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114. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – This Just In (#26)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Graham Day, Luke Dunne and Bríd Martin, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 26th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Fury (Review)

Normally, the return of an old cast member to an established show is a cause for celebration, akin to a belated family reunion.

The obvious examples involve the appearances of cast members from other shows on later spin-offs. Think of the reverence and sincerity with which Star Trek: The Next Generation treated Spock and Scotty in episodes like Unification, Part I, Unification, Part II and Relics. Think about the delight with which Star Trek: Voyager greeted Geordi LaForge in Timeless or Deanna Troi in Pathfinder. Even when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine subverted expectations with Jonathan Frakes’ appearance in Defiant, it was still joyful. If anything, Star Trek: Enterprise went too far in accommodating Troi and Riker in These Are the Voyages…

Self-control.

Even within individual shows, the return of long-absent cast members is often treated as an opportunity to celebrate that character, and perhaps even to acknowledge past missteps involving them. Yesterday’s Enterprise brought back the character of Tasha Yar, and used the opportunity to rewrite her mean-spirited and pointless death in Skin of Evil. When mirror!Bareil visited in Resurrection, the episode became a meditation upon how the character’s intrinsic decency was strong enough to transcend dimensions and to define even the worst version of himself.

This approach to the return of established characters makes a great deal of sense for a wide variety of reasons. Most obviously, the production team have gone out of their way to recruit these actors for this specific purpose; it makes sense that these episodes should serve as a celebration of their contributions to the franchise. Even beyond that, it is safe to say that almost any lead character on a Star Trek series has something resembling a fan base; think about the ominously-named “Friends of Vedek Bareil.” Why bring back a character, and attract in those fans, just to do something horrific?

That healthy blue glow.

All of this serves to make Fury all the more perplexing. Fury is an episode of Voyager that effectively resurrects the character of Kes, a regular on the first three seasons of Voyager who departed the series in The Gift at the start of the fourth season. The return of Kes is a strange choice, in large part because the production team often struggled with what to do with the character while she was part of the core cast. Still, there are any number of interesting possibilities. And there is the possibility that, like Yesterday’s Enterprise or Resurrection, the production team might use the occasion to say something interesting about Kes.

Unfortunately, Fury is a spectacular mess of an episode with half-developed character motivations and a highly surreal premise that undercuts a lot of the appeal of bringing Kes back in the first place.

Having its cake and eating it too.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Dogs of War (Review)

The Dogs of War is the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

As such, it has lots of important things to be doing. The episode’s primary function is to streamline the ongoing narratives so that they might all neatly feed into What You Leave Behind. The goal of any penultimate episode is to set up the shot so that the finale might punt the ball into the goal, in a manner that leads to a satisfying conclusion. Given that The Dogs of War is arriving towards the end of a seven-season series, a two-year war story, and a ten-episode closing arc, that is a lot of setting up to be done.

The best is Yates to come.

There is a lot of work to be done on paper. The plot thread focusing on the Pah-Wraiths has been dangling since When It Rains…, the Federation has not reengaged with the Breen since the disastrous encounter at the end of The Changeling Face of Evil, and Bajor hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of joining the Federation since Rapture or In the Cards. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense of The Dogs of War to focus on getting Bashir and Dax together while Quark thinks he is about to be Nagus as Damar is forced to hide in a cellar.

However, there is something inherently charming about how The Dogs of War chooses to prioritise threads over story beats that might seem more relevant or important, to dedicate a sizable chunk of the penultimate episode of Deep Space Nine to tying up a clumsy “will they?”/“won’t they?” romance and telling one last Ferengi story. The Dogs of War is an episode that speaks to what Deep Space Nine was, both in terms is esoteric plotting and its skewed-but-optimistic outlook. There might be better ways to wind down a series, but this is very Deep Space Nine.

Love in a turbolift.

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The Lone Gunmen – Like Water For Octane (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Taken together, Like Water for Octane and Three Men and a Smoking Diaper represent perhaps the creative nadir of the first season of The Lone Gunmen.

They are the episodes that not only engage in the excesses of the show’s early first season, but practically revel in them. In particular, Like Water for Octane is an episode that thinks it is hilarious to have a sequence where Langly sticks his hand up the backside of a bull, while the climax revolves around Jimmy strategically tugging the bull’s “one giant udder” at just the right the moment. The problem is not that the gags are juvenile. The problem is that the gags simply aren’t funny. And there are a lot of unfunny gags across these two episodes.

New patriots...

New patriots…

Again, there is a sense that these are ultimately just teething problems, that The Lone Gunman has not quite figured out what it wants to be. The show improves in later episodes, but not necessarily because the gags get funnier. The gags do get funnier, but there is never really a sense that The Lone Gunmen is funny enough to carry forty-five minutes on cheap laughs. Instead, the show seems to release that it needs more than “dick and ass” jokes to sustain itself. Like Water for Octane and Three Men and Smoking Diaper are devoid of heart.

More than that, though, Like Water for Octane feels like a fundamental betrayal of the show’s core principles. It is a story about the Lone Gunmen struggling to expose the truth, only to decide that the people are too stupid to be trusted with the truth and that the trio should appoint themselves custodians of that truth. The episode seems entirely sincere in this belief, which makes it seem like the production team have somehow completely misunderstood their own characters.

Out of the night...

Out of the night…

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Doctor Who: The Witch’s Familiar (Review)

“Of course, the real question is where I got the cup of tea. Answer: I’m the Doctor, just accept it.”

– the Doctor tells it how it is

As is the norm for Moffat-era Dalek episodes, The Witch’s Familiar is a mess… but it is an interesting mess.

The Witch’s Familiar works best as a collection of intersecting character moments than a narrative in its own right. In some respects, The Witch’s Familiar feels like a season premiere in the same way that The Magician’s Apprentice did; it is light and breezy, with more energy devoted to character dynamics than to dramatic stakes. The Witch’s Familiar is quite blatantly set-up; it is all about establishing things that might possibly become more important later on. Davros is revived; the Hybrid is mentioned; Skaro is back in play.

Destiny of the Davros...

Destiny of the Davros…

The plot is all over the place, with Moffat’s script avoiding retreading old thematic ground about “the Oncoming Storm” and justifiable genocide by barely alluding to the moral quandaries that The Magician’s Apprentice set-up. When Davros alludes to the idea of the Doctor wiping out the Daleks through a single act of murder, or harnessing all that power for his own ends, it feels like Davros is just barreling through a check list of cheap shots that any major adversary is expected to land when facing the Doctor. The Dalek Emperor did it more convincingly in The Parting of the Ways.

Still, this familiarity does allow The Witch’s Familiar to lock the Doctor and Davros in a room together for an extended period of time. It affords the pair the chance to trade barbs and to understand one another in a way that no previous story has attempted. One of the more interesting aspects of a season of ninety-minute stories told across multiple episodes in 2015 is that the format is remarkably different than a season of ninety-minute stories told across multiple episodes in 1989. This is a season of serialised stories, but it is not a return to the classic model.

Exterma- wait a minute!

Exterma- wait a minute!

The classic series would never have been able to pull off this sort of quiet and understated interaction between the Doctor and Davros. The nature of a classic Dalek story was to build to a climax of the Doctor and Davros screaming at each other across the room; the pleasure of The Witch’s Familiar is the space that it affords both characters to move past the shouting and to something towards mutual comprehension. It helps that The Witch’s Familiar has two fantastic central performers in Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach.

The Witch’s Familiar might be yet another example of the Moffat era trying and failing to construct an entirely functional Dalek story, but it is quite possibly the single best Davros story ever told. (Give or take a Revelation of the Daleks.)

Shades of grey...

Shades of grey…

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Superman & Relevance: (Yet) More Thoughts on Snyder’s Superman…

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

Dear Hollywood,

I am a movie fan. I am not an American. I didn’t read too many comic books as a child, and those I did never featured Superman. I say this as a means of introducing myself. I’ve been somewhat frustrated that you have been consistently unable to produce a good Superman film since Richard Donner was unceremoniously booted off the set of Superman II over 30 years ago. I know you’re working on a new film, so I thought I’d pen this open letter.

I’m sure David S. Goyer is a great writer, and look forward to his screenplay. After all, I appreciate his work on Nolan’s Batman Begins trilogy and his work with James Robinson on Starman (plus he helped kickstart this whole “superhero movie” business with Blade). Still, I can’t help but be a little concerned about this new Superman reboot you have to produce by the end of next year, lest the rights revert to the creators of the character.

Anyway, I want to talk to you about the relevance of Superman, as I’m sure it’s something you’ve talked about quite a lot, and perhaps it’s something you’re still concerned about.

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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