Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Movies Since Last Post:

Glass Castle
Disaster Artist
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Big Short
Rush: Time Stand Still
Office Christmas Party
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

So, here we are, January 1st, 2018, meaning my year of movies is over. I must say, as fun and enlightening as it was at times, I am a little disappointed in myself. I ended up seeing 159 movies in 2017, which is no small amount, but looking at the big picture, I realize that I did sort of limp to the end. In December, I only watched 8 movies, and that is with a lot of time off from work for the holidays. As a comparison, in March, I watched 16, and I hadn’t even started using Hulu as an option yet. Not that Hulu was a huge difference maker. I only watched 17 out of the 159 on there, and a few of them were also available elsewhere. I will say, however, if you have a Hulu subscription, definitely check out some of their originals. Becoming Bond, Batman & Bill and Too Funny to Fail were definitely three highlights of the year for me.

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While we’re on the topic, let me throw a few stats out there; the final count for Amazon was 35, which was surprisingly eclipsed by Xfinity OnDemand with 43. Google Play accounted for 13, and Netflix 16. I watched 4 DVD’s (which is just too funny to me), and one for Bad Movie Night at my friend’s, and I’m not sure which platform he used. So, by my count, I went to a movie theater (or Drive-In) 33 times in 2017. While I do still think that’s the best way to watch a movie, it’s also pretty expensive and time-consuming, so it looks like I have to give the nod to OnDemand for being the most-used platform of the year. Which is pretty interesting since so many people are getting rid of cable. Also, please note that I didn’t illegally download anything. Maybe that’s just me being a chump, but I still don’t think it’s right.

Now, I’m not going to make any bold statements about why people should or shouldn’t have cable, because frankly, even though Xfinity may have had the biggest selection when you throw in the fact that my package includes all the movie channels, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best and if you love movies then you should do what I’m doing. In fact, having the biggest selection only means that there are so many more movies to scroll through before you find one you want to watch. I mean, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but there are just so many bad movies. Honestly, one of the best parts of this quest being over is all the time I will get back because I will no longer be scrolling through pages and pages of bad movies hoping to find one that I want to watch. And after I watch that one, I’d have to go back and find another one.

Ah, time. Let us discuss this concept for a moment. I will admit that I could have, and even should have, watched a lot more, and probably a lot more quality films, were time not a factor. Of course, it always is. There’s no way around it, but I don’t think I even once clicked “Play” in 2017 without first looking at a clock and the movie’s running time. I definitely started leaning towards the shorter ones as the year went along, too. After a while, if a movie took me days to watch it, I would start to just lose interest, and once you get into that “have to finish” mode, then it ceases to become entertainment and it becomes work. Honestly, if I ever do anything like this again, I’ll probably have to wait until I retire and have all the time in the world. And even then I probably wouldn’t want to sit through anything longer than 2:20.

Still, the point of this whole thing was to think about how we watch movies and try to learn something. In fact, back in March, I wrote, “I thought that by the end of the year, it could be a cool way to examine how we watch movies nowadays (or it could just be a whole lot of nothing).” Well, it wasn’t really nothing, but I don’t know if it was something, either. But I did learn a little about myself, so that’s important. The lesson about myself that I did learn came at the very end of the year, in fact. Before seeing The Shape of Water, my final film if 2017, I saw that a Facebook friend had seen and it and wrote in his status that it was “not for the casual movie-goer.”

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That really sparked something in me. Obviously, I knew that “casual movie-goers” existed, because why else would Michael Bay still be allowed to direct movies? But that status spoke to me because I came to the realization that I am not, and probably never have been (at least since I was a teenager) a casual movie-goer. And while it is a great thing to have taste, I actually think that, if a casual movie-goer decided to take a year and watch as many movies as possible, that person could probably have watched way more than I did. They certainly wouldn’t have taken so much time trying to find one that suited them.   Now, I did watch a lot of bad movies last year (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Baywatch), and I did write in the notes on my Google Doc “Not horrible but not great” way more times than I remembered (and some of the movies I don’t even remember that well.) But when I think about all the ones I could have watched but just had no desire to, I have no regrets. I mean, I kind of regret not making more of an effort to watch some real classics, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Or in this case, you have to watch the movies that are available, and yeah, free. I could have paid $5 or more to watch everything that Amazon or Google have and probably enjoyed most of them, but I’d be totally broke by now. But this whole thing came about because my idiot film professor in 1997 told me that everyone in Hollywood watches hundreds of movies a year, and everyone in Hollywood is rich, so I guess that’s a pretty good lesson right there.

So, there you have it. Watching movies as a project to see how many you can see is not the way to go about watching movies. Sure, you’ll find a few diamonds in the rough, but with literally thousands of movies at our fingertips, well, that’s a lot of rough. But if you really want to see something, just fork over the dough. It saves time, and more importantly it saves you the aggravation of watching a really crappy movie like The Night Before.

Just make sure you finish within 48 hours of starting it. Another hard lesson learned.

Movies Since Last Post:

Super Dark Times
Blade Runner 2049
Loving
Jerry Before Seinfeld
Blue is the Warmest Color
Prof. Marston and the Wonder Women
Cashback
Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Why Him?
Blair Witch
Black Hawk Down
Thor: Ragnarok
Only Living Biy in New York
Ingrid Goes West
Spielberg
Ratatouille
The Big Chill
Take This Waltz
Greenberg
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Just Peck
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond
Lady Bird

Just over a month to go, and I just eclipsed 150 movies with “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond,” the Netflix doc about the making of Man on the Moon. If you don’t know much about Andy Kauffman, or about what Jim Carrey did to play him in the movie, you might not be that interested, but to me, it was really interesting. Carrey is a bit of a freak, but somehow, also strangely compelling.

I had a sobering moment last week that made me think a lot about the movie-going experience, and since this whole experiment was supposed to be about how we take in movies these days. I wanted to write about it. My friend John and I went to see Justice League, but upon arriving at the theater, we learned that the showtime we needed was the 4D Experience. For the uninitiated, that means that your seat moves, they blow air and mist at you at appropriate times depending on the action in the movie, lights flash when someone shoots a gun onscreen, and they even pump smells in for odorous scenes. Sounds like fun, right? I did wonder as we were walking in if this would actually make this movie memorable, because the trailers (not to mention almost every DC movie ever) have been rather underwhelming.

You should note above that Justice League is not listed as a movie that I have seen since my last post. After about 8 minutes of creaking seats, rushing air and flashing lights, John and I decided that this was a horrible thing to do. We got up as soon as a moment arrived where we didn’t feel like the seats would jolt us to the ground and left. Like I said about 8 minutes in, which was about 7 minutes after John turned to me and said, “I hate this.” Thankfully, we were within the half-hour window that the theater will give you a refund, so we got our $23 back and went to a bar, with not a regret in sight.

I know that movie attendance has been down in recent years, but I’m not sure that this is the answer to that problem. For one thing, even though we watched a few scenes, I can’t remember anything that happened in them. I think Batman fought some guy, and then Wonder Woman fought some guys. I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening on the screen because the chair was constantly moving and there was the sound of rushing air in my ears every few seconds. And I don’t know if anyone else in the theater was paying attention, either, because every chair movement was accompanied by the requisite “oohs” and “ahhs.” There may have actually been some dialogue in the movie, but I don’t think I heard any of it. Normally, that kind of behavior in a theater would have me enraged, but this time, it didn’t bother me because the whole experience already had me annoyed.

This kind of thing may fly for a ten minute Harry Potter ride, but for a two-hour movie, it’s just a bad idea. Maybe it’s the movie purist in me, but how is a person supposed to follow a plot when they’re being distracted by all this stuff every two seconds? I know, I know, following a plot is silly for most folks, but it’s what I do. Otherwise, why watch a movie? To be entertained? Pfft.

But this is the world we live in. Thousands and thousands of people just like being mindlessly entertained when they watch a movie. I guess our jobs and our lives are so stressful that that’s what we need to do to fill the time when we have it. There’s not inherently anything wrong with that attitude. However, that’s why Michael Bay movies not only exist but thrive in our culture. I know I’m shooting fish in a barrel here, but the guy has legitimately never made what any smart person would call a “good movie.” But the 4D experience seems like an unnecessary step beyond that. Have people become so simple-minded that we can’t just sit for a couple hours and watch a movie without all this extra razzle-dazzle? Apparently not. But as we were leaving the theater, the little old lady who took our tickets asked why we were leaving so soon, and we said we couldn’t stand the 4D experience. She then told us that the kids love it, so I guess that’s the demographic they shoot for. John replied, “Well, we’re old and grouchy.”

Of course, Justice League‘s box office would seem to indicate that no matter what they try to do to enhance the experience, it doesn’t really make a difference. It has eclipsed $300 million overseas, for a combined haul of $81 million worldwide, so “boo-hoo,” right? Still, it is way below projections, so who knows what this means for the future of the DCEU? They have a whole bunch of movies lined up starring these characters (ones that aren’t Batman and Wonder Woman), so I’m not sure who would be interested in seeing those. I probably won’t be, even in a real theater. And not to poop in their gym bag even more, but Thor: Ragnarok has been making money at a pretty steady pace, crossing $500 million overseas, and also has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to Justice League’s 41%.

I’m not really sure what it all means, except that they should just let the movie speak for itself. If it’s good enough, people will enjoy it and remember it. If you feel the need to make it into a ride, then you maybe need a few rewrites.

Of course, having said that, I did have a great movie-going experience that had some added razzle-dazzle. The big differences were that this was an older movie that I had seen many times, so the extra stuff wasn’t a distraction. The other big difference was that the razzle-dazzle was actually an orchestra. I’m referring my Halloween viewing of Nightmare Before Christmas accompanied by the Boston Pops.IMG_20171031_195046.jpg

This was definitely a cool new way to experience both a movie and a night at the symphony. This time, it wasn’t distracting because they were playing along with the actual movie, and they weren’t blowing mist on me when it snowed or anything. If you’re going to spice up a movie, that’s the way you do it. Instead of dumbing it down, why not add an orchestra?

Movies Since Last Post:

Straight Outta Compton
The Neon Demon
T2: Trainspotting
A Liar’s Autobiography
Crash
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Battle of the Sexes
Fatal Attraction
Death Note
V for Vendetta
Welcome to Me
Song to Song
Cloverfield

I’m hoping to dash this post off in at least less time than it just took me to watch Cloverfield. I mean, I know found footage movies can’t too long or else they’ll run out of ways to make it look like the person filming isn’t just being an idiot, but with a running time of 1:25, it hardly seems worth the effort. Still, monster movies are always fun on some level.

So, midway through October, and I am at 127 movies for the year. The only movie I saw at a theater in that span was Battle of the Sexes, and I feel that not going to a theater severely impacts the quality of films that I take in. Of the above films, Trainspotting 2 was better than I thought it would be, and Welcome to Me had some funny moments, and I recommend any fan of Monty Python see A Liar’s Biography, an animated doc about the life of Graham Chapman (narrated by himself, from before he died), this was a pretty “meh” crop of movies. It’s probably not kosher to say that about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the one that started it all, but really, it doesn’t hold up.

In fact, a lot of these movies that I have always meant to see, like that one, Fatal Attraction, Crash, and V for Vendetta, have all been rather underwhelming. Part of it is definitely watching them on a small computer screen, because a lot of these movies were made before that kind of thing was even possible. Still, either I’m just getting even more cynical, or sensibilities have changed a lot since the 70’s and 80’s.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that it’s not me for once, and that a lot of movies actually don’t hold up. It’s a reasonable statement, given how technology has evolved to a point where things that were just not possible back in the day are now possible, so visually, yeah, of course, movies made today will look better. But it’s more than that. For example, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was made, the trend back then was long tracking shots of spaceships (like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a bunch of other bad sci-fi movies made back then.) Today, because we’ve seen spaceships in movies a billion times, we don’t really need those kinds of establishing shots.

Also, I would like to think that I am not a victim of the cultural “lessening of collective attention-span,” but I think it’s time to face up to the fact that that is just not true. The reality is I want a faster pace just like any grown-up kid. Maybe even more because now I feel that my time is precious.  There have definitely been many movies out of this illustrious 127 that left me saying, “Nothing really happened.” I must admit (and I could probably make a whole post about this one), that I found Blade Runner, which I finally watched to prepare for the new one, to be one of those movies. I mean, could someone tell me what happened in that movies? My initial reaction was that, other than Rutger Hauer gouging that guy’s eyes out, nothing happened. Although that was pretty awesome.YoureHurtingMyEyes.CinematicMinutiae.com_2

Now, you may be thinking, “Hey, jerk, didn’t you want to be a screenwriter? Are you judging these filmmakers? Because clearly they made it and you didn’t.” Indeed I did want to be a screenwriter, and indeed I am kind of judging them, and indeed, I don’t really have a leg to stand on. Still, as I said in an earlier post, movies take a lot of money and time and effort to make, so I am trying to give them their due. I realize that a lot of people may watch something like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and think, “Well, it was a nice escape for a couple of hours.” But unless I was actually watching that movie with Aubrey Plaza sitting next to me, sharing the most delicious popcorn in the world, there’s no way I could say that it was a pleasant diversion. In fact, if I was sitting next to her while watching that stinker, I would pull out my new favorite meme on her:

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I just couldn’t resist.

The point I wanted to make was that there is definitely something to be said for sitting in a theater and experiencing a movie with other people. I know that’s not exactly blazing a trail, but it is certainly getting lost on people these days, and certainly on me after watching only 23 out of 127 movies this year in a theater. That many trips to a theater might be a lot for some, but for me, it’s just not enough.

I get that going to the movies is not always easy. It’s expensive, it’s crowded, there are too many previews, there are morons looking at their phones, but it’s still one of the best forms of entertainment we have (even in this “Golden Age of Television.”) And in this day of cord-cutting, and Netflix and Hulu going with more shows and fewer movies (and most of them really rotten), if you’re a movie guy, it’s worth it to spend the time and money to go out and experience a movie in the theater. With the morons. There, I said it.

Movies Since Last Post:

VHS Massacre
South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Rampart
Wind River
The Boy
Hell or High Water
Nocturnal Animals
Sully
The Wall
Magnificent Seven
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Batman & Harley Quinn

It’s been a month since my last post, and I think I have some serious ground to make up. Because of a vacation and some other family stuff, I have watched only 11 movies in that span, and didn’t watch any between August 11th and August 24th. I feel I am sort of entering the home stretch, and I am at a rather sorry 114 movies for the year. Better than my total of 20 years ago, when I had no internet to aid me, but way off my desired goal. I can probably get to 150 if I really work at it, but 200 seems unattainable at this point. I mean, I could do it if I watch a movie almost every day for the rest of the year, or actually sequester myself in my home and do nothing else, but that seems like a stupid thing to do for this silly quest (even sillier than buying every Nintendo game, in fact.) Let’s face it; are there 86 movies available to me that I actually want to watch?

 

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How have I not used this before?

 

This is the problem I find myself with, in fact. When looking over the list, for every movie I find that I really enjoyed and felt enriched by, and wondered why I didn’t see it before (like Nocturnal Animals or Hell or High Water), I probably watched three that made me wonder why I wasted my time (The Boy). Or more importantly, why the people that made the film wasted their time (Magnificent Seven. Seriously, was that whole movie just an excuse for Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington to hang out?).

What I’ve discovered this year is that watching movies is a fun activity and a great distraction, naturally. And a movie like Wind River was something I would have seen, anyway. But forcing yourself to watch a movie to add another one to a list is not the way to go about the movie experience. It’s almost like those bars that have a mug club that you can only get into when you drink 50 different beers. It sounds like a fun little venture until you realize that a lot of the beers aren’t something you would ever drink if you had the choice. And I’m not even getting a mug at the end of the year. Maybe I’ll buy myself a movie poster or something to commemorate the occasion.

I have very often (like almost daily) found myself having some spare moments and scrolling through movie titles in the hopes of finding one that is around 90 minutes so that I can fit it in a small window of time. This is, of course, ridiculous because I can always pause it and come back to it at any time (unless it’s a rental and expires in 48 hours.) Naturally, the optimum viewing experience is to watch a movie in one sitting, and I’m sure the filmmakers are hoping that you’ll be so engrossed that you won’t want to shut it off, but let’s be honest here; out of the 114 movies I have watched this year, other than seeing them in a theater, how many times have I actually done that?

This is the psychological aspect of this experiment that I did not predict in January (well, it might have crossed my mind.) I figured I might be pressed for time, or that the opportunities to see movies themselves would dry up (I also didn’t predict that Amazon would have that many), but the fact that I would just burn out, and so soon, was something that did not anticipate. Now, it’s not like watching a movie is hard work. All it involves is sitting there and looking at a screen. I could literally be doing it right now instead of writing this. But I wasn’t planning on changing my whole lifestyle just to see if I could watch a lot of movies a lot of different ways. I mean, I still enjoy watching baseball, and Game of Thrones, and Fargo, and sometimes crap reality TV. And I enjoy going out to dinner, and sometimes even having conversations with people. I guess I sort of have this old-school mentality that dictates when I decide to watch a movie, I am making that commitment to that movie, and if life happens and I have to pause it, so be it. But I have started that thing and I’m going to finish it, by God.

I hope, in the end, it will actually be worth something, because as I look at the list, I see a lot of movies that I will probably never think about again, will probably never come up in conversation ever, or I will barely remember, unless I actually meet Brie Larson one day. And yet I watched them because they fit into my window and they were available for streaming. I guess that’s one lesson I can take away from all this, and maybe something we can all learn from this experiment: with all these streaming services, just because a movie is there doesn’t mean you need to watch it. Or perhaps Jeff Goldblum, playing one of my favorite movie characters of all-time, said it better in Jurassic Park:

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I guess I’m just saying that movies, uh, find a way.

Movies Since Last Post

Passengers
Personal Shopper
Arrival
Despicable Me 3
Hacksaw Ridge
Southpaw
Killing Zoe
Pacific Rim
Atomic Blonde
War Machine
Complete Unknown
Dunkirk (70mm)
Raging Bull
An Inconvenient Sequel
The Accountant
Bronson

On August 5th, I reached 100 movies for the year. If memory serves, that was my total for all of 1997, the year that my belligerent Film professor told me that everyone in Hollywood watches hundreds of movies a year, so I figured I needed to do the same (I remember this statement conjuring a picture in my head of Oliver Stone, whom I was a big fan of at the time, walking out of a Blockbuster with his arms full of those bulky VHS tape boxes. I really didn’t know how Hollywood worked back then.)

I never made it in Hollywood, but I made it to 100 then, and I have made it now. A quick glance over my spreadsheet reveals a few things that I found mildly interesting. For example, out of 100 movies, I have only watched 3 DVD’s. In fact, one of my goals was to watch some of the DVD’s that I have lying around the apartment that I have never seen. So, you can see how well that worked out. I have also only watched two movies at the totally awesome Showcase Superlux, which used to be an experience in itself because it was the first theater in the area that allowed you to pick your own seat and have a server bring you a meal and a beer while you ate. I think since other theaters have begun to catch on, it is no longer the experience it once was. Or I’ve become really cheap. I’m also very proud to say I went to one drive-in, so that’s something.

drive

The winners, if you want to call them that, are hands down Amazon Prime and Xfinity, my cable provider. And I don’t mean “winners” because I give them so much money, although that is certainly true. I mean that they have been most-used platforms this year, accounting for just over half of the movies I have watched all year. Part of the reason is because it’s so easy and there is a lot more of a selection, and the other part is because I want to try to get my money’s worth out of them, especially Xfinity, which is a ridiculous bill every month.

I think I am in the minority, at least among my friends and peers, because I have not participated in what is known in the TV industry as “cord-cutting.” Because I lived a small part of my life without cable, and I like sports and hate commercials, I get the ultimate cable package, the whole digital deluxe, high-def, DVR, talk-to-the-remote ball of wax. And I like it. I kind of wish I didn’t, really, because it is a lot of money, and I’m sure if something happened, like Trump took everybody’s cable away to help pay for World War III, I could live without it (until he blows up the world), but for now, I don’t need to find out what a cable-less life would be like. Besides, when Trump does do something stupid with North Korea, I’m going to want CNN.

patrick-chappatte---nzzas

The other platforms, other than actual theaters, Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, all were used about the same amount, surprisingly. I have watched six movies on Google Play, and it probably would be more if they had more sales (Two of them were $.99 and one was $1.99). Google does seem to have the best variety, but I don’t have the budget to pay $4.99 and up for all the movies I want to see. Which is why I should be using Netflix more, since I already pay for that. Unfortunately, they have a much smaller selection, indicated by the fat that I have only watched seven movies on there this year. I actually watched ten on Hulu, but mostly because they had some originals I wanted to see, and I also wanted to get my money’s worth. (I just realized I talk a lot about money in this post. I must be cheap.)

After a hundred movies and counting, though, I will say this for sure: in my opinion, the best way to watch a movie is in a theater. While I have watched many more movies digitally, I have watched most of them on my couch. I have, however, ventured out to eight different venues to see some really good movies. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a beautifully shot movie in 70mm (Dunkirk), I went to a drive-in, and I had a hilarious exchange with the guy next to me while seeing Atomic Blonde. During an intense action scene, “I Ran (So Far Away)” by Flock of Seagulls was playing on the soundtrack, and the wife of the guy who was sitting next to me takes out her phone to use that app that can hear songs and tell you what they are (I mean, who doesn’t know that song? These people weren’t youngsters.) I politely motioned for her to put the phone away because it was distracting, and the guy turned to me and said, “What’s the problem? She’s just trying to find out the name of the song!” I told him, in so many words, that was, in fact, my problem.

Despite incidents like that, I really like going to the movies, and that’s why stuff like that bothers me so much.  It’s not enough to say, “Please silence your cell-phones.” The message at the beginning needs to be something like, “Take out your phone for anything other than a medical emergency, and you will be expelled, possibly without your phone. And pants.” Something to get people’s attention.

take ass out

I really wish they would open an Alamo Drafthouse near me.

Movies Since Last Post: 

Slumdog Millionaire
Bull Durham
The Shallows
Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates
Sound City
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Baby Driver
The Matrix
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

It’s been almost a month since my last post, and I only watched 10 movies in that time. Granted, there was a holiday in there, but I’m not making excuses. I’m at 86 movies, but I really need to be better. The very fact that I watched Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates will tell you that fatigue is setting in.

I will say, however, that with the exception of Mike and Dave, and possibly The Shallows, this selection does focus more on quality over quantity, and mostly because of Baby Driver. If you haven’t seen (or heard of) it, then I recommend you go and check it out now. Out of the 86 movies I’ve watched in 2017, it probably tops the list as the most entertaining. But also, if you’re a fan of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, or music in general, check out Sound City. It’s another of those documentaries that you’ve probably never heard of, about the studio that recorded so many great albums of the late-70’s and early-80’s, and81F01HtwEML._SY445_ then had a comeback in the early 90’s, so if you like these kinds stories about how famous people got to be famous, or good music became great, go find that one.

However, despite the fact that there were some good movies in this crop (including Bull Durham. How did I never watch that? I must not be a baseball fan!), there was also a whole lot of “meh.” This is something that I haven’t experienced a lot of in my movie-watching history. I usually find movies really good, or really bad (or sometimes so bad, they’re good!) There was definitely a time when I would have watched The Shallows, which is 90 minutes of Blake Lively not getting eaten by a giant shark, and just thought it was the stupidest movie ever made (and certainly the ending was totally ridiculous), but in 2017, I watched it and sort of shrugged. And for a movie like that, a shrug should be taken as a compliment.

It seems that, in this year of movies, one unforeseen side effect is building up a tolerance to these “meh” movies. I mean, don’t get me wrong, some moves are still bad (and I’m looking at you, Baywatch), but a lot of the movies I’ve watched this year, and especially the more recent ones (Ex Machina, Children of Men, both of those Planet of the Apes movies), have left me feeling not much of anything. I will say that they allowed me to add another movie to the tally, so at least that was a plus, but overall, that’s really all it was. In fact, when I looked back at my Google sheet, I couldn’t remember watching a couple of them until I read the little notes I made. Now I’m really glad I made those. Originally they were supposed to be so I could talk about how I watched it, but now it’s mostly because most of these movies aren’t very memorable.

I used to be very judgmental (I know. Can you believe it?) about the customers in the video store, and even the people wandering up to the ticket counter when I worked in the theater, who would come in with no idea what they wanted and just decide on any old movie, and the movie theater only had two screens. How can you decide to actually journey to a theater that’s only giving you two options and still not know what you were seeing? (Seriously, people walked up to the counter and asked, “Which one is better?”) I judged those people because they were essentially gambling with their time that they were going to see something good. I know there are several factors when deciding on a movie to watch (For example, my parents will literally watch any movie that happens to be playing at the theater they happen to be nearest when they finish lunch.), but, in my opinion, the chances that you are going to see something really enjoyable at that point are way less than 50-50. Probably more like a 20-1 shot. I used to chide my brother a little bit, because, as the father of twins, he didn’t have the opportunity to see a lot of movies that he wanted to see, and when those opportunities came along, he wouldn’t always make the best choices. But he would usually enjoy them on some level, and I didn’t really get why.

But that was me, The Movie Guy. Because I worked in L.A. for a very brief period, and I’ve done a lot of reading and taken a few classes on the business of Hollywood, I thought I knew enough to judge these numbskulls on why a movie was good or bad. Now, after watching 86 movies, and some of them holding my nose, I understand those people a little better. They don’t care. These people just want to let go of life for a bit and do something. My brother just wanted to do something, so who cares if the movie sucked? I don’t judge these people anymore. In fact, I envy them. But mostly, I get them. I look at it like this; I could go to a hockey game and not care a bit about who wins, but there will probably be a lot of people at that game who do. Most people probably don’t care about movies the way I don’t care about hockey, so who am I to judge them?

So when I say that I am seeing a lot of “meh” movies, yeah, it probably means that they weren’t very memorable, or not made very well, or just generally not very interesting, but also they weren’t Baywatch, so that’s at least something.

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Maybe movies should be like the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” That’s all we can hope for. Anything else is just gravy.

Before I go, if you’re interested in any of my other writings, you can check out the fully collected trade paperback of Robin Hood: Outlaw of the 21st Century, at Amazon.com here, and you can read issue #1 in its entirety for free at www.robinhoodcomicbook.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Movies Since Last Post: 

St. Elmo’s Fire
Stop Making Sense
True Stories
The Night Before
Wonder Woman
All Good Things
Nightmare on Elm Street (orig.)
Children of Men
Live Free or Die Hard
Dear Mr. Watterson
Stories We Tell
Outatime: Saving The Delorean Time Machine

That may look like a lot of movies, but a couple of them were shorty documentaries (That last one, about restoring the Delorean, was probably more suited as a DVD Extra, but there was still effort. I still had to pay attention.) I’m really having a hard time finding stuff that fits in with my goal here. A couple of these were things I always wanted to see, but mostly I’m just watching these so that I can say I’ve watched a lot of movies.  I also watched Children of Men because I got it confused with Children of God. At least Stop Making Sense was awesome!

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Same as it ever was

I wanted to talk a little about Wonder Woman in this post, and the world’s reaction to it, but as can be the case with most of pop culture these days, a lot of people have already forgotten about it by now. All I’ll say is that I’m glad people enjoyed it, and it was really entertaining until the last 20 minutes or so, and then I completely lost interest. Why do movies have to be so damn long these days? Especially when the climax was so overblown and ridiculous? Just kill the pasty, old white British dude and be done with it. And before people think that I’m just some DC-hating misogynist, I said the same thing about Guardians Vol 2. You’re making great movies, guys. I just need about twenty minutes less at the end.

What I really want to cover this week is a completely different aspect of movie consumption, which is not seeing the movie at all. Obviously, thousands of movies don’t get seen, for various reasons, but the main reasons I don’t watch a given movie is because it doesn’t appeal to me for one reason or another. Sometimes, though, even if the movie itself should appeal to me, I don’t see it, because it looks like it would be a horrible waste of my time. And so, I give you: Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.

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That’s about as excited as I was about this movie

If you think calling it “Tom Cruise’s The Mummy” is a snide, you’re right. It’s an old joke from my movie theater days when we used to refer to the movie Sister Act as “Harvey Keitel’s Sister Act,” especially amusing since it came out the same year as Reservoir Dogs.  Nobody deserves to have their name above a movie’s title, but if you’re going to do it, do it with some sass. Plus, in this case, it makes perfect sense, because casting Tom Cruise in this movie suddenly turns it from a monster movie into a Tom Cruise movie (a different kind of monster, I suppose.)

In a recent podcast interview I conducted with avid monster movie fan, Sam Furst, I was asked why I didn’t want to see the movie, and I said Tom Cruise was the main reason, which was true. Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlburg, Johnny Depp are names that instantly give me pause when it comes to movies, because the movies instantly become “star vehicles,” and whatever characters these guys are playing automatically take a back seat to the characters these guys play in real life. It’s not necessarily a story that they fit an actor into, but rather an actor that they fit into the role. In this case in particular, however, Tom Cruise seemed like a really bad choice, and not just because the movie’s gross has been incredibly disappointing. Although, it is falling about as fast as this chick:

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Universal, in their attempt to keep up with Disney and Warner Brothers, was using The Mummy to jumpstart their Dark Universe, which will apparently be comprised of all their old monster characters, like The Mummy, The Wolf-man, Frankenstein, etc. By casting Tom Cruise, you have already taken the focus off of the actual Mummy and put it on the star, and nobody had even seen a minute of the movie. I mean, does anyone go to see a Mission: Impossible movie because they were fans of the TV show? And to make matters worse, they also have Johnny Depp on tap to play The Invisible Man.

All that aside, I maybe would have suffered through Tom Cruise and watched The Mummy if I thought it looked like a good movie. Unfortunately, it did not. In fact, it looked horrible (and I’m not even talking about the trailer that they mistakenly released that had no sound effects. Just Tom Cruise screaming a lot.) The actual trailers looked pretty bad, and then there were even these really annoying vignettes that played in the theaters where Nick Miller and the girl with the knife legs from Kingsmen: Secret Service would not only talk about how great the movie was, but how great Tom was. I was really excited that the movie was finally coming out just so I wouldn’t have to watch those anymore. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m willing to bet that even with a different actor, I would have been a little nervous after seeing these trailers. But, I admit, I prejudged this movie based on Tom Cruise and some bad trailers.

Now, good movies can have bad trailers, and a bad trailer doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is bad, so sometimes you have to resort to other means to gauge a movie. Fortunately, we live in the Internet Age, and we have Rotten Tomatoes, right? Well, yes, but that may not be the most accurate method. When I pointed out to my podcast guest that The Mummy had a rather poor 17% rating, he said that that was merely the critics score (which has since fallen to 16%), and the audience scored it at 43%, which is still not amazing but much better than those dastardly, snarky, jerkface critics, right?

Not so fast! Because I was slightly suspicious of this score (call me crazy), I did some digging. While there are a lot of positive reviews, as well as a lot of people who said it was crap, there was also a disturbing amount of reviews from people who said, “I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m giving it five starts to counteract all the people who are giving it bad reviews who haven’t seen it yet.” Wha-wha-whhaaa?

Ok, while it is strange that someone would go on Rotten Tomatoes to leave a bad review for a movie they haven’t seen, it may be even stranger to leave a five-star “review” for that same movie because you feel bad for it somehow. When did movies get feelings? There are also a lot of people (Like Daniel T) who seem to want to post good reviews simply because so many other people are posting bad ones (“Don’t care what anyone says, I thought it was really good” Daniel spouts. And good on ya, I say! Take that stand!) And, as I alluded to in my last post, we’re not talking about some small indie flick that could really use the good publicity. We’re talking about a Tom Cruise movie. (Sadly, the audience review section for The Mummy on RT only goes back a couple weeks, so those reviews appear to be gone, even though there were supposedly 71 pages of them, I could only read up to page 51. Just take my word for it.)

The point is, all the good will I was feeling after my Manchester by the Sea review has been undone by people who leave good reviews simply because other people have left bad ones (and the one guy who said that all the critics are just “Trump supporting morons.”)  It seems that, no matter how many avenues we have to watch and review movies, there’s no real way to tell if a movie is worth watching unless you actually watch it, which kind of defeats the purpose of reviewing it, huh? In the end, I really have no idea what to think of The Mummy. I guess what it all boils down to is that I don’t think I will ever watch it, until I do.

What say you, Brie?

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RUN!

Movies Since Last Post:

Don’t Breathe
Starring Adam West
Tanner Hall
I Am Heath Ledger
Manchester by the Sea
Logan Noir
Ex Machina
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Becoming Bond
Baywatch
The Meaning of Life

I’m going to give myself a pass for two of the above movies. I Am Heath Ledger was a pretty short documentary made by Spike TV, but since I never specified anything about how long these things have to be, I’m giving myself that one. I’m also giving myself a pass for Logan Noir, even though I had seen Logan already (twice), because the black-and-white version really does change the tone that much. So, if you want to dock me two movies, go right ahead, but I’m counting them.

But at pretty much the half-way point, and I’m at 65 movies. I actually had envisioned being a little farther ahead by this point, but honestly, even with all the streaming services available, movies aren’t as easy to come by as I thought. Well, good ones, anyway. There are 35,250 movies available to stream on Amazon that are free with my Prime membership, but really, how many could I actually sit through? 4 or 5%, maybe?

Speaking of Amazon, however, I did encounter something interesting that I wanted to touch upon here after viewing the Amazon original Manchester by the Sea. After viewing it, Amazon sent me their obligatory email asking me how I liked it (which they do with all my purchases. Even cat litter and toilet paper.) Even though I don’t always respond, this time I decided I wanted to voice my opinion. I do this with movies sometimes, especially if it’s a movie that a lot of people seem to like and I myself do not. It’s probably an actual mental illness.

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Courtesy of Billy Eichner

In case you’re curious, you can read my review here, but the gist of it was that the movie was really not structured well because there was no real story arc. Spoiler warning here, (literally skip to the next paragraph if you care what happens) but the big moment at the end turns out to be Casey Affleck saying that “Just can’t beat it.” He goes back to his shitty life and his now-adopted son or whatever lives with someone else. And neither of them are seemingly better off for it. I have no idea what the point of the movie was if the end result is nothing happens to either of the main characters.

After my one paragraph review had been up for a couple days, I got another email from Amazon saying people had reacted to it. One person said that it was an “insightful review,” which I wasn’t sure was sincere, and they also wrote that even though the movie was “overrated,” they liked it. No problem, there, right? The second person, though, said that I missed it, that it was a human story about healing, and “the love of his nephew was winning him over,” and so on. I didn’t see any love between them at all, because all they did was swear at each other, but okay, this person saw something different. They then said they agreed with me about the script and that it didn’t need that much swearing, and when will Hollywood get that you don’t need to use bad words to tell a story.

Now, I never said anything about the script being bad because there were a lot of F-bombs. I didn’t even notice them, in fact. And while we’re on the subject, I have something to say to you, Amazon reviewer:

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Just kidding. I just needed to get Brie in here somewhere.

I replied to that person, thanking them for their response, and saying that it wasn’t the language that I didn’t like, but the structure. And I quote (myself): “Not every movie has to end with the Death Star exploding, but there should be something, some reason to make me go ‘Ah, now I see.'”

So I thought that was it, but then I got another response from a different person, saying that everything I thought was lacking in the movie, they found. They claimed that the movie was “subtle, and not suitably pop-zing enough apparently for the ADHD millennial crowd.” This I found completely hilarious, because I’m 41. Maybe I should take it as a compliment? They went on to say that the movie was “Not your typical hollywood empty calorie fare. The very good stuff in life is often an acquired taste.”

Ok, I get that. But that’s two reviewers who used the term “Hollywood” in a negative light, indicating, I suppose, that Manchester by the Sea was not made by some big studio who is only out to make a buck. No, of course not. it was made by Amazon.download.

All yucks aside, I wanted to bring all this up because I actually enjoyed this little back-and-forth (despite my disagreements with these people), and was kind of encouraged when I saw that 8 out of 11 people found my review helpful. I don’t know if that means they didn’t watch the movie or what, but in general, these conversations reminded me a little of my video store days, when a customer would ask for my opinion on what to rent. The owner of my store would always encourage his employees to engage the customers, feeling that’s what separated him from the Blockbusters of the world. I kind of hated it at the time, but looking back, I actually miss it. And he was totally right, because a person could wander around a Blockbuster for days looking for anything worth renting (similar to how I scroll through Amazon’s 35,250 crappy movies looking for one to watch these days.)

I’m sure if I kept writing reviews I would eventually encounter someone who disagrees so harshly that they would start a whole flame war, much like I would encounter video store customers who didn’t give a damn what movies I would recommend. But for those brief moments, and I guess for those 8 people who supposedly found my review helpful, I feel like I made a difference. I don’t know if I’ll be reviewing more, but who knows? I’ve also heard that if you write enough reviews, Amazon will start giving you free stuff. And God knows, I have a lot to say, and about six more months of movies to go.

Movies Since Last Post: 

Short Term 12
Cabin Fever (2002)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
All Things Must Pass
The Founder
The Girl on the Train
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Collosal
Batman & Bill
The Trouble with Bliss
Into the Wild

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted, and a big crop of movies, which is great, because it puts me at 53 for the year so far. So, on average, that puts me on a good pace, but the average may be skewed a little, since I did watch three in one day last Friday. I admit it’s a bit of a cheat, because my job required me to babysit an event, so I was asked to sit in an AV booth all day, and it was suggested I bring my laptop, so I watched two movies, and then went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that night. So, banner day for me, but there probably won’t be a lot of triple-features for the rest of the year.

The cool thing about that day was that I broke new ground by trying out Google Play, which allows you to rent or buy movies, same as Amazon or whatever. So, I paid $4.99 to watch The Founder, the movie about Ray Kroc, and the discovered that I got a second one for $.99, so I rented The Girl on the Train, the movie about drunk Emily Blunt (Thank God it was only $.99, because it was a basic Lifetime movie with a slightly better cast.)  For some reason, I was more willing to pay Google for a movie than some of these other companies. Maybe I just feel like I’ve given Amazon enough money, but also that whole 24-hour watching period debacle put a bad taste in my mouth. There also seems t be a slightly better quality of movie on Google Play, so there’s not as much sifting through as there is on some of these other sights.

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Speaking of other sites, I started my 30-Day free trial on Hulu, so that I could see what they had and compare them to the other venues. Despite what I wrote about in my last post, Hulu’s movie selection was not as abundant as I hoped. I basically opened an account because they had Brie Larson’s breakout role in Short Term 12 for free, while other sites were charging, but despite the fact that I have watched five movies on there this month, I kind of have to call it a failed experiment. Although, they are the only site that has the very cool documentary Batman & Bill, based on one writer’s quest to get Bill Finger credit for being a creator of Batman, because it’s a Hulu Original, something that I didn’t know existed. It’s been good to nail down a few of the ones I was hoping to watch this year for free, but mostly it’s like that junky old video store that you would goimages to as a last resort when you were dying to watch something. They also have a very weird way of categorizing movies, as they list Thomas the Tank Engine: Muddy Matters under Action/Adventure. I’m sure it’s a wild adventure for Thomas, but there’s no way in the world that his movie should be in the same section as The Hateful Eight.

The real problem I’m running into is the variety of movies. I was hoping Hulu would open up a whole new world of free movie (for a month, anyway), but in fact, all I found were the same movies that Amazon has listed in their “Included with Prime” section. For example, all the Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Hunger Games movies seem to be available on both platforms, plus a lot of really bad action and horror movies. I scroll through and keep coming across the same stupid B-movies over and over, and eventually I’ll probably be worn down enough that I’ll just watch one of them (It’s like my days of Internet Dating, only with movies).  I’m sure that this is some studio marketing thing, where you just put them in  front of as many eyeballs as possible, but in the context of my experiment, it’s not working. All is not lost, though, as I did unearth this hopefully helpful article on Paste Magazine’s website.

We all know that the business model of TV is changing constantly (I’m now hearing rumors of Facebook getting into it with 5-10 minute original shows, or full-length shows with one commercial in the middle), but what does it all mean for movies? Hollywood just avoided a writer’s strike which was primarily about royalties for streaming content (among other things). Obviously, Netflix and Hulu survive purely on their subscriptions, so you don’t have to pay extra for their movies, but that’s all they got. Amazon can charge for Prime, and then have a lot more movies available that are included, because they can make money on everything else they sell (which is everything else.) They weird thing is, I definitely don’t consider Amazon Prime a rip-off, because I get free two day shipping and all that, but I pay for Netflix every month and almost never use it unless there’s a new Marvel show on (and I haven’t watch any of Iron Fist yet. Heard it stinks!) So, I can imagine that the same could be said for Hulu if I was thinking about staying around when my free month expires (which I’m not.) I could see if I got rid of cable, which a lot of people are doing, then it might be worth it. But I really like my sports, so I’m sticking with cable.

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Totally my house every Sunday, man!

Speaking of cable. I pay an obscene amount of money forcable, internet and phone (which I don’t even have), plus the DVR, HD channels, the remote that you can talk to, and everything else they offer, but out of the 53 movies I’ve watched this year, only 11 have come from Xfinity. Now, they also offer the ability to rent movies, but I already pay a crapload of money for cable, why should I pay $6 more just to watch something that maybe-kinda came out sorta recently? Especially when it will probably be available in a couple months on one of the many movie channels I subscribe to?

Because we’re consumers, that’s why. So, if I have to pay Google to watch something, I guess I will. At least I’ve given them less money so far than all these other websites. I mean, my Pixel was a lot, but, whatever. Still better than an iPhone.

Movies Since Last Post: 

Fate of the Furious
The Gift (2015)
Planet Hulk
Lincoln
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Free Fire
Nasty Baby
The Deerhunter
The Hurt Locker

The 2017 movie tally now stands at 41 (Hey, one for every year of my life), and while that’s not horrible for 4 months, I have a small fear that things may start to slow down. For one, baseball season is in full swing, but that’s a minor problem. Here is what I may think will be the issue, and it’s not something I could have predicted; We really like TV shows.

Between Netflix and Amazon, the perception was that I could find basically any movie I wanted. I was only limited by my imagination. I mentioned in a previous post that I was a video store jockey, and when I started this quest, I figured it would be similar to going to a video store back in the day. Aisles and aisles of movies, divided up by genre and usually even alphabetized for you, all for the renting. Really, your only nemesis was if another customer was thinking the same way you were. And if you happened to be at a Blockbuster, that was not always an issue because, if your choice was a popular new release, they would literally order a billion copies of it. So, as long as you didn’t have super-eclectic tastes, you would probably go home happy.

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Did anyone actually rent my staff picks?

But the game has changed. Now, if I am just trying to spend an evening watching a movie, I can go to Amazon, click on Prime Video, and the very top bar is a scrolling ad for Amazon’s original series’. Below that, I get Recommended Movies and then Recently Added Movies. Fair enough. I’m sure they’ve done their research and determined that people like to watch shows, and hey, it’s not like it’s a lot of work to scroll down an inch to see what movies they have. So I’ll stop whining.

Heh, no I won’t. I’m making a point here. Similarly, Netflix, a site where you can’t even buy other cool stuff like cat litter and toilet paper, has a lovely scrolling ad promoting their original series, and a whole lot of comedy specials, which I find interesting. Again, Netflix and Amazon have tons of customer data that says that we like shows (and I guess people like comedy specials). So that’s what they give us. I don’t blame them for not catering to some weirdo who wants to watch a lot of movies in a year and has a thing for Brie Larson.

The interesting part, though, is that the number of movies on Netflix is around 4500, and dropping. And according to Variety, Amazon Prime Video has “four times as many films available for streaming.” Funny thing is that Hulu has jumped ahead of Netflix, “with 3,588 shows and 6,656 movies,” as of last March. Netflix has apparently not disputed the fact that they are moving away a little from obtaining the rights to existing titles, instead choosing to invest in original content, estimating spending “more than $6 billion [in 2017], investing about 5% of its cash content budget in original films.” Original films doesn’t sound that bad, but it doesn’t exactly replace the video store. I’m actually wondering where the Hell they get $6 billion in the first place. I know everyone has it nowadays, but that’s a lot of lettuce.

Back to that stat about Amazon, though. it’s all well and good to say that they have 4 times as many movies as Netflix, but what does it matter of most of those movies are shit? A quick glance at the first few comedy movies they suggest to me shows Daddy’s Home, Dirty Grampa and… Classic TV Bloopers? Hey, I get that we all need a a laugh once in awhile, but if I go to Amazon because I want to spend an evening watching a movie, I’m probably not interested in watching Classic TV Bloopers. Call me crazy.

So, they have a lot of crap, and I spend a lot of time scrolling and searching for something that I can watch. In fact, I am limited to my imagination, but I’m also kind of limited to what they happen to be highlighting at a certain point (I’m probably going to end up watching The Purge: Election Year at some point, just because it’s there.) This is what lead me to Nasty Baby, which was a pretty nasty movie starring Kristen Wiig as a straight woman who has agreed to be a surrogate mother to a gay couple. Maybe if they had played it a different, that would have made for a good premise, but instead the thing just took a turn and went straight to Crazy Town. I love Kristen Wiig, but this was not one of her better moments (especially the actual moment when they actually showed her injecting herself with the guy’s… stuff. I know it’s a visual medium, but, damn.)

There’s still the old tried-and-true movie theater, though, right? And with summer here, I’ll sure to be hitting the reclining seats more often. Why, yes, however, there’s a little hook there, too. And it coincides with this posts’ Brie Larson pick: the indie shoot-’em-up comedy Free Fire (which I highly recommend)I saw this at the Assembly Row theater in Somerville, which still kind of has the “new theater smell” going on. First of all, the young woman next to me was completely shocked when the first guy got shot (I’m not sure what movie she thought she was seeing, but even if you have no idea what it’s about, it started out with a bunch of dudes buying a bunch of guns, so there’s a good chance somebody is going to get shot.) She kept talking to her boyfriend, even after I told them to quiet down, in so many words. After the gun play really got going, she got up and left and never came back. So, no harm done, I guess.

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In so many words…

But here’s the real kicker: with about five minutes left in the movie, three people come in, phones out, voices loud, and start searching for their seats. Again, I tell them to please keep it down (in so many words), but they don;t seem to understand that they are either very late or very early. Finally, someone else in the theater tells them that there’s only a few minutes left, and they need to get out. Of course, a few minuets later when we are all exiting the theater, these three idiots are standing at the door. I checked the next showtime, and it turns out, it didn’t start for another forty minutes. First of all, these dummies walked in to a dark theater 45 minutes before their show and don;t seem to notice that there’s a movie going on. And what’s even more annoying is that the theater employees obviously let them in and didn’t tell them that their show wasn’t seating yet. Unless they were trying to “double feature” it, but there was only five minutes left, anyway, so they deserved to get yelled at.

I could (and maybe will) do a whole post on how little patience I have for people who don’t know how to behave in a movie theater, but at the moment, suffice it to say:

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So, I guess the point of all this is that this experiment might be a little harder going forward. The solution might just be to get a Hulu account.