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The X-Files – Pilot (Review)

The X-Files is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’ll be spending Month X looking back at the first season.

There was a time, around the third season, when The X-Files became the show. It had grown from the quirky newcomer of Fox’s prime time line-up, through its status as a cult hit, into a bona fides pop culture touchstone. Looking back now, twenty years after the show first began, it is something entirely different. It’s weird to look back over a long-running television, divorced from the immediacy of broadcast, a sort of “if I knew then what I know now…” sort of thing.

However, looking back at The X-Files, it’s more than just knowing how it ends. It’s more than just knowing about the show’s slow and drawn-out two-year death. It’s more than knowing that the conspiracy plotline kinda (but not quite entirely) makes sense, if you look at it the right way and don’t over-think it. Approaching The X-Files now, twenty years later, is more like opening an old tomb, unlocking a time capsule. The musky smell of the past seems to seep out of the television screen, transporting the viewer to a time that really isn’t that far away, but feels like centuries ago.

The X-Files is, undeniably, a pop culture artefact from the nineties, a show that seems to slot almost perfectly between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. It’s an exploration of a version of America that simply doesn’t exist any longer, the long and silent pregnant pause where the United States was the world’s sole unchallenged superpower. The X-Files really embodied that period of time, much like 24 managed to channel the anger and the rage of the post-9/11 era into piece of the zeitgeist.

And, to be fair, you can sense that sort of nineties existential anxiety even as early as The Pilot.

Beam me up...

Beam me up…

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Hannibal – Entrée (Review)

It’s nice that we got this far into the season before Entrée was necessary. It’s the kind of episode that a show like Hannibal was always going to have to produce relatively early on, allowing it to air the laundry, so to speak, and to overtly and clearly distinguish itself from a popular predecessor. In this case, it’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Although we haven’t met Clarice Starling yet, although the credit at the start of each episode cites Red Dragon as the show’s inspiration, it’s hard to escape the shadow of one of the most popular horror films ever made. Many argue that The Silence of the Lambs was the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar. Even today, it remains a cultural touchstone, and there’s an incredibly large number of people who are only familiar with the character of Hannibal Lecter through that story and – in particular – through the film adaptation.

Hannibal hasn’t been shy about referencing The Silence of the Lambs, nor should it be. Crawford’s office from the start of Aperitif seems arranged in homage to the film, while the arrangement of two of the victims in Coquilles couldn’t help but evoke Hannibal’s dramatic escape from his cell at the film’s climax. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Entrée exists mainly to allow the show to indulge and engage in the imagery and iconography of the film, so that Hannibal can truly distinguish itself.

"Oh, goodie..."

“Oh, goodie…”

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Hannibal – Amuse-Bouche (Review)

Second episodes can be tough. Pilots tend to establish the core themes and characters of a show, offering a very clear blueprint going forward and perhaps hinting at the direction that you want to take things. They are grand mission statements, couched in broad terms and delivered with a sense of novelty. Second episodes are a bit less exciting. They are about putting that plan into action, defining the edges a bit, expanding outwards where necessary and refining as needed. It’s with the second episode that you really get a sense of what a show is going to be like in a more practical week-to-week sense.

By that measure, Amuse-Bouche works quite well at giving us a sense of putting the show’s feet on the ground and helping prepare us for what lies ahead for the rest of the season.

It's growing on me...

It’s growing on me…

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Non-Review Review: Hannibal

I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Hannibal. I think the key to enjoying and appreciating Ridley Scott’s 2001 serial-killer film is to realise that it’s a fundamentally different animal to The Silence of the Lambs, to the point where it isn’t really a sequel – despite featuring many of the same characters and considerably fewer of the same actors. Those expecting a faithful follow-up or conclusion will be disappointed, as will those who fell in love with Jonathan Demme’s delightfully understated The Silence of the Lambs. Even the title character here seems to lack the complexity he demonstrated in that earlier instalment, instead acting like the villain of a slasher film cast in the unlikely role of an anti-hero.

Still, despite these flaws, Hannibal is quite entertaining (if far too uneven and unsatisfying) on its own terms.

She looks good enough to eat…

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Jameson Cult Film Club: The Silence of the Lambs

I had the pleasure, on Wednesday evening, of attending the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of The Silence of the Lambs. Any excuse to see Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece is worth taking up, but this was a wonderful night for two reasons. The first is that fact that although I am a huge fan of the film, I had never seen it before on a big screen. I’d only ever seen it on home media. The second reason is, as you might expect, that the guys and girls at the Jameson Cult Film Club really surpassed themselves in creating a powerfully immersive experience.

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Win! Tickets to a Jameson Cult Film Club Screening of The Silence of the Lambs!

“Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?”

The Jameson Cult Film Club is back in Dublin for its biggest and most electrifying double screening to date!

We’ve teamed up with the Jameson Cult Film Club to offer two lucky readers a pair of tickets each to the exclusive screening of the horror thriller, The Silence of the Lambs at a secret Dublin location Wednesday August 15th.

For the uninitiated, Jameson Cult Film Club is all about watching your favourite cult films at spectacular screenings, staged to transport the audience right into the world of the film. These free events are not just your typical screening, as characters from the movie, live theatre and special effects timed perfectly with on-screen action help to create an electric atmosphere throughout the screening.

To give you a bit of a feel, here’s a video sampling some previous highlights:

If you would like to join Clarice Starling, Dr Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill at this exclusive Jameson Cult Film Club screening in the “Baltimore State Forensic Hospital” on August 15th all you have to do is answer the question and fill out the form below.

Note: Entrants must be over 18 years of age and able to attend the screening on August 15th 2012.

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Minor Miracles: Supporting Characters & The Lesson of Hannibal Lecter

“Less is more.” Or so we’re often told at least. It generally seems to be used in a polite way to limit our exposure to things we don’t like. However, I can’t help but wonder if it is true of supporting characters. After all, those interesting side characters in movies that happen to capture our imaginations with a relatively minor roles. Indeed, I reckon that I could probably name more supporting characters I took a shine to, rather than iconic lead characters. While we undoubtedly relish every moment they appear on-screen, and perhaps lament that we only get so limited an exposure to them, I can’t help but wonder of that somewhat restricted presence might be precisely what makes them so appealing in the first place.

Bloody brilliant…

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