(EDITOR’S NOTE: There are Easter eggs peppered throughout this entry. Click on the hyperlinks to enhance your experience – or be lame and don’t bother…)
I post on every single movie I see, right? MAN I wish it were true…
The most recent post was almost a full year ago, February 11th, 2015, and it was about my movie theater recommendations in LA, not even a movie review! While I immerse myself in self-flagellation, let’s see how I did with the goals I set myself in last year’s tally:
- See more movies – GOAL ACHIEVED. Last year was my all-time low of 103 theatrical movies, so I suppose I only had up to go. This year my final number was – wait for it- 121 movies in the theater. I reached my goal but I still should have done much better. To give some perspective in 2012 I saw 139 and in 2013 I saw 135.
- Blog more – GOAL FAILED. No question about this, I blogged just twice in 2015, and neither was an actual movie review. Pathetic.
- “Forget” to leave the toilet seat up once or twice – GOAL BARELY MET. Fairly certain there were 1-2 circumstances where she almost fell in, but her reflexes have obviously improved because there was no actual splash. I can definitely do better in my role as husband-saboteur.
My life in 2015 – This past year was nuts. In January I finally achieved my lifelong goal of letting someone shoot a laser into my eyeballs, and as the photos shows, I’m finally glasses-free!
About 6 weeks later we were off on our honeymoon in BEAUTIFUL New Zealand and Fiji. As amazing as it was – and it really WAS incredible – this is what happened…
Yup, broken elbow thanks to the saddle sliiiiding off the horse I was riding. This resulted in no swimming/diving in Fiji, Adi carrying ALL of the luggage herself, returning to LA, being told I didn’t need surgery, months later being told I DID need surgery, months later finally GETTING surgery, and months later…going back to work! Yes, I was out of work for 7 long months thanks to my honeymoon injury, and God bless union contracts, because I returned to a job that was not only waiting for me, but I had gotten a nice raise while I was away. (Thanks, Obama!)
2015 was an amazing year for movies that friends of mine created. I saw THREE theatrical movies that were both written AND directed by friends!
- The Wedding Ringer (Jeremy Garelick)
- Get Hard (Etan Cohen)
- 1915 (Alec Mouhibian)
All 3 were worth seeing: the first two were silly, raunchy, and hilarious; whereas 1915 was an extremely bizarre, moving and creative tribute to the Armenian genocide 100 years earlier. Awesome that as a movie-lover I’m also connected to some of the creative people behind the very things that stoke my obsession!
If there is one single post I WILL write in 2016 (other than this one) it will be my interview with Jeremy Garelick, performed oh so many months ago, but put on the back-burner for ages thanks to my injury and inability to type for much of the year.
Anyway, I think it’s time to return to the movie tally, and all the juicy tidbits. For the first time ever I counted every movie I saw DURING 2015. It didn’t matter if it was released the previous year – this is about what I saw during the 12 calendar months. The 121 movies, and the people I saw the most with, along with some memorable highs and lows were…
- Adi – 86 movies (previous year 71). Not bad, that means 71% of the movies I saw were with my beautiful wife, a slight improvement over last year’s 69%, a far more entertaining number…I’ll honor my wife by saying that 2015 was an incredible year for horror movies, her FAVORITE genre. It’s safe to say that most horror flicks are terrible, but there must have been something in the water recently, because last year we saw The Babadook, It Follows and Goodnight, Mommy. These weren’t just great horror movies, they were great movies, period. I’ll also mention that the thriller (her second-favorite genre) Secret in Their Eyes got absolutely SLAMMED by critics, and nobody saw it in spite of an A-list cast, but it caught us off-guard with how intensely good it was!
- Helen – 12 movies (previous year 0). The girl moved from NY and I got my claws in her early! Living right by The Grove didn’t hurt. We really book-ended the year nicely by seeing The Imitation Game early on, and then Creed on December 31st. Some real gems, and yes Creed should have been nominated for more than just Stallone’s solid performance.
- Jared – 11 movies (previous year 12). Predestination. It’s not even close. What an unbelievably cray cray movie. There is just about no way to describe it without spoiling it. Let’s just say it starts off as a weird and interesting drama, and then your brain becomes a Jackson Pollock splatter from trying to follow what the hell just happened…
- Josh – 6 movies (previous year 5). Two of the most surprisingly funny movies were seen with this new baby-daddy – Spy and Trainwreck. Oh, and both were starring hilarious women and made tons of money. All this while Adam Sandler made multiple movies that were huge critical and financial bombs last year. Does pointing this out make me a feminist?
- (TIE) Cindy – 5 movies (previous year 4). One of the dumbest comedies I saw all year had to be Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Who knew that a sequel to an awful movie could be even more awful? We did see one really good little indie though, While We’re Young, a much better cast role for Adam Driver than Kylo Ren. (Don’t get me wrong, I loooooved Star Wars, I just didn’t like that every second he was on the screen all I could think to myself was, “that’s the guy who has bizarre sexual proclivities on Girls“. It just wasn’t much of a stretch to see him prancing around in leather and a mask.)
- (TIE) Patrick – 5 movies (previous year 1). Some awesome movies here. My favorite has to be Goodnight Mommy, one of the previously mentioned FANTASTIC horror movies last year. The movie is in German, we saw it at the Nuart theater right before the Rocky Horror crowd arrived, and the theater was packed with people reacting LOUDLY to the crazy stuff that happens in this movie. Wow. We also saw A Most Violent Year together, an absolutely under-appreciated drama that should have been nominated last year, but nobody saw it. To be fair, Patrick hated it and disagrees strongly with me, but I stand by it as being a fantastic movie starring a subtle performance by Oscar Isaac.
- (TIE) Arnon – 5 movies (previous year 0). Wow, this talented filmmaker not only saw 5 movies with me, but I absolutely LOVED 3 of them. Star Wars, The Martian, and It Follows. Such great movies, loved loved loved all three of them. Star Wars was the sequel I was wishing and hoping for when the awful prequels came out. The original actors were still alive and kicking, the special effects were phenomenal, the old-school Jim Henson effects were honored, and it was just…so…much…fun. It’s often criticized for being an unoriginal rehash of the first one. So what? It was a respectful passing of the torch and making up for the “original” but awful prequels. If the next movie is a rehash I’ll join in with the criticism, but I truly believe this was appropriate, and the next one is gonna take things in a very different direction. (I have faith because it is written and directed by the guy who made Looper, one of the most creative movies in the past decade!)
- (TIE) Talia – 4 movies (previous year 0). Let me take a minute to thank Talia (and Helen), who are NOT fans of horror movies, for willingly going to see It Follows with us that night. This movie was another one of the absolutely incredibly great horror movies of 2015. You think black people were snubbed this year at the Oscars? Well, they were (Straight Outta Compton and Creed were as good as anything out there this year). But so were horror movies. They always are ignored. Nobody respects the genre, and this was absolutely one of the best 8 films of the year.
- (TIE) David B – 4 movies (previous year 2). Oh man, Jupiter Ascending, talk about a disappointment. You take the people who made The Matrix and you come up with a piece of garbage that could have been made for the sci-fi channel? Oh how the mighty have fallen.
- (TIE) Kara – 4 movies (previous year 2). A completely trashy movie that few people went to see, American Ultra was simply a ton of fun. It’s a real example of misleading advertising though. It really looked like a comedy peppered with action from every preview I watched, but man, this Jesse Eisenberg movie was dark and violent (not that I’m complaining).
- (TIE) Mittelman – 4 movies (previous year 9). Tsk tsk, we saw far less movies together this past year, the inevitability of him moving 20 minutes further away…we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron together, and I definitely enjoyed that comic book extravaganza…but I have to say, my favorite one with him was probably Shaun The Sheep; DAMN those Aardman folks know how to make a funny and creative piece of claymation.
- (TIE) Abe – 4 movies (previous year 1). Ant-Man managed to make a comic book movie that non-comic book fans could actually enjoy. It pulled off the same light, funny tone as Guardians of the Galaxy, though I’d give it a B+ whereas Guardians was truly awesome. Nonetheless, my most MEMORABLE experience would have to be McFarland, USA. I made a deal with Abe (and Farnaz) that we would only see this movie IF I would walk out midway if it sucked. While me and Adi were enjoying ourselves, they were bored out of their minds, and I obviously did NOT want to leave a movie before the end (I’ve never done that!). Abe then gave me a new deal, run around the movie theater doing a few laps and yelling “weeeeee”, and I could stay. I was too chicken to even do this, so ultimately he let me off the hook by running from my seat down the stairs to the entrance of the theater and back up like a relay race. Embarrassed, I upheld my end of the revised bargain, and got to watch the end of the movie. “Uno dos tres, Mcfarland!!!”
- (TIE) Avish – 4 movies (previous year 9). Ooh, tough call, I have to give a shout-out here to two amazing movies that were criminally overlooked by too many people…Love & Mercy was an incredible biopic about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Just an unbelievable depiction of music being created from both genius and insanity. The movie should have been nominated for so many things. And possibly the smartest comedy of the year was Top Five. Chris Rock wrote, directed and starred in an amazingly funny, clever and insightful movie. If he can write the Oscars even half as well as this movie, we’ll be in for a treat on the big night.
That’s enough but I’ll give an honorable mention to my brother Zachary, my father-in-law Mark, Harwin, Damast, Kristina and Farnaz – all of whom watched 3 movies with me. All of you help me enjoy my greatest passion, and I couldn’t do it without you. I actually mean that – I refuse to see movies alone. After 36 years and thousands of movies, the ONLY time I’ve see a movie alone was when my brother Zachary ditched me midway through the Madagascar sequel – granted this was 3 days before his wedding and there was a lot going on – but I was suddenly alone in a movie, and I felt…naked. I had nobody to watch reacting to the movie, nobody to whisper jokes to, nobody to talk to about it after… The irony of the situation is that I was in New York and had nothing else to do, so after it ended I didn’t leave, and instead snuck into two other flicks!
-The movies I am most upset about NOT catching last year? The Walk, The Duff, Self/Less, Z For Zachariah, 99 Homes, Freeheld, Crimson Peak, Burnt, The Peanuts Movie, and Krampus.
-Additional good/great movies that I have not at some point mentioned? Spotlight, The Gift, Grandma, Vacation (so dumb and so funny), Mr. Holmes, Me and Earl & The Dying Girl, Dope, Southpaw, Infinitely Polar Bear, Black Sea, Paddington (GREAT kid’s movie!), Unbroken, Wild, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, End of the Tour and Ex-Machina.
Oh, and my absolute most FUN movie-going experiences this year (not the same as the best movies of the year)? Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World , Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Into The Woods, Furious 7, Inside Out and San Andreas.
The opposite of seeing a movie alone comes annually on my birthday, when I get to watch a movie not only with friends, but with most of the audience being there for me. Here below is my annual birthday movie theater photo, when we saw the awful(ly) entertaining San Andreas. LOVE. THIS.
For years my friends, coworkers and readers have asked me to write a blog explaining WHERE to see movies. Sure people know where one is playing, but that’s usually where it ends. Often they’ll come back from their movie-night and make any of the following complaints:
– “It was sold out”
– “It was so full that we got lousy seats”
– “Parking was awful, and by the time we walked in the movie had started”
– “I sat down on a hypodermic needle, and it wasn’t even mine”
Yes I realize that you can solve many of these problems by buying advanced tickets online, but that is simply more expensive, prevents you from ever using discount tickets, and don’t get me started on those aforementioned hypodermic needles. Well, I don’t have all of the answers, but my seeing an insane number of movies (in the theater) each year has taught me the numerous pros and cons of each location, including many juicy nuggets you haven’t thought of. So for my fellow Angeleno readers, consider this your new Lonely Planet for LA Theaters…
(NOTE: This is not a ranking, I simply tried to lists the theaters in the order I visit them from most to least often.)
AMC Century City 15
How busy – Try to avoid it on weekends. If I’m seeing an older movie at 11pm on a Saturday night then sure, it should be no problem. But a movie during prime-time you’ve got almost no shot unless you buy advanced tickets. On a weeknight on the other hand you should have no problem unless it’s an extremely popular one in its opening week. This is one of my least favorite targets for a weekend, but one of my ideal locations to go on a weeknight.
Seats – As with most theaters on my list these are nice stadium seats – that’s almost a given in today’s day and age. Remember the old days when you’d decide where to sit based on who’s in front of you? What a wonderful thing to leave in the past! And the seats are assigned, which is a double-edged sword in my opinion.
Screens – No small screens here, and a handful of really big ones that I’ll mention later on.
Outside food policy – Moderate. They technically don’t allow you to bring food in, but they also won’t question that big shopping bag in your hand, so be respectful and clean up after yourself if you do!
Parking – Free for exactly 3 hours as long as you validate at the theater. After that I believe it’s 4 bucks at the 3 hours and 1 minute mark.
Tidbits – They also have their fake version of IMAX (nice, large screen but don’t get my started on how it’s not a real IMAX screen), and I haven’t tried it yet but Mike & Jared went to see American Sniper in their ETX room, and apparently the seats are leather, recline, vibrate and have speakers built-in. (Raise your hand if you’re excited to see Fifty Shades of Grey there!)
A quick rant – The theater chain a year or so ago decided that it wouldn’t violate any laws or ethics to start charging a surcharge on each (prepaid) discount pass you use. People who paid for a pass that supposedly covers the full purchase of the movie suddenly were told to give extra money, something incredibly unethical. Other popular theaters such as The Grove have created surcharges in the past, but have printed new passes that give this warning in the fine print; if you have a previous pass from before the change, they still accept it without the surcharge. I’m still quite annoyed at AMC for continuing this unsavory business practice.
Pacific’s The Grove Stadium 14
How busy – Very similar to the busy-factor of Century City, but even MORE crazy on weekends due to the crowds at the outdoor-mall. This would be dead-last in my list of theaters to visit on a Saturday night, but once again no problem on a weeknight.
Seats – Ditto to above: stadium seating, and assigned seating.
Screens – All are a good size, and some are really big (cue Michael Scott).
Outside food policy – Open. Beautifully wide open. This is the one and only theater I’ve found in all of LA that 100% allows outside food, it’s fantastic! I’ve tested this countless times by walking in with a giant pizza box and the only response I get from them as I enter is “Where’s my slice?”. I appreciate this amenity so much, and although I’ll sneak food into just about any theater, it’s great to be able to bring in something fresh and hot with no fear of “getting caught”.
Parking – $2.50 for the first 4 hours with validation. And if you ignore my advice and come on a Saturday night, then enjoy spending an hour trying to park, or better yet just go straight up to the roof where you’ll hopefully find a spot.
Tidbits – Next door my friends Seth, Frank and “Big” Mike all work at the Cheesecake Factory, a place that Adi claims I’d never leave if I was willing to eat non-kosher food. Another tidbit, the stock photo above shows a marquee for two movies I’ve not only seen, but reviewed on this blog. Feel free to take a walk down memory lane with Snitch, and Jack The Giant Slayer.
Pacific Culver Stadium 12
How busy – My favorite choice on a Saturday night, because it does get busy, but RARELY enough to sell out. I’ll go there pretty much anytime, unless it’s an insanely popular movie’s opening weekend.
Seats – Yes stadium seating, but unlike the previous theaters you can choose any seat you want once you enter the theater – something I personally prefer.
Screens – Slightly smaller screens than the previous theaters, but still not bad at all.
Outside food policy – Easy/Moderate. Like most theaters they “don’t allow” it, but this theater is super chill, sometimes I can’t even find someone to take my ticket as I enter!
Parking – On Saturday nights it is sometimes tough thanks to the lovely Downtown Culver City really blooming the last few years. But on any given night there are multiple nearby parking lots, and all of them are free with validation for 4 hours.
Tidbits – We had our engagement photo-shoot in this exact spot, and the theater was completely chill about us coming in and taking photos inside a theater, even though we asked last-minute and offered them nothing for it. As the example above shows, such great shots and memories came from here!
How busy – On weekends, extremely. The theaters are smaller, and the crowds are huge, so either buy your tickets in advance online, or don’t bother going on a weekend. On a weeknight on the other hand you can generally get a ticket.
Seats – Yes stadium seating, and yes assigned seats, but here you get something very cool – the living-room theaters! A few of the screens have leather couches instead of chairs and the front row even gives you a foot-rest. It’s really comfortable and my only “complaint” is that the couches have low backings so taller people may get uncomfortable unless they slouch. But definitely a fun way to see a movie. For anyone going on a date, this could be a much more “intimate” way to see a movie.
Screens – A few are large, most are medium, and the living room screens are pretty small, so sit in the front few rows for those. And FYI one or two of their medium-sized screens are placed awkwardly high up, so if you see a movie in those rooms you’ll want to sit in a row further back or you’ll be straining your neck to look up the entire flick. Weird design, right?
Outside food policy – Moderate. They do have a nicer concession stand than most theaters, serving coffee, tea and nuts.
Parking – Busy on weekends as well. Free parking for 3 hours with theater validation. Strangely, when you exit on the Pico Boulevard side, the gate is often already up and you can just drive straight out.
Tidbits – In June of 2007 I had my birthday party at this theater, where we literally bought out the entire living-room theater and watched Son of Rambow. They charged us only 7 bucks per person back then. The sound and sight of a theater packed full of your friends watching a movie with you? Priceless.
Sundance Sunset Cinema
How busy – Not usually too hard to get into, but I usually only go on Tuesdays (I’ll explain why below)
Seats – Very nice leather seats with plenty of space between each person for food.
Screens – Generally medium to small-sized, but perfectly fine.
Outside food policy – Moderate. They have a nice bar for wine and beer as well as some nice other goodies at the concession stand, and people can order food to bring inside the theater.
Parking – Easy to find within the parking lot, and 3 hours free parking with validation.
Tidbits – Why do I go on Tuesday nights? They have 6 dollar movies all day and night! This theater is quite expensive the rest of the time, but any movie, anytime on a Tuesday for 6 bucks? Quite the bargain.
Cinemark 18 & 😄
How busy – This is my other favorite theater for Saturday nights. I’ve never had trouble getting into a movie, any night of the week.
Seats – Typically good stadium seating chairs, and choose any seat you want when you arrive.
Screens – Medium to large screens.
Outside food policy – Moderate.
Parking – 3 dollars flat-rate as you enter on weekends and weeknights.
Tidbits – The downsides of this theater are that it’s a bit further for me to get to (Howard Hughes Center, off the 405), and a lot of loud teenagers tend to hang out here, making it more likely than the previous theaters that you’ll encounter an inconsiderate, noisy audience.
Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15
How busy – I’ve only been here a handful of times, but have never had trouble getting a seat.
Seats – Newly built theater with stadium seating and no assigned seating.
Screens – Medium
Outside food policy – Strict. This is the only place I’ve ever been to where they checked my bags, and sent me away due to outside food.
Parking – An outdoor parking lot, and totally free.
Tidbits – This used to be known as the Magic Johnson theater in Crenshaw, and my friends thought it was funny that I’d travel all the way there to catch movies. Well now some of them have seen the light after trying it, and want to give this place repeat business. They closed the theater down and rebuilt it, and now you have a brand new theater which is as nice as any other, while being the cheapest place I know of for new movies in LA! They offer student discounts and other discounts, and it usually costs between 5 to 7 dollars per movie when I go. In fact even if you don’t have a student ID, Wednesdays all day are just 6 dollars a movie, even 3D showings!
Regency Village and Bruin Theaters
How busy – Mostly empty. It’s so easy to get tickets, even if it’s the opening weekend of a popular movie.
Seats – Old-school chairs and no stadium seating, so don’t sit behind someone tall. (Not a problem since there are always tons of empty seats.)
Screens – Huge! These are some of the oldest theaters in LA, and each of them has just one screen, but it’s a giant one!
Outside food policy – Medium strict. They have Starbucks and candy stores right by it and tons of UCLA students as customers, so they really try to keep outside food from entering with you.
Parking – Usually you’ll have to pick from one of the nearby lots and pay a flat rate. There is also metered parking but it’s usually enforced until late at night.
Tidbits – This is where many movie premieres used to take place, (it’s quite historic) and now it’s sadly underutilized. I look forward to my birthday party year after year being in one of these theaters (across the street from each other), and they always rope off however many rows I need and give us a huge discount. Many, many great memories are from here. Fun fact: If there’s a line to buy tickets in front of you, just walk across the street to the other theater and they’ll let you buy tickets for either location!
Of course there are other theaters in the city, and some of them are nicer than the rest:
– The Arclight in Hollywood is fantastic, but since it offers zero discount passes or cheap days, I avoid it. How else can I afford to see so many movies each year?!
– Ditto for the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the main screen is massive and historic, but the rest of the screens are very average and just too darn expensive for no apparent reason.
– The various theaters on 3rd Street Promenade are all last resort choices for me, because it takes forever to find parking, and the theaters are old-school without any stadium seating. But I’ll still go if that’s the last place a movie is playing – hell, I’ll go anywhere.
– Universal Citywalk has a great theater with many screens, but call me crazy – I try to avoid driving to the valley and paying 10 bucks for parking.
So there you have it, a new guide for my friends and readers living in Los Angeles that should make you much more prepared to have a successful movie-night. (If you live in the valley and are shouting, “WHAT ABOUT ME?!” I make no apologies!)
A whole year goes by, and I’ve barely been blogging. What gives?!
Granted, I’ve been incredibly busy helping my hospital transition from old-fashioned paper charting, to our newly improved electronic medical records. I’ve also been continuing with school full-time for a higher nursing degree. But dammit, not only my movie-blogging has suffered, but my actual movie-going has too. This year marks the absolute lowest number of movies I’ve seen since…well, since I’ve started counting in college! (EDITOR NOTE: Boaz started counting from a very young age, not in his college years, he is simply referring to keeping count of his movie tally in the above statement. Any attempts to disparage Boaz and his ability to count, spell or read will be subject to lawsuit.)
While it may be unrealistic for me to think I’ll have the time to ever blog about EVERY movie I see – as I did once before – I do have a few attainable goals in mind for 2015:
1. See more movies. I need to get back to my roots and get my average back up closer to 150 per year. When you read my final number for the year you may notice it’s still more movies than anyone else you know. Nonetheless, it makes me sad inside. And teacher says that every time Boaz is sad an Angel loses his wings.
2. Blog more. Even if not constantly, just needs to happen more often. I miss writing, and a few kind readers have told me they miss reading them, so the narcissist in me must feed the devoted audience. Let’s put it this way, my next blog had better not be catching you up with my tally for 2015.
3. “Forget” to leave the toilet seat up once or twice. My wife Adi has gotten so used to me being a good husband, it’s time I bring back a little slapstick to the house. The only thing funnier than seeing someone slip on a banana peel is the noise of someone screaming and splashing as they “fall” into a toilet. Comedy gold…
4. Be a good husband and listen more, and do what Adi wants for a change because…wait, we have time for a QUADRUPLE feature on Sunday?!
Okay, now that my wish list for 2015 is on full display…
Final count for movies I saw in the theater during 2014:
– 103 movies!
– Sounds like a lot? Consider that my old average was 150, and my last two years were 135 and 139 respectably.
– This includes what I saw in the theater between January 1st and December 31st of 2014.
Ready for the breakdown of who I saw them with? Here is where many of my friends come into the picture, and I’ll give examples of movie highs and lows from each friend…
1. Adi – 71 movies. Tsk tsk, in 2012 she saw 106 with her crazy boyfriend. In 2013 she saw 87 with her obsessed fiancé. But in 2014 she saw only 71 movies with her one-track husband. Are you sensing a pattern here? Should I be worrying about my marriage? I went on at least 3 hikes with her last year, but I only get 71 movies in return? I know what you’re all thinking, men give and women take, it’s an age-old tale…I’m still unsure what I would call the year’s best movie, but the absolute 100% most FUN I had at the movies this year was a tie between Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Marvel is starting to challenge Pixar as the most consistently clever, entertaining and creative movie empire in town. They keep churning out big spectacles and surprising us with good writing, smart directors and great casting. You definitely get your money’s worth…
2. Jared – 12 movies. While this is a slight decline from the 15 he saw with me in 2013, it’s actually quite impressive considering he lived in Pasadena. Now that he’s moving nearby to the city, just imagine how much better 2015 might be. The sky’s the limit…for Jared and Boaz that is. Adi may already be a lost cause with her pathetic 71 movie count. The most creative/cool/inventive movie of the year: Snowpiercer. Most disappointing movies of the year given my expectations: Tie between The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and The Gambler. Both sucked, and I don’t say that often as readers should know.
3. Mittelman – 9 movies. The one friend I have who actually has and uses the movie app. I’m still not convinced it would work well for me, but I gotta love a friend who can see a movie every 24 hours with me. Best movie of the year you heard of but didn’t know was great: Chef. The movie that will likely (and deservedly) win Best Picture that you still haven’t seen: Boyhood (wow, what a film-making feat!)
4. Avish – 9 movies. Avish is such a good friend, she will literally come see a movie she wasn’t interested in just because Adi and I walked to the movie theater and will eventually need a ride home. She also has taste that typically is limited to art-house indies, but then randomly she’ll need to see Winnie The Pooh above all else. I saw some pretty great movies with her, but the one that was absolutely fantastic, and you probably think was a mindless blockbuster sequel: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It won’t even be considered for the major Oscars, and that’s simply sad. Because it was awesome. Awesome. AWE-SOME. (Rule of thumb: anything with Andy Serkis doing motion capture is awesome, If he played the big screen version of Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo he would probably warrant an Oscar nomination.)
5. Shlomo – 7 movies. The one friend I can count on to ask me to save him a certain movie, then see that movie when it comes out, and then complain that I made him see it with me when he hates it. Every time. Classic Shlom…he reminds me of that underrated Jon Lovitz cartoon The Critic, since the first thing he says after almost every movie is “it sucked!”. Somehow I’m almost disappointed when he doesn’t say it…The best fighting scenes of any movie this year: Tie between John Wick and The Raid 2. If you’re a fan of (who cares what the plot is but) incredible action sequences, don’t miss either of them.
6a. Mike B. – 5 movies. He really wanted to be higher on the list this year, and he just barely did, but c’mon Mikey, we used to see dozens a year, we can do better than this next time! Mike holds the special distinction of being able to remember every movie he’s ever seen with me, as well as the date and theater we saw it in. But did he remember to bring milk from the grocery store like his wife asked? I think not! Best movie for anyone who plays fantasy football or watches the real thing: Draft Day. This Kevin Costner movie got trashed by most critics, but it was fun, tight and exciting, and…oh get your head out of the gutter!
6b. Ephraim – 5 movies. Sadly, this friend moved away to the Windy City, so I expect he won’t be on this list in future years. But what a great guy to see movies with…if you don’t mind someone LOUDLY TALKING AND COMPLAINING THROUGHOUT IT. And therefore yes, he was the absolute perfect person to see Blended and Tammy with this year, both quite lame and way more fun thanks to his running-at-the-mouth complaints.
6c. Josh B. – 5 movies. This sucks! Josh was the title-winner the previous few years (after Adi of course) and this year he plummeted down from 16 to 5. But wait you might argue (if you know him) that he just had a baby, that changes everything! Ah, but I know something that you don’t know, his baby is not left-handed! Oh, and also it was born at the end of the year, so it really wasn’t a relevant factor. Instead I must resign myself to the knowledge that he simply chose not to see as many movies with me, and our once strong friendship is clearly slipping away into the ether…Runner-up (to Planet of the Apes) as the best movie of the year that you THOUGHT was a big, dumb blockbuster, but was actually smart and awesome: Edge of Tomorrow. Yes, Tom Cruise was in a clever and hilarious sci-fi movie. It happened.
7a. Shira G. – 4 movies. My friend used to live miles away and I’d see hordes of movies with her. Now she lives a few blocks from here and we’re only at 4 for the year? Must be something I said…Great movie that shows that even funny Saturday Night Live actors can act amazingly well in dramas that make you want to kill yourself. Bravo: The Skeleton Twins.
7b. Cindy – 4 movies. All year Cindy kept telling me she needs to get back onto the movie list. You see we used to watch many together, but then she got a job and it became more difficult. So Cindy did the only sensible thing anyone in her situation would do: she changed jobs so that she could start working from home in order to see more movies with me again. Welcome back to the list Cindy, I expect great things from 2015…Movie and studio who’s hype is starting to confuse me: Disney’s Big Hero 6. I liked the movie. I really did. But I have the same problem with this as I did the previous year with Disney’s Frozen. Too many people said it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Frozen was a very pretty and entertaining movie with some nice songs and a story that says that men suck and sisters are the only true love out there. Awesome, liked it. But it wasn’t the greatest movie, cartoon or anything in ages, just good Disney fun. Big Hero 6 once again was a really entertaining movie. In fact I liked it more than Frozen. But when Cindy told me that her friends were raving that it was the best movie of the year I may have lost my faith in humanity for just a moment.
7d. Nathan – 4 movies. This friend spent the early part of the year piloting helicopters for the army and still managed to make the list. For those of you who think you don’t have the time to see a movie with me because of your busy lives in LA, for shame…Best cartoon of the year: The LEGO Movie. There were so many clever jokes thrown out during the movie that I honestly need to see it again.
I’ll stop my breakdown right there, but honorable mention goes to the following friends who saw 3 with me: Kavka, Yoni, Jason R., Dan & Michelle,
And a special shameful shout-out to Patrick, Abe and Farnaz, who all made the cut last year but this year saw nothing but my birthday movie with me. I didn’t know we were having problems with our friendships, but clearly I need to redraft my will before it gets too late.
Speaking of my birthday movie, I’ll finish off with this fun photo that sums up my 2014 movie year as well as my friends: a whole bunch of us crazies camped out late at night to see the absolutely phenomenal X-Men sequel. Many people were fans of the series, many more just came to spend time doing what I love for my birthday, but all of us had a damn fun night together…at the movies!
Synopsis: “A cryptic phone call sets off a dangerous game of risks for Elliot, a down-on-his luck salesman. The game promises increasing rewards for completing 13 tasks, each more sinister than the last.” (Rated R; 1 hour, 32 minutes)
(NOTE: If you haven’t already read my previous interview with Daniel Stamm, I would strongly recommend it as it is one of my all-time favorite blog-posts, linked here for you to read before or after my latest one below.)
On Thursday night I had the massively cool and enjoyable experience of gathering a group of friends to see a movie directed (and co-written) by a good friend of mine. It came out exactly one week ago, and the only problem is – you can’t find it in theaters as of today even if you tried. How can this be?
Video On Demand is a service that has been around for years which allows people to watch movies from the comforts of their home. In the past, people would pay to see movies once they were gone from theaters, sometimes before they were even officially released on DVD; but the movies certainly had their primary run in theaters before that became the backup method to see them later. There seems to have been a shift in the movie industry which has made it common for movies to be made with the complete intention of releasing them “on demand”, and at most giving the movie a token theatrical run.
To clarify, there have always been movies made with the direct intention of being “straight to video”, but what seems to be happening now is different. You have filmmakers – often successful theatrical writers and directors – who go into the process with the intention of making their movie for cinema audiences, but are then told along the way that it isn’t the intention at all.
The following are pieces of a 90 minute “interview” (let’s be honest, it was a conversation) with my talented friend Daniel Stamm (second from the left in the photo below), who also co-wrote and directed 13 Sins, NOT playing in a theater near you…
Boaz – We just came back from seeing your movie, and had a great night out. Some of my friends now think I’m “sick” for having so much fun watching some of the more sadistic scenes from the movie, but I couldn’t help it! Where are you calling me from right now?
Daniel – I’m in Canada filming episodes of Intruders for BBC America, and will be back in a few months. So let me ask YOU Boaz, was anyone else in the theater actually watching the movie other than your friends?
Boaz – Yes, I counted and there were SEVEN other people (in addition to the seven of us). And when the next showtime started I counted THREE others entering, so that’s another whopping 238 dollars for the movie last night alone! Remind me, what was the budget?
Daniel – 4 million dollars. We’re on our way! Boaz, you’re better at math than I am, what’s the tally so far?
Boaz – Well I don’t know about the last few days, but on its opening weekend it was released on an astounding 45 screens, with a total of $9,261, giving it a per screen average of $206. I can fairly say that if there was ever an antithesis to Avatar and Titanic, this might be it.
Daniel – You may be right, but the movie was actually profitable, in spite of this.
Boaz – Seriously? HOW?!
Daniel – Our production company and the financiers made their money back before the movie was even made, by selling the international rights to it. Places like Japan and Germany come up with prices and pay it, and then it’s up to them if they release it in theaters or not, but the people who put up the money here lose nothing. As a filmmaker though, it still hurts to go from a movie that had a theatrical release in America, made a lot of money, and then have the next basically go straight to VOD (Video On Demand) where nobody has heard of it.
Boaz – Why would they do this though? It just doesn’t make sense to me that you’d have your previous movie The Last Exorcism do so well, so why put nothing into this one?
Daniel – I really don’t know, these days it is becoming more and more common for studios to make movies that are either huge budget tent-poles like Iron Man and Captain they put hundreds of millions of dollars into making and promoting them, whereas more and more of the movies that cost a few million like ours aren’t worth the time or risk to promote, so they just put them out on VOD. We’re actually lucky, I was shocked when I saw we were released on 45 screens, many are on 2 or 3, and I personally didn’t see a single poster or ad for it, so I don’t think they put any money into marketing it. It was all about VOD. As I said, they already made their money on foreign presales, anything else from iTunes and (Time Warner Cable) On Demand is a bonus.
Boaz – I just don’t get it, it’s not as if you have a spotty track record, you made one movie in film school which did amazingly well in film festivals (A Necessary Death), you then were paid to make your first movie (The Last Exorcism) and made it for how much money?
Daniel – 1.5 million dollars.
Boaz – And it made how much money?
Daniel – Almost 70 million dollars.
Boaz – Right! It made over 20 million dollars OPENING WEEKEND, how do they go from that to hiring you to make something that doesn’t get a single billboard or commercial or any marketing, and has the intent of being seen on VOD only? It seems ludicrous. Do legitimate filmmakers have absolutely no safety when they sign a contract that it will actually go to theaters? Can’t you sign a contract that ensures it will get a full theatrical release?
Daniel – You could do that, sure, but it usually won’t make a difference. There are huge producers who commonly pay for movies which are “supposed” to go to theaters, but then they go VOD. If the filmmaker threatens lawsuit, then they usually lose. And even if those power-house producers lose, the amount they have to pay in penalties for breaching the contract is nothing compared to the amount of money they’d have to pay to promote and release a movie in theaters, so they accept that as a part of the business.
Boaz – This happens to people I’ve heard of?
Daniel – Absolutely, you’d be shocked how many never see the light of day; good movies that for one reason or another they decided to not release. I’ve heard that (NAME EDITED OUT TO PROTECT DANIEL’S CAREER) for example makes about 10 movies a year from successful writers and directors, but only releases a few. Some don’t even end up as VOD, they just collect dust on his shelf, so-to-speak. I don’t know why, but that’s what he does. I assume he releases less because it may maintain the success of the brand. But why make all of the extras in the first place? I honestly don’t know.
Boaz – How does the marketing work with VOD in the first place? Your movie was released in theaters last week briefly and immediately can be found on iTunes and VOD, does that mean they’re spending money to market it online for streaming at least?
Daniel – I don’t think so. They seem to just put it out there, and if enough people start to watch it, then they’ll start to put some money into marketing it. The idea of VOD seems to be that they just make the movies, throw it out there, and if people don’t see it, then they don’t put any money into marketing it. That’s how it works now.
Boaz – So this is now backwards marketing? Instead of spending money to market something and tell audiences where to catch it, now you’re supposed to catch it on your own, and only if you do will they start telling others to catch it?
Daniel – Yes, I believe so.
Boaz – That’s insane.
Daniel – They had 13 Sins in the “New Arrivals” section of iTunes, they tell me it didn’t do anything, so they won’t be marketing it… that’s just how it is. Actually, Ron Perlman (supporting actor in the movie, and pictured on the very left of the photo above) said he’d be happy to promote it, he believed in the project, but nobody reached out to him whatsoever.
Boaz – You’re making me so upset here, as a movie-lover, and as your friend and fan.
Daniel – There’s a huge positive side you’re not seeing. Independent filmmakers who would have never been able to make movies are finally being given the chance to make something that people can see. In the past if you wanted to make a movie you needed lots of money, you needed so many different departments to back you and put time and energy into you. Now small people who have a passion for movies but no track record can make something and release it themselves for free on the internet. Those movies can get you noticed, and make it into film festivals. It’s quite incredible, and is making the entire industry more accessible to the world.
Boaz – Okay, so it’s great for people who are just starting out, but how is it good for someone who already has had success, like yourself?!
Daniel – Oh, no question that it sucks for me, because I’m coming from The Last Exorcism’s theatrical release, but for independent filmmakers there is now nothing standing in their way from making a movie for a few thousand dollars, which used to be unthinkable.
Boaz – You continue to be the world’s most positive person, I think I’m angrier about this than you are!
Daniel – (Laughs). To be fair, it’s been so long since making the movie that I’m not as much in the moment. We were shooting it in Halloween of 2012, now it’s April 2014. It’s just not as fresh or immediate as it would be if it was immediate, so that helps cushion the blow.
Boaz – What are you taking out of this experience then, mister positive?
Daniel – Listen, its not a money issue… nobody lost money on this movie… nobody put a dollar into marketing, it’s just a different movie model now. It’s crappy as a filmmaker because the public doesn’t know the movie exists, and VOD is basically a dumping ground for movies, but from a pure business standpoint it’s still profitable for everyone.
Boaz – How will this affect your future in the business?
Daniel – I’ve benefited from making this movie, because it’s a different style, I got to use some great name-actors, and we had a great experience putting it together. But career-wise it wasn’t good; it was 3 years of me basically treading water in the same spot. It can be quite hard not to think of that way. If you’ve made a movie that didn’t make money but is a critical success, then at least you can point to that… some people will hire you for for that at least. This one is getting less good reviews and far less money than the last one. In this industry you’re only as good as your last movie. One consolation I’ve been told is that it’s not as bad as if it was released wide and bombed, then you’re considered box office poison, at least this still made people money… but it’s still not good overall.
Boaz – What’s with those reviews, anyway? I thought it was a really great idea and enjoyed it from start to finish.
Daniel – It’s frustrating actually, many of the negative reviews kept comparing it to another VOD movie that was released last year, Cheap Thrills, which got great reviews. It shares a lot of the same plot, and many critics thought we were just copying it. That’s a completely unfair comparison, because we were already making our movie before theirs had even come out. Not only that, but ours is an official remake of the Thai movie 13: Game Of Death from 2006. So it’s ludicrous to say we’re copying this other movie when we’re actually legitimately making an American remake of a 2006 movie. It’s very frustrating…
Boaz – Okay, I think we’ve beaten all of that like a dead horse, let’s get a bit more fluffy. How were the actors to work with?
Boaz – What was Ron Perlman like? You got to work with Hellboy!
Daniel – He was very much making his own movie. Most of his scenes were separate from the rest of the cast, looking at crime scenes. So while the rest of the crew had a very close-knit family feel, he kind of filmed everything separately and did his own thing. That being said, he turned out to be absolutely the nicest, most unpretentious and supportive man I could have asked for.
Boaz – Where did you film it?
Daniel – Most of it was actually shot in New Orleans; that was awesome.
Boaz – I couldn’t find anywhere on IMDB who played the “voice” on the phone throughout the movie? Who the heck was that?
Daniel – He’s not listed? Interesting. That’s George Coe, from Kramer Vs. Kramer.
Boaz – Oh my God, I know him, and he’s the voice of Woodhouse on Archer, that’s probably the funniest show on television!
Daniel – I haven’t seen it.
Boaz – You should! Anyway, it’s been an hour and a half of talking on the phone and you’re filming more in the morning, so I really really appreciate you taking the time for this interview, and to catch up. Zoltán (Honti) did another great job as your cinematographer as usual. Is he with you working on the BBC America show you’re doing over there now?
Daniel – No, they have their own crews set-up here for this show I’m doing, so I couldn’t bring him along. We love working together as you know!
Boaz – I do know, and he’s a lovely guy who I haven’t seen in years! Adi and I were so excited to see your name on the poster outside the theater, and when it came up on the screen we screamed like lunatics. The other seven people in the theater probably thought we were nuts!
Daniel – Well I certainly appreciate it! Great catching up with you Boaz, see you for some movies when I get back in June!
Thanks to the great fun I had going to see the movie with Adi, Leah, Jason, Shira, Avish and Cindy, the night was a blast. We saw it at the beautiful Sundance Sunset Cinema, which has a full bar and lounge, and at least a few of my friends wanted to kill me afterwards because they didn’t realize it was going to be a bit of a horror movie. Mwa ha ha…
To be fair, it wasn’t a horror movie, but rather a suspenseful thriller which had some horror movie imagery. I told Daniel that it was like a cross between Hostel and Die Hard: With A Vengeance. Thankfully, he loved the comparison, though I’m sure what it was most like was the Thai movie it was remaking which I haven’t actually seen. As with The Last Exorcism, the movie didn’t end with us going our separate ways, but rather a group of friends discussing and arguing about the “what would you do” quandaries of the movie. Would you start to play the anonymous game-show that proves to give thousands of dollars for increasingly bad behavior, or would you not participate in the first place? No matter what your answer is, it’s not every movie that gets you to keep thinking about it the rest of the night.
The movie wasn’t as GREAT as Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, which felt like an entirely original and almost flawless film. It was however much better and far more interesting than the Hostel franchise which involved sadistic behavior with no point other than to tantalize sadistic viewers. This movie was entirely about human morality, and how easily we might slip.
Quality Rating: A- (There were some technical/continuity problems which I mentioned to Daniel, and he admitted that there’s not much you can do when you have a limited budget, even when you catch the problems at the time you have to sometimes just let it go and move on because you can’t afford to re-shoot the scene!)
Boaz Rating: A+ (Was there ever any question that I was going to love the entire experience of seeing my friend’s movie with a group of other friends, and then interviewing him immediately thereafter? Of course not!)
Synopsis: “A trio of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.” (Rated R; 2 hours, 9 minutes)
Extremely entertaining, funny, and “based on a true story”. Why the quotation marks? I’ll get to that later… It’s somewhat shocking that the movie is by Michael Bay, the same director who loves to make bloated mega-movies like Transformers and Pearl Harbor. To be fair I generally love his movies, but that’s because I have the ability to enjoy big, loud, brainless garbage. Give me Armageddon any day and I’ll leave the movie theater super happy. And let’s not forget this is the same director who recently went viral after doing this at a major CES convention.
At the end of the day, he managed to make a movie that was small (by his standards), and caused some controversy by turning the bad guys into the likable protagonists, and making the real life victim into a character you dislike and root against. Read more about that right here. But I’m not here to pass judgment on the choice of the writers and filmmakers on portraying the story authentically, because purely as a movie THIS. WAS. FUN.
Mark Wahlberg continues to be shockingly hilarious in his recent roles (my favorite is still The Other Guys), he plays stupid SO well in this movie, and he’s INCREDIBLY built (far more than usual) for the role; his biceps were almost as big as The Rock’s… speaking of which The Rock is pretty darn funny himself as a super-sensitive thug. Don’t get me wrong, this may have cracked Adi and myself up, but it’s a comedy for the Tarantino crowd; it’s dark and violent, but nonetheless a surprisingly well-made Michael Bay movie I can easily recommend, even if it did insult the real people it was based on…
The movie was better than Bay’s The Island, an over-the-top sci-fi flop that I managed to enjoy in spite of its badness, and it still wasn’t as much fun as his classic action extravaganza The Rock – I miss Sean Connery!!!
Quality Rating: B+ (I almost gave it an A- but I suppose there should be SOME social responsibility to not only changing the true story, but doing it in a way that offends the still-living victims, right?)
Boaz Rating: A (Still, it was so much fun to watch play out!)
Synopsis: “It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.” (Rated PG-13; 1 hour, 38 minutes)
This movie was a big hit back in Australia, but really flew under the radar in America – as most “foreign” films do. In this case there’s no excuse by people who don’t like to read subtitles, because unless you have an American brain that’s unable to process accents, there should be no problem. (On a side note, am I allowed to write that it sounds ignorant when people state that they “don’t like foreign films”? Is that supposed to be another way of saying “I don’t like to read”?)
This likable little movie is based on the true story about a white drunk man who sees the potential in a group of Aboriginal girls to turn them into a singing group, and take them to Vietnam to perform for the troops. This being the 1960’s the movie obviously involves strong elements of racism, but the movie focuses less on the external elements against them, and is more about their own internal dynamics. For American audiences, seeing Aboriginal actresses will be less familiar, and it was quite refreshing to my eyes; and of course Chris O’Dowd continues to be extremely likable and funny. (Two of his more well-known roles would be the Irish cop in Bridesmaids, and as Jessa’s husband in Girls.)
The movie was a cute little “rise to stardom” story which was made solidly and competently, and packaged this true story dramedy-musical into an enjoyable flick. If you’re curious to know more about these girls, here is a “where are they now” story for your reading pleasure. It wasn’t anything you needed to see in theaters, but is certainly a decent option for an iTunes download.
The movie was better than Joyful Noise, a completely boring flick that is also about a group of people trying to move from gospel to popular music. The movie wasn’t nearly as good as That Thing You Do! Admit it, the second I mentioned That Thing You Do! you were already humming this song in your head.
Quality Rating: B (Everything about it was competent, and interesting, but it was basically a really good TV movie.)
Boaz Rating: B+ (Put Chris O’Dowd into a movie and it gains a bit of an edge.)