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Friday, 30 November 2012


I like me a good puzzle.

Not necessarily those brain teasers that threaten to drive a person crazy. I'll try those from time to time, but I'm usually driven crazy before I solve them.

No, more than anything I mean I like fitting things together so they just plain work. And one "recent" (almost five years ago) example of that was the seating arrangements for our wedding.

That was my responsibility, and I attacked it with gusto. I loved the challenge of taking a group of disparate guests (nearly 100) and dividing them up so that each table included the perfect blend of similar personalities, and at least one really gregarious person who could help get everyone talking. The key was working out the whole table, not just eight of the ten seats. The final results of my mixing and matching left me with a much greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction than such a task probably should have.

The Mission Tiki Drive-In needs someone like me.

With many fewer variables to consider, they've done an absolute shit job figuring out which movies should fit with which this week.

As I may have told you before, I get a weekly email from Mission Tiki telling me which movies are paired for double features on which screens. They've probably made some bad pairings before, but this week's pairings are particularly egregious.

The only prominent new movie opening today is Killing Them Softly, which joins a slate of seven returning movies: Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph, Flight, Twilight: BDP2, Taken 2, Rise of the Guardians and Red Dawn.

Now, if you want a little challenge of your own, take a minute to pair off these eight movies in the ways you think would be smartest.

When you do so, keep in mind that this drive-in theater does not let you switch screens between the two features. I should know, as discussed here.

Therefore, also keep in mind that both movies should be appropriate for the same audiences to watch. I'm sure there are some people who come to watch only a single movie and then leave, but you're paying for two movies, so they should arrange it so you can see both of them. (Actually, you're paying only $7 for adults and $1 for kids from 5-9, with those under 5 free, so the price is justified for only watching a single movie. Still, that's no fun, and it's not how the movies are advertised.)

Have you made your selections?

I'll show you mine in a minute, but let me first show you theirs. The first movie listed below plays twice, both before and after the second movie, to accommodate the late-arriving crowd.

Killing Them Softly with Skyfall
Wreck-It Ralph with Twilight
Rise of the Guardians with Flight
Red Dawn with Taken 2

If the problem with this arrangement doesn't immediately jump out at you, let me give you a little assist.

Three of these pairings are basically fine. Not ideal, but fine.

The fourth is an outrage.

I'm talking about Rise of the Guardians and Flight.

(And very minor spoilers about Flight are about to follow.)

Guardians is rated PG. But since it's an animated movie, you wouldn't be surprised if some parents assumed it was rated G. Meaning it would be suitable for their youngest possible tots. And believe me, there are always plenty of young tots at this drive-in.

Flight? R. R for Restricted.

R for full frontal nudity and cocaine use in the first five minutes.

That's right, all you lovers of the female flesh -- in the first five minutes of Flight, you see Nadine Velazquez, erstwhile cast member on My Name is Earl and The League, boobs and bush front. (You see her butt, too, but that's comparatively quaint.)

Actually, forget what I said about five minutes. You see this in the first one minute of the movie.

Not long after that, major movie star Denzel Washington leans over a glass table and snorts a couple lines of cocaine.

So even if parents were savvy about the rating and prospective content of Flight, and even if they were hurrying to pack up their kids and leave before the next movie started, there's a decent chance those kids would be exposed to pubic hair and drugs before their parents even had a chance to do anything about it.

And any parents know that you can't pack up your kids to leave somewhere in only a minute or two. Especially if you've got coolers out and a half-dozen kids running around like maniacs, you're looking at ten or 15 minutes.

What's more, it's one thing to know that an R-rated movie is coming on, and what it may contain. It's another thing to be assaulted by the movie's kid-unfriendly elements while the opening credits are still rolling.

And then of course there are all those parents who don't know what Flight's about, and will be just sitting there, blissfully watching the second movie, until all the sudden, a 40-foot vagina is staring them in the face.

Someone needs to put a stop to this before the first show tonight, methinks. At least it's raining in Los Angeles, so perhaps Mother Nature will step in where stupid human beings either can't or won't.

The thing is, this should be easy enough to fix.

And now we've come to the part of our program where you and I compare notes on our own pairings for these eight movies. This is what I came up with:

Flight of the Guardians with Wreck-It Ralph
Red Dawn with Twilight
Killing Them Softly with Flight
Skyfall with Taken 2

The first pairing is so obvious, it should have hit them over the head with something heavy. You have two animated movies with very little scandalous content. Put them together on the same bill.

The second seems pretty obvious as well. These are the two movies featuring primarily casts of late teenagers/early twentysomethings. I'm sure there's a fair amount of angst in both. Not to mention that both of the damn movies have the word "dawn" in their titles. (A little on-the-nose? I don't care, I like it.)

The remaining four movies could probably be divided up in almost any fashion. In fact, I was tempted to pair Skyfall and Flight, just because of their similar titles.

But when you look a little closer, a more logical configuration does present itself. There are two PG-13 movies here, and two R movies. Just match up the two R movies, you idiots.

Last week they weren't smoking this much crack. Killing Them Softly replaced Hotel Transylvania, which finally finished an improbably long run that would have started in late September. Transylvania had been matched up with Guardians. Ralph was with Twilight -- not perfect, but at least the younger audiences probably aren't going to be scarred for life by anything that happens in Twilight. Flight was with Taken 2 (that's fine) and Red Dawn was with Skyfall (that's also fine). There are some Rs mixed in with some PG-13s, but I don't really think that line of demarcation means what it used to mean.

Who knows why they got soft in the head this week.

Now, I don't want to rule out the possibility that there's some kind of profit algorithm they use to determine what goes with what. Maybe strong performers only go with strong performers, or maybe just the opposite -- maybe strong performers need to prop up weak performers. (Though I don't know how you can accurately determine which movie is responsible for a double feature performing well.) Or maybe there's a newness variable, or maybe there's some kind of variable to determine which movie needs to be shown first. After all, if you match the two animated movies, you are pushing the start time of Wreck-It Ralph back to 9:30. Maybe they've witnessed the exodus of cars from the lot after the first movie ends, and they know that most of the tykes clear out after the first movie anyway.

But even just the risk of incurring the anger of dozens of parents, for whom Nadine's "special area" was never part of their evening plans, seems like a good reason to throw that algorithm out the window. At least for one week.

At this point I should admit that protecting kids at the drive-in from things they shouldn't see is an imperfect science to begin with. All you have to do is rotate your head to watch any one of the other three movies. You can see all four screens from almost any vantage point (though the other three would be farther away and therefore harder to make out clearly). The drive-in logistics department just assumes you're going to want to keep your eyes trained on the screen of the movie whose sound is also playing on your FM dial. But if you're talking about a young kid, that's not a safe assumption. If you're a young kid whose attention easily wanders, his/her eyes might easily and unwittingly wander to Nadine Velazquez' crotch. 

At least in that case it would be a random occurrence, not part of our regularly scheduled program.

Of course, they could solve some of these problems by just allowing people to switch theaters between movies. I've never quite understood why they're so strict about that. Except that it probably does have something to do with judging which movies are performing and which are starting to stink like old fish.

Besides, power-hungry assholes get off on being power-hungry assholes, and no, I'm not talking about those guys who drove up to us in their golf cart to prevent us from switching screens to see Hall Pass after we'd finished Battle: Los Angeles in March of last year.

And no, I'm not still bitter.

Though they could go a long way toward mending fences with me if they hired me as a "pairings consultant." I would do it for a very modest fee: $25 a week.

If they're looking for referrals, I offer for their consideration the hundred happy guests at my wedding. 

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