Sunday, March 7, 2010


As a general rule, I am a big fan of going to the movies.

I really enjoy the whole experience. Watching the movie on the big screen, bucket of popcorn... the works.

Actually, I should say, "I used to enjoy it."

I stopped regularly going to the movies a couple years ago. Mostly because I can't bring myself to pay over $10 a ticket.

Really? $10, $11, $12... It seems as if the price just magically shot up like the price of gas. One day I'm paying $4 a ticket and six months later, it's ten bucks! Give me a break.

So lately I've been renting my movies. It's definitely not the same as watching on the big screen, but there are some benefits.

First: I am not at the mercy of the theater's schedule. I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want. And I can pause or rewind at will.

Second: I like to watch the "special features," the out takes, the behind the scenes interviews, the "making of..." and sometimes I even watch the deleted scenes and alternate endings.

Third: My local neighborhood video store is pretty good. They are very friendly and helpful. They provide a decent selection, get new releases right away and the price is right.

Plus they have 2 for 1 rentals on Mondays. And if you return a video the next day (instead of keeping it for the week) you get a dollar credit toward your next rental. Then on top of all that, if you rent (I think it's) five DVD's in a month, you get one free!

Should we calculate this? Let's say I rent my movies once a week on Monday (so I can get the second one free). Let's also say I watch one on Monday and the other one on Tuesday. As long as I return them by midnight on Tuesday I get my one dollar credit.

I have effectively brought the cost of my two movies down to $3.50. Times four weeks in a month equals $14 (for eight movies).

But let's also say that I rent one more movie during the course of that month. Now I qualify for a free bonus movie.

Since I will of course return my fifth movie the next day, that will add $3.50 to my $14 bringing my total to $17.50 for the month.

Recalculating... $17.50 divided by 10 DVD rentals equals $1.75 each. That's less than most cable bills to see movies that I choose-- not only the ones that the fancy cable channels want me to watch.

Did I mention that I can't bring myself to pay for cable TV either? It's just wrong! To pay for what we used to get for free... Now you can't even get the basic network channels without cable. Don't get me started.

So there you have it-- 10 DVD's complete with bonus features for $17.50 (if I opt to rent that many...) Or, go to the movie theater, pay $10 (or more) to get into a theater with broken seats, unfriendly ticket takers and sticky floors!

That doesn't include the popcorn combo for $9.50. Not to mention that soda is liquid poison (as is the fake butter flavoring that will likely kill cockroaches)!

No, I think I will watch the DVD's from home where I can eat something a little healthier. If I am in the mood for popcorn I'll just use my air popper, thank you.

Of course, if I want to see a movie on a big screen, I can just invite myself to visit with my friend (and computer guru) Steve.

He has a manly man's home theater with an actual screen that takes up a whole wall. I think if it was any larger he would need a permit from the town.

Anyway, I am sharing all of this background information to make a point.

I've been hearing all the hype about Avatar. Usually I don't pay much attention to hype-- but 9 Academy Award Nominations... that's significant. And James Cameron isn't just some hack, he's made some decent films.

And if the "buzz" was to be believed, this is not the kind of movie that you wait for to come out on DVD.

So when Steve and Annie invited me to see it with them, I decided it would be a fun night out-- even if the movie ended up being underwhelming.

I have never seen a movie in an IMAX theater before. So I went with high expectations.

Here is the short version of my review: "two thumbs up," "see it," four and a half out of five stars, and worth the price of admission.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, feel free to read on... no "spoiler alerts" here. I'll just be giving general info.

On the upside-- there is a little something for everyone. Action. Adventure. Love story. Heroes and villains.

I tend to like movies that twist and turn. Avatar had a few (although somewhat predictable) twists.

There was even a story with a plot.

James Cameron also got to showcase his new technology which made for a visually beautiful film, but I'm not sure what was really that "new" about it. It seemed like an upgraded CG or blue screen.

I will admit to being impressed by some of the creatures and plant life. It was definitely fun and creative.

Basically there were two downsides:

As I mentioned, there was a story with a plot. That's great, but it was a little too "cookie cutter" for me. It followed the typical "boy meets girl" scripts, which made it an acceptable "chick flick." But along the way, stuff gets blown up... so guys like it, too.

The problem is it was a little predictable. I think movie trailers should give you a taste of the movie. It should be the "sizzle." The movie itself should be the steak. But in this case the trailer pretty much spells it out for you.

Luckily, there is a visually stunning road to travel to distract the audience from the predictability.

The other downside was that I left the theater with a little bit of a headache.

Now I'm not sure if that was because I haven't been out to the movies in so long, that I'm not used to how loud it is...

Or, it could be because I saw it in 3-D! Again, I admit it was fun and interesting to have some of these creatures and other things coming toward me almost to the point of being able to reach out and touch them.

And I did get a kick out of seeing everyone wearing the funny red glasses.

Unfortunately, it took a little time to get used to the 3-D effect. And it also seemed like I was only able to focus on the main action.

I'm one of those people who likes to look at the edges of the scene, the background, the odd details. I'm the guy who notices that the actor has put his pen in one pocket but in the next scene retrieves it from a different (wrong) pocket. Or notices that the pen has mysteriously changed to a pencil, when the editor splices in cuts of the same scene possibly shot on a different day.

I'm not sure if I had a hard time with the details because everything moves so fast that I couldn't focus, or if it was purposely designed to pull the audience focus to what you are supposed to see.

Whatever the reason... I ended up with a headache.

I may have to go back and see it again, but not in 3-D. If I do, I'll give a full report.

Even with the predictability factor and my little headache at the end, I would still say that overall it was worth seeing.

And if you plan on seeing it, you definitely want to see it on a big screen. I'm not sure how this one will translate to DVD.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the back story of the indigenous people of Pandora.

I wish they spent more time on how they relate to nature. Unfortunately the movie is so long already that they didn't have time for that. It was a missed opportunity to explain some of our own present day environmental issues.

Of course, that's what sequels are for!

Seeing the movie and it's "being one with nature" theme, made me realize that Spring is almost here.

That means it's time to start planning my upcoming hikes! I've been thinking about this a lot over the winter months and I have a new plan.

But that will have to wait until the next post!

Peace and Love,

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