Tuesday was the day of the Quad Challenge. It was overcast and cool at 9:35 am at the start and solid rain by the 5 pm end. For those of you who may not remember, the Quad Challenge is the annual finale of Tuesday Movie Day with the twist that you must view 4 movies in one day on one ticket. Last year was exciting, eluding the many friendly employees of the AMC Theater, who had apparently just completed customer service training and made a point of greeting you as you exited the movie or passed them in the hallway. No such pressure this year. A few random employees appeared after each film to clean the theatres, but I had the distinct feeling that I was not the only one of the patrons who had settled in for a day at the movies. Benches outside the theaters invite you to sit down, check your smartphone and plan your next move right out in the open. Was I the only furtive one, sneaking into bathrooms and plotting my next move from the privacy of a bathroom stall?
My grand plan fell apart right after the 9:35 Arthur Christmas. Although I had doublechecked the newspaper that morning, my 11:00 pick --Young Adult-- was nowhere to be found. My iPhone wasn't connecting, so I just had to improvise. I picked War Horse as the second flick and enjoyed it. I haven't seen the play, but the movie is a sentimentalized account of an extraordinary horse named Joey, raised on a farm by an English boy and sold by the father to the army for WW1 service when the family runs into financial hardship. The story traces Joey's adventures and owners from a British officer to a young French girl to an empathetic German private in charge of the horses. The movie is based on a children's book and maintains that point of view. Joey is highly anthropomorphized, feeling emotions, sacrificing for a fellow horse and nobly suffering and triumphing. It still has an emotional punch and emphasizes the humanity of soldiers as pawns of war. Spielberg reportedly filmed the movie to evoke the great old westerns of John Ford and a Hollywood era of old. The red sky over the homestead in the final scene did remind me of the end of Gone with the Wind.
Next choices were limited, so yes, I actually stepped into the theater for Mission Impossible III. I haven't seen an action film in a long time, so I had very low expectations and ended up liking it. The plot has huge gaping holes, and enough car chases, explosions and mayhem to hold me over for all of 2012, but the bits of humor were entertaining and the gadgets were interesting. What hooked me in the beginning was a Russian prisoner named Bogdan (my cousin's name) so I had to stick it out to see how he would fare. The tech guy was funny; newcomer Paula Patton was hot, and Jeremy Renner (the Hurt Locker) was fine as the last team member, led by Tom Cruise, flexing his carved pecs, freeclimbing 100 story glass buildings in Dubai and similar crazy stunts. I thought it a little odd that the initial scenario is US vs Russia again, seemed a little Cold War-ish, but then we get the Dubai and India connections. Don't know if I'll be lining up for MI4, but the ending dropped a few lines to set up the sequel.