On movies, popcorn, and convenience…

I went to the movies this weekend. While at first blush there doesn’t feel like anything much unusual about that statement, it’s the first time I saw a movie in a theater since fall of 2019… so about two and a half years ago – in the Before Times. 

The good news is that the movie going experiences hasn’t changed much. The bad news, of course, is also that the movie going experience hasn’t changed much. The big pleather lay-z-boy style seating is a nice touch. The cost of popcorn and a Coke is still wildly overinflated. In a lot of ways it’s a bit of a time capsule to the way things used to be – something that hasn’t changed when so much else has done.

Watching Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen felt like a worthwhile reason to go back. It was exactly the flavor of 1980s nostalgia that I love. Plus, it’s every bit as good as (if not better, in some ways, than) the original. I guess you can do that when you’re not in a rush to turn out three or four sequels in as many years. In this case, 30+ years was not too long to wait.

Maybe the great and surprising disappointment was the popcorn. It was decidedly “flat.” That’s probably more my fault than Regal’s. I spent the two years of the Great Plague dialing in theater-style popcorn to exactly suit my taste. I’ve got it just about perfected now and as it turns out, my own concoction trumps the original inspiration rather than matching it exactly. I won’t claim to be too brokenhearted about that.

The other thing I learned from a two-year absence from the theater, is I really like being able to pause the film. I like being able to take a bathroom break, grab a refill, or top off the popcorn with a fresh batch without missing any of the story. The screen at home isn’t nearly as big, but the ease and convenience are hard to beat. I suspect that from here on out, seeing a movie in a building specifically designed for that activity is going to be reserved for those films that unabashedly take advantage of the full size of the screen. For everything else, the perks of watching from the comforts of my own living room outweigh whatever the theater provides.

My ticket to 1986…

The final trailer is out for Top Gun: Maverick. Like any movie of this particular genre, you can poke holes in a lot of details. God knows the internet has spent much of the last 24 hours doing just that. 

Look, I know this new iteration of Top Gun is going to be formulaic. The notes it’s going to hit are predictable. It’s not going to be a Best Picture nominee.

All of those things can be simultaneously true and in no way limit how much I’m looking forward to seeing it. Any faults it has are going to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of nostalgia this movie is hauling along with it. I am, quite simply, here for it. 

I haven’t been to a movie theater since well into the Before Time. None of what Hollywood put on offer was compelling enough to contend with both people and plague. For a trip back to Pete Mitchell’s universe, though, I’m willing to make any exception necessary. 

I’ll be there with a 55-gallon drum of Coke, a bathtub-sized popcorn, and a two hour ticket to everything that was good about 1986.

Next across the block…

The catalog for the next big prop auction just hit the streets this morning. The good news is that there’s nothing Buffy headed across the block next month, so there’s no reason to look into loan sharks or selling plasma to raise funds. 

There are, though, two items of interest – Eliot Ness’ badge from The Untouchables and a small trinket from a non-Buffy vampire franchise – that I wouldn’t mind making a home for if they stay somewhere in line with the pre-auction estimate. I’ll be keeping an eye out for how much interest the garner before the live portion of the auction kicks off.

Either one would be a treat to own, but fortunately neither will leave me obsessing for hours like the stake that got away. 

It’s not the movies, but the experience…

When the great plague started and everything closed, the one I thought I’d miss most was going to see movies at a proper theater. Sure, I liked going to the earliest possible showing of whatever I wanted to see in order to avoid any semblance of a crowd, but I enjoyed the theater experience… by which I might mean the overly buttered popcorn and proper fountain Cokes. Despite my general intolerance of public spaces, there was just something about seeing a first run movie on the big screen that can’t be replicated in the comfort of my own living room.

It’s been nine months since I’ve gone to see a movie… and surprisingly I haven’t really missed it. In fact, I haven’t thought much about it at all. I wonder how much of that has been the general lack of movies being released in the plague era. It’s not like there have been a parade of blockbusters just begging to be watched this summer. 

In the before time I almost always used a long weekend as an excuse to check out the latest offering at the local multiplex, so I guess Labor Day has me thinking about the old days. I’m wondering when the next time will be for gorging on popcorn and sucking down a 44-ounce soda… or if that’s one of those things I’ll ever go back to doing. With every month gone by, it feels distinctly less likely that I’ll ever be completely comfortable sitting in a dark theater even if it’s only with the six other people there for the 10 AM showing.

I miss the proper theater popcorn, though. I wonder if Regal would do a carryout order. 

The pernicious pervasiveness of positivity…

There’s a scene from the movie We Were Soldiers that more or less sums up my feelings about people who are trying just a little too hard to start the day off on a positive note. In that scene, Sergeant Savage approaches Sergeant Major Plumley and idly offers, “Good morning, Sergeant Major.” Plumley, his face twisting into a sneer that only a proper Sergeant Major can achieve, responds “How do you know what kind of god damn day it is?”

CSM.jpgI think of that scene every single time I walk into the office and someone offers up a “good morning.” I haven’t even sat down at my desk, haven’t looked at the overnight emails, haven’t even gulped down the first part of a cup of coffee yet and here’s someone making a wild-eyed speculation about how the next eight hours will go. I usually mumble something about it being too early to tell and try to move on with the day without further comment.

I suppose there have to be people who climb out of their beds and expect nothing but good to happen that day. They cheerfully embrace it with both arms and bright eyes. Me? I’d rather let the day play out a bit before deciding if there should be a “good morning” greeting invoked. I’d far rather be greeted with an abrupt “’morning,” a form of greeting that acknowledges that it is, in fact, a new day while leaving open the possibility that it could be a complete shitshow long before the close of business.

Sure, “good morning” is usually just an offhand generic greeting, but I fear such pernicious positivity sets a bar that most days just won’t manage to climb across.


Since I was old enough to start making my own decisions about what television to watch, I’ve been a fan of Star Trek. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when I could have probably quoted every line of the 3 seasons of the original series, watched in syndication and taped to re-watch countless times on a score of clunky VHS tapes. Six movies and The Next Generation followed, adding to the franchise. I largely fell away during the era of Deep Space 9 and Voyager and Enterprise, though.

I wasn’t overly thrilled about the prospect of bringing the old girl out of mothballs with J.J. Abrams at the helm. I don’t generally like the current Hollywood approach of reanimating every old TV show and movie in an effort to pump more cash from an already tapped well – as if having an original idea or story to tell is some kind of crime against humanity.

With that being said, I’m pleased to report that Beyond manages to hit most of the right notes for this old Trek fan. As troubled as I was originally about these new movies breaking off onto a new timeline, I think this installment comes just about as close to the tone and feel of an original series episode as a fan could hope without putting everyone back on a low-budget set with a bunch of flashing lights and toggle switches. Although I’d never threaten to call this new incarnation of the Start Trek universe “campy,” it finds the proverbial sweet spot somewhere between keeping most of the old timers happy without alienating a new generation of fans. It was nicely done.


I assume most people don’t have any sympathy for the poor old man in Florida who drew down and shot the guy in the theater for texting. I’ll probably catch hell for saying this, but I’m not so sure we shouldn’t give him a medal, or a parade, and send him on his way.

After enduring three people in the front row who spent the entire movie glued to their own screens, the woman on my right who needed to get up not once, not twice, but three times during the movie to talk on the phone, her friend who got up to get refills on popcorn and soda (but not at the same time), and the middle aged battle ax directly behind me who had the incredibly obnoxious habit of repeating lines that she found humorous, I’m not so sure that the old dude was completely out of line.

Expecting people to come in, sit semi-quietly, and watch the moving picture doesn’t feel like it should be an over the top idea. Apparently it is. It’s little trips out like this that remind me why I generally avoid leaving the house when there is any reasonable alternative. The movie was good… I think… but I was far too distracted and annoyed to enjoy it.

Next time I think it would be a good idea to go out unbidden amongst the masses, someone please remind me that they make me absolutely crazy. I’ll thank you for it.

Rewriting history…

I saw the new Star Trek movie this morning. Having spent a good part of my late childhood and early adolescence steeped in the legend, lore, and canon of the Star Trek universe, I’m going to admit up front that I’m still a touch troubled by the “alternate reality” premise adopted for star_trek_into_darkness_poster_enterpriseJ.J. Abrams’ relaunch of the series… not so troubled that I’m boycotting the effort, of course, but troubled enough to catch myself muttering “no… no… that’s not right at all” more than once before the end credits rolled. I suppose that’s to be expected when you give one of this generation’s great hotshot directors license to tinker around with a franchise that’s been around for the better part of fifty years.

I’m not going to go down the road of issuing spoiler alerts and cover the play-by-play of the new movie. I’ll simply say that it’s probably one of the year’s best adventure movies – even allowing for the ubiquitous lens flares and oddly unnecessary moments. It’s even probably a good Star Trek movie – allowing for the wild deviation from the doctrinal story line. Despite the deviation, it’s hard not to appreciate the effort taken at re-envisioning one of the great story arcs from the the original series.



It’s probably fair to say that I’m a geek. I’m not saying that I’m a pocket protector wearing, model rocket building type of geek, but still, I know I like geeky things. I like reading and science, politics and technology… and yes, I’m not afraid to say it, I like Star Trek and have since I was a kid watching the original episodes in syndication. That’s well and good when you’re a kid, but it’s something that’s stuck with me over the years, even if not well publicized.

I’ve been watching the trailers for the 11th movie in the Trek canon and have to say that I’m really, really looking forward to seeing it this weekend. Some purists will undoubtedly say that director J. J. Abrams has thrown out 40 years of established lore in the process of remaking the series, but from the trailers, it seems that he gave it a much needed facelift while maintaining most of the key elements. The Star Trek as a franchise has always been about larger than life characters doing heroic, if campy, things – the stereotypical great man for a great time model.

I’m not hung up on the arguments that Abrams has changed too many details and for good or bad, this weekend will be like a visit with old friends. I like that this movie will take us back to the beginning, or a beginning anyway. For those of us who have been around for a while, we’ve always known that with a rip in the space-time continuum, or a wormhole, or a slingshot maneuver around the sun, all things are possible.

So, yeah, I’m a geek. And I’m ok with that.