a minute, I wondered if I was in the right place—but then I saw our usual friendly ticket-ripper. Despite the busyness of the theater, he was still as friendly as ever. He directed us down the hall to our theater, where we eagerly headed for our usual back-row seats.

At screenings, I don’t sit in the back row. I sit in the middle—though that’s not because it’s the professional thing to do. Mostly, it’s because that’s where the extra legroom is. And since critics don’t wait in lines, we get the seats with the most legroom. That’s just the way it goes.

Obviously, I’ve gotten a bit spoiled lately—with all the screenings in real theaters. So I took my seat, foolishly assuming that it would be padded. Silly me. Padding is sold extra at The Cheap Theater. Maybe if we paid $3 a ticket, we could get padding.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about The Cheap Theater, it’s that the crazies don’t pay full price. On weekends, the crowd is more well-behaved than on Tuesdays. After all, no one’s going to pay full price to bring your screaming baby to the theater. And you’re not going to pay full price and then spend the whole movie texting your friends (unless it’s a really boring movie, which X-Men isn’t). So except for the poor child up front, who sounded like she had a terminal case of pneumonia, there weren’t any noisy kids. No one talked loudly or laughed at the wrong times or threw things or had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the movie.

So despite the lack of seat padding—and even though I really missed Hooker Boot Guy—it was a good night. I got to see a movie with lots of explosions and all those summer-blockbuster kinds of special effects, and I didn’t even have to write up a review afterwards.

It was good to be back at the old dump.