Monday, May 25, 2015

With Cinemark Theaters no longer masking their screens, I reflect on the depressing state of modern mainstream moviegoing



Earlier today, I took a trip to my family’s local Cinemark theater – the Century 16 in Belmar – to show my brother the glory that is Mad Max: Fury Road. I wish I could say a good time was had by all, because while the film remains spectacular – and only gets deeper, richer, and more rewarding on multiple viewings – the exhibition practice I saw in that multiplex was so heinously incompetent that it has me convinced, more than ever, that the major modern theater chains are completely out of touch with the basics of their trade.

This line of thought was initiated for me a week ago, actually, when I went to see Fury Road for the first time, at the Cinemark Century Boulder, and was astonished to see that the multiplex did not mask the screen for the film’s widescreen aspect ratio (more on what this means in a moment, but in short, it means the film was projected in a ‘letterboxed’ 16x9 ratio, as it would look on a TV display). Even the best theaters make mistakes now and again, of course, and since I had never previously had a bad experience at the Century Boulder, and was so excited to see Fury Road, I shrugged the problem off and rolled with it; the film itself was mesmerizing enough to distract me from the glaring exhibition problem.

But today, at the Century Belmar, the same problem recurred. I was flabbergasted – was this a bizarre coincidence, or was something more sinister afoot? As the trailers began to roll, and it became clear to me they were not going to mask the screen at this theater either, I left the auditorium to investigate, dipping into a few other auditoriums – another screening of Mad Max and one of Tomorrowland – only to find that these screens, too, were left unmasked. A cursory search on Google led me to multiple forums and comment sections where people reported the same problem.

This was no mistake. This was intentional. Cinemark Theaters are, seemingly as policy, no longer masking their screens for anamorphic widescreen movies.

This is a problem. A big problem – and it only reinforces my perception and the perception of many other filmgoers that the theater chains are practicing their trade with an active contempt for the consumer. Whether you are familiar with the implications of this issue or not, this is a problem modern moviegoers should care about. And today, I am going to dive into this issue, and some of the other related issues at stake in modern moviegoing, to shed light on just how bad things should become. At this point, I am simply fed up, and you should be too.

Continue reading after the jump…

Thursday, May 21, 2015

'Mad Men' Greatest Hits - The Top 20 Episodes, Part 4: #5 - #1



On Sunday night, AMC’s Mad Men wrapped up its extraordinary eight-year run. You can read my full review and analysis of the finale here, and now that the series is over, we are spending an entire week bidding farewell to this incredible show by counting down the Top 20 episodes from throughout the run. Things kicked off Monday with #20 - #16, continued Tuesday with #15 - #11, and Wednesday with #10 - #6, and wraps up today with the final five episodes of the countdown.

So without further ado (and, it goes without saying, with spoilers), let us conclude our walk down Mad Men memory lane, with Part 4 of the Mad Men Greatest Hits, after the jump…

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

'Mad Men' Greatest Hits - The Top 20 Episodes, Part 3: #10 - #6



On Sunday night, AMC’s Mad Men wrapped up its extraordinary eight-year run. You can read my full review and analysis of the finale here, and now that the series is over, we are spending an entire week bidding farewell to this incredible show by counting down the Top 20 episodes from throughout the run. Things kicked off Monday with #20 - #16, continued Tuesday with #15 - #11, and will continue tomorrow with one final installment. This is Part 3, with #10 - #6 on the countdown.

So without further ado (and, it goes without saying, with spoilers), let us continue our walk down Mad Men memory lane, with Part 3 of the Mad Men Greatest Hits, after the jump…

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'Mad Men' Greatest Hits - The Top 20 Episodes, Part 2: #15 - #11



On Sunday night, AMC’s Mad Men wrapped up its extraordinary eight-year run. You can read my full review and analysis of the finale here, and now that the series is over, we are spending an entire week bidding farewell to this incredible show by counting down the Top 20 episodes from throughout the run. Things kicked off yesterday with #20 - #16, and will continue through Thursday with two more installments. This is Part 2, with #15 - #11 on the countdown.

So without further ado (and, it goes without saying, with spoilers), let us continue our walk down Mad Men memory lane, with Part 2 of the Mad Men Greatest Hits, after the jump…

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Mad Men' Greatest Hits - The Top 20 Episodes, Part 1: #20 - #16



Last night, AMC’s Mad Men wrapped up its extraordinary eight-year run. You can read my full review and analysis of the finale here, and now that the series is over, it is time to celebrate its life by looking back at the very best of what Mad Men was.

One of the things I always loved about this series was that, in a period of intense TV serialization, Matthew Weiner and company always took things episode by episode. There are obviously serialized plots and character arcs that extend within and between seasons, but Mad Men existed and thrived on individual episodes, each existing to tell a particular story or explore a single set of themes, and because of that, it was an incredibly powerful, fascinating, and fun show to watch every week.

With that in mind, I have spent the last few weeks revisiting the series’ very best episodes. I ruled out the possibility of doing a Top 10 list almost immediately, as there are simply too many great ones to choose from. A Top 20 list seemed quite a bit more manageable, and because these episodes are so wonderful, and because I love writing about Mad Men more than any other show, I have spread the Top 20 over the course of four separate pieces, to be published over the next four days. I did not quite write a full essay on each of these hours, as I did for each installment when they were airing (in the seasons I reviewed), but I wanted to revisit them in at least a certain amount of depth, as that is the least these terrific episodes of television deserve.

So today will be Part 1 of the ‘Mad Men Greatest Hits,’ with #20 through #16 on the countdown. I’ll be back tomorrow with #15 - #11, and throughout the week until we get to #1. Another special retrospective piece will publish after the countdown finishes, on Friday.

So without further ado (and, it goes without saying, with spoilers), let us begin our walk down Mad Men memory lane, with Part 1 of the Mad Men Greatest Hits, after the jump…

Sunday, May 17, 2015

'Mad Men' Series Finale Review: "Person to Person" (Season 7 Episode 14) - "Seems like this could be a chance to build something..."


Mad Men concluded its extraordinary eight-year run tonight with the final episode, “Person to Person,” and for one last time, I have an in-depth review and analysis of the hour. As always, to do this final episode justice, this review contains spoilers, so do not read until you have seen the finale.

Spoilers for “Person to Person” after the jump…

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a defiantly singular action masterpiece



My jaw dropped at the first frame of Mad Max: Fury Road, and it did not close again until the credits rolled.

What George Miller and his extraordinary team have accomplished here is nothing short of a full-blown action masterpiece. A pure expression of cinematic vision unlike anything mainstream cinema has offered in recent memory, Fury Road is among the most ambitious, strange, and accomplished Hollywood blockbusters to come along in my lifetime. Shot after shot, sequence after sequence, awe-inspiring image after awe-inspiring image, I can honestly say I have never laid eyes upon anything quite like Fury Road, certainly not in a mainstream American multiplex, and that is such an immensely rare sensation that even after watching the film, I can hardly believe it exists. Miller has masterfully blazed his own trail here, somehow convincing a room full of studio executives to lose their minds and give him an irresponsible amount of money to realize this incredible lunatic vision. From the way it looks to the way it moves to the way it sounds, to how it crafts an archetypal story that simultaneously challenges the history of Hollywood genre representation, Fury Road is defiantly singular, and cinema is richer for its existence. 

Continue reading after the jump...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Mad Men" Review: "The Milk and Honey Route" (Season 7 Episode 13) - "You knew we'd catch up with you eventually..."



The final season of Mad Men nears the home stretch tonight with the series' penultimate episode, "The Milk and Honey Route,” and as always, I have an in-depth review and analysis of the hour. My second-to-last one ever. Sigh. I don’t ever want this show to go.

Anyway, you know the drill – to do the episode justice, this review contains spoilers, so as always, do not read unless you have seen the episode.

Spoilers for “The Milk and Honey Route” after the jump…

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Mad Men" Review: "Lost Horizon" (Season 7 Episode 12) - "This was a hell of a boat..."



A couple of commenters and Twitter followers have been asking me, for the last few weeks, where my Mad Men reviews went following my analysis of the premiere, and the short answer is that life got in the way. Intense as my love for Mad Men is – and really, there is very, very little in the realms of film, television, or art in general I hold dearer than Mad Men – educational and professional obligations do, unfortunately, come first, and loathe as I was to tap out on Mad Men these last few weeks, there was no way around it. I want these reviews to be done right or not at all, and for the last few weeks, there was no time in my life to get them done right.

And if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t really have a ton of time tonight, either. But the show’s latest – and antepenultimate (dammit!) – episode, “Lost Horizon,” was so fantastic, so bursting at the seams with all of the things I love about this legendary show, that I cannot help itself. I have to follow my heart – and tonight, my heart says I have to write about Mad Men.

So spoilers for the latest episode of Mad Men, “Lost Horizon,” are coming up after the jump. It’s good to be back…