Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bad Coffee

A couple of weeks ago, I finally broke down and got a membership for the Hollywood Video a few blocks from my house. I figured what the hell, seeing as I’m no longer getting all the free movies (and half price porn!) that I scored while working for the cable company. No, Hollywood doesn’t offer a wildly eclectic selection, but it’s not bad for a strip mall in Engleweird, Colorado. They’ve got a fair-to-middlin’ amount of the gonzo stuff in stock, and no bounty on my head for all the unpaid late fees I’ve incurred over the years - so that’s two things they’ve got on Blockbuster. And don’t even get me started on Netflicks. What the hell is that? You choose a bunch of movies that you’ve convinced yourself you want to see, only to have them sent to you entirely at random. What if you were just lying to yourself about your love of French New Wave cinema? I mean, yes, in theory, I’d love to see a festival of German Industrialist films, showcasing the work of FW Murnau and Fritz Lang; but tonight, I want to watch a retrospective on the films of John Hughes. And Godzilla.

The other night I was unexpectedly overcome with my bi-annual urge to see “Battle Beyond the Stars”, featuring Richard Thomas wearing Luke Skywalker’s “Member’s Only” jacket from Empire Strikes Back. (Yeah, that crappy model flying through space? Designed by James Cameron. Respect, yo.) I was giving the new releases a once over, looking for something that would keep the wife from leaving me (See? How do you explain that to your Netflicks queue?) and that’s when I found it, sitting on the shelf, calling to me, tempting me like a heartless Jezebel. Like Sponch.* There, sitting among the endless rows of last years Oscar winners and box office blockbusters sat a copy of a direct to video placeholder titled – simply, generically enough - Caffeine.
Oh, yeah, this gag would work WAY better if you saw him from the front! You'll just have to trust me.

One look at the box, at the vaguely attractive cast, and I knew exactly what to expect. Which is to say, “crap”. You know, even when every “twenty-something” kid wearing a long-sleeve shirt under his flannel was making a movie, no one ever had the audacity to actually make a movie about life in a coffee house. It was just too precious, too obvious; even “Reality Bites” was smart enough to have Ethan Hawke hang out in a greasy spoon, in order to make him a little less cliché.

Still, how could I resist? How hard could it possibly be to make at least a passable movie about the subject matter? Especially for someone like me, who sets the bar so freaking low. (Yes, folks, that’s John-Boy, if only you could see his face) Throw Clerks and Empire Records in a blender, add a pinch of Diner for good measure, and hit “frappe”.

Christ on a corn-chip, how wrong I was.

Where to even start? Oh, yes - how about the script, which is presumably where the poor, misguided film makers began. The screenplay is hobbled together from a bunch of clichés from 10 years ago (the quirky customers, the single, life changing day in a static location, etc.) It takes place, for no apparent reason at all, at a coffeehouse in London. Now, as anyone who has been witness to one of my bouts of self loathing knows, I’ve never been to London. But even I could tell that the film (actually, shot on some not-terribly high quality video) was made in LA; and that was before I even heard Mena Suvari (the not-nearly-as-hot-as Thora Birch girl that everyone was lusting after in American Beauty) affect an accent that wouldn’t have passed muster in a high school production of “Pygmalion”. Then there’s Breckin Meyer, who, even if I could suspend my disbelief long to buy him as (from the website) a Sartre reading, aspiring author, I sure as hell don’t buy that he’s 27. Then there’s a bunch of people who have sex with each other.** And some clumsy fantasy sequences of people having sex with each other. And the gay character, who’s “character” is to be “gay”. And then there’s the “surprise” ending, where a character that you would never expect ends up being in a relationship with the aforementioned gay character.

(Spoiler Alert – It’s Breckin Meyer. Now THAT I can buy!)

The End. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. You can figure out the rest of the story yourself by adding a bunch of random nouns and verbs to a book of “Indie” movie Mad Libs. The best thing that I can say about it is that there’s no umpteenth repeat of the coffee ordering scene from LA Story. (Half Caff, Double Decaf, blah blah, HA HA!! snore.)

Here’s the thing – this stuff can be done well. Kevin Smith does this stuff well. I know some people rail against the guy’s success, but what’s the point? Some folks like Adam Sandler movies; I like Kevin Smith. Knocking on the guy’s ability as a film maker is like calling out Chef Boyardee for not being a good cook. But Caffeine? Dude, this movie makes Kevin Smith look like Emeril Agassi.

Maybe someday, another 10 years from now, when we all have enough real distance from the whole “Generation X” thing, then there can be a coffee house movie with a bunch of inside jokes and self referential humor. Hell, turn it into a full scale musical… it seems to be working for Xanadu. What a fossilized pile of pig vomit that movie was.

Except for the fact that it starred the positively brilliant Gene Kelly. MAD respect, yo.

*What do you mean you’ve never had Sponch****? Heretic. It’s a sugary sweet confection made by our amigos at the Bimbo Corporation. Not only does it have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, but it tastes like duck turd. And now you must have one, just to quell your Hemmingway-like sense of adventure. Damn you, Bimbo Bear. Available at fine convenience stores everywhere.

** for the record, people who work together at the SAME coffeehouse rarely, if ever, have sex with each other. Sad but true.*** If I knew this back in the day, I would have worked at Bennigans with the cocaine addicted hostesses.

***Yes, dear, I know it happens SOMETIMES.

**** SPONCH also stands for Sulfur, Phosphorus, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen (key elements that compose living things)

That is all.

1 comment:

caffeinator_x said...

I really liked this entry, so I'm leaving a comment to myself.

Love ya, Caff!