The 2016 AND 2017 Boaz Movie Tally

8 Jan

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Has the image been burnt into your mind yet? Do you already regret reading this? Well, you’re already here, you may as well read on…

I missed blogging last year’s movie tally! (I know, unforgivable.) These things don’t write themselves you know, and before long I had failed at writing the one thing that I had never missed since creating this blog – my year in review.

So to help make up for it, I will post about both years now, 2 for the low price of 1, what a deal!

2016 Movie Tally

2016 was the year that me and Adi started to travel with friends. We went for a week to China with Harwin, Avish and Cori, two of whom you will read more about further down this blog. There are all sorts of things I could tell you about China, but one big takeaway is that Beijing is ancient, and still full of Buddhists and citizens who are scared to speak ill of the government. Shanghai on the other hand felt like visiting Tokyo, was lit up like Vegas, and full of citizens who had zero issue with speaking openly against their government. In summation, 2 major cities in the same country, and they couldn’t have been more different. Oh, and this was us. (Side note: see that mask dangling from Harwin’s hand? Yup, Beijing had air pollution so bad that you could taste and feel it.  Checking the air quality index on a daily basis was depressing.)

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What about the movies from that year? Okay here goes.

My final tally for 2016 in theaters – 86

Sounds like a lot? No! This is the first time in all of my years tracking that I went UNDER 100 movies for the calendar year! My previous low was 103 in 2014. I bounced back a bit with 121 in 2015, and sadly had this precipitous drop in 2016. I vowed to improve and at least get back over 100 in 2017, but to know if I succeeded you’ll have to keep reading, my intrepid readers.

Here is the breakdown of some of the highs and lows of the year, categorized by who I saw the most movies with:

  1. Adi – 73 movies (previous year 86). No surprise there, my wife continues to be my #1 each year (awwww) and honestly wants to see MOST movies that come out. So as any friend who has asked me to see a movie can tell you, my main limitation is not time or energy or cost, it’s “If Adi can’t join then it’ll have to be one of the few likely crappy movies playing that she doesn’t care about seeing.” We see so many together, so what were some of the highlights? Let’s run through them quickly. Hacksaw Ridge gets the prize of being an amazingly made war movie, by a continuously awful human being (Mel Gibson). Storks gets the prize of us enjoying  an animated flick, thinking that the funniest character was the surfer-dude pigeon, and then months later meeting Abe Zilkha’s cousin Stephen Kramer Glickman, who was introduced to us as “the voice of the pigeon in Storks“…an awesome and hilarious guy who hosts a hysterical show at the Hollywood Improv each month that I’ve now enjoyed twice. Kubo and the Two Strings was an incredibly imaginative and fun animated film. The Hateful Eight continued the string of Tarantino movies that makes me mad that he keeps threatening to retire, and Room was just one of the best movies I’ve seen in years, ironic considering people confuse it with The Room, arguably the worst movie of all time, so naturally I found a clip where someone compares the two here.
  2. Harwin – 6 movies (previous year 3). From China to the movie theater, we doubled our previous year’s tally, with mixed results. My favorite of the bunch was probably the creative Don’t Breathe. Put a bunch of punk teens into the house of a blind man they’re trying to rob, make him a psycho killer who uses the darkness to his advantage, and you’ve got a pretty fun flick. We also saw The Accountant (with long-ago movie-watching champ Mike Burgher), an underrated suspenseful drama that made everyone exclaim, “wow, that was actually surprisingly good” and spitting in the face of most critics.
  3. (TIE 3rd/4th) Jared – 5 movies (previous year 11). Wow, all 5 were sequels, that’s hilarious. Going from 11 to 5 though, not cool! None of the sequels were great, I would say the best was probably Star Trek Beyond which was fun but unmemorable. The worst was easily the Independence Day sequel. What a waste, after all these years, if they can churn out Fast & The Furious movies every 2 years and make them all damn fun, they couldn’t at least make a great B movie out of this? Blah.
  4. (TIE 3rd/4th) Mittelman – 5 movies (previous year 4). The highlight was easily Deadpool. I mean, come on, that movie was hysterical. There was an entire sex montage built around each holiday. It takes a lot to make me laugh hard, but that movie did the trick. Oh, and have you seen the teaser for the sequel this year? It’s an homage to Bob Ross who anyone under 30 probably doesn’t even remember! Check it out here.
  5. (TIE 5th-8th) Yossi – 4 movies (previous year 0). Exponentially the biggest uptick in movie-going, we went from never seeing a movie together to seeing 4! A very tough call what my favorite movie was with him, as there were two AWESOME ones. Don’t laugh, but one of them was…Trolls! Yup, not just in the Boaz ratings system, but it was a hilarious movie, totally zany, great music, inventive visuals, and a group of us adults were sitting in the theater cracking up and wondering if we had just all just dropped the same acid. Netflix even just released a short Holiday special of it, and me and Adi JUMPED to watch it. Trust me, drink a little alcohol and watch the trippy experience of this musical movie, you’ll crack up. The other film I loved? The Jungle Book, WOW was that amazing. What CAN’T Jon Favreau do? The guy was a fun actor in Swingers, and then cut to years later he kick-starts the now-iconic Iron Man franchise, he makes the adorable small movie Chef (highly recommended) and then Disney asks him to make a live action version of their cartoon about animals. 9 out of 10 directors would have made a movie about as good as Alvin & The Chipmunks but he found it in him to make a visually stunning live action musical movie that was thrilling. The kid gave an incredible acting performance against CGI creatures, and the movie set a high benchmark for Disney remaking its cartoons that will be hard to match.
  6. (TIE 5th-8th) Kara – 4 movies (previous year 4). This should be easy. Yes we also saw the aforementioned Trolls together, but dude, we saw Sausage Party. Have you SEEN that filthy cartoon yet? If you have anything even CLOSE to my dirty sense of humor, and haven’t seen it yet, run, don’t walk. And just you wait for the, let’s just say climax. Ooh boy. It may be a cartoon, but don’t let your kids get within 100 yards of this one (unless you want them to turn out like me).
  7. (TIE 5th-8th) Avish – 4 movies (previous year 4). There she is, also pictured way above traveling together in China. I did enjoy Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, though not surprisingly Adi says the book was better. But my favorite isn’t even in question: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I started to write an entire answer about how much I loved that movie, and it evolved into a much bigger piece, so I published that separately right here.
  8. (TIE 5th-8th) Sara – 4 movies (previous year 1). I’m gonna mention two diametrically opposed movies we saw together, each of which I highly recommend. The first was Love & Friendship…what made this so surprising is that it is as lovely as any of the classic Jane Austen adaptations, but it’s based on a short collection of notebooks where she threw this story together when she was just 15 years old! As a movie it comes together delightfully. What’s the other movie I recommend? 10 Cloverfield Lane, couldn’t be much more different from Austen, and I loved it. It’s one of those movies that benefits from knowing less before seeing it, but I will say that it has a tour de force performance by the always solid John Goodman, and the direction created a really great, taut atmosphere. And you have NO IDEA where things will go, always a pleasure when I’m sitting in a movie theater.

Honorable mention goes to the following friends who saw 3 movies with me: Patrick, who has the greatest, loudest movie-laugh other than Craig’s horse-laugh; Aaron who only went to a movie with me one day, but we saw 3 that day – LOVE THAT; Arnon who  after being inspired by the ones we saw together no doubt, made an incredible award winning short you can see advertised here; Abe & Farnaz, who I saw movies with that varied from the epic Captain American: Civil War (essentially another great Avengers flick), to the HYSTERICALLY inappropriate The Brothers Grimsby, which will never let you see elephants the same way again; Shira saw Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping with me, and it made me laugh enough to cry, and had the added benefit of being on my actual birthday; And speaking of my actual birthday, I saw 5 or 6 that day, and the final one was the only one Adi refused to sit through, so instead Avy joined me for, wait for it, Angry Birds: The Movie, and yes it was as terrible as you likely imagine.

Additional very honorable mention goes to the masterpiece Hell or High Water. I saw that with my family, none of whom made my list, but I have to mention how awesome this movie was. The performances by both sides of the law (including Jeff Bridges in his best role since Lebowski), the witty dialogue, the fact that I can STILL remember the side characters who have 2 lines, it was an instant-classic, and you must watch it.

 

2017 Movie Tally

2017 was epic. First of all the traveling continued. In February we went just the 2 of us to Ireland, and it was exactly as you’d hope: beautiful, green, chilly, and full of friendly people who were not necessarily drunk all the time. Oh, and see the photo below? Know what movie it OBVIOUSLY brings to mind since it was actually, famously filmed here? The Princess Bride, DUH, those are the Cliffs of Insanity. Oh, did I figure that out while I was STANDING RIGHT THERE? No…I’ll never live that one down…

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The very next month we went on another trip, this time to Thailand, with a group of 11 of us. Before we could go, Adi wanted to take every freaking insane precaution for Zika Virus that she could, because we were planning to start “trying” (polite vernacular for unprotected baby-making sex) after the trip. So what did this mean? A trip to the OB who told us to wear strong bug spray and get Zika tested upon return. How did Adi translate that relatively simple instruction? By spending hundreds of dollars on Permethrin pre-treated long-sleeved shirts and pants to wear in the hundred degree weather, oh, and this, she made me bring this…

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Yup, that mosquito net on my face, but thankfully we literally never saw mosquitoes once we arrived so it ended up only being worn during Purim as a costume as pictured above with the very welcoming Chabad Rabbi who took us in for the holiday.

So the trip was incredibly fun, the locals insanely warm and friendly, and the country just the best. Honestly can’t recommend visiting Thailand enough. Here is a shot of the 11 of us plus a lovely family we befriended during the tour. We’re standing at The Golden Triangle where you can literally see 3 countries on this one body of water: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

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So yada yada yada, we return home and Adi has Zika Virus. WTF?! Seriously, we returned, we had not even seen more than 1 or 2 stray mosquitoes during the trip, we’d been wearing these damn long-sleeved shirts and pants, spraying w/ chemicals that create 3-eyed glowing fish, never noticed a single bite, and….she tested positive for Zika? Her doctor’s office started to whisper and point when they saw her, she was like Patient Zero at the start of the long-awaited Outbreak sequel. I had tested negative so I was going to have to revert to the Clinton-era days of the Public School System and either practice abstinence or use protection. This was a thing….for about a week, until they realized it was a false positive and she had absolutely no Zika and laughed it all off.

Cut to October 14th, we get the exciting news that she’s pregnant, and rather than go into that story, let me just link you to to the now-viral (PHRASING!) story here, and let you enjoy the greatest gift Adi has ever gotten me; no I’m not cheesily writing about the fetus, I’m referring to her getting John Lithgow to record this video on October 15th for me:

So now my photo to start off this blog makes perfect sense, right? Because, you know, we’re expecting a baby. No? Still makes no sense to subject you to an image of my stomach, and cradling a panda holding ticket stubs? Fine, shut up, it’s time to actually discuss the MOVIES of 2017…

My final tally for 2017 in theaters – 85

Remember my number earlier from 2016? That’s right, that was the first ever year under 100, and I hit 86, vowing to see AT LEAST 100 again this year, and instead I saw ONE LESS. Not happy with this trend, and before you can say it, I know that having a child will not exactly help improve my movie-going, so I have 6 months to give myself a head-start, because DAMMIT I WILL SEE MORE THIS YEAR OR SO HELP ME…

Okay, time for the usual breakdown w/ highlights and lowlights:

  1. Adi – 58 movies (previous year 73). An interesting drop in the number and percentage of movies; we can blame the super lousy pregnancy she has been experiencing, there were simply more times I was otherwise going to miss a flick so I ran out with someone else. As a result, you will notice the secondary numbers with other friends below has risen, as the one combo I never go to the movie theater with is nobody else. As in, I don’t see movies solo, as weird as that may sound. But there were some INCREDIBLE movies this year. One of my absolute favorites of the year was Wind River. This movie was incredibly tough to watch at times, had some of the most beautiful wintry cinematography I’ve seen in years, and it was written by the same person who wrote the aforementioned Hell or High Water, only this time he also made his directorial debut. Wow, I’m excited to see what else you have to offer us, Taylor Sheridan. One of the last movies of the year we saw was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Amazing screenplay, awesome acting, and totally brutal while also delivering some much needed comic relief here and there. Logan was not only one of my favorite genres (superhero), but it was done so daringly as a post-apocalyptic Western. It was gritty and the fact that it was a superhero movie was almost incidental to the story. What a way for Hugh Jackman to round out his iconic role of Wolverine after all these years. I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the fact that it was rumored to be a terrible movie riddled with problems before it came out gives me cautious hope that this year’s Hans Solo origin movie (also rumored to be riddled with problems) will still work out and at least be entertaining. Blade Runner 2049 was excellent, deserves every award imaginable for the set design, and proves that long awaited sequels can be great (hear that Independence Day?!)…Battle of the Sexes was easily one of the most crowd-pleasing, easy to enjoy movies of the year, with PERFECT performances by Steve Carell (who looked EXACTLY like Bobby Riggs), and Emma Stone. War for the Planet of the Apes was awesome, and I wrote an entire blog about it here. And many others I enjoyed including Wonder, Beauty and the Beast, Fences, Moana, The Founder, and It, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my #1 favorite movie of the year, certainly the one that I found the most thrilling to watch from start to finish, and that’s Baby Driver. If you told me that there would be an action car chase/heist movie that’s basically a ballet, I wouldn’t even know how to conceptualize that. If you missed it on the big screen, you already missed out, but get yourself to a good sound system, crank it up, and enjoy that movie, because it was sooooo good.
  2. Harwin – 13 movies (previous year 6). My faithful travel companion continued to increase his movie-going with me this year, thus proving that he must really have non-discriminating taste in friends. Thor: Ragnarok was hilarious, and kudos to Marvel-owned movies for continuing to make nothing that sucks, and a fair amount that are awesome, like this one. Also, when was the last time a movie sequel totally changed tones and genres like this absolute-comedy? The one that comes to mind is Gremlins 2: The New Batch which went from horror comedy to a zany Looney Tunes adventure, feel free to chime in with others I may have missed though. Here they handed over the reins to Taika Waititi, knowing it would be a comedy, allowing the actors to improvise, and resulting in a really funny end result. Logan Lucky totally bombed and I’m not sure why. Steven Soderbergh basically returned to the director’s chair, picked up the keys to his most popular genre (the heist flick) and instead of making yet another slick Oceans Eleven sequel, he thankfully made a hillbilly version with a bizarre cast of Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, and it WORKED. And I have to mention one last one that almost all of you missed, Happy Death Day. If you saw the billboards or previews you probably shrugged it off as yet another crappy low budget horror movie. What you don’t know is that it is as much of a comedy as it is horror, and it is creative, and hilarious. And if that hasn’t sold you yet, it’s basically a really funny horror version of Groundhog Day, except she keeps getting killed over and over and over again. Just trust me and watch it.
  3. Avish – 8 movies (previous year 4). A continued improvement from my travel buddies, and in she also happens to be Adi’s oldest childhood friend (since kindergarten). Ooh, the prize for the best one is going to have to go to Lion, a movie I would have been thrilled to see win Best Picture the previous year (along with the previously mentioned Hell or High Water). When the final scene comes on after the film, showing the REAL people, I cried like a baby. It’s a story that’s too insane to be true, but somehow is. But a very big shout-out to The Lost City of Z. This movie was like no other you’ve seen in years. It looks like a lost film from the 50s, beautiful in scope, and a sweeping adventure into the jungle. It was fun getting to see Charlie Hunnan getting a great role on the big screen after his fantastic work on Sons of Anarchy, and Robert Pattinson was almost unrecognizable and fantastic.
  4. Jared – 7 movies (previous year 5). Between long stints of playing professional poker, Jared still made a little time for movies. We saw a few lousy but entertaining raunchy comedies, between Rough Night (an all-female and far less good version of Very Bad Things), CHiPs (gets the award for funniest use of genitalia being inadvertently whacked in someone’s face of the year), and Why Him? (James Franco vs Walter White already made things amusing). We saw possibly the worst movie of the year together though, The Circle. I don’t think Tom Hanks has made a movie this bad since the early 80s.
  5. (TIE 5th/6th) Helen – 6 movies (previous year 2). Good uptick, I don’t see movies often with Helen, but when we do, we try to see a few in a row! She might have enjoyed Daddy’s Home 2 more, but for my money I have to highly recommend Lady Bird, which Helen didn’t love but I think was one of the best movies of the year. What an amazing job from first-time director Greta Gerwig, and what pitch perfect performances she got out of Laurie Metcalm and Saoirse Ronan (who sings how to pronounce her name on SNL here).
  6. (TIE 5th/6th) Shlomo – 6 movies (previous year 2). Welcome back to the list Shlomo! He used to be one of my main friends to watch with, but then he got married, had kids, and started seeing them with JOSH. As if there was ever anything so special about JOSH. Pfft. Well Josh moved away, so Shlomo came running back to me with a dozen roses, and I took him back under my movie-going wing. At least that’s the way I choose to remember things. He likes to historically complain that the movies we see together are always “crap”, but in truth we saw some damn fun ones this year. Wonder Woman was the first really good DC movie since Nolan stopped directing Batman flicks, though in my humble opinion it wasn’t any better than the hordes of Marvel movies that have been great, but certainly refreshing to finally see a female superhero movie that wasn’t total shit (can anyone remember Catwoman or Elektra? You’re better off if you don’t). We also saw the Academy Award winning Best Picture La La Land together, and….wait a minute, I’m being told it lost the award to Moonlight, sorry about that. John Wick 2 was a rare sequel that does not in any way shape or form disappoint (I really do love when the actors learn their own stunts as Keanu famously did for this one…don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch his weapons training video here, it’s insane). And a special shout-out to a terrible reviewed but reeeeeeally entertaining buddy action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard, if you miss Samuel L Jackson saying the F-word and shooting people, this makes his role in Pulp Fiction look family-friendly.

Notice that the numbers are higher there? Seeing less with Adi meant seeing more separately with friends. I will now give honorable mention to the following who saw 4 with me in 2017: Kara saw Get Out with us, and man oh man was it a great, funny, scary, surprising movie. Saying a lot about it inevitably means spoiling some of the twists, and they did a great job marketing it without ruining it, so I won’t even go there. Landsburg saw one of the most pleasant surprises of this year with me, Kong: Skull Island. Who knew that a big budget monster movie could be done so damn artistically? The first half hour felt like a sequel to Argo, and the rest of the movie was just FUN, and as Adi told me when she later watched it, it was PRETTY. Yes, a King Kong prequel was cinematically beautiful. Mittelman gets honorable mention because he moved away and lives up north. So how did he make this list and see 4 with me? By visiting during Christmas break and seeing all of them in a few days, INCLUDING Bright which was made by Netflix and released in a few theaters while also streaming, and they already locked up the director and cast for the sequel in this decent urban fantasy. And finally, I have the pleasure of welcoming my brilliant twin nieces Eve & Ada to this list, as I went from seeing 1 in their entire lives together, to this year 4 movies with them! These are brilliant teenagers who could write movie reviews that would make mine look juvenile. We saw the better-than-you-think Power Rangers movie, which wasn’t particularly interesting when the action happened, but was an otherwise good teen drama; we also saw the really witty kid’s pic Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Don’t throw this away with much of the crap out there, it was actually quite funny.

Last but not least, seeing “only” 85 movies in 2017 means I missed a whole bunch I would have wanted to see. Included in that bunch are: Split (watched on Netflix since then), Colossal, Mother!, Detroit, Stronger, The Mountain Between Us, T2 Trainspotting, The House, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (no matter how good or bad it turns out to be, I wish I’d have seen this on a giant screen), Goodbye Christopher Robin, Only The Brave, Wonderstruck, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Suburbicon, and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

And that sums up the last 2 years folks. I’ve already seen 5 flicks 8 days into 2018, and hoping that I will make good on my promise to increase my movie-watching this year, in spite of this baby girl fetus’ best efforts to get in our way.

Happy 2018 from me and my beautiful wife!

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Star Wars (Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t)

3 Jan

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Like millions and millions out there, I am a huge Star Wars fan. I watched and re-watched the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) more times than I could pretend to count. And when the prequels were finally made (Episodes I, II, III) by George Lucas, I was as excited as the rest of the world. But then Lucas did something unforgivable: He created a new trilogy….of mediocrity. They were not bad movies by any means, they had fun universes, some great actors (Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor), a fantastic John Williams score, and added to the mythology that we had been waiting to gain pieces to since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. But it was mediocre, plain and simple. The quality of actors for Anakin Skywalker were distractingly bad, the overuse of CGI for characters that had previously been done with love using Muppets was jarring, and the dialogue was frequently laughable. The most interesting protagonist (Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn) and antagonist (Darth Maul) of the movies were killed off so quickly, that we were left with mostly the dregs. And don’t even get me started with Jar Jar Binks….But still, you couldn’t NOT watch, you still got a thrill by watching the mythology unfold. You still appreciated the vastness of the universe and the storytelling. It was still a fun ride, and thankfully the best chapter was left for last (Revenge of the Sith aka Episode III), so it did end on a positive note.

Then, years went by, and fans were given a huge gift…George Lucas sold Lucasfilm for 4 billion dollars, and a movie a year was going to be made. And thankfully it would be created by other writers and directors, and specifically made by fans, for fans.

Time has passed, the the first 2/3 of the new trilogy has been made (Episodes VII and VIII), and it’s astounding, but these movies are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t with us fans. It’s too massive a franchise NOT to piss off millions of people, so The Force Awakens and now the recent The Last Jedi have proved the old adage that “you CAN’T please all of the people, all of the time”.

The Force Awakens was a nostalgic pleasure to watch. It flooded our hearts with memories of our childhoods watching the original iconic trilogy. Han Solo with his rascally personality was back with Chewbacca and the Millenium Falcon, the music, the visuals, the universe we love, all back, hooray! What was the problem? Well many people complained loudly that it was completely unoriginal. It was simply a rehash of everything we knew. Story-lines mimicked the originals, there was even basically a new Death Star with yet another conveniently designed fatal flaw that if you bomb it will blow up the whole place. “JJ Abrams how could you make us wait so long and then do nothing NEW with it???”

Well I didn’t feel that way, I loved the nostalgia, I loved seeing Han Solo again, I loved being engulfed by that universe again, and I had no complaints. But I DID leave the theater telling Adi and my friends that it’s okay for Abrams to have made this as a sort of “apology” for the mediocre prequels, and finally make one “for the fans” after all these years; BUT that it was a one-time baton pass from the old to the new, and all future ones would HAVE to be original storytelling.

And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s unfortunately what proved my point that fans cannot all be satisfied. Because along came The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, an extremely creative director in tow (did you ever see Looper? If not, check it out, one of the most clever movies of the past 10 years). Critics loved The Last Jedi, arguably the best reviewed movie in the franchise’s history. But…audiences were divided. “How could you destroy our childhood and make Luke so angry?!” some would yell. “An entire mission that fails, what was the point of that?!” others would cry out. “Rey has iconic parents, that can’t be the real answer to that mystery!” others would complain. Even Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker went on social media saying how upset HE was that Luke was not the same positive character he had always been (until Disney likely pressured him to shut up, and he suddenly did a total 180 and apologized in public). A petition was actually started to remove this from the Star Wars official canon, and remake it; over 80,000 people have signed it and counting (see it for yourself here). Wow, fans can be truly whiny!

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But I think that’s a GOOD thing! There aren’t enough things left in this world that instill passion into people, but this franchise still makes people leave their homes to see their first movie in 2 years. It still makes people happy OR mad enough to make them angrily post on social media and argue with their friends about how great or terrible it was. Try making that happens with 99.9% of the other movies out there…it won’t happen. Let’s continue to create movies and television that makes people want to continue talking about it long after they’ve left the theater or turned off their TVs. Personally, I think BOTH movies were awesome. I saw each one in theaters TWICE, and these are the only movies I can say that about in the past 10 years! Both did far more to thrill me and make me care than the disappointing prequels. I think The Force Awakens did what it needed to do and gave us all the gift of nostalgia that we had been longing for after many years, and The Last Jedi appropriately moved on from there. I appreciate that it did not take the safe route. I love that missions failed. I loved the continued awesome music and visuals, and new creatures that were NOT reliant on CGI. I loved that I did not know what was going to happen next, and I am excited to see how this trilogy finishes….and in a fascinating twist of events, it will revert back to the original director JJ Abrams, so time will tell if he will continue from the tone that Rian Johnson just left it with, or if he will revert to the safer version of the first one that he kicked off…

I will leave you with one additional point. Disney recently bought 20th Century Fox for over 52 billion dollars. I would love for them to reward us by putting their iconic fanfare back in front of each Star Wars movie, because most of us fans can agree that this is how the opening should always sound.

This is easy. The movies were each far far better than Episodes I, II and III (the prequels), though still unable to take the crown away from the original iconic trilogy.

Quality Rating (Star Wars: The Force Awakens): A (Hard to give something an A+ that so closely tried to imitate the original, even if imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.

Boaz Rating (Star Wars: The Force Awakens): A+ (I couldn’t have been more excited from the start to finish if I tried. Harrison Ford was back on the screen playing Han Solo, there was new story, the dialogue was not cringe-worthy, I was in heaven.

Quality Rating (Star Wars: The Last Jedi): A (There are still a few weak lines of dialogue, a incongruous shot of Adam Driver with his shirt off, that ever so slightly weaken the quality of this highly original movie.

Boaz Rating (Star Wars: The Force Awakens): A+ (The continuation of the awesome story but in a far more original and unexpected way? I was sold, and riveted, and that held true upon a second viewing.)

The Trinity Killer & My Unborn Child

6 Dec

How did this happen?

Thank you smart aleck, I get how Adi got knocked up (with a little help from me), but how did movie/TV obsessed Boaz react when his wife suddenly showed him an 11 second video of John freaking Lithgow announcing that she was pregnant?!

Our story starts the previous day, October 14th, 2017. ‘Twas the night before Adi’s sold-out Friends of Sheba gala, and she wasn’t quite feeling right. Our friend Farnaz just a few days earlier INSISTED that she was probably pregnant (“You’re totally pregnant….I’m SURE of it…trust me, you’ll see I’m right, just you wait, you’ll seeeeee…”), but both of us laughed it off because she wasn’t even “late” yet, and besides, with Adi’s Ulcerative Colitis, feeling “off” is often par for the course.

So here she was, Saturday night, 48 hours later, trying on her gown for the next day, worried like so many wives out there that it “won’t fit”, and unbeknownst to me, also peeing on a stick. I was in the next room entertaining friends, “Boaz, can you come in here a minute?” She showed me a PLUS (+) sign and I needed no further catch-up…the second came soon after, and had a solid line through it, and the 3rd and final idiot-proof test said the word PREGNANT in big letters. For the time being, my boot-camp going wife’s “not fitting the same” into a dress would be the cause of smiles instead of frustrations.

Cautious micro-celebrations ensued, we discussed it, and my EXTREMELY cautious nature kicked into overdrive…between friends and siblings just about everywhere we looked, someone had suffered a miscarriage (or two). Our friend Chari had even written a short but powerful graphic novel about her traumatic experience which went viral 5 months earlier (I strongly recommend you check it out here).

We were not going to assume anything, this was a first-time experience for each of us, and we didn’t want to tell ANYONE for a bit, not even our parents. But Adi definitely had some extra pep in her step going into the gala, replacing some of the usual jangled nerves she has each year as her organization’s big night unfolds.

Then I spotted John Lithgow. This guy is huge. Not just 6 foot 4 inches, but everyone from every age group knows and loves him. For cinephiles he’s the wonderful early Transgender character from The World According To Garp, for kids he’s the memorably evil voice of Shrek‘s Lord Farquaad, for action junkies he’s the bad guy hamming it up in Cliffhanger, for Netflix binge-watchers he’s a perfect Winston Churchill in The Crown, and for everybody and their mother he’s the zany alien patriarch in 3rd Rock From The Sun; but for me he’ll always be the Trinity Killer, the very best part of Dexter, and right up there with Hannibal Lecter as one of the best/creepiest depictions of a serial killer ever. What an acting legend!

I asked Adi to PLEASE tell me if there’s a good time to get a photo-op with him. I told her that my dream idea was to get one photo with him trying to murder me à la Dexter, and another with him looking totally goofy, reminiscent of not only 3rd Rock From The Sun, but also his hilarious new show Trial & ErrorNever heard of that one? It just happens to be created by our talented friend Jeff Astrof, who also wrote a key part of Lithgow’s presentation at the gala, and between getting rave reviews and my own opinion, it’s hilarious! Adi told me she’d see if there was time for me to meet him later, I was left hoping.

Here’s where people and events started to collide. Another highly talented actor was present, by the name of Stuart Pankin. My favorite roles of his range from being the star of Dinosaurs, to the best friend in Fatal Attraction. I had worked with and befriended him years earlier, and enjoyed introducing him to Jeff Astrof who was a huge fan of his from watching Not Necessarily The News ; Pankin in turn asked me to reconnect him with Lithgow who he’d worked with ages ago. Are you with me so far?

So here I was, as you can see below, having just reconnected these great actors, and this is where the story comes together…

closeup

Boaz – Mr. Pankin, Mr. Lithgow, they’d like to take some photographs of you two please.

(Both of them are laughing and crying and truly enjoying seeing one another after many years.)

Pankin – Happy to, Boaz. (Walks to the camera backdrop.)

Boaz – Mr. Lithgow, I just want to tell you what an honor and pleasure it is to meet you after all these years, I’m a HUGE fan.

Lithgow – That’s very kind.

Boaz – By the way, my wife is Adi Hepner, she’s told me how great you’ve been to work with.

Lithgow – OH! Adi’s your wife? CONGRATULATIONS on the great news!!!

Boaz – (Wondering what the heck he could be referring to, it couldn’t be what I’m thinking of, right?) Thank you but I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Lithgow – I don’t understand, I thought I just filmed a video with her about it…

Boaz – I think you’re mixing us up, Adi is also known as Adina, she…

(Nina Lieberman, Adi’s Executive Director hearing our rather loud conversation, leans in and interjects, “The cat’s out of the bag Boaz, Adi told us, congratulations on the baby”)

Lithgow – (Smiling broadly) See?!

Boaz – (In the loudest whisper of all time) OH MY GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP, MY PARENTS DON’T EVEN KNOW YET, AND ARE RIGHT OVER THERE – WE JUST FOUND OUT YESTERDAY, BE QUIET!

To be fair, considering I had just cursed out an A-list actor in a state of utter panic, his reaction was adorable… he simply smiled, and pantomimed someone zipping his mouth sealed.

I then walked him to Stuart Pankin where a series of awesome photos were taken including this one below, a moment after the “incident”.

10-15-17 - Sheba Gala (57)

I was praying nobody else heard that very loud conversation, and it appeared to have been kept under wraps thanks to the many other loud conversations all around us. Later that night I cornered Adi and said, “Is there something you want to tell me? Is there a reason John Lithgow knows you’re pregnant?!”

And to that she simply smiled, and said, “He told you? Damn, I was really hoping to show you this as a surprise in a few months when we tell people, but here’s a gift for you”. And she had an ear-to-ear grin as I watched the following:

Well played wife, well played…

Baby GIRL Hepner due June 21st, 2018, already having caused quite the splash.

Best. Trilogy. Ever?

23 Jul

apesposter

Synopsis: “After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.” (Rated PG-13; 2 hours, 20 minutes)
The Planet of the Apes trilogy that just concluded was one of the absolute BEST trilogies I’ve EVER seen…and in case it’s not evident, I’ve seen quite a few movies.
Beginning, middle and end, it was just so damn powerful. Yes, for anyone who assumes a big budget movie about simians has to be stupid, don’t judge it by its poster, nor the cheesy fun Charlton Heston films, nor the really mediocre remake by Tim Burton (who I generally love).
No, this trilogy by Matt Reeves is fantastic. The heartbreaking first one Rise of the Planet of the Apes with a tragically wonderful performance by John lithgow (whom I get to meet in a few months thanks to Adi!!!), the great second one Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which shows a hell of an internal conflict among the apes, and now the final chapter War for the Planet of the Apes, which has Woody Harrelson doing a hell of a Martin Sheen circa Apocalypse Now impression.
Throughout the trilogy, the perennially Oscar-snubbed Andy Serkis is PERFECTION as the Caesar. The visuals are flawless, the drama is taut, and other than Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, I honestly can’t think of another trilogy that goes so wonderfully together. (Sorry, I love all of Back to the Future but the third is a huge loss in quality, the drop-off between the first two Godfather movies and the third is astounding, and many others including Harry Potter and James Bond have more than three great movies but they aren’t actually 3-story arcs, they simply have good and weaker chapters.)
Most people I know get annoyed when sequels are made to good movies, and I get that; they don’t want to see something great degrade in quality, so leave well enough alone. And I get that mentality, I do, I just happen to be a movie-LOVER and not a movie-SNOB (as evidenced by this blog), so I’m ALWAYS excited by the prospect of sequels (if I like the original), continuing stories and characters that I have loved and am excited to see continue. Sure, more often than not it disappoints (Zoolander 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, and countless other examples) but sometimes it exceeds expectations (each subsequent Captain America movie, Terminator 2) and sometimes it’s just bonkers and insanely different from the first one (Gremlins 2 was basically a Looney Tunes cartoon!), but I’m Boaz, and I proudly enjoy seeing what they do with it, and in most examples I enjoy the experience of seeing it play out. A disappointing sequel does not detract from my opinion of a great original. But this Apes trilogy was a different animal. It’s not just an excuse for a sequel, it was designed to have a start, middle and end. Not one part of any of it felt like an excuse to find more material to work with. And man oh man did it fire on all cylinders.
Anyway, see them. In order. Preferably on a big screen with good sound.
Oh, and the way this latest one started with a recap was so simple in design that it amazed me it’s never been done before. Sometimes it’s the little things that go unnoticed…

It was much better than any previous Planet of the Apes incarnation, and just as good as the previous two in the trilogy, which is a high bar.

Quality Rating: A+ (What did you expect from a post about putting it up there with Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings as the best trilogy I’ve ever seen?)

Boaz Rating: A+ (I was gripped from the first to the last minute, it had me laughing the few rare times of humor, and crying at the somber moments.)

Growing up with Spielberg’s Mother

23 Feb
My recollections inspire me to write my first blog in over a year…
When I was young, I remember meeting Steven Spielberg and his then-girlfriend Kate Capshaw. This was the late 1980s as he was donating/dedicating a Torah scroll to her synagogue Chabad. It was awesome. I got my favorite director in the world’s autograph, and then was confused why the blonde chick from Temple of Doom was with him, but got her autograph too on the same paper (I still have it).
But that wasn’t the best part. The special part was that he knew everyone there was a friend or big fan of HIS MOTHER, Lee (technically Leah) Adler.
She was so proud, because we – her community – was finally meeting her accomplished son. Most of the people there were not telling him how much they loved his movies, but rather how much they loved his adorable mother!
I got my first job in high school, each summer I would work at Morry’s, an adorable market/produce store, and it was RIGHT next to Lee’s kosher restaurant The Milky Way. She would come in EVERY SINGLE DAY and buy fresh produce for her place. She’d always have her bodyguard at her side, but this bodyguard was a lady who everyone knew as her (tall) friend, so if you didn’t know better you’d think it was a friend or family member always hanging out with her.
She was the most sweet, lovely, warm and generous of spirit woman you could be lucky to meet. I would get a hug each time, and she would invite me to come eat there whenever I wanted. But then again, she would treat everyone else the same way. (For one of countless examples, read my close friend Arnon Shorr’s beautiful memories of her here.)
She would also come with her shul/synagogue to my parent’s garden each year on Rosh Hashana to do “Tashlich” in our pond, throwing bread to our fish. It would be surreal, this tiny, adorable woman who had one of the most famous children in the world, was standing in our backyard, and giving me hugs like she knew me – because she did – but even if she didn’t, that’s how she made EVERYONE feel. People meeting her for the first time could feel that same instant-connection to her. Honestly just one of the sweetest people you could meet.
jpg
Her close connection to her famous son is what inspired him to make one of the greatest movies of all time, Schindler’s List. Her first husband, Spielberg’s father Arnold (who is still alive at 100!), had lost family in the Holocaust, and Lee continued to tell stories about it and emphasize the importance of remembering your past – Spielberg loved his parents enough to be inspired and make that masterpiece of a film. When most people in the world saw that his date at the Oscars was his mother, they must have said “awwww”; when my Jewish community watched it that year, we all beamed and said, “Look, that’s Lee, can’t wait to wish her a mazel tov!”.
She was the “other woman” in his life, and we were damn proud.
She will be missed. By me. By many.

The Boaz Movie Tally of 2015

29 Jan

Eating

(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:

  1. 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.
  2. Blog more – GOAL FAILED. No question about this, I blogged just twice in 2015, and neither was an actual movie review. Pathetic.
  3. “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…

3-9-15 to 4-1-15 - Honeymoon! (234)

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!

  1. The Wedding Ringer (Jeremy Garelick)
  2. Get Hard (Etan Cohen)
  3. 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…

  1. 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 BabadookIt 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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?
  5. (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.)
  6. (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.
  7. (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 WarsThe 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!)
  8. (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.
  9. (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.
  10. (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).
  11. (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.
  12. (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!!!”
  13. (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 7Inside 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.

6-6-15 - My Birthday Movie & Dinner After (7)

 

My Movie Theater Recommendations

11 Feb

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

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.

Grove

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.

Culver City

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.

More Images : www.tiny.cc/mgpfb  |

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!

Landmark

The Landmark

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

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.

Howard Hughes Cinemark

 

Cinemark 18 & XD

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.

Magic Johnson Rave

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!

Westwood

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!)