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Non-Review Review: Free State of Jones

Free State of Jones does a decent job approximating the feel of a prestige picture.

Free State of Jones feels almost like writer and director Gary Ross is running through a checklist of all the elements expected from a successful prestige picture. It deals with heavy subject matter, unfolding primarily during the Civil War and touching upon Reconstruction. It is paced indulgently, never rising to more the a sitting trot. It is anchored in performance by a critically-acclaimed Oscar-winning actor who dominates the film. Its cinematography is uncomplicated and stately. It is laboured with a framing device that offers the illusion of depth.

When the dust settles...

When the dust settles…

Free State of Jones plays as an imitation of a much bolder and provocative film. There are points at which the film brushes up against potentially brilliant ideas, only to back away. For a film about slavery, Free State of Jones finds itself unable to look beyond its white leading character. The framing and scene composition is clearly intended to seem dignified, but instead feels lifeless. The film’s perspective is limited, in both a literal and figurative sense. There are a lot of interesting ideas inside Free State of Jones, but none of them are allowed to grow.

There is a heavy earnestness to Free State of Jones, but it suffocates the story.

Riding shotgun on secession.

Riding shotgun on secession.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Assignment (Review)

The Assignment is perhaps the most conventional episode of the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is also one of the most disappointing.

The Star Trek franchise has long been fond of “possession” and “imitation” stories, dating back through Whom Gods Destroy and Turnabout Intruder to Lonely Among Us and Datalore and Power Play. It is easy to see the appeal of these stories from a production standpoint. An effective possession story can likely be filmed on standing sets and relies primarily upon an established member of the ensemble. For an actor, it provides an exciting opportunity to play against type, which is a great way to keep a weekly television series exciting.

O'Brien must suffer... through a terrible script.

O’Brien must suffer… through a terrible script.

However, it is very much a stock plot. There are only so many variations that a long-running franchise can put on the tried-and-tested formula before it begins to feel a little tired. Deep Space Nine has already had more than its fair share of “out of character” plots, from The Passenger to Dramatis Personae through to Crossover and all the other mirror universe episodes. It gets to the point where “there’s an evil alien inside Keiko O’Brien” feels like a fairly bland iteration of this particular type of Star Trek story.

In a season where Deep Space Nine spends so much time pushing the boundaries of Star Trek, it is frustrating to see the show offer up such a generic installment.

Rom is in a bit of a fix...

Rom is in a bit of a fix…

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Sympathy for the Other: The Science-Fiction Horror Film in the Brexit/Trump Era

It’s not over. It’s just not yours any more.

– Melanie, The Girl With All the Gifts

exmachina

Note: This post contains minor spoilers for the reboot of Westworld and major spoilers for the endings of The Girl With All the Gifts and Ex Machina. Consider yourself warned. Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – … Nor the Battle to the Strong (Review)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

– Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Far a field.

Far afield.

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Non-Review Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts is brilliant and uncompromising.

Elevated by a smart script drawing from a clever book, and fantastically tense direction from Colm McCarthy, The Girl With All the Gifts is at once a brilliant example of the classic zombie movie tropes and a sly subversion of them. The Girl With All the Gifts was originally published in 2014, but it feels strangely of this cultural moment. It is very much a young adult science-fiction commentary on the world as it exists today, perfectly capturing the anxiety simmering beneath Brexit and Trumpism.

Gifted.

Gifted.

The Girl With All the Gifts in an exception piece of work, Carey’s script understanding the myriad of genre conventions that it is navigating while McCarthy pushes the material just a little bit further. It is unsettling and palpable in the ways that a post-apocalyptic zombie film needs to be, but it also goes that bit further. The strongest aspect of The Girl With All the Gifts is a willingness to follow its strands through to their logical conclusion, as unrelenting and confrontational as they might be.

The Girl With All the Gifts reimagines the zombie movie for a new generation.

Putting her neck on the line.

Putting her neck on the line.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places (Review)

In some ways, the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine serves as an amalgation of the third and fourth seasons of the show, reconciling the bold new direction that began in The Search, Part I with the detour that commenced in The Way of the Warrior.

In some respects, the fifth season feels like an attempt to get the show back on a track that it largely abandoned in favour of the (studio suggested) Klingon focus of the fourth season, but incorporating the lessons learned during that fourth season. One of the more interesting aspects of the fifth season is how much time the show spends rolling back from the bigger decisions of the fourth season. The war with the Klingons (mostly) ends in Apocalypse Rising. Odo gets his groove back in The Begotten. Worf gets his honour back in Soldiers of the Empire.

Klingon Love Songs.

Klingon Love Songs.

The fifth season also very clearly and very closely adheres to the format of the third season rather than the fourth. The fifth year’s big mid-season two-parter, In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, is very clearly intended to mirror the third season’s two-part adventure Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast more than the fourth season’s Homefront and Paradise Lost. That focus is also quite apparent in Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places, the third episode of the fifth season that is a direct sequel to the third episode of the third season.

It is also perhaps Deep Space Nine‘s best attempt at doing a sex farce.

A Quarky love story...

A Quarky love story…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Ship (Review)

It seems we’re approaching an impasse.

We’ve already arrived.

– Kilana and Sisko sum up the fifth season

Under siege.

Under siege.

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