Knee-jerk review: "Haywire"

1. Far be it from us to second-guess Steven Soderbergh. He's our favorite director and is mostly above reproach.
2. Look at this five-movie run: Out of Sight, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean's 11. Every one's a masterpiece. He's a genius.
3. A lot of critical chatter about the lack of acting chops for star Gina Carano (she's an MMA fighter by trade, not an actress). It didn't bother us. Whatever robotic, flat affect is present in her performance works for her character.
4. One of the coldest of cold-blooded murders we've ever seen.
5. The deer surprise is a bit much, agreed.
6. Like so many of Soderbergh's films, this one offers a master class in montage editing. So much is clearly conveyed through visuals, including some rather complex action sequences. Reminds us of the Billy Wilder bit about letting your audience connect the dots rather than spoon-feeding them.
7. Carano is pretty hot, but we're far too scared of her to ever say so.
8. So many people commit ruthless double-crosses that it's something of a surprise when some characters don't backstab one another.
9. We've been looking forward to this movie for a very long time, which is often a recipe for disappointment. We were not disappointed. It's essentially a Bourne movie with a pretty girl as Jason Bourne. And honestly, we think she could take Bourne out.

10. Strangely, we don't get a bad guy falling to his death. We thought that was a requirement of any reputable A-list action movie.
11. We still don't understand the appeal of Channing Tatum, but we figure Hollywood will keep pushing him.
12. Michael Douglas, silky smooth as always.
13. Got to love how Soderbergh casts his movies with these kinds of whimsical, "screw it" notions. He hires a porn star to be his lead in The Girlfriend Experience, then plucks from relative obscurity this MMA fighter to be his lead here. Dude has confidence.
14. Loved it.

"Air raid, freshmen!"

Any in-depth examination of Richard Linklater's 1993 classic Dazed and Confused is a Cheese Fry must-read. A brilliant, criminally underrated movie. And according to Flickchart, it's our favorite movie of all time.

Thank you, AV Club, for this essay.


"One adult, one child for Airplane 2."

We recently realized that all of the movie theaters of our youth, the ones attended on a regular basis by us and our father, are all long gone, torn down or reconfigured into some other kind of building. Northpark I and II, demolished. United Artists' Walnut Hill 6, now a pool hall. The General Cinema's Valley View, now a radio recording studio. Prestonwood 5, demolished. Northtown 6, reconfigured into something else.

Not that any of these were untouchable jewels. Back then, there was no such thing as stadium seating so the most you could hope for was a gentle sloping hill. And forget about aisles on the sides - most of those old theaters ran the aisle right down the middle, using up valuable audience real estate. THX sound systems were cutting-edge technology, the sort of thing you can now buy for your living room. As for fancy visuals, the big tentpole releases might come out in 70mm "at select theaters," as they say. Concessions were the big three: candy, popcorn, soda.

Thanks to the strange website Cinema Treasures, we stumbled upon the below movie ad newspaper clippings. Fascinating stuff if you're nostalgic 1980s nerds like us.

First, here's the Dallas AMC theaters. Judging by the movies, this is the late December 1982. Back then, movies played for a long, long time. Annie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and E.T. were all summer 1982 releases. We can't imagine a scenario today where a summer movie was still playing at Christmas time. Note the Peter Pan re-release. The home video era was only then starting to dawn - Disney's practice was to re-release its catalog of films every few years to take advantage of the new generation of kids.

The AMC Northtown 6 - no more than 10 minutes away from our ancestral home - plays a special role in Cheese Fry history. That's where we first saw Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. The theaters were small and boxy, stuck in a back corner of a rather lame 1970s mall anchored by a Woolworth's of all things and boasting those little pay booths were you could watch an old Woody Woodpecker cartoon for 25 cents. It's also the last theater that we can remember seeing the old-style skinny horizontal coming attraction movie posters.

Click on the image for a closer look.

And now here's a similar clipping for General Cinema theaters. This also looks to be late December 1982, though note the summer holdover An Officer and a Gentleman. Note also the lack of a PG-13 rating, which was still two years away.

The Valley View theaters were unusual in that they were downstairs. You'd buy your popcorn on the mall level, then walk down some (probably shag-carpeted) stairs to get to the auditoriums below. This was the mall the Cheese Fry grew up with, anchored by Sanger-Harris and Sears. It's in foreclosure now. You can't go home again, people.

Click on the image for a closer look.


Ask the Fry

For our six or seven regular readers out there, here's an opportunity to get involved and create some of that, you know, interactivity they always talk about. We want to hear from you. Have a question? A post idea? A complaint? Let us know.

E-mail us at: thecheesefry@gmail.com.



This year's version of the Sundance Film Festival, considered by Hollywood to be among the three or four most influential and important international film festivals, started this weekend. We've been lucky enough to attend the festival several times over the years and found it to be as memorable and surreal as you might imagine.

Our ruminations:

1. It can be bitterly cold in Utah, especially when walking the streets pre-dawn to go score tickets. We'd never before (or since) had the snot in our nose freeze into sharp little snot-crystals.

2. We'd also never seen snow so deep. What seemed to be level ground was actually, when we stepped onto it, a snow drift. We sank into right to our knees.

3. The desperate self-promoters and Hollywood wannabes come out in full force at Sundance, which can be especially amusing in the long ticket lines. Sundance releases a small reserve of tickets each morning, which is why you have to line up very very early at the box office. The characters you meet in that line would have you believe that are the Next Big Thing and know everyone who's everyone. But, of course, if they were truly connected they wouldn't be in line with you at 5:30am.

4. You could usually tell which people in line should not be told that we worked in the industry. The next thing you know, you'd be given a business plan for a Leonardo DiCaprio project that DiCaprio had probably never heard of and only needed 85% of the financing.

5. We tried to attend the infamous Sundance parties. Even with our name on the list, one party was so packed we couldn't even get up the steps to the front door. The other was so crowded, the bar was literally wall-to-wall people, crammed in elbow to elbow, each with a drink in their head. We think we had a small panic attack.

6. It's true. Everyone wears black.

7. Celebrity sightings are indeed very common, though we don't count the Q&A after movies when the actors and directors take the stage. We prefer seeing famous people in their natural habitat just out there walking around.

8. For some reason, the most memorable celebrity sighting: 1990s Lolita ingenue sex kitten Dominique Swain posing for fan pictures on the sidewalk.

9. No, we never saw Redford, though we heard he was in a theater we were in.

10. We saw The Blair Witch Project in the front row of a packed auditorium. Remember this was before the hype and the hype backlash. In 1999, it was the hot ticket - everyone was talking about this weird, creepy little movie. It was the scariest thing we'd ever seen.

11. If you plan it right, on a good day you can see five movies.

12. Foreign-langauge movies at Sundance invariably put us to sleep. Not sure why.

13. If you're looking for cheap fast food on a budget, Park City isn't the place to go. There's maybe one Subway and one Burger King.

14. We didn't know that ski resorts would illuminate the slopes so people could ski at night. Is that common? The whole side of a mountain was lit up bright as day.

15. Good luck making a meal reservation for your little indie production company. The stress level was off the charts. We don't miss that part of the job.

A-one and a-two

We hate ourselves for having this song stuck in our heads for 30 years thanks to the long-agoritual weekend viewing of this show by our grandmother. But then again, there is something soothing about it, in a 1970s Velveeta sort of way, don't you think? Life was simpler for the Cheese Fry when the biggest worry involved multiplication homework and deciding whether to pretend to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.


10 thoughts on the 69th Annual Golden Globes Awards

1. Meryl Streep? Seriously?
2. That whole move where the winner has to wind through the tables and chairs to get to the stage and keeps getting interrupted by someone who wants a hug or a kiss or a handshake has nothing to do with the winner and everything to do with the interrupter trying to steal some of the spotlight and look important and connected.
3. Is it us or did Ricky Gervais dial it back a little this year? He seemed a lot tamer. Pity.
4. What happened to Madonna's British accent?
5. Hollywood keeps trying to push Jessica Beil on us.
6. Dudes we wish we looked like (in no particular order): George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Eawn McGregor, Clive Owen.
7. That's not playing fair to Melissa McCarthy, sticking her next to Paula Patton.
8. Quote of evening, delivered by Mrs. Cheese Fry: "Please do not fast-forward George Clooney."
9. Interesting how some women age so gracefully and continue to look radiant, while others fight age tooth and nail and wind up looking so plastic and brittle. You know which is which.
10. Morgan Freeman will always be Easy Reader to us.


Cheese Fry posts you won't be seeing in 2012

2011 was a banner year for the Cheese Fry, with a whopping 80 posts. It was by far our most prolific year, thanks mostly to a very active September that involved numerous knee-jerks to the new fall TV shows (New Girl and Person of Interest, yes, we're still watching).

We're hoping for an equally prodigious 2012. We're not sure what pop culture ephemera will catch our eye, but we can guarantee it won't include these topics:

"The prequels are way better than the original trilogy"
"Hipsters taught us a valuable lesson about great music"
"Why we love the Kardashians"
"The joys of traffic gridlock"
"The day we won the Powerball $78 million lottery"
"Dallas Cowboys: undefeated"
"Knee-jerk review: the Twilight franchise DVD box set"
"We wish more people talked in movie theaters"
"Live blogging the People's Choice Awards"
"Justin Bieber is underrated"
"How 'Hawaii Five-O' accurately portrays genuine police work"

And the Oscar goes to

Ever wonder what an Oscar ballot looks like? Wonder no more. Thanks to GoldDerby.com