Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Riske Business: 31 Days at the Movie Theater (Days 1-6)

by Adam Riske
This July, I will be what Werner Herzog would call a “soldier of cinema.”

Seeing a movie in a theater for 31 straight days is a ludicrous undertaking, but before I continue I would be remiss not to acknowledge that this has been done before FOR A YEAR! That journey is chronicled in the book A Year at the Movies: One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey by Kevin Murphy. But he’s not Adam Riske so, yeah, read my account instead!

Why am I doing this? That’s a good question. I think some of it has to do with boredom. Another part of it is after returning to video stores for 30 days last summer, I was looking for a new summer movie challenge. Or perhaps I just wanted to destroy my life and love of movies. That last part is a joke. I think. We’ll find out as the month progresses. In any event, I’m hoping this experiment will make for an entertaining and interesting series of Riske Business columns. This experiment will be the focus of my non-review writing for the next five weeks. I hope you enjoy it and I encourage your comments and suggestions as I go along. My journey will include attending the Music Box’s 70mm film festival, visiting an array of mom & pop stand-alone theaters with gimmicks like having a connected deli or a soda fountain, buying the most expensive movie ticket I can find at one of those rich people theaters and going back to the movie theater I went to all the time when I was in college at Indiana University (I’m visiting the campus as a trip of nostalgia after graduating 10 years ago). If you have a request such as “Go to a drive-in,” I’ll take it under advisement and will probably do it if it’s not something goofy, dangerous or expensive.

My goal with these columns is to not only discuss the movies I am seeing and provide my opinion of them, but to also put you in the brain of someone conducting this experiment and detail what it is like for an avid filmgoer.

This first column will cover the first six days of the challenge.

Note: In prep for this undertaking, I did not see a movie in theaters for 10 days leading up to July 1st. This was my palette cleanse before the Scarface mound of movies I snort throughout all of July.

July 1st

Movie: Begin Again
The first night was a bit of a chore. After work, I had dinner with my parents and I had to rush out of there to go catch a movie before it got to be too late in the evening on a work night. Luckily, the movie I saw made it all worth it. I loved Begin Again. And this is coming from someone who didn’t enjoy Once. The music in the movie is catchy and the lead performances from Mark Ruffalo and (especially) Keira Knightley are charming and interesting. Knightley can definitely sing. I recommend everyone check this movie out. I found it involving and supremely charming.

Don’t you just love the feeling you have after seeing a movie that connects with you? On my way home from Begin Again, I listened to the radio and felt lifted up. A good movie makes music sound better and compels you to start singing. You just want to get home to post on Twitter or text friends that the movie you just saw was something special. This was a great way to start my 31 day challenge.

Note: Before the movie, I saw the trailer for The Hundred-Foot Journey. It looks terrible, but now I cannot stop saying “I will turn the music down, but I WILL TURN THE HEAT UP!!!!”

July 2nd
Movie: Transformers: Age of Extinction

It was inevitable. When you have to fill up 31 days worth of movies, you’re going to see things you ordinarily wouldn’t see. In that spirit, I saw Transformers: Age of Extinction. I felt like a sellout, but in my defense I purchased a ticket for Edge of Tomorrow and snuck into Transformers. They’re not getting my money.

To my surprise, I didn’t hate the movie. In fact, it’s probably the second best in the series after the original. I didn’t enjoy it, though, so don’t get confused and think this is a recommendation. It’s way too long and pretty boring. However, the comic relief is cut way down and the robots are easier to tell apart this time. So, you know, progress or something. One thing worth noting is that I saw the movie directly after work and seeing a movie in your business clothes sucks. I was antsy the whole movie because I didn’t want to be in a dress shirt and dress pants any longer. So I took them off.

July 3rd

Movie: 22 Jump Street
Going into day three I was pumped. The experiment was going pretty well and I was in the mood the see a movie. So I went to see Tammy. I made it one minute into the movie and thought “Ugh, I don’t like Melissa McCarthy” and left. Needing to call a quick audible, I went into the theater showing 22 Jump Street and saw that again. This was the first downer of the challenge for me.

Being that the theater was nearly empty and I was sitting in the back, I decided to text myself my thoughts to put into this column for later. Here’s what I wrote:

“Why am I doing this?”

“I’m bored”

“They don’t make enough good movies to go to the movies 31 straight days”

“I kinda don’t want to go to the movies for a few days”

“What am I going to see all of these days?”

July 4th 
Movie: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer rules, so day four was a treat. Plus, unplanned by either of us, Patrick Bromley showed up at the same screening I was at! Seeing a movie with Patrick is a treat because he’s just like he is on the World Wide Web. He sits with a seat between you because he is afraid of cooties, but he’s making progress. When I first started going to movies with Patrick, he would sit in the same row but 10 seats away. Over time, he moves closer and closer. Before Snowpiercer, he took his seat and said to me “Earn this.” He’s the best.

I was on a movie high after Snowpiercer which is simply great, imaginative science fiction. It’s exciting, interesting and fresh. Definitely seek this movie out. Man, is it great to see an awesome action movie on the 4th of July.

Note: Before Snowpiercer, I saw the trailer for A Most Wanted Man for the umpteenth time. I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s accent in that trailer especially when he says Bearrrr-rrra-coooo-daaaa.

July 5th

Movies: Aliens and Chef

Four days in and I’m doing fairly well. Having two out of the first four movies be really good certainly gave me the boost to keep going. But on the fifth day, I hit a wall and felt like quitting for the first time.

I decided for day five to knock out my movie as early as possible by seeing a midnight show of Aliens at the Music Box Theatre. Unfortunately, not knowing how traffic would be after the fireworks on the 4th of July, I left my apartment way too early and got to the Music Box around 10:45pm. Shit, I’m going to have to kill time for at least 45 minutes, which means walking around Wrigleyville alone. So I did. I got to see many DIY fireworks shows by the twentysomethings of the neighborhood. It was fun and also a little tiring. Try walking for 45 minutes and then being in the mood to see a movie. It’s tough.

So I sat down for Aliens and immediately felt groggy. I felt a walkout in the works. Fuck. How should I count this? Does it continue the streak? Or if I bail does that mean I can’t count the movie for day five?

The print for Aliens was cool. It was all beat up and scratchy like a grindhouse movie. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough and I fell asleep in the theater. After 90 minutes I woke up and walked out so I could drive home. Movie fail! I was going to have to do a make-good.

Later in the day I went to a single screen mom and pop theater called The Catlow, which is connected to a deli. The Catlow is an interesting place. It’s a theater that stayed open, when it was on the ropes in 2002, because of the release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was so popular at this theater that it played for almost six months straight. Keeping that in mind, Chef PLAYED at this theater. It was like I was at the premiere or something. The people at The Catlow loved this movie.
As for me, guess what happened? Yep, I walked out midway through. I was bored. I like Chef, but I don’t love it and I didn’t feel like watching it anymore after about an hour. Since I saw half of one movie (Aliens) and half of another (Chef), I’m counting this as a win for day five.

July 6

Movie: Deliver Us from Evil

I kept hearing about the iPic Theaters and how nice they are, so I decided to try one out for the first time for an early morning showing of Deliver Us from Evil. The movie itself is skippable. It starts out ok but gets tedious and less interesting as it goes along.

As for the theater, I was super impressed with it in some ways. First off, I was alone in the theater, so it was like having a private screening room with a butler service bringing me food. I felt like a rich person, so that part was great. Plus I got a pillow, blanket and a recliner to sit in. It was sweet!

The bad part about iPic (something I knew going in) is that IT IS a rich person’s theater. I got food and purchased a ticket and guess how much seeing fucking Deliver Us from Evil cost me? 58 dollars!!!!!

The experience was a blast, but it’s not worth $58 for one person. For $58, I should have two bathing girls feeding me grapes. For $58, they should offer a happy ending and I’m not talking about for Deliver Us from Evil.

The scariest part of the movie was when the servers snuck up on me in the theater to check if I needed more food. It was the sole jump scare of the experience.
Note: Before the movie, I saw the trailer for If I Stay, which they should rename The Fault In Our Cars. I laughed out loud when Chloe Grace Moretz’s character, who is a cellist, opens her locker to reveal a sticker that says “I love Yo-Yo Ma”.

So, that’s it for week one. So far, so good. A couple bumps in the road but I’m not hating life.

Tune in for more next week.


  1. Awesome! Good luck on your quest, brave one. My favorite day of what you've seen so far would have probably been July 5th with Aliens and Chef. Aliens is, of course, a great action classic, and I really loved and had a lot of fun with Chef. I'm sorry you didn't love it more, but the latter is high on my favorites of the year list right now. Anyway, I would have enjoyed that day. I'm looking forward to reading more!

    1. I still like Chef. It's the problem with re-watching movies sometimes. I feel like I got everything the first time. Same problem with 22 Jump St. There's one movie next week I'll talk about that I actually liked a lot more the second time. I'm always chasing that because it means it will be one for the ages for me.

    2. Interesting. I'm curious to read what that movie is. I hear you on the re-watchability problem. For me, with Chef, I just appreciate the "don't stifle creativity" aspect so much that I think I will enjoy it again on that level. I think that's a great theme and message. I'm also a sucker for the father/son bonding aspect. But yeah, if you get all you can or want to out of a movie the first time, I get how that can be problematic for future viewings. Best of luck to you!

  2. Ballsy to even try this, Adam. Junesploitation on my couch, for free at that, was a chore!

    "They don’t make enough good movies to go to the movies 31 straight days" Completely agree - but I'm sure you're prepared to see a ton of garbage!

    1. I'm at the garbage point. I have no idea what to see tonight. Maybe Wonka at the Classic series? Think Like A Man Too??

    2. I was going to suggest Wonka in honor of this week's podcast, or maybe They Came Together on VOD. Looking forward to Boyhood coming soon.

    3. Thanks for commenting Ivan...I came up with something special. VOD doesn't count :-)

      I'll definitely check out Boyhood later this month. It opens in Chicago July 18th. I'm looking forward to it.

  3. I think this is going to be awesome, Adam - great idea! I expect this will just get funnier and funnier as it goes along and your descent into madness deepens. I've got a suggestion - it's not a theatre, but a night out at least - walk around your neighbourhood looking in windows for people watching a movie, then either (a) watch the whole thing through their window or (b) invite yourself in to watch it Costanza-style. Or better yet, just break into someone's house, tie them up, watch a movie and leave. I'm sure the relief they'll feel when you leave them unharmed (or not - totally up to you) will make all the terror totally worth it! Sorry, that got a little dark!

    I'll be looking forward to this column every week for sure - way to take one for the team!

    P.S. Good call on the Edge of Tomorrow ticket buying scam - if I actually do see TF4 I plan on doing the same thing! Or shit, maybe I should just go see EoT again instead.

  4. I think I would love to try something like this, but would never be able to pull it off time-wise. These days I'm forced to watch most of my movies broken down into bite sized chunks. Sigh. I try to keep most movies as two-parters, though. You know, for pacing purposes.

    1. Time wise it's been a challenge with getting out of work at 5pm on weekdays. I'm not looking forward to later in the month where I'm going to have to fit in some 11pm screenings to keep the streak going.

    2. There'd be a bunch of me falling asleep at the theater ... something I've only done once, by the way. Man that 11 p.m. showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

  5. Godspeed Adam. Looking forward to hearing about your continued adventures. I am one of those who has almost abandoned theaters altogether for the home viewing experience. Too many dim projectors, sound problems, rumbling bass from the movie next door, ushers walking around with flashlights, high prices, etc (I'm a curmudgeon). Maybe reading about your exploits will win me back!

    1. I've been lucky so far that I haven't had any picture or sound problems in my visits. I really don't get the usher thing. Does anyone? Why do they come in, walk up a few steps and then leave? It doesn't seem like they're checking anything exactly....

    2. I think it's to check for "shenanigans" in the theater? But it always distracts me and instantly infuriates me.

  6. You have read Kevin Murphy's A YEAR AT THE MOVIES, right? Looks like you're doing a microcosm version of what he did. Looking forward to reading more!

  7. $58 to see Deliver Us From Evil?!! Wow that's crazy, I don't think I've ever seen a movie worth that kind of dough. I suppose movies still cost $40 in a regular theatre anyway once food, gas, and unnecessary 3D are factored in, but that's just so darn much to see mediocre fare. For $58 I can buy 11 transcripts of Nightline instead.

    Deliver Us From Evil is completely skippable like you said, although I did like some of the character models and the realistic exorcism scene was kinda cool. Otherwise it was just too long and overly generic for my liking.

    Good luck on your quest though, as hitting the theatre for 30 straight days can be a chore. I did a movie a day back in 2001 when I worked at a theatre, but all it did was turn me off of movies for a few months in the end. In the end I was forcing myself to see Joe Dirt and Crododile Dundee 3, which would likely force most people to stop going to movies for at least a few weeks.

    1. Yeah, it was super generic. Good call. I felt mostly nothing while watching it, though Joel McHale did have a few funny remarks and the acting was good.

      I saw Joe Dirt as well. You're a better man than me for seeing Croc 3.

  8. This is like The Shining but with lots of movie theaters and a more public viewpoint of your descent into madness

    1. I'm curious how this will go. I just got back from night #9 and it was the best one yet!

  9. Interesting plan. Good luck, but...

    What's with walking out of movies? Seriously. What the fuck? You don't do that. Going to the movies is meant to be an event(ish), a treat(ish), special(ish). You don't just walk in and out as you please like it's some milk bar, or whereever you go for kicks. It sounds like it's lost a lot of its value for you. Maybe you should try 31 days of not going to a cinema so you can learn to appreciate it again. Kids today. Ungrateful so and so. In my day yadda yadda yadda. Sigh. Yeah, ok. That was weird, sorry. I just felt physical agitated each time I read that you walked out. Just had to get that off my chest.

    Suggestion: Take a piss in the back of a theatre.
    No wait, don't . That's fucking weird. who would do that? Hobos. Only hobos.

    1. I'll try to walk out less Brad

    2. It would make my life a lot easier if you did, so id appreciate that.

    3. I'm calling you out in next week's column. Something you said made me think while watching a movie tonight.

    4. Is it too late to apologise?