Friday, March 26, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Josh Heald and Jarrod Paul
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, and Chevy Chase.

Premise: 4 guys go back in time to the 80s using a hot tub.

Hot Tub Time Machine- He said

Cats, and kittens! If you know me, you know I love John Cusack. From Say Anything and High Fidelity to Identity, I love this guy…except 2012. Regardless, very much like my sister, I try to go see most of his movies. Funny thing is he is not really the reason that I wanted to see Hot Tub Time Machine. Oh no, it was the brief scene where Craig Robinson’s character says, “I guess it’s a hot tub time machine.” and then he looks directly into the camera. I couldn’t stop cracking up at this, but it is an important moment because it sets the tone of the movie. It is no Judd Apatow comedy, the dramatic arc is not that great, but it won’t take away from the good time that you’ll have.

The beginning part of this movie reminded me of Couples Retreat (wait! Don’t be despaired) where it definitely felt like they were just trying to go through the motions to get the main characters to the time machine and in the 80’s. John Cusack’s Adam is an uptight guy who gets broken up with by his girlfriend and decides to split their items with colored dots. Rob Corddry is Lou-a dude that never grew up and still listens to awful hair metal. I truly hope this movie brings him more exposure. Craig Robinson is Nick, who is completely whipped by his wife and in the saddest role I’ve ever seen him. Finally Clark Duke as Jacob, being a fan of him since watching him in Greek, I must say he is playing the same character but not in a Michael Cera sort of way. Once again the set up is lame, but the way they get there is hilarious, and the group has great chemistry together. I know that Cusack could do humor but not in this manner. The rapid fire back and forth between these characters led to me truly believing these dudes were life long pals.

When they finally get to the 80’s that’s where the fun really begins. It’s funny how they poke at all of the ridiculous trends of the time. It’s funny because they don’t take the time to really explain much of how this hot tub really works except through the unnecessary and minor role that Chevy Chase has. This is no Primer cats and kittens, the logic (?) and rules about this time travel story is touched up on very lightly. Once again this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but once again, it is a consistently hilarious film. One of the weirdest concepts is that they look like their younger counterparts, but somehow Jacob isn’t. What’s weird is that he doesn’t change, and that apart from being in one of the couple horrible CGI-laden sequences, the younger counterparts are not used much if at all for the rest of the movie. The CGI is the truly weak spot of the movie it was in the weird scenes where they felt necessary to hire a 10 year old to put a crappy background.

Overall I have to say this was a very good movie, and hopeful stepping stone in the limelight for every one in the cast that wasn’t John Cusack, except Chevy Chase, that man needs to stick to Community exclusively.

Hot Tub Time Machine- She said

Hot Tub Time Machine is an absolutely ridiculous concept. It is. I mean how can you go back in time in a Hot Tub. Sure, in Back to the Future it was a DeLorean, but the writers explained the concept in a very scientific, almost plausible way. There is nothing plausible about traveling back in time in a hot tub, and the movie doesn‘t really attempt to explain the concept in a semi-realistic way, but for some reason, that’s okay. I suspended all my disbeliefs and just accepted the fact, and I had a blast with this movie.

The concept is simple…four guys go back in time to the 80s during a weekend getaway at a ski resort. When they first arrive, they think it’s a retro weekend, though a lot of the fashions that people were wearing are coming back in style—scary. However, they soon realize that they’ve traveled back in time. They quickly figure out the universal rule of time travel-You must do everything exactly how it happened, otherwise it could have consequences and it will alter the future. So, they begin to retrace their steps. What follows is hilarity and insanity that I won’t tempt to spoil.

The chemistry and bromance of the four main characters sell this movie. This movie has a very simple storyline, so without a solid cast, it would fall on his face, just like The Hangover hinges on the believability of the relationships of the main characters. The four main characters, John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke, are all unbelievably funny in their own way, and yet they’re all strangely sympathetic.

This movie is a lot of fun. Suspend the disbeliefs you might have about time travel, and you’ll have a blast. Also, this movie is worth a watch to see the amazing costumes and set design. This must have been those designers dream. The costumes were loud, tight and loose in all the wrong areas, and mismatched as only the 80s can do. If you’re a child of the 80s, you’ll have déjà vu with the appearance of walkmans, Jheri curls, and one characters obsession with Red Dawn and the Ruskies.

As a whole, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to everyone. I had a few problems with the special effects. There’s a point where the characters look in a mirror and “see” themselves as how they looked in the 80s, and the CGI is horrendous. And not in an ironic-80s-bad CGI-trying-to-be-funny-type of horrendous. It really looks like the CGI was off one day and a new guy worked on that part.

This is one of the first good comedies of 2010; however, I hope it’s not the only good comedy. Don’t get me wrong…I laughed and enjoyed this movie, but I’m not going to rush out and buy it as soon as it hits DVD. See this movie with a bunch a friends and laugh until your sides hurt, especially if you have any connection with the 80s.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My sad disappointment of Tim Burton-or the mini Alice In Wonderland review


This is more of a bunch of thoughts than a formal review of Alice in Wonderland (or more of a trashing of it).  If you know me, you know I am a huge Tim Burton fan, I have liked his films since before I heard the term goth.  My first memories were those of Edward Scissorhands, a movie that my grandfather introduced me to, I never understood many of themes and how truly dark the movie was simply because I was too young.  I had the same obsession with Nightmare Before Christmas, which I owned on VHS (eff you, Hot Topic bandwagon jumpers), I'd watch it to calm me down during the unfamiliar Texas storms.  Fast forward to now, where the man has gone on to do some truly great things (Big Fish, Sweeny Todd, Sleepy Hollow) and some ridiculous duds (The obvious Planet of The Apes).  I feel that Tim Burton is certainly like an old and aging metal band.  The style that made him famous and interesting and "weird" has become rather stale.  Kind of like Metallica, a band most will recognize, you can only hear so much double bass drums and awesome guitar solos before you become bored by it.  The same with Mr. Burton, from his constant collaborations with Johnny Depp, Danny Elfman, Christopher Lee, Helena Bohnman Carter, along with his obsession of late to make adaptations (here comes another one I'm wary of cats and kittens), I'm getting truly bored with it.  

Alice in Wonderland was a horribly boring and half way decent looking film, which is sad to say considering I wanted the visuals to save the day if the plot could not.  The movie itself is not bad, but only because it hits all of the story plots, twists and character arcs that it should as a deceptive epic hero's journey type of movie.  The bad guys are evil and deceptive in the same ways they should, the good guys have a the odds horribly stacked against them, but I bet will find a way to overcome them.  The style was great, but once again all too common for Tim Burton.  I do like the nice touches of Alice crossing a lake of decapitated heads (very metal, High On Fire needs to get in on that imagery).  If it wasn't for Frances, I probably would've fallen asleep.  In the end the only redeeming thing of this movie is the Chesire Cat.  You'll notice I don't mention anything about Johnny Depp.  I don't for the simple reason that this is his version of what Cat in the Hat was for Mike Myers. In it Myers sounds like a little bit of all the characters he has played in the past 5 years and this is what happens to Depp, albeit more tragically considering he's actually a good actor.  

As a closing thought, I hope that Tim Burton doesn't get swayed by the financial success of the movie, and chooses to wisen up and make some damn good original stuff.  He is at a crossroads of his career, one many directors have been in and have instead gone to complete crap (I'm looking at you Ivan Reitman).  I hope my beloved director is not one of them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thoughts about some ceremony!

Angela and I decided that this is the year to do the showcase for AMC.  For those that do not know it’s the awesome movie marathon AMCs around the country host for the Best Picture Nominees.  This year was difficult because there are ten nominees instead of the usual five.  AMC decided to split up the marathon over two weekends.  Here are our thoughts on those movies as it relates to their Oscar chances. 

Avatar: The supposed shoe in for the Best Picture win.  I have gone on how much I love this movie for the cinematic experience that it is, and as you can tell, that’s what it is a great experience, not a great movie.  I kept it on watching being thoroughly amazed by the great visuals but not its story.  Now I will never hate this movie for having a recycled plot because I believe that as long as you tell a good version of an overused plot it doesn’t matter, but my problem with the plot and characters is how it stacks up against others.  And that’s the issue; it feels like half of the Basterds have more character than Sigourney Weaver in Avatar. 

Up in the Air: Here’s an interesting contrast to Avatar, where one takes precedence of plot over characters, Up in the Air does the opposite.  It relies on the complexities and nuances of the characters to envelop you in its story.  This was my third time watching the movie and I must say that it still holds up really well.  You notice details in the way the characters act that wasn’t there before.  Ultimately an enjoyable third viewing, but unfortunately in contention with (ugh) Avatar, The Hurt Locker and (hopefully?) Inglouriuos Basterds it doesn’t seem like it would stand a chance at winning.  Nevertheless it is one of my favorites in this whole race.

Precious- Ok there was a reason I never saw Precious while: it felt like a pointless story.  I heard all of the tragic aspects and it sounded like an urban version of a Coen Bros. movie.  As a personal opinion, I didn’t like this movie, but I will admit that the chick playing Gabourey Sidibe was fantastic.  One of her monologues at the end of the movie almost moved me, while the whole time I was bored or just annoyed at it.  Definitely won’t have a chance for the Oscar and I think it was a pity nomination.

Haven’t seen The Blind Side before the other day, and I have to say it was surprisingly fun.  It’s yet another movie that I’m not sure how it got nominated.  The way I can compare it is a poor man’s Remember The Titans, and that’s giving it a lot love.  Maybe it’s because of this year’s apparent Sandra Bullock love affair, which once again is not warranted.  This movie didn’t seem to break new ground for her acting, unless you count her not being a romantic comedy lead groundbreaking.

Inglourious Basterds is my favorite movie of the year, and the most cinematic one at that.  I wish this one would win but once again there’s the big competition with Avatar and The Hurt Locker.  This is easily the best Tarantino movie that he has made, that shows all of his love that he has for the format of film.

Up: One of the most complex movies thematically that Pixar has ever released.  It is the spiritual counterpart of Up in The Air, where one Up is about a guy that has so much love and baggage in his life and learning how to let go of that, Up In The Air has a guy that has none and needs to learn to have some baggage.  It is a great movie, but unfortunately has no chance.  It will win Best Animated Feature though!

A Serious Man: Coen Brothers are basically kicking ass and taking religious names.  Unlike the ridiculously overrated Precious, it feels like the horrible pain that is inflicted on Larry Gopnik seems to have some purpose.  Or not, depending on your interpretation.  Regardless, this is a movie that will be discussed and thought about for a long time, much like No Country For Old Men.  I truly believe that this movie would have won if it had been released last year.  It is one of the most surprising releases of this race.

The Hurt Locker is the other obvious contender in the Best Picture race.  This is my second time seeing this and I have to say that the thrill of seeing it and the tension definitely goes away with the second viewing.  This does not diminish the impact of the story and the really crappy situations that the soldiers go through.  A lot of the issues that people have of this movie such as the episodic nature, and the Bella Swan-like empty shell characters, hold true but do not take away from the experience of the movie.  I really hope that if Inglourious Basterds doesn’t win, that this movie does.  Avatar really doesn’t hold up to it. 

An Education is a charming little movie of what it is to be young and naïve and stupid.  The movie doesn’t necessarily cover much new ground, just like most of the nominees, but it does it so well that you do not care.  Carey Mulligan is definitely a stand out, while Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour are fantastic as the very period-specific parents.  It’s easy to be creeped out by the premise of the movie, but when you think of England in the 1960’s it might make more sense.  Unfortunately, it is a really low-key movie that is just above average.  I hope to see Ms. Mulligan in more projects in the near future.

District 9 is the symbolic reason that the 10 nominations got start.  This is this year’s The Dark Knight, and seeing it for the millionth time (no kidding) I appreciated it even more.  I noticed the similarities between this movie and Avatar, in that you have what is essentially the same story, where a human turns against his own kind for the sake of another, and has a badass epic battle at the end.  When put in this context this makes people’s complaints about the movie less valid to me.  Why is it ok for Avatar to have a big epic battle but not District 9? Maybe it’s because it has a more compelling premise behind the familiar story.  Who knows? Regardless, unlike The Dark Knight it won’t win, but I am kind of happy that it won’t because I don’t want Neil Blompkamp to be in some way ruined by the win. 

In the end, the 10 nominations feel wasted due to the fact that a lot of the movies have a lot of similar themes.  The ones in Up and Up In The Air are similar as I mentioned.  Precious and A Serious Man share the almost sadistic torture that the main characters go through.  Avatar and District 9 are essentially the same story as I said above.  And as Angela mentioned there’s the running theme of prejudice and self-discovery that runs through all of these movies.  It’s gonna be exciting to see who all wins tonight though!