In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

60. Sex and the City 2

Rave Brentwood

Anchoring a new outdoor mall, surrounded by suburban houses on one side and open fields on the other,  the Rave Brentwood opened in 2008 just a few miles from the CineLux Delta Cinema Saver.  Rave Motion Pictures has 30 theaters nationwide (ranking 15th among other circuits), and 473 screens (ranking 9th). Their web page, however, mentions a large acquisition that will more than double their theaters and screens. The Rave Brentwood is one of only two Rave theaters in California.

What does 'rave' mean? In this context, I'm guessing they're going more for "an extremely enthusiastic recommendation or appraisal of someone or something", rather than "a party or event attended by large numbers of young people, involving drug use and dancing to fast, electronic music".

The outside of the theater is all about lines and colored squares, from the Rave logo, to the 4x4 grid of movie posters, to the box-shaped box office.

But the inside isn't messing around; the lobby and auditoriums have a full Mondrian motif. Despite planning ahead I pressed for time between movies on this three-movie day, so I didn't get a close look at their concession stand offerings. However, given the distinction in the decor, I expect they have colorful, square food, long, straight straws, and perfectly cubed ice.

The arcade is located in a well-lit area just inside the front doors. Teens might like this less, but I expect parents will like it more.

I'm not sure what to make of the hallway decor. Although the video posters are cool, the color scheme, auditorium marquees, and table with swivel chairs give the hall a bit of a fast food restaurant feel. Visiting the blood red bathrooms is like being inside somebody's liver.

The theater has 14 auditoriums, seating approximately 2700 in all (according to the manager) or 3000 (according to their website). I was able to get a capacity count from posted signs for six different auditoriums, ranging in size from 113 to 284 seats, but there was no sign posted for what appeared to be a larger, 3-D equipped auditorium (their website mentions a 470-seat theater). The auditorium I was in had a steep rake to it. This list boasts a variety of features, suggesting that either all the Rave theaters are newish, or that Rave pursues an aggressive remodel strategy, to ensure its theaters are equipped with recent technology.

When going to a small, independent theater, I have few expectations about the theater's ambiance, because each independent theater will follow its own path. But I do have expectations of a circuit theater; it's easy for me to blend together the Cinemark, AMC, and Regal theaters in the Bay Area into a composite of what a circuit theater will look like. Stepping in the Rave Brentwood was like shopping at an East Coast grocery store (e.g. Piggly Wiggly): everything is basically the same, but in different places, with strange packaging.


I've never heard of Sherwin-Williams (a paint supplier), but they sure make great ads. Check out this one, using digitally-animated paint swatches to create a buzzing garden scene. The animation style is very similar to that in James and the Giant Peach; I could easily watch an entire movie of this.

An ad by Google shows an entire romantic arc expressed through search terms. Google is my search engine of choice, but this ad depresses me, emphasizing a reliance on technology to meet, court, and marry the person of one's dreams. What, have barn-raising hoe-downs gone out of style already?

A commercial for Sprite has several screenwriters on the side lot of a Hollywood studio (is that where screenwriters typically compose their first draft?). Stumped for ideas, one man drinks a Sprite, and is immediately inspired to throw together a cheerleader, samurai, panda bear, and pirate ship into a delicious collision of something or other. I'd rather watch his idea than the ad; it sounds like the idea for a Japanese video game. The ad falters right at the end, though, when the writer turns to his colleagues and says, "Guys, I have an idea. We open on a cheerleader..." and fade-out. It would have been much more natural to say, "Guys, I've got it: a cheerleader, a samurai, and a panda bear are on a pirate ship...". Hey, you only get two sentences for your pitch, so set it up like a joke.

An awkward spot for the MTV Movie Awards has host Aziz Ansari making a crude comment to Kristen Bell: "I have an improvised explosive device in my pants ... maybe you can come into the bedroom and help me disarm it?" The joke is supposed to be that he does in fact have an I.E.D. in his pants, but it just doesn't play well. Bell's response is over-acted, but appropriate.


Killers (Trailer 2)

This trailer is a pared-down version of the first, conveying the same information, but in much more of a rush. The movie is worth seeing, so I'd recommend skipping the trailers all together, as they do spoil a few things if you watch too closely. 56 cuts.

Charlie St. Cloud

As he waits to head off to college, Zac Efron promises to play catch with his little brother every day during the summer. But his brother dies in a car accident, only to return as a benevolent ghost expecting Efron to make good on his promise. Efron heads to the forest each day to play ball, but also begins to fall in love (with Amanda Crew), threatening his obsessive memory of his brother. Efron's sparkly eyes and Crew's big-toothed smile make the trailer worth watching; Efron in particular appears to deliver an emotionally taut performance. The movie is still skippable, though. 129 cuts.

Eat Pray Love

(Previously reviewed)

Morning Glory

In an effort to revive a dull morning program, Rachel McAdams pairs current host Diane Keaton with has-been Harrison Ford. The trailer isn't clear on whether the friction between those two is part of McAdams's grand plan, or if it is merely an inconvenience. The movie takes a sentimental turn, going for our tear ducts instead of our funny bones. McAdams's love interest is Patrick Wilson, who was Nite Owl II in last year's Watchmen, but I remember him better for his creepy role in Hard Candy, so I'm not eager to see anyone fall for him. 116 cuts.

Life As We Know It

Two Katherine Heigl trailers in one sitting. Heigl and Josh Duhamel go out on one date, and have no interest in seeing each other again. But then their mutual friends die, leaving the two of them in custody of an orphaned baby. Living together in the house of the deceased, Heigl and Duhamel must put aside their differences, yadda yadda yadda. Would you pick your warring friends as the back-up parents for your child? And is there a law that movies about babies need to be boring? People are having kids all the time; the world is practically filled with the offspring of people who had kids. I'm not kidding. So why aren't there more interesting movies on the subject? Aside from Babies, the most interesting movie I've seen in recent years about raising a child is Baby Boom (1987). 128 cuts.

Going the Distance

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long meet cute in New York City and decide to date, but with the understanding that they will keep it casual and break-up when Barrymore moves to San Francisco in six weeks. When it finally comes time to part ways, they decide to attempt a long distance relationship (the reason these relationships seldom work is because it's boring for the audience). We're going to get our shares of jealousies (have you met someone else?), frustrations (I feel like you're not as committed to this as I am), disconnects (you don't seem emotionally invested in listening to me talk about my day), and misunderstandings (why did you hang up so suddenly; did you go through a tunnel or have you met someone else?). I'd be interested to see a correlation in romantic films between screen time shared by the two leads, and the quality of the film. How interesting is it to see two people phone, text, and telegram each other for ninety minutes? A funny line from Jason Sudeikis sums it up as he simulates what a text conversation looks like: "What're you doing?" "Nothing. What're you doing?" "Nothing." That moment alone makes the trailer watchable, but we also get some good scenes of phone sex and finally-seeing-each-other-after-weeks-apart sex. 120 cuts.

Sex and the City 2

Ask Hollywood and you'll learn that Manhattan has but two notable landmarks: a skyline towering over lush Central Park, and the Chrysler Building. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, and not quite sure that you have sufficiently established the location of your little drama, try inserting a third or even fourth shot of light glimmering off the Chrysler Building's silver siding as the camera slides past. Rotate around the building clockwise, then counter-clockwise (always a surprise). Throw in a valley full of taxi cabs, and then one final shot of the Chrysler Building, and we'll get the idea. Manhattan.

I'm coming to this film having missed the first in the series, and all 94 episodes of the television show. But why let that stop me? These costumes look great! Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) are best friends (though they all seem to rotate around Carrie). The movie opens with a great origins story showing how Carrie met each of them, taking us for a trip down fashion lane. Although the movie gives some depth to each character, they can be roughly grouped into the following four categories: Best Dressed (Carrie), Most Likely to Judge You When You Are In Fact Doing Something Wrong (Charlotte), Most Likely to Succeed (Miranda), and The One Who Isn't Afraid To Say Yes, Even Before You've Said To What (Samantha). Because it's the Carrie show, we just get quick brush strokes revealing the conflicts in the lives of her friends (raising children, being a professional, facing menopause). We get much more intimate with Carrie's issue.

Carrie has been married since the last movie, and she and her husband have settled down more than she would like. They order in, they don't go dancing, and in general he doesn't seem interested in anything important to her. When giving gifts, women and men both seem to favor the man. Carrie gives her husband a watch; he gives her a TV, in the bedroom, so he can watch it, instead of watching her. Nothing says, "You're frumpy, honey" like putting 42 inches of hi-def plasma on your side of the bed. I was immediately depressed for Carrie. His idea of a good idea? Asking his wife if he can stay at her old apartment a few nights a week, so he can have time to himself. Is he crazy? Sure, we all want more space every now and then, but to actually say it? Last year at the Secret School for Men (which we all secretly attend, and it's okay that I'm revealing this secret, because the half of you who have always suspected this anyway will never actually believe that you're right) we devoted an entire semester to this very topic. Never ever never ever say what you really think, unless you've miraculously evolved into a being capable of expressing yourself with sensitivity and grace. Separate apartments a few nights a week? That's like asking for a divorce, a blowjob, and twenty bucks, all in the same sentence. It doesn't help that Carrie's husband has an ax-murderer quality to him.

When the fab four decide to jet off to Abu Dhabi, I was probably more excited than any of them to get some fresh air. Acting as a potential publicist, Samantha has been invited to assess a resort hotel, with an eye toward luring tourists away from Dubai. If she does her job half as well as the movie does, the hotel will be swamped with guests (at least those with pockets full of gold bullion). The hotel is extravagant, the service despicably attentive, and the food delicious looking. Miranda, whom I thought I would like the most of the four, is given the least to do, ferrying the group around in her attempts to micromanage their vacation. Charlotte is fearful that her husband might be lusting after their amply-endowed nanny (Alice Eve), but her terrible Irish accent will stop him long before he gets within fondling range. (Why are actors asked to use accents? Is there a dearth of actors who natively have the desired accent?) Charlotte's anti-menopause medications are seized upon entry into the country. Hers is the more interesting conflict in the film, as she battles to keep her body as sexually active as her mind, and must confront a culture hostile to her openness. She weathers abrasive and terribly rude comments without succumbing to self doubt (Cattrall already showed her more sensitive side in this year's The Ghost Writer). The movie takes such an anti-repression stance by the end that I can't imagine they were allowed to actually film in Abu Dhabi.

The costumes are a hoot. The soundtrack is fun. There are unexpected outbursts of singing, and shows of camaraderie (At one point Carrie calls a staff meeting to deal with her crisis, asking "Is Samantha still here? I need everybody"). What most impressed me was the wit and the shameless puns. I love puns. The characters toss around phrases like "mid-wife crisis" and "inter-French-ion", and they laugh together about it. It's unusual for anyone but Oscar Wilde or Neil Simon to play around with language this much in a movie (and really, what have those guys written lately?).

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