I had told Honorable Son No. 3, that if I felt fairly decent when I got off work on Tuesday, we would go into Bakersfield to catch a movie since he seldom has the opportunity to go. Working for McDonald’s, you don’t get many weekends off, although one would think they would be naturally rotated. Fat chance of that. And although it wouldn’t have been my choice (I can name several others I would rather have seen), he wanted to see this latest incarnation of the Final Destination Series, although it apparently will never be really the final anything as they just keep on coming at you.
I decided that we would go to the Bakersfield Maya cinema this time around. We hadn’t been to the Maya since I started my own personal urban renewal project on this blog so it had not yet a part of my road trip series. And you know what that means boys and girls, moms and dads, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, we do have the dreaded theater travelogue.
The Maya Cinema is a relative newcomer to the Bakersfield area. It opened in July 2009. In fact, I didn’t even know they were building the damn thing and only heard of it about a week or two before they sold their first ticket. That might have something to do with it’s odd location.
Unlike the Regal Edwards and the Reading Valley Plaza, the Maya is not located near a major shopping center or as in the case of the Reading, near a mall. It is built in the Bakersfield downtown area, just across the tracks from the Rabobank arena and was located there as part of an urban renewal plan with assistance from the city of Bakersfield. (So that’s where my taxes went!)
Just the fact that it the Maya is new and fresh gives it a huge advantage over the other local movie theaters. They’ve all been around quite a while, and having cornered the local market, they’ve not felt the need to do much in the way of upgrades. I have no idea for sure what effect the Maya has had on their business, but it was after the Maya opened that the Valley Plaza lowered their ticket prices, so that was probably not a coincidence.
But being in a downtown area also has it’s disadvantages. Getting to the theater itself can be a royal pain in the ass. Depending on what direction you’re coming from, you want to be sure to take a route that will be either around or under the railroad tracks which run right down the heart of Downtown Bakersfield. On one of our trips to the Maya, Honorable Son No. 3 and I made the mistake of taking N Street which is adjacent to Rabobank arena, and ended up waiting on a train that had been parked on the crossing by an engineer who decided to leave it there while he went to lunch. Or so it seemed. But eventually we made it across and into the far back end of the rear parking lot. Which brings us to another major problem with the Maya.
On weekends, especially when there are a couple of big movie premieres, the parking situation is absolutely abysmal, due to the fact that there seem to be as many people at the Bakersfield Ice Center parked there as there are people inside the theater. On the weekend that Transformers III premiered we ventured to the Maya on a Sunday afternoon. Every parking place was taken. Your only choice seemed to be to drive around in circles with dozens of other vehicles and hope somebody would hate one of the movies enough to leave, so that you would win the lottery and grab their space before someone else did. Due to my health problems, I have a handicapped placard but that was useless, just as it is at many places these days, which is why I don’t venture out any more than I have to. There were only a handful of spaces marked for handicapped and they were all occupied of course.
When we first pulled up, the line at the box office that day was as bad as the parking lot itself. So I let Honorable Son No. 3 out to get the tickets, while I practiced my driving habits. Twenty minutes later as I made a pass in front of the theater for the thirtieth time while continuing my great parking space crusade, he rejoined me with the tickets in hand. Finally, behind the theater we saw a small half empty lot across the street.
The problem was we didn’t know who the lot belonged to, and if it were privately owned some fat hairy nasty bastard with smelly armpits would come in his greasy smelly oily tow truck and hitch his star to my Chrysler while wiping his snotty nose on the sleeve of his flannel shirt. But some very nice man was walking from the lot and he motioned for us to park there, and by that point I was willing to take anybody’s word for it. So we went in the lot and parked. And there, right above the space where we parked, invisible from anywhere unless you actually went into the lot was a sign stating “Parking for Maya Cinemas.”
“A lot of damn good that does,” I told Honorable Son No, 3.
“True,” he responded. “But look at it this way. If they had put the sign where everybody could see it, then this lot would be full as well and we wouldn’t be able to park here either.” I could not fault his logic.
The point is, I learn from my mistakes. From now on, I would steer clear of the Maya on weekends. And since this was an early evening Tuesday matinee showing, I didn’t anticipate any problems. And in that regards there weren’t any. Elvis had left the building, along with everybody else.
We arrived about twenty minutes before start time, and walked up to the window to get the tickets because unlike our previous visits, there was no line.
All day long on Tuesdays at the Maya, all tickets are $5.50, but $8.50 for a 3D movie. I didn’t know this beforehand but was grateful to save the extra money. Their regular Matinee Prices, for films before 5:00 PM is $6.00, and a whopping $9.00 for 3D. After five, the tickets are $9 for general admission, $12 for 3D. Compare this to the Reading Valley Plaza where Matinees end at 6:00 PM and tickets are $5.50 everyday until that time. However, my admission at the Valley Plaza is always $5.50 as their Senior Discount starts at age 55. At the Maya, the Senior price is $6.00, but doesn’t start until age 60, which doesn’t benefit me at all. As for the Edwards, I’ll leave that for another day but I believe they are about the same as the Maya.
The lobby inside the Maya is cavernous. But the place seems compact and well laid out. The design makes the concession stand look as long as a football field. Behind the concession stand, there is a large projections screen on each side. They are supposed to play movie previews I guess, but on this day they were blank which means they wasted a shit pot full of money putting them up there for no reason. Now if I had my way, I would put clips from Jennicam on those two screens for all the world to enjoy. Why?
Because currently, 98 percent of my hits are people looking for Jennifer Ringley, or nude pictures of Jennifer, or pictures of Jennifer and Dex having sex, all because of this little article I wrote some time ago, took down for a while, and recently republished. So just finding a way to put those two sentences in this article will probably get me a few hundred hits from all the porn seekers and never say die Jennicam fans. Maybe I should just label all my pictures Jennifer Ringley having sex. (Note: I did have one legitimate email request in regards to Ms. Ringley having to do with a David Letterman clip that used to be on here. Still searching for that one. No luck. If anybody finds it, let me know. And how are you doing Ms. Ringley?)
The other thing about the Maya is that it is the only theatrical concession stand in our town where the patrons pour their own drinks and frankly, I don’t really care for it. It may make the pay line shorter, but you go from one line at the counter, to another line waiting to fill your soft drink cup. And the soft drink cups at the Maya seem terribly flimsy, especially the extra large, and it’s relatively easy to spill your drink while filling it up and putting on a lid. (A helpful hint: Anytime you get a refillable drink at one of these places, get a new lid. Once you take the lid off, it never reseals correctly).
Just as problematic is the lid dispenser. It dispenses one lid at a time, but it’s like pulling open the jaws of a shark to get the damn thing out. Give the public access to filling up their own drinks, and they will make a mess. Although not particularly trashed on this day, due to the vary sparse crowd, on previous visits the soft drink area has been a total wreck and not very appetizing. It wouldn’t be so bad if they would keep it cleaned up but they generally don’t.
On the weekends, it makes a pig sty look like a scene from House Beautiful. But forget about John Q. Public being more tidy. They are a hopeless lot, and kids running amok make the situation even worse. And in this town, practically ever kid has been raised to think that ever building of any kind from Wal-Mart to Sears to the Maya is their own personal playground to destroy forever. At least the popcorn is in a bucket and not the crappy kind of bag they give you at the Valley Plaza Reading to cut cost.
I imagine there are other theaters that have this policy and the Maya is probably not unique, but you have to turn your glasses in every time you leave the screening room and it doesn’t matter if it’s only to refill your drink or popcorn, or to go to the restroom to take a leak. The first time I encountered this policy I was a bit put out by it since none of the other theaters seemed to really care. But I guess the Dolby digital 3D glasses are more expensive than the Real 3D ones to replace, even though they charge you an extra 3 dollars (by doing a little googling, I found out that the Real3D glasses are much cheaper by a mile).
From the 3D movies I have seen, the Real 3D has a better, sharper, and brighter image than the digital 3D films I’ve seen at the Maya. They always seem a lot darker, which is problematic enough with any 3D films, although some films I’ve seen in the 3D format like Avatar, A Christmas Carol, Piranha, and Shrek 4 didn’t suffer much at all in the process. The worse 3D film I’ve seen was Clash of the Titans, as anybody who saw it in that format could tell you. The best I’ve seen are in order: Avatar, A Christmas Carol, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, and Piranha.
The girl who was handing out the 3D glasses from the tray seemed to be taking a nap at first. I wasn’t sure until I saw her lips move and a sound actually came out warning us if we left for any reason we had to drop off the glasses at the door until our return when we would be given another pair. I thought that I should ask the young lady if it was okay to wake her up when departing but thought better of it. I guess sitting on her ass handing people weird looking glasses wasn’t the highlight of her day. Maybe the owners of the Maya should go kidnap some of those cheerful senior citizen Wal-mart greeters to come in to do the job, thus enabling young teenage girls like this one to go out and do something more more productive such as cleaning up the soda fountain area.
The number one auditorium at the Maya is huge compared to any of the screening rooms at the other cinemas. Or maybe it just seems that way. I was unable to get a decent picture of the seating area, but as you can tell from the Iphone picture I’ve enclosed of the screen during the warm up commercials, it makes the screen at the Valley Plaza that The Girlfriend and I had viewed Crazy Stupid Love on seem like a 12 inch portable.
Which brings me to the absolutely best part of the Maya that wins hands down over any of the other movie cinieplexes in the Bakersfield area. The seats are to die for. They are without a doubt the most comfortable movie seats I’ve ever sat in. They are all high backed, and well cushioned recliner like (to a point). If you could exclude all the other annoyances of this theater, I would go here each and every time. And although those annoyances may seem small by themselves, when you add them all up and they cancel out the good will achieved by their state of the art seating comfort and movie presentation. All of that being said, if my back and leg problems continue, it may be the Maya or nothing at all. At the other venues, if the movie runs more than an hour and a half, I generally leave the theater in pain by the end of the film.
Upon entering the auditorium, there were already about six people seated inside. I was going to take a picture, but again it was dark enough that with the Iphone 3GS camera, you wouldn’t have been able to make out any detail. Honorable Son No. 3 picked us out what appeared to be some good seats about half way up, right in the middle, but as it turned out, they were also directly in front of the movie patrons from hell, Mr. and Mrs. Porky and Petunia Pig.
Seriously, folks. As if the little brat a few weeks back during Cowboys and Aliens wasn’t bad enough, at least she had the excuse of being a kid. These two trailer park trash butt wipes had no such excuse. And I hope someday they come across this message, even if the odds are overwhelming against that happening. They’ll know who they are, just look at the tickets for time and date. I didn’t mind their blabbering during the commercials and during the previews so much, but they kept right on going through the film. Then, after umpteen messages about making sure you turn off your cell phone plastered onto the screen, ten minutes into the movie Mr. Pig answers his own and begins chatting away in a very loud deep voice that could be heard all over the auditorium. I guess he was so stupid that he figured when they ask you to silence your phone, they didn’t mean you couldn’t answer it. And honestly, I’ve never heard anybody eat as much candy and popcorn and do it as loudly as Mrs. Pig. Honestly, I bet there are billy goats that chew with more dignity than this woman did.
Yeah, there would be a few moments of silence from them occasionally, but then they would begin chatting away again oblivious to everybody around them. It was worse during the death scenes. Petunia would carry on like she was on an episode of Hee Haw and had never seen anyone butchered before, while Porky would analyze the film as if he were everybody’s own personal Roger Ebert. Finally Honorable Son No. 3 and I moved to the other side of the auditorium and it helped, although we then had to watch the movie from an angle. And I think when we moved Mr. and Mrs. Pig knew why we moved. I doubt if they were embarrassed though. You have to have some idea what the word courteous means to experience any level of embarrassment over idiotic behavior not to mention you should have a modicum of brain function as well. So, Mr. and Mrs. Pig, if you ever come across this review, do the movie going public a favor and keep your fat asses at home in the trailer. And whatever you do, don’t spawn any kids.
Crap, over 2500 words and I haven’t talked about the movie.
If you’ve ever seen one of these Final Destination films, then you pretty much know what you’re going to get. It’s like going to McDonald’s and ordering a Big Mac. The amount of secret sauce you get may vary each time you visit depending on who slaps it together. You know, a little more, a little less, but it’s all the same shit in the end. And that’s about sums up most of my feelings in regards to Final Destination 5 and it’s predecessors.
I had seen numbers one thru three, but not number four even though I have FD4 lying around the house here somewhere on DVD and may put it in eventually. But. by FD3, it was apparent that the makers of these films were never going to explore any new territory, or even offer any of the cast a real chance escaping their fate at the end. Sure, they have Coroner Bludworth come on and do his thing, offering the remaining cast members a slender threaded hope of escaping their fate, but as it turns out, Bludworth is really just out drumming up business for himself, and simply wants to make the same old game a bit more interesting. I guess it helps having him around though because audiences can always hope Bludworth will eventually give someone an honest out clause. Fat chance of that.
There are two reasons why you watch a Final Destination film. One is to watch the bloody carnage that takes place at the beginning of the film during some over the top disaster. So far we’ve had an airplane crash, a fifty million car pile up on the highway, a roller coaster fun ride, the thrill of stock car racing, and now we have a bridge collapse that will certainly remind you of the one that took place in The Mothman Prophecies. The difference of course being that in Mothman, most of the victims simply drowned, a scenario that just wouldn’t cut it for the Final Destination films. So we get the usual spearing, scalding, gutting and decapitations that are the trademark of these films. I have to admit that in 3D, the bridge disaster was impressive.
Not that it matters much, but this time around the man of the hour with the premonition of the ensuing mayhem is Sam Lawton (Nicholas D’Agosto). He, his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), his best friend Peter (Miles Fisher), Miles girlfriend Candace (Ellen Wroe), and various other co-workers and buddies, are preparing to depart on a chartered bus to a business seminar of some sort. Or so I gather. But before they can leave, disaster strikes: Molly breaks up with Sam.
Why? I’m not sure except that I guess the writers felt it would make the characters a bit more interesting and that somehow trying to escape The Grim Reaper brings them closer together for the big kiss, and then the big kiss off.
Anyway, just as we know the sun rises and sets, we also know that the bus, full of unknown actors and actresses, will never make it to wherever the hell it was going in the first place. Instead, as the bus starts across a bridge where construction workers are busy preparing it to be another perfect Final Destination death trap, the shit hits the fan. The bridge begins to literally crack up and everybody tries to escape. This is all to no avail of course, except for Molly, who is saved at the last minute by Sam, just before he gets taken out, at which point he comes out of his hypnotic state to find out he’s still on the bus and it is just now beginning to head across the bridge.
And just like clockwork, he begins yelling that they have to get off the bus, which he and some of the others do and manage to save themselves this time around, thus saving us from once again experiencing their demise and ending the movie after about ten mintues. But as usual, they survive, only temporarily so that we can spend the rest of the ninety minutes of running time watching them try to escape their inevitable fate. What I can never figure out about these films though is that if they weren’t meant to survive, why does someone, in this instance Sam, have these premonitions of impending doom in the first place? Simply because Mr. Reaper likes playing games of death the way some people love to play slots?
This time around Bludworth’s escape clause, not to be confused with The Santa Clause, is that if the survivors can kill someone, that person’s death will take the place of their own. My suggestion? If Coroner Bludworth comes up to you and conjures up a hair brained suggestion like that, punch him in the mouth. You still probably won’t survive, but you’ll feel better. And so will I if I ever have to watch another of these films.
It goes without saying that at least one or two of the cast members will take Bludworth for his word. In this case one does it sort of accidentally on purpose which then encourages one of the other survivors to seek his own ticket to eternal happiness. I won’t say who it is, although watching the film it’ll take you all of five seconds to figure it out.
I do have to single out Miles Fisher who plays Peter. I don’t know if it was his idea, or the director’s, but this guy has been watching too many Tom Cruise movies. Not only is he almost a dead ringer for the Tom Cruise of about thirty years ago, he even seems to be mimicking him and his mannerisms. My advice would be to put away the Risky Business and Top Gun DVD’s for a while and conjure up your own acting style.
The one thing about Final Destination that remains constant, is the elaborate instruments of death used on most of the victims. Each one is like one of those elaborate traps where the ball drops, rolls down a slide, activates a lever, which turns the wheel, that pulls the rope, which releases the trap, which then snares it’s victim. And it’s the one thing that makes these a bit more fun than the usual slasher films. But by FD5, it would seem that the writers are running out of ideas, and one of the initial deaths that takes place in a gymnasium is so over the top ridiculous, you can’t help but laugh out loud.
The best scene in the film though is one where no kill takes place. Sam walks through the large kitchen where he works, and he and us see every single ordinary device as an instrument of death. It’s really rather effective. Rachael Ray had better be careful.
FD5 also had a final twist at the end that sets it apart from numbers I thru IV. It’s actually quite smart and imaginative, and for me at least, totally unexpected. So I’ll give them credit for that. But let’s be honest. When you pay to go see one of these films, you know what you’re going to get and you know why you’re going. You’re going to get the Big Mac and McDonald’s isn’t about to surprise you by serving a BK Whopper instead. So I suppose given that, you’ll get your money’s worth, and although the 3D kill effects are interesting, I don’t think they were nearly as much fun as those in Piranha, a film that was much more entertaining. So on that basis I have no choice but to give Final Destination my grade of C-, raised from a D+ but only because of the clever twist at the end of the film.
One last word about the Maya. Out in the lobby up on the wall is an Avatar poster that has been hanging there since before the movie was released. After almost two years, don’t you think it’s about time someone got a ladder and took the damn thing down? I would suggest waking up the girl handing out the 3D glasses and letting her do it. It might bring some excitement into her life.