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

Sunday, July 4, 2010

62. Letters to Juliet

AMC Cupertino Square 16

Cupertino, incorporated in 1955, is (roughly) bound by Homestead Rd. on the north (abutting Los Altos and Sunnyvale), the Lawrence Expressway on the east (bordering Santa Clara and San Jose), Bollinger Rd. on the southeast (again against San Jose), and the Santa Cruz mountains on the southwest (just barely touching Saratoga to the south). De Anza Blvd. and Stevens Creek Blvd. cut a commercial cross through the city; according to the city's history page this intersection marks the original crossroads of the town in the 1800s. (The page also casually mentions that Cupertino "has no real downtown".) Like many cities in the Bay Area, Cupertino owes its population (currently ~50,000) to the post World War II boom, and its incorporation to fear of being gobbled up by a neighboring city.

The city is home to Apple, Inc., a Hewlett-Packard campus, and two movie theaters: BlueLight Cinemas, opened in 1970, and the AMC Cupertino Square 16, opened in April, 2007. (There is also an upcoming showing of Where the Wild Things Are as part of the city's Cinema at Sundown series.)

The AMC theater is inside the Cupertino Square mall, which stands on either side of Wolfe Rd., with a causeway connecting the two sides. As one would expect with a mall, there is ample parking, though here you must work a bit harder to find it. There is a small lot directly beneath the mall, and a medium garage at the back of the building (Vallco Parkway extends under the building, connecting to both these lots).

Ticketing is located on the mall's second floor, and the theater is on the third floor, reachable by escalator or glass elevator. (There is also a specialty game store on the second floor, carrying a good selection of modern, imported family and strategy games.)

If I had to pick between Cinemark's art deco collage, and AMC's montage of famous films, I'd go with AMC. It does a better job of celebrating the movies, and often with surprising inclusions (I can't think of which Salma Hayek movie this wall depicts; and Bugsy is all but forgotten).

The theater's lobby has a well-lit arcade to one side, and some plush couches forming a comfortable waiting area. The hallways also have nice seating, as shown in the crescent-shaped bench below. AMC theater hallways often display promotional stills from famous movies (like Apollo 13, below).

With a total seating capacity of 3,808 (summed for me by the manager), the theater's largest auditorium seats 284 with red, plush seats.

Worthy of note: the Cupertino Square 16 is one of eight theaters in the Bay Area (five owned by AMC) showing movies on an "IMAX" screen. Be warned, IMAX is not currently enforcing a standard to use its name; in five of those eight locations, IMAX has paid for the theaters to retrofit an existing screen, extending it wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, rather than build a larger auditorium. There is a (literally) big difference between the 75-feet-tall screen at the Metreon and the ~30-feet-tall screen at the Cupertino Square 16. The Metreon is equipped to project with 70mm film; the Cupertino Square 16 uses digital projectors. (Interestingly, the Metreon also offers what it calls the Enhanced Theatre Experience, with a "20% larger floor-to-ceiling screen", which is what is being billed as IMAX at the other AMC theaters.)  Even the Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium 21 in Dublin, ostensibly the only other true IMAX screen in the Bay Area, is twenty feet shorter than the screen at the Metreon. More information is available from Jay Holben, Roger Ebert, MaryAnn Johanson, and on this color-coded map. The thrust is, if you want IMAX, go to the Metreon; otherwise, just sit closer to the screen.

The Cupertino Square 16 also offers something called "Sensory Friendly Films", which it describes as follows: "The lights are turned up, the sound is turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!"


Panasonic will soon be releasing a television with 3-D capability (it comes with two pairs of 3-D enabled glasses, so you're family of four might need to take turns watching the movie in 3-D and in Blur-D). This is just another step in the Theater vs. Television arms race, which will hopefully end with theaters backing off from exhibiting films in 3-D.

An ad for some Willy Wonka chocolate bars look incredibly delicious. It's the rare product that doesn't need to resort to metaphor or exaggeration to sell itself. The commercial shows an oomp-loompa stirring a river of chocolate, then a chocolate bar emerging from a waterfall of chocolate. Basically, the ad shows chocolate, and then asks you to buy . . . chocolate. Pretty simple stuff.

Total Drama Island is an animated reality TV show in the vein of Survivor, beginning with a whopping cast of twenty-two (one of which is eliminated each week). What fascinates me about the success of these competitive shows (which Total Drama Island lampoons) is that they take the opposite approach to  character interaction. Whereas most shows slowly increase their roster of characters, and therefore the number and complexity of relationships between them, these reality shows (akin to horror movies) have an ever-dwindling cast, resulting in fewer and fewer possibilities as the show progresses. (Though I prefer a show to find a rock-solid cast to begin with, and then stick with it, as in Star Trek: Voyager, I certainly enjoy the extreme where there are so many characters that the biggest challenge of the show is to somehow fit them all into the finale, as in X-Men: Evolution, in which the principal team members split up, each leading a team comprising supporting characters.) For its second season, the show has been renamed Total Drama World Tour, and brings back fifteen of the characters from the first season. The contestants must now not only compete, but be ready to "break into song" when the host rings a bell. Every show needs more singing.

A commercial begins, "We are the first responders... and the last to leave". Another military ad? No, this is a spot celebrating the diversity of recipients of blood donation. The ad is probably intended to inspire other to become blood donors, after seeing how it helps so many different people, but it almost comes across as an attempt to celebrate the recipients, as if they were a stigmatized class in need of being humanized.


The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Trailer 2)

Bella's kick-ass family of vampires team up with Jacob's tribe of werewolves against an invading army of young hipsters. Edward has never looked so pale. Jacob has never looked so buffed. And Jasper has never been so bug-eyed. Good times ahead. And the money shot of the army walking up out of the lake?It's like they're not even afraid to rip off Pirates of the Caribbean. That's how bad-ass they are. 69 clips.


"Based on the impossible true story." It must have been a well known fact that horses run slower when they are owned by women, because otherwise I don't know what is so impossible about a horse winning a horse race. Seabiscuit had some cards stacked against him, but it looks like Secretariat was a winner from the start. Diane Lane is a determined owner who knows her horse is a champion. (Based on what evidence? Isn't it the horse race that measures a horse's capabilities relative to its peers?) John Malkovich is the horse's snooty trainer. I'm sure there are a great many people passionate about horse racing, and I'm sure I would get caught up in the drama were I to watch this movie, but I can't help but laugh when sporting achievements are referred to as miracles and such. Parting the sea and leading your people through? That's a miracle. A horse winning a horserace? That's a feat. 156 cuts.

Waiting for Superman

(Previously reviewed)

Easy A

Emma Stone conspires with a closeted male friend to start a rumor that they've had sex. The rumor keeps him safely closeted, and makes Stone the school's equivalent of Hester Prynne. Soon every boy wants to pretend he's had sex with her, and every girl wants her ousted from the school. I'm not sure how the rumor mill could simultaneously extend her dweeby male clientele, and perpetuate the rumor, but stranger things have happened in high school. The trailer closes on a thumping note with Lady Gaga's "Poker Face". With support from Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, and Thomas Haden Church. 94 cuts.

Legend of the Guardians

(Previously reviewed)
I swear a few months ago this movie was just titled Legend of the Guardians, but now it has been expanded to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. What a terrible name.

Marmaduke (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Letters to Juliet

Amanda Seyfried can do no wrong this year. Though Letters to Juliet is simpler and sappier than Dear John, and nowhere near as good as Chloe, it's still entertaining, and Seyfried is endearing in every scene. She plays Sophie, a fact checker for the New Yorker vacationing in Verona with her fiance Victor (Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal). Sophie wants a romantic getaway with Victor, but he instead focuses his energies on locating ingredients and recipes to be used in the Italian restaurant he's opening back in the States. (Sophie offers Victor an out by saying that they could each do their own thing, to which Victor agrees. Note to men everywhere: there is only one correct response to this suggestion, and it is to vehemently reject it.)

Left to fill her own time, Sophie wanders into the court of Juliet Capulet, where women come from all over the world to contemplate their troubles, and communicate with Shakespeare's most famous heroine.  Being both a fact checker and an aspiring writer, Sophie is curious when she sees a woman collecting in a basket all the letters left at Juliet's wall during the day (from the various visitors, addressed to Juliet). Following the woman with the basket, Sophie is soon introduced to a society of philanthropists who have taken it upon themselves to answer the letters addressed to Juliet. Each woman in this covert society has a specialty, such as unrequited love, or marital troubles. Sophie soon finds a decades-old, unanswered letter, and takes it upon herself to join the society and answer the letter. (Sophie's proclamation, "I have to write back" makes so much more sense in the context of the movie and the society than in the trailer, where it appears she just finds some random letter and takes it upon herself to intrude upon the past.)

The letter's aging author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), soon arrives in Verona from England, inspired by Sophie's response, to find her true love, Lorenzo. Her disapproving grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), is in tow, and takes it upon himself to needle Sophie about how she is taxing his grandmother unnecessarily, raising her hopes, disrupting her life. Sophie and Claire form a bond (which Charlie attempts to sever at every possible moment). Claire will travel around Italy in search of a man she doubts she will even recognize (it has been fifty years since they parted ways), and Sophie will tag along for moral support and to document the journey, hoping to shape it into her first article for The New Yorker.

Charlie is a jerk. As such, this movie doesn't really work as a romance. Victor is so self-absorbed and deaf to anything Sophie has to say that the movie primed me to accept any half-decent-looking character to replace him; it's quite an accomplishment that they pair her with someone even less charming than Victor. I'd like to think that the subtext of the film is that one must be proactive in seeking out romance (as Claire is, looking for Lorenzo), instead of settling for what is available (as Sophie was, with Victor). But as the film awkwardly attracts Sophie and Charlie to each other it seems that once again Sophie's choice is being limited to the nearest available male. (Of course the two are attracted to each other; they are both physically beautiful; but they don't have enough chemistry to share a single conversation that isn't about Claire.)

At one point Claire (or perhaps Sophie) says that "life is the messy bits" (e.g. "life is what happens while you're making other plans"), so we need to appreciate the unexpected, the unexplainable, and the unintentional. But do we need to appreciate Charlie? If this movie had a prequel, it might have shown Sophie falling for this charming, funny, wannabe chef named Victor; only when the camera continues to roll do we see that, like many relationships, the flame goes out, differences arise, and suddenly a fling with some British boy in Verona sounds better than marrying Mr. Right. It's not enough for our young lovers to kiss in the end; if the movie ends with them together, it needs to have also provided sufficient evidence that they will stay together long after the credits roll. To put it another way, Sophie and Charlie are an incredibly poor match.

Nevertheless, Seyfried is mesmerizing on screen. She is pretty, sincere, polite, funny, and emotional present throughout. Her big, almost-teary eyes have a way of connecting with other characters on screen to make the scene immediately personal and intimate. She behaves like a human being (quite rare in film), responding to compliments and insults in an authentic and believable way. At one point, Claire encourages Charlie to put his foot forward, warning him not to wait a lifetime for his "Sophie", as she did for her Lorenzo. Though Charlie is an ass, he could do no better than to win the affections of Sophie.

No comments:

Post a Comment