Dine-In Movies an Introduction and Review

My view of the adjacent row at the AMC 24 in Orland, FL

While I was in Orlando I wanted to try and take advantage of as many things as I possibly could. Seeing as this trip was very Disney-centric and I hadn’t been in eons (there were only two parks when I went) I wanted to try and take advantage of everything that park had to offer.

One thing I wanted to find out more about was Downtown Disney, which seemed on my knowledge to be Disney’s answer to CityWalk at the Universal Parks. To a large extent I was right and I discovered that there at Downtown Disney there was an AMC 24, which I was likely to attend regardless, however, what was surprising and unique about this one is that four screens were siphoned off to a separate section of the theater and offer a dine-in experience.

Eating and the movies have been linked since the very beginning but never had I heard of such a literal take. I was so intrigued I had to try it. To be honest I was surprised once I was introduced to the notion why it isn’t more prevalent as concessions are where exhibitors make most of their money. Yes, I was are of places like the Alamo Drafthouse but it’s not set-up like this.

Sadly, we were getting informed very late and deciding on the fly so it was a rushed arrival and film choice was limited at that time of night but it needed trying.

Essentially you book your seat (much like in a restaurant or in a theatre where they have reserved seating) and there is a bar-table across your row. There’s salt and pepper already there, ketchup, cutlery and a napkin. The seat is incredibly comfortable like the finest stadium seating has to offer. An added bonus is that there’s a footrest underneath to improve the reclining experience.

What I had was a fruit salad, which was rather fresh and big (it’s easy to do but doesn’t often happen with fruit salad), an order of French fries (generous portions and above average in quality) and cake lollipops for dessert (a first so I have no frame of reference but the cake was incredibly moist and the coating delectable). The soda sizes, since it’s a movie theatre whose large is a tub-o-soda, are also plentiful and I believe refills are free. The wine list is rather good considering the kind of joint it is, however, what must be taken into account are pricing (it’ll add to your per-head total) and do you want to drink during said film, usually my answer to that is no.

I might suggest you do two courses if you’re watching your spending, as it was a vacation it wasn’t as much of a concern. I have a tendency to love the first row, which had my party nicely isolated from the crowd but it did make viewing/eating more challenging. You are accustomed to a box and a soda in an armrest when you factor in utensils and plates there are more machinations that divert your eyes. However, it was a very pleasurable experience overall, regardless. It’s one I’d recommend anyone try once and that I’d like to try anew.

For information such as menu and locations please visit AMC’s site.

61 Days of Halloween- The Stuff

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Stuff

Frank Telfer and Colette Blonigan in The Stuff (Larco/ Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The one word that can be used to describe Larry Cohen’s film The Stuff is “Wow.” Now this is a word that can be used in a bad thing or a good thing and in this case it is definitely good.

If you’ve heard of Larry Cohen (or even if you haven’t) this is the film to watch as an introduction. It is so annoying to watch people think they have a “scary story” and botch it up so badly. The Stuff is a perfect example of what Larry Cohen does. He works with low-budgets and knows he has a cheesy premise most times but has no delusions of grandeur and works with it as opposed to against it and yet because of that manages to make his point.

He skates the fine line between horror and comedy perfectly. This movie is a perfect introduction to his style and it’s a whole lot of fun. Not only do Cohen’s films not take themselves seriously but they manage to layer subtext in smoothly and easily whereas “real horror” so often fails to do. The Stuff is filled with laughs, the occasional gross-out and great ensemble acting featuring Michael Moriarty as Mo Rutherford the man trying to find the secrets of the stuff, Paul Sorvino as Colonel Malcom Grommett Spears and original SNL cast member Garrett Morris as ‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie.

It is funny but yet is also an apt satire of 1980s in many ways but also by having this food being a living organism which consumes those who eat it it falls into the horror realm. It also leads to one of the great lines in the film “Are you eating it or is it eating you?” Watch it now!


Review- Toast

Victoria Hamilton and Oliver Kennedy in Toast (W2 Media)

In seeing Toast a very fundamental question occurred to me because this film gave me the answer more purely than most do. The question being: “Why do we go to the movies?” The answer: “For the unexpected.” I never expected from Toast one of the most surpassingly beautiful scenes I’ve seen in a while.

This is just one of the many surprises this film has in store. Granted I knew next to nothing about this film going in but even taking that into account there are some wonderful surprises in store. This film is about the upbringing of famed British chef/personality Nigel Slater. What you get, however, is something more intimate and vibrant than appearances would have you believe.

Aside from a scene of surpassing beauty which is one of the great instant tear-jerkers ever, which features a wonderful selection of source music there is also within this film a great montage and a creative display of the passage of time. Throughout there are some wonderfully lit shots and creative camera angles which are used to great effect.

To not give too much away I will not describe the above scene in too much detail to keep the surprise fresh. It is the kind of scene, however, that many can make effective but few can make that effective. Moreover, it is followed up by a scene rendered emotional that few can make work. This film manages to make the simple act of eating toast an emotional experience.

Of course, a lot of this should not be considered a surprise when you note it’s Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot (stage and screen), who brought Nigel Slater’s story from memoir to script. Not only do you have in Hall a man who can depict children truthfully (or their perspective on things) but also one who has rendered dramas in this socio-economic milieu before and can weave a character discovering one’s sexuality into a plot without making it the film’s sole focus.

While being tremendously moving at times this film also balances itself with a good dose of comedy. Comedy is also inherent to a narrative wherein a protagonist develops a love for food and cooking despite frequently having an abnormal relationship with it, whether eating bad canned food or using it to seek attention or affection. Yet even the comedy is always met with high stakes. As funny as it can be at times you realize things are serious because of who his competition is.

This film is made even stronger by having a small but incredibly able cast. First and foremost is Oliver Kennedy who plays Young Nigel and carries the film for two acts before being aged. He was found through a long and slightly unorthodox search, which tested personality and instinct more than honed acting chops and it truly paid off. A natural, diamond in the rough was found. Typically when you have a character portrayed at two different ages you see him younger for less screen time. That is not the case here, however, Freddie Highmore’s section, where Nigel is 16 and has been in his current living situation for some time is no less compelling. Furthermore, it’s where he gets to follow through on his lifelong interest. Highmore was, of course, one of the biggest child actors of his time and is yet another one making a wonderful transition to more adult roles.

If you’ve not yet gotten an indication of how good this film is take this as a hint: I am only now mentioning Helena Bonham Carter’s involvement as Mrs. Potter, the cleaning woman who sidles into the home. She is both funny and dastardly and at times a sympathetic figure but always a bit immature and misguided, even while being so complex she manages to be an effective antagonist. Then you have the curmudgeonly father Ken Stott who is equal parts hilarious and infuriating.

This film was presented at my local theatre through the From Britain With Love series which is showcasing six British independent films in art houses across the US. This particular screening was accompanied by a post-screening Q & A where director S.J. Clarkson took questions not only from audience-members at Lincoln Center in New York but had some relayed to her from the web. My question, whether by relay or repetition, did make it through to her. It was this: Did Freddie Highmore and Oliver Kennedy compare notes on playing the same character at different ages? The answer was a similar one to Tom Hanks’ approach to playing Forrest Gump in as much as Highmore merely imitated Kennedy’s accent.

Amongst many other things this film made me rethink my aversion, in certain instances, to lens-spiking. Towards the end of each section the actor playing Nigel knowingly spikes the lens. However, on further thought considering it’s narrated by a disembodied older version of Nigel, it’s his perception and he knows he’s talking to us, it doesn’t bother me as much. We as an audience through the voice-over acknowledge that the story is being told to us in hindsight and that there’s some filtering and artifice involved.

Toast is a moving film in every sense of the word and one that I’d gladly see again. I’ve said it a lot recently but it’s not less true here, that it’s one the best films I’ve seen this year thus far and I can see it standing tall at the end of the year.