Sunday, March 30, 2014

In Theaters: The Lego Movie

Poster via

If something called The Lego Movie were going to work on anyone, it probably would work on me. I had a tubful of those damned bricks as a kid, and to this day, they exert a certain hold- it's hard NOT to start building something with them, and harder still to keep that construction from growing increasingly elaborate, until of course I realize I need even more of the bricks to round out my concept. I think they may actually create some kind of chemical dependency. But I was wary when seeing these generic toys made into a movie; it could either work really well or come off as the most cynical, calculated exercise imaginable.

It works. Oh man, does it work. The makers of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street would be the ones to make such an unlikely concept sing, and they bring to this colorful brickfest a fittingly anarchic sense of humor, melded with a sincere and kind of sophisticated message about human creative potential. It's a film that gives us a peppy song called "Everything is Awesome" first satirically, then enthusiastically, a film that deflates the myth of the Chosen Hero of Destiny before building it up all over again, and a film full of surprises.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Bookshelf: The Beach House by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge

When I was given this book, I saw an opportunity to take a look at modern thriller fiction, which is something I don't normally pay much attention to. James Patterson is one of those writers whose books you see everywhere, and he makes no secret of relying on co-authors to deliver the apparent hundreds of titles expected of him per year. Far be it from me to look down on popular fiction; there is an art to a good page-turner, to making the reader feel they just have to see what happens next. The Beach House isn't a complete letdown on this front, to be sure, but it's a toothless experience, a conspiracy thriller which avoids visceral bite in favor of vague class-awareness posturing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

In Theaters: The Wolf of Wall Street

Poster via
Poster, as usual, from

The Wolf of Wall Street has been accused of glamorizing the life of Jordan Belfort, a broker who made millions on bad and often fradulent stock deals before being caught and serving a minor sentence in a minimum security prison. And to be sure, it's a very decadent experience, full of sex, wild parties, and frankly absurd displays of opulence for opulence's sake. The mood, however, is not quite aspirational, and not quite cautionary, but something intense, insane, and energetic. Martin Scorcese's work is almost always animated by a kind of mania, and in this case it's ideally suited to confronting the mindset that has dominated the financial world for so long.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Random Who Report: Terror of the Autons

Terror of the Autons DVD cover

There are only a few Doctor Who stories which are really direct sequels, but "Terror of the Autons" occupies an interesting space. It's a reprise of "Spearhead from Space", the third Doctor's inaugural story, not just in reintroducing that story's villains, but also in accomplishing another tweak to the show's format. It gives the Doctor an adversary, the Master, an evil Time Lord who's just about his intellectual equal. That alone guarantees its significance, even if the story sometimes plays like a dry run for the season to follow; it ends up being fairly effective, but takes a while to get to its payoff.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Opening Credits Sequence Theater: Dead Ringers

(Why is there still no soundtrack album goddamnit.)

In Theaters: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty poster

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is probably not a great film. It has a number of flaws, and signs of compromises made in the name of box office appeal. But there's something remarkable about it. It's often beautiful, meditative, and disarmingly sincere. It really isn't much of an adaptation of the short story and at many times seems to drift away from the very premise, but since fidelity to the source material and actual quality are two completely separate things, the worst that happens is the film gets a little unfocused. It has all the signs of the familiar Oscar-bait feel good picture, but its true atmosphere is more relaxed. And there's the very real danger that the conventional elements of the film, as well as its nature as an adaptation, will overshadow its very real and very odd strengths.

Frasierquest 5.16: Beware of Greeks

I have a feeling the screencaps are going to get rougher from here on out.

Daphne: I'd like to venture an opinion here.  I know this doesn't exactly concern me, but I feel very strongly about this. I like zither music, and I always have!

[She goes to her room.  Silence for a moment.]

Frasier: And we're back!


Sitcoms introduce us to families and groups of friends, but inevitably they leave people out. It's a fair bet that if a show runs long enough, we're going to meet long lost cousins who didn't exist before because the writers didn't need them to exist. "Beware of Greeks" basically posits an entire bough of the Crane family tree who we've never seen, all to get Patti LuPone to do a Greek accent and threaten people with violence. It's a silly contrivance and the whole episode is basically an odd excursion into a parallel universe, but it is amusing enough for the duration.