My Local Theater Roundup

I love going to the movies. I also love staying home and watching movies. I thought that today I would take a positive look at what is good in our local theaters. R.I.P. Cinebarre, you will be missed.

Carolina Cinemas

 

Obviously, The Carolina is my favorite.

* FREE movies every Tuesday night (Asheville Film Society) and Thursday night (Thursday horror picture show) put The Carolina head and shoulders above the rest.

* Once a month, Ken Hanke gets a new digital print of a classic movie at a bargain price ($6 for members, $8 for non-members). Last month it was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

* Local food, locally sourced from Chop Shop & Carolina Mountain Bakery along with local beer on tap, wine, iced tea, and the usual soft drinks. They have REAL butter on their popcorn. Their quattro formaggio pizza is my current favorite though I’m itching to try their hummus.

* They currently do DealFlicks – they don’t really give a discount through them so much as give you a small popcorn and a ticket for the price of a ticket. Asheville Film Society ($10 a year) gives you a $1 discount off of each ticket and FREE refills on any size popcorn.

* FREE refills on any size soda or tea

Biltmore Grande

 

The Biltmore Grande is the newest of Asheville’s cinemas.

* It has all stadium seating and the best sound and video in the area. Their auditoriums are designed so that opening the door does not allow light to leak in.

* They have a RPX screen which is HUGE and LOUD. It is also an upcharge so these showings are less crowded.

* They have Coke (and other flavor) Icees – my drink of choice at the movies.

Epic Hendersonville

 

Epic of Hendersonville, just south of Asheville

* Very, very close – okay it doesn’t say much about the theater itself but it sure is nice to drive fifteen minutes instead of forty-five.

* The sound and video are almost as nice and large as Biltmore Grande. They have all stadium seating and the same proper positioning of doors.

* They currently allow DealFlicks, MoviePass, and even (often) give away tickets for blood donations.

Asheville Pizza

 

 

Asheville Pizza & Brewing is on the North side of Asheville

* Our only remaining second-run theater. Tickets are only $3 for all shows

* Locally brewed beer on tap

* Good menu, including many varieties of pizza. Best item: The Tot-Chos – a basket of tater tots baked and then smothered in queso.

I Meet a Fan…sort of…

 

I stated this blog a number of years ago for two reasons. The first was that I felt I needed to write something, anything as my cognitive skills seemed to be atrophying. My loving wife suggested a blog, something she had done for years.

I took her up on it but was still at a loss as to what to write. She already wrote about our family life, our outings, and life’s little bumps and bruises. My daughter would always complain that there was nothing on television. I pointed out that streaming Netflix has tens of thousands of movies.

I have loved movies all my life. Some of my fondest memories growing up were going to the movies. I saw Star Wars for my 13th birthday party (yes I am that old). My mom took me to see Halloween when it came out (I don’t think she knew what she was getting into). I snuck in with my friend John to see the original Alien.

Obviously I would write about movies. Initially I covered only movies on Netflix (still a primary focus) but I still love the experience of losing myself in a movie theater presentation so I cover that as well. While my blog is available through the Kindle on Amazon (and I am quite pleased that so many people read this), I write primarily for myself.

I was completely flabbergasted this weekend.

Marc

 

Saturday, the family celebrated lunch out. Jenny and I were discussing an embarrassing topic while Els and Dorothy were in the bathroom. The waiter walked up at a particularly opportune time. After looking at me and thinking a bit, he said, “didn’t you write a review of Epic theater?”

I have never encountered someone who has read my blog. It is not advertised anywhere locally and yet he recognized me from the review, presumably because my Netflix shirt looks similar to the one I wear on the blog. Jenny had to get a picture of course. Our waiter was game though he doesn’t look as pleased in the photo.

That, and a similarly gratifying incident that same evening, really made my day.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor Dark World

 

My long-suffering wife took me to Thor: The Dark World over the weekend. We had a lot of fun although the movie was definitely a mixed bag.

* Reducing Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) from a scientist to a love-sick stalker/catalyst who is only defined by her man

* Way too many lasers and spaceships

* A rather bland villain and enemies

On the other hand, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are not only nice to look at but have good chemistry, Rene Russo gets a nice action scene, Kat Dennings provides some nice comic relief (though the best laugh by far was from a star cameo).

As with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World is fun but not a good movie.

Be aware that there are two after-credits scenes a la The Avengers. Also if you go to the 3D version, you get a five-minute preview of Captain America.

While we were there, we got the Thor “plastic combo” – 2 large sodas in plastic cups and a large popcorn in a plastic bucket. I love this combo at Epic and try to collect each one they put out. The cups are a nice quality heavy plastic.

ThorDarkWorldpopcorn

 

ThorDarkWorldcups

 

Also one final note on Dumas week: I forgot to mention that Thor is currently showing on Netflix. While Thor is not based on Dumas’ works, it is clear that The Three Musketeers was an inspiration for The Warriors Three (Volstagg, Fandral the Dashing, and Hogun the Grim), a fixture in Thor since the late 60s.

11 Things Modern Movie Theaters Have

In a counter-piece to yesterday’s ’11 Things We No Longer See in Movie Theaters’, I thought I’d post about ’11 Things We Should No Longer See in Movie Theaters (but still do)’ but instead ’11 Things Modern Movie Theaters Have’ now comes to mind.

1. Multichannel sound: Old movies had tinny, mono soundtracks. Yes, a long time ago, in pre-soundtrack days, you had someone playing the piano live and sometimes an actual orchestra. Today we have gone far beyond simple stereo to 7.1, Dolby True Digital, and more. When I attend a RPX showing at the Biltmore Grande, I expect and get bone-rattling sound.

2. Digital projection: I know there are plenty of 35mm and 70mm purists out there but digital projection is amazing. Properly calibrated, there is no loss of clarity EVER, you’ll never have a broken reel that stops the show or scratch marks on an old copy pulling you out of the experience.

3. Digital delivery: This goes along with the digital projection but digital delivery allows you to adjust on the fly. Sold out of the premiere of The Avengers 2? Simply dedicate another auditorium for it on the fly and still another if that show sells out.

4. Amazing back-catalogue: This is not heavily used yet but with new 4K and 8K digital masters being struck for home video, these masters can be played in theater. Studios use it for big releases such as Indiana Jones but Ken Hanke and Carolina Cinemas release a film every month in his Big Budget Classics series here. I saw North by Northwest two months ago, missed 2001 last month, and this month is Chinatown.

5. Free advertising: Cheap printing costs mean that many movie theaters give out 12×18 copies of posters. Not only is my movie room is decorated with them but I have a cubby filled with hundreds more in my home office.

6. Captive advertising: This one is not a plus for the consumer. Theaters are able to create another revenue stream through the ads they show before the movie, either on slides or video presentations. My wife actually enjoys the pre-movie video presentations like ‘The 20’.

Men in Black cups

7. Tie-in merchandise in-theater: Yes, older movies could have tie-in merchandise. Rasputin promoters offered beards for boys (paper cutouts). Today’s cheap plastics allow plenty of promotional opportunities. I have large high-quality plastic cups (that double in my house as popcorn containers) for Man of Steel, Ice Age, Pirates of the Caribbean, Men in Black, and more.

8. Tie-in merchandise out-of-theater: One word – McDonald’s. I have more than a dozen Minion toys for Despicable Me 2 thanks to a certain granddaughter’s inclination. Toys from summer blockbusters abound in Wal-Mart and Target. Full soundtracks and novelizations are available on or before a movie’s release.

9. Beer and wine: Not a big plus for me as I never really acquired a taste for either. Several area theaters sell them and Carolina Cinemas carries local brews on tap. None of our local theaters has a full ABC license but Studio Movie Grill in Charlotte has a full line of cocktails and adult milkshakes.

Cinebarre Breakfast

10. Real food: While major chains offer microwaveable pizzas, smaller chains and dedicated arms of the major chains offer a full dining experience. Carolina Cinemas offers a pretty decent pizza, Cinebarre serves excellent fries (if you can get served), and Studio Movie Grill has coconut chicken tenders. These all come at a price but it is nice to have the option.

Asheville Pizza

11. Second-run theaters: I’m not sure how much of a bonus this is because second-run theaters came about as a result of overpriced first-run theaters. Cinebarre and Asheville Pizza Company in our area have $3 ticket prices and show movies that have just left the regular cinemas. In response Carolina Cinemas has $5 Wednesday ($3 for Students) and Epic Cinemas has $5 Tuesday (though for some reason Warner and Sony won’t participate).

A Tale of Two Visualists – Timur Bekmambetov & Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I have been blessed this summer to catch an inordinate number of movies thanks in part to wonderful bargains. Speaking of which I went to Best Buy yesterday and bought Spider-Man 2 on Blu-Ray for $9.99 with a FREE ticket for the new The Amazing Spider-Man movie and The Mummy (1999) on Blu-Ray for $7.99 with a FREE ticket for the new The Bourne Legacy so it looks like my lucky thrifty streak will continue (that and $5 Tuesday at our local Epic theater).

Recently I got to see two incredibly similar films: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Dark Shadows. I love vampire movies but both of these left a lot to be desired. The picture above was more entertaining than Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

One-line Review: Funny premise ruined through indifferent acting, poor direction and extremely poor writing.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) – Rated R for violence throughout and some sexuality.

“At the age of 9, Abraham Lincoln witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts. Some 10 years later, he unsuccessfully tries to eliminate Barts but in the process makes the acquaintance of Henry Sturgess who teaches him how to fight and what is required to kill a vampire. The quid pro quo is that Abe will kill only those vampires that Henry directs him to. Abe relocates to Springfield where he gets a job as a store clerk while he studies the law and kills vampires by night. He also meets and eventually marries the pretty Mary Todd. Many years later as President of the United States, he comes to realize that vampires are fighting with the Confederate forces. As a result he mounts his own campaign to defeat them.”

I guess the most salient point to bring up is that Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is unabashedly serious. Despite a wonderfully ludicrous premise, there is no tongue-in-cheek here. Honestly there is almost no humor to be found in the movie at all. I thought the movie should have been played as The Princess Bride where everyone seemed in on the joke. There is no problem with a movie being earnest – Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans is an action adventure film transplanted into the French & Indian war era, is deadly earnest and yet works great on an adventure level and on a romantic one.

Timur Bekmambetov’s strengths as a director are in the visual arts. His Nightwatch and Daywatch films are visual marvels and his American debut in Wanted was fun in its visual absurdity (though the narrative suffered from having been severely toned down from the graphic novel). Handing the reins of a vampire tale set during the civil war era to Bekmambetov seems a natural fit, especially since Nightwatch and Daywatch featured supernatural creatures.

The visuals in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter range from good to marvelous but none of the scenes create a sense of intimacy. There is a spectacular fight in the middle of a herd of stampeding horses as well as an equally spectacular fight aboard a train crossing a burning bridge. That is about all the good I have for Abraham.

The other fight scenes are often done as a blur of movement, presumably to convey the speed of the vampires (some of the vampires just disappear). Unfortunately this is just a variation on the shaky cam action scene so the action ends up being less than satisfying…and this is an action movie.

The vampires themselves are disappointing. For creatures that hide who they are, they attack constantly in full view of crowds during broad daylight and when they attack they don’t look human at all though the CGI effects are very unimpressive – well executed just not well thought out. If you want to see a modern vampire movie with a new variation on vampires, try 30 Days of Night. The 30 Days vampires are scary.

Despite having a whiz-bang premise, the writing is simply dreadful. The ideas are good – Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires is awesome and many of the ideas are simply extrapolated from that so I suppose I should just say the central premise is good. Unfortunately dialogue ranges from flat to obvious to cornball to historical. The script is written by Seth Grahame-Smith who adapted his own novel.

Benjamin Walker is interesting as Lincoln but he has no presence. He comes across as very bland which is neither a good take on Lincoln nor a vampire-slayer. That’s okay though because everyone in the movie comes across as bland. The two main antagonists don’t feel menacing in any way and really just feel an excuse for the two action setpieces. I don’t believe I have ever seen a big budget movie that was so poorly cast.

 

A Little FREE and a Bit of a Bargain

I love FREE. I talk about it all the time. I give a lot of credit to Carolina Cinemas who often have four or more FREE things a week. Still there are other cinemas in town.

* Cinebarre Asheville has an outdoor fest this summer. All films are FREE. bring a chair or blanket – seating starts at 7 and the movie at dusk. Movies are projected on the outside wall of the theater.

6/5 – The Hangover

6/12 – The Princess Bride

6/19 – Speed

6/26 – The Breakfast Club

7/3 – Raising Arizona

7/10 – Superbad

7/17 – Talladega Nights

7/24 – Ghostbusters

7/31 – The Lost Boys

8/7 – Across the Universe

* Sometimes you can’t get FREE and you have to settle for a bargain. Cinebarre Asheville shows second-run films and Monday-Thursday after 9 PM and all day on Sunday, their movies are only $1!

* Another bargain: Epic Theater in Hendersonville (just south of Asheville and not misnamed – their screens are huge) has $5 Tuesdays. All films any time Tuesday are $5  except for Warner and Sony (boo!), who apparently need a larger piece of pie. There is a $2 surcharge for 3D movies.

* How about a comparison of a real bargain to something completely foreign to a bargain. My wife and I are members of the Asheville Film Society. Asheville Film Society membership is $10 a year. Benefits include:

– $1 off all movie tickets at Carolina Cinemas (which shows both art house and first run titles)

– FREE refills on any size popcorn at Carolina Cinemas. I don’t eat popcorn but our movie buddies take advantage of this every Thursday at the FREE Horror Show

– FREE advance screenings to some very well-chosen films (last year I caught Blackthorn and Point Blank but missed several others).

– They also sponsor the FREE Tuesday night screenings at Carolina Cinema though you do not have to be a member to attend those.

– An assortment of minor retail bonuses: $1 off Asheville Pizza & Brewing’s pizzas, $5 off a subscription at Orbit DVD, 10% off used CDs and DVDs at Harvest Records.

On the other hand, membership to the Asheville Cinema Society is $300 a year ($150 a season, the season is six months)! What do you get for THIRTY times the price of an Asheville Film Society membership? Quite frankly, not much.

Twelve specific movies and six festival movies. If you go to ALL eighteen movies then this averages to $8.33 a ticket (not $8.30 as they list but that is nitpicking). The problem with this is that it is twelve movies that they pick and six movies of your choosing out of the limited pool shown at the festival. Their most recent movie was Sushi: The Global Catch.

From their website: “The average cost per film is now lower than ticket prices at local movie theaters.”

Well sure if you want to ignore Cinebarre pricing ($1-$3), Asheville Pizza Company pricing ($3), matinee pricing at all the cinemas, Tuesday pricing at Epic ($5), student pricing, children pricing, senior citizen pricing, special showing at Carolina pricing (FREE – $7). Not only that but purchasing a ticket at a theater allows you to choose your movie.

I will say that Asheville Cinema Society does have presentation down well. Q&A’s occur after each movie and Sushi was served before Sushi: The Global Catch but it is clear that this price point is meant to keep away the riff-raff. The Asheville Cinema Society recently slashed their pricing in half. Seasons were originally $300! They also continually advertise on their website that they have a limited number of memberships available. 😛

The competing societies are very partisan. The Asheville Film Society events are exclusively at Carolina Cinemas. They are often mentioned in the Mountain Xpress, the leading alternative newspaper in Asheville. This is not particularly surprising as Ken Hanke is a founder of the society and a film critic for Mountain Xpress.

The Asheville Cinema Society meetings used to be held exclusively at the Biltmore Grande theater. They have since added a downtown location (though not the Fine Arts theater). They are often mentioned in the Asheville Citizen-Times, the main local paper.