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James Horner

It is no exaggeration to say that James Horner was one of the greatest film composers of all time.

Such measures are seldom objective, but Horner was the rare composer who could match critical and commercial success across a wide range of genre and material. Understandably, coverage around his death has focused on the biggest hits in his extensive filmography. He won two Oscars out of ten nominations. He occupied two of the five nomination slots in 1996 for his soundtracks to Apollo 13 and Braveheart. It is quite something to compete against yourself for an Oscar.

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Titanic tends to headline such discussions of Horner’s work, as one might expect given that it was “the biggest selling primarily orchestral film score in history.” More than that, Horner wrote The Heart Will Go On, the love theme that sold more than 15 million copies to become one of the biggest selling singles of all time and the biggest selling single of 1998. The Heart Will Go On is credited with revitalising the “spin-off hit” in the late nineties, prompting lots of movie-launched love ballads like Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing or There You’ll Be.

Horner enjoyed no shortage of commercial success. He provided the soundtracks to two movies that could claim to be the biggest movies of all time upon their release. Titanic was the first such example, becoming the most successful movie of all time upon its release in 1998. Horner also provided the soundtrack to Avatar, the movie that would claim the title in 2009. However, the most impressive aspect of Horner’s extensive filmography is the sheer scope of his work.

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Millennium – The Mikado (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Glen Morgan and James Wong famously pulled Millennium away from its “serial killer of the week” format in its second season. While the label might be a little harsh (and perhaps a little exaggerated), it did hint at a recurring formula in the first season. Frank Black would be called in to catch a serial killer with a unique and distinctive modus operandi. The first season was littered with episodes built around that core format, wildly varying in quality. For every Blood Relatives or Paper Dove, there was a Loin Like a Hunting Flame or Kingdom Come.

The second season largely moved away from all that. Although Morgan and Wong occasionally made nods towards the classic format in episodes like Beware of the Dog, 19:19 or Goodbye Charlie, the second season of the show was a lot less formulaic and familiar. This is was a show that could transition from The Hand of St. Sebastian to Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” to Midnight of the Century to Goodbye Charlie to Luminary. It seemed quite reasonable to suggest that the second season of Millennium was not as firmly attached to the concept of serial killers as the first season had been.

This is Avatar calling...

This is Avatar calling…

This makes The Mikado a rather unique instalment, arriving a little past half-way through the season. Written by Michael R. Perry, The Mikado is very much an archetypal serial killer story. There is a case from Frank Black’s past, lots of victims, some occult imagery, and even a ticking plot. In fact, The Mikado is probably the only episode of the second season that would arguably fit more comfortably in either the first or third seasons of the show. All you’d have to do is write out the character of Roedecker.

However, there is something decidedly big and bold about The Mikado. It is perhaps the most archetypal (and maybe the most successful) straight-down-the-middle “serial killer of the week” story that Millennium ever produced. After all, if you are only going to do produce one truly traditional “serial killer of the week” story in a season, you may as well go big. And you can’t go much bigger than the Zodiac.

It's all about the execution...

It’s all about the execution…

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The X-Files (Topps) #22 – The Kanashibari (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.

The Kanashibari confirms what readers should expect from Topps’ licensed comics based on The X-Files. It is another atmospheric and episodic horror story, tightly plotted and written, with a grim sense of moral certainty underpinning it. The Kanashibari feels like something of a throwback, a modern-day take on those classic E.C. Comics horror stories – morality tales where the vengeance is exacted against those who have committed an injustice.

It is a throwback in other ways as well. The Kanashibari and Donor are both old-fashioned “supernatural revenge stories”, the kind of stories that would sit comfortably in the first season of The X-Files. Episodes like Shadows, Lazarus, Young at Heart, Born Again and Roland were all stories about characters seemingly returning from beyond the grave to wreak a terrible revenge against those had wronged them.

Who ya gonna call?

Who ya gonna call?

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Non-Review Review: Aliens (Theatrical Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

I think Aliens might be my favourite James Cameron movie. Of course, the guy has any number of iconic movies vying for that position – The Terminator and Terminator 2 both come to mind, for example – but I can’t help but admire how efficiently the director constructed his first big budget motion picture. Regardless of its place within an iconic science-fiction franchise, Aliens is practically a guidebook on how to effectively construct a movie, from writing the script to directing the action and absolutely everything in between. It’s hard to look at Aliens as anything less than a complete triumph, no matter which angle you examine the film from.

Queen bee…

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Non-Review Review: Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace (3D)

In 1999, after decades of anticipation, George Lucas unleashed Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The response was… less than enthusiastic. After years of heightened anticipation, during which the original trilogy had been built up to near mythical status, anything less than the second coming was going to disappoint viewers. I think it is reasonable to say that The Phantom Menace fell well short of that particular target. That said, I’ve always felt a bit of sympathy for the first of the prequel trilogy. Not enough to label it as a good film (it really isn’t), but enough to argue that the fairly fundamental and central flaws do mask a number of virtues. Those virtues don’t quite redeem the film, but they do make the end result a lot more fascinating than most would concede it to be.

Schindler’s miffed…

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Is It Just Me Or Does The Artist Backlash Seem a Little Half-Hearted?

The annual Oscar race is a process so predictable that it could be a movie formula all of its own. You have your initial race to nominations, with various films falling at certain hurdles, leaving you with a fairly well-spaced field. You have the frontrunner surging ahead, but a dark horse waiting in the wings. And, every year, you have a very eager publicity industry ready to launch a very vehement attack on that frontrunner simply because it has the tenacity of pulling ahead. This year is no different, and The Artist seems to be seeing its share of controversies. However, these seem to be unfolding simply because it’s expected at this point in the race. I can’t help but feel like any of the attacks on The Artist are anything more than half-hearted.

Barking up the wrong tree?

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In Defense of “Obnoxious” 3D…

Discussing the upcoming adaptation of Marvel’s The Avengers, it was strange to hear director Joss Whedon assure fans that the film would not be “obnoxiously 3D.” I am hardly the biggest fan of 3D, for a multitude of reasons I’ll undoubtedly get into in a minute, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. After all, since Whedon isn’t filming in 3D, what’s the point in doing it at all if you aren’t at least going to treat it like the gimmick that it is?

Out of their depth?

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