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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Nagus (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

The Nagus starts what turns out to be an annual tradition for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It introduces the concept of a “Ferengi” episode, where once (or twice) a year, the show would take time out from other on-going concerns to focus on the state of affairs in the Ferengi Alliance. In a way, it’s quite like what Star Trek: The Next Generation did for the Klingons, taking an episode every once in a while to delve into the alien culture and offer a bit of exploration of a species originally created as a two-dimensional cardboard stand-in for a philosophy the franchise found unappealing.

Starting with Heart of Glory, The Next Generation developed Klingons from “those bad guys with the ridges” into a fully functioning and multi-faceted culture, largely driven by writer Ronald D. Moore from the third season. Deep Space Nine did largely the same thing with the Ferengi, largely spearheaded by producer Ira Steven Behr. Although, given the fact that the episodes concerned amoral capitalists instead of imposing warriors, Deep Space Nine opted for comedy as the genre of choice when developing the Ferengi.

He's got the lobes for business...

He’s got the lobes for business…

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The Sopranos: Isabella (Review)

With Isabella, the first season of The Sopranos comes to a head. It’s all been building and building since the pilot, and the penultimate episode is the point where things really start to pay off. It’s amazing how structured the first season of The Sopranos is, dedicated to build-up and pay-off. Despite the show is about the randomness of life and how stuff just sort of happens, there’s a very clear internal structure and logic to the first season.

Those frustrated by the ending (or arguable non-ending) of Made in America may have missed the point of the larger show, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation when the first season was so careful about paying off all of its plot points and thread. Isabella is the point where things go wrong for Tony in a big way. It’s the episode where Junior and Livia’s scheming puts a bullet in him (and – in one of the show’s countless references to The Godfather – through his orange juice).

At the same time, it remains a story driven by Tony, focused on his character and his own psychology.

Let sleeping mobsters lie...

Let sleeping mobsters lie…

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The Sopranos: A Hit is a Hit (Review)

A Hit is a Hit works a lot better than Boca, despite the fact that it’s structurally quite similar. It introduces a bunch of new characters and concepts to the series which don’t really extend beyond the episode in question. Massive G never appears again, and the pending lawsuit he threatens is never discussed in any later episode. It’s a light stand-alone tale coming towards the end of a season which has dedicated so much time and effort to building a full-formed world.

However, A Hit is a Hit doesn’t feel completely disposable. Part of that is down to the wonderful B-plot in which Tony finds himself struggling for acceptance among more the more reputable members of his neighbourhood, but it’s also down to the fact that the main plot feels like develops the themes of The Sopranos a lot better than Boca did, and that Christopher’s character arc feels like a logical progression rather than simply “an issue of the week.”

Ain't that a shot in the head?

Ain’t that a shot in the head?

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Catwoman: When in Rome (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Catwoman: When in Rome technically exists to fill in the gaps in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, particularly in accounting for Catwoman’s absence during the early part of Dark Victory. However, it also exists as something of a “bridge”, connecting Loeb’s earlier Batman trilogy with Sale and his later work on Hush with Jim Lee. It’s an interesting exploration of an early phase of Catwoman’s costumed career, building off her origin in Batman: Year One and seeing the character attempt to move out of Batman’s shadow. While it’s hardly going to be remembered for developing a truly independent version of the character, it does make for an interesting read, and a fascinating companion piece to the rest of Jeph Loeb’s Batman work.

Go fish…

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The Sopranos: Pax Soprana (Review)

I think it’s possible to make the argument that The Sopranos can be read as that illusive “great American novel”, just handily divided into eighty-six chapters and televised as opposed to written. Sure, it’s a show about the mob, but it’s also a compelling examination of the disillusionment festering at the heart of the American psyche. Tony might be a New Jersey mob boss, but most of his problems aren’t too far disconnected from those eating away at the American middle class. (Hell, I’d argue that it speaks volumes to the Irish psyche and probably many other nationalities as well.) As such, across the crucial first season, Chase and his team of writers seem to lay down and establish the core themes, allowing Tony to confront and explore just one of the many gnawing insecurities eating away at any middle-class father. In College, Tony wrestled with the idea that his daughter might discover who he truly is, while Pax Soprana explores the notion of impotence and insecurity – some times literally.

Psyche!

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Sopranos: Meadowlands (Review)

It’s interesting how slowly The Sopranos approached the violence of what Tony does. Of course, the pilot episode (The Sopranos) featured Tony brutally beating a debtor in an attempt to earn his money back and the subsequent episode (46 Long) featured Tony beating up an employee at the Bada-Bing for failing to work the telephone properly, but the show generally eased us into seeing Tony as a truly “bad” guy.

It was never ambiguous about his mob connections or the crimes and violence that he committed or that he authorised others to commit, but the first few episodes generally keep that violence somewhat insulated from Tony. Paulie and Pussy brutalise the car thieves to reclaim a teacher’s lost car, while Tony’s threatened castration of a Jewish man refusing to play ball is kept off-screen. While Tony would commit his first on-screen murder in the next episode (College), Meadowlands feels like the first episode to truly present Tony as a borderline sociopath, and to demonstrate just how aggressive and possessive he can be.

Paying respects...

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Non-Review Review: Raging Bull

I might disagree with the critical consensus that Raging Bull stands as Martin Scorsese’s crowning accomplishment, or even that it’s probably the best film of the eighties, but there’s no denying that it’s a shockingly powerful piece of cinema. The fact that Scorsese was originally reluctant to direct what had become a passion project for Robert DeNiro just makes the movie’s status as a masterpiece of modern cinema all the more ironic, as the film seems to play like a pitch perfect symphony, each of its many separate elements feeding perfectly into one another to create a whole that is far greater than its incredibly brilliant constituent elements.

The portrait of the boxer as a young man...

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