'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,' 'Julie & Julia,' 'A Perfect Getaway'

They don't make double bills like they used to. I got in on the tail end of the double feature, which was a routine practice at second-run theaters until (at least) the early 80s. As a child my parents only took me to see one or two movies per year, so when I got to my teens and realized I could see two movies for the price of one, I became an addict (my all-time favorite double bill: Excalibur and The Howling). Nowadays you have to create your own double feature, and be willing to pay separate admission fees for each movie. Add in the cost of concessions, which is hard to avoid if you're at a theater for more than four hours, and the price can get out of hand.

Multiplexes don't make it easy to watch movies back-to-back, either, staggering their showtimes to maximize the number of screenings per day, accommodate the sharing of film prints in more than one auditorium, and so forth. All that is understandable from their standpoint, and doesn't present a problem if you're only seeing one movie at a time. But when I'm trying to catch up with several releases that I've missed, it gets to be a big challenge. Let me give you an example.

To varying degrees, I wanted to see all three movies that opened in wide release on Friday (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Julie & Julia, and A Perfect Getaway), ideally one after the one at the first available opportunity, which, for me, was during the day on Saturday.


So I had to study carefully the screening schedules of nearby multiplexes, taking into account the running times of each movie and allowing for approximately 15 minutes of pre-show trailers. One multiplex is best, obviously, because it saves on time (and personal wear and tear), but I've dashed to two or more theater complexes in a single day.

I like to use Google; just type "movie: city, state" (or "movie: zip code") into the search engine, and local showtimes appear in a text-only format that's easy to scan and compare. I couldn't work out a schedule to watch the movies in preferred order that didn't involve waiting around the multiplex lobby for more than an hour between screenings, but finally figured out how to see all three with a minimum of wasted time, and at the least possible cost.

Meryl Streep in 'Julie & Julia'Arriving just before 10:30 a.m., I bought my three tickets at the outdoor kiosk; which didn't print one of them. (The customer service attendant seemed surprised when I expressed concern, assuring me I could simply show my receipt if anyone asked.) I bought a bottle of water and a large popcorn, walked straight into my first movie, Julie & Julia, and joined the middle-aged and older crowd in laughing throughout the cooking comedy.

My reaction was slightly more favorable than that of Jette Kernion, probably because I'm such a huge fan of Meryl Streep, especially when she's sweet and funny. I noticed, though, that the "mature folks" in the audience treated the theater like their own living room, feeling free to talk to their neighbors about what they were seeing. "Oh, look, is that Sally Field! Oh, no, I guess not." No cell phones, at least.

Kiele Sanchez in 'A Perfect Getaway'I left before the credits had finished rolling and arrived during the trailers, just before A Perfect Getaway began. About the same number of people were in the auditorium as for Julie & Julia -- maybe 15 or 20? -- but almost everyone at that 12:50 p.m. show was sitting by themselves, lone figures in the shadows, myself included. That meant no talking during the movie! And no cell phones! Yay! Just a bunch of lonely single people, watching a suspense thriller about a happy couple being stalked by a psycho-killing couple. Wish fulfillment? I don't want to say.

The movie was not the greatest, as well-described by William Goss in his review, but had one really fine, extended scene, in which writer/director David Twohy let his words tumble out of the mouth of Milla Jovovich in the form of a great story, and that's really what I've come to expect from Twohy. His movies have been slightly above average, though not as good as they could be and too dependent on a twist that's not as clever as it might have sounded originally. Yet he conjures up individual moments that transcend their surroundings. The twist this time was one that I anticipated, yet still relished in the unveiling and delivery.

Sienna Miller in 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra'At the beginning, I wasn't sure I'd have the energy or desire to sit through G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but I fueled up on a hot dog and a free refill of my large popcorn, and I was good to go. Conveniently, the theater was directly across the hall from A Perfect Getaway, so I got a decent seat and settled in for the 2:45 p.m. screening.

I don't have much to add to what Todd Gilchrist and Scott Weinberg have already written in their reviews; I love outlandish action sequences, probably more than the next guy, but director Stephen Summers has never been particularly gifted at shooting action that flows in a cohesive or graceful way. Watching G.I. Joe is like riding a wildly bucking bronco for 118 minutes: yes, it's quite a ride, but you're happiest when it's over.

My day at the multiplex cost me $20.00 in tickets ($5.00 for the early show before noon on the weekends, $7.50 matinee price for each of the two afternoon screenings), plus an additional $15.00 in concession stand purchases.

I can't afford to create my own multiplex triple bill every week, but once a month or so, it's a pleasant way to spend the day. Next time, I think I'll forgo the popcorn, smuggle in some beef jerky -- and head to the art houses.