Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World

Seen: 2003.12.02   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.12.28

Boy, was this one an odyssey to see.

Theatre experience

Because there were so many “holiday” movies appearing at once, it was tricky for Mr. X, Mr. Y, and your faithful but eternally-procrastinating servant to schedule this one in. We got there on the last night of its run at the Paramount. I rang ahead.

One of the preferred managers was on the desk. We had to pull the tube socks off our own reflectors, but I seem to remember a new manageress voluntarily Windexing them without so much as a word spoken. More discussion of the privacy implications of signing ourselves in.

As we passed the ticket-taker at gate while holding our gear, he told us “first door on your left.” “No, right,” I instinctively corrected him. (As you know, my instinct is always to correct. Ask me about my anecdote from the first week of Grade 2.) I was thinking of Cinema 11, the second hardwired auditorium. But they sent us to 9, which felt weird immediately, a feeling confirmed when we saw no LED at the back of the house.

The preferred manager was summoned over and was mortified to discover that they had moved Master & Commander out of that room for the night (and possibly the night before) to accommodate an advance screening of The Crap in the Hat in Cinema 2.

But this meant we wouldn’t be able to see the movie with MoPix: It wasn’t playing there that night, this was the last night, and we weren’t about to hang around for nearly four hours and schlep out to Yorkdale for its 10:30 showing.


But two weeks later, more or less as a result of our predicament, the movie was re-rotated back into Cinema 11, and we watched it with little incident. The place was packed, though, meaning Mr. X and Mr. Y sat together while I commandeered something very close to My Seat. (“Are those coats or people?” I asked the seat’s neighbours.) A d00d to my left moves one seat over. We’ll hear more of him shortly.

Caption quality

( tolling stops ) This isn’t Line 21. We don’t typeset spaces inside parens (actually an artifact of the italic toggle).

We do a lot of pre-identifying:

The lingo in this film is positively Chaucerian. I sure as hell couldn’t keep up with the sailing jargon.

(man speaking Brazilian): I rather think not.

(poignant musical theme playing). Fair enough.

More ramifications of the absence of £: It leads to shitty caption breaks.

12,000 pounds


One has two sets of overprinted notes detailing a discrepancy between speech and caption.

Commands “barked out” and immediately repeated by hands are misrendered:

- Two six.
- Two, six.

I rather doubt l'infirmary is a French word.

Description quality

Our narrator: Miles Neff.

In the opening minutes, descriptions are introduced with “Now” or “Words appear” up to a total of ten times. That’s way too repetitive.

Descriptions completely inaudible during explosive blasts.

“The great cabin” and a “loupe” are named without explanation. You just have to follow along. But: “Using a treefive trephine, a surgical tool with a circular blade.” (I can’t read the word “treefive” in my notes, and it resists Googling. Nonetheless, they defined it.)

“Then faces his dark-skinned assistant, Bill,” who is one of several blacks on the ship, a fact we are never told.

“Two pairs of natives row long canoes to the Surprise.” “Indigenous women.”

The hourglass” vs. “an.” You can only use the definite article after introducing the item.


No problems.

Exit interview

Partway through the film, at a quiet moment, the fellow who had moved one seat over nudges me and asks me to turn the volume down. Having already noticed his surreptitious looks and with lots of experience in this regard, I calmly stated “I’m modulating it with the volume of the movie, but I have to be able to hear it.” I vowed to chat with him afterward.

As credits rolled, I nudged him and handed him the headset. He listened to Neff reading the credits and asked what it was all about. I told him, and of course he complained about sound spillage. I said I knew and agreed with him, but these were the headsets we were stuck with. He should complain at the front desk, I told him.

Then he noticed and asked about the reflector. He and his gf unit had stood up by this point, revealing themselves to be impossibly tall and blond(e). I explained what captions were. He tried to explain it in another language to his gf. I was unsure what he was speaking, so I asked. “Dutch.” (No wonder they’re stratospherically tall and blond[e].” “Untertitel,” I helpfully said to both of them, getting it quite wrong (in Dutch, it’s ondertitel), but they got it.

They were very interested and shockingly nice. The two did in fact talk to a playa (and maybe a manager at the front desk). As Mr. X, Mr. Y, and I replaced our reflectors on the desk, some d00d piped up and said “What’s that? Key to the washroom?” A stern look was administered. Mr. X explained their true purpose.

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