Friday, July 26, 2013

Jennifer's Body

There were three reasons I was intrigued by Jennifer's Body. First, because I actually quite liked Juno and wanted to see more by Diablo Cody. Second, because I'd read reviews talking about how it was an interesting horror genre take on female friendships - specifically toxic female friendships. And third, because I'd read that Megan Fox actually does a good job in it, suggesting her less than stellar acting in the Transformers films is perhaps not the fault of the actress herself.

But to be honest, none of those things were enough to convince me to see it until recently, about four years after it was released. Really, it's a good thing I didn't go to see it in theaters because then I would have been disappointed. As it was, I was just mildly grumpy.

All of the reasons I wanted to see the film did turn out to be true. It is a movie about toxic female friendships, and that isn't something that's been mined properly quite yet, outside of perhaps Heathers and Mean Girls which became classics precisely because so many women recognized where they were coming from. And Megan Fox actually does do a pretty good job, partially because she was so appropriately cast, but it definitely bolsters the idea that perhaps the problem is directors not asking much of her instead of her not being any good. I've not seen enough of her movies to make a stronger hypothesis than that.

And the movie did have Diablo Cody's trademark humor and quirky dialogue, so there was that. The problem is that I'm afraid that either she didn't get as many revisions as she needed or perhaps Jason Reitman was able to give notes/make changes to bolster her strengths. Because at the end of the day, Jennifer's Body really fails. There are just too many balls in the air, and too much that either isn't set up properly, or is set up and then fumbled when it comes time for pay off. It just isn't structured well and it's trying too hard or maybe not hard enough, I couldn't figure it out.

For example, the basic plot of the movie is there is a band that wants to sacrifice a virgin to make a deal with a demon for fame and fortune. They assume that Jennifer is a virgin and sacrifice her, but since she's actually not, things go wrong and she gets possessed by the demon instead.

But since the sacrifice wasn't a virgin, then surely something terrible goes wrong with that, right? It's the core of the inciting incident, that they aren't providing the right thing for the ritual. What are the consequences for them? Nothing. Not a thing, they get their fame and fortune because it doesn't actually matter for the ritual, really.

And that's just one example in a movie full of things like that, where the writing just isn't as strong as it could have been. It's like a comedian trying out new material who gets a couple awkward chuckles from the audience and decides that's good enough and keeps using it.

In the end, the movie is at least a horror film focused on women, directed and written by women, so I at least am happy about that. And really, it is better than quite a few horror films that I've seen but the bar isn't all that high there. It wasn't a waste of my time, but it isn't something that I would tell other people to watch either. Let's just wait for the next one, I'm sure somebody could take this theme and make something amazing with it eventually.

Arrow: Season One

I admit, I really wasn't interested in watching Arrow when it first came on. Everybody was basically saying "it's like Smallville but for Green Arrow!"

Well, I didn't really particularly love Smallville by the end of it, and I never got into Green Arrow except for his connection to Black Canary, who I loved because of Birds of Prey. So the show was about six weeks into it's run when a weird thing happened - my parents were watching an episode while I was home visiting and it was actually kind of good. I really wasn't expecting that.

Lucky for me it was an episode that was mostly stand-alone, and didn't tie into the greater mythology too much.

But what this episode did do was set up Ollie and Diggle, and that was all it really took for me. I don't know that I can pinpoint what it was, but Diggle was immediately my favorite character. And Oliver, with his five years stranded on an island, had something going for him beyond "rich guy with Daddy issues." I mean, I love Batman but only Batman can get away with being Batman, everybody else should take a deep breath and find a new schtick in my opinion.

Anyway, so this random mid-season episode was good enough that I sat down and actually started watching. And while it never became a show that we actually made the time to watch when it aired, we kept up with it On Demand. Sometimes it could be really predictable and I would find myself rolling my eyes and saying "of COURSE." But sometimes it actually surprised me, and in a good way.

It's not a perfect show, there are some things they really need to fix. Thea is one. Io9's recaps like to harp on her brattiness and she deserves it. She is really bratty, and her character just does so many things that make no sense. Every time I think the writers are figuring her out she does something ridiculous and selfish and petulant and I just can't warm up to her as much as I want to.

And the love triangle of the first season really annoyed me because I hate love triangles more than almost anything else in all of fiction. But they didn't resolve that the way I expected them to, so kudos for that.

Also, Moira, Oliver's mother, ended up being more interesting and complex than I ever would have expected. Susanna Thompson does a really good job, and somehow manages to outshine John Barrowman in some of their scenes.

Overall, the show is just refreshingly different from a lot of what's going on with comic book adaptations these days, especially ones based on DC comics. It's realistic without having that "dark and gritty for the sake of being dark and gritty and cynical" feel to it. The characters are more complex than you expect, and let's face it they spend plenty of time recognizing that Stephen Amell is a good looking young man. Actually, in general the show spends more time focusing on the handsome men (because let's face it - David Ramsey is pretty nice too) than the women. It's one of the first times where I've seen something comic book based that actually seems rather evenly done towards both male and female fans. I mean, sure, Katie Cassidy is gorgeous, but she's not running around half naked on a regular basis and every time she's been in danger she's actually been a good fighter and taken care of herself quite well under the circumstances. Which makes sense if they get around to making her Black Canary in season two.

In general, the show is probably one of the best live action comic book adaptations to be on TV. It's got some cheesy moments, more than it's fair share really, but it still pulls it together through a focus on character and relationships. Who cares about how stupid the Vertigo storyline got, it was about Ollie dealing with his relationship with Thea in the end. I think it's worth watching, especially if you're like me and not too hung up on Green Arrow's actual canon (like anybody can keep up with comic book canon).

This is the highest praise I can give them: I actually wouldn't mind if they introduced Barbara Gordon sometime soon. I'd like to see what they did with it. Hopefully they'd go for her stint as Oracle, and she would geek out with Felicity and they would save Ollie from some bad guy he couldn't defeat on his own.