Whenever I'm looking for a movie in the theater, I check to see if it's playing at The Empire down in West Portal. The theater isn't much better than the other fine independent theaters in the Bay Area, but its proximity to the Bull's Head restaurant makes it a priority.
Have you noticed the lack of good dinner places by most theaters in San Francisco? Ever see something at the Embarcadero on the weekend and have to choose between Taco Bell and 7-11? Or get the horrible slice of pizza across from the Balboa? Or take the long walk from the Bridge to the Lucky Penny? Kinda kills the dinner and a movie date idea for San Francisco.
Sure, there's Tommy's Joint by the AMC on Van Ness, but then you're stuck with Adam Sandler or Colin Ferrell. There's Escape From New York Pizza on Haight near the Red Vic, but it's not a great place to be on a first date, unless you want to give the impression that you're really broke. 16th Street has the Roxie, but the programming there is not the usual date fare, unless you have an unusual date. The Metreon, The Lumiere, and The Opera Plaza cinemas are all stuck in the middle of "I'd Rather Go Hungry" Land.
Some of you think maybe you can drive from one place to another, and visit entirely different neighborhoods. But the problem with most San Francisco eateries is that they shut down the kitchens at 9pm, which makes it impossible to see the 7pm film then get to dinner. So if you want the movie first, you have to go at 5 pm. Often with a dinner first, and transportation and parking time, You're lucky to make the 11pm movie, which gets out at 1am. All very awkward for people in the early stages of dating.
The Empire, though, is right down the street from the Bull's Head, the home of my favorite burger in town. Nothing quite like loading up on a half pound of ground buffalo before a flick. There's also the Squat & Gobble, but I can't bear to eat there when there is the wonderland of meat so nearby. Afterwards, there is plenty of coffee and tea to put a top on the meal before the film. And if you are the kind of person to sneak in your own snacks, there is a Walgreen's wilth all kinds of munchies nearby, though I neither endorse nor encourage violating theater rules.
On Saturday afternoon, I went to see The Illusionist. I had the half pounder garlic burger with Buffalo meat. Not only is buffalo meat better for you than turkey or beef, it's also better for you than ostrich. Yep, it says so right there on the menu.
The movie was a little odd, since magic tricks filmed just always look like special effects, not actual illusions. Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti give great performances in a mediocre film. I'd recommend it for a matinee viewing: it's smart, but not too heavy so that it'll warp your day. When it first came out, I saw Requiem for a Dream at noon, and when I got out at 2pm, the rest of the day had a bizarre filter over it.
The only drawback to the whole day was I ended up sitting right behind an old lady who, it seemed, brought her plastic bag collection to sort while she was watching the film. There was constant rustling throughout the entire movie. There were lots of seniors there, some of whom loudly explained to their neighbor exactly what had just happened moments before. I think I was one of five people in the theater under sixty.
Feel free to email me with your dinner and a movie combos, I'm sure I'm missing something, or maybe you have a secret spot.
Pick of the Week
Is it weird to recommend two ventriloquist movies in a row? I'm having to do this, due to the lackluster films I saw this week. Some were good, but not great. John Water's Cry-Baby is fun, but not as good as Hairspray or Pecker. Kinky Boots was fun but predictable. Pure was a good British junky film. The Don Delilo-penned Game 6 is worth a watch. I loved Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, but I really fell for Devil Doll just a wee bit more.
Devil Doll was recommended by Netflix after I put both Magic and The Great Gabbo in my queue. Sure, I thought, the more psychotic ventriloquists the merrier.
Executive producer Richard Gordon made his living importing and exporting horror films between the United States and England. He also took his turn at producing films as well. This DVD comes with both the international and domestic cuts of the film, as well as a really awesome commentary track by Gordon.
The film itself is about The Great Vorelli, who has a doll that not only talks up a storm, but can walk across the stage and is kept in a cage at night. Is it a trick? or is it frighteningly real? I won't give away the explanation, but I will tell you it is a beautiful nightmare of a film out of the 19 DVDs I have viewed in the last two weeks.
340 DVDs in 253 days. 160 DVDs left in the next 112 days for a pace of 9.99 per week. I was a little ahead, but because of the day without mail, lost a DVD so now I'm back to the 10 minimum. I should have a couple of DVDs coming on Monday, which is not the usual. So maybe I'll get ahead again.