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Millennium – Luminary (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.

Why is Frank Black still involving himself with the Millennium Group?

The second season of Millennium is a fantastically constructed piece of television, but there are a number of fundamental criticisms that can be leveled at this particular incarnation of the show. To some viewers, it is too much to watch the Millennium Group transformed from a consultancy firm in the style of the Academy Group into an ancient Christian cult obsessed with doomsday. Other fans may not be particularly fond of the surreal eschatology of the second season, finding it a bit more “out there” than stories about serial killers and more mundane evil.

Cooling off period...

Cooling off period…

However, there are fans who have difficulty reconciling the version of Frank Black presented in the second season with the iteration who appeared throughout the first season of the show. The second season gave Frank a fondness for Bobby Darin and a sense of humour, but the change is more fundamental than that. The moral and righteous Frank was a pillar of certainty in an uncertain world. To some fans, it seems strange that Frank would remain involved in the Millennium Group as their paranoia and cultish behaviour became more and more apparent.

In many respects, Luminary seeks to answer that question. The second of Chip Johannessen’s three scripts for the second season ranks among his very best work for the show and the very best of the show in general. Johannessen has admitted that he was a little frustrated with the direction that Glen Morgan and James Wong took the show in its second year, and that scepticism bleeds through into Luminary. It is also what makes Luminary so compelling. It is a story about how Frank Black has lost himself over the last half-season, and needs to find his way back.

Night lights...

Night lights…

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Millennium – Beware of the Dog (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.

Beware of the Dog opens with the shot of the same comet discussed at the start of The Beginning and the End, just in case viewers thought that The Beginning and the End was somehow a fluke or a deviation. The Beginning and the End was not a freak occurrence, it was not some random divergence from the rest of Millennium. It was very much a new beginning for the series, harking in a bold new direction utterly unlike that marked out by The Pilot. The second season of Millennium was a new breed of animal.

And so a lot of Beware of the Dog is devoted to reinforcing this new direction – convincing the viewers at home that Millennium had reinvented itself from the ground up. Part of what is interesting about Beware of the Dog is the way that the basic structure and beats of the episode hark back to the formula and themes of the first season, but in a way that makes it quite clear that things have changed. Beware of the Dog embraces the pulpy absurdity of a show about millennial fears and anxieties, about the nature of good and evil in the world.

Call of the wild...

Call of the wild…

Beware of the Dog is a very weird piece of television. It is resoundingly and unapologetically odd. It is nowhere near as quirky and eccentric as the second season would become in episodes like The Curse of Frank Black or Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or The Time is Now, but decidedly more surreal than the first season had allowed itself to be – even in episodes like Force Majeure or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions. This is an episode which takes the first season’s “serial killer of the week” format, and substitutes in packs of wild dog.

The result is a piece of television that is quite difficult to classify and quantify, but which feels fresh and exciting. As with The Beginning and the End, there is a playfulness and fun to Beware the Dog that was sorely lacking from extended stretches of the first season. Indeed, it seemed unlikely during the first season that Millennium would ever be classed as “playful” or “fun.” That sense of energy and vibrance imbues the second season with life, helping to carry the show across some admittedly rough episodes later in the year.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

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Non-Review Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

The feature debut from director Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene, is a shockingly powerful piece of cinema. Deeply unpleasant and uncannily unsettling, Durkin’s debut is occasionally a bit awkwardly paced, but is intensely gripping for most of its runtime. While the film is making waves for a breakout performance from Elizabeth Olsen, it’s John Hawkes who steals the show as the enigmatic and sinister cult leader, known only as Patrick.

A cult film...

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Happy New Year…

… okay, it isn’t New Year yet, but what better way to ring it in movie-wise than a bit of nostalgia. Last year, Empire celebrated their twentieth anniversary in style by inviting a whole bunch of famous actors to come back and relive some of their iconic movie moments. I can’t agree with all the choices (Minority Report seems a little… modern for Cruise, doesn’t it?), but it was a great little project and one which felt like a celebration of twenty-years of movie-making magic. Click the images or go to Empire for bigger versions (where I could find one – they make a nice screensaver).

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In Defense of “One Season Wonders”…

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, what with the US version of Life on Mars ending on FX over the weekend and the rumours that Caprica doesn’t have strong enough ratings to secure a second season. We live in what is increasingly the era of “one season wonders” – television shows that are lucky to get a full season (or maybe a full season and a half) before being unceremoniously dumped from the schedule. It’s easy to look at shows like Firefly and Dollhouse and bemoan executives unwilling to take a chance with edge material, but part of me thinks it might really be for these best. Although maybe I’m trying to put a good spin on a bad situation.

The network may nuke Caprica early...

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What Will Be This Decade’s Underappreciated Masterpiece?

It seems to happen at least once a decade: the critic consensus emerging immediately after the release of a film turns out to be wrong, swayed by the tides of retrospect and history. Initial reviews of The Shining criticised it for being slow – today we regard its pace as being one of its many virtues. It wasn’t greeted with triumphant applause, but a resounding ‘meh’. Blade Runner was dismissed as a wannabe sci-fi epic, now we consider it to be one of the high watermarks of the genre – a masterpiece. The Wizard of Oz equally divided critics between those who considered the movie to be a game changer, and those who thought it was just light and fluffy entertainment. You could make the case that Fight Club debuted to a hugely divided critical opinion, but that belies that fact that the acknowledgement of the movie as a modern classic is grudging at best. So is there a film from the last ten years that is likely to feature a similar historical revision, considered a retrospective masterpiece?

Harrison Ford knew how to "persuade" critics...

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Fanboys and Fandumb – Or Why Cult Media Can’t Have Good Things…

I am a nerd. I openly acknowledge that. In fact, I revel in it. I like to think I enjoy a broad sampling of all artforms, enjoying a nice play, a well-illustrated comic book, a compelling television miniseries, a smartly put together Oscar-baiting drama and a nice book, among other things. I’m not a snob – I love ‘big dumb fun’. I also like niche and wacky nerdy stuff. And I can appreciate the occasional bad writing that creeps into these genres – because isn’t bad writing everywhere? (Anyone reading this blog would likely agree.) And I really enjoy the vast majority of fans – the people who have a genuine interest in the subject matter. I never got why if you were an expert in Lewis Carroll Stevenson you were a literary connoisseur, but if you embraced the world of JRR Tolkien you were a fan. I love that people embrace these works and discuss them and think about them. That’s something encouraging to see in any media – engagement. But there is one element about these niche artforms that does throw me for a whirl, and it’s a perception that makes my somewhat shy to acknowledge that I embrace these forms of art. Yes: it’s the dreaded fanboy.

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

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