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84. Touch of Evil (#241)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guests Charlene Lydon and Grace Duffy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

A murder in a small border town stokes local tensions, as Ramon Miguel Vargas finds himself drawn into an investigation overseen by Police Captain Hank Quinlan. As Quinlan pursues his lines of inquiry, Vargas quickly comes to realise that his would-be partner is not what he appears to be.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 241st best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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83. United Passions (-#55) – World Cup 2018

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Chris Lavery and Babu Patel, The Bottom 100 is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, a trip through some of the worst movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, to mark the launch of the World Cup 2018, Frédéric Auburtin’s United Passions.

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Millennium – The Fourth Horseman (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 second season of Millennium has been consciously building towards an apocalypse.

Actually, that is not entirely true. The second season of Millennium has been building to an almost infinite number of apocalypses. The collapse of Michael Beebe’s home in Beware of the Dog, the destruction of an entire community in Monster, the dissolution of the tribe in A Single Blade of Grass, the potential loss of a child in 19:19, an author’s acceptance of his fading skills and relevance in Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”, the stealing of a soul in The Pest House, the breaking of a spirit in A Room With No View. The second season is populated with apocalypses.

Everything dies...

Everything dies…

Ever since The Beginning and the End opened with Frank Black staring into space as he contemplated cosmic forces of entropy and decay, it has been clear that the second season of Millennium is about more than just the end of the world. It is about the end of worlds. Over the course of The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, Peter Watts loses his faith (and maybe his life) as Lara Means loses her sanity. Frank Black loses his father and his friends – and, ultimately, his wife. The Marburg Virus is just a blip on the radar compared to all of this.

The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now combine to form one of the most interesting and compelling finalés ever produced. The two-parter is the perfect conclusion to the second season of Millennium. Indeed, it would be the perfect conclusion to the entire series. Perhaps the biggest problem with The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now is the fact that The Innocents is lurking only a few months away.

Cracking up...

Cracking up…

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Millennium – Lamentation (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.

Taken together, Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions represent something of a loose mythology two-parter for Millennium. The episodes are not linked by an explicit “to be continued…”, but they feed into one another in a very clear and structured manner. Each of the two episodes exists as a clear and independent entity, but – taken together – they exist as a story that shakes Millennium to its foundation. This is the point at which Millennium seems to know what it is and what it wants to be.

The first season of any show is a difficult time. Everybody working on the series struggles to find the right voice for the series. The goal is to figure out what the show is before the audience loses interest. Lamentation comes quite late in the first season – only four episodes from here to Paper Dove – but it does represent a very clear and dynamic shift. It follows through on a lot of the horror implied throughout the first season, suggesting that Frank Black might be facing something far more sinister and insidious than mere serial killers.

On top of the world...

On top of the world…

In fact, Lamentation exists as a fiendish subversion. It is a story that is very clearly set-up as the sort of procedural serial-killer-of-the-week story that the show was churning out towards the middle of the season. Doctor Ephraim Fabricant is released from prison so he can offer a kidney transplant to his sister; however, while he is recuperating, somebody helps him to escape police custody. Having profiled Fabricant during the initial manhunt, Frank is drafted in to track down Ephraim Fabricant before he inevitably starts killing again. The clock is ticking.

Then everything just explodes. Something from the dark heart of Millennium breaks loose; this more primal evil devours the serial-killer-of-the-week structure. It even leaves his second kidney on a plate in the fridge.

Everybody has their demons...

Everybody has their demons…

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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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My 12 for ’14: The Wolf of Wall Street and More!

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

Everything about The Wolf of Wall Street is excessive, even its length.

Still, The Wolf of Wall Street never feels like long film. This is somewhat paradoxical. After all, the film does not have too much ground to actually cover. For a film that runs to almost three hours, the movie has a pretty straightforward plot. Cinema audiences are quite familiar with this sort of story: the story of a wealthy crook who inevitably (and spectacularly) implodes. The audience watching The Wolf of Wall Street knows the tale inside out: the arrogance, the hubris, the greed; the consequences, the price, the fallout.

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Of course, our villain doesn’t really implode. It turns out that – despite what we’d like to believe – crime does pay. The Wolf of Wall Street alludes to this uncomfortable truth in its closing scene, as Belfort attracts an audience of people eager (and willing to pay) to learn his financial secrets. The cruel gag extends even beyond the movie’s own narrative into the real world; Belfort has boasted he made more from The Wolf of Wall Street than he did from his time on Wall Street. He has used very little of that money to pay back the victims he swindled.

In many ways, The Wolf of Wall Street plays like a belated companion piece to Goodfellas or Casino, a loose exploration of greed and corruption that avoids a lot of the easy moralising that audiences have come to expect from stories like this. Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street basks in its hedonism, affording its villainous protagonist almost unquestioned control of the narrative. As such, it seems to tease the audience: who would be able to refuse such luxury and such debauchery? There’s something delightful uncomfortable in how the film needles the viewer.

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Non-Review Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

In 1987, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was arguably too subtle in its criticisms of the Wall Street mentality – the philosophy that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good” or that enough can never really enough. After all, the film apparently inspired a whole generation of stock brokers and investment managers, with quite a few aspiring to be their generation’s Gordon Gekko – when the movie’s central point was that Gekko was hardly an idol to worship.

This would seem to explain the rationale of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, a film that makes Stone’s brutal evisceration of Wall Street excess seem positively mild-mannered. Indeed, the film all but directly acknowledges this fact in an early scene where a “hatchet job” of an article from Forbes (the same article that would lend Belfort his sobriquet “Wolfie!”) prompts a massive upsurge in job applications for Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont.

The money shot...

The money shot…

So, understanding the need to go a bit bigger and larger, The Wolf of Wall Street introduces us to its protagonist, Jordan Belfort, snorting cocaine out of the bodily orifices of a prostitute, and yet somehow descends deeper and deeper into acts of debauchery and excess. It’s an unrelenting and energetic film, that is exhausting and exhilarating. It’s less of a structured story and more a three-hour laundry-list of depravity.

While the last hour of the film (the inevitable “it all comes tumbling down… or does it?” act) can’t maintain the forward moment that make the first two so exhilarating, The Wolf of Wall Street remains proof that Scorsese is an incredible film maker with an almost impossible vigour and enthusiasm for the medium.

Drinking it in...

Drinking it in…

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