July 21, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Smurfs Take the E-Walk

Next week is Smurfs Week in New York City, to promote the release of Sony Pictures' 7/29 release of The Smurfs, a brand new major motion picture starring Neil Patrick Harris. The events listing for Smurfs Week has revealed a major coup for Regal Cinemas: The Smurfs will play at their Times Square E-Walk theater, and not at the competing AMC Empire across the street.

The little blue creatures, no taller than three apples (which must make those mushrooms they live in World's Biggest Mushrooms) will be at theaters across the United States - including the Regal E-Walk 13 - on July 29. No word yet on whether there will be midnight shows for the preceding night.

Again: BREAKING NEWS... The Smurfs are at the E-Walk.

Plan accordingly.

July 20, 2011

E-Walk vs Empire: 7/22

Here is a follow-up to our Summer tally for the Times Square multiplexes.

Last month, it seemed like the Empire was getting the bulk of the big ones but then the E-Walk fought back with the heavy metal hitters Transformers and Cars. But now, it's clear that the Empire has bounced back. At this point, my guess is that the movies might be doled out in part based on the number of screens - of which the Empire has nearly twice as many. Here's the updated tally:

Super 8
The Hangover Part II
Bad Teacher

To that we're adding:
Transformers 3
Horrible Bosses
Winnie the Pooh

And in the coming weeks:
Crazy Stupid Love (7/29)

and... that's it!

Fast Five
Kung Fu Panda II
Pirates IV
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Green Lantern

and added:
Larry Crowne
Monte Carlo
Harry Potter 7.2

and in the coming weeks:
Captain America (7/22)
Cowboys & Aliens (7/29)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (8/5)

What I'm really dying to know is: On July 29, where will we find The Smurfs?

Horrible Bosses and a Hole in the Screen

Erica: We were in New Jersey this past weekend so we went to the AMC Clifton Commons 16. As we have mentioned before, the people are very well-behaved in this theater. We chose to avoid the crowds of people seeing the wizard's last hurrah and chose the comedy Horrible Bosses. We have no complaints about this theater for that day. We saw the 9:45am showing - maybe people aren't awake yet but we will take it however it comes. Actually, one complaint: An annoying hole in the screen. Spots, stains, stitches - sometimes it's tough to ignore them, and your eyes keep getting drawn to them.

I love how many Freaks and Geeks references I have been able to slip into these reviews. Horrible Bosses was co-written by John Francis Daley (who makes a cameo), Sam Weir to us Freaks and Geeks fans. Horrible Bosses was a very funny, entertaining movie. Hopefully everyone can remember Seth Gordon for this film and we can forget he directed the Vince Vaughn/Reese Witherspoon debacle Four Christmases. The star studded cast of Bosses ups the entertainment level although the concept is original and interesting enough to work without major stars. I think this is the best movie (or best anything) Jennifer Aniston has ever done. She is raunchy and so over the top, you can't help but laugh and you can clearly see her Friends days are behind her. Jamie Foxx makes a great appearance as the 'murder consultant' for the men as a man who demands $5,000 cash be given to him in a briefcase.

My least favorite part was the role played by Lindsay Sloane. She keeps showing up in movies and she is annoying and shrill and she seems to always play the same role in movies. Luckily, she is not in it for very long and if you can get past her, the movie is very entertaining and funny. We saw it for $6 and it was money well spent.

July 10, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins (AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 part 3)

Erica: ...Mr. Popper's Penguins. This movie was also banished to the basement of the theater. This is the escalator incident. I get it, movie theaters are supposed to be cool. The sad thing is, I can write an entire article about the temperature in theaters as I am someone who almost always feels cold. I didn't have a sweatshirt with me like I usually do because we were going somewhere afterwards and I didn't want to carry it around with me. Man, did that backfire... Before the film started, I went up to guest services to ask them if they could make it a little warmer as it felt like it was 20 degrees (maybe it was for the penguins in the audience) and I was rushing back downstairs because the movie was starting. My foot caught in the escalator and I fell. I was helped up by an employee and asked if I was alright. I tried to act brave and said I was alright, even thought I was pretty startled and definitely in pain. But I went on my way. My leg HURT. I was all scraped up, but what was I going to do? Go home? I mean, it was just some scrapes. Yes, I will be sore for a few days but really, what can I do? Now you see why this theater is cursed?

Of course, I can't blame the theater. Accidents happen, and that's exactly what this was. We like the Lincoln Square theater a lot, but some evil spirit flying around there must have a problem with us.

OK now onto the movie....you may like this movie if you are a penguin or under the age of 10. Other than that I do not think I can recommend this movie. Carrey is getting too old for movies like this and it seems like he is trying too hard to get a laugh (which are practically non-existent in this film). I find it hard to believe somebody with a nice, spacious duplex apartment in Manhattan is just fine with allowing penguins and snow on the floors. This movie could have only been more ridiculous if the penguins talked but instead we had to see Carrey's Mr. Popper's sad story for 90 minutes. It's the tired old 'I am divorced and have an amazing apartment and a great job but I need to win my children's love & get my wife back from her new boyfriend' story - you've seen it.

Mike: I guess we saw this movie out of our loyalty to Jim Carrey, who has made us laugh many times in the past. The movie stunk. It's a kids movie, but not one that parents will enjoy as well. One of the penguins farts. All I need to say about this movie.

The Curse of Lincoln Square (AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 part 2)

In the Lincoln Square 13 basement
Erica: Earlier I had mentioned that The AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 is cursed. Now, I will elaborate on why. It's a series of incidents, the first of which occurred last October. It's not really any complaint about the theater itself, but more about how we've just had a lot of bad luck at this place.

Incident 1: TRON night - a.k.a. The Bike Incident - October 2010

In anticipation of the December release of TRON Legacy, Disney organized a series of special screenings around the country where they promised to show some 3D IMAX scenes early. Mike being a big fan of the first TRON, he wanted to attend this opportunity to see some footage 2 months prior to the release of the film. He got two tickets, but they were of the get-in-line-early/no-admission-guaranteed variety. I got there at 3:30. Aside from the people in charge of the line not sure where the line was indeed to start, I lined up upstairs outside the IMAX theater where it was to take place. I was the sixth or seventh person there. Around 5 pm, we got an announcement that the line had started outside, so I of course had to argue my way back towards the front of the line with about 20 other patrons who were lined up by the IMAX theater with me. To resolve the situation, we were named 'The VIP Line' - which they made up so as not to anger the people on the outside line, and I guess it sounded good to them to call us VIPs. Anyway, we all got in, enjoyed the preview, got some worthless free crap from Disney, and after TRON Night we went outside to retrieve Mike's bike which was locked to the bike rack right outside the theater. (I took the Subway)

He unlocked his bike but there was just one minor problem: Somebody locked their bike to the same rack, right next to Mike's bike, and looped his chain around Mike's bike, too. So now Mike was stuck there waiting for the moron who locked their bike to his to finish enjoying their theater going experience. Alas, we waited about 30 minutes and nobody showed up. The theater couldn't offer any solutions (not that I thought they would but we were desperate) and the police refused to cut the lock so we were stuck there. We waited for hours.

Eventually I went home as I had to work early the next day. At around 10 pm, Mike couldn't take the cold anymore and caught another movie (Hereafter). After the movie was over, he went back outside and thankfully the idiot who locked up the bikes had taken off. I really wished I could have yelled at stupid bike owner to this day. It was a miserable, scary situation.

Incident 2: The Phillip Morris Incident

One movie I was really looking forward to last year was I Love You Phillip Morris, the Jim Carrey comedy which received a limited release in December 2010. So we trekked to the Loews Lincoln Square for the first show of the day, only to arrive and see the showing was canceled. Yup, canceled. They posted the schedule four days before, but on Saturday morning they realized that there wasn't enough time between the first and second showings, so they canceled the first. We were among a handful of pissed-off filmgoers.

I went to guest services to ask why we had been shut out of the morning screening time that day and in return got our money refunded for The King's Speech, which is what we opted to see instead. I didn't go there asking for a refund, just for an answer, I have noticed that the customer service in this theater is top notch as they always seem to know how to handle this type of situation. Which leads us to the third incident.

Incident 3: The TRON Incident - Part 2

The next incident that occurred was also TRON related (maybe the movie is sort of cursed as well). For this incident, we have to give major props to the theater staff at guest services again for helping us out. Because this was definitely our fault. As soon as tickets for TRON went on sale, Mike rode his bike to theater and bought two tickets for the first midnight IMAX showing. He was really excited and couldn't wait... This was weeks, if not months, before the movie came out. We had misplaced our tickets. Probably thrown them out on accident. The show sold out, so we couldn't buy new tickets. We gave up, but while at the theater a week or so beforehand, we thought, why not visit guest services and see if they can help us out? We just happened to be there to see something else and thought, what's to lose? So we went to talk to the manager, who reprinted us tickets for the showing. It wasn't an easy process for them, but they printed us tickets for the next showing and wrote a note on it, along with the manager's initials. How awesome is that? Try doing that at the 34th Street theater). 

So, after this, the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, we determined, was cursed. And that leads us to the 4th incident that I wanted to talk about and our next review...

A Better Life (AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 part 1)

We started our day a bit later than normal. The first movie of Saturday was A Better Life. We saw this film downstairs at the AMC Lincoln Square on 68th Street. We have a love/hate relationship with this theater. We love it because not only do they have a wide variety of films, the theater itself is very nice on the inside. The sound works, the floors are clean and the chairs don't make a squeaky noise when you sit down. It's really a beautiful place, and it's the only place in New York City that has a true IMAX screen. But we've had some unpleasantness here, and we joking refer to this theater as 'cursed'... more on that later. For the day, we were banished to the bottom floor where they have three screens - typically showing less-popular films.

On our program for today: A Better Life, Chris Weitz's immigration drama, a loose remake of The Bicycle Thief. And the equally dramatic Mr. Popper's Penguins. But let's start with A Better Life.

Erica: This film was heartfelt and it made me feel sorry for the main character, Carlos, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who snuck over to Eastern Los Angeles to provide for his son, Luis, and offer him a better opportunity. The movie captured the raw grittiness so well, it felt like I was there with them along the way.

Mike: I liked it. On the one hand it's hard to believe that the film was directed by Chris Weitz, who just over a decade ago brought us American Pie. But he also brought us About a Boy, so it's not completely surprising. His direction is excellent and he manages to keep the melodrama at an appropriate level. I also liked how it switched between the Spanish and English language - it seemed realistic enough to me. The performance by Demian Bichir is pretty remarkable as well - he's a character who just has a lot of bad luck, but he's able to keep our sympathy at bay by making us really admire him.

My only real problem with the film is its last 20 minutes, where it teeters on the edge of propaganda and becomes a 'message movie'... which is a shame considering all it had built up to at that point. Overlooking that, it's a great flick which I hope will fly into your radar.

July 04, 2011

MoviePass and the Future of Monthly Movie Passes

This past week saw the exciting announcement of the test-launch of MoviePass, a membership service which allowed you, for $50 per month, to see as many movies as you want. Like Netflix, but at the movie theaters. And aimed at a very, very small segment of the population that goes to the theater more than twice a week - not quite as obvious a deal as Netflix... With MoviePass, you can see up to one movie per day, you can see each movie only once, you reserve tickets with a convenient smartphone app... it sounded promising, but as soon as anyone finished doing the math on whether the $50 was worth it, news came that MoviePass didn't run the idea by any of the movie chains. An embarrassing turn of events that quickly put an end to the venture (although MoviePass claims it will be back).

Services like MoviePass have existed and succeeded quite a while in Europe. And at a lower price than MoviePass, even. But the main difference is that these programs are offered by the theater chains themselves. No daily limits, no limit on how many times you can see a movie... the theaters benefit from increased concession sales, and somehow they've been able to make it work with the movie studios.

Would it work in the US? Definitely, but only if offered by the chains themselves. The US movie theater world is more chain-oriented than Europe, making a monthly pass even more viable here. But how many people would want to see more than two movies a week? And how many realize that they're spending upwards of $50? Probably not enough for a Regal, AMC, Carmike, Landmark, or any other chain to find it worthwhile to introduce an unlimited pass.

July 03, 2011

Why We Love AMC's Smart Movie Snacks

One of the shittier parts of going to the movies is the food at the theater. I'm not a big popcorn fan, and even if I was, I'm not crazy about paying upwards of four bucks for a bag of World's Cheapest Food. Nor am I a fan of the giant tubs of empty calories that movie theaters sell under the name Small Soda. Or technically Medium Soda, since they often don't have a small size. I do love hot dogs and nachos, but I hate paying a lot of money for it. Call me cheap, but if I'm shelling out six or seven bucks for nachos, they better be good and have plenty of cheese. I just hate those little cups of cheese that you have to ration out in order to ensure that every chip gets a little bit of cheese. There's nothing worse than running out of cheese towards the end and having to eat the chips plain. I could go on, but my point is this: Food at the movies sucks. And if you're at all health-conscious, you have even more reason to walk right past the concession stand.

We try not to waste any money at the concession stand. We sometimes sneak food into the theater and eat it while we're waiting for the trailers to start, but that's usually only if we don't have time to eat beforehand. And sometimes we do get a bag of popcorn, but that's really just if we're starving, which isn't an unusual occurrence when we're catching a double feature. But other than that, we avoid it like the plague.

The major chains have been catching a lot of shit lately for the giant calorie counts on the foods they serve. And rightfully so. Some theaters have started posting the calories for each item, and it's a sad sight. Those giant sodas are calorie bombs. Popcorn, turns out, is not as healthy as has been said in the past, and adding butter? Hot dogs, nachos, candy, ice cream, Icee slushies... how about serving something healthy?

In April, AMC Theatres introduced the AMC Smart MovieSnacks. And we're thrilled to tell you that they're damn good.

For $7, here's what you get:

-one bag of Chiquita Fruit Chips
-one bag of POPCorners Popped Corn Chips (Kettle)
-one Odwalla Trail Mix Bar
-and one 20oz. bottle of Dasani water

I'll start with the fruit chips. It's a 30gram bag of dried banana, pineapple and mango chips. It's delicious and at only 113 calories for the bag, guilt-free.

The popcorn chips (32g bag) are also really tasty. I like these much better than regular popcorn. They're light but very flavorful, and I love the slightly sweet kettle taste. And at just 140 calories, again, something you don't have to feel bad about downing while you're enjoying a flick.

The Odwalla Trail Mix Bar takes the bulk of the calorie count. It's probably the most filling item you'll find in the box, as it contains peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips and coconut chips. A little heavier on the chocolate chips than necessary, in my opinion, but still delicious. If you're still hungry after the two bags of chips, this will set you back 200 calories.

And finally, you get a 20 ounce bottle of Dasani as well, although you're allowed to substitute that for a 20oz Diet Coke or Coke Zero. Keep in mind that buying a Dasani alone costs $4, which makes this whole package a no-brainer.

Total calorie count: 453 calories.

While I wouldn't have one of these snack packs in lieu of dinner, it's perfectly fine to have instead of lunch. And if you're just in need of a snack and something to drink, it's way better than getting a giant Small Popcorn. You can have your drink, nibble away at the food, and take whatever's left back home with you. Perfect to share, too.

We can't rave enough about this bundle. It's delicious, healthy, and perfectly portioned. And you won't have that money-thrown-down-a-garbage-chute feeling that you can get from buying popcorn or soda tubs.

But before you rush to the theater and ask for the AMC Smart MovieSnacks, there's two things we need to point out:

-Good luck finding it. You'll see the posters advertising this healthy alternative plastered throughout the theater, but try buying one. We've asked for the Healthy MovieSnacks on six different occasions, at various AMC locations in New York City, and have walked away with the convenient and delicious box and bottle just twice so far. We've been told that they've run out or that they don't have them. On the two occasions that we were able to make the purchase, one time they were conveniently placed by the counter, but the other time, someone had to go to the back to get one. We also haven't ever seen anyone else in the theater sitting with the MovieSnacks box thus far - and trust us, we look at the people around us.

-and because of that, we can't help but question the motives behind this effort. Smart MovieSnacks, we think, is solely a PR move... it's a response to the negative buzz about how unhealthy movie theater foods are, and we won't be surprised if AMC theaters soon stops offering this product. And when Consumer Reports or your local evening news harps on theaters again for their unhealthy food offerings, all AMC needs to say is Hey, we tried, but nobody bought it.

At $7, is it too good to be true? Enjoy it while you can.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (AMC Loews 34th Street 14)

On Friday, we caught the 3:30 showing of Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3D at the AMC 34th Street 14, which, you might remember, we had some wonderful words for last week. We didn't play hooky from work to see a movie - we were both let out early due to the holiday weekend. The thug count was lower than usual today, so there aren't really any interesting stories about our fellow patrons. It was a good day, further solidifying our stance that the AMC Loews 34th Street 14 is a hit-or-miss place to see a film. We did have people sitting next to us on each side checking their phones every few minutes, but the sad reality is, that's as typical as moviegoers eating popcorn nowadays.
We caught the flick in 3D because it was shot that way and we'd been hearing good things about the effects and the use of 3D throughout the film. Plus, Bay urged theaters to project the film at higher brightness levels. We were curious to see if we could notice any difference (and we think we did).

Erica: This is the first Transformers movie I have seen, I have drawn a conclusion that I don't think I have been missing much. Basically I can sum up the movie by saying that robots blow up, bad acting is plentiful and there is a new hot girl wearing low cut, tight clothes (must have missed that on the cartoon). I am not saying the movie was bad, I am just making an observation. I noticed that a lot of little boys and young 20-something men dominated the audience, and they are the perfect audience for this film. As far as the 3D goes, I forgot after a while I was watching it in 3D due to the fact that nothing spectacular happened in 3D (nothing came out of the screen). I definitely do not think it was worth the extra money for the 3D option in the case of this film. I am passing this review over to Mike, who has seen all 3 as he has a better perspective on the films than I have.
Mike: I disagree on the 3D. I thought it was used well throughout, and I found this to be one of the few instances where the 3D was cool enough to consider it worth the surcharge. As for the movie, what's there to say? It's another stupid Transformers movie. I enjoyed the first one but wasn't crazy about it, and I found the second one to be one of the worst films of 2009. Number 3 is an improvement - about on par with the first. I think Shia LaBeouf is incredibly annoying, and in this one he's especially obnoxious.
I must admit that I'm fascinated with Michael Bay's casting of leading ladies for the Transformers series. They are both super-attractive, can't act, and have one single minor but disturbing flaw. Megan Fox has her mongoloid thumbs. Her body is absolutely goddess-perfect, except for those thumbs, which you thankfully don't see very often. Her replacement in Transformers 3 is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who, okay, aside from her inability to pick two names, also has just one creepy flaw. But her flaw is, in my mind, way worse than Fox's:

What the hell is up with her upper lip? Throughout the entire film, I couldn't help but imagine how much it would hurt if my upper lip was swollen like that. It looks like it was stung by a bee, once on each side. Seriously, I bet she could pull her upper lip up all the way over her face. Every other inch of her body is perfect and amazing, but those bee-sting lips give me nightmares. I would have preferred to see Kathy Bates in the part if I had to choose between the two.

To sum it up, Transformers 3 sucked, but not as much as the second one. It's enjoyable if you can get past the film's many, many cringe-worthy moments. Go see it if you're a boy between the ages of 8 and 13.