5 Ways to Waste Summer
By George Rose
August 25, 2019
Something isn’t aligning in the stars these days. It’s almost the end of summer and what do we have to show for it except a handful of Disney success stories and a landfill worth of box office flops. The easy excuse for this is that Hollywood isn’t producing quality films but that isn’t the case as even well-reviewed films struggle to find their place. It’s easy to blame the producers, and if not them then we blame the theaters because it costs almost $20 a ticket and that’s just madness. Popcorn and soda costs another $20 and before you know it, you’ve spent almost $100 to go on a date that consists of a crappy movie and crappier food. For the price of one of those tickets, I can stay home and subscribe to Netflix. Isn’t that another excuse I’ve been using, that Netflix is ruining the film industry?
Except, there’s nobody to blame but me. To combat the idea of costly film viewing, theaters now offer membership programs where you can pay $25 a month to see almost all the movies you want. I signed up for that when it was called MoviePass last year and I traded up once that fizzled for the most amazing package deal of all, AMC’s A-List program. For under $25, I can see three movies a week AND they can be IMAX, 3D or both. Sounds great, right? Except, the nearest AMC is 15 minutes away. That’s not bad, right? Well, it wouldn’t be if I didn’t like ONE FREAKING MILE away from a Regal Cinemas.
As I have worked at AMC Theaters in my teenage years, I have a sense of loyalty towards them. After moving a few years ago and landing right next to a Regal that loyalty has been tested. When AMC released their A-List plan, it was enough of a financial savings that the extra drive was worth the “free” tickets. Then I started to notice I wasn’t actually seeing as many movies anymore, because it was no longer a quick two hour break at the movies like at the nearby Regal. Sure, a monthly fee is cheaper than ala carte tickets, discounted food and concession line fast passes are great, and loyalty to a certain company is considerate (if not a wasted concept on a major corporation), but the simple fact remains: there is nothing more important in this world than time.
I have no time. I have two other jobs I enjoy and all three of my jobs require a delicate juggling act. At the end of the day, I wish I could go to AMC all the time but it’s down the turnpike, which comes with tolls and traffic and headaches. So I have the AMC A-List and I don’t really use it. Regal FINALLY announced their own competitive plan but theirs doesn’t allow for IMAX or 3D, which I require if I’m going to spend money on the big screen experience. So for basically a year I’ve been collateral damage in the war between MoviePass vs AMC vs Regal, all while the suits upstairs would have us believe Netflix is the culprit. I invested heavily into this battle for a long time, and while that war was raging on there’s been that other pink elephant trampling about Hollywood: Disney’s dominance. And even that is coming to an end after 2019 since they are blowing their wad on a year packed with their biggest potential hits (Aladdin, Lion King, Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: Episode 9, Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2). After 2019 ends, what do we even have to look forward to?
What I now find myself left with is a divide in local theaters (convenience vs loyalty vs subscription plans), a divide in quality product (Disney vs everyone else), and a growing sense of depression regarding my once beloved industry (youthful hope vs older bitterness vs realistic acceptance of evolution). It’s left the whole Hollywood game just a little less captivating. Throw into the mix the need to have more fun during the summer months and what you have now is a columnist who has enjoyed other avenues of entertainment outside the regular box office releases. I haven’t written as much because in one hand I’m super busy and in the other I just don’t care about Hollywood right now. But why should my lack of interest in movies lately mean less time talking to you folks?
It shouldn’t. Box Office Prophets is more than just about the box office. Everyone that loves movies also loves other forms of entertainment, right? We all know BOP loves The Amazing Race on TV and writes about that. BOP does trivia posts and has interest in celebrity outside of just film. We love entertainment! And with just a few weeks of summer fun left, maybe it would interest you to know what entertaining ways I have spent occupying my time. If not, I’ll see you in a few weeks when the next interesting release (IT: Chapter 2) hits theaters. For those of you that also find yourselves in a rut and are looking to branch out a bit, here are the 5 Ways that I have wasted my summer with non-box office related entertainment.
5) THE FIX (Netflix)
Shocking that someone that hates Netflix’s involvement in the demise of Hollywood like me has found something to enjoy on the service, right? I still haven’t fully adapted to the new streaming service medium and have trouble investing in bingeable shows, but I do have Netflix because I love standup comedy specials and nobody does that better than the big N. Through countless specials I have come across my new favorite comedian, Katherine Ryan. Her first one was released in 2017 and is a wild, sassy, hilarious good time. I’ve seen it no less than a dozen times. Her second special was just released this year and I’m also loving it more and more with each viewing. Netflix really needs to be pumping more out of her on at least a yearly basis.
This newfound obsession led me to searching her name on IMDb, which led me to discovering her contribution to a show called The Fix, also on Netflix. In this show she is one of four funny panelists that make up two teams, both trying to figure out the best and most comedic ways to solve society’s biggest problems. The host guides each team through discussion before taking an audience vote to determine the winner. The topics are controversial and relevant, while Katherine continues to impress as a talent worth watching in the years to come. She could very well be the next Amy Schumer and I hope to God we get to see her on the big screen one day. Now THAT would be a reason to get me back into the movies!
4) ASTRO BOT (PlayStation VR)
In my teenage years I worked three jobs at the same time. I was a lifeguard in the summer, while year round I worked at both the nearby AMC theater and also the closest Gamestop. This wasn’t because I loved working or that I financially required all three. I was a varsity swim captain, so lifeguarding was easy and came with a free pool membership. I worked at AMC because I wanted free tickets to movies and cheaper concessions, and the same applies to Gamestop. I love video games. Always have, always will. From the original Nintendo to Dreamcast to PS2 to Xbox to the everything each manufacturer has to offer. Except, the one medium not yet at the level I deem worthy is the new virtual reality craze. I heard the games are short and they’re not playable online with friends. Not yet, anyway. The technology will keep growing but I had sort of assumed it wasn’t on a playable level worth dropping $500 as a tag on to the current PS4.
Well a few months ago a coworker of mine undersold the hardware as “so much fun” so I said maybe one day it’ll be good enough to waste my money on. Not long after that my fiancé tried to quit smoking so he got prescribed Chantix. Anyone who has heard of that medication knows that nightmares are a side effect. What most people don’t know is that it also makes the patient a raging prick, an egotistical maniac, and someone that is so lucky I didn’t punch him in the face and call off the wedding. Seriously, my fiancé was a nightmare worse than any induced by the medicine itself. He swore it was newfound clarity, not the medicine. We fought a bunch and the longer I stuck by his side, the more I resented him for being on that crazy pill. Then he stopped taking it. Then his brain went back to normal. Then he realized he was actually a monster that whole time and felt super terrible about it. Then he bought me the PlayStation VR.
He doesn’t play video games but he is easily swayed by anything YouTube tells him is cool, so he wanted to try the VR. We went to Gamestop, picked one up and started playing. HOLY. FKING. SH*T. My friend really did undersell this system. It’s not “so good.” It’s breathtaking. It’s revolutionary. It’s freaking incredible. Sure, it’s not at the full playability level of a normal system, but if this is the appetizer before the main course to come in a few years when the technology allows it to work with online gameplay, then SIGN ME UP!
Of the games currently available, Astro Bot is essentially the equivalent to Super Mario. It’s a platformer with the most extraordinary visuals, unexpectedly intricate puzzles and plenty of charm. As Mario and Nintendo are usually the ones breaking new ground in gaming (Super Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, Super MARIO 3DS and Mario Odyssey being some of the greatest leaps forward), I’m surprised that Astro Bot gets the credit for leading the charge into VR. If Astro Bot is the dummy version of what Mario will do with the tech in the next decade, then get ready for that plumber to melt your brain because Astro Bot has already blown my mind. And while that cute little Bot may never overtake Mario’s throne as the best platformer around, it’s definitely enough to make me forgive and forget those horrible few months that my fiancé went crazy.
3) BIG BROTHER (CBS)
Before meeting my fiancé over four years ago I had only ever heard of Big Brother. It’s sort of like Amazing Race and Survivor, in that they have been on TV for decades but not many people seem to be talking about them. Those that do watch, however, are OBSESSED! Well, now that’s me and Big Brother. To show my lover that I’m willing to take on some of his interests, I gave the show a shot. CBS throws 16 strangers into a house, forcing them to live and compete together all summer long as they vote each other out until only one is left to claim the $500,000 prize. It’s more than just a competition and definitely more than just a reality show. It’s social terrorism at its finest, full of backstabbing and drama and excitement and surprises, and it teaches you little side tricks to help you within your own complicated life.
The real catch here is that it airs THREE TIMES A WEEK all summer long. It’s a massive investment but well worth the trip if you have the time. As someone struggling with time, even I can cram in three hours a week for this joyous experience. Sure, I don’t have time for friends and I can barely write anymore, but by golly am I having a blast watching the show. This is my fourth summer watching and I already feel like a lifelong super fan. People have started telling me that I’d be perfect for the show (I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult) and I’m starting to seriously consider it. Once this season wraps and applications go out for next year, I’ll be signing up with fingers crossed. So if next summer you also notice I’m not as present as usual, it’s because I’m living with 15 strangers trying to fight my way to fame and fortune. I’ll be counting on all of you for your support, wink wink!
2) THE BOYS (Amazon Prime)
I really, really don’t have the time or the energy to sift through and watch all those shows people rave about on tv, especially the bingeable ones. Aside from Big Brother, I can do maybe one episode of a few different shows each week. These streaming services releasing a batch of shows is too stressful for me because nobody talking about them at the water cooler are on the same episode. That’s basically what streaming services rob from the general public, the ability to know we are all on the same episode at the same time and have a nice long week to discuss each hour with our friends. There’s just too much content now and not enough time to digest it all. Yet somehow through all the noise one show did fall on my radar and I thank the heavens it did.
I only have Amazon Prime for the shopping benefits. Free with Prime is their video service, which includes The Boys. I love superheroes (Marvel for life!), and although I enjoyed The Umbrella Academy on Netflix for the few episodes I did manage to watch, no show this year has taken over my life quite like The Boys. It’s sort of like the Watchmen comic and movie, in that it begs to you wonder what superheroes are really like and who is watching them in case they act a fool, except it’s not as dark in tone. It’s as if Marvel produced their own version of that concept, and went completely off-brand by making it an R-rated clusterf**k of gruesome death and sexual overtones. It also follows the path of a survivor of collateral damage at the hands of these heroes, and how that person can fight back against the false gods.
From the very first scene of the first episode I was hooked as the Quicksilver of this universe runs straight through a bystander, exploding her corpse onto her loving boyfriend. This unapologetic take on the genre doesn’t stop there and continues breaking expectations at every turn, all while keeping the humor alive and well in this cynical reimagining of what we consider heroism. It’s the most realistic version of what we could actually expect if there was dawn of super humans, and while I fear living in that world it’s a breath of fresh air watching it on tv. If this is the sort of quality entertainment we can expect from Amazon, then we may have finally found the champion that could one day overthrow the dark lord Netflix.
1) DEAD BY DAYLIGHT (Xbox One)
Oh the countless hours I’ve wasted this summer on Dead By Daylight. Much like the box office, video games have found a way to retain customers by unleashing monthly subscription plans. No longer do we need to go to GameStop and buy video games; today we can pay the low price of $10 to to have access to around 100 games through Xbox Game Pass. Some are old, some are new. When the price of a brand new game is $60, there’s a lot of pressure on developers to make quality product and even more pressure on consumers to purchase wisely. We can always wait a few months to get games on sale for more like $20-30, but you really can’t beat $10 a month to play dozens and dozens of games after a simple download.
One of the titles currently on Game Pass is Dead By Daylight, which is more than your average game. Oh no, it’s a movie experience. Every now and then Hollywood and video games collide. Most times it’s a thrown-together mess that tries to capitalize on a film’s release. This time, one developer gained the rights to several horror franchise characters to make something bigger than just one film. One killer and four survivors enter a map. If the killer slays all the survivors, they win. If the survivors can power up five generators and open the escape door, they win. The more everyone contributes to the match, the more points they get. Points buy perks, which give you advantages and powers that kick the action up a notch. But there’s more, so so much more!
Some of the familiar villains are Ghostface, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and more but they aren’t what make the game scary. Oh yes, the game is scary. If you’re a survivor, you have to sneak quietly around the map without making noises that alert the enemy. Once the killer notices you and the hunt begins, the survivor’s heartbeat grows increasingly fast and loud with every step closer the masked madman gets to you. Before you know it, the sounds of splattered blood splash into your ears as you try to sprint away after suffering the initial attack. If you get hit a second time, you fall to the ground. By this point I would have literally screamed a few times and woken up my fiancé (it’s best to play at night in the dark), but there’s still hope. The killer hangs you from a hook, giving your friends a chance to save you and the killer a chance to use you as bait.
So many games these days that are about movies are tasteless marketing ploys that provide the most subpar re-enactments of the film. A few are really good re-enactments of the film. Then there’s Dead By Daylight, which doesn’t just cater to one horror film but to the entire genre. Fans of all fright films can join, with no story or plot to distract from the main point of the whole fad: fear. We like to be scared and we want to learn how to survive in case an attack does occur in real life. Sure, there won’t be five generators needing power before I can escape from my two bedroom apartment, but it gives me a sense of heightened reflexes and is toughening the emotional instability I experience when screaming like a little girl because I noticed a scary mask in the distance. And even if it doesn’t help me with real life attacks, it does give me the closest sensation I have felt to feeling like I am in an actual horror movie.
When I get home a few nights a week around 11pm after a long work day, I’m too tired and emotionally drained to sit and write about the depressing state of the film industry. These days, I find myself enjoying a few quick, mindless rounds in horror game heaven. My fiancé doesn’t understand the point it, claiming it’s a lot like the superhero movies I watch. He says, “It’s all about finding the place to get the thing so you can get to the next place to get the thing to kill the bad guy, so then what?” I said movies and games are a lot like a cold, frosted beer on a hot summer day. There is no point, it’s just a lot of fun. And if we aren’t having fun watching movies or playing games, then what’s the point?
Maybe I should be running home to write instead of running from digital villains. Maybe I shouldn’t be running from Hollywood and it’s inevitable demise. Or maybe it won’t die, it’ll just evolve. Maybe I will too. I put so much stress on myself whenever I run late writing an article, so much so that I might go two or three weeks without writing because, 1) I’m embarrassed I’m late so I go into hiding, which is crazy because I always end up writing again, or 2) because for two or three weeks there aren’t any movies I care about. Dora and the Lost City of Gold? Good Boys? Angel Has Fallen? Is this really the crap August has to offer? It’s no wonder I keep going dark. But maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should evolve, like Hollywood, and find other avenues of entertainment. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that passion again that drives me to write more regularly instead of hiding in my dark apartment, running from the killers of Hollywood’s legendary past.
It’s time I start changing things up. I can’t be expected to write the standard 5 Ways to Prep articles each week if Hollywood won’t hold up its end of the bargain by regularly releasing interesting films. I’m not sure what future articles will hold but for the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to finding out. If Big Brother has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. From now on you should too.