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Millennium – Broken World (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

On paper, there is a lot to like about Broken World.

In theory, it is Robert Moresco building off the success of Covenant, developing another story that works within the framework of Millennium without adhering to the formulaic “serial-killer-of-the-week” approach. As in Covenant, Frank Black is wandering the country to do good, a stranger who comes to town to fight evil. In this case, the evil takes the form of a budding young serial killer – a fiend who has not yet claimed a human life, but seems to be building towards it.

"I think he's trying to tell us something..."

“I think he’s trying to tell us something…”

In reality, Broken World is a number of great ideas suffering from terrible execution. While the story is technically quite distinct from the stock “serial-killer-of-the-week” stories that haunted the series in the middle of the series, the practical difference is minimal. Broken World is another story of sadism and brutality that inevitably feels sleazy and exploitative. While the episode could be an interesting twist on a tired structure, Willi Borgsen is just another generic psychopath like Edward Petey or Art Nesbitt.

Still, the title feels somewhat appropriate. Broken World does a lot to demonstrate how far Millennium has come in this stretch of episodes. Broken World would have felt quite comfortable sandwiched between Weeds and Loin Like a Hunting Flame. Sitting between Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions and Maranatha, it feels almost like a relic.

Who's gonna ride your wild horses?

Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?

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Non-Review Review: Boychoir

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Boychoir hits just about every emotional note that you would expect it to.

Of course, it hits those notes in ways that feel incredibly contrived and emotionally manipulative. Director François Girard and writer Ben Ripley are incredibly cynical in how they choose to resonate with the audience. The script and the direction for Boychoir is advanced with an almost ruthless pragmatism, a pragmatism that is not afraid to kill of relatives to generate tragedy and which is willing to gloss over any real or tangible emotional reactions to get the film to the point that is most coldly calculated to affect the viewer.


Boychoir very much goes through the motions for a film like this. It is a coming of age story set inside a highly competitive environment, juxtaposing a rather working class protagonist with those who have enjoyed privilege from a very young age. It is the story Stet Tate, a young boy who finds himself joining the National Boychoir; who quickly and inevitably discovers that his voice is a rare gift, and discovering exactly where that gift can take him and what it will teach him along the way.

Boychoir is a competent execution of a bunch of familiar tropes, albeit one that never strives for loftier goals. It is sappy and manipulative, but – given it aims to be sappy and manipulative – it is hard to treat that as a scathing criticism.


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Non-Review Review: Lost River

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

There is a good film buried somewhere in Lost River.

Unfortunately, it is probably buried as deep as the community that give the movie its name.


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Non-Review Review: The Canal

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Ghosts are all around us.

As the opening scene of The Canal quite clearly states, the deceased endure long after their passing. Whether as images captured on camera or stories repeated in hushed tones, the dead haunt us. What are ghosts but the voices of history reaching out to the individual like some nightmare lodged deep in the collective unconscious? The “stone tape” theory of paranormal activity suggests that horrific events leave their mark, a blood stain that won’t wash out. What if that stain is psychological? What if ghosts are nothing but tales that echo in the darkness?


It is not an entirely original concept, to be fair. The idea of ghosts that exist as stories (or as media) is quite an old idea. In fact, one particular jump scare in The Canal owes quite a specific debt to Ringu, the iconic Japanese horror story about a ghost trapped inside a haunted video cassette. That scene is not the only parallel; The Canal centres itself upon a man working at the National Archives who finds himself processing old footage. No sooner has he discovered the gory details of a brutal murder in his home than it seems that those same ghosts come to life.

The Canal hits a few speed bumps in its final act, but – for most of its runtime – the film is a thoroughly compelling modern day ghost story. Writer and director Ivan Kavanagh wears his cinematic homages on his sleeve, drawing quite openly from directors like Roeg or Kubrick. The Canal is an unsettling and fascinating Irish horror film.


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Non-Review Review: Let Us Prey

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Let Us Prey marks the feature film debut of director Brian O’Malley.

O’Malley certainly knows his stuff. Let Us Prey is visually striking and very well-directed. It is rich and memorable, perfectly capturing the eighties exploitation vibe that O’Malley is striving for. It isn’t too difficult to imagine Let Us Prey as a lost horror film from the eighties, with its synth-heavy soundtrack and vague paranormal underpinnings. O’Malley draws from a wealth of sources, but Let Us Prey feels most obviously indebted to the work of John Carpenter, feeling like a curious blend between Prince of Darkness and Assault on Precinct 13.


Unfortunately, O’Malley confident direction can do little to conceal the obvious flaws in a clumsy script. While Let Us Prey has an obvious affection for classic schlock-fest horror films, the script feels more than a little lazy and generic. Horror films generally trade in tastelessness or tackiness – that’s a huge part of the fun – but there is no sense of technique in how Let Us Prey parades its own depravity. The “shock” elements feel cheap and half-hearted.

O’Malley is very much a director to watch, but Let Us Prey is saddled with a script that is far more horrifying than anything O’Malley can actually put on screen.


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Non-Review Review: Pressure

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Trapping a bunch of people in a claustrophobic location under time pressure is really the key to instant drama.

It is a well-proven strategy that has been used so often because it works. It is a great vehicle for high-stakes tension, but also for tough interpersonal drama. If you pack people close enough together under just the right amount of strain, it is a great way to reveal and inform character. It leads to conflict, which is generally quite entertaining to watch. If you can harness that tension and that conflict, it is fairly easy to get the audience to go along with the rest of the film.


Pressure is a quintessential “bunch of people trapped in a tight space waiting to die” film. Four divers venture down to repair an oil pipeline, only for disaster to strike. The four characters find themselves trapped alone at the bottom of the ocean, with no real chance of survival. Tough decisions have to be made, and characters are thrown into conflict with one another as the air runs low and the power runs out. There are moments when Pressure really works as a claustrophobic thriller.

Unfortunately, there are just as many moments when Pressure doesn’t work. The film seems intent on pulling the audience out of the harrowing situation – whether through quick flashbacks or nightmare sequences that undercut the claustrophobic tension of the rest of the film. Despite the best efforts of the cast, the characters feel stilted and stock – spouting cliché dialogue and coming in the form of broad archetypes. The scripting is similarly haphazard, particularly in the somewhat contrived third act.


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Non-Review Review: Shoulder the Lion

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Shoulder the Lion is a visual sumptuous documentary from the creative team of Erinnisse and Patryk Rebisz.

The duo have a long history behind the scenes. Patryk is an accomplished cinematographer and Erinnisse is a veteran editor. However, barring a short film written and produced by Patryk a decade ago, Shoulder the Lion is the first time that the duo have taken complete charge of a film. The result is visually stunning. Shoulder the Lion is a documentary that divides its focus among three subjects – each dealing with a debilitating condition. However, the key is in how Shoulder the Lion attempts to relate to its subjects.


Shoulder the Lion attempts to convey to the audience – visually and aurally – what it must be like to see the world through the perspective of its three subjects. There are any number of striking compositions and sequences in the film, as the Rebiszes invite the audience to experience even some small segment of what day-to-day life must be like for its three central individuals. As Alice Wingwall describes her deteriorating vision, the camera filters out the colours. As Fergal Sharpe describes the agony of tinnitus, a painful electronic buzz builds.

There are structural problems with Shoulder the Lion. Most obviously, the fact that it divides its attention between three subjects while devoting so much energy towards its visuals means that not all of the three central figures emerge fully-formed. Indeed, it could be argued that the film expends more time trying to replicate their disabilities than exploring their experiences beyond that. However, the result is a thought-provoking and well-constructed piece of film. It is a beautiful piece of work, if not quite as deep as it might have been.


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