Over the past week, I’ve twice visited the UA Emery Bay, a once-popular multiplex I used to patronize regularly. But this was my first visit there in maybe a decade. On Saturday, I caught Side Effects there. Tuesday night, Silver Linings Playbook. I’ll tell you about the theater, and then the movies.
Built in the late 1980’s, the Emery Bay was the major multiplex of the Greater Berkeley Area (Berkeley, North Oakland, Albany, and Emeryville) for over a decade. Eight of its ten screens were (and still are) large enough for a true immersive experience if you sit near the front. It played both Hollywood and Indiewood fare. Among the films I saw there in its heyday were sex, lies, and videotape, Forrest Gump, Groundhog Day, The Fifth Element, Whale Rider, The Princess Diaries, The World Is Not Enough, and The Fellowship of the Ring. But not, I should point out, The Two Towers or The Return of the King.
Mind you, it was always a multiplex, with all of the negatives that word entails. It existed to get people into and out of the theater, and to expose them to advertising before the feature. And the concession stand contained then and now little that I would want to eat. (One clear difference between an art house and a multiplex: Good coffee and tea vs. none at all.)
But in the early 21st century, AMC opened a larger, fancier multiplex in Emeryville, just a few blocks from the Emery Bay. It immediately got the bigger titles, and with them more customers. The Emery Bay, I suspect, lost a lot of business.
Which is a pity because in many ways it was and still is a nicer theater. Parking is free and plentiful. The screens are fixed height rather than fixed width, which allows the scope films to be immersive and the standard ones to be appropriately sized. I’ve yet to experience bad projection there, while I’ve experienced it often at the AMC. Both films I saw recently were well screened off Sony 4K digital projectors–without the problematic 3D lenses (which degrade 2D films). And although there’s little that’s attractive to eat, you’ll find a very nice food court across the parking lot.
One more thing: Go there on Tuesday and you get in cheap. $5 for 2D films; $8 for 3D.
The Emery Bay is no longer Emeryville’s king multiplex. But as the scrappy number two, it provides a nicer movie-going experience.
Now then, about the movies I saw:
A Side Effects
Writing about Side Effects without giving away spoilers is like dancing in a mine field. Make the wrong move and I ruin a wonderful experience. Steven Soderbergh’s latest and, according to him, last film is a physiological mystery about depression and prescription drugs. Except…well, I can’t really say more. Let me just say that it’s a puzzle well worth unraveling, with Jude Law as an overworked psychiatrist and Rooney Mara as a patient with some very good reasons for feeling depressed. The story has more plot twists than a really good Simpsons episode.
B Silver Linings Playbook
How can good actors give great performances as interesting characters, and come up so empty? Bradley Cooper plays Pat, recently released from a mental institution, despite his clearly still being a danger to himself and others. Friends match him up with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence in a role for which she deservedly received an Oscar), presumably because she’s also pretty crazy. Although the characters are complex, realistic, surprising, and ultimately likeable, the story is utter Hollywood cliché–right down to the dance competition (over-edited, as is almost all dancing in modern movies). With characters like these, the last thing you want is a everything-works-for-the-best happy ending, yet you see that coming a mile off.