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Showing posts from January, 2016

I'm familiar with Edward Snowden.

The X-Files 10.2: Founder’s Mutation
If Chris Carter has done little of note since the series’ end (is he actually real, or just a surf-robot pumping out subterfuge and obfuscation at the behest of his mysterious overlords, and Rupert Murdoch?), James Wong has been a busy bee. There was the Final Destinationseries, and several remakes (Willard, Black Christmas), while on TV was The Event, and a (current) big hit with American Horror Story. Alas, the once fertile mind that collaborated so richly on the series (and on the best season of Millennium) with Glen Morgan now seems to be running on empty. Founder’s Mutation feels as much of a rehash in its own way as Carter’s debut, stranded by a feeling of banal familiarity.

Some kind of freak aberrance of technology causing people to go mad, crazy, or self-destruct, was a tried and tested favourite of the series, even though I’m sure it feels like it featured more than it did. About the only fresh aspect of Wong’s self-written and helmed episod…

My life's become a punchline.

The X-Files 10.1: My Struggle
I must count as one of the few who actually liked 2008’s I Want to Believe. It wasn’t anything special, admittedly, but Chris Carter’s decision to base the plot around a paedophile priest, while drawing inspiration from Dirty Pretty Things and Body Parts, was almost perversely commendable as an act self-sabotaging any prospects the series might have of garnering a cinematic second wind. It was also a relief to have no connection at all to the over-arching alien conspiracy he’d progressively made such a hash of during his near decade steering the show. My Struggle, alas, finds Carter cobbling together more alien shenanigans, with little in the way of conviction. As such, it’s really the pleasure of seeing the old team back together that sees the first of this mini-event season through.

Carter’s pretty much the George Lucas of The X-Filesuniverse, only without the billionaire part. If only he would divest himself of the show, it might have a chance to explore …

You didn't tell me your uncle was Rocky Balboa.

Creed (2015)
(SPOILERS) Boxing movies tend to be an easy win, embracing a clear trajectory of battling adversity only to triumph with a crowd-pleasing ring-bound finale. As such, I was a little sceptical of the plaudits heaped on Creed, and the Oscar talk for Sylvester Stallone. For the most part, though, they’re deserved. While Creed is dogged in pursuing the basic narrative template set by the first Rocky, crucially it also transposes a quality that distinguishes it from many a calculated sequel machine: heart.

I can’t even begrudge Sly the Oscar nomination for his moving return as Rocky Balboa. For all that he’s been rightly mocked over the years as a monosyllabic, grunting action man, Creed evidences that he really does have the chops when it counts. This is easily his most impressive performance since Copland (nearly 20 years ago now!) and it’s a modest, generous turn, the one-time mega star content to occupy a supporting slot as the old guy now alone in the world, fortuitously give…

Is that an avalanche?

Force Majeure (Turist) (2014)
An arresting premise isn’t everything. That’s the major takeaway from Ruben Õstlund’s Force Majeure, a darkly humorous study of the fallout from a supreme act of cowardice/self-preservation on a family on a skiing holiday; dad flees an oncoming avalanche, leaving his nearest and dearest to be engulfed.

I say darkly humorous, as that’s clearly the intent (witness the use of Vivaldi as scenic punctuation points, signalling grand folly), but I found the proceedings overwhelmingly monotonous rather than astute or insightful. We can see Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhunke) is a self-involved parent right off the bat, one who spends little quality time with his family. It doesn’t come as that much of a surprise when he legs it after a controlled avalanche comes a bit too close for comfort, leaving wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and two children to be enveloped in icy fog. Once the coast is clear, Tomas saunters back to their balcony seats as if nothing has happened, and …

It is my intention to astonish you all.

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
Far from the Madding Crowd is just/yet another prestige heritage adaptation, but one might have expected something a little less perfunctory from Thomas Vinterberg, director of the nuanced The Hunt. His film feels like it has been stripped to its bare essentials, while furnished with a populist weightlessness that robs it of any depth or emotional substance. It’s a popcorn classics production.

Admittedly, my knowledge of Thomas Hardy’s novel extends no further than John Schlesinger’s 1967 big screen version, but since I rather like that one, and it didn’t seem like it had come off a conveyer belt, I at least have a point of comparison. Vinterberg’s film is blandly photogenic and, while Carey Mulligan’s chirpiness is well-disposed to Bathsheba Everdene, she is let down by rather staid support who do little but go through their paces, from Martin Sheen’s shotgun-wielding spurned elder suitor to Tom Sturridge’s utter bounder Frank Troy. The first moment you…

How can one have an accident with a face pack?

The Avengers 2.12: Death on the Rocks
More death in the title, and more diamonds too. Unfortunately, Death on the Rocksis a much less enticing affair than Death of a Great Dane, a standard undercover job in which Mr and Mrs Steed infiltrate a diamond ring (well, not a literal diamond ring).

Cathy’s endless font of knowledge is once more referenced (“You lived in Africa – you probably know more about illicit diamonds than I do”), and a background subplot features her apartment being redecorated by a less-than-bright workman, terrified by the head of a blue wildebeest (conservationist Cathy is playing a tape recording of lion noises at the time) and concerned when Steed tells him a stuffed crocodile is still alive; later Steed has taken over the painting when Cathy summons him (“Well, what did you want to see your loving hubby about so urgently?”) The redecoration motif continues in their new (Samuel Ross’s ex-) sumptuous lodgings (“It won’t go too well with my wife’s trophies, I’m afraid”…