Thursday, April 26, 2018

Reserved Seating: Ticket Stub Time Machine

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
It’s not the size of the stub that counts.

Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: We’re going to play a little game this week - a movie game! You see, I grew up about two blocks over from a strip mall movie theater (the dearly-departed United Artists MacDade Mall IV, which was wisely built next to freight train line; yes, you could hear it), and from around 1999 to 2003, my friends and I saw nearly every movie it screened. Furthermore, because my fetishization of movies started all the way back in high school, I’ve kept almost every ticket stub from every movie. Using said saved ticket stubs from that era —

Adam: Era.

Rob: — we’re going to see what I saw and see what Adam says about what I saw. See? Are they time-honored classics? Hidden gems? Flaming trash piles? You be the judge. Well, Adam will technically be the judge. But you get it.

Let’s start at 7:00 PM on March 8, 2002, when I was in Auditorium 1 watching the Guy Pearce-led action adventure yarn, The Time Machine.
Adam: You know what? I saw The Time Machine opening night as well! I remember being most excited that Orlando Jones in it. I did not like the movie at all and was most interested by the whole Eloi and Morlock thing because Gary Sinise said that was his motive in the movie Ransom. When I rewatched the trailer for The Time Machine just now, I was kind of thrown off because it looks awesome. I mean, it has our boy Jeremy Irons as an albino with Nelson hair, cool creature effects and a supporting performance by then up-and-coming pop star Samantha Mumba. Do I need to rewatch The Time Machine?

Rob: I remember almost nothing about this movie, but having ALSO just re-watched the trailer, I agree that it looks pretty great! The CGI is solid for 2002, and nothing says early 2000s like Orlando Jones. Game of Thrones’ Mark Addy in a minor role, too! Is Guy Pearce underrated? We’ll have to investigate. Looks like it was a minor hit ($123MM on an $80MM budget) that might be worth a revisit.

Next up: At 7:40 PM on November 9, 2001, I was likely giggling my ass off at the Farrelly Brothers’ new comedy, Shallow Hal, which stars Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Adam: I think Guy Pearce is just rated. He’s fine, but I’ve never been movie boner about him. Oh, Shallow Hal. I have mixed feelings about this movie. I remember seeing it (with the same friend I saw The Time Machine!) during Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year at college and thinking the movie was okay. Rewatching the trailer…. I’m not sure they could make this movie anymore. It seems too offensive despite having a sweet message. My fond memories for it come from when it came out on DVD, because I know I rented it with my then-girlfriend and I got lucky that night. Sorry to be a pig.
Rob: Not at all. Sounds like the movie served at least one important purpose. But I agree that there’s no way Shallow Hal gets made today. Its heart is probably in the right place, but I can already see the think pieces problematizing its depictions of plus-sized women and toxic masculinity (most of which would miss the film’s satirical edge, but that’s par for the course with those pieces). This was a weird time for Jack Black, post-High Fidelity and pre-King Kong. Does it feel like they’re going for a Leading Man thing here, or is this the Farrelly Brothers making a statement? I mean, I like Jack Black just fine now that he’s settled into a “type,” but it feels like he Jason Alexander auditioned for the same role and the Farrellys just gave them both.

Adam: I think it’s a little of both with Jack Black. Hollywood was grooming him from comedic supporting actor to comedy lead at this time. He had School of Rock a couple of years later that knew how to use him. I like Jack Black when he has a director that knows what his positive attributes are. Oh, the think pieces Shallow Hal would get. P.S. I Googled Shallow Hal and saw that it’s going to be playing on Starz Kids and Encore Family in the next couple of weeks, so maybe it’s totally appropriate???

Rob: Report back as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be in 2003, when on March 2 at 7:00 PM, I was in Auditorium 1 watching Ben Affleck’s first superhero turn in Daredevil.

Adam: I remember being resistant to seeing Daredevil in theaters because I a) thought it looked dumb (I was right) and b) wasn’t yet on board with Colin Farrell movie-star. He was EVERYWHERE in 2002 and 2003 (like The Recruit) but didn’t win me over until Phone Booth. I caught up with Daredevil on DVD and thought it was a mess. I didn’t even bother following up and watching Elektra. What did you think of Daredevil, Rob? And why were you 11 minutes late for your show time?
Rob: I was probably distracted by the arcade or stuck in line at the K-Mart. I definitely wasn’t doing anything cool like smoking drugs or talking to girls. Anyway, I’m on record as a Ben Affleck fan. I love him as a gangly doofus and I think (with the right creative team behind him) he would make an excellent Batman. I haven’t revisited Daredevil since the theater, but look at that cast! The aforementioned Colin Farrell (who, I agree, seemed like a fly in our ointment until a few great roles came around), Joey Pants (fresh off The Matrix and Memento), Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP)! It’s so early 2000s I could cry. I’ve never seen Elektra, but I almost want to check it out now just to make up for what we as a culture did to Jennifer Garner. She’s so good and so misused SO often. I rewatch Juno every so often just for her performance.

Adam: Honest to blog?

Rob: I know you’re post-Netflix these days, but did you ever watch their Daredevil series? It’s okay, but I honestly feel like I’d rewatch this film out of curiosity before I’d revisit that.

Adam: Nah, I never got around to it. Television series are too big of a time commitment when I could be watching movies, taking a nap or staring at the ceiling and frittering my life away.

Rob: I support all three of those alternatives. Okay, ready? January 10, 2003. 9:40 PM. Auditorium 4. Ashton Kutcher. Brittany Murphy. Just Married.

Adam: I really do not like this movie. I could never rewatch it because Ashton Kutcher is a nightmare during this period, Brittany Murphy just makes me sad now and this movie caused one of the biggest arguments I’ve ever had with a woman I was dating. It was the Friday before I went back to college for second semester and I was on Winter Break. I wanted to cram in a bunch of indie-prestige movies (like 25th Hour, Antwone Fisher, etc.) because they were playing at home but took forever to get to my campus theaters (like March or April). I suggested going to see one of those. My lady wanted to see Just Married and I started sulking and being a guy about it. I remember one of the points of the fight was about how me not wanting to see Just Married meant that I would probably also not want to go to Europe with her after her and I got married. I was like “WHAT??!!” It escalated quickly. We ended up seeing Just Married, not getting married (I was ready to propose but she dumped me before I could) and I have never been to Europe. Wah-wah.
Rob: I just want to let you all I know that I sprung these titles on Adam randomly. Had I known he was going to tell that story, I wouldn’t have put him through that. Sorry bud. The right one is out there.

Adam: No, she’s not!

Rob: I feel bad because, again, I remember absolutely nothing about Just Married. The only thing I can say is that — as a fan of both early-2000s mall punk and P!nk (a love which has become less ironic as time has gone on) — I approve of the trailer’s music. The rest of it looks like a fucking nightmare.

Adam: I also need to point out the trailer features music from Avril Lavigne, whom I also unironically love as much as you love P!nk. I remember hearing “Complicated” at the mall McDonald’s and being like “She’s gonna be big!” I sort of discovered her.

Rob: Here’s one I can talk about: August 5, 2002. 7:15 PM. Auditorium 1 (my favorite, apparently?). Philly native M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.

Adam: Signs still rules. I loved it the first time I saw it on August 2, 2002 and I still do. It’s moving, yo! Anyone who says they like A Quiet Place but doesn’t like Signs is misguided and needs to check themselves. I saw Signs in the evening on the day I saw my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field (I’m a Sox fan so I refused to see a Cubs game until I was 20 years old). The Cubs won (boo) that day in extra innings. Sammy Sosa (boo) hit a HR. I remember Juan Pierre was there leading off for the Rockies. It was Kerry Wood vs. Mike Hampton. Signs is so good Mel Gibson can’t even ruin it for me.
Rob: I’m so glad you feel that way. Signs is easily my favorite Shyamalan movie, one I still revisit at least once a year. I think everything about it works (yes, Gibson is a monster, but he’s good here), and seeing it with my best friend Mike was a crucial part of our high school experience. We loved it so much that we wrote and shot a comedic sequel in which I played every character. It was really bad, shot mostly in his basement, but again, it was before girls would talk to us, and we had to fill the hours somehow. I still have the screenplay. It’s called Signs 2: And the Chamber of Secrets. We thought we were hilarious.

Adam: I need to read this script!

Rob: I may need to digitize it. Once I do, it’s yours. Anyway, Signs rules.

Prepare yourself, my brother: On 9:35 PM on March 14, 2003, Auditorium 1 featured a clash of two epic Hollywood titans: Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management.

Adam: I saw this in college during one of my parents’ weekend visits. I remember none of us liked it and were surprised it didn’t rise to the Jack Nicholson level of quality, but instead Mr. Nicholson was dragged to the Adam Sandler level of quality. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised because Sandler does that to everyone (including Al Pacino in Jack & Jill). The only thing I remember about Anger Management was that the whole thing was a ruse or something to get Sandler to give Marisa Tomei a PDA at Yankee Stadium. Like that would ever be a problem for anyone. She’s incredible. If you don’t want to hold her hand then you are a fucking moron.
Rob: Remember when we watched Author! Author! and thought, “How the hell did Al end up in this movie?” How did Nicholson end up in this? Tomei? Did I see John Turturro in the trailer? Whatever. The early 2000s were weird, and everyone needs a paycheck every now and then. I have no further comment on Anger Management. I remember nothing about it except that it’s making me think of About Schmidt, which I’ve still never seen.

Adam: You’re fine. It’s not top-shelf Alexander Payne, imho.

Rob: Okay, the last two are a little different. Sadly, the MacDade Mall IV closed on August 18, 2003 (the mall closed store by store for many years until it was demolished and remodeled), so my friends and I would have to trek across town for all future movie viewing. At 2:15 PM on September 17, 2004, we drove over to the AMC Granite Run Mall 8 for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Adam: I will never forget my viewing of Sky Captain, also on opening night. I had since been dumped by Just Married woman and was now dating someone that used to date one of my best friends in high school (he had since moved to Florida so I didn’t feel guilty). The woman and I were friends for years but then we hit it off and started dating. It was early in our relationship around the time Sky Captain was coming out. We went out a few days beforehand and I picked a fight with her, so by the time Sky Captain came out her and I were sort of broken up. We still had to go as a foursome with two other friends though to see the movie. I sat three seats away from her. I looked over to sort of check in and maybe apologize, but when I did she stared right at me, unflinching and mouthed “Fuck off!” and gave me the middle finger. I deserved it. As for the movie, it’s an interesting experiment but I don’t recall it coming together and being anything all that great. I thought that movie was going to be a blockbuster but I guess it was too much of an old-fashioned gimmick for mainstream audiences.
Rob: Again, I want to remind everyone that I’m not dredging up Adam’s most painful dating memories on purpose. I promise. Okay, Sky Captain is a movie I will still totally go to bat for. I loved it when I saw it, and — even though I rewatched it in the last few years and agree it doesn’t really come all the way together — I still kind of love it now. As you said, it’s this weird green screen experiment inspired by an even more experimental short film (as I recall), and it’s got this odd tone that seems to want to evoke the serial-inspired adventure of The Phantom or The Iron Giant but doesn’t have enough of the fun. I like it as a weird, art deco screwball action comedy. I’d double it with The Rocketeer or Captain America: The First Avenger. I also love the way the trailer’s narrator pronounces Angelina Jolie with an implacable accent. 2004!

Adam: Everyone needs to watch the trailer right now to hear the narrator say “And AnjouleenaJoulee!”

Rob: Okay, now. I don’t know what was happening on September 17, 2004, but apparently, we (I assume; I very well may have been alone) left the Sky Captain screening and went across town AGAIN for the 10:00 PM showing of Cellular at the AMC Marple 10.

Adam: That’s baller. Like a day-night double header. I have maybe the best story yet for Cellular! But first, I saw the movie on DVD and thought it was okay. If memory serves, this was the first time Jason Statham was a bad guy in a Hollywood action movie. I also liked this up-and-comer Chris Evans. Whatever happened to him? I don’t remember much about the movie itself but I could see myself rewatching it again.
So, here’s the Cellular story. I was interviewing for jobs in Chicago after I graduated from college but not having much luck, so I went with my tail between my legs to Iowa to interview with Maytag. If I got the job I would have had to live on the Iowa Maytag campus for six weeks for training before being shipped out to either Phoenix, Tampa or somewhere else (I can’t remember where) to basically be a regional sales person. I didn’t want this at all, but I was depressed (couldn’t find a job, my ex dumped me, I lost Sky Captain girl over some dumb shit) so I thought running away from my problems to Iowa might be the solution. I went to the hotel that Maytag put me up in overnight with my interview scheduled for the next day. I got to the front desk and checked in. I went to my room and saw a local newspaper and thumbed through it. “Maybe I’ll take in a movie tonight” I thought. I didn’t see any listings. I went to the front desk and asked if there was a movie theater nearby (the town I was in looked like a Stephen King ghost town). The front desk clerk said, “There’s a theater by the Cheesecake Factory 45 minutes away in Des Moines.” I shuddered. Then she said, “Or you could go to the drive-in.” I drove to the drive-in (which was playing only Cellular; it wasn’t even a double bill), stayed through maybe 10 minutes, got sad and started to drive back to the hotel. I got to my room and without skipping a beat, packed my bags, emailed Maytag, paid for the room myself instead of expensing it, ditched my interview and drove home 4.5 hours into the early morning while listening to music (I remember Joss Stone, Kanye West and Brandy were involved...don’t was 2004) and intermittently crying for miles and miles and miles in existential duress. If it wasn’t for Cellular playing at the drive-in and that being my only choice for entertainment in a dead town, I might have led a different life altogether in Phoenix or Tampa.

Rob: Holy...shit. Can...can I fly out to Chicago tonight? I want to give you a giant hug. That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. I’m buying Cellular on Blu-ray right now and rewatching as soon as possible just to thank the Movie Gods that things turned out the way they did. I mean, I’m sorry it was such an emotional roller coaster, but hopefully it was worth it. Oh, man. Alright. Well, I don’t have anything to say about Cellular, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be as important as that. I’m almost in tears. I just want to go up on the rooftop and shout, “I love my friend Adam!” I want the world to know.

Adam: I get your reference because I just rewatched Superbad with commercials on IFC a couple of nights ago.

Rob: Okay. This was really fun. Should we do it again soon? What’s up next week?

Adam: We should totally do this again. I led a very dramatic life before F This Movie! Next week we’re going to kick off the Summer Movie Season by each picking three summer movies of the past that meant a great deal to us. Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. I feel bad saying I love Adam's stories, since they are invariably heartbreaking, but I love Adam's stories. He tells them so movingly. Seriously, I would love to see them collected in a book. Day 1 purchase for me. Maybe call it 88 movies about 44 women? Though there might be some rights issues with that. Excellent article as always fellas!

    1. I want everyone to learn from them. That will be my legacy.

  2. Reading this, the conversation with Rob’s dad, and the Safe Men article has made this the best week of my life

  3. Looks like it was a minor hit ($123MM on an $80MM budget). Sorry Rob but that's not how the box office works. The Time Machine was a pretty big bomb. The budget doesn't include print & advertisement & the studio gets around 55% of the box office back domestic. This site does a good job breaking it down.