Friday, August 20, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Aug. 13-19

Back to the Future (1985) ****
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells

Image courtesy of Universal
It turns out that this 80s classic that was such a hit for me as a kids is also a hit for my kids. They loved the original “Back to the Future”. My oldest seemed to be a step ahead of the movie the whole time. “Wait,” Jack would say, “If they sent Einstein ahead a minute into the future, then he’s about to pop up right where they’re standing.” They didn’t quite understand all the different details about life in the 50s. They wondered why we were laughing at things like Marty’s Mom’s mention of her hope chest. But they were with the movie the whole time. “Oh no! The wire broke. How’s he going to get back to the future!”  I love family movie night. Although, a word of warning—it’s important for parents to remember that a PG rating was much more lenient when we were kids. We had to explain to our youngest that he shouldn’t repeat the phrase “Holy shit!”

Greenberg (2010) ***½
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writers: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Image courtesy of Focus Features
It’s hard to describe the success of a film like “Greenberg”. It’s not a laugh out loud comedy. Some, who aren’t used to darker comedies, might describe it as an outright drama, but it’s not. It’s incredibly observant of human nature. More of us are like Greenberg than we would care to admit. Not that he is an everyman in anyway. And then there’s the girl, who not enough of us are like. Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig turn in two very impressive performances in their utterly awkward romance. Unfortunately, not many audiences really want to see a movie about a socially inept man, the mess he makes of things, and the girl who’s willing to put up with him. If they did, they might learn a little too much about their lives.

The Losers (2010) ***
Director: Sylvain White
Writers: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt, Andy Diggle (comic book), Jock (comic book)
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, Holt McCallany, Jason Patric

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Did anyone tell Sylvester Stallone that someone had already made “The Expendables” and released it earlier this year? Further, did they tell him that it was infinitely better in every aspect; it’s well acted, well written, funny, exciting, loud and even has a plot that makes sense? It’s called “The Losers” and in the race for the best Smith & Wesson commercial for 2010, it turns “The Expendables” into the real loser. “The Losers” makes Stallone’s movie easily expendable, if you will.

Ghost World (2001) ****
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Writers: Daniel Clowes (also graphic novel), Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Bob Balaban, Illeana Douglas

Image courtesy of United Artists
This was one of my favorite movies of 2001. I hadn’t seen it since about 2003. Time is the great clarifier. I always knew I loved this movie about an outsider girl and her friend upon graduation from high school. I liked the movie, but never understood the mechanics of its narrative until now. It’s about rebirth into the world from childhood into adulthood.

What happens to most of us is we go through this transformation from who we were to who we think we should be. For many of us, we don’t find out until later that who we think we should be and who we really are are two different things. Some of us just transform and never look back. For some the transformation is harder. But I think the transformation is necessary, even if you must transform into a more advanced version of what you were before. The transformation is necessary for the advancement, however. It’s necessary to make that choice to transform in some way. Some people, like the Steve Buscemi character, never make that choice. But if you don’t get on the bus, you don’t advance. You don’t have to change what you are to do that. You just have to choose. Otherwise, you’ll remain merely a ghost of what you were as a child. That’s what I got from it this time anyway.

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