I go to a lot of movies. A lot. I try to get to the theater at least a few times a week – usually more – because that’s how these pictures were made to be seen. Moviepass allows me to see a new movie every 24 hours at participating theaters for a reasonable monthly fee (this is not an advertisement, but if you want to sign up I can send you my code), so I try to take as much advantage of that as I possibly can. Sometimes it leads me to diamonds in the rough that I might otherwise not see due to monetary constraints and sometimes it leads me to Dirty Grandpa – you win some, you lose some. So when I saw the mostly-positive reviews of Ip Man 3 (and the fact that it co-stars Mike Tyson) that was enough reason for me to check it out. Thanks to the eclectic demographics of Los Angeles even a more obscure foreign film such as Ip Man 3 can find a release somewhere in the city or its outlying areas. I just didn’t realize exactly where this one would be until it was too late.
The closest and most convenient (to the Unnamed High School in South Central) Ip Man 3 option that accepts Moviepass is the AMC Atlantic Times Square 14 in Monterey Park. It’s a bit of a drive from the school, but not as far as some of my other options – a second sequel about a kung fu master just isn’t much of a guaranteed hit these days. Now I’ve never been to the AMC Atlantic Times Square 14 (again with the long theater names) or Monterey Park, but I had a vague conception of it being “east.” So I hop on the 10 and start driving. And driving. And all of a sudden this situation is feeling very familiar. I’ve seen this exit before. Oh no. Oh god. This is Alhambra.
I take a wrong turn here – I turn right instead of turning left, and it’s like I’m in a time machine. Here’s the familiar overpass archway announcing this city as the “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley.” Here are the same sad streets. And here is the whole lot of nothing to do. How did this happen? How did I not know? Are Alhambra and Monterey Park just different names for the same city?
Well, by now I realize my mistake. I turn my car around as fast as I can and am quickly relieved to see a sign announcing my arrival in the separate territory of Monterey Park. The mood immediately changed. I’m pretty sure the clouds parted and the sun came out for the first time that day. I faintly heard the sounds of an angels’ chorus. The two cities are right next to each other and I hope they don’t have a rivalry, because Alhambra wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Just pulling up to the theater I found myself astounded by how invigorating a real parking garage can be. And the multiplex itself, so well-maintained. Plus, these bigger, newer AMC’s all have actual food – the perfect opportunity to load up before a long run later in the night. I order up some chicken tenders, and they take an absurdly long time to prepare, but these big theaters show like 20 minutes of trailers – I’ll be fine.
I’m not fine. I get in 15 minutes after the scheduled showtime to find an action scene already in progress. What? How much have I missed. I still don’t know, even now. I only got into the Ip Man series a few days earlier, but that doesn’t mean I want to miss any of the movie. That was a real disappointment, but I was able to quickly catch up with the fact that, after years of poverty, China is back to a period of prosperity – Ip’s (Donnie Yen) Wing Chun school is at the top of the kung fu game in Hong Kong and our titular hero is still a somewhat neglectful husband. Well the movie is going to make him pay for that, as his wife (Lynn Hung) is diagnosed with cancer just as a new outsider crime boss (Mike Tyson) tries to clear a path for himself in the city.
The action choreography is characteristically strong, and the cinematography is the best it’s ever been in the series. The movie is hindered by a lot of excessive emotional moments that Yen doesn’t necessarily keep up with, but the rest of the plot is complex enough that you can’t really get ahead of the specifics of the narrative (though interesting threads concerning the encroachment of malicious foreigners are dropped abruptly and never heard from again by the third act). Even Tyson isn’t that bad, though his hopping-around fight style is kind of baffling, as are the five or six random lines of his that have obviously been dubbed over in Chinese by another actor. It’s not a great movie, but it has some really cool sequences.
It would have been a fun experience had it not been for the rest of the audience. There were latecomers throughout, but that wasn’t even too distracting. The real problems were the people constantly checking their phones and carrying on conversations during the entire film. I even had to move my seat, which is something I almost never do out of stubbornness and pride (and laziness). This was an audience with no respect for cinema, which is something I rarely run into in the greater Los Angeles area – even at a big chain like this one. Combine that with the extra-long wait for food and I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth (not literally – those chicken tenders are good).
So how did I feel about the AMC Atlantic Times Square 14? There was some good and there was some bad, but ultimately I came away with positive feelings because at least I wasn’t in Alhambra. Three out of five cell phones in a movie theater: