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Our movies are societal medicine, as are our songs. They are echoes of us and we echo them. Perhaps that is why we are so drawn to our stories of the stage and screen, the writers, the cast and crew working together to help millions with each new release.

General

Perpetually early for the movies, David stood for a few seconds as he always did. Stretching away the rows of red velvet seats, gently arced, beckoned him to choose. Never once did he take a step forward until he'd sampled his popcorn. The saltiness had to be just right. A smile stretched on his thin lips as the kernel dissolved. Theatres varied so much, but this little palace of film was his all time favourite. The slightly smaller screen was more than compensated for by the ambience. From outside to in, it reminded him of the cinemas in Europe his father had taken him to as a boy. In those days there had been an intermission for the ushers to bring ice-cream and candy down the aisles, an interruption that would be unthinkable in today's action packed blockbusters.

With a small creak he knew he wouldn't be alone for much longer. The happy chatter and munching was all part of it, but he had to choose his seat first or it wouldn't be the same. It would be like a gift already opened. In moments his crisp ironed dress pants sank into the cushion. With soda to his right and the family sized popcorn on his left all was right with his world. Nothing could go wrong now. The ritual had been perfect, all he had to do now was sit tight and wait for the stars.

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Our movies are elevated just by being in this simple theatre. No script writer could hope for better than to have their art on our silver screen. Though the chairs appear old they are bespoke, designed to reflect the style of classic cinemas. The curtain that falls in generous pleats of thickest red velvet with deep burgundy tassells lends grandeur to the occasion. Only a few years back it was tatty with an ever-present odour of stale popcorn. The refurbishment was kind, tasteful, elegant. Crackling sound is a thing of the past, movie star voices call to us in surround sound with faces magnified in high definition. Snow and rain may fall to us as we hold out our dry hands, and smile under our 3-D glasses. Truthfully, they are only partly stories, they are experiences, rides of adrenaline and release.

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No amount of expensive equipment can make up for the lack of plot. The movie starts like a tortoise and ends like road kill. Each actor stands around delivering their lines with less feeling than a kindergarten play. The special effects are really "special" and if they guy behind me coughs into my neck one more time I'm gonna give these fine folks the show they paid for. Should there be at least one good murder in a picture? At least a bloody nose, right? It's all I can do to exhale in short puffs and keep my meat hooks on the semi-bald armrests.

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Movies, my secret pleasure. I only have one rule. Either read the book or see the movie but not both. Eileen prefers to soak in the novel first and then her fun is in dissecting and comparing the plot, analyzing the characterization and bemoaning casting errors. Personally my entertainment isn't in analysis, but purely the joy of being sucked into the story, riding along on the crest of a literary or cinematic wave until the climax before unwinding and returning to normal life. I absolutely never ever watch movies twice. I make an exception for our wedding movie; we even make caramel popcorn and snuggle on the couch. It's no movie theatre, but the leading lady is my heroine so how can I say no?

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“Ya know,” said Travis, “I wonder if they eat like that at home.” The broom clanked to the pan as he swept the dusty popped kernels and candy wrappers inside. With the light up brighter than the movie goers get to see, every speck was illuminated like it was its red carpet night – the Oscars for garbage. Pete sniggered.

“Yeah, bet they do. I'd hate to be around when they eat spaghetti.” He laughed so much that he almost missed the small package left behind. Travis's reply was lost like the teacher on Snoopy, “Wharrr whaar wharr.” In seconds his co-worker would see it. Pete faked a cough, swiftly doubling up to stow it under his thin polyester uniform before excusing himself to the “gents.”

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Slammed by the critics and loved by the punters, it was Harold's idea of a great movie. The script writer must have been about as intellectual as lobotomized chicken but the action just didn't quit. The hero was earthy, gritty – the kind of guy he fantasized of being. He kicked ass, was unapologetic and made a virtue of disobeying orders. For the full two hours he barely blinked. Of course it helped that the love interest was his idea of the perfect woman. For those blissful minutes Harold simply projected himself onto the big screen as the lead, he was his own casting director, his number one fan and there were bad guys to kill in the most adrenaline pumping ways.

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They sat, engrossed, barely noticing the popcorn that failed to make it to their slack mouths. When the screen fell to black Sarah's body would become rigid and her hand flailed for Mike. Silences never lasted long at the movies, merely tools to heighten the drama, ploys of stylistic effect – depriving the senses of light and sound for just long enough to peak their fear. The next moment was maximum intensity: loud, bright, fast, shocking. Sarah was back in her seat, eyes open wide. Mike's hand had moved like clock work the whole time with most of his salty treat making it to his already growling stomach. He grinned. This wasn't one of those artsy, enigmatic films his girl dragged him to in fancy attire. This was action, thriller, horror and he couldn't be happier.

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The concession beckons. The aroma of fresh popped corn and hot dogs drifts out, brightly coloured rows of candy sit in smart rows at Johnny's eye level and already he pulls on Tom's hand. The injury from Iraq causes a spasm but he swallows it and gives Johnny his stern look. “Are you gonna sweep the yard when we get back and get the dog fresh water?” He stares, face set in a fashion that would make his squadron nervous. Not his son though, he wears his trademark sideways grin.

“Sir, yes Sir!” With that they join the snaking queue, the soldier and his “mini-me,” a movie ticket to the season's blockbuster poking out of denim pockets.

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Hollywood crime dramas are my drug of choice. In those choreographed moments, directed by the greats and acted by legends I am free to explore my dark side. I root for the hero and enjoy the sick logic of the villain. Murder and violence for lust and money, it makes my soul tick in a way that ordinary life fails to. The movies are as much a drama in my mind, my inner self, as it is a story played out on the silver screen. I'm a self confessed “film noir” junkie. Simply buying the ticket is a Saturday night ritual I cannot forego. My heart rate quickens and I feel a tingle in my finger tips as the transaction completes. The cashier smiles, but for all her commercial faux-charm I am already drifting into that fictional mindset. I am already a hero, a villain, a cheating lover and mob boss. My car is a 1929 Studebaker President, not a run down corvette with chipped paint and a tail pipe more rust than metal. My stride and posture change, no longer the run down gas-station man, there is a swagger in my lengthening stride and a confidence that belongs to Marlon Brando. I can never get enough of his movies: A Street Car Named Desire, Guys and Dolls, The Godfather. If anyone asks my name from this moment on I say “Marlon,” and tip my trilby. I become that genius of filmography and the real world drifts away as if it was the fictional world and the movies are my new reality.

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The movie trailer is so action packed that the screen owns my eyeballs from start to end. My heart rate rises and only when it ends do I notice my muscles are tensed. It takes a moment to digest such compressed drama – muscle bound heroes, celebrities with less clothing than I'd wear to the beach and weapons that would make a commando drool. They must have spent hundreds of rounds, blown up an area half the size of New York and done it all with that slightly distant air of emotional aloofness the great stars pull off so naturally. After a few moments my prefrontal cortex takes the reigns back and begins to tick. The movie trailer was a bite sized movie, giving so much away I barely see the point in buying a ticket to the real thing. The trailer is to the movie what Willie Wonka's gum was to eating – small but satisfying (if you leave out the turning into a blueberry hitch). I can't say I've ever had a more entertaining three minutes. Fantastic directing, breathtaking scenes and top-notch acting – but that's enough. Time for a siesta.

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I tell Gramps we're “courting” and off for a “motion picture,” "dating" is an alien word to him. After twenty minutes of listening to him ramble about how movies we're better before the soundtracks got “too loud” and how the box office charged him just pennies to see a picture in the “good old days,” we're giggling down the rain kissed sidewalk. The final movie in The Hunger Games trilogy awaits in a state of the art movie theatre, VIP, 3-D and no kids allowed.When the lights above the lobby come into view, blurred by the light rainfall, we break into a jog, Gina swinging round the lamp-post like Cary Grant. All the new releases have posters on the outside wall behind perspex and the light from inside illuminates the puddled steps, worn in places by hundred of excited movie goers.

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In the movie theatre auditorium there's a buzz of excited talk. Children on tiptoe stare at the popping machines, grinning for their salty snack. I know the profits from the popcorn are the lifeblood of the movie theatre industry, but as a student I have my clandestine snack in my oversized combat pants. I'm usually here for the action adventure hollywood movies, the ones packed with the sexy celebrities, but not tonight. I'm trying to impress a new girl so we're here for a retro classic. The lobby is swarming, fast moving, until she steps into the doors. Then time stops. My stomach turns unhelpfully and I feel my skin turn clammy. She lights up into a smile and what can I do but follow suit, if she is the sun then I am the moon. I have the tickets ready so all there is to do is slip my hand in hers and listen to her “guess what?” story as we stroll to the auditorium.

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Marlene loves the subtitled flicks. I can't blame her, with her hearing deficit it really just puts her on a level playing field with the rest of us. I love martial art films, so together we make awesome movie buddies. Once in a while I'll cave and accompany her to a “golden oldie,” but it isn't much of a sacrifice. A movie is a movie, so long as popcorn is in hand I'm all good. Those old movie studios brought more art to their filmography, perhaps because their access to “special effects” was coconut shells to sound like horse hooves. Every Saturday we're off for a film and every Sunday night I'm scanning the reviews for next week's pick. Once in a while I'll find a double feature or a drive in movie. Then we take my SUV and sit in comfort. There's nothing romantic between her and me. Just movie buddies – that's the way we like it.

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My dreams are etched on celluloid. My soul prefers the old times, the good times of old movies that spun on reels. They were flammable of course, but they flickered and had imperfections that brought them a life modern hollywood productions can't invoke. I know I hanker after the impossible, a world that is a fictional representation of life back then, but I need it all the same: dames, broads, macho men, mobsters, gangsters and private eyes. Every minute is pure escapism that tickles my love of all things antique, all things historical. I want to walk with Charlie Chaplin, drink with Humphrey Bogart and ride with Bonnie and Clyde to the end of the line. I want to charm Jean Harlow, dance with Lucille Ball and dine with Rita Hayward. In this flickering films, in my cinema seat, I can do that and more.

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At the movies I can finally stop talking. This date has gone from bad to worse and this chick-flick is the final hurdle before an awkward goodbye. Cathy is still talking like words are on special offer or else she's expecting a tariff on breathing air sometime soon and she wants to make the most it while it's free. I gotta admit, she's pretty, stunning I guess, but she's no Becky. Give me casual, easy going and soft natured – not a pop tart on acid. Maybe that's harsh, but man my ears have had enough and I just can't process any more celebrity gossip. The movie theatre is as busy as the morning subway, that's Friday night I guess. I'd rather be nursing my memories than on this pity date. This girl couldn't replace my dog let alone my love. Ninety minutes of CGI torture ahead, better get a big bag of nachos.

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On the silver screen the actor is stoic beneath his fedora hat. For a moment the only movement is the curling smoke from his half-burnt cigarette. The woman looks up at him from her all-night diner bay through thick mascara, long fingers pulling her own cigarette from lips as red as her dress. Her brunette curls tumble down to her low cut neckline and if looks could kill the guy would be dead on the checkerboard tile. With his mouth still a grim slash and his eyes unmoving, he tosses photographs onto the table. This is what I love about film noir. It's gritty, mean, the characters play dirty. There isn't a chance in hell this picture is gonna have a “happy ever after.” The lady lets her eyes fall, taking in the black and white images. Her pause says it all. She's steaming mad but let's see her act cool and in control. This girl isn't just going to roll over, the movie is just getting started.

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The darkness of the film is a gloom that permeates every aspect of script and plot. Clouds loom in the sky, every shade of monochrome from sliver though storm grey leaving gaps only for the black night. Against the cars with their running boards lean the men, faces partially obscured not only by the lack of light but by the rims of their fedoras. The only glint in the blackness comes not from the moon, but from cigarette tips like crazy red fireflies born to die.

In just minutes there will be a reason for the homicide cops to cordon off the area, but not yet. Soon more dark painted classic cars will crawl out of the black night. After some wise-cracks and a negotiation that was never destined to succeed, the shoot-out will begin.

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A delicate arm in an elbow-length glove reaches across a starlet's dressing table at the exact same tine Lily reaches for her popcorn. The auditorium is a hush and would be silent were it not for the steady consumption of the concession snacks. The only light is from the movie, an old black and white film of Lily's favourite genre - “film noir.” For a non-smoking pacifist she sure soaks up cynical characters and grim tale surprisingly well. I'm sure there's a part of her that wants to be just like the tough “dames,” perhaps without the chain smoking. So tonight I'm wearing nothing but a fedora and a serious face - a gangster and a dangerous woman with red nails, can't wait...

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In the half light of the alley the woman appears small. She brings one knee in to meet the other like some little girl waiting for a gelato, but this is no Italian plaza in summer time. The camera lingers on her, and in that moment I can hear the audience take an extended breath. In the darkness could be any number of dangers, but in the end that won't matter, just one will do.

I should be able to smell the popcorn of the other movie patrons, but instead the only odour is the dank alleyway in which the actress stands, too young to know the movie legend she would become a few short years later. The weak illumination that casts her face into semi-relief isn't romantic moonlight, but instead it falters as old neon signs do. Were she to walk toward the street there would be pawn shops, hotels selling their rooms by the hour and junkies cruising for a fix.

The temperature in this ambient theatre drops without warning, on the filthy ground is the shadow of a man. With steady footsteps it draws closer and, without even a warning noise, the charcoal hand takes out a pistol. The young starlet turns. A male voice tells her "It's time to pay" and a single shot fires. She drops, still perfect: soft cherry lips, hair arranged with every strand in place, ivory skin, angelic with closed lashes of thick black mascara. I know “who done it” of course; this film is older than my father. It was playing in cinemas when no-one knew who would win world war II...