Oh Regal, You So Crazy! Spectre Ultimate Ticket

Regal Cinemas

I love Regal’s special offers and try to take as much advantage of them as I can. Their newest offer is hilarious. They are offering what they call the Regal Ultimate Ticket to Spectre. For $100 plus shipping (seriously, they aren’t even covering the shipping of a card!), you get an anodized steel collectible card that they will personalize with your name.

Spectre

 

So what does this card do? It allows you to see the new Bond movie at Regal Cinemas every single day. Of course they do specify only once a day and there is no mention of it being valid for RPX or IMAX. Of course as this is the only intrinsic value of the card and tickets run $8-10 in my area, I’d have to see Spectre at least ten times to get the value of the card (slightly less if they allow it to be used for RPX or IMAX).

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie ten times in the theater. My guess would be that if I have, it would have been Star Wars or Grease when I was a kid. I’m not above seeing a movie two or three times but ten? Speaking of Star Wars, I could really see this being a hot item for that movie.

On the other hand, this might make a great collectible.

Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX – Greenville, SC

We had the opportunity this past weekend to knock off another theater I hadn’t been to. Yes, it is just an excuse to post pictures of my granddaughter. The front sidewalk has an enormous amount of room. I’m not sure if they use it for events or not. They have the usual Regal people ropes (a la Disney) for properly herding ticket buyers.

Regal Hollywood 20

 

Inside I was surprised that they had ropes again for herding customers to the refreshment counter. I guess they get bigger crowds than I am used to. The usual Regal fare was there (soda, icees, popcorn, candy, hot dogs, pretzels). Miss D found a Minions display.

Minions

 

They also had a really nice full-size Kung Fu Panda statue (which will come in handy for the third movie).

Kung Fu Panda

 

We didn’t try the RPX (which I love in Asheville) as the film was Ted 2 and just a tad inappropriate for the little one. Seating was stadium-style but the seats were rather hard and not very comfortable.

A good time was had by all at Inside Out but no one was particularly impressed by it. I think I enjoyed it more than the girls did.

Dear Peter Jackson

Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

I have to start with my daughter’s succinct sum up of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

Dear Peter Jackson, The Hobbit is not a damn video game. Thank you.

While I agree wholeheartedly with her, I did have some more to say.

Dear Peter Jackson,

Thank you so much for attempting to move technology forward. While I question the decision to take a 300 page book and make three movies out of it, each of them almost three hours long, I really appreciated getting to see The Desolation of Smaug in 48 fps, 3D. Admittedly the film went from normally nice to abnormally sharp, bright, and colorful and back again which was a bit distracting but some of the visuals were so sharp as to be jaw-dropping. Our local RPX cinema was packed in spite of the $5 upcharge because they were the only ones showing it in the format that you intended.

In spite of all the filler you have put in, especially attempting to tie it in to The Lord of the Rings, I am very much looking forward to The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Unfortunately you have spoiled me so I will only watch it at the RPX so I can catch it in 48 fps. Now if we could only see some 2D films in 48 fps.

Yours Thankfully, Marc

Frozen Knoxville Pinnacle Stadium 18 Catching Fire

Along with apparently everyone else, I got to see Catching Fire and Frozen over the holiday weekend. We were visiting Knoxville and went to the Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 Imax & RPX.

Frozen Marc

The last time we came we saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Imax. The movie was great but their Imax cinema is unimpressive. It is one of those baby Imax theaters. The screen is large but not as large as at a real Imax theater. Remembering this we saw Catching Fire in one of the normal cinemas.

Pinnacle Lobby

This Regal made a number of improvements since the last time. As with my beloved Carolina Cinemas, the soda fountains are out with the customers. This is such an easy and marked improvement. Soda costs almost nothing – it is still true that most of the cost of the soda is in the cup. Cups were a little oddly sized as the lids were one size fits all (except kiddy). The Regal 56 oz. bucket of soda that I could barely carry one-handed was gone as there is no need to ‘stock up’ on soda when you can slip out for a quick refill.

Wife Selfie

 

They also had a frozen yogurt dispenser which was fascinating. At the condiment cube, they had both popcorn ‘butter’ and salt so you can season your popcorn to your heart’s content. The bathrooms had not only the Excel jet dryers but also the Dyson ones. The Dyson ones look cool and dry quickly but it’s much like playing a game of Operation, trying not to touch the germ-ridden sides.

Lego Marc

 

The lobby was nice and spacious with plenty of room for displays and arcade games (and lines should circumstance require).

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).

Pacific Rim and My Own Personal Movie Theater

I have been hoping that Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pacific Rim, would rescue me from the summer doldrums. This year’s crop of blockbusters has been disappointing, ranging from the silly, mediocre, or problematic (Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger) to the downright awful, boring, or misconceived (Man of Steel, The Fast & The Furious 6, The Great Gatsby). I enjoyed Monsters University but not as much as Monsters, Inc., Star Trek: Into Darkness but not as much as Star Trek, World War Z but not as much as the book.

Pacific RimNormally I go to my beloved Carolina Cinemas but I was free on Wednesday morning with a $12 voucher ticket from Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Regal Cinema’s Biltmore Grande has a RPX (Regal Premium Experience – basically a not quite Imax) theater and was showing Pacific Rim at 10 a.m. Matinee price for a 2D RPX ticket is $12. There was a line in front of me at the box office but they were all there to see the $1 children’s movie.

RPX emptyApparently no one wants to spend $12 at 10 in the morning. I had the entire RPX auditorium to myself for Pacific Rim. Woohoo! Using the $12 voucher in combination with my Regal card netted me a FREE popcorn (saving it for this weekend’s Despicable Me 2 family trip). I also grabbed two FREE Pacific Rim posters on my way out for the movie room.

Pacific Rim (2013) – Rated PG-13

“As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.”

One Line Review: If you like giant monsters or robots, then go see this on a giant screen!

Pacific Rim on a RPX screen was just what the doctor ordered. It is not a masterpiece like Pan’s Labyrinth. The dialogue is very cheesy, particularly the speeches Idris Elba is asked to give. The visuals are very dark at times and as such may have difficulty transferring to the small screen.

Acting is definitely a weak point. Charlie Day and Burn (Torchwood) Gorman show personality as scientists but are often annoying in their mannerisms. Charlie Hunnam is bland as Raleigh Becket. Idris Elba is good but is saddled with the worst dialogue. Rinko Kikuchi isn’t given enough to do and Ron Perlman hams it up.

The visuals are magnificent in general but occasionally are murky enough to make it difficult to tell what is happening. The kaiju (monsters) are of course the highlight of the film. There are several long wonderful fight scenes between the kaiju and the jaeger (giant robots) as well as several smaller scenes involving each. Sound effects are marvelous (seat shaking in RPX).

Dramatically this movie is very cliched, particularly in the last act. Dialogue is corny and wooden but only serves to be reminiscent of the movies Guillermo del Toro is paying homage to. This is obviously a labor of love for him.

If you want to see giant monsters and giant robots beat up on each other and destroy cities, then go see Pacific Rim. If not, then there isn’t much reason to recommend it.

Rich Superman, Poor Superman

Rich Superman: Superman (1978) became Warner Bros. biggest selling film of all time (since surpassed) and spawned four sequels. Well, not unexpectedly, the reboot Man of Steel did record-setting business over the Father’s Day holiday ($125 million for the weekend – biggest June opening) and Man of Steel II has already been greenlit.

Man of Steel

I was a very small part of that. Jenny and I caught it at Biltmore Grande’s super deluxe RPX theater on Sunday. I used a FREE ticket from my Cinnamon Toast Crunch for hers and upgraded a FREE Regal Crown ticket to RPX ($5.50 even though the actual difference in ticket price is $4, go figure) for mine. The machine spat out a FREE popcorn (woohoo!) and Jenny and I both used their $3 off a soda mobile coupon of the week. Woot! $11 for two large sodas, a small popcorn, and two RPX tickets – score! Plus the tickets also spat out a FREE advance showing of The Heat on Tuesday evening for RCC members.

RPX

Speaking of RPX, the picture and sound quality are undeniably awesome. However, one of the major benefits is not listed on their advertisement. Because the base price for an RPX ticket is an additional $4, the theater is sparsely populated while the regular ones are full. Still I couldn’t imagine buying multiple $12 – $15.50 tickets without the various offers I take advantage of.

Poor Superman: Well, that would be Man of Steel in a nutshell but first, what happened after Superman?

Superman II (1980) was really just a continuation of Superman (especially as much of it was filmed at the same time) and was quite good. Many consider it better than Superman and there are two versions on home video – one by Richard Donner and one by Richard Lester.

Superman III (1983) was pretty bad – No Zod, no Luthor, no Brainiac, our villain is just a businessman. Worse, Superman essentially shares top-billing with a computer hacker played by Richard Pryor. Worse again, Lois receives less than five minutes of screen time. The only thing likely to make you forget how bad Superman 3 is…

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987): Yay for bringing back Hackman as Luthor and Kidder as Lois Lane but this movie is just awful. The special effects are horrendous, the story (co-written by Christopher Reeve) is just as ridiculous as Superman III (though more heartfelt), and only Christopher Reeve seems to want to be in this.

Superman Returns (2006): Almost two decades since the last sequel, they got the brilliant idea to have Bryan Singer helm this. Strangely, this was disastrous on two fronts. First, because Singer was helming this, directorship of X-Men: The Last Stand fell to Brett Ratner. Second, Singer, a marvelous director and clearly skilled at handling comic book movies, decided to slavishly ape the first two Superman movies. Themes that worked in the first two Superman movies had become trite and cornball in the new century.

Kevin Spacey was a good choice to replace Hackman as Luthor though he wasn’t able to do much with the role. Luthor again is an egomaniacal real estate tycoon (as in Superman) – making the plot feel stale. Adding to the staleness is the return of Marlon Brando as Jor-El in some previously unused footage. A salient plot point revealed late in the film is obvious to everyone from the beginning, except, apparently, Superman.

Superman Returns was not a disaster – it just wasn’t good. It wisely ignores the events of Superman III and IV and you can ignore it.

Man of Steel: Tomorrow

Star Trek – Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Thank you Esurance! I won two tickets to Star Trek: Into Darkness from them. Not only was the contest generous but the tickets covered up to $15.50 each, which is coincidentally what the Biltmore Grande charges for their RPX evening showings in 3D. Not wanting to waste a gift horse that is what we used it for.

One Line Review: Trek is packed with action, excitement, witticisms, and character development – this one will be tough to beat for the summer crown.

My wife, daughter and I all thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The RPX sound was immersive and the bass made the seats throb. The RPX picture quality was amazingly crisp, even in 3D. I don’t normally go to RPX because I love my Carolina and the RPX is about twice the price but WOW I was blown away. This is the closest we have to Imax in Asheville.

While the RPX heightened our enjoyment, Star Trek Into Darkness is a wonderful film on its own. While I derided Iron Man 3 for being made by committee/formula, much the same approach is used here but to great effect.

Star Trek checklist:

Strenuous heroics from Kirk and Spock: Tons! This film is almost constant action with brief respites for clever dialogue.

Fun banter between Kirk, Spock, and Bones: Any time they are not in a fight and sometimes when they are, witty banter abounds and not just for those three.

Good character moments for Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and Uhura: Uhura’s role is considerably beefed up and the others all have their moment in the sun.

References to classic Trek episodes: I don’t want to spoil any of them but they are nearly uncountable. Plots, characters, incidents are mentioned, seen, adapted, or alluded to.

Ship to ship combat: Yes and wow.

Kirk and/or Spock learn a lesson: Both do, of course.

Cameos: Yes, two – one of which is in the previews.

Three of the four quibbles I have with the film are all minor. The first, which I can only speak generally about to avoid spoilers, is that a lot of elements that they felt were necessary for Trek fans were shoehorned in at the last minute. The second is that the final action sequence, while having a couple inventive touches, pales in comparison to the several before it so it feels more like an afterthought than building to a crescendo. Third, Benedict Cumberbatch, while a wonderful actor, isn’t given enough to do – mostly because there are so many beloved characters to focus on.

The fourth quibble I have, I don’t want to go into detail for fear of spoiling but nearly every plotting aspect of this movie makes no sense (a la Iron Man 3). Almost everything in this movie is done simply to get from point A to point B, action sequence to action sequence. As a for instance, the rescue method in the beginning of the movie could clearly have been used for the insertion but that wouldn’t have been as dramatic. A second example, also from the beginning, is that we have plenty of remote placement and firing mechanisms now (robotic, radio, laser, programmed, etc.) and this is set in the future. Whatever you do, just enjoy the ride and try not to question the logic until you leave.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what J.J. Abrams and crew do with the Star Wars franchise.