Bruce Fretts: Oh, the power of 007. I’ve recruited Bret Watson, my semi-retired colleague from our Two Cranky Guys blog, to help me review the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. So the question is, Bret: Did it leave you shaken or stirred?
Bret Watson: One of the fun things about this movie is that it gives a new twist to some of those standard Bondisms. I don’t want to give it away. In short, this Bond delivers just about everything a Bond fan could want from a Bond movie.
Bruce: I kinda loved it, too—maybe because they’re turning Bond into a Cranky Guy. Everyone’s on 007′s case about how he’s losing a step with age, and Daniel Craig seems in a perpetually bad mood throughout the film, unlike the more carefree Sean Connery/Roger Moore/Pierce Brosnan incarnations. Maybe because he’s barely got time to get laid in this one!
Bret: I like that Craig plays Bond like a shark, with cold dead killer eyes. In the one scene he gets nekkid, it seems out of character. I thought, Why does he bother? He’s more Bourne than the old Bond. Bourne again, so to speak.
Bruce: Bond reminded me more of a bullet than a shark. He just keeps charging forward–okay, that’s kinda like a shark. But Daniel Craig’s head is shaped like a bullet. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say: Daniel Craig’s a bullet head. Also, he looks like he trained at the Ministry of Silly Runs.
Bret: He runs the way all action heroes run now, with pumping arms karate-chopping the air. He reminded me of Buster Keaton.
Bruce: Everyone reminds you of Buster Keaton! Even Diane Keaton reminds you of Buster Keaton!
Bret: I wish you’d remind me of Buster Keaton by remaining silent. And by wearing a porkpie hat. Just because.
Bruce: Skyfall’s also got a great villain, played by Javier Bardem, with the weirdest haircut since… Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Plus, he’s gay, which seems to make Bond really uncomfortable. He seems like he’d like to engage in a little light Bond-age with James.
Bret: After so many Bond villains, it’s amazing Bardem could come up with such a fresh, exciting bad guy. Plus the script gives him plausible motivation for a change, instead of just, “I love gold!” The movie is worth seeing if only for Bardem’s performance. He just about steals the show.
Bruce: I love how exasperated he gets every time Bond survives another attack. I kept waiting him to look at the camera and say, “This guy!” And he’s not the only Oscar-caliber actor in the cast: Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and even Albert Freaking Finney show up. Plus, it was directed by an Oscar winner: American Beauty‘s Sam Mendes. This movie is A-list all the way. My only complaint: Not enough T&A.
Bret: There was more AARP than T&A. My only quibble is that at one critical juncture Bond’s strategy to escape Bardem and his army is that he retreats to an isolated place armed with only two senior citizens. And as Bardem’s army fills the place with bullets and fire, I wondered if Bond thought, “Maybe this wasn’t such a great plan…”
Bruce: I loved that! It stripped Bond down to the bare essentials. He doesn’t rely on high-tech gadgets in this one. They even make a gag about it with Q, wittily played by The Hour‘s Ben Whishaw. All he gives him is a gun and a radio, no exploding pens.
Bret: I was hoping the new twentysomething Q would say, “You want a fancy gadget? Get an iPhone.”
Bruce: Who needs Moneypenny when you’ve got Siri?
Bret: Killing villains? There’s an app for that!
Bruce: The movie felt a bit long to me at 143 minutes. Unlike you, I didn’t take a bathroom break, even though we had equally huge sodas. My bladder beat your bladder!
Bret: That wasn’t a bathroom break. I fell in my soda and needed a towel. I thought Bloomberg banned those Monster Cokes?
Bruce: Bloomberg’s powerful but he’s not that powerful. New Yorkers need their giant sodas. I also ate two hot dogs, and I convinced our friend Nancy Bilyeau to try her first movie-theater hot dog. And she lived to tell about it!
Bret: And you did a Twilight double-header after Bond. Were you trying to kill her? (There’s an app for that.) When I said goodbye to you two, she whispered in my ear, “Help me!” Sort of like the sexy woman held captive by Bardem. She put the E in Bond.
Bret: No, boned! Try to keep up with me, you bonehead!
Bruce: Whatever happened to her? We never saw her after that, did we?
Bret: Well, she was rescued, unlike Nancy. The Bond girl has to disappear so that Bond can spend the rest of the movie with an old woman with shaky aim.
Bruce: Kinda like when I go to the movies with you. Like Judi Dench, you’re a great Dame with not-so-great aim…but enough about your visit to the bathroom! Thank you, good night!
Do you think Skyfall has a license to thrill? Post a comment!
Two Cranky Guys strike again! You can read our review of The Master at FrettsonFilm.com. Here’s a taste:
Bruce Fretts: I invited my Two Cranky Guys colleague Bret Watson to join me today for a matinee of The Master, because I’d heard it was the year’s most irritating movie, and you’re never more entertaining than when you’re annoyed, Bret.
Bret Watson: Who says it’s the year’s most irritating movie?
Bruce: I’ve heard that from friends.
Bret: Really? Well, they’re right. They’re smart friends.
For more, click here!
Thinking of catching a flick, but lost without Two Cranky Guys’ guidance? Fear not! Ex-Cranky Guy Bruce Fretts has started a new movie-review blog, Fretts on Film.
Fretts on Film—now with half the Cranks!
Bruce Fretts: Regis Philbin and Andy Rooney aren’t the only Cranky Guys saying goodbye. Bret Watson has decided to step down from this blog, and what was the cinematic straw that broke the camel’s back? The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1. The question is, Bret: WHY?
Bret: I had an epiphany while sitting through about 30 minutes of this movie. After more than a year of watching crappy movies, I can’t do it anymore. Hollywood has beaten me. Life is too short for me to endure two Adam Sandler movies in one year.
Bruce: I knew it was Jack and Jill‘s fault! So I take it you didn’t like what you saw of Twilight either?
Bret: I left after about 40 minutes, because I thought: I’m in no position to judge this movie. I didn’t read the books, I didn’t see the previous movies, I don’t know what’s going on, and even if I did, I’m not the intended audience for this movie. If I were a tweenage female Twilight follower, maybe I could understand why anyone cared about 40 minutes of a young couple getting married and going on their honeymoon. Did you understand what was going on?
Bruce: I did, although I haven’t read any of the books and only saw the first movie. Maybe I picked up the story line through osmosis. It starts with a wedding between Bella Swan, a mortal, and Edward Cullen, the member of a family of undead blood-sucking monsters—kinda like the Kardashians, but less scary. The fun really begins—and ends—when Read more…
Bruce Fretts: Bret Watson is suffering from Post-Turkey Stress Disorder after seeing Jack and Jill, so I recruited cranky historical novelist Nancy Bilyeau to help review Immortals, the new clash-of-the titans flick starring Mickey Rourke. These movies are all Greek to me, so the question is, Nancy: Hit or myth?
Nancy: It’s no myth! There was nothing but scraps of mythology in Immortals. But it was No. 1 at the box office. Was it a hit with you?
Bruce: I don’t have a great frame of reference since I don’t generally go for these movies—I may be the only guy who didn’t see 300—but I kinda enjoyed Immortals. It wasn’t exactly good, but it was so over-the-top and strange that I was never bored. Except during the endless establishing shots by director Tarsem Singh: It was like they hired a landscape painter to draw a comic book.
Nancy: I have to confess I did not hate it. So kill me, Bret Watson! It was extremely stupid and incoherent while looking very, very beautiful.
Bruce: Sounds like some of the women I’ve dated.
Nancy: By the way, this movie is really violent, and I know I buried my head in your manly chest a few times in terror. I apologize to your wonderful girlfriend.
Bruce: Not to worry—you didn’t bury your head in my chest as often as Bret did during Jack and Jill.
Nancy: The real story of Theseus is a fascinating one—full of adventure and seduction and surprises. That mythology is not in Immortals.
Bruce: Wasn’t he conceived as part of a three-way? If they had depicted that, I would’ve sprung for the extra money to see it in 3D.
Nancy: Yes, Theseus is the son of a Greek king and a woman who had sex with her husband on her wedding night and also Poseidon, Zeus’ brother and ruler of the seas.
Bruce: But in this movie, he’s a bastard whose mother is slain by Mickey Rourke’s Hyperion. I really enjoyed Rourke’s performance—aside from all the spitting—but I wish he were taking on more serious roles after The Wrestler. Even John Travolta did a few good films after Pulp Fiction before diving headlong into a sea of crap.
Nancy: I think Rourke’s plastic surgery extended to his stomach. It was weirdly ripply without being the Men’s Health abs of the younger guys.
Bruce: He looks like he got his six-pack from drinking actual six packs. That workout routine hasn’t worked for me.
Nancy: There is no Hyperion warlord like this in real Greek mythology. The screenwriters had hundreds of amazing source material stories, but instead they just came up with same old same old.
Bruce: What was up with the magic bow everyone’s after in the movie? Is that in Greek mythology or was that just a macguffin, as HItchcock would’ve called it, added by the screenwriters?
Nancy: There is nothing remotely like the Empirius Bow in Greek mythology. The only one is Cupid’s bow—struck with one of his arrows, you fall in love.
Bruce: I’m familiar with that one.
Nancy: That explains you and Bret.
Bruce: I thought Hyperion was a publishing company, not a warlord. Of course, it can be kinda hard to tell the difference these days. Do we ever know why Zeus (Luke Evans) chooses Theseus (Henry Cavill), a mortal, to help defeat Hyperion and his evil cow-people? Also, if Zeus is a god, why can’t he grow a thicker mustache?
Nancy: I know, the mustache was very Boogie Nights 1979. Zeus just liked Theseus for no reason. Poor Henry Cavill. In the video interviews to promote this movie, he shows more expression and animation than in his actual acting.
Bruce: You’re a fan of his from The Tudors, right? He didn’t do much for me, but as a straight guy, I guess I’m not his target demo.
Nancy: Cavill was wonderful in The Tudors. He showed a lot of range as Henry VIII’s best friend, Charles Brandon. In this, he made me miss Sam Worthington in Clash of the Titans, which he was clearly modeled on. And at the time I didn’t think Sam was that great!
Bruce: And next Cavill is playing the Man of Steel—apparently he’s not afraid of the Superman curse. He seems like a talented British actor who wants to become a generic Hollywood action star. He’s the male Kate Beckinsale.
Nancy: Yes! So, Bruce, I know you go to these movies for the chicks. What did you think of the women?
Bruce: Cavill had the biggest boobs in the movie. Freida Pinto does a nude scene as the virgin oracle Theseus deflowers, but I’m convinced she used a body double, based on the Kardashian-esque ass shot. Unlike her namesake car, Pinto’s not that big and round in the back.
Nancy: So while I am trying to figure out if Mickey Rourke has had plastic surgery on his stomach, you are trying to figure out if Freida Pinto’s butt is real. Bruce, I think we are made for each other. Freida said in an interview that she was uncomfortable with her love scene with Cavill. She got off easy, though. The sex scenes in 300 were so much more graphic.
Bruce: Were there more or less than 300 boobs? Adding it to my Netflix queue…
Nancy: There are boobs, yes. But there are also a lot of men standing there in thongs screaming how much they want to kill Persians.
Bruce: Reminds me of a dinner party at our friend Frank Ciulla’s house.
Nancy: This movie was much more excited about violence than sex. How about the castration with a giant mallet?
Bruce: That was painful. Surely there must be less cruel ways to create a eunuch.
Nancy: There is actually a way to do it. But I don’t think you want your followers to read this here. It’s almost as unpleasant as Jack and Jill.
Bruce: The violence was pretty extreme and homoerotic. Lots of men being impaled by swords, arrows and other objects. But the crowd at the Times Square multiplex where we saw it ate it up, based on their lusty cheers. Not to mix my ancient metaphors, but the Roman Coliseum is alive and well at the E-Walk on 42nd Street.
Nancy: They loved it! I like unleashing hell in movies—probably more than any other woman you know—but I wonder if the violence should make a wee tiny bit of sense. Yes, this was a movie about the male organ. Mickey Rourke talks about his “seed” a lot (ew) and then there is castration and crotch impalement.
Bruce: The cheering was a little disturbing at times, especially when some guy laughed at the sight of the three women who surround Pinto’s oracle all beaten up. The movie’s tagline seems to be “Witness Hell,” but the audience might’ve been scarier than anything we saw in the movie, including that wild hellhound who steals the bow at one point. Shouldn’t they have protected the bow better? This is why we can’t have nice things, Theseus.
Nancy: Theseus did not take good care of the bow. He really didn’t do anything that well. In the myths, he used his brain and his brawn to kill to Minotaur.
Bruce: The Minotaur kinda came out of nowhere. It sounds like all we’re doing is complaining, yet we both liked the movie to some extent. Why is that? I enjoyed it because at least it was better than Jack and Jill. What’s your excuse?
Nancy: I liked it because it was so beautiful and haunting. And this director is interesting. He obviously doesn’t care what anyone else wants—he is going to create what he feels like creating. We could use more of that in movies.
Bruce: Tarsem is doing Mirror, Mirror, a kid-friendly version of Snow White next, with Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and your beloved Sean Bean as the king. I’m guessing you’ve already bought advanced tickets on Fandango?
Nancy: Oh, that sounds great!
Bruce: I had you at Sean Bean, didn’t I?
Nancy: I love Sean Bean so much and boy, do I take heat for it. All my male friends get so mad at me and they keep talking about how he doesn’t wash his hair.
Bruce: If you like guys who don’t wash their hair, you must love Mickey Rouke. I don’t think he’s shampooed since Wild Orchid. And speaking of Mr. Bean—no, not Rowan Atkinson—Immortals is nowhere near as good as Game of Thrones.
Nancy: Oh, of course it isn’t anywhere in the vicinity of GOT. But that is George RR Martin’s world. Wait, can you imagine if we got this director to work with GRRM? That is something I would wait all night in line to see!
Bruce: I think you just had a nerdgasm.
Nancy: Yes, Bruce, I fear I did. Sorry about that.
Bruce No need to apologize–at least you’re easier to satisfy than Bret. So did you like this movie more or less than Clash of the Titans? I preferred Immortals. The only thing it was missing was the Kraaken.
Nancy: I liked Titans a little more. It followed the mythology (somewhat) and I actually cared whether Perseus lived or died—and in this movie I did not care what happened to Theseus. Also, I have the hots for Liam Neeson.
Bruce: Neeson does make a more manly Zeus, if that’s not an oxymoron. And the titans are this movie’s version of the Kraaken—horrible creatures who get released when Hyperion frees them from their mountain prison. When that happens, no one is safe. Kind of like when Lindsay Lohan was sprung from jail.
Nancy: The titans were a lot like the bad guys in Lord of the Rings, which this movie borrowed from, too.
Bruce: I fell asleep during the first Lord of the Rings movie and never saw the rest. See, I told you this is not my genre.
Nancy: I’ve seen them all, read the books, listened to them on tape. Geez, Bruce, who is the dude here?
Bruce: Were there boobs in Lord of the Rings?
Bruce: I rest my case.
What did you think of Immortals? Post a comment, and a Cranky Guy and Gal will respond!
Bruce Fretts: Just in time for Thanksgiving, Adam Sandler delivered another turkey—Jack and Jill, in which he plays both titular roles as an ad exec and his incredibly annoying sister. The question is, Bret: Is this cross-dressing comedy a total drag?
Bret Watson: For once, twins did not double my pleasure or my fun. It made me double over, in agony.
Bruce: The funniest thing I saw all day was the expression on your face after the movie. You looked like you’d smelled one of the many farts cut in the film.
Bret: If anyone is still pondering whether to see this movie, consider this scene as your litmus test: Jill comes back from an evening of Mexican food and makes a “run for the border”—yes, she uses that ancient line—and while she loudly craps away behind a bathroom door, Jack stands outside trying to have a conversation with her. When Jill emerges, Jack has to back away and stand by windows. Now, does that sound cheek-splittingly funny to you? Then you’ll enjoy the movie. Just remember to ask your mom for money to buy a ticket.
Bruce: The nursery rhyme had a better plot than this script. At least it had a beginning, middle and end. After some pointless and unenlightening documentary footage of twins talking about themselves, the movie sets up its lame premise. Then it goes nowhere… very slowly.
Bret: I don’t think that was documentary footage, I think it was staged. Speaking of the premise: Jack’s unloved and unlovely sister Jill comes for the holidays and won’t leave. He decides he has to set her up with a guy to make her feel better about herself. Meanwhile he’s trying to get Al Pacino to do a Dunkin Donuts commercial as “Al Dunkacino,” and instead Pacino, played with panache by Al Pacino, falls for Jill. This all leads to inevitable tender moments, when the music goes mushy, and the twins have to realize they love each other. Why do so many comedies nowadays feel that they have to go for mushy moments? It’s like Irving Thalberg insisting that what the Marx Brothers really needed was Kitty Carlisle singing opera.
Bruce: I still can’t figure out how Sandler convinced Pacino to do this flick. At the end of the film, Pacino watches himself rap in a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial and insists that the footage be burned. I only hope he had the same reaction when he saw Jack and Jill. I know I did.
Bret: When a comedian does a movie in which he dresses up in drag, that’s the sign that he’s on the downhill side of his career. So please stop me if I ever suggest we do a Two Cranky Guys post in drag.
Bruce: I thought you did all our posts in drag. In any case, Sandler makes an even less convincing broad than you do. At one point, you turned to me during the movie and said his Jill voice sounded like Gilbert Gottfied. I don’t know about that—I think even GIlbert would’ve said, “EEET’S A LITTLE OVER THE TOP!”
Bret: I did enjoy watching Pacino, but maybe it was more in mystified fascination. Sandler seems to be Hollywood’s giant black hole, sucking in every neighboring star. This movie’s swirling, sucking eddy of despair traps not just Pacino but also Johnny Depp, Norm Macdonald…who else am I forgetting?
Bruce: The movie’s like a convention of underemployed SNL alums—in addition to Macdonald, there’s Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider, Dana Carvey (barely recognizable in one scene as a puppeteer) and David Spade, in drag. It made me flash back to those horrible Gap Girls sketches Spade and Sandler used to do on SNL. And they haven’t become better-looking women with age.
Bret: I’ve run out of stuff to say. This movie killed most of my brain cells. Even the popcorn was stale. What do you have left to say? Let ‘er rip, like Jill on the toilet.
Bruce: I think we should have a moment of silence for Katie Holmes’ career. When you’re reduced to a thankless role like playing Sandler’s bland wife, you’re up a creek—and I’m not talking about Dawson’s. Then again, Jack and Jill did get her out of the house and away from Tom Cruise, so that’s something.
Bret: How did the movie do at the box office?
Bruce: It opened in second place, behind Immortals, with $26 million—not bad, but not up to Sandler’s usual $30 million-plus standard. Still, when you only get 3% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.com and can still clear $25 mil, that’s fairly impressive. Did all those people really think it was going to be good, or were they just going to see how bad it could possibly be, like we did?
Bret: Maybe the fart jokes were Sandler’s subversive message to the audience: Look at the cinematic turd I can get you to pay for.
Bruce: Amazingly, it wasn’t even Sandler’s worst movie of 2011. We didn’t walk out of this one, like we did during Just Go With It. And Sandler also cowrote Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (with Nick Swardson, who’s awful in Jack and Jill, too), which may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. That’s quite an accomplishment for one year. Maybe it’s time for Sandler to retire. He’ll never top that. Or bottom it.
Bret: Well, you gotta hand it to him—whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He’s laughing all the way to his solid gold toilet.
Did you subject yourself to Jack and Jill? And if so, why? Post a comment, and Two Cranky Guys will fire back!
Amateur thieves Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy try to rob from the rich, while Wall Street sharks Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons try to avoid becoming poor. Which tale deserves your movie dollar? Would you pay $60 to see either one at home?
Bruce Fretts: Everybody must be occupying Wall Street, because they’re certainly not occupying theaters. The new Ben Stiller–Eddie Murphy caper Tower Heist got stomped by Puss in Boots, and the makers of the financial thriller Margin Call hedged their bets by releasing it on VOD the same day as in theaters. The question is, Bret: Are these stock-market movies too full of bull to bear?
Bret Watson: I got my money’s worth investing $8 on video on demand to see Margin Call—it’s one of my favorite movies of the year. As for Tower Heist, it’s not a towering entertainment, but I found it amiable fun anyway. You?
Bruce: I felt like I was the investor who’d gotten ripped off after I saw both of these movies. Tower Heist was, like In Time, another movie as generic as its title, and while I admired the style and cast of Margin Call, it left me shrugging. But I have no interest in high finance. As anyone who’s seen my bank account statements lately could tell you.
Bret: Tower Heist is only about high finance to the extent that the deliciously slick and casually corrupt Alan Alda plays an unrepentant Madoff-like crook whose victims include the staff of a posh residential tower. The movie’s chief merit is its cast of seasoned pros, who rise above the pulled-punch lines. Tower Heist tries to be a zanier Ocean’s 11, but this one doesn’t go to 11. It’s not as clever and takes too long to get into gear. And Ben Stiller is no George Clooney.
Bruce: I agree that Alda is terrific—he’s perfectly slimy as a heartless tycoon who condescendingly maintains his regular-guy airs. But the movie’s just not funny. Did you laugh even once during this “comedy”? You’d think a script with five credited writers would have at least one good joke. I mean, there’s only two of us and we always come up with at least one. Sometimes even two!
Bret: Two? You must be thinking of the review of Priest I did with Nancy Bilyeau. I think Heist made me laugh once, or maybe it was my stomach gurgling, not sure. My wife liked the ski-hats gag. There were a few chuckles in our theater, and there’s always that one guy who guffaws because, dammitall, he came to laugh whether the film’s funny or not! What humor there is comes from Eddie Murphy’s facial expressions, or the way Matthew Broderick or Michael Peña put a spin on a line.
Bruce: Broderick and Peña are fine, but Stiller and Murphy suck the air out of every scene—Stiller does his standard (and tired) mildly pissed-off routine, while Murphy seems genuinely angry that he’s back to playing another fast-talking street criminal like he did in the vastly superior 48 HRS. and Trading Places nearly 30 years ago.
Bret: I thought he was funnier than he’s been since the original Shrek. Imagine telling the young Eddie Murphy of the standup movie Raw that he’d have his biggest success as a talking donkey in a kids’ movie.
Bruce: Don’t talk smack about Donkey! That’s a great comic character. But after Murphy got an Oscar nomination for his dramatic performance in Dreamgirls, I would’ve thought he’d move his career forward, not slam it into reverse. And aside from Stiller’s pathetic attempt at a “working-class” accent, how is this character different from the one he plays in the Focker movies? Or his other Focking movies?
Bret: Stiller waters run shallow.
Bruce: I’m not surprised people aren’t paying to see this flick in theaters. I wonder if Universal honcho Ron Meyer will add this to his list of crappy films his studio has released, along with Cowboys and Aliens. And can you believe they were planning on charging people $59.99 to watch Tower Heist at home three weeks after it was released to theaters, before exhibitors shamed them out of the plan? Now that would’ve been a heist.
Bret: I saw it Saturday evening at my local theater and it was fairly packed—enough to make my wife grouse about the person kicking her seat and the teenager across the aisle making a POCK POCK POCK sound by tapping the end of a straw in his mouth. If we’d paid sixty bucks, there would have been curses and oaths of vengeance upon our lips. But at least for $60 we wouldn’t have had to put up with other people.
Bruce: VOD is a viable option for misanthropes and hermits, but don’t you think it robs some of the experience of seeing a movie? I watched Margin Call at home as well, and its eerie atmosphere, near-total lack of music and sleek, night-in-the-city visuals would’ve been far more effective in a theater. Although I’m still recovering from seeing Zachary Quinto’s Vulcan eyebrows in IMAX in Star Trek—I’m not ready to see them blown up on the big screen again.
Bret: My theory is that your brain quickly adjusts to whatever size a screen is. You become immersed in the image and the screen expands to fill your eyes, so to speak. With a decent TV I don’t need a billboard-size screen. Bruce, maybe you just need a bigger home TV. It’s time to replace your cathode-ray-tube Zenith. Wait till you see TV in color—you’ll love it!
Bruce: I finally did go HD a year or so ago. Just in time to see Andy Rooney’s eyebrows in all their glory. You like watching movies at home because you can control the volume and don’t have to wear your noise-canceling headphones. I just wish they made crap-canceling headphones.
Bret: Battling the crowds at a dodecaplex is a nuisance. Also, at home soda doesn’t cost $5 per thimble. Or in your case, $20 for a tub.
Bruce: Hey, who are you calling a tub? So what did you like about Margarine—er, I mean, Margin Call? Or, as I like to call it, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better?
Bret: It’s a fascinating behind-the-curtain drama about people in high finance with low values—other than make money at all costs, especially if you can pass along the costs. When they realize their investing models are based on crap assumptions, they have to make harrowing decisions. What do you do when you realize your plane’s going to crash, you’re to blame, and there are only a handful of parachutes? The acting alone is gripping: Kevin Spacey delivers what may be my favorite movie line of 2001, in one boardroom scene, when he says, in a sublime mix of incredulity and disgust, “What?“
Bruce: Spacey’s great, as are Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci. (Penn Badgley and Demi Moore? Not so much.) But nothing surprising happens; the movie is a dog-bites-man story. Or, given the movie’s cryptic last scene—SPOILER ALERT!—a man-buries-dog story.
Bret: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Not the what but the how. In Greek tragedy, everyone knows the ending. In most movies, you know the ending. In Margin Call, it’s the steps taken, the confrontations, the decisions along the way that captivate. And since the movie accurately encapsulates recent events, it shows you how bad deals went down. I was primed to love it, since I just read a spectacular, fascinating, funny, terrifying book about the global financial woes, Boomerang, by Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame). Mind you, I missed the movie’s ending because I forgot that you have a limited time to watch video on demand—which used to be called pay-per-view until the marketing wizards zapped the phrase into something more palatable.
Bruce: But don’t you think you would’ve enjoyed it even more in a theater? Then again, you do have to wear pants…
Bret: Pants are overrated.
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