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The X-Files – Darkness Falls (Review)

Darkness Falls is the best script Chris Carter has written so far. It it is far superior to Fire or Space or Young at Heart or The Jersey Devil or even The Pilot. It’s quite possibly the strongest normal “monster-of-the-week” episode that Carter ever wrote, discounting his work on “special” episodes (like Post-Modern Prometheus or Triangle) or even some mythology stories (I’m quite fond of Redux).

Darkness Falls is – at its most basic – just a very strong monster-of-the-week installment, hitting all the right buttons to provide an atmospheric horror thriller.

If a tree falls in the woods...

If a tree falls in the woods…

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Star Trek – Dagger of the Mind (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

I knew we were due a nice Shakespearean title soon. And The Conscience of a King is just around the corner, to boot. Seriously though, I have to admit a massive fondness for these wonderfully lofty and high-minded episode titles. It’s something that links the original Star Trek and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine quite firmly, and was sadly never enthusiastically taken up by any of the other spin-offs. It’s a shame, because – regardless of the quality of the episodes in question – there’s something undeniably endearing about forty-five minutes of television given a pretentious name like For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The City on the Edge of Forever or Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.

A scream...

A scream…

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Stuck in the Moment: The Mood for a (Particular) Movie…

I’ve been thinking a bit, lately, about how I form an opinion about a particular film. Of course, it should be somewhat objective. I should be able to take out any possibly subjective influences and divorce a movie from any of those countless outside factors, to judge it entirely on its own merits. (Or, as the case might be, its lack of merits.) However, I am honest enough to admit that this isn’t always the case. There are any number of reasons I might feel a particular way about the movie. I find J. Edgar interesting to place in the context of Clint Eastwood’s body of work. I approached Cabin of the Woods with an admitted fondness for cheesy horror. I’ll admit that these facets colour my opinions somewhat – I am more likely to respond to a film that resonates with me on something I feel strongly about.

However, sometimes that influence factor isn’t anything to do with the movie in question at all. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder, whether my opinion is down to something as arbitrary as the mood I was in when I watched the film.

I will not have my tastes subjected to this sort of double-guessing!

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Non-Review Review: Killing Them Softly

There’s been a lot of talk about how Killing Them Softly is a critique of the Obama administration. It’s easy to see why. Obama might as well receive an “and” credit, given how frequently he appears and how deeply his influence seems to seep into the film. He’s there at the beginning, between moments of static, and he’s there at the end, interrupting exchanges between two primary characters. The film is set during the President’s first campaign, and released just in time for his second. Still, Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Cogan’s Trade feels like a more rounded criticism of the American political system, with Obama serving as a focal point if only because the promise he offers, one of change.

At one point during the film, our leading hit man confronts one of the people on his list. “Not many people get what you have,” he assures the nervous and sweaty young man who seems way over his head. “You have a choice.” Of course, it’s not really a choice – everybody knows that. The young guy knows it, the assassin knows it, and we know. Sure, he can pick between two alternatives, but there are no happy endings here. Dominik’s Killing Them Softly feels like an older, harsher, more bitter Tarantino film, one jaded and numbed by the promise of a false choice. Cynically, it seems to suggest that elections – now and then – are like that offer made in a dive bar.

Sure, there’s technically a choice. But there’s not an opportunity to substantially improve anybody’s position.

Cogan’s run…

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Non-Review Review: The Peacemaker

It’s interesting to look back at George Clooney’s early road to movie stardom. Indeed, the actor’s first leading roles seem like movies that really should have been star-making turns, but just weren’t. There’s obviously his portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin, a performance not quite as bad as the film around it, but there’s also his roles in films like The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker also was the first film released under Spielberg’s Dreamworks company, and it’s hardly an auspicious début. It’s not that The Peacemaker is a bad film. It’s a very well made, and the production values are excellent.

However, the problem is the premise itself, the plotting, the pacing and the script. The Peacemaker feels like it really wants to be a Tom Clancy thriller, and it really wants us to accept George Clooney as a more dynamic Harrison Ford. Unfortunately, it feels like all the plot points, characters and motivations all came second-hand. There isn’t one thing here that hasn’t been done before, and done better, and those parts aren’t even assembled in an especially original way.

The name’s Clooney. George Clooney.

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Non-Review Review: Independence Day

I think there’s a serious argument to be made for Independence Dayas one of the truly exceptional summer blockbusters. It’s not exceptionally clever or insightful, its characters aren’t necessarily more than plot functions given life by a wonderful cast, but it has a high-octane energy and wonderful sense of tone that makes it a joy to watch. It’s cheesy enough that it never takes itself too seriously, and yet it’s efficient enough and effective enough that it never descends to the level of pure camp. It’s a deft balance, and I suspect that it might be a fluke, but I think that Independence Day remains a gleefully enjoyable guilty pleasure to this day.

Don't run! We are your friends!

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Friends & Crocodiles (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Stephen Poliakoff is regarded as one of the best British film, theatre and television writers working today. In 2006, the writer and director produced two television movies linked by character and by theme. While Gideon’s Daughter is perhaps the more successful of the two, Friends & Crocodilesremains an interesting – if not consistently satisfying – viewing experience. While it doesn’t have as strong a cast as its companion piece, I think it covers more interesting ground, and feels a tad more ambitious, even if it does succumb to the same awkwardness in places.

Dealing with his inner Damians...

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume IV (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

What’s weird about the fourth ane penultimate volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ superb superhero political science fiction mish-mash comic book is simple how much fun it is. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the first three volumes were anything less than superb, but there’s a sense of playfulness in this volume which just makes it seem like the creators are have the time of their lives. I was worried after the last volume that the underlying “conspiracy” story would overwhelm the saga as it reached completion, but it’s still just as fascinating and unpredictable as it was back when it began.

Justice for all?

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume II (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

It’s interesting how times change. Ex Machina was originally published in August 2004, written by a New Yorker as something of a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s an exploration of a time when the country needed heroes and figureheads more than it needed politicians and diplomats. Is a superhero in Gracie Mansion any more insane than a cowboy in the White House? However, reading it now it’s interesting to see the similarities between Vaughan’s protagonist, the Honorable Mayor Mitchell Hundred, and Barack Obama. It’s the sign of a good storyteller that the tale remains relevant years after initial publication. It’s the sign of a great storyteller that the tale becomes even more relevant in the years that follow.

He's got the whole world, in his hands...

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