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Luke Cage – For Pete’s Sake (Review)

Maybe we don’t all become our parents, but we do live in their shadows.

The second season of Luke Cage engages with the idea of parents and children as a consistent thematic arc across the length and breadth of the season. In Soul Brother #1, Luke is thrown off his game by the arrival of his long-absent father in Harlem, seeking to reconnect. In Straighten It Out, Mariah is informed that one of better chances at going legitimate would be to cultivate a relationship with her own long-estranged daughter. From his introduction, even before his story is articulated in On and On, Jon McIver is clearly seeking justice for his parents.

This is not something that the second season conjures out of thin air. The first season had also hinted at generational tension. The battle between Luke Cage and Willis Stryker in the second half of the first season was largely fought in the shadow of the as-yet-unseen Reverend James Lucas, with Luke even taking Claire home to Georgia in Take It Personal to provide a sense of his history and back story. Similarly, both Cornell and Mariah wrestled with the obligations and the wounds that the Stokes family had inflicted upon them, seen in flashback in Manifest.

However, as all successful sequels and follow-ups tend to do, the second season of Luke Cage works from those small kernels and develops them into a strong central thematic arc for the various characters. Reverend James Lucas actually appears, force Luke to work through his anger and his rage towards his emotionally distant father. Similarly, Mariah is forced by political necessity to reach out to the daughter who has largely been absent from her life, which serves as a catalyst for confronting all of these deep-set issues.

This parental anxiety simmers through the season in interesting ways. The Jamaican restaurant that serves as Bushmaster’s base of operations is called “Gwen’s”, implicitly named for his long-deceased mother and a reminder of what motivates him. At the climax of On and On, the story of the loss of Bushmaster’s mother is cut against Luke remembering the last time that he saw his own mother. Similarly, Tilda’s store is named “Mother’s Touch.” In For Pete’s Sake, she assures Reverend Lucas that she meant “Mother Nature’s Touch”, but it seems a telling choice.

The second season of Luke Cage is all about family. Those that are there, and those that are not.

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Millennium – Weeds (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.

Weeds concludes the loose “suburban trilogy” running through the first season of Millennium. In fact, Weeds was filmed directly after Wide Open, but was pushed back in the broadcast schedule so as to air after The Wild and the Innocent. While this change in broadcast and production order is nowhere near as confusing as the scheduling hijinx happening with The X-Files at the same time, it does give an indication that the production team recognised the potential similarities between Weeds and Wide Open.

Both episodes are about the violation of a supposedly “safe” space, bypassing and subverting all the potential security put in place to keep the home secure. In Wide Open, the killer visits open houses and hides in wardrobes until the family go to sleep that night; in doing so, he avoids setting off any alarms. In Weeds, a secure and gated community discovers that they cannot keep their children safe; someone within the community is preying on the residents’ children. As with The Well-Worn Lock, there is a sense that families are not safe, even when they think that they are.

Community watch...

Community watch…

As with Wide Open, Weeds feels just a little bit sensationalist. It is the kind of episode that attracts criticisms about gratuitous violence or exploitation. Millennium was never quite as excessive or as sadomasochistic as its critics would suggest, but there are definite tendencies towards those extremes on display at certain points in the run. While Millennium is very clearly driven by a core moral philosophy, it can occasionally seem a little too comfortable with its brutality or depravity.

Indeed, Weeds hits on quite a few of the stock fears that run through the first season of Millennium: children are victimised by a person in a position of trust and authority; there is biblical quotation; there is sadistic (and disturbing) torture filmed in a heavily stylised manner. There is something almost cynical and calculated about how Weeds hits these familiar buttons; these impulses towards excess haunt the first season of Millennium, and are building to something of a catharsis in Loin Like a Hunting Flame.

There will be blood...

There will be blood…

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The X-Files (Topps) Digest #2 – Dead to the World (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard are winding at this point in their curatorship of Topps’ The X-Files comic book. The duo have contributed an absolutely staggering volume of work to the line. On top of monthly issues and short stories, there have been annuals and digests. The volume of the output has been staggering. All of it has been written by Petrucha and the vast majority was illustrated by Adlard. The quality has – generally speaking – been quite impressive.

Dead to the World is the headline story in the second “digest” published by Topps comics. As with Big Foot, Warm Heart before it, the format of the “digest” feels a little strange. There is a single (and rather long) comic written by Petrucha and illustrated by Adlard, following by a collection of shorts taken from Ray Bradbury Comics, a somewhat less popular feature of Topps’ comic book publishing line. There is a sense that the format might have worked better as a collection of short X-Files-themed stories for a variety of creators.

Face to face...

Face to face…

Nevertheless, the result is interesting. In many ways, Big Foot, Warm Heart seemed to point at where Petrucha and Adlard would go when they wrapped up their massive twelve-part “Aquarius” mega-arc. With its reflections on human failings and human abuses, it seemed like Big Foot, Warm Heart set the tone for the stories that would follow – like One Player Only or Falling. It offered a tease of things to come, suggesting the humanity could be more monstrous than any mythological creature.

In contrast, it is very tough to see where Dead to the World might have been pointing. Then again, Petrucha and Adlard would be gone from the comic a month after its publication. So perhaps the story’s funereal atmosphere feels appropriate.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

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The X-Files – Blood (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

It’s interesting to get The Host and Blood produced back-to-back. Both episodes serve to draw writer Darin Morgan into the world of The X-Files. Brother of staff writer Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan would go on to become one of the most unique and distinctive voices to work on Chris Carter’s television shows – his scripts for The X-Files and Millennium stand out among the very best episodes the shows ever produced, with a very subversive and wry approach to the subject matter.

Morgan enjoyed one of the most surreal paths to the writers’ room imaginable. An actor with a few scattered credits on eighties television, including various shows his brother worked on like 21 Jump Street and The Commish, Morgan was cast as in the thankless role of “Fluke man” in The Host. However, he also found himself drawn into the production of the next episode, Blood. An episode with some production difficulties, Darin Morgan offered some ideas on how to develop the story.

Blood work...

Blood work…

Ultimately, Darin Morgan didn’t write Blood. The script was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, with Darin receiving a “story” credit on the finished episode. However, his ideas had impressed producer Howard Gordon, who would later propose that Darin Morgan join the writing staff. Morgan would accept the invitation and write Humbug later in the second season, before producing two genuine classics during the show’s phenomenal third year. (And also War of the Coprophages.) Darin Morgan would later write two more scripts for Millennium.

As such, Blood isn’t really a Darin Morgan episode. As it was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, their own sensibilities shine through on the broadcast episode. However, Blood does contain a few of the wonderful trademarks of Darin Morgan’s approach to the show, not least of which a very post-modern cynicism about cynicism. Blood feels like a rather subtle and incisive critique of the culture of paranoia that The X-Files thrives on, refusing to offer clear-cut answers and suggesting that Mulder might be just a little bit off-balance.

A very calculated title drop!

A very calculated title drop!

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Batman: Vampire Trilogy – Red Rain, Bloodstorm & Crimson Mist (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I’m going to be entirely honest. I’m not completely sure what to make of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ Batman: Vampire trilogy. A collection of three Elseworlds stories, all following a Batman who confronted Dracula early in his career, they initially seem like grim and dark comics from the nihilistic nineties. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of cynicism, and a lot of gore. As with a lot of Batman written around that time (and arguably beyond), The Dark Knight Returns seems like a major influence, presenting a progressively darker and unhinged Dark Knight and an increasingly brutal war on Gotham’s crime. However, there were times, reading the trilogy, that I couldn’t help but read it as a sort of an implicit criticism of these sorts of excessively dark and edgy comics.

Streets run red…

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