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The X-Files – The Pine Bluff Variant (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.

The Pine Bluff Variant is probably John Shiban’s best solo script for The X-Files.

It is the kind of story that the show does very well, a taut conspiracy thriller packed with sharp twists and turns. Not all of those twists and turns make a great deal of sense, but there is an incredible momentum to the episode that keeps it moving forward. John Shiban’s script is beautifully brought to life by Rob Bowman’s direction, with Bowman demonstrating once again why he was the perfect choice to direct The X-Files: Fight the Future. The Pine Bluff Variant is a well-constructed piece of television.

He who hunts monsters...

He who hunts monsters…

It also fits quite comfortably in the context of where the show is at this point in time. The fourth and fifth seasons of The X-Files saw the show really engaging with the dark underbelly of conspiracy culture just as Mulder when through his own dark midnight of the soul. After three seasons of endorsing paranoia and skepticism, The X-Files was ready to deal with the sorts of organised groups that believed in such conspiracies. The Pine Bluff Variant has Mulder infiltrating a militia a few months before the release of Fight the Future would recreate the Oklahoma City Bombing.

It is a thread with which the show had been playing since The Field Where I Died early in the fourth season. The Pine Bluff Variant is the last time that the series pushes these sorts of militia groups to the fore, with Mulder reaffirming and regaining his faith at the climax of Fight the Future. It is a suitably satisfying farewell to this recurring thematic motif.

Fleshing out the threat...

Fleshing out the threat…

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Meme of the Moment: Cinema Code of Conduct

Note: You can find the full list of participating blogs here. Kudos to all involved, and especially to CinemaScream for putting it together.

I feel somewhat humbled to open this post with an admission of a breach of blogging etiquette. Those who frequent the site might have noticed that I have been somewhat absent from the blogging world in the past few months – my postings are sporadic, cobbled together from a car ride or bus ride on an iPhone screen. I won’t dare to make a series of excuses about how things have gone upside down of late, or make reference to increasing commitments. We all have those, and yet most manage it far better. Anyway, I owe a sincere apology to CinemaScream – I agreed to take part in this rather ingenious (and thoroughly practical) meme, but it completely slipped my mind. So this post is somewhat more haphazard than usual. But only somewhat.

Basically, the Cinema Code of Conduct (as proposed by Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo) is intended to make going to the cinema a far more pleasant experience for those involved. In this era of mobile phones and iPods and such, it’s a rather wonderful idea to attempt to codify the behaviour that should be considered acceptable in modern cinemas. I really wish that a few major chains would consciously publicise the list to promote it among movie-goers. The ten items, included below, are not excessively harsh or intrusive – they are in fact relatively minor things which, if everybody did them, would make going to the cinema a much more enjoyable experience.

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Trailer Talk: Views on Previews…

I love a good film story. Not necessarily a story about the inner workings of Hollywood or who is starring in what, more a story about how the film industry is working, relating to regular folks, engaging with audiences and about how the experience of going to the cinema may or may not change. So things like complaints about popcorn or iPhone movie apps excite me as much as pondering the true meaning of Inception or discussing the ending of Shutter Island. So, a particular story grabbed my attention over the weekend. Apparently a woman in China is suing cinemas for wasting her time with pointless advertisements. It’s certainly a story which grabbed my attention: 

Chen Xiaomei, a lawyer in Shaanxi Province, filed the lawsuit arguing that audiences were given no warning or indication on the ticket that ads before the film would run on for 20 minutes. That’s like almost an entire sitcom episode… of ads. Not only did this waste movie goers’ time, it also “violated their right to know and to choose.” 

I can certainly sympathise. 

Some of these ads can be quite (pop)corn-y...

 

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Perfect ’10? Summer So Far…

Am I the only person hugely disappointed with the summer so far this year? I mean, the summer isn’t traditionally where you find the best movies of the year, at least no more or less than any other time of year, but I’m not looking for great movies, just good ones. just solidly entertaining ones. At the most basic level, I’d settle for just an excuse to go to the cinema on a Friday night (although I’m sure my better half is glad of the weak string of movies – it really frees up our schedule). What the hell is wrong here?

Leo's looking for good movies too...

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No Refunds for Ben Stiller…

This is one of those interesting stories from the weekend. And, by interesting, I mean “interesting to me”. Anyway, apparently cinemas in Los Angeles have stuck up notices for Ben Stiller’s new movie Greenberg, stating that they’ve had a huge number of patrons demanding refunds for the film and that they won’t be issuing refunds for those who stay more than an hour. I’m going to presume it isn’t a technical fault occurring at every single screening and it’s just the movie itself which is upsetting patrons. So, do you think it’s fair to demand a refund from the cinema because the movie is a bit crap?

He's got a lot on his mind...

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When Cinemas Strike Back…

Hmm… I knew there wasn’t good news on the horizon when Disney announced they were steamrolling ahead with their plan to truncate the cinematic run of Tim Burton’s upcoming Alice in Wonderland adaptation. Obviously driven by the home entertainment market (and the fact that parents would be look for distractions for the kids as the summer holidays approach), they want to release the DVD 12 weeks after the movie premieres, rather than the standard 17 weeks. As you can imagine, this has ticked off the cinemas who make more money the later into a film’s release you see it, so it looks like we may have a boycott – in the UK at least. 95% of 3D screens may not be showing it. Including Cineworld, the largest cinema in Dublin.

Through the looking glass but not necessarily on the big screen...

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Trailer Park Woes…

I used to love going to the cinema and watching the trailers. Teasing me with movies I hadn’t heard of yet, showing me my first look at movies I was anticipating all summer or perhaps reaffirming my faith in a movie I’d written off. It doesn’t matter that the trailers always lie (Sweeney Todd is a musical? Not according to the trailer) or they spoil too much (not sure if it’s possible to spoil a historical biopic, but Public Enemies had a trailer which ran until Dillinger escaped in Indiana, which is at least two-thirds the run time), but I loved ’em. And if one of those trailers stunk, I didn’t mind, because there were five or six more waiting for me. I don’t mind having twenty minutes of advertisements before a movie (as happened when I saw The Hangover), but I do mind if these ads are focused on selling my things I don’t really want or care about.

I want to see more of this...

I want to see more of this...

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