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Returning to the movies: Alone in the dark with strangers

Robert Galvin

Why yes, we said in unison — as if there would be any doubt — we would like a splash of that magical butter flavoring on our popcorn.

We stood transfixed as the young purveyor of popcorn scooped a layer of fluffy goodness into a bag, then fired up the butter-flavoring gizmo to dispense a drizzle atop the puffed kernels.

Our jaws then dropped as he repeated the process — more popcorn … more butter … more magic — to fill the bag and our hearts with wonder.

I imagined that, yes, this must have been what it was like some 400,000 years ago as our homo erectus fore-bearers took control of fire to prepare a meal for the first time.

And yet, this marvel of modern wizardry (as delectable as it would soon be) was merely the appetizer for the main course.

We were about to see a movie. … In an actual movie theater. … For the first time in what seemed 400,000 years.

Trust me, when you decide the time has come once more to plunk yourself down in a comfy seat and share the illuminated darkness in the company of strangers, you will feel the same way.

Something was right with the world again. If only for a couple of hours on a weekday afternoon, when those lights go down and the Big Screen springs to life, the midsection of your mask will crinkle at the onset of a goofy grin.

The film in question was “The Courier” — which, I was disappointed to discover, was not about Howard “Bud” Kettler’s creation of the typographical font.

“A letter can be just an ordinary messenger,” Kettler once said of his creation, “or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability.”

The dignity, prestige and stability of “The Courier,” however, would be radiated by its star — the veddy British depiction of such qualities … Humperdinck Cummerbund.

As we settled into our reclining leather(ish) lounge chairs — which, when activated, emitted noises usually only heard a half-hour after a professional broccoli-eating contest — one of us was gleeful with anticipation at the thought of spending two hours in the dark with Humperdinck Cummerbund.

That one, however, would not be me — who foolishly had believed that once her devotion to Remington Bond had faded, I was all the dignified, prestigious and stable presence she would need.

Humperdinck, with his beady eyes and stiff upper lip and Briitsh vocal lilt had ended that notion. I would have to be content with satisfying my jealousy by eating most of the popcorn.

But first, the trailers.

One (which had the sort of generic-sounding title indicating the level of creativity of those who made the film) was set in a generic Irish countryside — where a generic-looking movie star crossed paths with a generic ingenue, falling truly, madly, deeply in love while a cavalcade of generically quirky side characters offered cliche-ridden advice.

Another preview (for which, somehow, we were given both a trailer and an interview with its TV star leading man) focused on how much “thrilling action” (re: violence) would fill the screen, and how “proud” all involved were to bring this cinematic masterpiece to audiences wanting to escape the troubles of the real world by seeing people kill each other with far too many bullets as a musical score splashed with heavy metal flavoring bombarded our ears.

Finally, the midsection of my mask crinkled again as the third attraction Coming Soon to a Theater Near You offered this bit of dialogue:

“This is our only chance. We have to take it. … We need Kong.”

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, my inner child told himself.

“Godzilla vs Kong” looks as ridiculous as you might imagine … and then some.

Here’s what I gathered from the preview: A long time ago, all the Godzilla creatures got down and dirty with all the Kong creatures, until both sides were wiped out until (you guessed it):

“The myths are real. There was a war. And they’re the last ones standing.”

“These are dangerous times,” one set of serious-looking eyebrows intones.

“There can’t be two alphas titans,” the leading lady warns ominously.

“Godzilla’s out there,” explains the square-jawed bureaucrat. “He’s hurting people, and we don’t know why.”

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I said aloud.

(This is when I asked myself, “Self, how come thy don’t know why Godzilla’s just let loose a blue stream of destructive energy against a battleship … but they know it’s a ‘he’?” … “Shut your mouth and eat some popcorn,” I responded.)

Humanity’s (and, apparently, logic’s) only hope is for this little orphan girl to get through to Kong by touching fingers in true E.T.-Ell-lee-ott fashion to send (him?) off on a cargo ship to hit Godzilla with a ferocious right cross for the sake of a species that keeps him chained up in a secluded location.

(This is when I asked myself, “Self, why doesn’t Godzilla just sink the cargo ship, and drown Kong in the ocean instead of taking that punch?” … Then I remember we apparently don’t know much of anything about Godzilla, except its gender.)

This moment of being surprised by joy, however, was soon over … it was time for Humperdinck.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, said the popcorn-deprived moviegoer in the leather(ish) chair next to me.

“The Courier” is a true(ish) story wherein our hero portrays a mustachioed, married (aww) businessman, not named Howard, or Bud, who was recruited by the CIA and MI5 into undertaking an espionage mission in Russia during the nuclear gamesmanship days of the early 1960s.

This will involve secret meetings, a lot of whispering, women in Jackie Kennedy bouffant wigs, trips to the ballet, much sitting around talking over food that’s rarely eaten and smoking … lots and lots of smoking.

Englebert uses his businessman cover to bring messages to and from, hither and yon, from the spies and a Russian would-be defector who can detail the Soviet Union’s nuclear strategy.

It’s all very hush-hush, nudge-nudge, say no more until the eventual scene in which …

… you go to the movies yourself to find out what happens. Remember to tell the popcorn courier not to scrimp on the magical butter flavoring.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin’s chair at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com emits no objectionable sounds.