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Odeon Flashbacks

For quite a few weeks my friend Eve and I had kept our eye on the 4th July.  Not because we’re massive Independence Day fans (although obviously we are), but because Odeon cinema at the Manchester Printworks were going to be showing The Usual Suspects.  It’s a classic that I’ve seen a few times now, but one that had eluded her.  So when I found out she had never seen it, and it was due to be on at the cinema as a one off I was really keen to go with her to watch it.  Bryan Singer's 1995 crime thriller has one of the biggest twists in movie history, and anyone that has seen it will know exactly why I couldn’t wait to see it with someone that knew nothing about it.  I almost wanted to strap a go pro to the seat in front as a reaction-cam. 

Manchester’s Odeon cinema does a showing of an older film every Monday for a very reasonable £4.  I believe it’s the only Odeon that does these ‘Flashbacks’, and honestly, I don’t know why more big cinema chains don’t do this more often.  I actually own a Cineworld Unlimited Card, and once in a blue moon they might show the odd classic.  Their screenings of The Shining (1980) and Gremlins (1984) that I went to were crammed full, and the atmosphere at the Odeon the other month when I went to their ‘Flashbacks’ showing of one of my favourite ever films, Jaws (1975), was electric.  It seemed that the demand is there to see an old gem with the full cinema experience on a huge screen with great sound, and a great atmosphere.  The Jaws audience was a great mix of those that had seen it a hundred times, and those that didn’t have a clue what to expect as Rob Schneider started chumming from the boat in to the water.  Some there may have seen it on the big screen during its original release run, but I couldn't wait to see the way Spielberg had intended for the first time.

Anyway, Eve and I sat excitedly for the 20:00 showing of The Usual Suspects with a huge coke and popcorn.  20:00 turned to 20:10.  And 20:10 turned to 20:20.  Something was wrong.  Was it that there just weren’t any trailers to show as it was an older film?  Had we and the rest of the audience got the time wrong?  It reminded me of sitting in a totally empty midday screening of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) on my day off as they fixed a technical fault with the projector.  I think the manager was expecting a room full of kids when he came in to apologise, but all he found was a lonely 24 year old man (it was well worth the wait in the end if you’re interested).

Back at the Odeon the cinema’s Assistant Manager eventually came in to apologise and announce to the room that they were going to be unable to show The Usual Suspects.  Apparently the cinema had missed getting the rights to show the film, and when they had tried to play it on their super high tech projector it had therefore refused to work.  Quite how a projector can realise they didn’t have the rights, but not the humans that are supposedly running it is a little worrying to be honest.  Much has been written about the death of celluloid, and the lost art of the projectionist (not least in Mark Kermode’s excellent 2012 analysis of modern day cinema, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex’), but this felt like projectors were fighting back.  Skynet was live!

Despite their almighty cock up, our refunds and free pass for our next visit were handled quickly and efficiently by the Odeon staff, but we still had roughly half a tonne of popcorn and a vat of coke left to consume.  With that in mind we sulked off back home in search of a 90min easy-to-watch DVD off the shelf… and so naturally we decided on Deep Blue Sea (1999).  If you haven’t seen this movie, please go and check it out, but leave your brain at the door.  A group of scientists create a genetically modified hoard of sharks with huge brains in their search for an Alzheimer’s cure.  Shock horror, things go awry and everyone finds themselves on the menu of super-intelligent sharks.  Although the whole thing may come close to Sharknado (2013) level of dumb, it is a lot more fun.  You’ve got Samuel L Jackson picking up the cheque, Stellan Skarsgård looking confused as to how he’s ended up here (as we all are), and LL Cool J playing a chef.. with a parrot for a best mate.. and he hides from a shark in an oven.. and the shark turns the oven on.. and it’s so bad great.

Following the mess earlier that evening it was exactly what Eve and I were in the mood for.  She admitted she always thought this was 1995’s Waterworld (Kevin Costner wishes), and then redeemed herself with the observation that Deep Blue Sea is just trying to be Jurassic Park (1993) on water.  A fenced enclosure far from the rest of the world houses scientists playing god with genetically mutated creatures?  Check.  The movie opens with a near death experience, and everyone has to leave the site bar the main characters because of a really bad storm?  Check.  There was even a feeding scene as a large prey was lowered in to the enclosure, and just replace ‘Velociraptors learn how to open doors’ with the much more ambitious ‘Sharks learn how to turn on ovens.’  For sweaty and topless Jeff Goldblum breathing heavily on a table, see Saffron Burrows stripping down to her undies to use her rubber wetsuit as an insulator from the electric current in the water… Okay, I’m losing it but you get the idea.

In the end we had a fun evening, and spent far too much time googling the lyrics of LL Cool J’s title song from the soundtrack, ‘Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)’.  Despite Odeon’s huge cock up that evening I think I will be back to give Flashbacks a second chance.  Showings of Snatch (2000) and Silence of the Lambs (1991) will be difficult to miss, so hopefully the people behind the scenes can avoid any similarly embarrassing scenes again.  I really hope more multiplex cinema chains begin to show the odd classic film here and there.  Some may be put off by my The Usual Suspects experience (or lack thereof), and I do understand some avoiding impersonal and overpriced multiplex cinemas full stop.  Ultimately though, these are the cinemas most accessible to the masses, and in my experience there are masses desperate for classics such as Deep Blue Sea on the big screen.


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