Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A John Carter length nap

Alas, my attempts to see a movie in the theater on vacation last week were foiled.

It shouldn't have been so hard. The trip included a total of nine nights, seven of which were spent in easy range of numerous movie theaters. I totally could have gone out to a late movie once my family had gone to bed, even if the plan for my wife and me to go to a movie together never transpired.

But it just didn't work out, in part because I had targeted a specific night late in the trip to do it, and that night ended up seeming like the wrong night when it finally arrived. Of course, the theater in Portland where I wanted to see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World didn't make it any easier on us -- it was playing the movie, but only at 3:15 in the afternoon. Only two weeks into its run? Shame. We could have seen it at another theater, but that was the one we had targeted for its cuteness and proximity to Portland's Old Port district, where we hoped to get a drink afterward.

When Wednesday night the 4th clearly wasn't going to work out, I mentally scrambled to see if I could make the next night work out, but the rain on Wednesday night conspired against me, as the city of Portland shifted its fireworks display (which we were supposed to attend) ahead by one day. I ended up glad I had never mentioned it at all, so as not to make my family think I'd been conspiring to see a movie for part of our limited time together. (See here and here for fuller discussions of why I love seeing movies while out of town.)

My last play was for Saturday night, the night before our departure. We were staying in my sister's intimate loft apartment near Boston's Logan Airport, and there was an idea that my sister and I might need to clear out while my wife stayed home and tried to get our son to sleep -- especially important given that we had to get up before 5 to leave for our 7:05 flight. But when we didn't get home from dinner until well after 9, it was clear that this opportunity would also go by the boards.

Well, thank goodness for having to rouse our son so early. As a result, I somehow got to watch an entire 132-minute movie, without interruption, on our flight home.

After our trials on the flight over, I didn't think I'd have a shot at watching even one of those in-flight 30-minute sitcoms. Our son is still under two, so he qualifies as a "lap infant," meaning we don't need to buy a seat for him. Great savings, but it made for a terrible quality of travel. He spent the first three hours of that flight wriggling and kicking and trying to make life miserable for everyone around him. Fortunately, we succeeded to the extent that he only really made it miserable for us. My wife hilariously attempted to watch the in-flight movie, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, despite our son pulling out her earphones every two minutes. (Or "Journey 2: Mystery Island," as the flight attendant had called it.) Me, I can't even wade into a movie if I know that kind of nonsense is awaiting me.

But my son was considerably more docile at the start of this flight home. He still had more sleeping to do. In fact, I began to stress out when he had already gotten himself into a comfortable sleeping position, torso on my wife's lap and legs on mine, but the movie had not yet started. I needed those two things to align perfectly if I wanted any shot at getting through a whole movie.

I figured I had a better shot at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I guessed would be about 100 minutes (looking it up now, I see it's actually 123). That was the movie they had announced we'd be seeing. When the Walt Disney logo and an image of Mars were the first two things to appear on screen, I knew we weren't in India anymore.

The first thing that bummed me out about John Carter starting was that I wanted to watch it on a big screen. I knew it wasn't supposed to be good, but I thought our new home TV would be a good place to take in its Martian vistas, which promised to be the best thing about the movie.

The second was that I knew it was about 2 hours and 20 minutes long. And I figured there would be almost no way the little sleeping cherub in our laps would still be either cherubic or sleeping 2 hours and 20 minutes from now.

Well, it couldn't have worked out much better. There were a few twitches and small awakenings, and even a retraction of his legs off my own. But it was only just before the credits were set to roll that my son returned to the waking world, and it was a groggy return uncharacterized by lunges at our headphones.

The movie itself? I liked it fine. Yes, it has all the problems everyone says it has, but I applauded its ambition, and also the visual whimsy Andrew Stanton clearly tried to bring to it. There were some pretty successful attempts at humor, like the scene in which Bryan Cranston is interrogating Taylor Kitsch, and dutifully progresses through the same speech despite being repeatedly interrupted by Kitsch's escape attempts. Each time Kitsch head butts Cranston or dives through a nearby window, the scene picks back up in a new location, with Kitsch newly recaptured, and Cranston picking up where he left off in the speech. That kind of thing really worked -- but the movie needed a lot more of it.

Now that I'm back, I need to get out to the movies big time. It's been nearly a month since my last theatrical screening: Prometheus, way back on June 12th.

However, I may target Beasts of the Southern Wild, and just save Seeking a Friend for DVD -- an unfortunate outcome, since I really wanted to support it by seeing it in the theater.

So my wife and I will probably have that date to see Seeking a Friend, in the end. It'll just be on our couch sometime this October.

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