The Week in Old Entertainment: June 6th, 2013
In addition to reading the same books over and over, I’ve come to the realisation that I’m also catching up on older movies that I missed in the theater. These days it takes a true blockbuster like Star Trek or something that’s really in my wheelhouse like Arrested Development for me to see it as soon as it’s released.
So, I’m going to be coming back to this feature I’m calling “The Week in Older Entertainment” to talk about things I’m only now seeing. I’ve got a decent of movies trio to start out with: Jennifer’s Body, Margin Call, and Wimbledon.
Jennifer’s Body was a 2009 release that served as a vehicle for the fresh-outta-Transformers Megan Fox as a girl possessed by a demon that eats boys in her high school. I remember seeing the advertising for this and being intrigued. I can admit being intrigued in a Megan Fox movie the same way that wolves are intrigued with looking at flocks of sheep – and it’s that exact avenue that producers of the movie were hoping to capitalize on and sell tickets. I didn’t see the movie until this past week. The advertising crew of this movie did their project a serious injustice. It isn’t just some slasher with a hot girl, it’s a fun, geeky, teen comedy wearing a thin, horror-movie veil. Going in, I didn’t even know the main character of the movie is actually a nerded-up Amanda Seyfried, who happens to be the wing-girl for little-town hottie Megan Fox.
The movie is written by Diablo Cody and follows some of the same themes and environment as her hit, Juno. Both are tales of growing up in middle-of-nowhere Minnesota, poking fun at the locals, and pointing out the differences between life there and in “the city.” However, Jennifer’s Body has to do with demonic possession where Juno deals with teenage pregnancy. They’re really close. The first half hour of this movie does a great job of doing the creepy horror things that movies do with false anticipation and jumpy scares, but the middle and end of the movie is all teenage snark and really decent jokes. Jennifer’s Body feels like the child of Juno and Carrie, but was baby-sat by Mean Girls and weaned on those few episodes of the X-Files that took place in high schools. Yes, I like watching Megan Fox, but I wanted to see either more of her in this movie with her CG demon-face or more of her with a tired, no make-up face. The movie even has Juno-vet J.K. Simmons as a one-handed high school teacher with a really bad ponytail. What’s not to love?!?
Jennifer’s Body was way better than expected and deserves a second look by any who missed it. I give it a score of 8 demons in one body.
I missed 2011’s Margin Call because of its limited theater release, and rued missing its star-studded cast of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. Margin Call is about a nameless Wall Street company noticing the impending housing market crash of 2008 and off-loading their investments before the shit really hits the fan. The movie shows that, at least it skims the surface of how that event unfolds, but it does a much better job at highlighting the disparity between different levels of management at this Wall Street firm. There are stock guys, then management, then the uber-alles top – all of whom make much more money than anyone that reads this blog could ever make. 😉
Zachary Quinto is totally believable as a MIT-grad number cruncher (actual degree in rocket science), Kevin Spacey does a very good “I don’t understand the numbers, but I can read and relate to people” boss, and Jeremy Irons plays the man at the very top of the pyramid forcing everyone to do very bad things with a louched obliviousness that rides the line of “either believable or not quite oblivious enough.” I like the theme and message of the film – it’s pointing a finger at these companies for several things (awful mass layoffs, apathy for the people they’re affecting, the lack of human responsibility involved in their day-to-day dealings), but its also trying to bring out a human side to Wall Street, especially with the characters that exist at the lower end of the totem pole. It’s showing that the people who do the actual work for the firm are people doing a job – people who have objections to the work put in front of them, people with families and pets, people who tried to care and avoid the situation. Margin Call puts the blame for the 2008 financial crisis squarely on the fat cats of Wall Street.
That’s nice, but I kind of expected more out of this movie. I felt as if the script was too vague. I mean, I don’t know much at all about the financial business, but it seemed to me that not many of the characters in the film did either. Many of them asked for the situation to be explained to them in childish terms, but I don’t know if that was for the audience’s sake or for the script writer’s. And no one dared to mention Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, or Goldman Sachs for fear of libel suits, the characters are forced to meekly mention “this company” in the third-person throughout the movie. I was also waiting for an enormous dramatic moment, some sort of thrill or climax or even a conflict between characters, but never got one. The movie lacks balls, but perhaps that’s a statement of actual human realism on the film-maker’s part. No one really stepped out and tried to stop this from doing what it did, everyone was slowly bought off before losing their job and what’s so dramatic about that?
Margin Call only gets about 5 and a half point investment.
I really like Paul Bettany for some reason. He’s charming and selective about his roles (Legion and Priest notwithstanding), so Wimbledon ended up on the queue. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I usually can’t stand Kirsten Dunst, but once I discovered that Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was in the movie, I had to see it. Wimbledon is surprising, it is less a romantic comedy and much more of a silly British movie about tennis and sex. In fact, the first 30 minutes of the movie can be summed up as tennis and sex, which is great! The last hour of the movie goes by rather predictably, but mostly in a good way with charm and wit.
Wimbledon also sneaks in a fantastic supporting cast with Sam Neill as Kirsten Dunst’s father/coach, James McAvoy as Paul Bettany’s loser brother, and Bernard Hill as Bettany’s loony father living in a tree house in the backyard. Everyone looks good, the actual tennis looks better than most sports movies (I am not a tennis enthusiast, however), and the script hit every joke and tone that I as a viewer wanted it to. I would have called it a guilty pleasure if it hadn’t turned out as funny-sexy as it did.
Wimbledon gets 7 balls that land right on the line.
And that’s the week of June 6th in old entertainment. I won’t be limiting myself to talk about movies, however. This hopefuilly regular feature will stretch beyond movies to television, books, video games, my own geeky game tastes, and other things. And if I run out of old entertainment, I might even refresh a few cat memes from 2009, how does that sound?