Sunday, April 20, 2014

Frasierquest 5.17: The Perfect Guy

Billy Campbell as Dr. Clint Webber

Frasier: Oh, I am not jealous.  Yes, the man is handsome, but I'm sure there are a number of areas in which I am his superior.  You know, let's not forget that good looks can be a mixed blessing.  People just roll out the red carpet for you but that robs you of any incentive to develop other qualities. After a while you're left an aging narcissist bent at the water's edge, realizing those lines in the pond aren't ripples, they're wrinkles.

Martin: Amazing.

Frasier: Thank you, dad, I rather like that one myself.

Martin: That guy could be a movie star!

It's been a while, I know. Sorry about that.

"The Perfect Guy" is one of those episodes with not a lot to write about, even in comparison to "Beware of Greeks" (which at least offered a change of scenery.) It's not bad, but it feels underdeveloped, one of those scripts a show has to go with because there isn't time to do something better. We do get a fun performance from Bill Campbell, though, and another look at Frasier's own insecurities- not to mention a brutal exposé of the gourmet dog food racket.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

At Ringside: WWF Royal Rumble, 1993

Bret Hart and Razor Ramon in the ring.

While the WWE Network- the wrestling company's online streaming service- is mostly being sold on access to the company's live PPVs at a fraction of what buying them all would normally cost, for many wrestling fans the real value is in the service's extensive backlog of old wrestling shows and pay-per-views. For me it's an opportunity to explore a history I've mostly read about, and there are a lot of potential access points. I chose to start with 1993, because that's when the company's now-flagship show Monday Night Raw began airing, and that's a decent bridge between PPVs.

In any case the Royal Rumble is always a good starting point. Timed to get people's attention around the end of football season, the WWF/E's January pay-per-view is constructed as a way to set up characters and stories for Wrestlemania in the spring, and the title match itself is key to that. A battle royal with wrestlers entering in regular intervals and eliminated by going over the top rope, the Royal Rumble gives quick introductions to a good portion of the roster and lets us see who's a big deal and who is… not so much. It's almost always good because the concept itself is so inherently strong, and even though 1993 saw the WWF a little unsure of where it was going, the '93 Royal Rumble has more than enough to recommend it.

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.