Friday, May 31, 2013

In Theaters: The Great Gatsby

The worst thing I can find to say about Baz Luhrmann's film version of The Great Gatsby is that it's not as good as the book. It's the best adaptation we're likely to get, though, and that's because it engages with its source material rather than reveres it. The theoretical blasphemy of adding 3-D, hyperkinetic cinematography, loads of CGI, and Jay-Z to a richly nuanced critique of Jazz Age decadence turns out to be just the thing to make the story work in another medium, and the real surprise is that this approach doesn't drown out the book's tricky subtleties. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald's original work, it's both cynical and deeply moving, a tragic sort of love story which sees the futility of dreams as something to admire.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Theaters: Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek poster via

I'm always up for a good spaceship movie, so it's been a long wait for the sequel to J. J. Abrams' Star Trek. I went into Star Trek Into Darkness with some misgivings, some about rumored callbacks to the franchise's past (and more on that later), some about how early trailers made it seem as though most of the film took place on Earth in large piles of rubble. The film's obtuse marketing campaign has done it no favors, but not only have Abrams and company managed to craft an enjoyable space saga which delivers most of the things one expects from the genre, they've also managed to touch on the long-neglected "big ideas" of the Trek franchise, marrying some pointed social commentary with an affirmation of what Trek's core values ought to be. It's not really deep, but it is smart enough to be fun.

There will be spoilers below.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Frasierquest 5.12: The Zoo Story

Roz and Bebe

Bebe: When there's a dirty job to be done, you can't go wrong with a Mormon!

After two episodes that didn't offer much to chew on, it's good to run into one this densely packed. "Zoo Story" gives us the glorious return of Bebe Glaser after her sad but inevitable firing, and gives us agents in conflict, a horny and desperate Niles, and one very angry bird. It may be the best Bebe episode, and it helps define her story as Frasier's eternal temptress, the vulgar showbusiness goddess who will stop at nothing to ensnare him.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Random Movie Report: The Living Skeleton

Living Skeleton cover and link to box set on Amazon

Japanese horror films were still finding their way in the late Sixties, not having fully formed all of the conventions that we now associate with the geographical subgenre. The Living Skeleton is a unique chiller which benefits from this uncertainty. It has elements of American horror cinema combined with those of Japanese ghost stories, with some pulpy crime and horror trash thrown in for good measure. The results are somewhat inconsistent but benefit from a great atmosphere and a genuine sense of unpredictability.  There's something wonderfully vivid and organic to how the story develops, like a living thing.