Saturday, July 27, 2013

Frasierquest 5.14: The Ski Lodge

Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Annie, and Guy

Daphne: Oh, sounds like heaven!  Skiing all weekend, then warming up with a nice hot rum drink, curled up under a blanket in front of a roaring fire...

Niles: I can feel the steam rising off my toddy already.

It's all about the set-up. "Ski Lodge" is Frasier's purest riff on the bedroom farce, making direct reference to French playwright Georges Feydeau in one of its title captions and placing most of the action in the titular lodge, the kind of cozy space that could easily fit on a theater stage and has enough rooms for doors to constantly be slamming open and closed. Characters run around in robes and underwear, show up in the wrong beds, all that's really missing is a vicar stopping by. It's a welcome dose of pure comedy after last episode's poignant goodbye, and it also expands on the first question raised by Niles and Maris' final split.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Theaters: Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim movie poster

Pacific Rim is a rare kind of spectacle. A Westernized fusion of kaiju eiga and mecha shows, not based on any existing IP, Guillermo del Toro's latest feels like some kind of weird nerd indulgence, something that shouldn't have gotten through the Hollywood assembly line but for a few vague resemblances to the Transformers series. The movie is a toybox, packed full of nifty sights and sounds and concepts, but what really makes it sing is that del Toro and co-writer Travis Beacham not only take their concept seriously and sincerely, but make sure there's a heart beating at its center. A film this dense and chaotic may be easy to write off as a jumble of special effects, but on closer examination it's a lot more finely crafted than that.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Television Postseason Postmortem: The Tuesday Night Massacre

Penny Hartz, contemplative

This season on television bore witness to an utterly brutal and heartrending slaughter, and in this case, The Rains of Castamere barely figured. No, this little massacre took place on Tuesday night, as two great networks scheduled evenings of hip, quirky comedies aimed at the hip childless consumers so prized by advertisers, either not seeing that the overlap in demographics would inevitably cause massive casualties or feeling so confident in their schedules that they didn't care. Every year sees cancellations, and there were plenty this season, but I want to focus on these three, partly because for me they were this year's most painful final bows, but also because I think there are some unsettling ramifications for the future. The Golden Age of Television isn't over yet, but winter may be coming.

Monday, July 01, 2013

In Theaters: Man of Steel

Man of Steel poster

I really have to wonder who it was in the Warner Bros./DC hierarchy that looked at Superman Returns and decided the big problem was it wasn't solemn enough. I know I'm in something of a minority concerning my very positive opinion of Bryan Singer's take on the comic book legend by way of Richard Donner, but I was still willing to give a fair chance to Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan's reboot. Man of Steel is a very reverent and sincere try at placing the original comic book superhero in the pantheon of modern superhero movies, an ambitious retelling of the title character's beginnings and ascent to legendary status which takes some controversial liberties in the name of keeping things fresh, but what brings it down is not its emphasis on violent spectacle nor its changes to the character. No, the problem is the sheer weight of the plot, which crushes warmth, humor, and characterization underfoot while trying to tell the story of an alien finding his essential humanity.