Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Intelligent Summer Blockbuster

Summertime is now inevitably associated with the summer blockbuster film: usually a sci-fi/fantasy oriented plot (often part of a multi-film franchise) with plenty of action and big-budget special effects designed to provide escapist entertainment for the masses.  Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Alien, Terminator, Iron Man, Transformers--the list goes on and on.  However, the blockbuster is frequently criticized for its dumbing-down of cinema: wooden acting, cliche dialogue, plot holes the size of the grand canyon, and a general sacrifice of character-driven nuance in favor of huge explosions and space battles.

There have, however, been a number of 'intelligent' blockbusters released in the past 40 years, that are worth revisiting.  These films blend in a healthy dose of cerebral plotlines and character development with all the sturm and drang, resulting in something even the critics were impressed by. Here follows five summer blockbusters that treat you like an adult, with an operating brain!



1) BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART II (1989): The first Back To The Future was a warm, lighthearted romp that became a pop-culture sensation, which now celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.  The second film in the series was a much darker, more challenging journey through multiple alternate timelines that had audiences scratching their heads--although hardcore fans were thrilled. The film's plot isn't actually that dense, but it does keep you on your toes, and the radical changes in character through each timeline are both startling and edgy.  The film's look at the year 2015 is especially interesting this year, as we compare what the film got right and wrong in its portrayal. Everyone will have a chance to relive the big screen experience again when the trilogy is re-released later this year, but if you want to get a head start on the hoopla, simply pop the DVD/Blu-Ray into your home theater setup, and enjoy! 



2) THE DARK KNIGHT (2008): Christopher Nolan immortalized himself as the auteur of the intelligent blockbuster with this film, which won Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar (summer blockbusters never win in any of the major acting categories).  His portrayal of The Joker--totally psychotic yet surprisingly nuanced, who loves to plot all kinds of difficult moral challenges for his victims--generates all of the drama in the film, so much so that his iconic performance is what sticks out over and above any of the car chases or explosions littered throughout.  



3) INCEPTION (2010): Yup--Nolan gets two entries in this list (and Interstellar would be a third, had it actually been released in the summer), this one for what is likely the most dizzyingly complex summer blockbuster of all time.  The dreamworld that Nolan created for his plot was filled with so many internal rules and regulations, that audiences had to go back two or three times to try and figure it all out--which they willingly did, thanks to the film's original idea, strong sense of mystique, and incredible art direction.  Indeed, the film was so complex that South Park ended up doing a hilarious parody of it, which was perhaps the sincerest form of flattery.  



4) DISTRICT 9 (2009): This gritty sci-fi film worked as an uncomfortable moral and political allegory, in the way that the best sci-fi can highlight social injustices.  In a novel twist on the traditional "aliens as evil conquerors" plot, the aliens here have arrived and--pointedly--been turned by humanity into second-class citizens, fighting for their rights.  That the film takes place in South Africa makes the allegory perhaps a bit too obvious, but the film's direction builds on this by avoiding the shiny polish of your typical blockbuster and going instead for an ugly, unwashed realism.  It's a gripping, cerebral work from start to finish.  



5) APOCALYPSE NOW (1979): back in the early days of the blockbuster, immediately post-Jaws and post-Star Wars, the dumbed-down template for the format had not quite been set in stone, and so any number of sophisticated late 70s/early 80s sci-fi films could be included here (Blade Runner, Alien, Close Encounters).  However, none encapsulates the true potential for a summer blockbuster quite like Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalpyse Now, which is not simply hailed as an intelligent summer film, but one of the greatest films ever made.  This film gets its scathing anti-war message across through a series of increasingly surreal vignettes, each one more compelling than the last.  The slow-moving end of the film--in which Marlon Brando's Kurtz reveals his quiet madness through demented poetry recital and rambling soliloquies--often puzzles audiences who had been swept away for the previous three hours, but it's exactly that sort of subversion of expectation that more films need to dare to exhibit today.  

At 4seating.com, we have the largest selection of in-stock and ready-to-ship home theater seating and home theater furniture available! We offer theater seating and design solutions for both the casual and professional home theater enthusiast.  We also have a complete line of custom home theater decor available.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Build A Home Theater?

Building a home theater can be a daunting task.  The time, money, and effort invested can be considerable, if you want to do it just right.  Despite this, more and more people are now installing home theaters in their homes, for the simple reason that the return on the investment eventually far outweighs the initial cost.  As movie theaters become less and less attractive, ticket prices skyrocket, and home audiovisual technology quickly catches up to what is available in your average theater, the home theater option becomes an excellent alternative.  Some advantages to building a home theater are obvious, while others may take you by surprise.  Listed below are ten excellent, persuasive reasons given by many as to why they built their own home theater:



COST: The prices of many consumer goods are skyrocketing far past the rate of inflation, and movie tickets are no exception.  It is predicted that within five years, adult ticket prices will land at $20--and for movie buffs who like seeing a new movie a week on average, that's going to translate to a huge hole in their wallets. If you have a family, costs are going to be even higher.  Defenders of the theater experience often cite the large screen and superior sound systems that theaters provide: but just how close are home theaters now to matching this?  Answer: with jumbo flat screens and 5.1 surround systems, very close.

CONTROL: This is your home theater, and with the ease of pushing a remote button, you can control the brightness, audio, subtitles, sound, contrast, or anything else to your own individual requirements.  You can position just how close or far you sit, where to best place the 5.1 surround system, and much more.

NEVER MISS A FRAME: Have you ever had the urge to use the bathroom in the middle of a movie, but held it in for fear you would miss a key scene?  Not at home--the pause and rewind buttons are now at your fingertips.



NOISE: The communal experience of watching a film with a large group of people used to be one of the upsides of the theater experience, but audiences these days are more inconsiderate than ever before.  They talk and text on their cell phones, throw food around, and then shush the person next to them when they stop talking long enough to want to hear what’s going on.  Who needs it?  

INTIMACY: Getting intimate at the movies used to be another enjoyable facet of the theater experience, until everybody started to want to get in your business.  Never have to worry about uncomfortable stares when you and your loved one just want to feel the romance.

DÉCOR: This one is an obvious advantage to a home theater--you are completely in charge of how your theater will look, right down to the carpeting, wall panels, paintings, speaker placement, accents and more.  4seating offers an array of these decor elements on our website, and can even help you custom-design the theater of your dreams.

YOU SAVE ON COST, PART II: The last time this author bought a single candy bar at a movie theater concession stand, he paid $4.50.  Most movie theaters don't allow you to bring food from home, because they make most of their money not from showing the film, but by gouging your pockets at the stand.  Never have to feel guilty again about sneaking in food, just because you don’t want to pay $6 for a below-average hot dog.  Bring your own snacks to your home theater--or even eat dinner on a tray table attached to your seat--snacks that are way cheaper, to boot.



PRIME SEATING: Attend the screening of a popular movie on opening weekend and chances are, you will be sitting in the nosebleed aisles, straining your neck just to see what's going on.  Wait until it's out on DVD/Blu-Ray, and you can be front-and-center to the action every time, with a full theater setup at your disposal.  Even better, with the groundbreaking online premiere of The Interview, other movies may soon find their way to online premieres, which means that with a simple hookup of your tablet or laptop to your screen, you can be there for the premiere right at home!

KIDS: Those of you with families know how hard it is at times to bring children to a movie.  If they’re bored, they will want to get up, talk, and run around, bothering other audience members.  With a home theater, your children will have the freedom to do as they please.

HOME THEATER SEATS ARE BEST: At the risk of tooting our own horn--but it's very true, as anyone who has sat in one can attest--the kind of plush feel you get from a home theater seat is light years beyond even the best movie theater chairs.  You can relax, recline, and utilize any number of convenient accessories (wine glass caddiestablet holders) for an experience unlike any you will receive at an actual theater.

At 4seating.com, we have the largest selection of in-stock and ready-to-ship home theater seating and home theater furniture available! We offer theater seating and design solutions for both the casual and professional home theater enthusiast.  We also have a complete line of custom home theater decor available.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Avoid Julia Roberts This Mother's Day With These Picks!

Mother's Day is fast approaching, and one great way to spend time with the person who brought you into the world is to bond with them over a movie.  However, Mother's Day fare is usually quite sappy and formulaic--one glance at the usual "Best Movies For Mother's Day" lists that most online sites compile reveals the same mix of Steel Magnolias, Stepmom, Terms Of Endearment, Beaches, and Erin Brokovich shuffled ad nauseum.  But seriously, do we really think that our moms want to watch a Julia Roberts film on Mother's Day? I don't know about yours, but my mother would rather be watching The Song Remains The Same--give our parents some credit, they're not all that different from the rest of us.  With that in mind, the following list attempts to compile a list of films that have all the usual Mother's Day themes--and may still indulge in a little feel-good melodrama here and there--but which the rest of us can stomach as well.  Enjoy!



1. FREAKY FRIDAY, 1976: in the same year that Jodie Foster made her dramatic breakthrough in Taxi Driver, she starred in this delightful Disney comedy that explored what would happen if a mother and daughter magically traded places for one day.  No tearjerker melodrama here, just a healthy dose of retro-70s fun.  An equally amusing (and popular) remake in 2004 with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis proved that the idea is timeless; if the original is too old, you can always opt for the newer version.  



2. MRS.DOUBTFIRE, 1993: One of the late Robin Williams' greatest screen performances, Mrs.Doubtfire's gag-filled humor explores what it truly means to be a mother, without ever becoming preachy or didactic.  Williams is on fire, as each scene of him in granny drag attempts to top the next.  Like Freaky Friday this is also another film that the whole family can enjoy, making it perfect for extended gatherings.  



3. MILDRED PIERCE, 1945: Joan Crawford may not have been the greatest real-life mom (Mommie Dearest is a left-field cult classic that's perfect if you're looking to make everyone in your home theater squirm!), but in this film she milks the portrayal of a mother who spoils her older daughter rotten, in order to compensate for the sudden death of her younger daughter.  Sure, there's melodrama, but this is old time Hollywood melodrama with all of its attendant grandiosity, not cookie-cutter Cameron Diaz fare.  



4. CHANGELING, 2008: Clint Eastwood lent a gritty, realistic touch to this tale (based on a true-life incident) of a mother whose son disappears. He is found, but she is now convinced the boy isn't him and fights to find her real son.  Angelina Jolie gives one of her finest performances, filling her character with a steely determination, as the film becomes a complex and harrowing indictment of male chauvinism, creepy insane asylums, and political corruption; Changeling is a heavy choice for Mother's Day but is so exceptionally made, and showcases the inner strength of its mother so vividly, that it's a perfect choice.



5. MOTHER, 2009: similar in tone to Changeling but with a very (very) different plot twist, this acclaimed South Korean film follows the determination of one mother to prove her son innocent of murder charges.  What she learns along the way--and how she handles the situation--moves into some pretty dark territory, but anyone looking for a gripping and surprising film with a brilliant performance by its lead, can do no better.  Because the bottom line is, our mothers don't always go for the cheesy sap: they want to see a well directed, well-acted, creative movie the same as the rest of us.  Don't insult their intelligence by sticking Steel Magnolias into the player yet again this Mother's Day!  Otherwise, your mother may end up doing this: 



At 4seating.com, we have the largest selection of in-stock and ready-to-ship home theater seating and home theater furniture available! We offer theater seating and design solutions for both the casual and professional home theater enthusiast.  We also have a complete line of custom home theater decor available.

Friday, April 24, 2015

USB Power Recline Seats

Home theater seats have come a long way in the past decade, taking in new innovations that have dramatically increased the range of options available for home entertainment.  A seat is no longer just a seat: now it's an all-in-one package with hi-tech features that were unheard of until recently. Besides lighted cup holders and ambient base lighting, seats can now be equipped with power adjustable headrests, refreshment consoles that act like mini-bars, drop-down tables with overhead lighting, and more.



One of the most important new developments in home theater seating over the past few years has been the introduction of USB charging stations, usually situated next to the seat's power recline button. At the same spot where you can instantly change recline positions at will, is a place for the charging of cell phones, laptops, and tablets, which puts a virtually limitless range of entertainment options at your fingertips.  With the power of the internet at your side, you can browse directly through your devices, or hook them up to your big screen.  Netflix, Youtube, gaming sites--it's all at your fingertips, and with a USB port you don't even have to get up to re-charge any device; everything you need is located right by your side.



The full list of seats on 4seating that offer USB power recline options can be found here.  Among them, The Horizon is a theater seat which comes with the added benefit of a five-stage adjustable headrest, which helps to relieve neck and shoulder strain.  The seat's clean, streamlined design features curved armrests with hidden cup holders, for an ultra-contemporary look that matches beautifully with its USB feature.



The Grenada is a deluxe seat in the Seatcraft Signature line that comes in grade 7000 leather, which is handpicked from the top third of all hides for a lustrous sheen and superior texture.  Bucket seating and a generously padded headrest exude comfort, while free tray tables provide a space for snacks, remotes, reading materials--or devices like cell phones and laptops, that can be charged in its convenient USB port!  The Madera is a similarly luxurious seat, with its grade 7000 leather construction, tray tables, and USB power recline switch, and an elegant design that includes beautiful wood-inlayed armrests.



The Columbia from Barcalounger is a USB power recline seat that boasts a layering of  "cool gel" foam which helps to maintain the seat at a comfortable temperature, along with adjustable power headrests and included tray tables. This seat is constructed from leather gel, a new material that replicates the look, feel, and benefits of leather at an exceptional value.  The Barcalounger Eclipse also comes in leather gel, with the included USB power recline switch.  Barcalounger seats are renowned in the industry for their superior craftsmanship and state-of-the-art designs.

Taken collectively, these seats represent the future of home theater seating, where innovation, comfort and excellence combine to meet every conceivable home theater need.

At 4seating.com, we have the largest selection of in-stock and ready-to-ship home theater seating and home theater furniture available! We offer theater seating and design solutions for both the casual and professional home theater enthusiast.  We also have a complete line of custom home theater decor available.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Tips For Setting Up Your Home Theater

Once you have decided to take the plunge and build your own home theater, the immediate challenge is furniture setup.  Before the fun of adding decor options begins, you need to know where everything should be placed, for optimal visual and audio efficiency.  Even a small mistake in setting up screen, chair, or sound system placement can result in an awkward theater experience.  Use these tips to help you with a set up that will optimize your theater's potential:



1) THE SCREEN: before you choose which chairs to purchase for your home theater, you need to begin with choosing a screen, and that screen's placement in your theater.  Why?  Because the kind of screen you choose, will determine how far away you want your chairs to be placed.  Different TV screens come with different aspect ratios (ratio of height to width), which have a completely different effect on the viewer.  For further help in determining which screen type is best for your needs, see our earlier blog on this topic.  Once that is done, you will want to move on to the next component of your entertainment center:

2) THE AUDIO: Whether you choose a sound bar, stereo speakers, or a surround sound system for your home theater, make sure you choose the audio setup that fits your needs.  Sound bars take up little space and have become quite popular, but nothing beats a full surround system for true audiophiles. If you choose the surround option, however, be sure and spend time figuring out where to best place each speaker to achieve the optimum surround effect; you will want to coordinate their placement with where the seats will be placed (and for that, you need to know what type of screen you will be using).  If you choose stereo speaker towers, make sure to reserve enough space, and make sure that their larger size will blend into your planned theater decor. For further assistance on which audio setup to use, look here.  



3) THE SEATS: Choosing the right home theater seat will depend on which materials, design, and features you're looking for.  Families with children or pets may want a chair constructed with low maintenance materials, that is easy to clean.  Those looking to spend time with a loved one will want a loveseat configuration, or an optional wine class caddy accessory. Want to add an authentic lounge experience, with mini-bar capabilities?  Try the Madison refreshment console sofa.  Meanwhile, those looking to optimize the range of entertainment possibilities at their fingertips will be looking for a seat with a tablet holder or USB ports.  4seating offers home theater seats in a wide array of material, color, design, and feature combinations that make the choice easier; the Liberty or Baron are two outstanding seats which come equipped with a USB port by the power switch.  

Those looking to optimize space in their home theater can take advantage of a special "wall-hugger" design which allows most chairs to be placed just three inches from any wall, even in full recline. Other home theater seats come with space-saving armrests, but even with these handy features, make sure that the theater is not cramped. You do not want a row of seats too close to the wall or right in the center of room, as neither option allows for optimal acoustics.  Experiment with the placing of your seating, to find out which placement will allow you to enjoy the sound from your home entertainment system to the fullest, and coordinate with the placement of the speakers.  Also, the actual arrangement of the seats must be carefully considered, whether you choose straight or curved, loveseat or sofa configurations.   Finally, make sure that whatever home theater seating you choose is a comfortable fit for any children; to that end, the Bebe is a special chair from Seatcraft which was specifically designed for a child's smaller frame.  


There are other things to consider as you plan: how to minimize a complicated wire setup (especially with regards to surround systems); where to place wall accents, columns, screen frames, and curtains; and whether to choose back row seating or seat risers, for multiple row configurations. For these considerations, a glance at our earlier article on home theater decor will help you decide which decor strategies can work for your individual needs.  Whichever way you end up choosing however, carefully consider the available options and have fun crafting your own perfect family home theater!

At 4seating.com, we have the largest selection of in-stock and ready-to-ship home theater seating and home theater furniture available! We offer theater seating and design solutions for both the casual and professional home theater enthusiast.  We also have a complete line of custom home theater decor available.