Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Week…a Little Less Behind

New at Since Last Time:
The Simpsons Movie
No Reservations

As is often the case during the busiest times of the year, last week flew by in a bit of a blur. I know I saw a lot of movies. I just don’t know a lot more than that.

Last week at this time, I was seven reviews behind. I was pretty much tearing my hair out. Seven reviews behind—and a bunch of movies on the grid for the week (not to mention the pile of DVDs on the coffee table in the living room, which I could swear had started growling at me whenever I walked in the room). Fortunately, though, I had the whole day on Tuesday to start catching up. We didn’t have a morning screening, so I could settle in and get to work. Write some reviews. And, fortunately, I did manage to get a couple done before I had to head off to see No Reservations that night. Although no one else seemed eager to see it (which I can probably attribute, for the most part, to pretty much everyone else being guys), I was looking forward to Tuesday night. I know I’m going to sound like a total snob when I say that I saw the original German version of the movie, but it’s the truth. Before you jump to any conclusions about what that says about me, let me explain further: I saw it on the shelf at the library in Massachusetts, and it looked interesting, so I picked it up. Perhaps all of the big blockbusters were checked out that day (or, more likely, I’d already seen them all). So I got this German movie. And I liked it. That’s it.

As I was walking in to the screening, I was reminded of the fact that the people who had passes for the screening had received them because, not long ago, they’d ended up sitting around at the theater for a couple of hours, only to hear that the License to Wed screening had been canceled. So they got passes to see No Reservations instead. I just hoped that everything would go according to plan this time—or else, I suspected, there would be a riot.

It turns out that I was lucky to have a seat. Bill had been fighting off the masses, who kept walking by to ask if it was available. But Bill was tough, and he didn’t take any bribes, either. And for that, I’m grateful.

After I sat down, though, people kept trying to find seats, asking people around us if empty seats were taken. Bill just laughed every time it happened. But the little old guy on the other side of me wasn’t quite so amused. He seemed rather angry by the fact that people, who were trying to find a seat in a packed theater, would ask other people, who happened to be sitting near unoccupied seats, if those seats happened to be available. In general, though, the old guy was pretty entertaining. Apparently, he wasn’t there with anyone else—or at least I’m pretty sure I was the only one who spoke to him before the movie. So he made up for it by talking to himself. And to the characters. And to nobody in particular. During the movie, he made frequent attempts to predict what the characters were going to say. When Catherine Zeta-Jones’s shrink asks her, after her mother died, who did the cooking, he said, in his huskiest, most dramatic Catherine Zeta-Jones voice, “I did.” (Though that’s not what she really said.) And when not incorrectly predicting lines, he’d incorrectly predict action. At one point, when CZJ is searching for her lost niece, he called out, “Look under the bed!” The most amusing thing about it, though, was that he was never right. He never predicted a single direction or line correctly. Not once. So perhaps he left a few minutes before the credits rolled because he was miffed that nobody wrote the movie that he wanted them to write.

I, however, would like to see his version of the movie. I’m sure it would have been quite dramatic. And wacky.

On Wednesday night, I was scheduled to check out Charlie Bartlett—but, on the previous Friday, I’d gotten an email saying that the release date had been moved…to sometime next year (despite the fact that I saw commercials for it that weekend, still claiming it was opening on August 3). So I figured it would be a waste of my time to go now, when I’m swamped—instead of going in February, when they’ll probably screen it again. And for real this time. And it’s a good thing I decided to skip it, too—since I got an email at 7:30 that night (though, to be fair, it apparently had been bouncing around in cyberspace for a while), saying that the screening was still on, but that any member of the press who showed up would be sent away.

Since my husband was in Texas on business that night, I was totally planning on grabbing McDonald’s and vegging in front of one of those DVDs on my coffee table, I made the mistake of stepping on the scale, after which I had a salad and watched the DVD while pedaling my little heart out on the recumbent bike downstairs instead. Then I ended up staying up much too late, waiting for my husband’s flight to get in—which totally sucked, since I had a full day ahead of me on Thursday.

Thursday morning was El Cantante, a movie that I’m trying really hard to forget. I didn’t even have a cookie before the screening, so there was nothing positive about the experience. I have no idea why they brought a security guard to the press screening of that one, other than to keep the press from throwing our drinks at the screen.

So let’s not talk about that anymore, shall we? After the screening, John and Clay took me out for a lovely lunch to celebrate the upcoming anniversary of my birth. It was good to have Clay back from vacation, since that meant that I wasn’t alone in indulging in crap while John got “just a salad.” The food was delicious (even if it was bad for me), and the company was even better.

After lunch, I had just a little while to scribble down an outline of a review before I had to get ready for the next screening. Thursday night’s screening was The Simpsons Movie. We rushed to get to the theater, and by the time we got there—about 45 minutes before the movie was supposed to begin—the place was a madhouse. Bill was outside, waiting for his dad to arrive, and he directed our attention to the line that had formed inside—the one that was curling around the entire lobby. Twice. From what I heard later, people had started showing up at 4 for a 7:30 screening. That. Is. Insane. I don’t care if it’s the Simpsons. The movie opens in another four and a half hours, people. Just buy a ticket, and you don’t even have to wait in line. Simple.

We had to fight off the crowd to get into the theater—and I must admit that I actually feared for my own safety. There were people there who wanted so badly to see this movie a few hours before the rest of the country that they waited in line all afternoon for it. And I was showing up 45 minutes early and walking right into the theater. Needless to say, people don’t take kindly to stuff like that. They also don’t take kindly to the fact that, if I really wanted to, I could show up 10 minutes early and still get a seat. But I’m not that mean. Fortunately, though, no one punched me on my way into the theater, so all was good.

A few minutes after I got in, though, they let in the masses—and it was mass hysteria. Somehow, though, the theater was large enough to hold them all. Or at least I didn’t hear anything smashing, nor did I hear anyone screaming, so I’m guessing that’s the case. It was, however, insane. And I did watch as a couple of people blatantly ripped off “Reserved for Press” signs and took those seats for their own. And if some of my colleagues had shown up at the last minute, looking for seats, I would have happily turned them in. Fortunately, though, that wasn’t necessary—because I doubt if I would have made it out in one piece.

On Friday morning, there was yet another screening—this time, The Bourne Ultimatum. But I ended up not going, for two reasons: (1) the evening screening is tomorrow. It’s my husband’s birthday, and, just like last year, we were going to spend it at the theater. So once the Friday morning screening popped up on the schedule, I checked with him and gave him the option of going to the movie or going out for dinner. He chose the movie. Go figure. And (2) I was still way behind, and I really wanted that one day to catch up. So I took it. And I’m glad I did—because I got enough finished that I didn’t feel too guilty about leaving for the weekend.

On Saturday morning, we got up early and drove to Cedar Point, where my husband’s company was springing for their employees and their families for the day. I don’t actually do roller coasters. I prefer not to wait in line for two hours in order to spend a minute and a half trying not to vomit on the guy ahead of me. What can I say? I have a weak stomach—and, like other people in the park (who frequently cause hose-down delays on certain rides), I don’t push it. But I did go on the Corkscrew and some other wimpy little roller coaster (even I thought it was wimpy) and a few fun spinny rides. And my husband went on all the things I wouldn’t—and while he waited in line for much of the day, I did some light reading. Then, when we left the park that night, we headed across to Cleveland, so we could hit the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame on Sunday. I’d wanted to go when I was in town for the film festival this spring, but we didn’t end up fitting it in—and, as it turns out, it’s a good thing I didn’t try. You can’t fit the Hall into a short break—especially not if you’re me. It requires several hours.

We showed up shortly after 1 (after a fine Denny’s breakfast), and the coolest thing happened. A girl walked up to me and asked if we were waiting to buy tickets. When I told her we were, she handed me a pair and said something about having more than they needed. So there they were—a free pair of tickets. If she hadn’t run off so quickly, I would have hugged her (so it’s probably best that she ran off before the shock and disbelief wore off). So if you’re out there, thanks.

Anyway…if you ever have the chance to go to the Hall of Fame, do it. But, as I said earlier, block off plenty of time. Personally, I could have spent several hours alone hanging out on the fifth-floor Clash exhibit. And how cool was it that I got to see the hand-written lyrics to U2’s “Bad”? My mom was thrilled to hear that I’d stopped to check out the Rick Nelson display. With all the videos and exhibits and stuff, I could have spent the whole weekend there—but, alas, we only had until 4. Then we hit the road. But I fully intend to go back again—when I have a whole day.

So this week, I get to play a little bit of catch-up. Since August officially begins on Wednesday, things begin to slow down now—a lot. We don’t have a single daytime screening scheduled for this week—and though we have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night screenings on the grid, I’m thinking I might pass on Bratz: The Movie. It’s not that I’m not dying to see it or anything. I’m just a little burnt out. And I’ve got catching up to do. Else, I’d be all over that one. I can’t wait until it comes out on DVD…

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Running Four or Five Steps Behind

New at Since Last Week:
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Eagle Vs. Shark

Yikes! Is it Monday already? I am so ridiculously behind this week—and the week has only just begun.

Despite the plethora of screenings last week (all five of them), much of it was rather uneventful. So I’ll skip ahead to the good stuff.

On Thursday morning, I had to get up at the crack of 6:30 to get my butt over to the studio. John and Clay have recently decided to move their recording time from a totally acceptable 2:00 to a completely preposterous 9:00. If you ask me, I think they’re testing my dedication. To make matters worse, I opened my big mouth about having music to go along with our review of Hairspray, so that changed the time to 8:30. But I think I proved myself—not only by agreeing, without hesitation, to fill in when Clay went on vacation, but also by actually showing up at that ridiculous time of the morning.

So I had to get up extra early, try to find myself something other than cereal for breakfast (after all, milk is horrible for the vocal chords—and the last thing I needed was to be extra-phlegmy on the air), and head out to the studio sans coffee. It’s a good thing I left early, though—because with all the construction and the rush-hour traffic, it took me nearly 40 minutes to get into the city (which, in the end, made me not 10 minutes early as planned but about 2 minutes late—sorry, John!). But at least I’d been listening to the Hairspray soundtrack all the way there, belting out the lyrics and getting funny looks in the process. So at least I was awake. We managed to crank out the show without too many glitches (and most of those that we did encounter most likely had something to do with my mouth not being fully awake—guess I needed to do a little more singing on my way). But we managed to have a whole lot of fun at the same time. The result is over at Feel free to check it out.

We finished at the station at around 10:15, and we headed right out to the theater for our Thursday morning screening of Talk to Me. We made it just in time to get ourselves coffee and a cookie and unwind a bit before it was time for the movie to start. No matter how tired I was though, I still had no problem paying attention. Don Cheadle is positively mesmerizing.

There had been some concern earlier in the week that we’d have to stick around on Thursday for two screenings—but, fortunately, Screening #2 was changed to Friday morning. So I got to head back to the office for a little while—not for long, though, since I had to screen Hot Rod at night. It was one crazy-ass day, and I couldn’t wait to get home and crash.

There was no sleeping in for me, though—because I had all kinds of catching up to do on Friday morning. Fortunately, the Hot Rod review was an easy one to write—and I was almost done by the time I headed out to see Becoming Jane on Friday morning. I made it to the theater on time and greeted the theater manager, who noted that we could probably all just move in, considering how often we’re there. Actually, I’m thinking about having my mail forwarded there. It makes sense, really. I could go through my mail while I’m waiting for the screening to begin, over my morning coffee. I’ll have to look into that…

So anyway, Becoming Jane was a Friday morning treat for me, since I was a female English major—and, thus, I have always been a huge Jane Austen fan. And then, if that weren’t enough of a treat for the day, after the screening, John and I headed downtown to partake of the Jazz and Ribs Festival.

Despite this being my third summer in Columbus, it was my first Jazz and Ribs Festival experience. During my first summer, I was working a part-time job—and I only found out about the festival while I was sitting at work on Saturday afternoon. I believe that was also the day that my husband spent in the emergency room. So there went that idea. And last summer, I was still in the early recovery stages after breaking a rib—and, well, I was much too drugged to appreciate ribs anyway. But John made sure I made it out this year—and it was really quite spectacular. We walked up and down, past all the huge booths, displaying dusty trophies and boasting of all their recognitions. We finally settled on Cowboys—John with his six ribs and me with a boneless rib sandwich, dripping in sauce. As we were standing there, waiting in line, though, we realized that Cowboys happened to be playing WCBE on their radio. So we decided to stick around and come back at 3:01, when we’d be on the air.

Those of you who have read about my Friday lunch adventures with my foodie pal, John, may be shocked to hear that I had him out there, eating ribs. To be honest, I was a bit amazed myself. But Jazz and Ribs is John’s favorite time of the year. And even John will partake of the piles and piles of saucy meat. He did, however, draw the line at the elephant ears that I suggested (Actually, when I mentioned it, he called me trash—so I figured I wouldn’t say anything about the deep-fried Twinkies. But I know that if Clay hadn’t been hiding away in some mountain retreat, that he would have been all over the deep-fried desserts with me.).

We made it back to Cowboys at about 2:55. The radio’s reception wasn’t the best, and John almost got himself pummeled by a very large man in a cowboy hat—so we decided we’d happily put up with a little static, in exchange for listening to our show in one piece. And then, after a few sleepy minutes of Garrison Keillor, it was time for “It’s Movie Time.” John and I were both quite impressed with ourselves, standing there in the middle of a huge crowd, listening to ourselves on the radio. Granted, we were the only ones paying attention to the show—except, perhaps, for the nice ladies at the lemonade stand, who seemed quite impressed to be in the company of such celebrity (though they didn’t ask for our autographs, strangely enough). But at least John and I were impressed. And, well, it’s a pretty cool feeling, listening to yourself on the radio in the middle of such a huge crowd (even if you're the only ones listening).

And with that, John and I wandered back, standing a little bit taller, our stride a tad more confident.

So now, here we are already—Monday night. I just barely made it to the screening this morning, after trying to get just one more thing done before leaving. And now I’m officially seven reviews behind. I suppose I should get back to work…

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Christmas in July

New Reviews at Since Last Time:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Curiosity of Chance

With all the screenings this week, it was starting to feel like December all over again. I didn’t miss much over the week I was out of town, but I didn’t have much time to ease my way back into work once I got home—because I had to head to the first screening of the week on Monday morning. Monday morning screenings are always a pain—but it’s even worse when you spent most of Sunday stuck in holiday traffic.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t gotten in until 10 on Sunday night—and the suitcases were still strewn around the house (actually…most of them still are)—I got some work done first thing in the morning, and I was waiting at the theater for the 11:00 screening of Rescue Dawn. After a week of sleeping in, Monday morning hit pretty hard, and I felt like the walking dead by the time I made it to the theater. And I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of watching a long war drama when it would have been nice to still be in bed. But, well, at least I had a good tan.

I didn’t have much time to work on Monday—which is never good on the first day after vacation. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I had an hour to eat while working before I had to head out to my Monday afternoon kids’ knitting group, at which time I needed to muster up the patience to teach two kids to knit. That was no small task—but I pulled it off without my head exploding, so I guess that’s a good thing.

As soon as the clock hit 6, I was running out the door on my way to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix screening. My husband was meeting me there, and I wanted to be sure to get there on time—because I had a bad feeling about it.

You see, typically, we get passes for evening screenings—but even if we happen to forget our pass, we don’t usually have a problem getting in, since all the reps know who we are (okay…sometimes they need a little reminding, but they tend to be pretty good about it). Usually, though, everything runs pretty smoothly. But I’d heard that there might be a problem on Monday night. Through a few emails that morning, I’d learned that they weren’t supposed to let anyone in without a pass—not even press. And I didn’t have a pass. As is usually the case when I don’t have a pass, I emailed the rep in charge of the screening in the morning to ask if it would be okay to go anyway. She emailed right back, letting me know that it wouldn’t be a problem at all—and she’d let the people handling the screening know I’d be there.

When I got there, though, the fact that I didn’t have a pass set off the flashing red lights—even though the reps knew who I was (or at least they recognized me—kinda). So one of them ran to get his list to double check. And, for some reason, I wasn’t on the list. He stood there for a minute, trying to figure out what to do, and then he finally said, “Just go on in. Don’t worry about it.”


When we finally got inside, Bill was there, waiting for us. Despite the fact that he actually did have a pass, he had his share of trials getting in, too. When he got there, he was told that they weren’t reserving seats for press, so he’d have to get in line.

Um…we don’t wait in lines.

It’s a little joke among critics—but it’s true. We never wait in lines. Except, perhaps, at McDonald’s. We still don’t like it, of course, but there’s really nothing we can do about that. Screenings, though—that’s a different story. If we’re there to work, we don’t want to have to fight with everyone else to get a seat—especially not if they’re rabid Harry Potter fans.

Fortunately, though, they made an exception for Bill, too, and we both managed to get in. We even got seats. We were, however, right next to one of those rabid Harry Potter fans—who, while (fortunately) not dressed up as a witch, practically clawed the guy next to her to get a T-shirt when one of the sponsors was doing a giveaway. I’m not exactly sure how she plans on fitting the medium-sized T-shirt on her XXL frame, but she was very proud of her shirt—and she showed it off to anyone who would listen. And if they wouldn’t listen, she’d beat on them until they did. So it was just best to listen.

Despite my excitement to see the new Harry Potter movie, I was really disappointed by the movie. It just wasn’t as magical as some of the others have been—and, well, there just wasn’t nearly enough of Alan Rickman. Since regular screenwriter Steve Kloves is returning for the next movie, I’m hoping the next one will be better. And, well, the new book comes out in a matter of days, so no worries.

But David totally agreed with my Harry Potter disappointment—and it ended up being one of the main topics of conversation on Tuesday night as we ate our dollar burgers before the Hairspray screening. Then we rushed off to get some seats. After Monday night, well, I guess you just never know… But, fortunately, they let us in—no matter how shifty we looked.

Before the screening started, birthday-boy Clay came up to announce that he’d gotten a phone call to say that the screening was actually just for him—and that the rest of us needed to go home. But Clay, being the sweet and generous old guy that he is, finally gave in and let us all join him for his private screening. He’s a really nice guy, that Clay.

As for the movie itself, Hairspray was a ton of fun. At one point, Jason was doubled up and laughing so hard that I was a little bit worried about him. But Christopher Walken tends to do that to people. Or at least he does it to us. And when it was all over, I was almost entirely over my Harry-Potter-induced funk. Not totally, mind you. But it helped.

On Wednesday, we didn’t have a single screening planned—Thursday, either, in fact—and I was looking forward to finally getting some time to get caught up from my week off. I could write a few reviews, watch a DVD or two, and maybe even do some unpacking. At night, I ended up multi-tasking a bit. Instead of going to my husband’s hockey game, I sat down on the recumbent bike and got in a light, 110-minute workout while checking a DVD off my list.

Unfortunately, my light workout was still, apparently, heavy enough to keep me awake all night. And I’d gotten an email Wednesday afternoon, announcing that there was a last-minute screening scheduled for Thursday morning, so I had to drink extra amounts of coffee on Thursday morning—just so I’d be able to keep my eyes open.

To make things just a little, teeny-tiny bit crazier, when I left for the theater on Thursday morning, my parents were already on their way here. You see, even before we moved away from Massachusetts, we started planning for a garage sale. That was about three years ago—and my husband had finally had it. Since I’d never actually had a garage sale before, I begged my mother, a certified garage sale expert, to give me a hand. And this weekend was the only one that worked for all of us. So, despite the fact that it’s July, my second-craziest month of the year—and despite the fact that I still hadn’t had time to unpack (or sleep) since I got back from vacation)—I also had to figure out a way to pull off a garage sale without having a complete nervous breakdown.

When I arrived at the theater on Thursday morning, things were pretty dead. The coffee wasn’t out, and there weren’t critics mulling about, as usual. Mark was the only other one there—and we were a little worried that, while we knew about the screening, perhaps the theater didn’t. But, in the end, everything worked out. The print was there and ready to go, and we even got our coffee before sitting down to watch silly teen slasher flick All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The movie has since been put on hold indefinitely, so we’ll see if I’ll ever be able to use that review that I scrambled to write after I got home.

On Thursday night, Mom and Dad showed up and got right to work, helping us set up our garage sale. Actually, they had to—since all of our garage sale stuff had taken over our family room / guest room in the basement. And if they wanted somewhere to sleep, they’d have to get to work. We somehow managed to get everything just about ready to go before crashing—and Mom announced that we’d be having the sale on Friday, too. This created a bit of a dilemma for me, since I had another screening on Friday morning—and it was one that I really needed to attend. But Mom was determined—and, well, she really didn’t care if I was there or not. So, just as I suspected, as soon as I jumped in the car and headed for the theater, the garage doors were open. And just as soon as I got out of the screening and jumped back in my car, I called Mom to find out that tons of stuff had already been cleared out. The old couch that I’ve been dragging with me from state to state is finally gone, as is our old bedroom furniture and some other junk. After I got back, I tried to help out for a while, but apparently my presence was driving people away—because no one came while I was sitting there, but as soon as I walked away, everybody came back. So Mom told me to just go inside and get some work done. So here I am.

I figure I should be almost caught up on reviews—and nowhere near caught up on DVDs—by the time Monday rolls around. And then it’s time to start it all over again. We’ve got two screenings scheduled for Tuesday, as well as about 40 scheduled for Thursday (okay…six—but it could just as well be 40). I’ve also got to hit the studio on Thursday morning, to record the show with John, since Clay has run off to the mountains for the week. So it’ll be another busy one for me. But at least I’ll sleep well this weekend, knowing that my old couch is finally gone for good.

This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topic:

The Rule of Comedies. Next week, we’ll be screening I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, the Adam Sandler / Kevin James comedy. It clocks in at a ridiculous 140 minutes—which, we believe, breaks commits one of the cardinal sins of comedies. After all, even the funniest of jokes get old if you keep telling them over and over. But we’ll just have to wait until next week to see if Sandler and James manage to pull this one off.

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