Last of the April Netflix Updates

Netflix has released the first season of their new series, Hemlock Grove. I love House of Cards so I’m sure to give Hemlock a spin.

Safe

Action: Safe

Comedy: Tom Green: Live, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Drop Dead Fred, Are We There Yet?, What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Documentary: Just Like Being There

Drama: Girl in Progress

ParaNorman

Family: ParaNorman

Copper

Television: Hemlock Grove, Copper, Continuum, Top of the Lake, Kitchen Nightmares (U.S. – first two seasons), Small Town Security, Dark Matters: Twisted But True and new seasons of Flying Wild Alaska and Gold Rush

Thriller: House of Bodies, The Paperboy

Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Star Wars

 

Sorry to mislead you – I’m going to talk about Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Star Wars individually.

Netflix

* Netflix intends to add a new plan for $12 that allows users to stream four shows at once (in addition to the current $8, two stream option). I can’t imagine streaming four different Netflix shows simultaneously in a single household but perhaps you have an extended family with diverse interests.

*Netflix updated their iOs app. The new interface isn’t revolutionary but is a bit slicker than the old one.

* As if it wasn’t obvious already, if Netflix were a cable network it would be the leading one. BTIG Research indicates that there are likely 28.1 million subscribers, each watching an average of 87 minutes of Netflix a day.

*Are you imagining Netflix for Google Glass? Now picture people driving with Google Glass and Netflix.

Tatooine Beach

* In just a few short months, we’ve gone from no more Star Wars movies ever to Disney’s current plan of a new Star Wars film EVERY summer starting in 2015. Between that and Star Wars land at the Disney parks, Disney got a lot of bang for their buck.

Amazon Prime* Amazon Prime users can now watch their 14 series pilots for FREE and help decide which should become a full series. There are eight comedies (including a Zombieland spinoff) and six children’s shows.

Regal Biltmore Grande 15 – Asheville, NC

Biltmore Grande

The Regal Biltmore Grande 15 or, as I look at it, the butt-numb-a-thon theater. Even though this theater is closer than the Carolina, I typically only come here for the marathons they show. I have attended the Dark Knight marathon (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), the Lord of the Rings marathon (all three films in extended editions), and the Die Hard marathon (I should have left after the first four – the fifth was terrible). On May 2nd, I will be there for the Iron Man marathon (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers 3D, Iron Man 3 3D).

Iron Man Marathon

The marathons run $20-$30 and include a coupon for a $5 medium combo. I always upgrade the drink to the large bucket (a ridiculous 64 oz.) so it lasts all day. Sad piggy that I am, I also look forward to the flight of mini-hot dogs on marathon day. I look at these as mini-vacations and always look forward to the next one.

Hot Dog Flight

The Biltmore Grande has nice stadium seating throughout, clear, large screens, and good audio. Their RPX auditorium has an even larger screen with even better audio. Unfortunately there is an upcharge for RPX and Biltmore Grande’s ticket prices are expensive for this area.

Regal has a FREE reward card. You get one point for every dollar spent but are limited to twenty points a day. Every fifty points nets you a reward – the usual rotating drink, popcorn, movie ticket (not good on 3D, RPX, or new movies). They have $2 Candy Mondays and $2 Popcorn Tuesdays.

Seniors and children are $7. Matinees are $7.50. Evenings are $10.25. 3D upcharge is $3.50 (highest in area). RPX 3D surcharge is $5. Biltmore Grande does not have a kitchen but has a wide range of concessions. Concessions are a bit pricy.

Biltmore Grande is a nice choice if top-notch audio and video are of paramount importance to you. It is high quality without the bells and whistles and they charge a price commensurate with that.

Storage 24 & Bag of Bones

Storage 24 and Bag of Bones are currently available on instant Netflix.

Storage 24Storage 24 (2012) – Rated R

“In this creepy thriller, an emergency power shutdown in London leaves four friends trapped by random circumstances in a cavernous storage facility. Before long, the group realizes that something lethal is inside the darkened warehouse with them.”

I love monster movies and I rarely get any these days. Over the last couple decades, horror movies have moved to make the villains either human or ghostly. The few monsters we get are almost invariably vampires or zombies (not that I mind those but they are overdone).

I’m not having much luck lately. Storage 24 is another not good film. It is a British horror movie and, as such, has a very small budget. The monster isn’t the worst that I’ve seen but they are wise to keep it under wraps for a bit.

Being trapped in a storage facility gives them a chance to use ducts a la Alien albeit at a far cheaper rate. Storage 24 follows fairly standard plot tropes but there are some nice humorous touches, mainly involving a particular toy. The ending, while telegraphed earlier in the film, is also a nice touch.

I think Storage 24 suffers most from coming right after the enormously fun British alien invasion film, Attack the Block. Still there is some fun to be had here if you don’t mind the cheap special effects and silly plot devices.

Bag of Bones

Stephen King’s Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

“Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

I looked forward to catching this as soon as it showed up on Netflix. My wife cannot handle intensely scary material but we have watched most of the Stephen King adaptations together. They satisfy my craving for the supernatural without unduly disturbing her. We began watching this and just a few minutes in, there was something under the bed. My wife screamed and that was the end of Bag of Bones.

Bag of Bones, like the novel, is very heavy on exposition. I think perhaps it needed to be filmed in three parts instead of two as things are very swiftly told in conversation, rather than unfolding over time. You also don’t get a feel for any of the characters except Mike Noonan.

The best I can say about Bag of Bones is that Pierce Brosnan is quite likeable. Annabeth Gish and Melissa George are wasted in throw away roles. Matt Frewer, despite fifth billing on imdb, has what amounts to a cameo appearance.

Watching Bag of Bones is essentially reading the Cliff’s Notes – you’ll get the gist of the story without any idea of what made the novel good. This was a really missed opportunity.

Total Retribution & Super Hybrid

 

Total RetributionTotal Retribution (2011) – Rated R

“Trapped on a space station orbiting Earth, a small army of human survivors are prepared to battle the undead in space. Among this group is an unexpected leader whose sole mission is to prevent the destruction of Earth.”

“I can smell you boy” – “Get a whiff of this you f*&^-clown”

Total Retribution is a really bland title. Opening credits show no indication of this being an Asylum film so there’s a good chance I’ll make it through to the end. It begins with a naked lady waking up on a space station (not dissimilar from Milla Jovovich’s wake up call in Resident Evil). While the nudity is distracting, it won’t take anyone long to discover that the special effects have even less of a budget than an Asylum movie.

Normally such a scene would end with the actress getting dressed but apparently more distraction is needed. Every actor delivers each line as though it is the most important they have ever spoken (see sample line above). Just as I’m about to turn it off, they switch from topless to full frontal. Shortly after that, our errant wanderer puts some clothing on and I rapidly lost interest.

This is science fiction on a micro-budget. The CGI creatures are ridiculous (the beach ball in Dark Star was more menacing), and both killer robots and zombie-like humans are thrown into the mix. Total Retribution is not any good but at least it ranks a smidge above an Asylum production.

Super HybridSuper Hybrid (2011) – Rated PG-13

When a mysterious car rolls onto the premises at a police impound garage in Chicago, the unsuspecting mechanics — who are used to seeing some pretty hot wheels — come face-to-face with a killer specimen.”

“Let’s see a show of hands, who thinks Hector and Al were killed by a man-eating car?”

Director Eric Valette and writer Benjamin Carr start out with the cute concept based on the word hybrid and then simply pattern the movie after Christine. Knowing that they don’t have much of a budget, they change the car to a generic black car (that is able to change its appearance) and set the entire movie in an underground parking garage.

Then someone said they needed a name actor to anchor the movie so someone else says, “what about that cute guy from Resident Evil: Apocalypse?”

“Jared Harris? Yeah he’s a really good actor but he’s busy on Mad Men.”

“No, the other one.”

“Iain Glen? No, he’s busy on Game of Thrones.”

“No, no, the other, other one.”

“Thomas Kretschmann? He just signed on as The Captain in The River.”

“Fine. How about Oded Fehr? Sleeper Cell is over and he appears to be done with Resident Evil. We can get him cheap and make him play Captain Ahab.”

Are there any jobs where fishnet stockings are considered proper attire? Other than actress, of course. I guess they used the same reasoning that Total Retribution did but since it is PG-13 rated, they show one of the actresses in their underwear and the other in fishnet and a lacy bra. Here’s a hint: If you are in a situation – any situation – where people start disappearing one by one, perhaps investigating on your own is not the brightest move.

The young cast is all game and they aren’t uniformly awful. The plot is absolutely ridiculous. Replace the word hybrid with the term serial killer and you wonder if anyone, ever, would decide to catch a serial killer on their own instead of calling the police. I could go on and on about how stupid the writing is but I think I’ve made my point.

Super Hybrid is a bad movie but a watchable one – at least it is much better than Total Retribution.

 

Seriously Just Don’t Bother – Super 40 Days and Nights of the Zombies

Ugh! The films I sit through for you, dear reader. The following films are currently available on Netflix if you are feeling masochistic.

 

40 Days and Nights40 Days and Nights (2012) – Not rated

“When a colossal tectonic shift causes the seas to rise 5,000 feet, microbiologist Tessa gathers together as much DNA as she can, while defense contractor Josh outfits a state-of-the-art “ark” in a desperate attempt to save every species on Earth.”

OMG I LOVE disaster movies and trust me this movie is a disaster. Asylum (run for your lives!) made this homage to Noah. Normally they pay a Dancing with the Stars caliber ‘star’ to appear in their films but this time they didn’t even bother with that step. Dialogue is dreadful, acting keeps pace with the dialogue, and the special effects look like they were rendered on TRS-80 CoCo. Asylum pictures are never worth your time.

Rise of the ZombiesRise of the Zombies (2012) – Not rated

“When the undead overrun San Francisco, a desperate group survives by locking themselves inside Alcatraz Prison and must gamble everything on finding a way to stop the zombie scourge before it’s too late.”

In 1977, actor Levar Burton was nominated for an Emmy for his role in Roots. Since then he starred in his iconic role as Geordi La Forge on Star Trek and has won 10 Emmy awards for Reading Rainbow. In 1980, actress Mariel Hemingway was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. In 2012, these two and perennial B-movie actor Danny Trejo ‘starred’ in Rise of the Zombies. What happened?

Rise of the Zombies certainly has a good premise – using Alcatraz as a modern refuge from the zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately it is made by Asylum. The special effects are bad (which is a step up from their usual awful), dialogue is atrocious, and you can tell who the name actors are because no one else can act. Absolutely not worth your time – I’ve yet to see the Asylum film that is.

Super CycloneSuper Cyclone (2012) – Not rated

“The entire East Coast of the United States faces the prospect of annihilation with a gigantic supercyclone bearing down on it. The only person capable of averting the catastrophe is a meteorologist with an untested plan for thwarting Mother Nature.”

Ack! Another Asylum feature. The terrible special effects show up in the first minute of the film with the poor acting immediately following. Our two real actors are Nicholas Turturro and Ming-Na. They fare no better than Mariel Hemingway and Levar Burton.

Step 1: Identify movie as an Asylum feature.

Step 2: Find something else to watch. *Click*

Great Smoky Mountains Railway

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

For our anniversary, I bought my wife an annual pass for the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. It’s a fun destination although it kills an entire Saturday when we go (two hours there, four and a half hour train ride, and two hours drive back).

Forces of Nature

The Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes you across Fontana Lake. The Fontana trestle bridge was featured in the Sandra Bullock movie, Forces of Nature. Great Smoky Mountain Railway was also featured in My Fellow Americans. If you take the Tuckasegee River excursion, you will pass by locations from Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive.

The FugitiveThe annual pass is an amazing bargain. It is $99 and nets you Crown Class seating whenever you ride (not the cheap seats but also not first class) with FREE soft drinks/tea/coffee for the ride in a souvenir tumbler. With each annual pass, you also get two FREE tickets to bring friends. The pass more than pays for itself just with the FREE tickets. Normal price for a Crown Class ride is $66. The only drawback to the pass is that it is NOT good for Dinosaur Train, The Polar Express, and other specialty train rides.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

On the train ride, there are plenty of fast food options including hot dogs and hamburgers. They also have musicians traveling through the cars. Both times we went, we heard music from The Freight Hoppers. When you finish back at the depot in Bryson City, don’t forget to stop at the Toy Train Museum (FREE with ticket stub).

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

See Monsters University for FREE

Monsters UniversityMonsters University is coming out June 21st. Our family loves Disney and Pixar. This is the first prequel to a Pixar film and even my granddaughter loves Sully and Mike Wazowski. See:

Monsters, IncUnfortunately this means that I have to come up with FOUR tickets for this movie and about a hundred dollars in soda, popcorn, and candy. Assuming you are in the same boat, here are numerous ways to score FREE tickets

* Purchase any of the Monsters, Inc. combo packs and enter the Disney Movie Rewards code for a FREE ticket to Monsters University. Okay it’s a pretty expensive way to get a ticket unless you were going to buy it anyway.

* Purchase six (yes, six) specially marked packages of Kellogg’s cereal, enter the codes, and get a FREE ticket to Monsters University. Sigh, again too expensive unless you were going to buy the cereal anyway.

* Purchase three specially marked packages of Magnum ice cream bars, enter the codes, and get a FREE movie ticket to any movie (most theaters participate). Drawback: I have yet to see this promotion in stores.

* Purchase four specially marked packages of Tony’s/Freschetta/Red Baron/Pagoda, enter the codes, and get a FREE movie ticket. The promotion is Iron Man 3 branded but the ticket is good for any movie. Limit two per household. I found this to be worthwhile using Wal-Mart ($3.33 per Red Baron pizza), not so much Ingles ($5.68 per pizza ugh).

* Finally use your Disney Rewards points to purchase movie tickets. It costs 425 points per ticket and there is a limit of four purchases per lifetime. I used mine all up to take everyone to Oz. Drawback: You have to catch these in stock – they go in and out all the time.

Don’t forget to sign up for Disney Movie Rewards. It’s FREE and even if you don’t buy DVDs, you can upload you movie ticket stubs for points. Also uploading your movie ticket stubs nets you bonus points if you later purchase the movie.

Cinebarre – Asheville, NC

CinebarreCinebarre, how I would love to love you. Cinebarre is Regal’s answer to the dine at the movies concept. The chain appears to show first-run films but our local Asheville branch shows second-run films.

Tickets are a very inexpensive $3. If that is too much for you, tickets are $2 on Tuesday. If that is still out of your price range then go after 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday or all day on Sunday when admission is only $1.

The first drawback to Cinebarre is that it is located in the worst mall I have ever seen. Not only could the anchor chains not survive but the mall couldn’t even support a Gamestop or a bookstore. The anchors for this mall are a discount-only Dillard’s (known locally as Dirty Dillards), a Dollar Tree, and a furniture store. Eclectic stores inside the mall include a soccer store, an indoor flea market stall, and Christian Karate. The only chain restaurant surviving is Chick-Fil-A. Anyway just ignore the mall, drive around the back, and there is Cinebarre.

Cinebarre Bar

Cinebarre has an outside screen on their wall where they occasionally show movies during the summer. There is always plenty of parking. I find that the box office is often unmanned but you can just go up to the bar and buy tickets. The interior of the building is plastered with over-sized classic movie posters and there are several seats and tables in the waiting area.

Cinebarre was planned as essentially an adults-only movie theater but their rules have evolved over the years. Here is the current iteration of the rules:

Cinebarre is an 18 and up establishment.
Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult over the age of 21.
No children under 3 years old are allowed except on Cry Baby Day.
Cinebarre caters to an adult clientele and strives to offer an entertaining and mature environment.

Under the current rules, I don’t find the audience any more or less disruptive than a normal theater. There are still people checking their cellphones and occasionally chatting as though they were in their living room.

The screens are fine, image clarity is fine, movie audio is fine – nothing special but no real defects. Tables and seats are laid out well with adequate room for patrons and waitstaff to pass through.

Cinebarre BreakfastCinebarre has a special brunch menu for Saturday and Sunday mornings including a make-it-yourself Mimosa kit. All menu items (normal and breakfast) are movie-themed. The Blade Runners (french fries), my favorite, are fresh and delicious. My daughter likes the Body Snatchers (potato skins). Food is pretty nice but boy does it get expensive fast – it is probably a good idea to have a meal before coming in or be prepared to drop about $25 per person.

Drinks are probably the most annoying thing on the menu. At a time when essentially all restaurants offer free refills as do most theaters (albeit on large size only), Cinebarre has two sizes, 20 oz. ($3.50) and 32 oz.($5), and neither one is refillable so if you need two 32 oz. Diet Cokes, be prepared to shell out $10 just for a soda.

The admission price is super, the food is good, and the movie experience nice (albeit at a price). So why don’t I love Cinebarre? Here goes – if you frequent any establishment enough times (restaurant, theater, or retail store), you will almost always encounter some problem that needs resolving. Every single time we have had a problem at Cinebarre (which is not often), that problem has been met with utter indifference by the management – the waitstaff can be uneven but are generally good.

By contrast, every time I have had a problem at the Carolina, it has been dealt with swiftly and politely by both management and staff. This difference is why we rarely go to Cinebarre but constantly go to the Carolina. I know if anything goes wrong while I am trying to enjoy myself at the Carolina, it will be taken care of. I was even present at ActionFest (Carolina) when an unruly patron was ejected from a showing. On the flipside, I know that if something goes wrong at Cinebarre, it is typically pointless to mention it.