Archive for the ‘Apple Valley’


Theater Review: Carmike 15 in Apple Valley, MN

Special Edition: Movie Theater Reviews by Mikeh

Mikeh has offered to post the reviews he’s been writing on local theaters on the site over the remainder of the summer. Two will be posted this week and the rest as he completes them. Enjoy!

I’ve been in a rut for the past say 15 years or so. Ever since the Lakeville 21 (18 back when it opened originally) theater opened up, that is the theater I go to. First because they were new and had the best sound and picture. Then because they had the monster screen and I had found them to be the cheapest show in town. I typically only go to matinees because it’s cheaper before 6pm, and there tend to be less people. Recently Lakeville 21 has upgraded their Monster Screen with 4K projector and some sound upgrades so they added a $2.00 per ticket surcharge for movies on that screen. With the price increase, they now are priced what I assume is in the range of lots of other theaters around the area, so I decided I better get my head out of the sand and give some of the other theaters a try. Maybe I’ll find a new value leader, or at a minimum, someone else that wants my money and gives me a better value for it.

I’m planning on reviewing : Carmike 15 – Apple Valley, Marcus Rosemount Cinema, Paragon Odyssey 15, Lakeville 21, Regal Eagan Stadium 16

carmike

Today I review: Carmike 15 – Apple Valley MN (The Big D)

On Saturday June 22nd I visited the Carmike 15 in Apple Valley with my oldest son to see the Movie World War Z in 2D (I don’t like 3D, my very good peripheral vision ruins the effect) at their Big D theater, 11:10 am showing.

Ticket Purchase and Lobby – Ticket price was $6.75 + $2.00 BIG D surcharge for a total of $8.75 per ticket. You can pre-order via Fandango (there is a surcharge) or get the tickets at the gate.

We paid for our ticket near the entrance but they didn’t collect and rip the ticket until you are heading towards the theater. Prices for the refreshments seemed in line with what I had come to expect in the past, though I’ll know better as I visit more theaters. Prices on their board include taxes. For drinks it is Coke products so the Pepsi lovers will need to sneak their drink in. Drinks and Popcorn come in small, medium, and large and are not refillable. They sell a plastic bucket that is refillable for a discounted price and is valid for a calendar year. (17.50 up front, 3.50 for refills, I got the bucket but I was only charged $13, maybe its prorated). Running the numbers for the deal, you would be ahead on the 4th use and if you went once a month for the whole year your net savings is around $30. A good enough deal if you go to the movies a lot. If not, probably could skip it, though the bucket looks like it is bigger than the normal a large popcorn container.

The interior is very clean and has a reasonably sized central area with concessions to the left and right as you enter (only the right side was running for this early showing). In the middle of the central area are some tables and chairs for people to sit and relax while waiting. The Ceiling very high and the room feels pretty big. I didn’t visit the restrooms when I was there so no feedback on them. To go to the theater you walk down a hallway and a guy rips your ticket. Tickets are on thermal paper so ripping is really what is happening, there are no perfs to help with that.

Theater Impressions – We arrived in the theater at 11:05 for an 11:10 movie. When we entered the Big D theater I had mixed feelings on my first impression. The screen seemed a little small and the space seemed a bit small. But the theater was very clean and well lit. I could easily see all the places to sit and the seats looked very impressive. They appeared to be like new and all appear to be a leather like material with high backs. Sitting in them was comfortable and they do recline and rock. Site lines in the theater look great for those getting there early. In a full theater the edge seats are probably still pretty good with no visible obstructions. This theater uses digital projectors (DLP) and digital movies (most theaters today do), no film involved and supports Dolby and DTS surround sound (7.1). Once I sat down I noticed the screen was bigger than it looked because there were curtains over the outside edges of the screen that opened up once the previews began (their marketing material says the screen is 78’ x 35’). Watching the movie the picture appeared bright and I did not notice any issues with sound or audio during the entire movie. Overall a very clear, focused and detail image was displayed, exactly what I expect from a DLP projector. The overall viewing experience was good and definitely something I would be willing to do again. The seats remained comfortable through the whole movie and I didn’t find myself fidgeting at all, though granted, this movie kept me pretty tense throughout the show.

Likes:

    Comfortable high back seats.
    Large screen with good picture.

Dislikes

    Leather seating surface makes for a sweaty back at intense movies.
    Late start and excessive adds. (Movie didn’t start for almost 30 minutes after the schedule start time)
    Wife doesn’t like the popcorn, and I’m not impressed either. Reminds me of the popcorn you might get in a bag at the grocery store.

The following is a list of prices I noted. Ticket prices are available at their website and vary quite a bit based on the time of day as well as the day with various promotions available.

Prices(tax included):

    Matinee Ticket – $6.75
    Surcharge for Big D – $2.00
    Large Popcorn – $7.20
    Large Pop – $5.50
    Large Water $4.65
    Large Slurpee – $6.00
    Candy – $4.05
    Nachos – $5.75
    Couples Combo Large $17.60

Have you been to Carmike 15 in Apple Valley? If so what did you think about it? Have you tried their new 4K screen? How does it compare to the standard screens you were used to seeing? Is it worth a $2 upcharge? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Gedney Homestyle Old World Spicy Dills

Last week I was at the store and was perusing the pickle aisle and came across Gedney Homestyle Old World Spicy Dills. Apparently part of an entire product line, these were very similar to other major labels who have been putting out similar homemade style pickles in labeling, inclusion of cut up veggies, and some sort of backstory about how they follow old world traditions in pickling vegetables.

The ingredient list is fairly simple and is what made me decide to give these a try:

cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, carrots, sugar, jalapeno peppers, salt, garlic, calcium chloride, and dill seed

While I would have preferred they keep out the calcium chloride, an agent used to increase the salt taste without the sodium content and to help firm up the vegetables, instead opting for an ice bath before packaging, the rest of the list was just fine for me.

While the packaging was attractive and the vegetables included inside were nice, the pickles were sort of ‘meh’. First off, these were nothing more than Polish dills. Unfortunately for Gedney, they weren’t sweet enough nor spicy enough to meet even the basic standards of lower-priced brands such as Cub’s own Polish Dills which don’t include any of the fancy vegetables meant to catch the eye. Aside from the lack of sweet and spice usually reserved for this genre, they just didn’t carry much flavor at all. I mean, they sort of tasted like pickles but weren’t tart enough to bring out that usual pickle taste. The only good thing at all about these was that they were quite crunchy but that wasn’t enough to save them.

Overall while I haven’t tried the rest of the Gedney Homestyle, their Old World Spicy Dills are a big pass. If the rest of this sub-brand are going to be this lame, I expect to see them bouncing to rock-bottom pricing soon so if you’re a fan, stock up ;-)

Have you had Geney’s Homestyle Old World Spicy Dills? If so, what did you think about them? Have you had any other Homestyle items from Gedney? Which ones and what did you think of those? How about other brands, like Vlasic, trying to do the same thing? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

The Red Line and MVTA’s Customer Service Sucks


Note: this is not a BRT bus as we were originally led to believe

This past weekend I was without a car and wife but had both the kids. With the weather as it was, it was difficult getting out and about aside from a few hours between the rainstorms. However, on Sunday morning after hoping the weather report was correct, I decided to brave the elements and walk to the Apple Valley Transit Station to take advantage of my tax dollars being utilized for free rides on the joint venture by Metro Transit and the MVTA for the new BRT service running as the “Red Line” to the Mall of America. It was during this trip that all of my fears about the line were realized and then some.

I left the house at around 9:40 AM hoping to make it to the AVTS for the 10:20 AM bus. As I was passing the old AVTS which is stil being used as a reststop for bus drivers, doubling the taxpayer’s cost in operating two facilities instead of one which in 2010 was already 3x as expensive to operate than that of the old station, I saw a Red Line bus ready to depart for the new Apple Valley Transit Station. Knowing that they were running about 30 minutes apart on the weekends, I ran the rest of the way, boarding just before it departed 4 minutes earlier than I expected it to.

The northbound trip was more or less uneventful. While I was surprised that the Red Line, billed as “Bus Rapid Transit”, still has to exit Cedar at Diffley to get to the Cedar Grove Transit Station and head back along the same route to get back on Cedar. While there are the beginnings of plans to add another millions of dollars more to this already $100+ million project, currently the route adds 3 minutes Northbound and 5 minutes Southbound. While the northbound bus scraped the elevated walkway at the Mall of America as it arrived, nothing else was out of the ordinary from any other MetroTransit city bus as that’s exactly what this was! They weren’t even MVTA branded as was promised back in 2010 and especially did not meet the super special “Trains on Rubber Wheels” marketingspeak talked about so many times before (including in the 1950s when the oil companies bought out the streetcar lines and replaced them with buses). Where are our fancy train buses the County and MVTA were touting in 2008?

After spending a few hours at the Mall of America, we headed back to the Red Line. Now, this is where the problems begin:

    1. The Red Line access point is on the other side of the LRT vehicles and have very little signage. In fact, if I hadn’t come northbound I would have had no idea where to get on at all, incorrectly assuming these buses would pull up to the windowed area at the Mall of American Transit Station.

    2. The access to the Red Line from the direction pointed to by a single board noting the location on where to go (on the LRT platform) is not handicapped accessible. I had to navigate a narrow section of sidewalk between the concrete stanchions and the elevated edge of the platform only to find that I could not access the Red Line buses from there. I ended up having to hop the kids down into the parking lot and walk all the way around (more than 100 feet I’m guessing) to get to a handicapped accessible entrance. Cute. More signage and less ridiculous access points are needed immediately.

    3. As I board I am rudely admonished for not folding my stroller by an MVTA/Schmitty and Sons trainer (not the driver). This was not done in a professional or polite manner as I would expect from a public/private partnership when dealing with the customer/taxpayer. Admittedly I immediately went on the offensive in response as this was the first time I’d heard of the buried stroller policy (it takes 4 clicks from their main page to get there and in my 5+ years of riding the bus have never heard of this or heard of any driver asking for another person to fold their stroller).

    I find the entire policy to be in need of a revamp:

    1. Remove child(ren) from stroller(s).
    2. Collapse stroller(s) and make sure it/they are not blocking the doorway or the aisle of the bus.
    3. If strollers do not collapse for storage, we are unable to accommodate you on the bus.
    4. Strollers may not be placed in the wheelchair area on any bus. These spaces must be available to our mobility-challenged riders at any time.

    NOTE: Folding the stroller not only makes it easier for other customers to get on and off the bus, but it also makes the ride safer for you and your child. A child in a stroller runs the risk of being injured as a result of sudden bus movements. Thank you for your cooperation.

    Our double-wide stoller has a four-point harness for each child and four brakes. It is infinitely more secure than me having to have one child, unbelted and facing sideways in a seat next to me while another sits on my lap. When the bus driver slammed on the brakes as someone made an expected turn into White Castle in Apple Valley, my son nearly went flying out of his seat due to the lack of being as safe as he would have been in the stroller.

    4. After being rudely and unprofessionally admonished for my lack of following the unposted and buried rule on strollers, of which I begrudgingly complied, a woman approached the trainer to ask a question carrying a large drink. While there is a sign above the driver (on all buses) which asks for no eating or drinking, I made sure to mention that all rules must be equally applied including the no drinking clause. I was ignored.

    5. When I pointed out that the trainer was in violation of the placard which reads:

    Federal law prohibits operation of this bus while anyone is standing in front of the white line.

    I was told she was a trainer and therefore permitted to stand there.

    6. I asked for the driver’s name and badge number and alerted her to my intention to speak with Beverly Miller at the MVTA on Monday morning. She ignored me and I again asked for the information to which she rudely replied that she would provide it to me in a minute.

    7. As I was packing up the stroller to disembark, the trainer rattled off her name and badge number. I told her that I patiently waited for her and she would do the same for me. After rattling it off two or three more times before I got it all, I explained to her that the placard did not read “anyone except MVTA staff”, it read “anyone”. It was at this point that she turned her back on me and walked towards the back of the bus for no reason. I told her that she will listen to what I have to say and she continued to walk away. I mentioned again I would be contacting MVTA staff in the morning and then, after I had left the bus, I heard her yell something about wanting my name. She will learn soon enough I’m certain.

Now, the bus line itself is a problem. It’s nothing that it was originally promised to be all those years ago. It does not at all fit the true definition of BRT as it exists elsewhere, it is no different than any other city bus route or anything other than a more direct variation of the several MVTA routes which already head to the Mall of America from Apple Valley.

While the bus line is useless, the fact that after 1.5 years of not riding the bus and taking only two rides before running into some sort of customer service issue from the MVTA is disgusting. Riders are to be treated kindly, fairly, and as adults. All drivers must be reeducated on the stroller policy (including the one who allowed me to continue uninterrupted that morning) and Ms. Larson (#1134) needs to be told to stay behind the line when the bus is in operation and go to some sensitivity training to learn how to better meet the needs of her customers.

What do you think about the failure that is the Red Line (!BRT)? Do you think all rules should be evenly and equally applied? Do you think that MVTA staff should treat customers better than they do? Whatever you have to say about this oe go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

CenterPoint Energy’s Unprofessional Professionals

Two days ago a man showed up in a jalopy of a personal vehicle with the radio blasting and engine still running as he exited with a CenterPoint Energy vest and a large wrench in his hand. Fighting his khaki shorts which hung around below his ass, he waddled directly over to the gas meters on the side of the houses across from us without any attempt to contact the residents in those homes.

Now, at this point, seeing what was going on, The Wife asked him “what the hell do you think you are doing?!” He replied that he was there to shut off the gas for one of our neighbors for non-payment and that he was definitely a CenterPoint Energy employee. He later used his ragged vest, laying on top of his unprofessional clothing, and a laptop showing that he was there to do his job as evidence of him not being a thief as it originally appeared.

The Wife later contacted CenterPoint and let them know of her displeasure to find one of their employees acting in such a manner. She received only a boilerplate response from their Customer Service department via e-mail which indicated a supervisor would be contacted about her concern.

The obvious question is why would CenterPoint ever allow employees going to shut off the gas to act in such a way. Why are they having people drive in their own vehicles and dress in a way which is clearly unprofessional to do something which suggests wrong-doing? Shouldn’t they have better internal policies in place to ensure that their employees are not looking like they’re up to no good?

What do you think about this one? Would you have expected a better response from the company? Do you think this individual was simply working outside of the policies they have and hadn’t been caught? What would you have done in response? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.