May 20th, 2005

Bert

Starwarsless E-walks.

Times Square is perhaps the most famous piece of real estate in America's most famous city, the center of things in a municipality that could reasonably be called the Rome of the 20th century, and the start of the 21st. For a long time it was known as a den of sin and inequity, where women's bodies were bought and sold in a market of flesh, supplemented by a healthy drug trade and the occasional .38 aided business dispute.

Then Disney came along and fucked everything up.

Now Times Square is a squeaky clean repository of corporate greed, with all kinds of middle-American chain stores competing with one another for the tourist dollar and the occasional theater or music venue allowed to remain so long as it traffics only in bourgeois pablum.

There does, however, remain one aspect of Times Square unchanged from the halcyon days of pimps 'n whores. I'm not talking about the roaming madmen handing out "The World Will End Next Year" pamphlets as they have for the past five decades. Those are sort of like our version of the mascots who roam Disney World, they exist to give Ma and Pa Boise a little thrill of danger. No, I'm talking about a movie theater.

There is a very nice movie theater in Times Square called the AMC 25. It is modern, sleek, clean, with nice seats and friendly staff members. It features a wide variety of movies ranging from the latest blockbusters to documentaries and semi-mainstream art films. Other than the relatively small screens it is a genuinely pleasant place to visit, and would feel at home in the Mall of America. This is not the story of that theater.

Across the street from the AMC, sandwiched between the Coldstone Creamery and Chevy's (Middle American Tex-Mex food, flavor removed OR YOUR MONEY BACK!) is the Loews Cineplex E-Walk theater and it is a filthy horrible mess. Unlike the AMC it plays almost strictly mainstream junk films. It costs twenty five cents more a ticket. It is in an ugly building with an unkempt facade. In other words it's old-school Times Square.

It is to this theater that I went yesterday to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." It wasn't a matter of wanting to go there, I just wanted to see the film and it was the most convenient theater to where I was. I walked down there from around 60th street, moving at a fast clip in order to catch the 7:05 showing and get a good mile of exercise in.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the place was the fact that on a relatively warm May day it was no cooler inside than it had been out. "Okay" I thought to myself. Maybe they just haven't turned the air-conditioning on, or it's only on in the theaters. The second thing I noticed was that most of the self-serve ticket machines were out of order, a couple with screens that made them look like they'd been hacked. I didn't have any cash on me so I needed to find a functional machine, which I did in the way back of the lobby right next to a teenage couple who appeared to be locked in a desperate search for one another's tonsils. I got my ticket and went to enter the theater.

The third thing I noticed was that the escalators* weren't running. This struck me as odd, since it's unusual for both escalators to be out at the same time and the one that's working is usually commandeered to be the "up" escalator for the day. I shrugged and headed up one of them, only to find my way blocked by someone else trying to get down. It was anarchy on the escalators, with both broken nobody was sure which one to take, and the kind of people who go to see "Unleashed" at 7:00 on a Thursday are not the sort who follow the rule of "Stay to your right on the stairs." After a little confusion I managed to get up to the second bank of escalators. Also broken. I got up this one and found a ticket taker, who took my ticket and pointed me up to my theater with all the kindness and grace that one might expect from, say, a repo man. I'm not saying he wasn't a people person, but on his name tag was written "Customer Satisfaction Associate Charles Graner."

I went up the next bank of escalators, one of which was working (Making a grand total of 1 out of 8. Now that's what I call MAINTENANCE!) and encountered what appeared to be a desolate wasteland. There was nobody at the concession stand, no other patrons were around, and I thought I saw a tumbleweed blow by. After a few glances around I managed to locate another Customer Satisfaction Associate and I went up to him to pass through to my theater. He looked at my stub and grunted, shooting me a look that said "Move along or I'll cut you, bitch." I almost shot back my "I'm FROM New York, motherfucker. You want to tangle? You want to dance, cabron? Let's throw down" glare, but then he showed me the knife. It was long and jagged and only some of the dried blood on it appeared to be human. He started picking his fingernails and I moved along to my theater.

As I entered the theater the trailer for Serenity was playing and I realized that my theory about them only having the air conditioning on in the theater was wrong. Dead wrong. I felt like I had stepped into an oven and nobody had had the courtesy to dose me with Zyklon B first. The theater was sparsely populated, so I picked a seat with a good view and sat down to bake. As the previews played a few more people trickled in, the last one an attractive woman (maybe 30) who sat down one seat away from me. I thought "Alright, not too bad." and settled back to enjoy the film.

At this point the long walk, lobby induced fear, and incredible heat of the room kicked in and I started to sweat profusely. At first it was just a trickle down the back of my neck, a little wetness on the shirt collar. That was just the precursor, sort of like the little droplet of liquid that comes out to smooth the way for the coming burst of cum during male orgasm. It was a warning sign. I didn't heed it.

About five minutes into the film the sweat started really coming on. It was beading on my forehead, gathering above my ears, soaking my shirt underneath my armpits. My balls began to marinate, the combination of heat and flowing sweat a perfect storm. The woman near me took off her overshirt to reveal a tight yellow T, and a really spectacular pair of breasts. They were my personal favorite kind, the not too big ones gentle downward slope followed by a brief forward sweep to the nipple. They hung under her raised arms like a pair of ripe melons off the vine, looking soft and succulent and very very juicy. This did not help the sweating. In fact it made it worse. I'm not sure if this is physically possible, but I started to spray. Little jets of liquid shooting out of my sweat glands streaking the seats in front of me with my own personal liquid imprimatur. Drinks I'd had years ago were coming out of me now. I swear a Mountain Dew from 1991 ended up puddled at my feet. All the while I was praying "Don't waft, don't waft. Stagnate, don't waft." As the woman in the nearby seat stretched and settled, her breasts dancing a sensual lambada beneath the fabric of her shirt.

Eventually the sweating stopped and I was able to watch the film. The puddle dried up and I got some satisfaction knowing that "I'll cut you, bitch" guy was going to have some mopping to do. Lambada breasts got up and left 2/3s through the movie, but I think that's just because she didn't like it. As she left I couldn't help whispering to myself "So long, and thanks for all the tits."

I managed to make it out of the theater in under 20 minutes despite the fact that a horde of horrible horrible children was trying to come up both escalators at once at virtually every landing. I made it out into the dank hot air of Times Square and breathed a pollutant rich sigh of relief. I was free from the E-Walk.

For those of you who miss the old Times Square know that it lives on still, as shittily vibrant as ever, but that it probably shouldn't.





*things that go up and down at the mall
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Movie Reviews:

I know how many of you eagerly await my movie reviews (the list consists entirely of pggmilltn, who is too much of a people pleaser to admit that he doesn't eagerly await them in the least*) but I'm going to post some anyway, because I FEELS like it. OH YEAH.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

I was a huge Hitchhiker's Guide fan in high school. My friend rscott was about the biggest appreciator of Douglas Adams possible without being an actual fanboy, and senior year we played through the Starship Titanic video game together. Anyway, since I was a big fan of the books I was worried about the movie, that it would somehow reduce the power of the novels through its sheer suckitude. Because of this I read the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide book over the past couple weeks to have the novels fresh in my mind before going in. They were just as good as I remembered (although a little shorter and the writing is more transparent now than it was then) and the re-reading of the books was incredibly enjoyable. For the purposes of the movie, though, it was a mistake.

See the Hitchhiker's Guide books are about as unfilmable as any books can be, save perhaps the dictionary. Much of the humor and impact comes from little asides and historical data that you just can't show on a movie screen. You can narrate it, which they do to some extent, but excessive narration is ruinous to any film. So the adaptation involved a lot of compromise, hilarious bits were taken out and new things were put in and on the whole the film has an incredibly different feel than the canon. Since the books were fresh in my mind when I went in to see the flick I kept wincing at missing bits, or new insertions that didn't fit with the themes of the book. Namely there's a whole new subplot shoehorned in, which isn't terrible in and of itself except that it Hollywoodizes the characters ludicrously. Arthur is made courageous FAR before he should be according to his more natural character arc in the books, and the love sequence between him and Trillian is about as awkward and useless as any I've ever seen. It's like the filmmakers called George Lucas and were like "GEORGE, baby, can you write us a totally lame love scene?" And he was like "Can do." It's one of those things where the characters seem to be looking down at the scripts and saying "Oh, this is where we fall in love? Okay, I guess" instead of doing it organically. Hideous.

The Good:

The visuals were almost uniformly excellent and I have no real complaints save one. I liked that they seemed to do at least some of the aliens with puppets rather than CG, but maybe the CG was just that good in which case no complaints here. The space ships were great, the worlds were exciting and interesting, it was a really good visual film. That being said, Zaphod's second head was CRAP. Not only was it oddly placed, but it was distractingly fake looking. They should have done something else, or had Sam Rockwell play two heads in those scenes and juxtaposed them. Terrible stuff.

The acting was mostly quite good. The guy they got for Arthur Dent was decently schlubby and played the part with nearly enough cluelessness. Mos Def was adequate as an underwritten Ford Prefect and Sam Rockwell was a blast as Zaphod. Zaphod in the movies is less sympathetic than in the books, but Rockwell manages to make him likable through sheer charisma and cluelessness, just completely nailing the part. I thought that it would have been better if Ford and Trillian had been played by British actors, but I can't imagine anyone better than Rockwell in the part of Zaphod.

As for Trillian, Zooey Deschanel is cute enough (She's no lambada breasts, but who is, except lambada breasts) but the role was kind of crappy and I don't like her spacey delivery for Trillian who is, after all, a pretty competent chick. I'm not sure who I'd cast in the part, she's supposed to look vaguely Arab. Maybe Gina Bellman who played Jane on the British Coupling and is a little old for the part but could probably pull it off.

Alan Rickman/Warwick Davis as my favorite character Marvin were FANTASTIC and it was a crime that he wasn't in the movie more.

The animated segments of the Hitchhiker's guide were very well done and enjoyable. Quite a good showing there.

The Bad:

They didn't absolutely destroy the soul of the book to make the movie. They came close, but they didn't do it. That being said, the added material was pretty weak and incoherent, they chopped the movie up enough that character motivations and plot lines seem to fade in and out almost at random. The relocation of several scenes to new areas was nearly criminal, they didn't explain quite enough about certain key elements, and THEY DIDN'T REFER TO EARTH AS MOSTLY HARMLESS. That last bit is unforgivable.

I didn't like the introductory song. Not that it was bad in and of itself, it fit well in the end, but it misses the point of the story. The story is about a man thrust from the mundane insanity of Earth into the bizarre insanity of the universe, and his coming to find out that they aren't that different after all. Starting with the bizarre Dolphin stuff takes away from that juxtaposition terribly. BAD CALL, no matter whose it was.

The weak sauce lily-livered Hollywood romance stuff. BOO

The Ugly:

Vogons.

On the Baldwin Scale the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy earns:

A Stephen.





Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

This documentary I saw last night with my friend after I went to Hitchhiker's guide alone. The subject matter is terribly important to me, as I find corporate mis governance to be a symptom for many of the ills afflicting our society and a true sign of the future. It is hard for me to evaluate this film without a tidal wave of emotions overcoming me. When Ronnie Reagan appeared on the screen for a few seconds I gave him a pair of one-finger salutes (one with each hand) and I think a woman behind me cheered. Whether it was for Ron-Ron or my patriotic display I couldn't be sure.

As for the film:

The Good:

Bethany McLean one of the coauthors, was just INCREDIBLY attractive. She had that cute classy look going for her, and a high clear intelligent voice that just makes you want to hop into the screen and do something dirty.

The experts they used all spoke clearly, and some even candidly, about what happened and no institutions were spared.

They talked about how the banks were complicit in the corruption and the nature of a stock-driven company in terms of its need to keep propping itself up basically no matter what.

The sheer number of insiders they got to talk was impressive, as were the number of corporate training videos they managed to show.


The Bad:

I didn't learn anything I didn't know already. There wasn't a lot new.

The cutesy stuff was just stupid. They'd talk about a rabbit coming out of a hat and show a magician, they entitled a section of the film "Love me, Love me" and played the old song "Love Fool" along with it. They just focused too much on entertaining when they were most interesting when informing.

The Enron insiders were all too quick to claim they had nothing to do with what happened, no, pass the buck the buck must be passed.

At the end they said that Enron was a company that set out to change the world but ended up sabotaged by greed. What bullshit. The only way Enron ever wanted to change the world was by increasing the amount of property Enron executives owned in it. Manipulating the electricity prices in California so that Grandma Millie had to sit in the dark alone and afraid? That's just a natural offshoot of what happens when greed is the engine behind basic services.

The Ugly:

Cliff Baxter's Suicide

Overall:

It was a decent movie, and it's important to show people IMAGES of how these people behaved and the terrible things they did. That being said, it wasn't anything more than a run of the mill documentary, nothing special. Worth seeing but probably not in the theater.

On the Baldwin Rating Scale it is:

A Stephen.



*pggmilltn, or Oxnard as he is called by those who like to call him Oxnard, is a very sweet person and it should be announced that I am gently ribbing him here, so that he does not unleash his terrible Oxnard wrath.
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