Have a $8 weekend of thrills

By Jeff Clarke on February 28, 2014

"Yes, I went to the circus once, and my daddy promised to take me again some day, if I'm good." - Becky Thatcher, to Tom Sawyer

One hundred years ago, Becky had the circus. Today, we have the multiplex.  When step inside, we're in a single-building version of Las Vegas.  We have the colorful lights, the colorful posters, the colorful treats and a mob of happy people milling nowhere and everywhere. We have a ticket in hand to another galaxy ... wait.  That's the name of the theater, isn't it? Whatever. The point is, we have two hours and there is absolutely no way for a staff sergeant to motion us over to the popcorn versus the Junior Mints.

At the Gateway 8 in Federal Way, it's $2 per ticket - about what it cost Becky Thatcher's dad for the circus.  Here are three of the rings they offer this week under the Gateway 8 Big Top.

PROPS to all the trailers.  No, how about HOO-AH to the trailers.  Used to be, you saw one trailer, maybe two. Then it was four. Nowadays you have 20 minutes worth of mini-movies - each one better than the last one.  Make it 40 minutes for all we care, man. When you go to the circus, don't get impatient for the tigers; they'll still be there after the trapeze act.

SLOPS to Thor: the Dark World.  Remember, we're rating the Popcorn Factor in this column, right?  Are we going to have a good time, or are we not?

Me personally ... hey. If the superhero doesn't want to be here, why do I want to be here?  Spider-Man cracks jokes when he webs people up; Tony Stark's one-liners are more dangerous than his suit; even Captain America wallows in every chance to uphold Truth and Justice.

Thor? He's miserable from opening bell to closing credits. Whether he's on a throne in Asgard or standing on the ash of a barren planet, he'd always rather be anyplace other than where he actually is. 

Anthony Hopkins is trying to be King Lear. Natalie Portman is trying to win a Nobel Prize.  The supporting cast is mugging its flaps off, trying to wrestle attention away from the stars. 

Isn't it supposed to be fun to be a superhero?  Thor would rather be a peasant farmer, with Natalie Portman by his side slopping the hogs.  I'll take the boxing movie.  Only Tom Hiddleston has any fun playing Loki - so, naturally, the director sticks him in a plastic jail cell until he goes suicidal with boredom - which, in this case, captures the audience's feelings quite neatly.

PROPS to 47 Ronin.  Now, granted, this story takes a very leisurely pace. The "ronin" - samurai without an overlord - refuse to hurry the Japanese culture into a cup-o-noodles microwave timeframe.  What's wrong with refusing to hurry on a Saturday afternoon? See this one when you're in the mood to savor a walk through a Japanese garden (and, yes, there are lots of actual cherry blossoms on the screen).

The Japanese sense of dignity will seem strange to Americans. Keanu Reeves saves a samurai's tea bags, as it were, and then as the crowd arrives he gets on his knees and grovels to the incompetent he just saved.  He passes the credit to the "legitimate samurai" and he accepts punishment (?!) for saving lives when it wasn't his place to do so. You and I are annoyed, but anime fans are touched. 

With samurai, we are faced with the idea of honor for its own sake, honor with absolutely no reward other than being true to oneself. Can you isolate the value of honor like that?  Would you give your life for honor, even if nobody thanked you for it?

Like Forrest Gump told Jenny when he went to Viet Nam, "It's a whole other country."  Well, yes, 47 Ronin is a story from another country. It's good to see another country once in a while.

The end of the movie is worth the price of admission, even at a different theater ...  The shogun takes his throne, sitting with the weight of a mountain, and he slowly pronounces judgment on 47 men.  These 47 men deserve two things at the same time:  they deserve worship, and they deserve death.  The shogun's resolution to this problem, and the way he delivers sentence, will roll tears down your cheeks.  The teaser tells us that "to understand this story is to understand Japan." It could just have well as told us, to understand these 60 seconds is to understand Japan.

Also playing at Gateway 8:  Legend of Hercules (PG-13), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (PG) and the same movie in 3D, Walking with Dinosaurs (PG), Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13), Paranormal Activity the Marked Ones (R), Delivery Man (PG13), I, Frankenstein (PG-13) and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (PG-13).

GALAXY 8, showtimes, 2501 S. Gateway Center Pl., Federal Way, $2, 253.945.8230