Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This asshole thinks he's writing for Yelp or something

The pictures are terrible, I know. I wanted to go the extra mile (mostly because my written descriptions are shit) so I borrowed a friend's camera which I was as familiar with as I am with the Balkan highlands, which is to say, no familiarity whatsoever. Besides, I never said I was fuckin' Robert Capa, motherfucker. I never said I took pictures like him, either. *rimshot*

So an old friend of mine got out of prison last Tuesday, and even though I hadn't spoken to him in years, he hit me up and we've been hanging out for a while. This, in addition to being lazy, has kept me from writing about a couple things I intended to write about. But before I continue, I just have to say that ever since my friend called me a few months back (via smuggled Boost Mobile cell phone), I was afraid that hanging out with him would result in my violent death from one of many rival gang members/drug dealers/general scumbags we'd run into. Turns out (for the time being, at least) that I'm most likely going to die of boredom -- and that's a good thing when you think about it.

Anyway, here are my long-delayed, never-awaited ramblings about my two visits to the new Gold Class Cinemas, located in beautiful, increasingly homeless populated Old Town Pasadena. The deal about this place is that they charge you between $22-27 for a ticket to enjoy a movie in a luxury environment (it's $32-35 everywhere else). There's 3 other GC's in the United States, but there's a lot more Down Under (where GC was established). I guess they figured if we welcomed fuckin' Crocodile Dundee with open arms, then we'll welcome an even more expensive night at the movies than usual.

I buy tickets at the Child's price whenever I can get away with it, and in my current financial state, I shouldn't be going out to see ANY movie (and yet I do), so visiting the Gold Class was something I would have to hold off on until the hopefully-near-future to accomplish. I'm also waiting for the day I can fill up my gas tank completely full instead of to the halfway point, like I've been doing for about a year now. But thanks to a friend with friends, we got wind of a pre-opening "Mock Service" thingy the GC people were doing. See, the week before they were scheduled to open on Dec. 2nd, the GC wanted to straighten everything out, work out all the kinks, oil up the squeaky wheels and gears and blah blah. They would do this by screening movies for volunteers and giving said volunteers the full GC experience gratis. Tickets, food, drinks -- all on the house.

The only downside to this was 1) the movies would be second-run choices and 2) there was plenty of room gleefully given for error, hence the idea for a Mock Service. Fine by me, since I wasn't paying for shit and who knows when I'll be able to afford to go to this joint, if ever. My buddy reserved two seats for The Invention of Lying on the first day, and I reserved two seats for Zombieland on the last day. You can get seats online, but for the Mock Service you had to call it in. I was asked where I preferred to sit; front, middle, back & center or aisle. My friend told me they never asked him that, so that may have been a fresh mistake right there. They tell you to show up about 30 minutes before showtime, and I'll get to that in a bit.


We arrived at what used to be the Laemmle One Colorado Plaza, inside Miller Alley. The old joint was turned into a new one, with the Gold Class marquee up, but even then, it's still very easy to miss it outside the block.

Inside, we went to the counter and my friend gave his name and reservation number. The lady printed out our tickets and put them inside a little foldout card, then she told us to go down the two flights of escalators (literally underground cinema) where a host would greet us. A lady in a black dress met us and took our ticket card, then walked us over to the lounge area. It has the look of a trendy hotel bar/lounge, with nondescript "hip" music playing at a low-enough volume as to not disturb whatever conversation you're having. Another lady, dressed in an all-black Asian-style jumpsuit thingy brought us our menus and took our orders. This is the reason why they suggest you come in 30 minutes early; it gives both customer and staff enough time to do everything comfortably. Our server asked us if we wanted to eat our meal here in the lounge or inside, where it would be brought in during the film; we went with the latter.

About 5 minutes before showtime, the lady took our drinks and walked us to our seats inside the auditorium. There are about 4 rows of seats in the entire room, each row containing about 4 groups of 2. So I guess that makes it 32 seats, maybe even less if I remember it wrong. Either way, it's very small and intimate, making the medium sized screen look gigantic because of it. It's raised stadium-style seating with plenty of leg room, there is no chance whatsoever of somebody's head getting in the way or of you accidentally kicking someone. The seats are large, plush and recline as far back as to make it a bed -- it's even more like a bed if you request a pillow and/or blanket, which the GC peeps happily offer. One side of each seat contains a large compartment under the armrest, where you can put your jacket/purse/shopping bag/whatever inside. The lady also mentioned "man bags", which was funny, mainly because she was cute. There's a small table attached to the center where the food is would be served. At the seat end of the table is a green-glowing button; this is the call button that you use if you need anything from your server, or if you just want to be an asshole like Ricky from Made and calling them over.

The servers all wear the black ninja outfit thingies; this helps make them less likely to stand out as they walk back and forth, in and out of the room. They never get in front; they always do their thing in the aisles, crouched down to your level and never speaking about a whisper. When the lights went down, the movie immediately started, there were no trailers even though we were told there would be. Our food arrived about ten minutes into the Ricky Gervais flick, and our server slowly reached over to the table from the aisle. She was on my side, so I felt antsy about it, wanting to take over as my plate of Wagyu Beef Burger hovered over my fat stomach as the poor server's wrists showed signs of weakening.

The meals are prepared in a manner that makes it easy to eat in the dark, and with minimal chance of making noise or a mess. My burger, for example, was given to me as two White Castle-sized sliders, albeit a very thick and tall sliders. The sides on my plate consisted of a handful of their potato chips (slightly thicker and softer than regular chips) which were okay, and onion rings, which were insanely tasty and it's a damn shame they only give you two. My buddy got the Cuban Sandwich, which he said was pretty good for its type. Oh, and I really liked the burger too. If I had to pay for it, I might have felt a little gypped considering how compact they were, but for free food, they were goddamn scrumdiddlyumptious.

During the movie, we took advantage of the call buttons and asked for refills. Just for S&G's, I asked our server if they happened to have popcorn up in this bitch; turns out they did, and my friend and I each got a regular-sized bag. It was rather sub-par and I'm guessing they just bought the kind that comes already popped inside a big bag from the local grocery store. Twice we had another server come up to us with food we didn't ask for ("rice pillows" with dipping sauce and a creme brulee dessert), and like a couple of dumb assholes we asked if these were complementary. They weren't, these dudes just fucked up and were about to give it to the wrong people before we brought that shit up like Good Samaritans/Stupid Douchebags. How could we be so fucking dumb? We should've accepted that shit and scarfed it down -- after all, this is Mock Service week and that was THEIR mistake to make. My buddy and I pledged we would do take advantage next visit.

The print for The Invention of Lying had seen better days; there were scratches and splices every once in a while, and I guess that goes with the whole free thing -- you're not going to get Arclight quality audio-visuals. I'm assuming this all got better after the GC opened proper. For the record, I thought the movie was good but uneven. It's like Gervais and company didn't know how to segue between hilarity and pathos, so instead they bumper-car that shit together. By now, I'm sure it's only a few weeks away from a DVD release, which sounds about right for this kind of flick. I don't subscribe to the "If a movie isn't considered good enough to see in a theater, then it isn't worth seeing" theory, some flicks are better off waiting a few months to see. I mean, this Gervais flick isn't some kind of grand spectacle that demands to be seen in the largest moviehouse you can find. Some movies feel more at home being watched a few feet away from your couch, you know what I mean?

We were supposed to get a mock bill and a survey to fill out after the flick, but we never did. Most of us in the audience even stayed behind a few minutes after the credits just in case, but nope, nobody came. So we left. Of course, I had to check out the restrooms, and I would've taken pics of the crappers and pissers except there were other guys in there and that would've been really weird for them to see some fat asshole of Mexican descent snapping shots of them with a Sony Cybershot as they excreted recently imbibed Diet Coke. It would feel odd. So here's the sink:

Instead of soap dispensers, they had bottles of Aesop "Resurrection Aromatique" Hand Wash and Hand Balm. Whatever, right? But I looked it up, and the same size costs $37 for the wash and $100 for the balm. This is why I love the 99-Cent Store, by the way. Clean hands are clean hands, regardless of whether you spent a buck or $100 on them. But if you need to satisfy your inner Patrick Bateman, then by all means, hit this shit.


This one shouldn't be as long. But the following Monday, we returned for Zombieland, or to be more precise, I returned and waited for my friend who was being held up by a baby. I could explain, but that statement reads pretty funny, so no. As I stood outside the building, anxiously awaiting my buddy to get the fuck over here, a lady of the darker echelon came from behind, deep into a cell phone call:

"She said 'I bet you like bumble bees'. I was like 'Bitch, what the fuck kind of question is that?'"

The lady had a point, though -- what the fuck kind of question IS that? If "bumble bee" is code for something, let me just say right now that my bumble bees are Exit Only, bro. So back off.

By the time my friend arrived, we had less than 10 minutes before showtime. But by now, the GC peeps had their shit together because they were able to take our orders, lead us to our seats and all that jazz within that brief amount of time. In as nice a possible manner, they pretty much told us to fuck having our drinks in the lounge, we better take that shit inside right now. Unlike the first day, they had trailers and a Gold Class Feature Presentation thingamabob before the movie. Unlike Invention, the Z-Land print looked great and based on that it's safe to say that the GC peeps will be downright Arclight about sound/picture presentation. If not, then that's another reason to use the green button. Yup, they got their shit together by now -- which is unfortunate because we never got to take advantage of wayward meals being sent to us. We also found out too late that they finally got their liquor license (which they hadn't finalized at the beginning of the Mock Service week), otherwise we'd have definitely picked something stronger than the usual caffeinated sugar water.

After both screenings, I'd move around and sit in various seats to see which ones were better or worse. Turns out, they're all good EXCEPT the left and right side of the front row -- only the middle seats are good there, and even then, you're gonna want to recline it back a bit to get a good view. The side seats in the front row are bullshit, they're just as bad as if you sat in a similar seat at a multiplex, you're gonna have to tilt your head way up AND turn it at an angle. If I had paid $22-27 and ended up sitting there, I'd be pissed. Yeah, well what do you expect if you choose to sit front row to the side? I certainly wouldn't expect fuckin' Bowfinger seats, that's for sure.

I've seen Zombieland before and liked it, so I didn't mind my buddy asking to check it out. I was very disappointed to find out that he already knew about a particular cameo ahead of time, even though he's hardcore about avoiding spoilers. Me, I spoil everything and even I wouldn't spoil this one. After the movie, the servers gave us the mock check and a survey. This time we ordered Fish & Chips and a Chicken Piccata Sandwich; including two drinks each, it came out to about $37.

As we left the theater, I told my friend that I thought it was a nice experience. But even if I was back living the salad days and dropping green like DeNiro in Goodfellas, I don't think I'd frequent this establishment often. It's more like a once-in-a-while type of venture. Part of the fun of watching certain movies in a theater is watching them with an audience; like when Avatar comes out, I want to see that shit with a packed opening night crowd, not in what amounts to an intimate screening room. But then there are some movies that I don't want to take a chance with and end up watching with a bunch of noisy jackasses; I still remember going to see Far from Heaven at my local AMC and having to deal with a couple of cunty yentas who not only refused to shut the fuck up, they then had the nerve to declare out loud "THIS MOVIE WAS TERRIBLE" as the end credits barely came up. Something like that or There Will Be Blood I'd see at a joint like this.

And even if I did go again, I'm not sure I'd order food. Tasty as it might be, the portions are too small for the price they're charging, plus, it can be a little distracting trying to work with food more, uh, substantial than a hot dog or nachos or something. A visit to Gold Class would make a nice gift, though; treat your sweetheart or your mom to something like this and not only will it make them feel good, it'll also work toward justifying your assholishness towards them the other 364 days of the year.

I told my friend all of this, and he responded by telling me that the Alamo Drafthouse was better and cheaper. The End.