Cinema Food costs way too much, and tickets are never checked

I went to the cinema today wiht the children and paid somewhere around £25 for the tickets. It was just after lunchtime and we were all peckish so we thought a few bags of popcorn and a drink each would tide us over. I normally don’t indulge in this kind of snack because I consider it to be so unhealthy, but I was weary and felt like a lazy compulsive.

We queued for a moment until my eleven-year-old daughter turned to me holding around 60p in her hand and said “here you are daddy, this is my contribution – it’s all I’ve got”. Naturally, my heart melted and I told her to keep her precious pennies. I casually glanced to the menus above the serving area, not really thinking about cost so much as content when I saw with some horror the amount of money that popcorn commands.

This is surely a mistake. A small-ish bag of popcorn and a medium sized drink cost more than the cinema ticket. £6.30.

Now, I know that cinemas make some money on the peripheral goods, like sweets, ice-creams and so on. What I didn’t realise was they are attempting to asset-strip every parent who wants to give their kids a small treat. I may have been weary, but I was thinking straight and couldn’t believe what i was reading. Pop-corn has got to be one of the cheapest products to create. Coke is not all that much more to produce but in the size it was being offered it is over six times more expensive than petrol.

So, being in Bluewater (Dartford crossing area of the UK), there are any number of shops who will sell you snacks. We walked away (my daughter’s request, not mine) and found some sweets and a drink elsewhere. The entire cost for all of us came to a little over the cost of one at the cinema.

But then you have to run the gauntlet of ticket checkers who see whether you are carrying food and drink in, of course. Apparently you are not allowed to do so. Ah well, over we went, goodies stuffed into our pockets, looks of innocence all round. The tickets were handed over as a batch, stacked one on top of the other. The young girl simply took the lot, tore them in half and handed them back without stopping to count or check them. In we went to “screen 4, downstairs”.

Now, I like to think I am a reasonably straightforward and honest chap, but I was drawn into any number of thoughts about how I could have got into the cinema with two tickets and a truckload of food, saving a fair amount of money in the process. Dark thoughts kept recurring to me all the way downstairs and into screen 4, until the film started.

Even darker thoughts then occurred to me as I realised I was in another low quality film. Dull, dull, dull. Something with Keanu Reeves and the day the earth stood still. Absolute nonsense, and not worth watching at all. Even my normally very easy to please daughter came out of that one saying we should have gone to see a different film. Ah well. Beleagured parents everywhere take note – buy fewer tickets and save a few quid – spend that money in a news agent and don’t even contemplate popcorn from the cinema, and always read the reviews of films before you go to see them.

Film Review: Changeling

Changeling, with Angelina Jolie, has been out a short while now and the cinema (Bishop’s Stortford) was mercifully devoid of customers. It meant a quiet screening, and I was very glad of it, as the film is well worth the time and money, in my opinion.

The basic story is of a single mother in the late twenties America (Los Angeles) who needs to go in to work unexpectedly, but returns home to find that her young son has disappeared. The LAPD seem almost reluctant to be called in, and we find out through the early part of the film that they are rife with corruption and self promotion through ‘bending’ the rules. When they do finally get their act together a child is eventually found who they claim to be the missing boy. However, this child is three inches shorter that Jolie’s son, and has also been circumcised. Despite this the police insist he is the child, and go to incredible lengths to persuade people that they have done well. Jolie embarks on a mission to reveal the wrong that has been done, and to find her own son against incredible opposition.

She finds support from Rev. Gustav Briegleb (played brilliantly by John Malkovich) who runs a radio show dedicated to highlighting the wrong doing of the LAPD, and gradually the story unravels.

Without wanting to provide too much of a spoiler, it transpires that her son is amongst many that have gone missing. Through sheer chance an honest detective is sent out to a ranch to pick up a Canadian child who has entered the country illegally. The boy reveals that he has been complicit in the deaths of up to twenty children, abducted by his uncle and imprisoned on the ranch. The uncle has an unhealthy appetite for murder, and the boy, once in police custody, tells of how it all happens.

The film ends in the only way it could to stay credible, and we are left feeling both satisfied at a great film, and slightly cheated that the fairy tale ending doesn’t happen. On reflection, I’m pleased it doesn’t as it would have reduced the film to pure cheese if it did!

Directed by Clint Eastwood, this is a fine film to see and well worth the money. It is in parts harrowing, and I found myself longing for the corrupt police captain to get his come-uppance. He does, eventually, but not nearly as much as he should have done! The scenes in the psychiatric ward are superbly done, and they also leave you wanting revenge. Jolie has done a fabulous job playing this role, which she does almost as well as in ‘Girl, interrupted’ where she was outstanding. All in all, this film could become a firm favourite.

Awake film review, Hayden Christensen

Picture of Jessica AlbaOh dear. This is most certainly one of those films I would rather not have seen. Not because it is particularly scary, or gory – it really isn’t – but because it is a complete load of nonsense, is confused in the script and does nothing to help improve Hayden Christensen’s reputation. I’d go so far as to say it lowers it, somewhat.

The plot is incredibly thin, and in fact has three divergent strands that fail to be adequately drawn together in any moving or empathetic way. The acting throughout the film is adequate at best, and in some parts appalling. There is an extended sequence of Jessica Alba on a beach as a memory of the main character and it is pure, unadulterated trash, designed presumably to showcase Miss Alba’s considerably attractive assets and not much more. I can only think there were a few minutes left at the end where someone thought the film was too long, and as a result added in yards of reel that by rights had no place in the editing room in the first place.

Long winded and slow paced doesn’t describe this film with nearly enough accuracy. It was too drawn out and I ended up pleading for it to do something, anything, to keep me awake. Far from the title, I found it tiring, dull, sleep inducing and numbing in ways that clearly the anaesthetic used in the film wasn’t being. The final sequence of an all too predictable plot left the audience with words along the lines of ‘he is …. awake.’ It was met with a gentle snoring sound from around the theatre as more than one viewer had already nodded off.

When leaving a film, any film, I find things to talk about – the best bit, the worst bit, the scenery – pretty much half an hour of dissection (no pun intended). On this occasion all I could think of on the way out was the fastest way to the car to get me away from there. Not since ‘Open Water’ have I seen a film as bad as this one, but once again I suspect there will be fans of this kind of film that will want to level the balance from what I am saying. My advice is that if you have need of about an hour and a half of snoozing, go and see it. If you want to spend that time more productively, watch the grass grow instead.

(image from

Sweeney Todd Review, Cloverfield Review, No Country for Old Men Review

This has to be a first for me… going to the cinema is frequent enough, but going for a whole day? Shameful! Yet that’s what I did on Saturday 2nd February. Heading over to Braintree Freeport cinema, it seemed the sort of day that was best spent indoors. It was cold, for a start… and with England playing Wales in the opening game of the RBS Six Nations I knew I wouldn’t be sitting restfully at home! So first up, at 11.30am was Sweeney Todd.

I know this story – it was something I had read at secondary school way back in the late seventies/early eighties, so I was not surprised to see so many throat cutting scenes and pie making. What made this film stand out was the acting (although the story is pretty good, too). For a start, the cast was excellent – Johnny Depp in the lead role, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Lovett, Alan Rickman as eminently corrupt Judge Turpin and Timothy Spall as his sidekick Beadle Bamford. Fantastic stuff from the start then. The whole film is a grisly portrayal of vengeance as Todd arrives in London to find Turpin and kill him for destroying his life (he has him deported and steals his beautiful wife and daughter). Setting up as a barber, Todd works above Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop, where the pies are actually pretty grim as meat is scarce and what you can get is too expensive. So begins a partnership between Todd and Lovett – Todd supplies the ‘meat’, courtesy of his cut-throat antics and Lovett cooks the pies which she sells to unsuspecting Londoners. The tale slowly unfolds as Todd works ever closer to Turpin, but things are complicated by a young sailor Todd met on is voyage home. Anthony Hope falls in love with Judge Turpin’s ‘ward’ Johanna, who is in fact Todd’s daughter. Turpin plans to marry his ward, Hope plans to get there first, and Todd plans to kill Turpin anyway! Needless to say Todd achieves his aim, but not without dire consequences to those who he holds dear (and there’s precious few of those). It is a first rate film with excellent acting from Depp, some less excellent singing all round which doesn’t matter one jot and a hugely enjoyable experience overall.

Cloverfield couldn’t be more different. Leaving the previous film with enough time to get some light refreshments it was out of one and into the next.

Cloverfield as a film has been shrouded in mystery since it was first announced. The film with no name turned out to be pretty awful, I thought. A group of teens having a going away party are rudely interrupted when a monster decides the time is right to make an appearance in the middle of Manhatten. Ripping the head off the Statue of Liberty and hurling it into the middle of town seems to cause some disbelief amongst the party goers, but they slowly get the point when the huge creature is seen and the panic starts to set in. Most folk head out of town at that point, but not our intrepid group. After a series of mishaps (the loss of a brother on the Brooklyn Bridge for one) the group decide to head back towards danger to rescue another of their party goers who has managed to leave a message on a cell phone that she is trapped. She is, of course, the love interest of the lead in the film. So begins the sorry journey of rescue and ultimately disaster. One by one the group fall victim to various woes (the best of which is the girl bitten by a smaller creature ‘hived’ off the main dude, and who gradually deteriorates until she eventually dies). The trapped girl is finally rescued and the four remaining make it to the evac site. One gets into a helicopter that leves immediately (we presume she makes it outta there) and the other three board another helicopter which doesn’t make quite so good progress, lingering as they do to watch a stealth bomber drop munitions on the creature which reaches up and swats the helicopter. From there we know the end is thankfully near, as they survive the crash only to discover they are at the feet of the monster (who somehow managed to get from the midst of town to Central Park). The entire film is shown in a very ‘Blair Witch’ manner through the use of a hand held camera being used to document the party 9and subsequent events). At this juncture, however, the cameraman (called Hud), is eaten alive. To cut an already too long story short, the remaining two leave promptly (but not so fast as to forget the camera, of course) and hide under a bridge where they hear the four minute warning. Manhatten is about to be nuked in a bid to rid it of the menace (although there are probably plenty of other reasons to do this, some might say). Needless to say the film ends around about there. Phew… if you are around 15 you might enjoy this film. If you care much about camera work, storylines or acting, you probably won’t. Then again it’ll get rave reviews like Blair Witch – another film I really didn’t enjoy very much.

So from there it was time to eat – a quick trip to Pizza Express (I ought to write another review for and it was soon time to go back for film number three – No Country for Old Men.

Before I returned to the theatre I took a sneaky peak at the sports bar of the bowling alley opposite. All looked good – England were seven points ahead. I thought it would be close, but that looked promising. How things change!

This was an intriguing film, but one I found entirely unsatisfactory for various reasons. The plot synopsis is simple enough – Llewelyn Moss finds a group of dead Mexican drug dealers in the wilderness of Texas/Mexico border, tracks the ‘last man standing’ to find himdead under a tree with a case containing vast amounts of cash ($2 million, apparently). Fom then on it is a chase as he tries very hard to keep the cash, and a villain by the name of Anton Chigurh tries to find and kill him. To add to this, the Mexican connection keeps sending groups to do the same job. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones is the sheriff amongst this lot who is nearing retirement and wanting to wrap the case up whilst staying alive. The scene is set for a quite enjoyable romp where you would expect the good guys to win and the baddies to lose. Sadly, this is not to be. In an altogether too long film, evil prevails time and time again in the relentless closing in. Javier Bardem plays Chigurh and for me was the best actor on the screen – absolutely the best thing in the whole film, I’d say. However, he evades capture himself, kills relentlessly and narrowly avoids being killed in a car accident right at the end of the film. Oh – if you still care, the Mexicans get the man who after al this time you thought would have found a way to get out of the state and count the cash. The cash… we never see what becomes of it – the assumption is that Chigurh gets it, but once Moss has been killed we never see it again. The film ends with the Sheriff now retired talking about a dream in which he sees himself following his father into the dark. Clearly, it is a metaphor for death, but I’m afraid the film killed any desire I had to keep watching long before this point. I guess the reviewers wil say I am a philistine and what a brilliant piece of cinematography it is. It undoubtedly has merits, but if you like your stories to be complete (all ends tied up), satisfactory and ‘feel good’ then this is not going to be one you’ll enjoy. It is a masterful depiction of relentless evil in the character of Chigurh, but beyond that it left me feeling underimpressed. Sorry.

There was an option to go and see Aliens V Predator Requiem, but by now I had reached the limit. Three films (one good, one bad and one ugly) was enough and no amount of SFX would put that right. I have had a unique day, although I’ll probably try to repeat it with better films another time. Freeport Cineworld is a comfortable enough theatre and the films were such that there wasn’t a lot of youngsters larking about inside (outside is a different matter, as they congregate in the gap between the cinema and the bowling). Johnny Depp remains a top actor in my estimations, but I knew that before putting myself through the experience! All in all it was worth doing as a way of resting and not sitting at home, but I feel a little cheated regarding the last film. And then there was the final score in the rugby to contend with as well. Ah well.

Film Review – Zodiac

This weekend I went to Chelmsford Odeon to see Zodiac. I was expecting a reasonably fast paced action thriller, but it really isn’t one of those! This film is based on a true story spanning a time scale from 1968 to 1991 and follows the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in the San Francisco region of California.

It details the frustrations that the police faced at the time and the problems brought about by a lack of communication infrastructure – information was generally posted (some places still didn’t have fax machines back then, remember) and often details were overlooked in the sheer weight of paper and high word counts.

The film depicts the characters supremely well and shows the attention to detail needed to track through the evidence to find the identity of the killer. It was a gripping portrayal of people determined to succeed but thwarted by the legal system at the time, although pretty much each of the main characters is portrayed as obsessive to some degree or another. Maybe that’s what it takes to track down a killer in the mire of miscommunication, fruit-loop wannabe killers, missing witnesses and alcoholic forensic experts! The film draws strong conclusions about the killer’s identity, but frustratingly it ends as an unsolved crime.

Whilst some may look on this film as too long, or not enough action, I found it deeply interesting and was pleased I went to see it. The obvious parallel to the real case is brought out well, when the detective in charge of the case goes to watch a movie… about a killer in California who goes by the name of Scorpio – yep – it was a Dirty Harry film! Clearly the plot for that mirrored some elements of the case.

The ending is one of those where blocks of text come up to tell you about what happened to each of the characters rather than a satisfying end sequence resulting in the police getting their man. Normally I would leave feeling cheated at such endings, but on this occasion it just works. There is nothing too much wrong with this film unless you are expecting it to be just like Dirty Harry, in which case go rent that instead of watch Zodiac. If you like docu-drama type films based on real life then don’t hesitate… go buy your tickets now! I loved it, but then again I am almost obsessive about getting things done ‘just so’!