Lots of Special October Theater Screenings

Wow! I love special screenings and there are a remarkable number of them this month. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend most of them due to work and family obligations but YOU, you could go!.

Fathom Events, your source for special if overpriced movies, is showing the RiffTrax version of Miami Connection tonight at 7:30. For those not familiar with RiffTrax, it is very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) in execution (people onscreen mocking the events in the movie). Tomorrow night (10/7 at 7:30), Fathom presents the extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The extended version of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the trilogy on 10/13, also at 7:30.

Dracula

Turner Classic Movies presents a Dracula double feature on October 25th and 28th at 2 and 7. The original Bela Lugosi version of Dracula will be shown followed by the Spanish version that was filmed at night on the same sets. Finally on October 29th at 7:30, Fathom and SpectiCast are bringing back John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Not movie related but Fathom Events is bringing a filmed live version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet to theaters on 10/15. It is four hours long but I’m going to that with a couple of dear friends.

Back to the Future

Regal Cinemas is presenting the entire Back to the Future trilogy on the big screen one day only, 10/21/15 (naturally, for those who are familiar with the timeline). Strangely, it appears to currently be priced as a single matinee ticket. AMC and other theater chains are also participating so check your local listings. Unfortunately for me, this embarrassment of riches conflicts with a local showing of The Exorcist at Carolina Cinemas, 10/21 at 8.

My Fair Lady

Epic Cinemas is also getting into the trend of bringing back classic cinema to the big screen. On 10/18 at 2 and 10/21 at 7, they will be showing My Fair Lady.

I love that the theaters are doing all of this. My only complaint is that they usually do a terrible job of advertising and the screenings are often close to empty. This of course leads to a cancellation of future showings. Regal used to have a classic cinema series but abandoned it due to poor attendance.

 

Hobbitses Everywhere! – Dracula (1931), The Iron Giant, Hobbit Extended in Theaters

I am all in favor of bringing back classics to theaters so they can be seen again as they were meant to, on the big screen.

Hobbit Extended

However, Peter Jackson’s deeply flawed Hobbit trilogy does not qualify as classic. Still we hardly get any fantasy movies. To celebrate the release of The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies extended edition, Fathom Events is bringing the extended versions of all three Hobbit movies to the screen for one night each.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 10/5 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 10/7 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – 10/13 at 7:30

Because these are Fathom events, be aware that you’ll pay a premium price.

The Iron Giant

Fathom Events is bringing The Iron Giant back to theaters in a newly remastered version with additional scenes.

The Iron Giant – 9/30 at 7 and 10/4 at 12 noon

Dracula

Finally, to end the month, TCM and Fathom are bringing us a double dose of Dracula. They will be showing the Bela Lugosi original and the Spanish version that was filmed at the same time on the same sets but with different actors.

Dracula – 10/25 & 10/28 at 2 and 7 p.m.

Curse You Peter Jackson!

In my opinion, Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels are unequivocal masterpieces. Simply put, Jackson worked magic with the wonderful natural locations in New Zealand, an incredible cast, top notch special effects, and, of course, did proper justice to the source material. I would happily watch these again and again. These have become my younger daughter’s Star Wars (and quite frankly they are better but they have had decades of film work on which to build).

The Hobbit

I was thrilled when it was announced that Jackson would be adapting The Hobbit. I was a little less thrilled when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct and that the book would be broken into two movies but I could still envision it. There is an awful lot of action in The Hobbit so two movies would be stretching but perhaps better than trying to overcrowd a single film.

I simply could not understand the decision to adapt the single book into three movies, and not three short movies but three epic length ones. I was hopeful when Jackson announced that it was so that additional material from Tolkien could be added.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out. It was not a terrible movie by any means but it was very disappointing. Here’s my summary: “We’re walking, walking, walking, RUN!, walking, walking, walking, RUN!, repeat until nearly three hours are done”. Rather than a finely prepared meal with thought given to how all the ingredients interact with each other, we were given a random hodgepodge of things meant to appeal to various fanbases.

Instead of carefully paced and choreographed action sequences, we have scenes that look more at home in a videogame, particularly the extra-long mine sequence. Jackson chose his cast quite well and Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis naturally reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum respectfully. Genre favorites Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are cast from Sherlock as is Sylvester McCoy from Doctor Who.

That apparently was not enough so he shoehorned in more cameos from Lord of the Rings than you could shake a staff at. He added a framing piece so that he could feature Ian Holm as old Bilbo and Elijah Wood as Frodo. He then added a council meeting so that Christopher Lee (Still going strong at 92!) could return as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving as Elrond.

Hobbit Marathon

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is essentially the same, a wonderful world of Middle Earth, somewhat spoiled by lengthy videogame sequences, and characters shoehorned in. This time fan favorite Orlando Bloom has returned as Legolas. He is joined by Evangeline Lilly as female elf/superhero Tauriel. I applaud the sentiment as there aren’t enough women in the story but it was poorly handled.

Hobbit Marathon

In spite of all these complaints, here I sit at the Regal Biltmore Grande, prepared for an entire day of The Hobbit. Despite all the shortcomings, The Hobbit series presents a wonderful world and if you haven’t seen it at the high frame rate, you certainly should.

The Hobbit Marathon

The Hobbit

 

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Bilbo and Company are forced to be embraced in a war against an armed flock of combatants and the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.”

I love movie marathons. This time, they have found a wonderful new incentive. The Hobbit marathon is the only way to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies early.

Five Armies officially opens on Wednesday, December 17th. This means that theaters will be playing early shows on Tuesday, December 16th BUT if you go to the marathon on Monday, December 15th then you get to see Five Armies on the 15th.

Hobbit Marathon

Regal is also pulling out the stops and putting the marathon in Imax and RPX theaters. Honestly, what else are people going to be doing on a Monday in mid-December. My assumption is that this will be at the HFR as well. Regal is also planning on issuing a coupon (for RCC members) for a $7 large combo because you will need those FREE refills during your eight and a half hour ordeal.

Epic, Cinemark, AMC, and several other chains are also participating in the marathon.

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

RedBox Instant & The Hobbit

RedboxI have rented the occasional film from those ubiquitous Redbox kiosks. They are a very low cost alternative to renting and generally pretty convenient.The only problem with their not being digital is that sometimes titles have run out.

Online rental services (Amazon, Vudu, CinemaNow, iTunes) stubbornly refuse to move their prices down so if you want the convenience of not returning a DVD, you’ll pay generally three to four times more than at Redbox. This is only funny because leaving physical media was supposed to save the consumer money – what with a DVD not having to be printed or shipped.

Redbox’s wonderful business model enabled them to bring out a streaming service to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. For $8 a month, you get unlimited streaming AND 4 FREE DVD rentals. As with Netflix, you can sign up to try a month for FREE.

I have been meaning to try the Redbox Instant service for a while now but, honestly, I never run out of things to watch on Netflix and when the family is home, we watch Hulu Plus. There are also very few movies I rent as I’m always scoring FREE movie tickets (often by buying a low-priced Blu-Ray which gives me yet still more to watch).

The HobbitThat all changed with Redbox’s awesome promotion on May 22nd (sorry it was one day only). They offered a FREE online rental of The Hobbit to new and existing customers. This promotion got me to sign up for Redbox Instant. I hadn’t purchased The Hobbit when it came out because I am pretty sure that they will run a promotion of ‘buy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and get a FREE ticket to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ sometime this fall. I also tend to wait for a decent price drop and Best Buy’s quarterly ‘Upgrade & Save’ promotion.

I was surprised at how many films Redbox has available. However they are exceptionally heavy on direct-to-video titles of the 90s and early 2000s as well as some public domain titles.Still there are plenty of gems to be had here that are NOT on Netflix. Netflix still has them outgunned on variety by at least ten times as many titles.

When Ray Harryhausen passed away recently, Netflix had none of his films available to watch. Redbox has The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Redbox also has Gettysburg.

As with Amazon Prime’s early days, Redbox Instant has a lot of duplicate listings. They also have very limited categories (action/adventure goes on forever with little to no way to narrow it down). Navigation is pretty awful (especially on the Xbox 360 where it is dreadful) and many of their titles have a generic box.

Even searching through a category isn’t particularly helpful. Redbox appears to have only single categories for films so many of their science fiction movies are actually classified as action/adventure for example.

Their search function is functional and you can search on an actor BUT it only works if they’ve coded that film as starring that actor. Searching on Cushing on my PC brings up 19 results, only 7 of which star Peter Cushing. Searching on Peter Cushing brings up 143 results. None of those results include Arabian Adventure, which he stars in.

Be careful as Redbox also has some films available for streaming online that cost money (like Bride of Frankenstein) a la Amazon vs. Amazon Prime. It is clear that Redbox Instant is in its infancy but those four DVD credits essentially reduce the cost to less than $3 a month and you can’t beat that.

Taking the 3D Plunge

Until today, I had never seen a modern 3D movie in the theater. I have a very strong prescription and 3D televisions quickly give me a headache so I was unwilling to drop an extra $2-$3 for the privilege of pain. Thankfully I had FREE tickets and my daughter wanted to go see Monsters, Inc with our granddaughter.

Dorothy is dressed up as Sully. As expected, about five minutes in I started to get a headache from the eyestrain. I took two Excedrin Migraine and, shortly after that, I had clear sailing for the rest of the movie. I was able to get most of the 3D effects though next time I will sit closer to center.

The 3D post-conversion was well-handled and gave a good sense of depth throughout the movie. I’m not sure that it made the movie more immersive for me but I can understand the appeal.

Of course I couldn’t resist the Hobbit combo. My adorable granddaughter Dorothy was very good and quiet. She kept her 3D glasses on for the whole film and ate almost the entire bucket of popcorn – even to the extent of fending off some of our attempts to eat.

Peter Jackson is Hobbit-Forming

Thankfully my flu had abated by this past weekend so I could go see The Hobbit. I still have the bronchial cough but I kept that at bay with a steady stream of Coca-Cola and throat lozenges. I’m regaining my strength and concentration slowly but the cough just won’t quit.

Just as thankfully, I had a surfeit of FREE tickets from World Market’s Black Friday promotion (first 100 customers on Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday got FREE movie tickets and a Life of Pi totebag). My wife and I went on Saturday and I took my daughter on Sunday.

My daughter was driving us in to my favorite theater, the Carolina, when my car broke down again (second time this month). After I arranged for a tow, my ever-patient wife took us all out to my favorite hamburger joint, French Fryz for lunch. Dining on a juicy cheeseburger and french fries and washing it down with a nice chocolate banana shake (my wife prefers the chocolate peanut butter), I counted my blessings.

After that she dropped us off at our local Epic theater. They had a nice hard plastic Hobbit cup with Thorin Oakenshield on one side and Gandalf on the other. Dropping six dollars to get one was almost a necessity as we have the same type of cups for Amazing Spider-Man, Ice Age, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Men in Black. They make great popcorn cups for the movie room.

The screens at our local Epic theater are newer and bigger than those at the Carolina but the Carolina has a great rewards program, FREE refills on soda, friendly staff, better food, etc. Actually Epic has no food – just candy and popcorn. Nothing like this delicious tray of mini-dogs.

I digress of course (this is a blog after all) but The Hobbit was quite wonderful. Yes, the story is very padded – the book would have more appropriately made two movies. I wonder how much extra padding there will be for the inevitable extended edition home release.

The actors are all wonderful. Martin Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo. Richard Armitage has a lot of gravitas as Thorin, though they do try to make him too Aragorn-esque. Sylvester McCoy is fun as Radagast the Brown, tailor-made to appeal to a younger audience. Ian McKellan is marvelous as always though it should be noted that he plays the humorous Gandalf the Gray here and not the serious Gandalf the White.

The movie is filled with LOTR cameos – Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Andy Serkis as Gollum, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. They are worked in quite well but a prologue of sorts featuring old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) is really shoehorned in.

The movie is not nearly as epic as the Lord of the Rings movies but neither is the source material. This is more in the vein of an adventure than an apocalyptic scenario. The sound design is amazing. Special effects are much better and far more prevalent – there are things to watch on the edge in almost every scene.

I did not get to sample the new 48 FPS rate because that is only in 3D and my prescription is bad enough that I can’t do 3D (at least on televisions). One of these days, I’ll have to splurge and try a 3D presentation in the theater but since 3D televisions don’t work for me, I’m reluctant to try the theater.