Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, January 07, 2019

Braving Winter Roads

Well, the Christmas holiday season is practically over, but there was still one thing I wanted to do that I hadn't had a chance to yet.  I wanted to go see a movie.  I wanted to go see Bumblebee.  I had set aside this weekend to do it!  I was ready to go!

But then it snowed all day Friday. 

Dang it.  Do I brave the snow-covered streets to venture into the city to catch a movie, or do I wait another weekend?  I feared to wait another weekend, because Bumblebee isn't doing so hot at the box office.  What if it's out of theatres by next weekend?  What is this poor old Transformers fan to do? 

I woke up on Saturday morning and checked the road reports.  The highway was currently listed in "fair" condition.  OK, that's pretty much typical winter driving conditions.  That's drivable.  But the last thing I wanted to do was navigate city streets in this weather.  So it seemed like it was finally time to check out the new Landmark Cinema in St. Albert. 

Landmark Cinemas is currently the second-largest movie theatre chain in Canada.  They're working hard to narrow the gap between themselves and the largest chain, Cineplex.  Their St. Albert theatre is coming up on its first anniversary, and when it opened up last spring, it was with much fanfare.  While Landmark already has a few theatres in Edmonton, they were all acquisitions.  But their St. Albert theatre is the first one in the greater Edmonton region that they built from the ground up...all according to their standards.  And it's ridiculously easy to get to, on the very northern edge of St. Albert.  When I drive south on Highway 2 to hit the city for the day, it is literally the first building I see when I hit St. Albert city limits.  I wouldn't have to navigate any city streets at all, just kiss the edge of town. 

Plus, I won some free Landmark movie passes at the office Christmas party.  I could see it for free! 

This plan was falling into place.  I can do this.  I have the touch.  I have the power. 

I set out late on Saturday morning.  I figured I'd give the snowplows more time to work their magic.  As expected, it was typical winter driving conditions.  There was enough road salt out there that it made the roads pretty wet.  Good thing I filled my tank with washer fluid before hitting the road.  And sure enough, I hit the first set of lights as soon as I hit St. Albert, and I was there.  I might finally start going to this theatre a whole lot more because of how ridiculously easy it is to get to.

I went into the lobby, and I was taken with how large and spacious it is.  Tables with USB charging ports, so you can check your phone while you wait.  The first strike against it, though.  The box office was closed, so they were making you buy your movie tickets at the concession.  Man, I hate this modern trend of reducing the number of cashiers.  Even worse when they start amalgamating positions.  Most grocery stores these days are doing away with their express lanes and making you go to the customer service desk instead.  Hell, the Giant Tiger here in Westlock only opens up a cashier when the line at the customer service desk is ten people deep.  You're not even replacing cashiers with self-checkouts anymore!  You're just hiring less cashiers and making them do the work of three.  Hate it hate it hate it.

Luckily, the concession/box office line was moving pretty quickly, so I got my ticket and my free popcorn and drink.  The drinks were pretty cool.  They have these Coke Freestyle machines.  You put your cup in, and hit the buttons on the touch screen to decide what you want.  You can even add your favourite flavoured syrups, so I went with a good ol' cherry Coke. 

Went to my theatre and found my seat.  Oh my God.  The seats are massive.  They're at least twice the size of typical a movie theatre seat.  And they're recliners.  The seats are full leather powered recliners.  With cup-holders.  It's pretty much Cineplex's VIP theatre experience, only at regular prices.  Oh, and no folding tray tables to put your snacks on.  But still!  The most comfy movie theatre seats I've had in a long time. 

Second strike, though.  With this big, comfy chairs, there's no place for me to put my coat.  In the old days, I'd just put my coat on the chair next to me.  But with reserved seating becoming more and more the norm, I don't want to do that, for fear of stealing someone's seat.  So lately, I've been folding up my coat and placing it under my chair.  But with big comfy leather recliners, there's no room under your chair.  So I wound up balling up my coat and leaving it on my lap.  This is Alberta, dude, where everyone at the movies in winter is coming in with a parka.  One feature I'd love to see them bring back to movie theatres is good ol' fashioned coat check, so you can hang up your coat.  Or at the very least, lockers in the lobby, so you can stuff your coat inside. 

Anyways, once the previews were done, I figured it'd be safe to literally put my feet up and not block the aisle.  And then I enjoyed Bumblebee

I really like Bumblebee.  Dear God, the opening 10 minutes, where we watch the fall of Cybertron and the Autobots fleeing to the stars is probably the closest we're ever going to get a CGI movie version of the classic cartoon.  I was crying tears of joy.  And you can tell that the director of this one, Travis Knight, must have grown up with Transformers, because Transformers Easter eggs were flying fast and furious. 

But it was more than just gratuitous fan service.  It's taken this long, but they finally realized that one of the best ways to make a good Transformers movie is:

a)  Actually develop the Transformers into characters we love and care about
b)  Make the human characters not annoying

Our heroine is Charlie Watson, played by Haillee Steinfeld.  She's still mourning the loss of her father, and resents the rest of her family for moving on so quickly.  On her 18th birthday, she gets her first car, a yellow Volkswagon Beetle, who quickly reveals himself to be Bumblebee.  Bumblebee's war wounds have damaged his memory, and together, these two damaged souls may just be able to heal each other.

Bumblebee is a much-needed breath of fresh air for this franchise, as some long-missing heart and soul is finally returned to the proceedings.  About my only quibble is the plot is highly reminiscent of The Iron Giant and E.T. so you kinda knew what was coming.  But I loved it.  3.5 out of 4 nibs.  Full review on the website

And did I mention I also saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?  I don't think I ever got around to blogging about it.  But yeah, I saw it three weeks ago, right before Christmas vacation kicked into the high gear.  I also really loved Spider-Man.  I mean, I love animated films.  I love superhero films.  I think superheros and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other, so of course I was going to be there for a Spider-Man animated film. 

Much has been made by now of Spider-Man's animation style, and it is truly amazing.  It really does look like a comic book brought to life.  And the blending of animation styles, too.  Spider-Ham looks and moves like he stepped out of an old Looney Tunes short.  Peni Parker, our anime Spider-Girl, looks and moves like she stepped out of an Astro Boy rerun.  And the climax...wow.  The animation for the big climax almost gets psychedelic.  It just looks great. 

But it's more than just amazing animation.  There's some great character work here, as Mile Morales comes to grips with his spider bite and taking on the mantle of Spider-Man.  Luckily, there's a half-a-dozen other Spiders from across the multiverse to mentor him.  While Spider-Ham gets all the laughs in the trailers, the scene-stealer is Spider-Man Noir, a grim and gritty Spider-Man from a world of pulp fiction heroes, hilariously voiced by Nicholas Cage. 

The focus, though, remains firmly on Miles Morales and his hero's journey, as he tries to connect to his father.  It is a great film, and a wonderful addition to the Spider-Man film canon.  3 out of 4 nibs, full review on the website

And that should pretty much bring you up to speed on my all latest trips to the city.  There's probably one more in the days ahead, though, as I got a Cineplex gift card for Christmas and still wanna see Aquaman.  Hopefully the roads will be better next weekend for a much more conventional trip to the city. 

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