Summer vacation is a wonderful thing. A great time to unplug from work, relax, and unwind. And if you’re like me, time to hop on a plane and escape – a beach, a resort, or some kind of international treasure.

Along the way, you might be inclined to hedge your bet on an in-flight movie to help pass the time. Maybe you’ll stumble upon a film you missed in the theater, like Solitary Man or Get Him to the Greek? Or perhaps you’ll be able to catch Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, or How to Train Your Dragon for a second time? The anticipation is palpable, particularly when it’s difficult to sleep on planes, let alone find something to occupy the time.

In-flight Entertainment (IFE)

But disappointment is imminent.

From United to Continental to American, if you’re traveling cross country or internationally, you’ll end up in a cabin with one monitor every three to five rows. And the one in front of you just so happens to have the green filter turned all the way up! And what about those fees? If you’re on JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines, you may have to pay $5 for a movie or a headset.

Then, after wading through a handful of television jumbo from “Brothers & Sisters” to “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and my personal favorite, “Cash Cab,” you finally get the feature presentation. Drum roll, please.

On United, you’ll see The Backup Plan, The Joneses, or Letters to Juliet. American Airlines tosses in The Last Airbender, while Frontier delivers Marmaduke. And if you’re one of the lucky ones on Continental, a chance to see Furry Vengeance! Did any of these films earn more than two stars? Or a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes? (Combined, they tallied a 25% rotten rating!).

Without a doubt, airlines should be more critical of the films they show in-flight. If all passengers are going to be subjected to the same film, the selection should be one of quality and lasting entertainment value rather than some straight-to-video, studio leftover.

Still, I can hear my grandparents saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Or, “back in my day, we stared out the window for entertainment.”

After all, it wasn’t until 1961 that in-flight entertainment (IFE) became standardized on flights from New York to Los Angeles. A far cry from Howdy Chicago, the first in-flight movie in 1921, movies have now become the norm for most domestic and international flights. And some, projected on the seat right in front of you.

Joaquin Phoenix in "I'm Still Here"

Of course, it may not be your movie of choice. It may not be anyone’s choice! But thank goodness for technology. Bad in-flight entertainment is still entertainment. And how about all those iPads, iPods, and laptops – they are the real keys to mile high movie bliss!

-Mark Sells, “The Reel Deal”

This Week’s Picks:

  • I’m Still Here – Who could forget Joaquin Phoenix’s appearance on Letterman? Sporting an unkempt beard, mumbling incoherently, and exhibiting nervous tics, Phoenix announced his retirement from acting to pursue a career as a hip hop artist. Was the whole thing a hoax? Or was it embarrassingly true? According to Casey Affleck’s directorial debut, I’m Still Here, Phoenix lost himself behind other personas and began searching for his
    “true” identity. But this is no coming-of-age tale, mind you. Shockingly self absorbed, painfully self loathing, and entirely delusional, Phoenix tortures himself and those around him. While the documentary is somewhat amateurish and offers few concrete answers, it offers an element of morbid curiosity – a portrait of a troubled man hurtling toward an empty abyss. 
  • Flipped – Directed by Rob Reiner (Stand By Me), Flipped is another coming-of-age tale of first love, adolescence, and family drama. Set in 1963 when childhood innocence was bliss, the film conveys the story of two second graders, Bryce and Juli. Upon their first meeting, Juli is convinced it’s true love, but Bryce isn’t quite sure. From grade school to high school, the couple flirt with a possible connection, but flip when getting too close. Beautifully heartwarming, Flipped is a romance with a lot of heart and humor. And it will undoubtedly take you back to those childhood times when life was simple, pure, and full of hope.

Film Event on the Radar:

  • The Bicycle Film Festival – (September 9-11). Starz Film Center. Are you a film fanatic and an avid bicyclist? Why not celebrate both at the 10th annual Bicycle Film Festival at the Starz Film Center this weekend? From Milan to Tokyo and Sydney to Denver, this one-of-a-kind festival features all things related to biking – music, art, and film. And brings together all of the creativity and experiences with bicycle enthusiasts from the community and beyond. From road racing to BMX, mountain biking to bike polo. Film highlights this year include Lucas Brunelle Line of Sight, The Cyclocross Meeting, and Birth of Big Air, a documentary on BMX legend Matt Hoffman, produced by Spike Jonze. Most importantly, feel free to bike to the festival as free bicycle valet parking will be provided!  

For more information on The Bicycle Film Festival, visit: http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/

About The Author

Film & Entertainment Writer
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Mark Sells is a nationally recognized film/entertainment journalist and Critic-at-Large for 100.3 FM The Sound (Los Angeles). In addition to his blog on 303, you can follow The Reel Deal on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest entertainment news, reviews, and interviews.

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