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Showing posts from March, 2018

The person who controls your son is the person who controls the future.

The X-Files 10: My Struggle IV
(SPOILERS) The title is definitely what it’s been, this four-part “epic” arc, easily taking its less than prestigious place as the series’ worst such (which is saying something). As these things go, My Struggle IV is the best of the quartet, by virtue, if you want to call it that, of it being a non-stop procession of fireworks.

CSM: I promised you a global contagion, Mr Skinner. I’m about to deliver on that promise.
Writer-director Chris Carter delivers in typical style, which is to say he’s all over the place in plot and visual form, sometime hitting his marks, more often veering wildly off target. Initiating proceedings is one of his patented lumpen monologues courtesy of Jackson Bandicamp/William, in which he attempts to make the events of Ghouli fit his unlikely behavioural ab-norms (referencing the “stupid joke on these two girls”). Subsequently, we see the deployment of a number of X-tropes, to varying effectiveness, such as Kirsch threatening to clo…

Age isn’t a disease. It’s a natural progression.

The X-Files 11.9: Nothing Lasts Forever
(SPOILERS) More new blood, and lashings of it too, courtesy of series script coordinator Karen Nielsen, albeit helmed once again by James Wong. A very modern vampire tale, complete with queasy variant on The Human Centipede for good (or bad) measure, Nothing Lasts Forever has two strong guest star performances going for it but little else.

One of those is courtesy of Fiona Vroom as 85-year old former sitcom star Barbara Beaumont, who ensconces herself in her apartment building, cult acolytes feeding on her every word and she feeding on them (or whatever organs can be harvested thereby). The set-up has potential, but the tone fails to find a sure footing; the line between the broad (Barbara loves nothing more than quoting along to her sitcom reruns) and gross elements (pulling the plug from Dr Randolph Luvenis’ surgically attached supply and then moaning about the lack of sustenance of the vitally-drained victim) is a difficult one to walk, and th…

What’s not to like? I mean, you couldn’t dream up a more perfect suspect. He’s potentially Jon Wayne Gacy with a monkey.

The X-Files 11.8: Familiar
(SPOILERS) There’s a certain degree of familiarity to aspects of Familiar, not least the opportune recharacterising of childhood tropes as objects of terror, recently witnessing an extraordinarily successful resurgence with the adaptation of It, but this episode easily overcomes potential weariness through juggling these elements with thematic material in a manner that for once seems on point.

I’m presuming the trial by Twitter of #MeToo wasn’t yet a thing when staff writer Benjamin Van Allen (another example of new blood doing the series prouder than the old hands) wrote the episode, but it’s easy to see the parallels when Mulder stops for a (probably Carter written) pondering on “What happened to the previous presumption of innocence?” before shining a light on how pederast Melvin Peter(Ken Godmere) has been “reconvicted for sins of the past with a fervour we see all too often in this American experience”.

I’m trying to think of a really good witchcraft ep…

You still have 4 hours to leave a tip for the sushi chefs.

The X-Files 11.7: Rm9sbG93ZXJz  (Followers)
(SPOILERS) A cautionary what if? (or what when?) on our rampant reliance on, and insatiable uptake of, technology, Followers (I’m not quoting all that code every time) ploughs a path of the techno-tomorrow (or tonight) that has met with mixed results in the past (anyone remember First Person Shooter, Gibson be praised?), but here mostly manages to sustain itself despite the slender premise. It’s a quirky episode, bigger on offbeat atmosphere than outright laughs, and works the better for it.

The impression of yet more new blood in the show’s creative department is offset somewhat by the realisation that not only did director Glen Morgan come up with the story, but his wife Kristen Cloke (who appeared in The Field Where I Died, as well as being a regular on Morgan shows Space: Above and Beyond and Millennium and appearing in his movies Final Destination, Black Christmas and Willard) and former assistant Shannon Hamblin garner the teleplay credi…

Sharks don’t take things personally, Mr Brody.

Jaws 2 (1978)
(SPOILERS) Being a luddite in my formative years (doubtless continuing to this day), I didn’t readily discern the qualitative difference between Jaws and Jaws 2 until much later. Indeed, in some respects, I think I found Jaws 2 more impressive. Well, the manner of dispatching the shark anyway. That was, of course, nonsense (although, the dispatching of the shark is pretty good and is even set up with a Chekov’s Undersea Power Cable in the first act), but Jaws 2 isn’t a bad sequel, certainly in an age before such enterprises were awarded due respect and weren’t just cheap cash-ins.

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

You yell "Shark", we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

Jaws (1975)
(SPOILERS) I decided to revisit Jaws principally because I was intent on tackling the mostly maligned sequels, and it didn’t seem right to omit the genuine article. And also, because it’s never a chore to watch one of Spielberg’s very best movies, made before he began second-guessing himself and imposing peer review conditions on form and content. The way I see it, there’s the ‘berg before E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the ‘berg after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and I’d opt for the former over the latter any day.

We are disintegrating. Our bodies as fast as our minds. Can’t you feel it?

Annihilation (2018)
(SPOILERS) It seems I’m forever destined to miss what others find so remarkable about Alex Garland’s work (I was also the one who didn’t love Ex Machina). Annihilation left me mostly cold while most appear to have done little else but rave about it. Tarkovsky’s Stalker has been invoked, but they’re chalk and cheese, one meditative and elusive, the other transparent and over-didactic. I will say this for the writer-director-auteur, though: he’s finally made a movie where the third act is superior to the preceding portion, even if this time it’s qualitatively inverted. And, he still can’t escape his Apocalypse Now obsession.

In my country, if you don't matter to the men in power, you do not matter.

Red Sparrow (2018)
(SPOILERS) The biggest talking point in the wake of Red Sparrow’s release isn’t the movie itself, it’s whether or not J-Law is a bona fide box office draw. The answer is fairly mundane: about as much as any other big name star outside of a franchise vehicle is. Which isn’t very much. Peg her alongside Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Tom Cruise and on the lower end of the scale, the eternally-struggling-for-an-audience-when-not-Thor Chris Hemsworth. The movie itself, then? While it replicates the stride and demeanour of a traditional Cold War spy yarn with assuredness (as in, it’s a conscious throwback), Red Sparrow falls short in the conviction stakes.

I never said you were a superhero.

Iron Man (2008)
(SPOILERS) The Marvel-verse clearly owes Jon Favreau a huge debt. As much as Kevin Feige in his own formative way, he’s the man who set the tone for their cinematic endeavours. You only have to look at the okay performances of the other contenders in the then-forthcoming Avengers to recognise Favreau had found a particular alchemy that the rest, at the time, lacked. It was he who pushed for not-so-long-since persona non-grata Robert Downey Jr to take the lead (and there hasn’t been a piece of Marvel casting so assured since, with the possible exception of Tom Holland), and his looser style that allowed the characters to breathe, ensuring a solid, workmanlike structure didn’t feel restrictive. Yeah, then he went and made Iron Man II, but nobody’s perfect.

Tonight, you will kill America's President.

Salt (Director’s Cut) (2010)
(SPOILERS) Not so many years back, if you wanted a kickass female action hero, you called popular alleged Illuminati Satanist Angelina Jolie’s agent before Charlize Theron’s. She was Lara Croft – the big screen original, for what that’s worth (not much) – met Brad Pitt while trying to shoot him up, and tutored James McAvoy in the ways of the super assassin. Salt was the last such vehicle she headlined and seems to have received its share of invective over the years, but it’s one I rather liked, a ludicrously pulpy spy thriller – whatever surface comparisons were made with sleeper poster girl Anna Chapman were just that – that refused to stint on, relished even, its absurd developments and proceeded to its destination at a breakneck pace. Having heard the Director’s Cut improved on a few things, I thought I’d give it a look.

We find that monster, we find Skinner.

The X-Files 11.6 Kitten
(SPOILERS) A couple of first timers on the show in their respective roles show the old hands how it should be done, with one of those rare supporting player-focused episodes that can prove indulgently misplaced or surprisingly assured depending on the assembled elements. Skinner takes his place in the spotlight for the first time since… S.R. 819? And there’s a fine supporting turn from Haley Joel Osment. Not ground breaking, perhaps, but a cut above most of the fare of late, and equipped with a suitably cogent coating of conspiracy lore to bed it in.

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

The X-Files 11.5 Ghouli
(SPOILERS) Perhaps great partnerships should never break up. Together, Glen Morgan and James Wong wrote some of the best episodes of the original run, but their solo efforts for the return have been entirely adequate, entirely unremarkable. Wong’s the better director of the two, as his feature work on a couple of Final Destinations evidenced, but it isn’t enough to make Ghouli seem either necessary or earned, particularly as it returns to the barren well of not-so-wee William.