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Doctor Who: Sleep No More (Review)

“No. No no no. You don’t get to name things. I’m the Doctor, I do the naming.”

Sleep No More is not a bad idea by any stretch.

One of the defining features of the Moffat era has been a willingness to engage directly with imagery and metaphors tied to the history and culture iconography of Doctor Who. The show has played not only with monsters, but also with the idea of monsters, frequently creating conceptual nightmares that have undoubtedly cost many viewers (young and old) a few nights sleep. The Weeping Angels are monsters that can only move when you can’t see them. The Silence exist in the gaps in your memory. Last Christmas even has the Doctor confront the idea of Santa Claus.

What? No HD feed?

What? No HD feed?

In many ways, Sleep No More feels like a logical continuation of this trend. In a way, the episode doubles-down on the show’s scariness, offering viewers (particularly children) monsters that are immune to (and even capitalise on) potential defenses against scary episodes. If Weeping Angels of Blink are monsters designed to be especially scary to viewers hiding behind the couch or covering their eyes, then the “Sandmen” of Sleep No More are intended to be particularly unsettling to viewers who already have trouble falling asleep after a scary story.

The biggest problem is that the episode is written by Mark Gatiss.

Guess Who?

Guess Who?

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The X-Files – X-Cops (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

There is a very serious argument to be made that X-Cops represents the last point at which The X-Files truly pushed itself.

There are experimental episodes later in the run that play with new narrative forms and concepts. Improbable features a snazzy musical number; Lord of the Flies intersects with stunt-driven television shows; Sunshine Days has the characters enter The Brady Bunch. However, X-Cops represents the last time that The X-Files allows itself to be completely submerged in a high-concept idea, following the concept through to its logical conclusion in the spirit of Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” or Bad Blood or Triangle.

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X-Cops features Mulder and Scully crossing over into an episode of Cops. However, the episode is told entirely from the perspective of the Cops production team, filmed and broadcast as if it were an episode of Fox’s long-running law enforcement reality television show. The camera becomes a performer in X-Cops, and at no point in the entire forty-five minutes does it “break character.” Barring the use of the X-Files opening credits sequence and superimposing the logo at commercials, X-Cops adopts the form and structure of Cops.

This is a boldly experimental piece of television; it is not the sort of episode that viewers expect from a show in its seventh season. This is a giddy and goofy concept more akin to enthusiastic student filmmaking than an established television institution. After Sein und Zeit and Closure suggested that The X-Files was winding down, X-Cops proves that there’s life in the old show yet. Sadly, this feels like something of a last gasp; there would never be quite as much life in The X-Files after this point.

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Non-Review Review: Into the Storm

Into the Storm is at least up front about its intentions.

It is a surprisingly pragmatic natural disaster film, one that moves with almost ruthless efficiency. Quite like the eponymous storm front, it goes where it wants to go, with little consideration for minor details like character development or intricate plotting. Into the Storm is a movie that knows what it wants to be and what it wants to be. There’s a strange utility to the world of Into the Storm.

Gimme shelter...

Gimme shelter…

In this world, used car lots exist purely to provide material for hurricanes to toss through the air; abandoned mills with all sorts of dangerous chemicals exist purely to put young members of the cast in peril; youtube-obsessed hicks exist solely as comic relief to be be shuffled out of the film before the stakes get well and truly raised. It’s a film that believes that twisters are fine on their own, but things can always be enhanced by the addition of a fire twister or by combining multiple twisters into a giant twister.

Into the Storm is a film so ruthlessly up front that it puts the Sci Fi (or SyFy) Channel to shame. There’s something almost endearing about that, even the result is far from satisfying.

Who films the filmmakers?

Who films the filmmakers?

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Man vs. Superman: Chronicle’s Climax & The Scale of Superhuman Violence…

I had the chance to watch Chronicle again over the weekend, and I still found it a boldly fascinating (albeit flawed) film. The construction of the movie as a collection of “found footage” still strains more suspension of disbelief than any of the antics involving the lead three characters, but it remains a thoughtful deconstruction and exploration of the superhero tropes and genre that audiences have begun to take for granted. In particular, the movie’s climax – though filmed on a shoestring – still does a better job evoking a sense of scale than Joss Whedon’s admitted stylish last half-hour of The Avengers.

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