Friday, June 22, 2018

Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2
seen @ Movieworld, Douglaston, Queens NY

Superheroes are hot in Hollywood right now, but mostly if they come from Disney (Marvel) or Warner Bros. (DC). When Tinseltown tries to make original heroes, their track record so far has been spottier.

James Gunn made Super when he was an indie. The Uma Thurman comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend barely made a dent at the box office and scored only a 50 at Metacritic. The Hollywood Reporter called it a "sour, joyless affair." The Will Smith vehicle Hancock, from my understanding, had a much better screenplay than the one which made the final cut. And the less said about Superhero Movie, the better.


So what does the Incredibles franchise do that makes it rise above the pretenders and compete with the Marvel and DC characters? It's from Pixar, for one thing; they simply understand storytelling better. Their success rate speaks for itself. Being computer animated doesn't hurt either.

Pixar, and writer-director Brad Bird, just don't settle for good enough. Incredibles 2 comes fourteen years after the original film, and this is sheepishly acknowledged in an intro to the film by Bird and stars Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Sam Jackson. (Is this a Disney thing now? Ava DuVernay did a similar intro for A Wrinkle in Time.)


In this Indiewire interview, though, Bird explains the deal. He describes an overheard phone conversation by the late Steve Jobs in which the former Pixar owner rejects getting a hot pop singer to sing an end credits song because he cared more about making a product for all time, not for the here and now:
...[Jobs] knew that stuff was still going to be looked at later if we did our job right. And I loved his long view because often there's something quick and cheap you can take advantage of to get heat at the moment. And he didn't care at all about that. And that was really inspiring. We're not making it just for now but for long into the future, for anyone who's interested in storytelling.
I2 picks up where the last flick left off (easy to do with an animated film), but alters the group dynamic. Elastigirl is put front and center (she spearheads a proactive campaign to reform the reputation of superheroes), while Mr. Incredible raises Violet, Dash and baby Jack-Jack. When the adults, Frozone included, get in trouble, it's the kids who come to the rescue.


Granted, I had a feeling who the villain might have been halfway into the story, but getting to the finish line was thrilling anyhow. Maybe the next time Hollywood tries to make brand new superheroes, they'll keep Bird and the Incredibles in mind.

In all likelihood, I2 will be the last movie I see at Movieworld before they close in a few weeks. I made sure to take a good look around: the movie posters and pictures of vintage film stars that dotted the box office and the walls; the cafe; the video games off to the side; the hub-like concession stand, etc. I really wanted popcorn, but I was told the salt was mixed in with the kernels. (Cinemart is the same way. A pattern?) It was okay, though.


I was more concerned with the large number of teenagers at this screening. For an afternoon show, it was fairly packed with them. I got a seat near the front, not caring about looking up. I wanted as little contact with them as possible, but surprise surprise, they behaved well during the movie.

To play devil's advocate for a minute: the mall above MW totally looked threadbare without Macy's and with Toys R Us on its last legs. The huge parking lot had enough room to hold a soccer game, there were so few cars. The Modell's was open, but it didn't seem like it. Only Burger King looked active.


I understand the landlord wanting to bring in new business here. If it was a choice between saving the mall by vacating MW or keeping MW but watching the mall wither away, I would not want to have made that decision. The issue, though, is whether or not Lowes really needs the MW space in addition to the former Macy's site. The landlord believes so.

Not much more to say. I'm glad MW was around long enough for me to enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Movieworld, the jewel of Eastern Queens, to close

From the Facebook page of Movieworld Douglaston, dated June 11:

...The landlord has exercised a clause in the lease that requires us to vacate within 30 days.  We are not closing for any other reason than we are being required to under the terms of our original lease.  A Lowes store will be taking the entire lower level of the shopping center and construction will start right away.... It has been an amazing experience being able to bring movies to all of you.  We encourage everyone to keep going to the movies!

(Thanks to Andrew for the tip)

Man, I hate writing these posts. It seems like I've written too many of them in the not-quite eight years this blog has been active. Some hurt more than others. This isn't that painful, but only because I'm not as familiar with this theater as with others. Still, I feel this loss, too.

Movieworld might have provided the best bargain for first-run films in Queens, if not all of New York: $11 full price for 2D films, $7 matinee before four PM, and $6 all day Wednesdays.

A proudly independent, community-based cinema located near the border of Queens and Nassau County, in Douglaston, MW had been around for over thirty years. At one point, it was operated by UA until 2004. It shut its doors in April 2008, only to reopen two months later with new owners, and it remained local and independent ever since. MW went digital in 2012, and luxury seats were added a year later.

People complained about the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas being located below street level; well, try running a theater located underneath a mall, inside a parking lot! It was a turn-off for me when I first went there, until I stepped inside and saw it was much like other theaters. In addition to the usual movie food for sale, they have a small cafe with a slightly better class of food and drink. It won't make anyone forget the Alamo Drafthouse, but it's a cozy place to wait for your auditorium to seat.

Reading the FB comments gave me a much better sense of what MW meant to the Eastern Queens/Nassau faithful. When MW was threatened with closure in 2017, the fans, like those of the Lincoln Plaza, started a petition to save the theater.

It proved fruitless in February of this year when the local community board voted in favor of bringing in a Lowes on the former site of Macy's, above MW, in order to bring in more business and preserve the mall. The only way Lowes said they could fit, though, was if they also took the space occupied by MW, a claim disputed by the MW defenders. Read more about it here. (Apropos of nothing: I find it very interesting that the debate is compared in this article to a dispute over bike lanes.)

While there are other movie options nearby, such as AMC theaters in Bayside and Fresh Meadows, neither of them are as affordable, nor as diverse (MW also screens Filipino movies from time to time), nor as quirky (you have to admit, its unusual location makes it unlike other cinemas).

I intend to see Incredibles 2 at MW; also, a going-away party is planned for July 2. If I can make it, I'll stop by. MW has said they'll search for a new location, so hope remains alive for now, but like I said, I'm tired of writing these post-mortems, especially for theaters in Queens.

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Movies I've seen at Movieworld:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Finding Dory
Wonder Woman
Pacific Rim: Uprising

Friday, June 1, 2018

Incredible links

Remember the short story I wrote that appeared in a local literary magazine? Well, last month I got invited by the same group to appear at a special reading for past published authors — with a twist.

Newtown Literary put on a reading in which some of their own — other authors — read work by past published authors. I didn't have to say or do anything except show up! It felt odd; my piece, "Airplanes," was a work of speculative fiction inspired by my post on the movie The Terminal, and while I put effort into it, of course, I didn't expect the story to make it, but it did. That was one thing, though; to see it publicly appreciated in a venue like this was quite another.

The woman who read my work was Aida Zilelian, who runs a local reading series called Boundless Tales. I read at a BT show once, which is where I met her, not that I thought she remembered me. I guess she did. She wasn't sure at first if "Airplanes" was a SF story or not; she had to ask me before the show began to make sure!

The show went well. Some of my friends from my old writing group turned up, which was nice. I got to meet more of the NL crew, as well as other local writers, and best of all, I didn't have to embarrass myself!

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One other new movie I saw this month which I never wrote about was The Seagull, with Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan. Based on the Anton Chekhov play, it's about all these people hanging out in the summer house of a famous stage actress and all the stuff they get into with each other. It was okay; the acting felt very big and theatrical, even though the screenplay made it look more like a movie. Saw it at the Paris in midtown with Vija and Debbie; afterward, we were joined by Vija's visiting grand-niece Cecelia, who Vija thought bore a resemblance to Saoirse Ronan. We ate pasta.

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Margot Kidder was the perfect Lois Lane, just like Christopher Reeve was the perfect Superman. They had a terrific chemistry in those movies that at its best, was reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. She played Lois exactly how you would imagine her to be: modern, perky, independent-minded, a little reckless at times, yet devoted to Superman whether she knows he's really Clark Kent or not.

I'm afraid I haven't seen much of Kidder's other movies, though I did see Black Christmas. I read about her in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, of course, and some of the risque things she got up to back in the 70s. It's a pity she wasn't a bigger star.

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Cynthia Nixon update: Governor Cuomo clobbered her in the state Democratic convention, easily winning his party's nomination, whereas she wasn't even invited to the event. I admit, I'm beginning to lean towards her, especially now that she's basically endorsed the MTA plan to fix the subway, the same one the governor had no interest in when it was released a week ago.

Win or lose, Nixon has proven herself to be someone serious about reforming and changing a lot of things in New York State that need changing. If she does lose the governorship, I hope she'll consider running for another position, such as state congresswoman or something similar.

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Sorry it's been quiet around here lately. The novel. You know.

Links after the jump.