Celebrating National Cinema Day with a Quadruple Feature

Yesterday was National Cinema Day.  In honor of this, my local movie theatre set every ticket for every seat for every show for every movie – regular seats, the D-Box seats, or 3-D shows – at only $3!!!  As a result, I embarked upon something I’ve only dreamt of.  I spent the entire day at the movies.  It wasn’t a double feature (which I’ve enjoyed for years whenever time allows) nor a triple feature (more rare but a I’ve done them all the same).  No, today I attempted the QUADRUPLE FEATURE.  I arrived at Tinseltown, our local Cinemark theatre, a little after noon and I got in my car to head home right before midnight.  This is the story of a dream that turned into a journey.  A journey that became a quest.  A quest which will live on in legend.

If you’re me, something like this naturally leads to wildly overthinking all your options planning.  I spent several days pouring over the listings at my local theatre.  What was playing?  When was everything playing?  What were their runtimes?  I needed to maximize my day!  As a result, I ruled out lengthier films like Elvis, which I haven’t seen though still very much want to, and films I’d seen already like Thor: Love and Thunder and Spider- Man: No Way Home.  First, I settled on the films I knew I wanted to see no matter what – Bullet Train and Jaws, which I’d never seen on the big screen before.  From there I needed to sort my options for the other two slots in my day. 

I knew very little about Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. and I knew nothing about Three Thousand Years of Longing but both seemed promising.  Beast intrigued me, too, but it sort of looks like Jaws with a lion so did I really want two very similar films in my day?  I was also intrigued by the satirical horror comedy Bodies, Bodies, Bodies and The Invitation, another horror option.  But didn’t that depend on if Kalie decided to join me after she got out work?  I’d feel bad seeing a new horror film without her and MAYBE I’m a little too scared to see one on my own XD.

Cinema Day 8 (2)

Awwwww, this is my hometown movie theatre! Hello Tinseltown! / Photo Credit – GoErie.com…because I would’ve just taken my own picture but I had MOVIES TO SEE yesterday

So many exciting options!  I love the movies.  I love going to the movies.  I always have.  Since I got my driver’s license, rarely more than a week has passed without my going at least once.  Whether a new movie, a second-run movie at our dollar theatre (siiiiiiiiigh, I miss our dollar theatre :/), a classic movie back on the big screen, or seeing a film I’d already seen again (and again), there’s nothing like the theatre!  The BIG SCREEN.  The crowds, from a sold out show to just a few other patrons and everything in between.  The snacks (˘ڡ˘).  The hush which falls over the crowd as the lights dim.  The previews.  Stepping away from life for a moment to share a story in the dark with a bunch of strangers, all united in our reactions to the same narrative, is one of life’s greatest joys for me.

Naturally, this all changed with lockdown and I’ve struggled to return to my regular movie-going since vaccines and boosters have come and Covid restrictions have eased.  It’s not because I’d rather watch everything at home.  I wouldn’t!  It’s just I don’t think to go like I used to.  Sure, I see all my superhero movies and the “big” releases.  But there’s so much more to the movies than that!  I’m still bummed I missed Marcel the Shell with Shoes On :/.  So it was with great excitement I pulled into Tinseltown’s parking lot a little after noon, grabbed my ticket for Bullet Train, got lunch from the concessions, and was off!

In the spirit of the day, I’m offering Cinemark’s summaries for the plot of each film since that’s how I made some of my decisions :D.

1) Bullet Train

Director – David Leitch

Writer – Zak Olkewicz, based on the novel by Kôtarô Isaka

Rating – R

Run time – 2hrs 6min

Showtime – 12:30pm

Cinema Day 2

Ladybug pretends to have a gun as he questions Lemon to avoid any violence. / Photo Credit – Sony Pictures’ Bullet Train

Summary – “An experienced assassin finds himself battling other professional killers while trying to retrieve a briefcase aboard a speeding bullet train.” 

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is our assassin, with his handler Maria (Sandra Bullock) in his ear for much of the mission.  Some of the other professional killers he meets on the train include (but not limited to!) Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Prince (Joey King), and Kimura (Andrew Koji).  The idea of Brad Pitt playing an assassin who’s sworn off killing was something I was eager to see from the very first preview…even if no one else I knew wanted to see it.  I thought it looked hilarious and, given the nonviolence angle, felt it could be a little subversive, too.  I wasn’t disappointed!  From citing his therapist every other sentence to worrying about “the toxicity of anger” and accidental mansplaining, I’ve never connected more deeply with a Brad Pitt character XD.  All the characters were quirky and endearing but, as they’re all hired killers and/or have ties to organized crime, I didn’t feel too bad once the body count started either.    

It’s been a loooooong time since I laughed this hard at a movie.  It was so fun!  As if there was any doubt it was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in ages, my uproarious laughter prompted the sweet older woman down the row from me to stop on her way out of the theatre to ask, “You enjoyed that movie very much didn’t you?”  Yes, yes I did.  Since I had just over an hour before my next show, I went to the mall to visit Kalie at work, walk around a bit, and enjoy a milkshake.  It was fun and I knew it would help once the serious back-to-back viewing began.

2) Three Thousand Years of Longing

Director – George Miller

Writers – George Miller and Augusta Gore, based on the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byatt

Rating – R

Run Time – 1hr 49min

Showtime – 4:40pm

Cinema Day 3

Photo Credit – MGM’s Three Thousand Years of Longing

Summary – “While attending a conference in Istanbul, Dr. Alithea Binnie happens to encounter a djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.  This presents two problems: first, she doubts that he’s real, and second, because she’s a scholar of story and mythology, she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone wrong.  The djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past.  Eventually, she’s beguiled and makes a wish that surprises them both.”

This movie wasn’t what I expected at all…but I also had no idea what to expect so I guess that’s to be expected??  As someone who’s spent the last twenty years studying and teaching religious studies, as soon as I saw this film was about “a scholar of story and mythology” who “encounter[s] a djinn,” I knew I needed to check it out.  Honestly, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.  It was beautifully shot, almost magically so at times, and the connection between Alithea and the Djinn danced between the fantastical and the intimate.  It’s a film I’d need to see a few more times before I’d feel comfortable further exploring all it was saying.

With the previews ahead of it I found myself reflecting on the irony of Amazon advertising The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power before the movie as I will never be able to see that story on the big screen.  Also during this film, with no fault on the film’s part, I did start to feel a little sleepy.  A whole week of teaching leading into this marathon had me on the ropes.  I began to wonder if this was such a good idea.  Could I do it?  Was it worth it?  I mean, I love the movies but I don’t want to be miserable all day either, right?  Also, as the weather is starting to shift here, my allergies were kicking my ass.  Headaches were growing.  My nose hurt if I just brushed it with my hand.  But how could I stop?  I couldn’t!  Thankfully Ryan, my cousin Jaelyn’s boyfriend and someone who knows so much about film, was joining me for Jaws so I knew I wasn’t folding before that.  Onwards to the third movie!

3) Jaws

Director – Steven Spielberg

Writers – Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on Benchley’s novel

Rating – PG

Run Time – 2hr 4min

Showtime – 7:00pm

Cinema Day 4

City Councilman Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) debates whether or not there really is a shark problem in Amity with oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Captain Brody (Roy Scheider). / Photo Credit – Universal Pictures’ Jaws

Summary – Ok, so Cinemark doesn’t even give a summary for this because I guess you’re just supposed to know.  But it’s the 1975 genre-redefining horror classic about a great white shark plaguing the town of Amity during the 4th of July.

I had to leave Three Thousand Years of Longing and walk right back out to the lobby to meet Ryan and get tickets for Jaws.  There was only about twenty minutes between showtimes here.  While 3-D movies normally give me a headache and sometimes make me nauseous, I’ve never seen Jaws on the big screen before so this had to happen.  How could I miss Jaws on the big screen??  I was a little headache-y as I watched but still, it was Jaws on the BIG SCREEN (have I made my excitement for this clear yet?) so it was awesome.  As Ryan observed, the 3-D was done in such a way as to really emphasize the beauty of the locations and how the film was originally shot.  It’s a classic for a reason and no matter how many times I watch it, it’s effect on me is never dulled.  Incidentally, watching the local government of Amity willfully ignore the danger of a shark in their waters because they didn’t want to hurt summer profits felt more real than ever for me in our post-Covid era.    

Also, I loved the bonus show within a show we got when a bunch of rowdy teenagers snuck in, were annoyingly loud, and another patron LITERALLY CHASED THEM OUT.  He.  Was.  MY HERO.  As Ryan and I stood in the parking lot chatting after the movie, I was reflecting on how it turns out a QUADRUPLE FEATURE can be tiring.  At that point, I’d been at the theatre for over nine hours.  Going home to read and go to bed seemed like a deliciously decadent idea.  Also, my allergies weren’t getting any better so the 3-D glasses just sitting on my nose hurt whenever I shifted them.  But I was so close and I would not yield!

4) Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

Director – Adamma Ebo

Writer – Adamma Ebo

Rating – R

Run Time – 1hr 43min

Showtime – 9:55pm  

Cinema Day 6

Trinitie and Lee-Curtis in their church, Wander to Greater Paths Southern Baptist Church. / Photo Credit – Focus Features’ Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

Summary – “A satirical comedy starring Regina Hall as Trinitie Childs – the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, who together with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands.  But after a scandal forces their church to temporarily close, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must reopen their church and rebuild their congregation to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.”    

Going into this movie, from the little I knew of it, I presumed it was a comedy.  And it was funny!  But it was also beautifully complex with layered, nuanced commentary.  Naturally the “Health and Wealth Gospel” which underpins the commodification of Christianity we see in the world of megachurches is ripe for satirizing and Ebo does so brilliantly.  But she also explores the hypocrisy and harm which can surround Christian teaching on homosexuality and divorce.  Both Trinitie and Lee-Curtis are flawed yet empathetic in their own way.  I was simultaneously frustrated by and rooting for them at various times throughout the film.  I laughed, yes.  But I also found myself with a lot to think about in regard to what Christianity can become when we allow “the Church” to get lost in its own power and presence and lose sight of Jesus’ true ministry and message as well as how that affects our understanding of prayer, faith, and God’s will for us all.     

I’m so glad I rounded out my day with this film!  And with that, my QUADRUPLE FEATURE at the movie theatre came to an end.  I did it.  Ahhhhhhh, I did it.  Earlier in the day I’d planned to come home and write this post buuuut I actually came home and went to bed instead.  No regrets!  I’ve no regrets over my quadruple feature, either.  The day was every bit as fun as I’d hoped.

Years ago I remember reading an essay by Steven Spielberg where he framed going to the movies, in our increasingly pluralistic and/or secular society, as one of our last shared rituals.  Honestly?  I couldn’t agree more.  We use rituals, we have always used rituals, to mark time and convey meaning in our lives.  The movies have always done both for me.  There’s something special to be found sitting in a darkened room surrounded by strangers, whether alone or with my loved ones beside me, sharing a story.  We laugh.  We cry.  We cheer.  We think.  Sometimes we’re even changed.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours or, you know, a whole day.

As a postscript, here’s a picture of my ticket stubs to prove I actually did it as well as the li’l checklist I used to map out my day as I went :).

2 thoughts on “Celebrating National Cinema Day with a Quadruple Feature

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