June 27, 2012

Dark Horse - Angelika

Mike: We're both big Todd Solondz fans so we couldn't pass up on seeing his latest, Dark Horse, on opening night, especially when a post-screening Q&A with Solondz was promised. I never saw Solondz's very first, early feature, but I've seen and really liked everything he's done starting with Welcome to the Dollhouse. While Dark Horse doesn't rank among his best, it's another fine offering from Solondz, who has yet to disappoint me. I do tend to like Solondz best when his characters are more grounded in reality. Dark Horse is a bit more dreamlike, and when you're trying to figure out what's real and what isn't, that can be a bit distracting. But that was really the only thing that kept me from loving this film. The biggest revelation is the main character Abe, played by Broadway actor Jordan Gelber, with whom Solondz delivers a larger-than-life character who is hard to forget.

The Q&A following the movie was very interesting. Solondz is someone who keeps an air of mystery around his films, trying not to divulge what anything specifically means or represents. I was impressed by how diplomatically he answered everyone's questions - often not necessarily answering the question but nonetheless supplying a satisfying response.

Erica: One of my favorite movies is Welcome to the Dollhouse. One of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen is Happiness. All from the same mind of Todd Solondz. Was I excited about this movie? You know it. Also, in a rare move, Solondz did a Q and A. He is a very reserved person and rarely does appearances, so this was an added treat. I really enjoyed the movie. I liked the dreamlike aspect of this film. This is one of my new favorite Solondz movies. Throughout the course of the movie, you emphasize with Abe, you can't stand him, you hate him and want him to succeed all at the same time.  You want to root for him but then you realize he doesn't do anything to change his unhappiness, which is within his control. I say definitely check this movie out (obviously not in your local multiplex as they are filled with blockbuster movies, not interesting indie films).

June 25, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed - AMC Loews Village 7

Erica: I enjoyed this movie. Mark Duplass is popping up a lot this year both behind and in front of the camera. He is kinda creepy, but once you get past that, it is a light hearted charming movie that is also funny. This is a rare gem in a sea of over hyped, over publicized movies that rely on special effects instead of real acting to carry the movie. So this was a very refreshing and welcome change from standard theater fare. There is a lot of facial acting in this movie which can get old quick, but it is better than CGI robots.

Mike: I really liked the movie. The film reminded me a lot of last year's Take Shelter with Michael Shannon, but to say why would be revealing too much. But unlike Take Shelter, Safety Not Guaranteed is hilarious. It's funny and touching and even thought-provoking in the way it deals with different ways of traveling to the past. Two characters try to travel back using a time machine, and another character tries to travel back - at first by reliving his past by looking up a former love interest, and later vicariously through his friend. I thought it was really fascinating and I really commend the multi-layered script by Derek Connelly which elevates it way beyond a standard indie dramedy fare.

I like Aubrey Plaza a lot on Parks & Recreation and she plays a similarly disillusioned, apathetic character here. As in P&R, her eyes do most of the work, but over an 84-minute running time the effect kind of runs out of steam after a while, particularly during more dramatic scenes. Plaza seems to be pushing her abilities here, and it doesn't always work. It's tough to buy into her performance at times when she's just staring at someone and smiling. Granted, it's her first starring role, and ultimately I did really like the end result.

June 21, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Clearview Roslyn

Erica: We were pretty much forced to see this movie by my mom, who ended up hating this movie. I had zero interest in this movie and with a run time of over two hours, I didn't know what I was getting myself into...the funniest moment came before the movie started when a woman practically gave Mike a lap dance, but I will let him elaborate on that. The movie was better than I thought it would be but it wasn't good. There is a compliment in there somewhere, I promise. This movie is good for the elderly, so my opinion shouldn't matter as I am not in their demographic. We see this movie in a neighborhood where that movie IS their main demographic. I didn't see that on that day as there was 5 people in the theater, counting the three of us. This movie is a whose who of old British people.

Mike: I actually really liked the movie. I appreciated that, even though this was obviously a movie made for older folks, it didn't pander to that demographic and managed to be a film that almost anyone can enjoy. (No, it's not...) I wasn't too crazy about the conclusion, which wraps everything up a bit too nicely, but as a whole I liked seeing these older actors unafraid to play old, retired characters approaching their final chapters, and I liked the unromanticized presentation of the Indian setting.

We've had a lot of crazy experiences in theaters, but the old lady who came to sit next to me was a new one. We were in a party of three, and I think there was only one other person in the auditorium. The room was pretty big, with dozens of rows open in front of and behind us. About fifteen minutes before the movie began, an old lady walked in and sat right next to me. RIGHT. NEXT. TO. ME. Out of the 100+ open seats, she picked the one right next to me. Why, I don't know. Once more, she had an awful lot of trouble moving around and even more trouble sitting down. At first, she planted herself on the armrest between us, practically setting herself on my lap. She slowly maneuvered her way into the seat right next to me. I felt sorry for her - she was very old, barely able to walk, and was seeing this movie by herself (no idea how she got here - either she was dropped off or she lives very close), and for whatever reason she thought that she had to sit next to people. I don't know if she did this because she thought that the theater would fill up, or because she thought we were people that she knew? Or maybe she was just lonely and wanted to sit with other people. As she shuffled her way towards our row and slowly moved closer and closer, I just couldn't believe what was happening. And when she went to sit down right next to me, that's exactly what kept going through my head: "Uhhh... is this really happening?" Even though we felt bad, we were at the brink of bursting out in laughter, barely containing ourselves. I thought maybe we were on that Betty White hidden camera show. I didn't say anything - I didn't want to offend her or make her feel embarrassed. She didn't say anything either. We just sat there. No idea what went through her mind, but mine was filled with question marks. After a few minutes the lady slowly stood up and moved one seat away, leaving us a buffer seat. Which I was very grateful for. A note....that was HILARIOUS! Worth the price of admission. Better than the movie.

June 20, 2012

Battleship - AMC Empire 25

Mike: Erica wasn't too keen on seeing this so I went by myself. The moment this film was announced, I knew it was going to be horrible. As a moviegoer I even felt kind of offended by the idea that a movie studio would think us this stupid - that we'd go see a movie based on a simple board game and introduce aliens. Assuming that we'd welcome it the same way we did Transformers - a movie series based on toys. Well, I bought a ticket, so what does that say about me? Thankfully, few other people did, sending a message to studios that recognizable brand names don't necessarily translate into box office revenue.

That said, of all the terrible things I heard about Battleship, and from the terrible trailers and TV spots... it wasn't all that bad. It was cheesy, poorly acted and predictable, but not an awful way to waste two hours. In the end, the movie Battleship is something overly big and expensive that really never should have existed. But it does, and beyond the atrocious performances delivered as expected by Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker (and much of the rest of the cast, for that matter), beyond the cringe-inducing dialogue and predictable paint-by-numbers alien invasion story-line, you're left with mildly enjoyable Summer thrills and explosions. It kept my attention and I somewhat enjoyed myself. That's really all I can say, and all I want to say.

June 19, 2012

Prometheus - AMC Cliton Commons 16

Mike: We were in New Jersey the weekend that Prometheus came out so we went to the AMC Clifton Commons nearby. We decided to see it in 3D on the IMAX screen. We'd never seen a movie on their IMAX screen so we thought we'd give it a try, knowing very well that it's a famous "lieMAX" screen. Expectations (for the presentation) low as they were, I can't tell you how underwhelmed I was. It was a relatively small auditorium with a medium-sized screen (at best). In fact, the room looks just like all the other ones in this multiplex, and I'm pretty sure it's not even the biggest. It wasn't even all that clean, and it was the typical AMC red carpet and seats. One of the seats even had a giant tear in it. And despite the stadium seating, there were seats in the room where the view is easily obstructed (the head of the person sitting in front of me blocked a small portion of the bottom of the screen). The screen goes from the floor to the ceiling and is slightly curved. Beyond that and the IMAX promo, it's hard to tell that this is an IMAX screen.

As for the movie - it's big on ideas and much of the story and the characters serve to introduce these ideas. It seemed a little fragmented from its erratically fluctuating pacing. The film goes to great lengths to sell the audience on the concept and the technology - to take the science fiction seriously. I totally bought into it until a scene in which a surgery is performed, which (while pretty cool) is just too haphazard and quickly resolved. So I was totally along for the ride until that scene, which took me out a bit. But what Prometheus lacks in development is more than made up for by just about everything else - the look, the thrills, the scares, the designs. I found it to be truly novel, despite the fact that it's somewhat derived from an existing property. I wasn't all that impressed by the 3D, but then I've only been truly wowed by 3D just a few times before (Avatar, Hugo and Tron:Legacy).

Erica: Thia is by far the worst 'Liemax' screen I have ever seen. There was very little effort made. It was like they put numbers 1 through 16 in a hat and picked out a number and made that one the IMAX one. Mike hit it right on the head. This is not a movie where I felt like I was 'in the movie' like on real IMAX screens. Any movie is better on that ral IMAX screen cause you feel like you're there. Prometheus  has been showing teasers for about a year in theaters so I was expecting more. It was cool but I, like Mike was very disappointed in the '3D' so much so that I didn't even notice anything in 3D. The concept of the movie was cool and if you are a Ridley Scott and/or Alien fan, then this is  a must see for you. If you're not a die hard fan, either see the 2D non-IMAX version or wait for the DVD. All I can say is I am glad Michael Fassbender kept his clothes on for this movie.

June 18, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman - UA Court Street 12

Erica: This is not a movie I was thrilled about seeing. I like Nick Frost and he plays one of the dwarves (it was weird seeing normal sized people shrunk down). This movie was better than I thought it would be but that is not saying it was a 'great' movie. It was ok. They have been promoting this movie for so long now, you expect this amazing epic film when you go in. Instead you have a so-so movie about Snow White.  would rather watch the original Snow White but I guess this one was a different telling. It was a much darker telling than the cartoon, although the Disney version could be construed as scary and dark if you ask the right person...I don't get Kristen Stewart's appeal and I am not a big fan of her or Charlize Theron. That being said, this movie was not bad for what it was. What bothers me about this movie and Kristen Stewart in general is, why does she need to bite her lip all the time?

Mike: I think the Snow White PR team has worked overtime to train her to stop the lip-biting and to appear more jovial lately - for proof, compare her appearance at this year's MTV Movie Awards to any appearance in the past.

I enjoyed Snow White but couldn't help but be distracted how inorganic it is. It's a decent film with interesting visuals and cool fights, but all the while I felt like I was watching a financial equation concocted by studio heads after Alice in Wonderland became a blockbuster hit. Female-skewed fairy tale + Twilight star + Lord of the Rings-style epic scope and battles for the boys + attractive comic book film star + franchise set-up = $$$. It's all way too calculated and obvious.

We saw the film at the UA Court Street 12 in Brooklyn - the theater that's really close to us but that we usually avoid because it's a zoo. Actually, we've been going here more often lately because it's just so close and we feel like we can risk going here at certain hours (like on a Saturday or Sunday morning, which we did in this case). I suppose that the risk paid off, because the audience behaved well for the most part. The room was pretty full - usually a sign of chaos, but not today. We noticed a few people who talked here and there, which was annoying, but at least it wasn't persistent. There was also a guy walking around who was clearly on something. I went to the bathroom before the movie started and when I came back he was standing in the doorway, looking at the floor, frozen. He later went inside and took a while to decide on a seat, and moved back and forth a few times. Why the Court Street staff would let anyone so obviously under the influence inside the theater is beyond me.

June 13, 2012

Bernie - Angelika

Erica: We saw this movie a few weeks back and I am still trying to make sense of what I was watching. I am not sure if I liked this movie or not...it was just odd...why Richard Linklater, just why? I will let Mike take this one while I think about what to write...

Mike: I've mostly seen Bernie described as a very dark comedy. I disagree. I don't think it's dark at all. It's a movie about small-town life, and the characters that roam in this tight-knit community, and how they welcome odd-ball Bernie when he moves into town. Almost everyone in this town seems pleasant, and Bernie is a very likable guy, even though he's a bit strange. And then he does something really bad, and people in town liked him so much that they had trouble believing it. It's a true story - you see the real Bernie in the end, so it actually happened and all... but I don't really think the movie's about that - at its core, it's a slice-of-life piece of Americana. It has some funny moments, but it's mostly a pleasure to watch because of Jack Black's performance. He's a little weird, and you keep looking for reasons to dislike him, and even when those instances come up, it's really hard not to like him.

Erica: Weird being the key word...I think it's worse that it was based on a true story. Bernie just seemed too nice for my liking....we are divided on this one. Please share your comments about Bernie with us...I want to know if it's just me or if this movie is really that strange.

June 12, 2012

A Cat in Paris - Angelika Film Center

Mike: The second part of my double-header was much more pleasant. And at just 65 minutes, a breeze to get through. When I got my ticket out of the machine and saw 'Screen 5' I was scared. It's a small room, and I'd been there before. It had serious sound issues, to the point where I just wanted to leave. Once the movie started, I was relieved that whatever the problem was, it must have been fixed. The sound was very good. Still, it would have been nice if someone at the Angelika could have closed the doors. It wasn't until 15 minutes into the film that a crew member finally came over and shut the doors, after listening to music from the lobby. I know, I could have closed the doors myself, but that's not my job...

A Cat in Paris was a surprise Animated Feature Oscar nominee a few months back. It was released in Europe in 2010 and 2011 and now it's finally making its way over here. The version I saw was dubbed in English - something I normally don't like, but animated films are different because I appreciate not having to read subtitles so I can instead focus completely on the animated images. The dub was pretty well done, with voices by Matthew Modine, Anjelica Huston and Marcia Gay Harden. It was nice to see something hand-drawn again. The style is pretty rough and might not be for everyone, but I certainly appreciated the style and designs. The story is simple and breezy, with some funny and sympathetic characters. It seemed fresh, but a bit of a throwback at times, too. Not everything in the film works - the main character is a girl who hasn't spoken since her father died, and as you'll guess, that creates a number of situations that are just a tad too convenient. I think that idea is a bit played out, but whatever... overall, A Cat in Paris is a delightful little film that kids who appreciate different things and have an attention span will probably dig.

June 11, 2012

The Intouchables - Angelika Film Center

Mike: A solo double feature at the Angelika the other day - I saw this and A Cat in Paris. The Intouchables was a huge hit in France and elsewhere in Europe, and now it's coming to the US, hoping the captivate audiences like it did oversees.

First off, the feature starts off here in the US with a completely unrelated music video by Paul McCartney featuring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman. If you want to find out how bad a theater's sound system is, listening to a music video can be a pretty good indicator. The Angelika already has an issue with noise - you can hear the subway run underground every few minutes - and some of their sound systems are in dire need of upgrading. The smaller theater where I saw A Cat in Paris later seems to have fixed its problems - I'd been in that room before and had to suffer through a disastrous nerve-grating soundtrack. All that said, once the movie itself started, the sound issues weren't nearly as noticeable.

As for The Intouchables - why people are going gaga for this film is beyond me. It's a 102 minute string of uncomfortable, cringe-inducing situations. Have you ever watched an episode of a comedy series on The Disney Channel, as an adult? I couldn't help but be reminded of these shows due to the over-the-top, over-annunciated performances that favor constant exaggeration over nuance and subtlety. I felt embarrassed much of the time.

Had The Intouchables not been masked by its French soundtrack and had it been a regular English-language film, I think it would have been easily dismissed by everyone like The Soloist or that Sean Connery movie where he says "You're the man now, dog." That's basically the category this film falls into - lame inspirational culture-clash stories, except this is even worse. It's predictable, riddled with cliches, schmaltzy beyond belief, and worst of all, it has an extremely obnoxious performance from Omar Sy, a cross between Jar-Jar Binks and Eddie Murphy in those god-awful family movies he keeps doing. Breakthrough performance my ass.

Still, much as I hate to say it, if you have parents in their 60s or 70s, this is probably a movie they'd enjoy.

June 09, 2012

Men in Black 3 3D- UA Court Street 12

Erica: You already know we have a strong disliking for this theater, but it was Memorial Day and Mike and I were not feeling 100 percent so we figured rather than risking getting others sick or feeling worse, we would avoid the subway and walk to the theater. I vaguely remember the first two Men in Black movies. I don't particularly remember what happened in them or even if I liked them. This one had its moments but I find Will Smith kind of irritating so to me, it already loses points. What I was most impressed with was Brolin's shockingly good portrayal of a young Tommy Lee Jones. He did that very, very well. When we got to the theater, it was so dark, I stepped on a kids foot and nobody could find the seats. We were the first movie of the day so we were told everything gets shut off at night. Key word being: night. It was 12pm, turn the damn lights on! Eventually they did and then Mike and I switched seats (we had sat in the handicapped seats in front of the railing to avoid injuries until the lights came back on). We saw this movie in 3D. The 3D wasn't anything special, if you want to see this to round out the trilogy, just go for the 2D. I do wish I had one of those memory erase thinggys though...

Mike: A sequel nobody ever asked for. I didn't like the first Men in Black that much and I really hated the second one. And even though I wasn't crazy about introducing the element of time travel, it really works here and gives the film a funky vibe. I was expecting this to be awful but ended up enjoying it more than I did the first two. It's not a good film, but it's fun and there's lots of cool stuff to look at.

Two things that bugged me a little bit - The alien monitor gag is really old now. It wasn't even all that clever the first time around, but now seeing Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on the screens seemed really dumb. Also, the timeline really makes no sense. Wasn't Tommy Lee Jones married in the first one? And does that mean Will Smith is in his late forties? It didn't really bother me that much - after all, it's just a mindless Summer-fun Men in Black movie.

June 08, 2012

The Dictator - AMC Clifton Commons 16

Erica: I was never a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen's movies and this one was no exception. It was only 83 minutes, that's the good news and the only positive thing I can say. It was a grueling 83 minutes. It was offensive, disgusting, and just unfunny. Put aside the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen always does gross things in movies, that is the point of them I guess, this just wasn't even really that funny. I don't mind gross out moments if they make me laugh. This just made me embarrassed and I was only sitting in a movie theater...maybe that's why I was embarrassed that I was showing I paid to see this movie...this movie is one instance where the trailers were far more entertaining than the actual movie...

Mike: Sacha Baron Cohen is a talented guy, but he desperately needs to show some range. His dictator character is too much like Borat. It doesn't seem very original. I really liked Borat and even liked Bruno, but to my surprise, I rarely found myself laughing while watching this movie. Cohen should try something new that's actually, like, new.

June 06, 2012

AMC Theatres Raises Prices - the $14 Movie Ticket

Last week AMC Theatres quietly raised movie ticket prices in the New York City area. A regular ticket is now $14, up from $13, at the chain's major NYC multiplexes. The price for a pre-noon matinee is now $7, up from $6. For a 3D IMAX presentation you can expect to spend as much as $21.

Regal, with three Manhattan multiplexes, including one in Times Square across the street from AMC's flagship Empire 25 location, had already raised its NYC ticket prices to $13.50. On the west coast, tickets at AMC multiplexes are currently as high as $13.75.

The increase came within two weeks of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. being bought by China's Wanda Group for $2.6 billion. And it's just in time to take advantage of advance tickets for The Dark Knight Rises, which go on sale on June 11.

While New York City ticket prices are often far higher than elsewhere in the country, and theaters might merely just be catching up to inflation, the price increases (if you notice them) are interesting to track because consumers tend to remember what they paid for movie tickets in years past. It wasn't too long ago that the $20 ticket plateau was reached for a single ticket, for IMAX 3D presentations at AMC's Lincoln Square multiplex.

Despite the increase, it should be noted that AMC is still the only chain in Manhattan to offer a significant matinee-style discount, albeit on screenings before noon.

Prices today for New York City movie theaters:

AMC: (Empire 25, 34th Street 14, Kips Bay, Lincoln Square)
Regular movie ticket: $14
AM Cinema (before noon): $7
3D: $18
ETX 3D: $19
IMAX (Lincoln Square): $20, or $21 for IMAX 3D
"faux"/"lite" IMAX (Empire, Kips Bay, 34th Street): $20

At the smaller AMC theaters (84th Street 6, 19th Street East 6, Village 7), tickets are slightly less, at $13.50 for a regular ticket and $6 for a pre-noon matinee.

Regular movie ticket: $13.50
RPX: $18.50
3D: $18

Clearview Cinemas, including the Ziegfeld: $13.25
Angelika Film Center, City Cinemas, Landmark Sunshine, IFC Center, Lincoln Center: $13
Film Forum: $12.50
Quad Cinema: $11


Is $14 (or $21) too much to spend to see a movie? In my opinion it's not, so long as it's a quality presentation with adequate sound and picture quality. But is it too much to spend to try to enjoy a movie among distracting smartphone screens, talkers, rowdy and obnoxious crowds, and individuals who have little consideration for the people around them? Considering that most theaters do little to nothing to enforce basic theater manners, $14 is way too much.

Read our story from March:
10 Ways to Save Money at the Movies, or: Why Only Suckers Pay $13