Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 28 June 2010 to 4 July 2010

A week where I don't see many movies and where TWIT will be going on a bit of a hiatus anyway (in favor of daily Fantasia updates) offers a good opportunity to break the previews into a separate post. So lets get right to the tickets!

This Week In Tickets!

It was a pretty nice couple of days to go to the ballpark; I had nice seats for each game, though from opposite ends of the field. Not to give the Sox any ideas, but it's absolutely crazy that bleachers cost something like half of what the boxes out in right field cost; it's a much better view, although one less likely to net you a home run or foul ball. The seat on Friday was also pretty sweet, and it even turned out that the walkway warning turned out to be more or less bogus - there was a fence in front of it, it was a three-seat row, and there was another exit on the other side. No-one climbing over me to get their dozen beers per game!

Both were wins, too - Tuesday's actually felt like a clobbering for a good chunk of it, although some terrible relief in the final two innings made it much closer. Friday's was one of those games which old-timers wax nostalgic about, where pitchers work quickly and the game finishes in just over two hours. Nicely paced, but it felt downright weird to hear Papelbon's music played right around 9pm, and when you pay that much for a ticket, you maybe expect a little more baseball!

Saturday was spent finding a shady spot and reading, and then Sunday was spent at a couple of 3-D movies. First up was Toy Story 3 with my brother and his finacée, a surprisingly cost-effective outing, actually, as we had two $8.50 ticket vouchers (cutting their tickets down to a mere $4 each from my $12.50) and $1 fourth-of-July specials for large popcorn and soda. It strikes me that AMC Boston Common may want to adjust the signage at the box office, which states that digital 3-D, not-really-IMAX, and 3-D not-really-IMAX add $5, $6, and $7, respectively, to the ticket price. Based on a $9.50 matinee ticket (both my friends living in Maine and my ten-years-younger self freaked out a bit reading that), that overstates the cost by a couple bucks.

Spoilers for Toy Story 3

Seeing it a second time, with folks I could talk about it afterward and on a different screen, didn't change my opinion of the movie that much; I still think it's pretty brilliant, although covering a lot of the same territory as Toy Story 2. Matt even leaned over to ask me if Kelsey Grammer was doing the voice of Lotso Huggin' Bear; I wish I'd remembered to ask him whether he was associating him that closely with Prospector Pete, or if he even remembered that bit of casting.

Morgan asked if there was anything to what she'd heard about the ending, to which I said, yes, there will be crying. She didn't believe it until it got close to the end, and everyone was holding hands, waiting for the end. Matt wound up giving the claw a bigger laugh than it maybe deserved, just from being so relieved. And then the scene in Bonnie's front yard made some very glad that they were wearing 3-D glasses, and the audience at large couldn't see their eyes.

I have to admit, though, as wonderful as that ending is... A part of me would have liked it to be sadder, in a way. I think I really would have liked it if Andy had taken Woody to college. I can see why they didn't go that route, but if the movies are looked at as metaphors for growing up, it's the logical next step: In Toy Story, Woody has to learn how to deal with the arrival of a younger sibling in Buzz; in Toy Story 2, he learns to handle peer pressure and being pulled in two different directions by family and new friends; Toy Story 3 could have been about leaving the home, forming one's own family even though still connected to the old one. And I think it is, although Jodi Benson's Barbie is the one that really gets that storyline in its purest form.

I don't imagine I would have had the heart to break that group up either, for what it's worth, and the toys' lives shouldn't necessarily be perfect metaphors for those of their owners, anyway. In a way, Woody does graduate to adulthood in this story, going from the older brother of the first two movies to a father figure by the end of this one, although it's not an easy journey, at times recalling what a complete prick the cowboy could be in the first.

On a more light-hearted note: I totally missed the Return of the Jedi reference Matt spotted more or less instantly (although I was all over the nods to The Great Escape, and kind of surprised they didn't have Jessie bouncing a ball against the wall at some point). Given that there's a pretty big Empire Strikes Back moment in Toy Story 2, I now must watch the first again to see if there's an obvious Star Wars reference.

Also, if you have little kids your considering bringing to this movie: The monkey will freak them the heck out. It's not scarring or anything, but be prepared!

/ Spoilers for Toy Story 3

After that, I killed a little time in the Aquarium and then the bookstore before heading back across the river to find a spot on the Cambridge side to watch the fireworks. They were, as usual, spectacular, but I wouldn't mind at all if WBZ got out of the fireworks-presentation business; aside from snickering at how the show was being presented in HD (not quite so impressive to those of us there in person; also, the presenting sponsor's slogan got on my nerves: I don't want an insurance company that's "as responsible as you are", but one that's a great deal more responsible - that's why I'm buying insurance!), it seemed like there were was more time spent on commercial breaks and inane banter between the hosts than actual music being played.

Still, it's always great to be in Boston on the 4th - two years ago, I was out of the country; last year, I was in Portland, and being with one's family is nice, but the Fourth of July is a prime "you guys should be coming here" holiday.

Sea Rex 3-D

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 4 July 2010 at the New England Aquarium (first-run)

It's easy to forget, with all the IMAX-branded theaters sprouting up around the country, that most of the screens that people would consider "real" IMAX are in museums of various types, especially science museums and spots like the New England Aquarium, which is why a steady stream of educational but hopefully still awe-inspiring films are created in the large format. Sea Rex is the latest to show up at the Aquarium, and it's fine, if not quite so impressive as some of its cousins.

That's not even comparing it to the Hollywood event films occupying many giant screens; it comes up somewhat short even in comparison to Sea Monsters 3-D, another large-format featurette on the same subject that started making its way through the science-museum circuit just a few years ago. Sea Rex, like many IMAX documentaries, is pitched to elementary-school children visiting the museum or aquarium on a field trip, and it often feels like an institutional film blown up large: It has a framing sequence that is meant to be friendly, although it could come across as really freaky if looked at literally - is museum visitor Julie (Chloe Hollings) actually speaking to a hallucination or ghost or spirit of pioneering paleontologist George Cuvier (Richard Rider)? Scientists deliver lectures, rather than naturally demonstrating their work; animated sequences try to explain things with strained metaphors. It teaches well enough, but is just stilted enough that those older than young children may make fun.

The CGI budget is also just low enough to be a bit of an issue. Creatures are rendered competently, but it's also clear that the filmmakers don't exactly have the budget of a major production: There's a uniformity to the lighting and textures, and the movements are slightly mechanical; we don't always see the musculature under the skin working. It's a little more noticeable because it is composited on top of beautiful IMAX 3-D phototography.

Sea Rex is not a bad movie; it's a fairly enjoyable presentation of interesting information; if it's playing when you take your kids to the science museum or aquarium, it's worth a look. It's just not in the top tier of IMAX documentaries, the ones worth going out of one's way to see.

Lackey looks goodQuick but niftyToy Story 3Sea Rex 3-D

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