Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

A movie is not just what it's about, but how it's about. "Pacific Rim" isn't good because it's about monsters fighting robots, it's good because of the way it shows monsters fighting robots. Yes, robots fight monsters. Yes, cities are destroyed. Yes, you may jump for joy.

"Pacific Rim," is the latest feature from genre mastermind Guillermo del Toro, who made The Pale Man of "Pan's Labyrinth  the subject of everyone's nightmares. It is the equivalent of a young boy playing with his action figures: it is filled with awe-inspiring imagination, but its story is just a little bit on the faulty side.

In terms of action movies, "Pacific Rim" is more "Aliens" than "Alien": it's about spectacle, not subtlety. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this is the essence of every most major summer blockbusters since the 1980s. "Pacific Rim" has no limits, and its scope is often stunning. Del Toro clearly cares so much about perfecting this world and then tearing it to pieces.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Emmys 2013: What They Got Right

I want a poster of this in my room.

Louie! Louie! Louie! Louieeeeeee

Every year I want to say that it's "The Year of Louis C.K." Let's just say that this decade belongs to him. The comedian with many jobs continues to break more ground: this year he picked up multiple nominations. He wasn't just nominated for his show "Louie," which had its best season yet, but also for his hosting of "Saturday Night Live," and his new special "Oh My God." While "Oh My God" wasn't the best standup that the master has ever done (though it is still leagues above most of the other stuff out there today), Mr. C.K. earned every nomination that he got. It's nice to see that one of the funniest, most talented, and hardest working people in the business today is finally getting his due. And with Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" coming to theaters next weekend, could the Oscars be next?

Veep Sweep

Armando Iannucci's latest political satire got over any speed bump from season one for an incredibly smooth ride of a second season. This season, "Veep" displayed some of the sharpest writing on television as well as a brilliant performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and excellent work from the rest of the cast, including fellow nominees Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale.

Breaking Bad

There are few things that I could say about "Breaking Bad" that hasn't already been said over and over again. However, Vince Gilligan's televised masterpiece deserves all the praise in the world. The first half of season five raised the dread. In a world of predictability, I can say that I have absolutely no idea how the hell this show is going to end. And I like that. "Breaking Bad" has only two more chances to win the Best Drama award. And I can confidently say that "Breaking Bad" will win the Best Drama award at least two times.

30 Rock's Swan Song

Some great shows overstay their welcome. "30 Rock" realized that season seven would be their last and went out with an absolute bang. "30 Rock" has already won for Best Comedy three times so it wouldn't be a big travesty if it lost. But like the show itself, which seemed to be saving some of its best lines (Liz Lemon answering her phone: "This is Lemon. Make lemonade.") for the final season, the Emmys crammed in as many nominations as possible. Will Forte finally got a nomination for his turn as a Jenna Maroney impersonator, while Jenna Maroney herself, Jane Krakowski, has one last chance to walk home with a statuette. I'm not begging voters to give "30 Rock" another Emmy, but would it be so much to ask for one more win? For old times sake? After all, this is the show that changed the modern sitcom as we know it.

I dare you not to tear up at this.

Mandy Patinkin

To say "Homeland" hit some rough patches this season would be an understatement. As "Friday Night Lights" also proved, involving your teenage character in a hit-and-run murder plot never ever works. Even in an off episode, it was comforting to know that Mandy Patinkin would be there. As Saul, Patinkin always provided humor, warmth, and insight at all the right moments. Not to mention, he has a great Hebrew chant for every situation. Wait a minute, Patinkin has a big, white beard, and we can always rely on him for a joyful moment. Is he Jewish Santa Claus?

Bill Hader

This was Bill Hader's last chance to get nominated for an Emmy for "Saturday Night Live."* Luckily, voters delivered. Besides being a master impressionist, Hader also killed it with his original character. His most famous, Stefon (co-written by John Mulaney, one of my favorite comedians in the world), became an institution by the end of this season through an epic wedding send-off. Hader may have laughed through many of his sketches, but he always managed to make that the highlight. I think that will lead to great success for him in the future. I can think of another "SNL" alumni who laughed through most of his sketches, and he turned out just fine: Jimmy Fallon.

*But this may not be Hader's last chance at the Emmys: he will be a full time writer for "South Park" next season.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Emmys 2013: The Snubs


Perhaps genre confusion was one of the reasons "Enlightened" was robbed. Yes, it's a half hour show, but it's often more serious than funny. "Enlightened" was part of a select group of shows committed to reinventing the half hour format. To call it a failed experiment would be unfair though; it now belongs in the pantheon of great shows cancelled too soon. Co-creator Mike White did something that was nearly unthinkable by making a bunch of unlikable characters, including one who's basically the equivalent of the girl you wish you hadn't started a conversation with at a party, very likable through his kind touches of empathy. Until the show's legacy kicks in, at least we have Laura Dern's nomination for Best Actress to carry us through.

Key Episodes: Higher Power, The Ghost Is Seen, Agent of Change

New Girl

At first, "New Girl" was nothing special. Two seasons later, it's the funniest sitcom on network television (RIP "Happy Endings"). I could cite it's rapid fire dialogue, or the mere presence of Schmidt (Max Greenfield) alone. But the real triumph of season two was that it brought new life to the "will they or won't they" arc. The moment where Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) finally kiss is surprisingly electrifying. It is so well done that I found myself watching it over and over again and feeling just as surprised on each viewing. If season one of a TV show is all about introducing us to the characters, season two is about building character history and further familiarity. In that and many other regards, "New Girl" triumphed where others would fail.

Key Episodes: Fluffer, Cooler, Virgins

Michael Cera (Arrested Development)

The new season of "Arrested Development" was a mixed bag that didn't really take off until its final stretch. While it's great to see Jason Bateman up for an Emmy, he wasn't the only one worthy of the prize. I didn't want to fill the list up with "Arrested Development," and it was hard to choose from the likes Will Arnett, David Cross, and Jessica Walter. In the end, I decided to go with Michael Cera. Those who say that Cera always plays the same character should look no further than this current season of "Arrested Development" to see his incredible range. In the episode "It Gets Better," it is such a joy seeing Cera turn George Michael from timid and awkward to a confident liar of a Bluth man. Cera is not just good comic support; he is a full fledged leading man.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)

It's okay I guess that the Emmy voters have snubbed the man who plays Ron Swanson for five years. He already wins at life anyway.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Movie Review: Frances Ha

At a very brief glance, "Frances Ha" is nothing more than a walking indie film trope. "Frances Ha" has everything that indie filmmakers love: ukeleles, Paris, children of divorce."

I'm one to talk, as I consume movies like this a little too much. However, what seperates "Frances Ha" from the rest is its ambition and, despite its aimless characters, it actually has a good amount to say. Unfortunately, a lot of those things are left unsaid.

Dramedy is not the right word for "Frances Ha." Tragicomedy would be a better way to put it, despite the fact that not many big, tragic events occur during its short running time. "Frances Ha" is filled with a lot of sad characters who are stuck in ruts. Yet, Noah Baumbach manages to find little bits of humor in all of the depression that always work so well. He is not just showing how these people live, but also prodding at them a little bit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Movie Review: The Heat

Most buddy cop comedies are about to mismatched cops who can't follow the rules. But what if the movie itself, can't even follow the rules? "The Heat" proves that the results are dangerously and potentially hilarious.

While "The Heat" is a buddy cop comedy, I'd say it's more like "Superbad" than "21 Jump Street." However, the buddy aspect is more important than the procedural part. Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) only follow the buddy cop formula slightly. Sure, the movie teams up a brash cop with an uptight one, yet neither of them really play by the rules. Ashburn is something of a detective prodigy, but she's maligned by most of the people she works with. You know someone is lonely when they have to steal their neighbor's cat for company. 

Mullins, meanwhile, is equally good at sniffing out criminals, she's just a little worse at keeping them from escaping. She may be is insanely over-the-top, but this is a role that McCarthy was meant to play. She gives it just the right amount of heart and never seems irritating.