Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Every generation looks back, some better than others.

This weekend featured an intentional movie double-feature of new releases.  Turns out that they very much focus on the same subject.  Turning 40.  And trying to turn back the clock to rectify doing so.  With very different results.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" features the best/worst full-story title since "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead".  And some of the early reviews were actually quite positive.  Suckers.  We saw it opening night at a fairly crowded downtown Seattle multiplex.  While I was telling Sarah a scintillating story about buying socks at Nordstrom's (I wish I was joking), a big group of goofballs in their early 20s showed up in 80s-themed costumes.  Many of them were dressed way too generally (preppies, long-haired "Poison" rockers, blah blah blah).  I dearly wanted to give them credit for the effort, even though I would have chosen to show up as Max Headroom drinking New Coke.  Which would have also sucked.  Even more sadly, the reality is that they were just like the movie - funny to begin with as a derivative joke until the lameness creeped in and harshed everyone's buzz to the point of regret.  Although I expect the people behind the movie sincerely hoped for a good time to be had by all, they couldn't help but let their own neuroses seep in.  Everyone knows the set-up.  A bunch of childish adults try to go back and use a do-over to set everything right.  "Hot Tub Time Machine" lets them do so with out ill effects or anything like story editing required.  See it if you're a total douche or just plan to drink heavily either before or afterward.  Everyone should be required by law to come up with their own version of the story.  You couldn't do any worse.  My rating for this movie is a big fat D.

"Greenberg" was meant to be the indie counterpoint to "Hot Tub Time Machine".  And judging by the crowd, a polite gaggle of middle-aged Seattlites shared that impression going in.  I'll just get it out front - my rating is a widely-varied C.  Could've been a B-plus, felt more like a D.  The actors are all serious about what they do - Ben Stiller takes risks, Greta Gerwig is appropriately vague and fearless (her initial sex scene with Greenberg is stunning in the hilarious discomfort it causes), Rhys Ifans proved yet again that I'd go to see him in anything or even just hanging around coffeehouses that I frequent talking and smoking and generally looking like that cool-as-Sean Connery bedraggled burnout that sold pot in everyone's dorm sophomore year.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  The movie.  Man, it's just not there.  Greenberg is meant to showcase another form of 40-year-old angst - looking at back at what could have been.  But this time, from a place where your mind is damaged goods and you know it.  Aside from all that, there's one extended scene that effectively became the climax (before the actual climax of the movie).  I'm not spoiling anything here, trust me.  The set-up is quick.  Greenberg is housesitting at his brother's place and their oldest kid comes home from college at Spring Break.  She throws a party.  A bunch of entitled, probably cool-enough characters show up.  They give Greenberg drugs.  And you...wait.  You expect him to explode or run crazily off the rails or dissemble into a pile of rags that had once been a person with real promise.  What happens, I won't spoil.  But that scene and what comes after are the best acted riffs I can think of in recent memory.  Too damn bad it takes an hour and a half to get anywhere near it.

On second thought, see "Greenberg".  That whole party is worth the price of admission.

But if you want to really see something worth much more, I must recommend with my highest regard "The Pacific" on HBO.  It's a 10-part miniseries.  The first two parts were a slow burn, and I wasn't committed.  Then, Part 3 aired this weekend.  The main characters are safely off Guadalcanal, allowed to somewhat rest and barely recover in Melbourne as heroes.  They're greeted by, among others, some very horny Aussie women.  Or, more importantly, love-starved.  That love burns both sides - the civilians and the soldiers.  I won't give anything away here either.  Catch it if you can.  My rating is at this point a solid A.  My heart still hurts after Part 3.  If things go where I think they'll go in the upcoming chapters, I may need to get a full work-up to make sure no true damage was done.

Hope your own confused 80s nostalgia gets you nowhere near a movie starring Shannon Tweed today.  Rock on.

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