The State of the Movies: Are the Frozen Films Really Worth all the Trouble?

Frozen is one of the most culturally significant movies to have been released this decade. With Frozen II now out in theaters, is this film able to retain the magic the first one had or does it “Let it Go”?

I remember when Frozen was released into theaters. I was a freshman in high school and was going through a bizarre “Disney fandom” phase. It was my favorite film I saw in theaters that year due to its songs, characters, animation, and magical sense of adventure present through every frame. To my shock at the time, the film would go on to be the highest grossing animated film of all time, before being overthrown by 2019’s remake of the Lion King, and a cultural phenomenon. Audiences simply could not get enough of Frozen and they too fell in love particularly with the songs and characters. In fact, Elsa’s main song in the film “Let it Go” was played so many times on the radio and any kid’s talent show you went to, people who weren’t fans became sick of it fast.

Further, once Disney saw the financial incentive that came with promoting Frozen as a franchise, it went onto become of the most recognizable brands and one many audience members, including myself as a fan of the original, became sick of. Naturally, Disney sought to expand the market of Frozen with a brand new original film made for theaters. This is a first for Disney as generally whenever a sequel to an animated Disney princess film is made, it is released under the now defunct “Disney Toon Studios” brand and sent straight to home video. This film is brought to you by the same animators who created the original film six years ago and sent to theaters as well. But with that being said, let’s go ahead and look at both Frozen 1 and 2. Are either of these films actually any good?

Frozen is a film that is by no means flawless, but it still is incredibly enjoyable years later.

I’m not sure if I need to explain the plot of the original film, but just in case it tells the story of two sisters named Anna and Elsa who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. It is revealed that Elsa was born with “magical ice powers” in which she can summon ice at will using her hands. She uses the magic at first to play with her sister Anna, but things turn ugly after Anna is struck in the head by Anna’s ice powers. The two are then separated for the rest of their childhood as Elsa is forced to live within the confines of her bedroom while Anna talks to her from the door. With Anna’s memory of the incident having been wiped by “rock trolls” in the forest in order to treat her injury, she lives the rest of her childhood unaware of Elsa’s powers and what she is capable of.

By the time Anna and Elsa are all grown up, the parents have now passed on and Elsa is crowned the new queen. But after Elsa refuses to bless a marriage between Anna and a prince she met that day, her powers are accidentally revealed to not only her sister, but everyone in the kingdom. This then forces Elsa to run off into the mountains where she brings an eternal winter onto the sunny kingdom and it’s up to Anna to get Elsa to bring back the summer.

I re-watched Frozen again before I went out and saw its sequel, and although I do not love this movie as much as I did when I was in high school, I still think it’s pretty good. Frozen is a very fun and delightful adventure that has some fantastic songs, great animation, and fun characters. The film follows the formula we’ve all grown used to from these classic Disney fairy tale movies, but it also modernizes it and does something new with it. It’s a shame the songs were as overplayed as they were because they are admittedly really good songs. Say what you will about “Let it Go,” when you listen to it as its own song, it really is empowering and Idina Menzel’s performance as Elsa is spectacular. She is an extremely talented singer and I have been hooked to whatever project she has decided to take ever since I saw her in this film for the first time.

All the other voice actors do a good job too. Kristen Bell as Anna is really strong, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff isn’t bad, Santino Fontana (who would later play Greg in the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) has a fun role as Hans, and Josh Gad is surprisingly funny as Olaf. In fact, Olaf, a talking snowman created by Anna and Elsa as children, is not annoying as you would expect a comic relief snowman character in a kids film to be. He whispers a lot of his line and much of his humor comes from sarcasm rather than stupidity or annoyance. I remember the 3D presentation of this film being particularly strong as well when I saw in in theaters for the first time.

Although it is annoying to see a children’s film like this be as over hyped as it was, it’s not hard to see why it was. The film is very well crafted and further a very fun enjoyable adventure for the whole family. And I suppose if Disney were to annoyingly shove one of their films onto all its products it releases, this isn’t a bad choice. It’s a very strong movie, I just wish it was not as exposed to the mainstream which therefore ruined its magic for me.

As for Frozen II, it’s hard to see the potential the creators see with this flick, and it’s clear that the only incentive for this blockbuster was to make a few extra dollars.

Despite me being critical of some of the business decisions Disney has taken within the last few years (decision to launch their own streaming service, decision to purchase the entirety of 20th Century Fox, and their reliance on releasing mainly animated sequels and live action remakes being some of the examples of questionable business practices), I was still very excited for Frozen II. I did not go into this movie expecting to dislike it, I was merely hoping for and expecting a fun adventure with the characters I’ve grown to love. The good news is that despite being a vastly inferior film to the original, this does make some attempts at creating a fun adventure. The animation is still spectacular and Elsa performs many creative “tricks” and “spells” with her powers.

Although I feel like everything in this movie is fine, it is all inferior to the original and even feels hastily rushed. The songs aren’t as good, the story is nowhere near as good, and the characters have gotten less interesting as well. The only aspect that I feel has gotten improvement was the animation. It’s spectacular to see what they have accomplished with the animation and think it looks gorgeous. The 3D this time around was good too. To discuss my issues with this movie though I will need to go into spoilers. If you do not want this movie spoiled for you, click away now. The overall recommendation I have for this movie is if you want to see this movie because you are a fan of the original and are excited to see these characters again, you may find some enjoyment in this. If you are skeptical about this film and was never a fan of the original anyways, you can easily skip this one.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD******

The first notable issue I can pin point about Frozen II is that it’s very complicated and at times hard to follow. This is especially concerning given that this is an animated adventure dedicated to families. I watched this entire movie and at times struggled to comprehend and make sense of the narrative. The reason for this is that so much lore is introduced and not all of it receives the amount of screen time it should. With the amount of conflicts set up in this film, they could have almost made this an over two hour movie. Everything in the film though is so rushed since they cannot make this movie over 100 minutes given that it is made for children. But what is this movie about exactly? Well here’s the best way I can describe it.

Frozen II takes place three years after the first film ended. The gates of the palace are now wide open and civilians get to enjoy Elsa’s ice powers while still feeling secure under her rule. Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven meanwhile are all living happy lives together with Elsa at Arendelle and Kristoff is even hoping to propose to Anna soon. Problems start to arise though when events from the kingdom’s past start to affect them in bad ways. Elsa feels compelled to follow a mysterious voice which accidentally awakens elemental spirits which leaves the kingdom without resources and forces them to evacuate. It is now up to Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to go north towards a mysterious forest and find out how to bring Arendelle to its once prosperous state.

They enter into the forest, that apparently no one is able to escape from (this movie kinda rips off Annihilation), and find soldiers from Arendelle still in conflict with the Northuldra tribe, which shocks the team given that they had always believed there was a treaty set in the form of the building of a dam. They then are forced to call for a truce as they discover Anna and Elsa’s mother is of Northuldran descent while the father is of Arendellian, a marriage it is assumed would bring the two warring states at peace. You can already start to tell how jam-packed with detail this plot is. You would expect this much lore and background from a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie that’s well above two hours, but to see it in a Frozen movie that’s a little over an hour and a half long is so bizarre to me.

Kristoff and Sven then stay with the tribe as Elsa continues north with Anna and Olaf. She ditches them, however, after she discovers a map to an island known as Ahtohollan which apparently holds the answers to how to end this conflict and how it began in the first place. Elsa goes on her own hoping she can also find the answer to how she got her powers in the first place. It is also in this moment that the ship their mother and father drowned in was found as it turns out they were traveling to this island so they too could help their daughter understand why she has her powers in the first place. Anyone who hoped that they were going to Rapunzel’s wedding is going to be very disappointed when they see that.

Once Elsa reaches the island, though, she finds that the dam was actually built to block resources and halt the growth of the Northuldran civilization. She becomes a sculpture while on the island and Olaf vanishes as Anna is given a sign that the dam is what started the conflict and without much thought, fully acknowledging that Arendelle will perish, she leads a bunch of giant rock trolls to the dam to destroy it. They’re successful in doing so, but Elsa is able to unfreeze at the very last second to stop the water flow from hitting the kingdom and putting it underwater. Elsa then decides Anna is now queen and she decides to live with the Northuldran people forever away from Arendelle. And I didn’t even get to mention that there are five “elemental spirits” that being earth, water, fire, and air and the fifth is Elsa and her powers which were granted to her as a peacemaker and gift to others after her mother married an Arendellian prince to bring the two nations together.

Wow, this is clearly too much lore for a kid’s film. Where do we begin in dissecting all this?

Whenever the film focuses on being an adventure with these characters we’ve all grown to love, the movie is fine. Whenever it takes itself as seriously as it does and decides to delve into its complex lore, the film falls flat. I just don’t understand why the filmmakers felt the need to jam pack as much information about this world’s universe as they did in this movie. Although I respect the filmmakers’ intent to invest its audience into the world and respect their intelligence, it is all information that isn’t necessary in furthering the narrative of this film along. It just feels like “fluff” to make this movie more confusing for children and even adults. It’s also unlikely that any children or even adults are going to be compelled to discuss the politics of the Frozen universe. Children are smart, but they certainly are not smart enough to understand treaties, governmental relations, and the complications of war.

I understand and respect the filmmakers who take their audience seriously, but I think if they want to have this much lore in this universe, it either needs to be saved for a television show or built up and discussed in future movies. Maybe the filmmakers introducing as much lore as they did gives them an excuse to make more movies in the future (which would be a bad idea probably), but even if they want to simply set up this lore, the film should still probably be over two hours. And again, if they’re concerned about the film being too long for kids, take out some lore and don’t make it so complex, because the end result is that this film feels incredibly rushed and convoluted.

The rest of the film and its elements (aside from the animation) are average.

Every other element in this film feels like a downgrade from the first. The songs are good but nowhere near the quality of the songs from the original. One of the worst songs in the whole movie is a song Kristoff gets about how he’s afraid to propose to Anna. The sequence is accompanied with singing reindeer and an early 2000’s boy band style music video. That’s not to say I did not like any of the songs. “Into the Unknown” was an nice song that I hope the radio stations can have remain unknown to the mainstream.

As for the characters, Kristoff does not have much of a character aside from the fact that he wants to propose to Anna but can’t find the right time to do so. So many other movies, especially animated flicks, have done this before and I’m sick of it. It’s not cute or quirky anymore, it’s just annoying. Olaf is annoying this time which is super unfortunate because he was not in the original. His humor is now comprised of how annoying he can be and how much of a bumbling idiot he is, which is odd because they specifically did not do that in the original movie. In fact, they recreate the bit from Shrek 2 where Donkey annoys Shrek and Fiona on their way to the city of Far Far Away. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s just annoying and cringe-worthy. Anna and Elsa are still alright characters though. I really liked the relationship they had with one another, and if anything is to be explored in future films, it should be that. Other than that, though, everything feels rushed and as if not much care was given to its production.

Frozen II is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a while.

It represents the corporate commercial nature that many grew to hate about the first film and doesn’t actually feel like a film but rather a product made by a large company like Disney. Had this film been funnier or more engaging (had a simpler narrative that still took its audience seriously), it probably would have been better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney is on a downward spiral and bad movies like this do not help its case. With the exception of Toy Story 4 and some of the Marvel movies, I have not liked a single Disney film I’ve seen released this year and that is a shame. Yeah, all of their movies have made money, so I guess this was a successful year for them, but I really wish they would focus on art and creativity rather than profit. There’s no soul in any of these movies. This is polished garbage released by a company that we’ve all been brainwashed to trust.

The thing is if they were to focus on the creative aspect of their films, they would still do well. People love going to see a new Disney movie whether it’s a reboot or an original concept. Don’t believe me, how did Zootopia, Coco, and Moana all go onto be successful? I trust Disney so little lately that I still am reluctant about subscribing to Disney+ because I specifically do not want to promote the idea that a single studio can just release their own streaming service.

Disney is a company, not a corporate empire, the idea that they care about you or your enjoyment about any of their products or your approval of their actions is crazy. As long as we continue to give money to them, they are only going to continue to grow. They have money to burn, they can make whatever movies they want. I swear Lars Von Trier could create a disturbing surrealist film under their name that completely abandons their image and likeness and their profits would barely be impacted. If you care at all about Disney and want them to take more risks with their projects, show that to them. Don’t support the crappy movies they put out and don’t give them money to encourage them to continue doing so. Only give them money if you feel them releasing this project in question is beneficial for the industry.

So my final thoughts on this movie though are that if you still really want to see this movie and want to see where these characters end up, you can see it. Just don’t expect the movie to be a masterpiece. If you’re on the fence about this one, skip it. The movie isn’t awful and I understand I’m treating it as if it is awful, I just wish Disney would make good movies again because they are on a downward spiral once again and it depresses me to see.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

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The State of the Movies: Ford v. Ferrari – Your Dad Will Like This One

Ford v. Ferrari is a true “dad movie” with wholesome values, goofy moments, and intense racing scenes that will keep you and your pops entertained.

Ford v. Ferrari comes to us from James Mangold, the director behind Logan and Walk the Line. It stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and tells the story of two men, Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale) who are hired by the Ford Motor Company to build a car that can defeat Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The film highlights the struggles the men went through not only to defy physics and build a car capable of reaching the speeds necessary to beat Ferrari but also deal with the corporate control of the Ford Motor Company.

I really did not know what to expect going into this movie. I really liked Logan so I knew at the very least this would be a well-directed movie. I had heard some mostly positive buzz coming out of festivals like TIFF, but I was concerned the movie would be “Oscar bait.” If you don’t know what “Oscar bait” is it refers to a movie that is overly sentimental and created as a “crowd-pleaser” in order to win over the voters of the Academy Awards. Famous YouTube film critic Adum from YMS had called the movie “oscar bait” in his review so I was concerned that it would be too overly sentimental. I still wanted to see it though, so I got my ticket for a showing at a Regal theater for 9:30 at the Thursday night IMAX showing.

The only thing was that when I got to the theater, the IMAX projector was broken and there were no other showings in any other formats. Any other night I would go home and simply see it another time, but I had a rental car for the night, and what the hell else was I to do with it from 9 PM-1 AM. I quickly saw that an AMC was also showing the movie in IMAX at 9:30 in IMAX, and next thing you know I got in my car and had my own little race down the I-8 West towards Mission Valley to get to the theater. Fortunately, I was able to get my ticket and get settled into the movie with only two more trailers left before the showing. It was overwhelming because I was not sure if I would make the movie in time, but the fast drive I was forced to make down the highway got me in the mood to see a fun racing movie.

Despite Ford V. Ferrari being a somewhat cheesy movie, it is overall still a lot of fun and worth seeing on the big screen.

Ford V. Ferrari is a fun movie with some very well constructed racing scenes and really great acting from both Bale and Damon. I don’t think it’s the best movie of the year but I don’t think it’s bad either. This really is a “dad movie” at heart which isn’t necessarily an insult as you may think. I think that simply means this movie has more wholesome values than the other selection of movies you have currently in theaters. Despite being a tense sports movie, it’s very wholesome which was definitely welcomed. There’s no larger force causing significant physical or psychological harm onto a person or group of people, it’s just simply a movie about two guys who love building and racing cars butting heads against other people who are also passionate about cars.

As expected the filmmaking in this movie is very good! From the directing to the cinematography to the editing, everyone in the crew was on their A-Game while making this movie. I loved the cinematography and sound design in particular and thought they made the racing scenes a lot of fun. As a filmmaker myself, the prospect of trying to get these racing scenes right makes me incredibly anxious. I can only imagine the issues they faced with the placement of the cameras onto the cars and the continuity of each shot. There’s so much that goes down in many of the scenes; cars are not only passing each other but they’ll often times crash into the track and explode, and it is important that if you are going to get multiple takes of these sequences from different angles, they match each other identically.

What they were able to accomplish was incredible and I, once again, have to commend all the crew involved in this production. The acting, as expected, is also fantastic! Matt Damon and Christian Bale work very well together and you see their friendship develop over the course of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is when they fight each other in front of Ken’s (Bale) house, but rather than have it be an intense dramatic sequence, it is very funny. They tumble on each other and Christian Bale throws groceries at Damon, it’s one of the funniest scenes in Ford v. Ferrari. There are a couple of moments like that where they will give each other a hard time in the most loving and goofy way they can and it’s always enjoyable to watch.

In regards to issues I have with this movie, it’s mostly in the script. The villains of the movie (the people at Ferrari and the corporate folks over at Ford) are so “cartoony” and one dimensional. It was clear they were trying to go for a more goofy approach to these villains, but it comes across really cheesy. In fact, all the other characters that aren’t Carroll and Ken are all cookie cutter and boring characters. Also, although this movie is still funny every once in a while there will be a joke that won’t work very well for me. It’s not common this happens, but it does happen every once in a while. Also, the movie is 2-1/2 hours long and for the first 45-60 minutes or so you can feel it. Once the racing is underway the movie mostly flies by but with trailers, prepare to be at the theater for almost three hours.

Despite Ford v. Ferrari being a pretty cheesy movie, I still had a lot of fun with it and would recommend you see this one too. I like that this movie is not a prequel, reboot, sequel, or anything else but rather a true story that a team of filmmakers decided to adapt into their own screenplay and production. I say the whole “take your dad to this movie” thing as a joke, but I do actually think this is a good movie to go see with your family when and if you go visit them for Thanksgiving next week. Don’t expect this to be the best movie of the year, but expect a good time!

Written by Christian Scognamillo
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The State of the Movies: What Premium Format Should You Choose?

Do you ever check the local listings for the next big movie and are stunned to find a catalog of viewing options such as standard format, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and D-Box?

There are so many options to view movies in, where do you even start? An average consumer may be under the impression that although many of these options may provide more immersive entertainment, they also acknowledge that they are also more expensive. Today we’re going to be taking a deep dive into a few premium format options that will regularly be available. I will not only go into what makes some of these formats special, but I will also go into the average additional surcharge you’ll pay for each ticket and offer a review of the experience if I have been through it before.

3D

I probably do not need to get into what makes a 3D experience in a movie theater unique as more than likely you have been at some point to a 3D movie yourself. You all likely know it can be anywhere from $2-$4 extra per ticket, depending on the theater, for a 3D movie. The intention of 3D movies is to create a movie-going experience to make you feel as if you are actually a part of the movie. Essentially, once you place on a pair of glasses given to you before a presentation, you begin to notice the image may have more depth and will notice that images seem to be “popping out of the screen”. The way this effect is achieved is that the projector projects two of the same moving images slightly next to each other that come together when you place the glasses on and provide a more immersive but strange effect.

The relationship people tend to have with 3D movies is generally you either love or hate them. Some people can’t get enough of that theme park type of experience, but for many people, they become easily nauseous and will notice that there were not even that many effects on the screen to begin with. There was a time not too long ago where it seemed every new movie being released was in 3D, which many people really did not like. And although I liked 3D as a kid, I knew realistically it was not possible to see every movie out there in 3D. At the time though, when I did, the experience of watching a movie felt more special.

My relationship with 3D today is similar yet different. 3D is not nearly as common as it once was so not that many movies are released in the format anymore. Therefore, I really don’t find myself seeing as many 3D movies as I used to. With that being said, it is fun every once in a while getting to see a 3D movie just because it is still an uncommon movie viewing format for me. However, I am glad 3D movies are not as common because the viewing experience is much more special, and I know, given the number of movies I watch now, I would probably get sick of 3D pretty quickly.

The truth is, 3D is not suitable for every movie that is released. Studios tried to place it in every movie so they could ramp in a few extra dollars which, ultimately, caused the downfall of 3D. In reality, only select movies are made for the format.

The last 3D movie I saw was Gemini Man which also had the added bonus of being in HFR (60 fps). The results were not as bad as expected but also not ideal. I think with a bigger screen and brighter projector I would have enjoyed myself more (and I still mostly did). But the small screen and shaky cam the movie implemented made many scenes of the movie distracting in the format. Some really great recent 3D flicks I watched include Ready Player One, Alita: Battle Angel, and Aquaman. These were all films intentionally designed for the 3D experience and having the bonus of seeing all these flicks in IMAX 3D, meaning a bigger screen, made the experience even more special.

Similarly, I’ve seen some awful 3D movies recently like Venom, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Mummy. These movies were trying to hastily rush the 3D format onto them so they could get a few quick bucks out of unsuspecting paying customers. I think that’s the other problem I have today with 3D too; you never really know what type of movie experience you are going to get. Because of this, the consumer relationship with the format can become rocky. I think if 3D is going to have a chance to survive in the industry it needs to be shown in select films that are designed for the format. A lot of big blockbusters still look great in the format, but not every movie needs to be or should be in 3D. It seems as if Hollywood is now beginning to understand the risk that comes with showing a movie in 3D and the format is now diminishing as a result.

Even IMAX (which we will discuss soon) has decided to no longer primarily show 3D movies but rather, only do it when the quality of the presentation is good enough to justify it being presented in the format. Although I wish IMAX would play more 3D movies every once in a while, this is a smart move on their end for the sake of business. I am in the minority when it comes to 3D as I like to give it a chance but know that this is a format everyone will have a different experience with. It’s really going to come down, at the end of the day, to personal preference and mainly how your body and eyes can respond to the presentation.

IMAX

IMAX 2D or 3D is usually one of my favorite ways to go see a movie. IMAX provides an experience in which the speakers are louder than normal, and the screen in question fills the entire wall of the auditorium the movie is being projected on from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. The average surcharge for an IMAX movie is going to be anywhere from $5-6. I really love seeing movies in IMAX and have been fortunate enough to see many movies I’d like to in the format because of programs like AMC A-List and Regal Unlimited (check my blog out on subscription services), however, it may be hard to know what movie you should see in IMAX and which one you can skip if you must pay for the format. Unlike 3D, any movie you see can look good in IMAX, but some movies will look better than others. This is going to be really tough to explain why so bear with me as I go through the terminology.

The first thing to note about IMAX auditoriums is that not all auditoriums are going to have the same size screen. Some IMAX screens are significantly larger than others. These bigger screens are known as “real IMAX” and they can go on average to be about 76×97 feet which is insane. The regular IMAX screens that you may come across in your local malls (and the only ones available in San Diego at the moment, unfortunately) are only about 28×58 feet and known as “Liemax” screens. The reason for this is because they are trying to advertise the same IMAX experience without letting you know which screen is the real deal and which one is not. If you want to know if your local IMAX screen is real or not, click thislink where you can look at a list of IMAX locations. If the theater is listed as 1570/D or some other variant of that, it’s the real deal, just D means that it’s not. You may be surprised just to find how little of these screens are actually considered true IMAX screens.

With all that being said, not every movie is necessarily going to look better on a real IMAX screen anyways. Most movies that are shown in the format are merely blown up for the screen meaning that if a movie is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, you’re going to get those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen as seen below. When this happens in a movie, it is known to be “letter-boxed”.

Notice the black bars on the top and bottom of this still from It: Chapter Two. This tends to happen when you see a movie shot in 2.39:1 on an IMAX screen which may be a problem for some.

If you are limited in the movies you can see in IMAX due to money and don’t know what aspect ratio a movie is presented in, here’s a neat trick to try. Open up the trailer for the movie you want to see on your phone or computer. If there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, it’s going to appear that way on an IMAX screen as well. When a movie is not “letter-boxed” and is instead being presented in 1.85:1, the full screen is going to be filled up when you watch a movie in the format. It is important to note though that some movies are “specially formatted for the IMAX experience.” This means that the picture size will expand from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1. That means when you see a movie in the format you’re going to have more information available to you, the viewer, on the screen. Here’s a clip from Alita: Battle Angel (which was specially formatted in IMAX) so you can see what this means.

I will clarify that many times it’s only going to be select scenes that are presented in this format but I still think it’s fun to watch. To know if a movie is formatted for IMAX or not, check the IMAX social media profiles (Twitter, Instagram, etc). The company will let you know if a movie is specially formatted for IMAX or not and will advertise for it. On a regular “LieMax” screen, these films will fill the entire screen. However, on a real IMAX screen, a movie in the 1.90:1 aspect ratio will still not fit the entire screen.

So what will fill a real IMAX screen then? To know if you should make the trip to see a movie in a real IMAX screen, again, check the IMAX social media and see if the movie is being shot and shown in IMAX 70mm film. If it is, see it in a real IMAX theater because you are going to at least get select scenes that fill the entire screen. These films were shot on IMAX’s specialty giant 70mm that specifically cater to the format and present movies in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio. This is also the reason why you might notice that the IMAX screens at science centers like Ruben H. Fleet Science Center are much larger and provide a different experience than the ones at your local malls. Those IMAX documentaries are typically presented in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio which is ideal for a real IMAX screen. It is usually rare that a Hollywood movie is shot and shown in IMAX 70mm but it does happen every once in a while in movies like Interstellar, Dunkirk, and First Man. I can give you, though, three movies to look out for that will be presented in this real IMAX format: No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, and Tenet. Here’s an example from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which also used the special cameras) of what the picture now looks like.

In conclusion, is IMAX worth your time? I enjoy the format but every movie is going to be a different experience. I know I had to explain a lot of this using hard to understand film terminology, but I would recommend, if you are considering seeing a movie in IMAX, either do the test on your computer or phone to see if you notice black bars on the top and bottom of the image or check IMAX’s social media to see if they will be expanding the aspect ratio for a certain movie. Do know that every movie is going to be a different experience so make sure if you’re limited on the amount of IMAX movies you can watch to choose the right one. When you pick the right movie, IMAX can provide a really special and, I’d even argue, unforgettable movie-going experience.

Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema is a similar but different experience to IMAX. The biggest difference to note is that MOST screens you are going to find are not going to be tall like IMAX but instead super wide. There are some exceptions to this but most Dolby Cinema screens I’ve been to have had a wide screen instead of a tall one. Also unlike in IMAX, there are recliner seats at Dolby Cinema auditoriums. Basically, the best way I can describe the experience of watching a movie in Dolby Cinema is that you get a 4K image and reclining seats that rumble during loud scenes. The theater is also equipped with Dolby Atmos, meaning there are speakers that basically surround the entire auditorium.

It’s weird going into an auditorium and looking up above your seat to notice that it has its own set of speakers. I’m not very good at explaining this since I’m not a sound engineer, but know that the goal of Dolby Atmos is to provide 3D surround sound to give the impression that sound can potentially come from every direction of the auditorium. The only reason I don’t go to more movies in this format is that it is hard to get tickets to Dolby Cinema showings at the theater I like to go to (AMC Mission Valley). The surcharge is about $5 and I think it’s a pretty cool experience every once in a while.

I really have not had a bad experience with a showing in Dolby Cinema and I am confident you will more than likely enjoy it too. Really just about any movie you go see in this format is going to look good so I guess if you’re curious, you should check it out. The speakers are really loud, the recliners are comfortable, and the image quality is very good which makes for a very enjoyable movie-going experience. I wish there was more information I could give to you but there’s not much else to say, it’s pretty luxurious.

D-Box/4DX

I’ve never seen a movie in either of these formats but from what I understand they are very similar experiences. They both provide movie-going experiences that are complemented by moving seats and 4DX special effects (water, air, scents, etc). This has never been an ideal movie-going experience for me, even as a kid, so I never felt compelled to see a movie in this format. I also know it’s very expensive to see a movie in this format as the surcharge may be as much as $8 extra which is crazy and excessive.

I think the idea of seeing a movie with extra special 4D effects is “too immersive” for me; I think the idea is too gimmicky for my liking. I can handle 3D as it provides an interesting experience every once in a while but I feel like 4DX and D-Box may take things too far for my liking. Again though, this is coming from someone who has not even had the opportunity to see a movie in this format so maybe it’s okay. I don’t mind going on a theme park ride which has moving seats and effects because that is the expectation I have for those experiences, but in a feature film, this is going to become distracting. I guess if that sounds like your cup of tea, have at it.

Which Premium Format is Best For You?

Everyone’s preference in premium formats in movies is going to be different depending on what type of movie-going experience you are looking for. Usually, if I am going to see a movie in a premium format, I will opt to see a movie in either Dolby Cinema or IMAX because I enjoy those experiences the most. I like that Dolby Cinema offers recliner seats and 4K video quality, but I also like it when a film shown in IMAX is specially formatted for the experience allowing for more information on the screen.

If I have to recommend trying any premium format it would be IMAX and Dolby Cinema, but I would also recommend doing your own research on these formats and the movies being shown in the format to find out which one is right for you. You may want to expand your horizons and try 3D or D-Box/4DX, but just keep in mind that they may be too gimmicky for some viewers. Either way, if you’re at all curious about a format you’ve never tried, I’d say go at least one time to try it. Even if you, at the end of the day, do not enjoy the premium format that has been provided to you, it will be something unique and out of the ordinary. And sometimes something unexpected makes for the best types of adventures.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo
More info on Digital 3D:
http://www.reald.com/#/home
More info on IMAX:
https://www.imax.com/
More info on Dolby Cinema:
https://www.dolby.com/us/en/platforms/dolby-cinema.html?utm_content=buffer2298f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
More info on D-Box:
https://www.d-box.com/en
More info on 4DX:
https://www.cj4dx.com/
Follow me on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/christianscogs
Follow me on Letterboxd:
https://letterboxd.com/christianscogs/

The State of the Movies: What About Movie Subscription Services?

If you wanna go to the movies more often but are worried about price, movie subscription services like AMC Stubs A-list and Regal Unlimited might be the answer for you.

Going to the movies is one of my favorite past times. Sitting down in a dark room with all the lights dimmed down and seeing a huge movie blasted onto a large screen is a great experience. So why is it that such an awesome experience is not being appreciated nearly as much as it should be. Many people will come up with different theories like the rising dominance of streaming content in the entertainment industry and Hollywood’s need to push more remakes, sequels, and reboots onto screens but I think the reason people don’t go to the movies is because of the price.

Listen, going to the movies is great, but it’s hella expensive son! Especially for us college students, going to the movies is tough. The good news is that movie theater chains have started to notice that this could be a problem and have set to do something about it. I understand consumers may be under the impression that movie theaters should simply lower admission prices to raise the amount of profit made by a growing number of attendees, but that’s not quite how this works.

You see, part of the reason movie ticket prices are as high as they are is because most of the revenue made from movie tickets truthfully does not go to the theaters showing the movies, it goes to the studios. The whole point of tracking box office amounts is to see how much profit a movie generated while it is being shown in theaters. The little revenue theaters do make from tickets has to pay for rent, utilities, etc. so most of the funding comes from the concessions stands and even the trailers and commercials you see before a movie. You probably didn’t even realize that theaters get paid to show trailers before movies but they do. Anyways, chains have been able to introduce new subscription services to their customers to encourage higher attendance. Although the goal is likely for audiences to come back and buy more concessions, it does provide a helpful solution for audience goers who want to go to the movies often but can’t afford it. So today, I would like to discuss the choices you have currently for movie subscription services and provide reviews of some of the programs I have been a part of and offer my opinions on those I have not.

So just to clarify, no, MoviePass and Sinemia are no longer in business and unfortunately are no longer options for subscription programs.

The movie subscription service that really got everyone talking was MoviePass. When the mass found out about it, they offered a standard 2D movie a day for $9.99/month. This is insane given that the average movie ticket, at least in California, is about $14. Many consumers flocked to MoviePass for unlimited movies but found themselves in disappointment when as predicted, the business was unable to keep itself afloat.

The reason for this is that every time someone used the pass to buy a ticket, the company, MoviePass, had to pay the movie theater in question for the ticket. So instead of having you pay for the ticket, they did. It really didn’t work out as well as they wanted and I think the reason for this was because an independent company was providing the movies for the consumers. This is a very expensive business model and unless they have other sources of income to draw from, it is also unsustainable. MoviePass did try to get money from other sources as they started “MoviePass Ventures” an independent film distributor that they can take funds from, but they only released three films under the title and one of them was the critical and financial disaster Gotti starring John Travolta. MoviePass eventually forced users to pay surcharges when seeing some popular movies that would go as high as $5-6. This was problematic for users too because it defeated the purpose of having the pass in the first place. Eventually, everyone jumped ship and after several attempts to re-design their model, they eventually closed down in September of this year.

Another company called Sinemia offered a similar deal which allowed 3 movies a month that could be in any format (2D, 3D, IMAX, etc.) for around $9.99/month as well (price changed over time and depending on location). They weren’t as popular as MoviePass though and they never reached the same level of success MoviePass did. They faced many similar issues with money and also added many more charges to compensate for losses. They also went through several re-designs as well which angered many customers. In fact, it became such an issue that a class-action lawsuit was eventually filed against Sinemia claiming the service was a “bait-and-switch scheme” since they had users pay a $1.80 fee for every movie they saw. Sinemia, too, closed its service in April of this year.

The truth is I never used either of these services. They seemed too “sketchy” for me and I thought the deals were too good to be true. My suspicions were confirmed when both companies closed their doors due to the complications they faced. I also wanted a service that offered access to 3D and IMAX movies while still offering more than 3 movies a month (average a month for me is 4 or 5). I think in order for this system to work movie theater chains themselves need to be the ones offering these services. Since they are the exhibitors of the movies, they are able to make up for the losses that come with paying for movie tickets by increased sales in concessions. And that’s exactly what seemed to happen. Today there are three movie theater chains that have fully launched their own movie subscription services for consumers. Those are AMC Stubs A-List, Regal Unlimited, and Cinemark Movie Club.

AMC Stubs A-List

I think to this day AMC Stubs A-List is one of the greatest things to happen to movie lovers. This service offers 3 movies a week at $23.99/month (every territory is different). These movies can be in any format (2D, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, etc.) and in any AMC theater in the country. Knowing that an IMAX ticket at AMC Mission Valley 20 is about $20 or so, this is a great deal! You can see two IMAX movies and already save over $20 a month on movies. You can also book free reservations online, yes, you book reservations instead of purchase your tickets it’s incredible! I still am a subscriber for AMC Stubs A-List and have been for over a year. I think I’ve saved almost $200 on movies because of how many movies I’ve seen while a member of the program. And what’s great is that for a moviegoer like me, I have never felt 3 movies a week was too little for me. I now see every movie I can in either IMAX (2D/3D), Dolby Cinema, or Digital 3D simply because I can go for free. Having used this service for so long though, it does get tiring to go to the same two theaters in San Diego over and over again (Mission Valley and Fashion Valley). It is also tough because the other theaters I want to go to are difficult to get to because of their distance. It is also worth noting that you can only book 3 movies at a time. This can be a burden sometimes because I will sometimes go crazy and book multiple movies I want to see in advance just so I can guarantee I have a good seat. I think this is a great program for regular moviegoers, especially if they are college students.

In San Diego this program has done wonders for me because I can book a quick reservation, save my seat, hop on the trolley and my seat will be waiting for me when I arrive. It’s a really great service and one I recommend. With that being said, there is a 3-month commitment with the program meaning you have to be a part of the service for 3 months before canceling. Furthermore, once you cancel you are not allowed to join back for 6 months. There is also no family plan yet to share the account with someone else, which I know can be a burden for some people. I have a buddy who wanted to share an account with his brother but was disappointed he couldn’t. I believe AMC is working out a system in which multiple people can share an account and save on movies but this has not happened yet.

My only legitimate complaint I have with the program is that it is designed for mainly solo moviegoers, and although I will usually be a solo moviegoer while using the service, it can be tough sometimes to get a friend to save a seat next to me and book a showing the same time I do hopefully without having anyone book the seat you want at the same time. I recently had trouble booking my tickets for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with my friend and had to refund the seat I had chosen since the ones next to me were taken before my friend could get to it. That meant I had to cancel the reservation and get a new seat which was inconvenient. I have not had any other issues than that though. It is a fantastic service that I have been really lucky to be able to have in my life. But what about if you do not live near any AMC Theaters, what do you do then?

Regal Unlimited

Regal Unlimited is a program that could cater to fans who want to go to more than 3 movies a week. This one offers unlimited movies all month for $23.99/month (depending on the area). So yes, if you wanted to do nothing but go to the movies all day every day, you can with Regal Unlimited. There are some catches to this program to keep in mind though.

1) If you want to see a movie in 3D, IMAX, or whatever premium format Regal offers, you have to pay for the surcharge for that format and

2) If you want to book tickets online, there is a $0.50 online convenience fee you have to pay. These are admittedly lame for someone who likes booking tickets in advance and for premium showings too, but it has also allowed me to practice restraint. I now tend to save Regal Unlimited for more standard showings of smaller films for this reason.

With that being said, depending on where you live waiting to book your tickets until you get to the theater may not be an issue. The two regal theaters I like to go to in San Diego are Regal Parkway Plaza and Edwards Mira Mesa (Horton Plaza closed down which makes me sad). They both have IMAX auditoriums so every once in a while I’ll indulge myself and go to one of their IMAX showings. Parkway Plaza, in particular, is not usually very crowded so getting a ticket at the theater on the day of is simply no problem. I’ve only had one crowded showing at that theater and it has been for Rambo: Last Blood. To this day I’ve still never booked a ticket with Regal Unlimited on the app and have always opted to do it at the theater, but it is lame especially in today’s day and age to have this burden placed onto you. I just get lucky that many people don’t go to the Regal I like to go to and again buying a ticket at the theater is no problem.

This service is not as good a deal as AMC’s, but is still pretty good if you live closer to more Regal locations. The other thing worth noting is that there is a minimum 12-month commitment you must abide by if you choose to sign up, this meaning that once you sign up you’re locked in for a whole year. This initially made me think twice before I signed up as well as I wasn’t sure if I could stick with the program for the whole year. The good news is that unlike AMC, this service offers an annual payment option. That way it is no longer a burden to be paying monthly for the program since all 12 months have been taken care of. I personally paid for the service for the year and I’m already getting my money’s worth. Further, if you do choose to book tickets with Regal 1) it must be done through the app on your smartphone and 2) you are allowed 3 movies at a time, like with A-List.

I’ve already gone into how I’m not a fan of the fees the program has, but I am enjoying the service so far. You also get 10% off concessions which, although I don’t usually take advantage of it because I try to avoid buying movie theater snacks if possible, is nice whenever I do choose to buy some popcorn or candy. I’ve only had the service for a few months, since August of this year, but I have not had any issues with the app or otherwise, which is great. It is also a luxury knowing that I have more options for theaters when going to the movies than just Regal and AMC locations. With that being said though, I am not sure I will continue to use Regal Unlimited once the year has passed. I was satisfied with AMC A-List before signing up for Regal and the only reason I did was so I could have more options for movie-going locations. If you don’t mind the fees though and you live closer to Regal locations, this is still a good deal that I would recommend.

Cinemark Movie Club

I don’t know too much about Cinemark Movie Club, but I don’t think this service would be ideal for consumers who are looking to see a movie often. In San Diego, we don’t have any Cinemark locations near us which creates more inconvenience. The service is $9.99/month (depending on location) and you get only one standard 2D movie a month and 20% off concessions. The good thing is that if you don’t use one of your movies a certain month it does roll over into the next month, I just don’t see this really serving many moviegoers who want to go to more than 3 movies a month for cheap. If you just want an add on to an already existing movie subscription service and live near a Cinemark, I guess this will work for you. When I return back home to San Pedro, I live near one or two Cinemark locations, but I never was inclined to sign up for the service since it really is lacking in what it offers. But maybe if you want to see one movie a month and live near a Cinemark this will work for you.

So what’s the best option for you?

This will depend on what you are looking for and where you live. In my opinion, AMC offers the best deal but Regal has been good too. Cinemark’s club seems too limited for my liking but may work for other consumers. You’re really just going to have to take a look at every service and wonder what will work best for you and your bank account. Hopefully, I’ve been able to provide as much information as I could on each service and insight with my experiences with them. If you have any more questions about the services in question, I will be linking the info pages to each service down below for more information.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

For more info on AMC Stubs A-List:
https://www.amctheatres.com/amcstubs/alist

For more info on Regal Unlimited:
https://www.regmovies.com/static/en/us/unlimited

For more info on Cinemark Movie Club:
https://www.cinemark.com/movieclub

Follow me on letterboxd:
https://letterboxd.com/christianscogs/

Follow me on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/christianscogs