Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour

Since my main purpose for visiting LA was to celebrate Spaldy’s birthday, it was only fitting that we did something that she had been dying to do for years: go on the Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour.  Of course, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was also excited to go on this tour.

We got to the tour headquarters about a half-hour before our scheduled departure time.  That meant we got to look around the store to see what items we may want to acquire at the end of the tour.  We did not go on the deluxe tour due to its expense ($200 per person); we went with the regular, 2 1/2 hour tour ($50).

The tour begins with a brief movie about the history of Warners and lots of clips of many iconic movies.  Then we were divied up among 4 tour guides.  We got lucky to have the guide we did; he was enthusiastic and well-informed through out the entire time.  He took us around to various street and wooded sets, explaining what processes were used to create certain illusions, as well as what famous movies and TV shows were filmed there.  I loved seeing the shop from the beginning of Gremlins, as well as Hazzard County from The Dukes of Hazzard.  Sure, most of the Hazzard set is used for Pretty Little Liars and Gilmore Girls, but I ignore that part.  We did see them filming scenes for The Whole Truth, with Maura Tierny.

Leaving the exterior sets behind, we went by many soundstages.  We saw Conan O’Brien’s area — unfortunately he was not roaming around.  We got to go into a grage housing many iconic vehicles, including Batmobiles, the General Lee, and the Nerd Herd from Chuck.  If there had been a James Bond car there, it would have been car heaven.  From there, we went to the set of The Mentalist and walked through all of the interiors.  The bonus of this was parking outside of the actor trailers for Chuck.  A short ride away was the Central Perk set from Friends and the storehouse of various iconic props.

The tour ended with a walkthrough of the Warner Brothers Museum.  Here, we saw the actual costumes worn by actors from Casablanca all the way up to The Dark Knight.  This is the source of my only beef with the tour — not enough time in the museum.  We did not make it to the second floor.

My Advice: definitely worth the time and money when in LA.


There are some things in life that are as predictable as the sun rising in the east, but none moreso than Disney picking an underdog sports story and turning it into a motion picture.  Over recent years, they have given us The Rookie, Remember the Titans, and Miracle.  For 2010, Disney gives us Secretariat.

Sunday afternoon of my visit to LA found Spaldy and I headed to the Arclight Cinema in Sherman Oaks. Spaldy had been raving about how nice a theater this was and wanted me to experience a movie here.  The only thing playing that neither of us had seen was Secretariat.  After picking up our tickets with assigned seats, we grabbed our concessions and then settled into the theater for a relaxing afternoon.

Secretariat is based on the events surround his birth and the first 3 years of his life. For those not familiar, Secretariat was the last horse to win the Triple Crown.  Diane Lane plays a housemother suddenly thrust into the world of horse-racing, with fading support from the family.  John Malkovich turns in a fun performance as the trainer and helps lighten the mood.  Disney tried to position this as Oscar-bait for Diane Lane, but there was nothing extraordinary about her performance.

My advice:  See it on the big screen — worth full price; solid movie, just not Oscar-worthy…

Back To The Future: 25th Anniversary

From 1985 until about 1994, I had the golden touch at winning radio contests.  I could be the 8th caller for WPFM 107.9 any time I tried — pretty remarkable since the number was 234-0000 and I was using a rotary-dial phone.   At least 1/4 of my music collection came from that station in the form of records, tapes, and CDs.

So what does this have to do with movies?

Well, the very first thing I ever won was the soundtrack to Back To The Future on record.  My dad hated having to drive me out to pick it up since it was on the beachside and traffic was always bad.  Needless to say, I got the album and the rest was history.

In addition to loving the soundtrack, I have always loved the movie.  So imagine my reaction when I found out that AMC was going to have a special showing in all of its theaters to celebrate the 25th anniversary.  Now increase the reaction tenfold when I found out it was going to be while I was visiting my number one movie buddy, Spaldy, in LA.

She took care of getting the tix and we went over to the AMC on Saturday morning.  They let us in and we got great seats.  Stacy (friend of Spaldy’s) showed up and we worked on getting amped up on overbuttered popcorn, sodas, and candy.

Then the lights went down….

They used the Blu-Ray print for the special showing and the movie looked great.  Crystal-clear — it was as if I was viewing it opening weekend in 1985 for the first time.  AMC and Universal did a great job in making this event happen.  As we left, we were each given a limited edition BTTF 25th anniversary poster.

My advice: get the Blu-ray set when it drops this week and enjoy a great classic.


My primary reason for going to movies is to be entertained.  I don’t need the best acting in the world or the best script in the world — just something that, when all put together, entertains me for 1 1/2 — 2 hours.  I appreciate the heavy dramatic pieces, but I have found that as I have gotten older, I just want to laugh or enjoy some action or both.

I raced out of the closing credits of Life As We Know It to get into the theater for the midnight showing of RED.  I grabbed a refill of Coke on the way and got settled just as the previews started.

RED is based on a DC-Comics series about a retired CIA agent.  The movie’s plot line is simple: someone is targeting random people to be killed by CIA teams in order to cover up past dastardly deeds.  While offering an okay through-thread, the story has a lot of holes in it if looked at any closer than a casual glance.

What makes this movie is the casting.  Bruce Willis is our hero, with Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich rounding out his team.  What stood out to me with this cast was the sheer joy you could see on their faces as they went from absurd situation to absurd situation.  Malkovich, in particular, had some of the best “crazy” moments.  Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban, Ernest Borgnine, and Mary-Louise Parker round out a great cast.

My Advice: see it at full price, leave brain at the door, and just enjoy a roller-coaster ride of actors having fun on-screen…

Life As We Know It

In my review of The Ugly Truth, I was fairly harsh on Katherine Heigl.  I mentioned concerns of being typecast and coming across as an “ice princess” in her last few roles.  So when I heard she had a new movie coming out, I wasn’t exactly running towards the box office to buy a ticket.

So, I found myself leaving work on a rare Thursday night and wanting to see a movie.  I knew RED was premiering at 12:01, so I looked for a movie that I could watch and still make the midnight show of RED.  The only movie that fit was Life As We Know It.  So I settled in at the AMC Altamonte for doubleheader night.

The story centers around two people who have mutual friends that are married.  Heigl is an organized, small business owner, while Josh Duhamel is a typical “man-about-town” sports director.  The two are paired on a disastrous first date and are made to interact closely together because of their friends.  One night, the friends die and leave guardianship of their baby girl to our two “heroes.”  What follows are the typical new-parent jokes, nosy neighbors, and soulless Child Services.

However, in the midst of all of the easy jokes and predictability, a good story starts to emerge.  We see actual changes occur in the two leads as they evolve into people we care about.  Heigl shows elements of the “ice princess” early; but as the movie progresses, I start seeing why casting directors keep giving her shots at romantic comedies.  By the time the credits roll, I find that I have not wasted my money on another bland movie.

My Advice:  matinee price or dollar theater; full price is not necessary, but you won’t feel cheated if you do pay that.  Not a bad date movie, but I would not use it as a first date movie.