Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Unrentables: Aspen Extreme

It's hard to believe, but we have a good number of DVD's at the video store that have never rented. Not even once. Many of these discs have been out and on the shelves for years. Think about that...Years. And not one person has ever thought to pick them up. Not even an employee! And we get to rent stuff for free.

I got to thinking...What if some of these unwanted films, these Unrentables, were actually worthwhile? Could it be that some great movies have been unfairly relegated to the dustbin of video rental history? There's only one way to find out...

So over the next few weeks, I'll be renting some of these films. For the first time ever. And actually watching them. Let's kick off the feature with 1993's ski extravaganza Aspen Extreme.

UNRENTABLES: VOLUME #1
ASPEN EXTREME
Director: Patrick Hasburgh
IMDB Rating: 5.2


This shot of a slow-moving bulldozer represents the most action-packed and extreme sequence in Aspen Extreme. It was that or the scene where Peter Berg makes coffee.

We start the film in a Ford truck factory, where hero Paul Gross works the line. He kind of looks like Jared Leto, but instead of hopelessly dreaming of rock stardom like that wannabe nerd, he dreams of being a writer. Unfortunately, he tends to speak entirely in non-sequiteur, which can kind of hurt one's chances of becoming a writer, unless one is William Burroughs. (For example, during a courtship scene, Paul turns to his lady friend and whispers..."Smell that? Winter's coming." This guy's smooth...)

Regrettably, Esquire has just rejected his article, so he gives up on writing and decides to skip town for parts unknown. I guess no one told him to start small and work his way up to the big publications. Now, if Hatchett Fillipachi doesn't want his stuff, he might as well just throw it the fuck away.

Then he goes to hang out with friend Peter Berg, who's busy welding. Um, something. They decide to leave town immediately for no good reason, and select Aspen, Colorado as their final destination. Because of the tremendous amount of welding work there, I'd imagine.

This is perhaps the most dull opening 10 minutes in cinema history. And poorly written! At one point, Berg describes an old hook-up as "so ugly, she could make an onion cry." Now, I know that onions make people cry, but I still don't think this analogy works. It should be a word associated with happiness to make sense, not a pungent vegetable.

Paul and Pete get accepted as ski instructors at a fancy-pants Aspen resort, where their job is not only to teach skiing but apparently "to fulfill a fantasy." The film doesn't explore this black market ski lodge gigolo operation in any greater detail, unfortunately, even though it would clearly be more interesting than this claptrap about romance on the slopes. It also doesn't answer what happens when men sign up for ski lessons, as all the instructors appear to be other men. Perhaps they only get the gay novices, and the straight dudes go to a different resort.

Said romance largely revolves around cute Aspen DJ Teri Polo, who's fairly reminiscent of Minnie Driver's cute Grosse Point DJ in Grosse Point Blank. She has a rule about not dating ski instructors, which strikes me as a pretty specific rule, even by Aspen standards. It's like having a rule against dating tree doctors. (Well, to be fair, they do tend to smell of sap.) Other than her overly-complex dating restrictions, her major identifying characteristic is ownership of a variety of hideously ugly sweaters. Her wardrobe looks like it was designed by Bill Cosby after ingesting a grocery bag full of magic mushrooms.

Also there's Finola Hughes as a sexy but frustrated rich wife who wants to fuck the young, hot ski instructors. This character is pretty much standard issue for these sorts of movies, showing up to vamp for a little bit, who a man character a crazy good time and then leave with as little fanfare as possible.

I should add at this point that we're about 30 minutes into the movie and, though we're definitely in Aspen, nothing even remotely extreme has happened. I mean, nothing. No one has even cracked open a Mountain Dew or belted out the chorus to "More Than Words" yet and the movie's 1/3 over! You call that extreme? This is a blatant case of fraudulent advertising.

The guy's compete in a Figure 8 contest (whoever makes the most perfect track wins), and are told that to win this competition, they must be able to "ski anywhere, any time, any conditions." Anywhere? At any time? In any conditions? What about the top of Mount Doom at midnight during a volcanic eruption and there's a hail storm in progress. Ski that, motherfuckers, and the maybe you can win at The Eights!

Paul hangs out with Finola and, after a night of PG-13 boobless skinny dipping, he tells her of his dream of writing for magazines. So, logically, she takes him to the library and checks out a copy of Remembrance of Things Past. Because if there's only one thing you need to know in order to succeed in the freelance journalism biz, it's the inner life of Marcel Proust. Peter gets pissed at him for spending a night out of the apartment, indicating that these two may share a closer, more intimate relationship than they let on.

Finally, we get some skiing scenes, which are largely unremarkable but mercifully provide a few minutes respite from the craptastic dialogue. At one point, Paul falls into a crevass that looks exactly like the Wampa cave set from Empire Strikes Back. I was sort of hoping he'd be forced to slice open Peter Berg and curl up in his bowels for warmth. But, alas, it was not to be. They just magically escape, off screen, and show up at Teri Polo's house no worse for wear. (She used to be really hot. By the time she did Meet the Parents, she had developed kind of a pinched-up face that's not all that attractive.)

At this point, I'm halfway through the first film of this new feature and I'm starting to think this was all a big mistake. I mean, this movie has the word extreme right in the title, and it's about two guys who spend all their time drinking beer in front of the TV and skinny dipping with women twice their age. Oh, and Paul gets into a pissing match with a competitive Teutonic ski instructor. "Zees ees my job, azz-hull. Some rookie ees not going to move in on it by skeepeeng a semester auf college!"

All in all, Aspen Mundane might have been a more appropriate title.

Eventually, Paul starts writing his next opus, a short story about...a cute female disc jockey. It appears to take him all of one day. I guess he was in a hurry to finish up so he could move on to that great screenplay idea he had about the snakes that somehow wind up on a plane. Now, if only Esquire magazine published mash notes written to ski bunny girlfriends, he'd really be in business!

So Finola finds out that Paul's been seeing Teri Gross on the sly and tries to win him back. Meanwhile, Peter gets sucked in to the nefarious Aspen underworld, delivering a shadowy package to an even shadowier figure known only as "Steve." (Bootlegged tanning oil, perhaps?) Generally, this is the sort of development that would appear earlier than 70 minutes into a 90 minute movie. But, you know, they had to make all that time for the exciting "typing up a short story about the female lead" action and that spine-tingling "getting suspended by the head of the ski school" story arc.

It all leads to fisticuffs between lifelong friends Peter and Paul, culminating in Berg slamming his buddy's head right into a glass medicine cabinet. Which, I have to admit, is kind of extreme in a way. Unfortunately, right after that, some of the cheesiest adult contempo '80s white-guy soul pipes up on the soundtrack, killing any possible extreme-ness the sequence might have had dead.

TV writer Patrick Hasburgh made his directorial debut with Aspen Extreme. Unsurprisingly, would never again helm a feature film. Didn't any producers see this film and realize that the guy was capable of greatness? There are at least 5 training montages set to radio-friendly pop songs! Paul Gross provides some gratuitous butt nudity! Plot points tossed off in the first 15 minutes go undiscussed for the bulk of the film only to become important again right at the very end! That's fucking storytelling.

(To his credit, Hasburgh did direct an episode of The A-Team entitled "Black Day at Bad Rock," which is so ridiculously sweet that it almost makes up for Aspen Extreme. Almost.)

15 comments:

Sharkbait said...

This post kills me. Just KILLS me! I was laughing so hard. I remember this movie - I (gasp) rented it once. I used to have a perverse thing for Peter Berg - I don't know why - he's so strange looking. But anyways, yes, reliving this horrible movie through the eyes of an expert critic has been quite enjoyable. Thank you!!

And please, please do other unrentables! As frequently as you can stand (sit, or sleep) to.

On a different note - I recently watched 13 Coversations About One Thing. I'd be curious to hear your take on that one.

Jonathan said...

At one point in your review you mix up Paul Gross and Teri Polo and come up with Terry Gross, who hosts NPR's Fresh AIr. There you have it.

Lons said...

Yikes, Jon, you're correct. Terry Gross, regrettably, does not appear in this film. I'm going to leave the mistake in the article, though, because that's just the kind of lazy blogger I am.

Dexter Rutecki said...

you guys suck. this is my favorite movie. i will never come to this website again.

TJ Burke said...

Hell yeah Dex is back from the dead. Thought I lost you in that Class 5 Avy the other day. Anyway that movie kicks ass. Obviously you are not a ski instructor nor have ever skied a day in your life. We didn't move to Aspen for no reason. We moved their to live the dream. By the way did you see my sick ride down the ice cliff? No that was EXTREME.

Anonymous said...

I think that you could make an onion cry for real.
You do not even mention the ski sequences which, by the way, are some of the best ever, besides those you see in movies entirely about bad ass skiing.

Surely it is not The 10 Commandments, yet... I enjoyed it.

Indy said...

Perhaps you should stick with porn?

PALS said...

i'm sorry. aspen extreme is one of the greatest movies of all time. its not about the skiing. its about best friends and how even money and women cannot break apart true PALS. if you've never had a best friend then you probably wouldn't understand the movie.

Seth said...

You guys suck!!! This is one of the best movies....about skiing! You only wish that you could rip up the mountain like TJ!!! Get a life and find another movie to jive on cause this movie makes the cut!!! Besides Peter Burg is the man, the myth, the legend that created Friday Night Lights so he can do no WRONG!!!!

Anonymous said...

this is the best skiing movie ever made. you're an idiot.

have fun eating arugula and sipping chardonnay -

buy viagra said...

I love winter extreme games, and the best place to practice it, is Aspen. I have no doubts about it.

Reagan said...

That was true, Aspen is one of the places where skiing could be best practiced. That's why they've chosen this place for the movie. Thanks for the share.

Reagan

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Jim said...

The last time I checked they don't groom ski resorts with "bulldozers", unlike the way you push around your shit for brains writing style.

Owen Scott said...

Terry Reid - The Driver, is the name of that white soul song... and im listening to it now because it strikes me...

this movie had character!!!

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