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IMAX is still trying to fuck you in the butt (but at least they’re honest about it)

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In the summer of 2009, Aziz Ansari, of Parks and Recreations fame, posted this. He’s pissed because he got duped into paying for IMAX when the screen clearly wasn’t IMAX-sized.

Then, all of a sudden, everybody made a stink, calling out IMAX, AMC, and Regal for basically robbing customers of a surcharge. Around this same time, the LIEMAX blog was booming as it mapped real vs. fake IMAX screens. It even made on the local news in Vegas.

Then, on Friday August 14, 2009, the blog shut down. And so did all of the hullabaloo, it seemed, without any reconciliation or apologies from IMAX.

Luckily, IMAX.com’s map now makes that same distinction for you. On their site, they specify whether a theater is “Traditional IMAX” or “real” and “Multiplex Design” or “fake.”[1]

Multiplex designs, according to the IMAX website,  are described as such: “…the old screen has been replaced with a larger, slightly curved, IMAX screen, that is positioned closer to the viewer to maximize field of view; IMAX screens in multiplex design locations range in size from 47′ x 24′ to 74′ x 46′.”

Traditional IMAX screens are described as ranging in size between 51′ x 37′ to 117′ x 96′ so even if you wind up with a traditional screen that’s comparable to a multiplex design, you’re getting precisely what the engineers intended when it comes to placement of seats, speakers, and screen.

It’s amazing, quite honestly, that IMAX seems to pride themselves on giving one the biggest and best image on top of the best sound but, now, they’re just upcharging to cover the cost of replacing a projector with a similar one that runs a larger format–and the cost of upgrading it to digital when the time comes.

What it comes down to is money, obviously. Since the IMAX name has become synonymous with quality and giant screens, they’re able to do a half-ass renovation of a theater, put up four giant blue letters, and charge you extra.

The most interesting development to come out of this is that Regal and AMC have come up with their own versions of multiplex IMAX–the Regal Premium Experience (RPX) and the Extreme Theater Experience (ETX).

Basically, they’re the half-assed multiplex designs but without the naming rights.  And maybe leather seats[2]. One has to wonder whether or not this was IMAX’s doing so that they didn’t completely tarnish their name.

With true IMAX, there are some things that nobody seems to be able to replicate–crystal clear, giant-ass picture, and such a heavy sound system that it sucks the air out of your lungs. Even during a film like Inception that is presented across the middle of the screen, it’s still the biggest middle of the screen you’ll get–that is, in a traditional screen.

I’ve known about this and haven’t gotten duped into multiplex IMAX yet, so I couldn’t tell you if at least the sound was up to par.

Either way, it’s some rank bullshit that I wanted my readers to be aware of.

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[1] Because these instructions are long and stodgy, I’m gonna put’em down here:

  1. Go to imax.com. The flash will load. Along the top there is a box labeled “Find your ‘IMAX.’” Type in your location into the grey box next to the label.
  2. When you do that, a map will show up with all the IMAX theaters within something like 30 miles of your specifified location.
  3. Some are blue (3D!), some are green (not 3D), some are dark blue (domes, usually at science centers), some are orange (coming soon).
  4. Pick one and hover over it. The box will expand to give the name and location of the theater with a bunch of links underneath it including “Buy Tickets,” Directions, etc. The one you want to click on for these purposes is “Theater Description.”
  5. A new box will pop up and the first words will either be This is a multiplex (fake) Imax or this is a traditional (real) IMAX.
  6. If fake IMAX, find the nearest real IMAX. You might as well drive to get the most for your money. It’s harder to find real IMAX in bigger cities (for example: There are three IMAXes on the Island of Manhattan, only the one at the Loews Lincoln Center is traditional).

[2] At the one RPX I went to at the Times Square Regal E-Walk, there were leather seats. It was a nice, unnecessary touch. I don’t care if there’s cum stains on my chairs so long as the sound and the picture are top notch. I don’t pay for seats, I pay for cinema.

9x9x9: Star Trek 2009–wictor wictor 9,2 (access denied)

I had no previous affiliations with Star Trek before this movie. To be honest, my mental image of the show and the movies was that it was stodgy and overly thoughtful vis a vis trying to be a cultural voice of reason over a sci-fi show.

And that’s fine. M*A*S*H* worked great like that, too. It was a show of my parents’ age and, since my parents never watched it, I never watched it.

I only saw this reboot because shit blew up in space. At least, the first time.

I saw a second time because I was blown away by how well paced, well acted, well scored, well directed, and well put together the movie is.

I saw it a third time because I had the chance to see it in IMAX. Simple as that.

But I wouldn’t have seen it subsequent times if it weren’t a great movie, and one that made me actually start watching Trek in syndication on late night television.

Let’s start with the first ten minutes of the film–when George Kirk only hears his son’s first breathes as he flies into the ship to save 800 lives. This movie starts off with a powerful setpiece that packs a lot of emotion and kickass visuals into a small amount of space.

To the untrained eye, this is just something that’s really cool. But to the trekker, this is the first indication that this is a different Star Trek, on a different timeline. Spock Prime mentions this later in the film when he tells Kirk that he knew his father, and that that was the reason he went into Starfleet.

In this universe, his dad dies about 30 seconds after his birth.

And James T. Kirk as a small boy is a rebellious little Iowan. The first scene we see of him is after he’s stolen his dad’s incredibly vintage car, goes out for a joyride, and then drives it off a cliff.

Cut to Vulcan where young Spock is terrorized by full blooded Vulcans because he has a human mother. Then he beats the shit out of their ringleader. And bleeds green.

These first three portions of the film are fucking awesome. They’re paced quickly, and throw you headlong into this universe by giving you a glimpse of them as children.

The rest of the movie is just as badass, I promise.

 

JJ Abrams works with his cast on the bridge.

 

The biggest thing for me about this movie is one I didn’t find out about until I got the special edition DVD and watched some of the behind the scenes featurettes. It turns out that director JJ Abrams wanted to use as much practical effects and real locations as possible–this is why they filmed the scenes on the engineering deck of the Enterprise in a brewery instead of building a set (though when Kirk gets marooned on an ice planet, that part was shot in a parking lot. You do what you can).

The other thing they showed was that Abrams would slap the camera body during scenes to get the shaky effect of being on an starship in battle. This is something that’s really easy to do in post–Final Cut calls it the “Earthquake” (or Short Cuts [spoiler alert link]?)–but looks so much more authentic when the actual apparatus doing the filming is shaking.

It didn’t stop there, either. The VFX guys decided to enhance some of their footage by putting a motion capture device on a desk, slapping the desk, and adding the movement to the “camera” of the CGI. I thought that was pretty wicked that they continued this idea to its endth instead of trying to make it look completely perfect and thereby inorganic/completely different from the shakiness of the onboard shots.

As these last 300 words can attest to, this is a movie that allows nerds to completely go balls deep about. There’s so many little intricacies and fun things about the production to discover. To someone like me, the discovery heightened the viewing experience.

Even if you aren’t a nerd or a geek or a Trekker or whatever, there’s still a lot to appreciate about this movie.

The cinematography is fantastic for a modern day action film. I have no qualms about Baycam, it’s shakiness, or it’s lack of geographic continuity for the viewer, but this film is done in a completely different style that actually shows you a wide angle on what’s occurring as well as shaky closeups. Watch an action scene from Transformers then watch, say, those opening ten minutes. Completely different, right?

And I like that about this movie. It’s completely different  by its eschewing both modern action aesthetics and it’s actual, y’know, storyline.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman films started this whole rash of thoughtful, compelling, tentpole films that focus on story as well as kickass visuals.

Sure, Spiderman and Spiderman 2 did this, but there was no darkside to it. And that’s the major difference–tentpoles are free to play, now, with the whole psyche of a character. It’s almost becoming expected.

When it doesn’t occur–cf, X-Men Origins: Wolverine–it’s even more disappointing than it used to be because of great big beautiful films like the Dark Night and Star Trek and Watchmen. At least it’s disappointing to me. I like story. I like shit blowing up. I like set pieces. I like shakycam. Make me care about what’s going on and you’ll guarantee my ass will be in the seat again.

This movie makes me care about what’s going on. It builds characters deep enough to care about and intriguing enough to keep your attention. I love that Spock flares up with rage from time to time. I love that Capt. Kirk is arrogant and confident.

I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on record and stated that Michael Giacchino is my favorite composer right now. His score in this film is probably some of his best work. The problem, though, is that I haven’t really figured out how to articulate how well a score works for me. So we’ll leave it at that.

This movie’s sequel is due in 2012. I hope the world doesn’t end before I get to see it in IMAX.

The Dark Knight Review’s Corollary

I saw this film again at a 1:20 AM showing in IMAX on an impulse. I was bored out of my fucking skull and the best part about summer blockbusters is that it gives film loving insomniacs like myself something to see after 1AM when all the DVDs are worn down to the wick.

And I noticed some things I hadn’t caught before–like the extra 35mm of frame which was, at times, a little odd since they did all of the flyover shots in IMAX format and only some of the action sequences in the format so there was a lot of popping between formats. Moreso than they let on when they say “we did six major scenes in the format.” They really meant six major scenes and a shitload of filler.

The format, however, is not what this corollary is about.

This is about the film and how much of a joke it is. And I mean this without a pun intended, though Heath Ledger is much to blame for the joke that this film contains.

Because it’s not necessarily the film as a whole that is a joke–the performances are excellent, the cinematography and action pieces are brilliant, stark and exciting–instead, the joke is within the film, subtle.

The joke is on us. Which is why this movie will most likely end up being one of the highest grossing films of all times.

When I said that Heath Ledger was to blame, I meant it in the way that his performance has about a layer and a half. Enough of a performance for one viewing, but not enough subtlety or facial expression for a second. This is probably because he talks so goddam much. He monologues like it’s going out of style.

He’s not the only one to blame, though: there are many moments in the film where characters state heavy-handed maxims on the state of Gotham City (the banker at the beginning of the film, Christian Bale at least once, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart). Multiple times we’re reminded about the night being darkest before the dawn, and about how some criminals just want to watch the world burn.

Essentially, we are left with a film that tries hard enough for people to think they’re gaining more upon a second viewing even though there’s really nothing more.

Why is there really nothing more? Because it’s a huge fucking movie.

So maybe this will become a new business model to create repeat viewings in the theater–to have performers insinuate a little more to encourage someone to see the movie again, but not insinuate so much that the viewer is left confused.

And the best part of the IMAX format was watching the giant action piece with Eckhart in the truck and the flipping semi-truck we saw in the trailers. That scene was absolutely fascinating in the format. The screen is so large, the images so crisp, that you are drawn completely into the scenes. If the equipment wasn’t so ridiculously clunky, this could very well be the future of cinema. Hopefully it is because I really don’t want to see too much digital filmmaking in theaters–and this is coming from someone who plans on being a digital film maker. The format has a certain glint, a certain gloss, that makes everything feel a little off. But with IMAX, everything is just stupid-huge.

So I must apologize that I’m apostatizing from the #1 film on the IMDB top 250 (seriously. All the retards over there think that it’s better every other movie ever fucking made), but, seriously. This movie isn’t all that great. It’s just a juggernaut that wants you to think it is.