Monday, September 7, 2015

The Way Way Back

Year 7, Day 250 - 9/7/15 - Movie #2,142

BEFORE: In honor of Steven Colbert (or at least his former conservative pundit persona), it's time for "Tip of the Hat/Wag of My Finger".  First, a tip of the hat to the Travel Channel, for bringing back one of my favorite shows, "BBQ Crawl", which is about a BBQ chef named Danielle who travels on the competitive circuit, but in every town she goes to, she also visits a number of acclaimed BBQ restaurants, and tastes their specialties, describing them for the viewers.  It appeals to my love of food as well as my penchant for organization, because if you follow along and watch the episodes in the right order, it's like you're going on the trip with her.  This season, she started in California, competed in Arizona and Utah, then drove out to New York City, where the BBQ trend has exploded in the last few years.  

We've got great BBQ restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, out on Long Island, upstate - and my wife and I have been to many of them.  I made it up to episode 6 of "BBQ Crawl" this weekend, very appropriate for Labor Day, and watching the show made us do a crawl of our own.  Yesterday we were out on Long Island, we drove to the outlet stores but they were too crowded, so we found a nearby BBQ joint and had lunch.  This place (Maple Tree) had a strange mix of Texas brisket, Carolina pork and NY deli, like pastrami and smoked salmon.  It may sound weird, but I'm buoyed by the possibility that NYC could develop its own signature BBQ style, and not just borrow from other regions around the country - this could be the start of something new.  Then we watched the NYC episode of "BBQ Crawl", which featured two of my favorite places, Mable's Smokehouse and Hill Country BBQ - though it was the Brooklyn location of Hill Country, and I'd only been to the one in Manhattan.  So, we had to go have lunch in Brooklyn.  

But a big wag of my finger to the Travel Channel, for not giving this show any of the promotion it deserves.  The series returned in April, but it was done so quietly that I missed it - and I had to change out my DVR last August, so the new DVR wasn't programmed to record it. It turns out you can only program the recording of a show when the show is active, if it's not currently airing, you can't set your DVR for it.  You also need to KNOW when a show is coming back on, so I blame the Travel Channel for airing it at 2 or 3 am.  Finally I managed to catch reruns of the entire season so far - only to find that when I recorded Episodes 7 and 8, they hadn't aired when they should, and my DVR instead recorded episodes of "Man Finds Food", which I'd already seen.  Now I'm forced to try and download the episodes illegally, which I'm not a fan of doing, or else I have to watch the episodes out of order, and then wait for the missing ones, and you know that will drive me nuts.  Part of the fun is experiencing her road trip with her, in the right sequence. 

Hey, Travel Channel, it's a great show - why not make it available On Demand, in case someone missed an episode, or their DVR screwed up, or in case YOU screwed up by not airing the episodes at the right time?  How is someone supposed to become a fan of the show if they can't see the episodes they want, in the proper order?  

Allison Janney carries over from "Bad Words", and this will be the last film in the "Back to School" series, even though it's about summer vacation, I'm thinking that today is the most appropriate place for this one to land.  

THE PLOT: Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in the manager of the Water Wizz water park.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Adventureland" (Movie #833)

AFTER: This seemed like just a simple little coming-of-age story, so I didn't really expect much out of it, just maybe a combination of elements seen in other films, like "Adventureland" and "Little Miss Sunshine".  For the most part, that's exactly what I got - which isn't to say that's a bad thing, it just seems to be territory that's been mined before in earlier films.  A teen comes out of his shell during a summer - the unique part might be that this kid starts to act like a grown-up, while the grown-ups in his family and at the water park act mainly like children.  

A few days ago I watched "The To Do List", which centered on a teen girl working at a pool in 1993, and today's film is about a teen boy working at a water park in - what year?  Eventually a character made references to events that took place in 2011 and 2012, so this would appear to be current, but with all the 80's music and old station wagons, really it could be set in just about any time in the last 30 years.  This was pretty crafty, because without a lot of current references, it could appeal to today's teens as well as adults who want to remember their teen years.  

Duncan eventually gains confidence from working at the water park, even forms his first friendship and potential romantic relationship with a girl, though I was a little unclear about why he had to sneak out every day to go the park, why he couldn't tell his family where he was spending his time.  Maybe his mother wouldn't have allowed him to get a job, since they were supposed to be spending the summer together.  Maybe he just wanted a little something private for himself, but this wasn't made completely clear.  

This leads me to a NITPICK POINT about being a 14-year old, which seems a little too young for me to have a real summer job.  Duncan gets paid by check, and that means that there had to be paperwork, like he had to fill out a W-2 form, and show proper ID, which not every 14-year old would have, or bring with him on vacation.  Unless he made less than $650 during the summer, which means the water park wouldn't have to report his salary, but hiring him without proper ID or paying him off the books would still be a little illegal.  

This was filmed in towns like Wareham and Duxbury in Massachusetts, and while that's not exactly on Cape Cod, it's pretty darn close.  I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, and many people in my hometown had vacation houses on the Cape - so I remember there were some kids from junior high that you just didn't see from June to September, because their family could afford to spend the whole summer at the beach.  I'm not a fan of the beach, so that didn't really interest me, maybe once during the summer we'd take a drive up to Maine or go out to the Cape for a weekend, that was enough.  

Also starring Steve Carell (last seen in "Hope Springs"), Toni Collette (last seen in "The Night Listener"), Sam Rockwell (last seen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), Liam James, Maya Rudolph (last seen in "Friends With Kids"), Rob Corddry (last seen in "Rapture-Palooza"), Amanda Peet (last seen in "Syriana"), AnnaSophia Robb, Nat Faxon (last seen in "Zookeeper"), Jim Rash, River Alexander, Zoe Levin. 

RATING: 5 out of 10 ghost crabs

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