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The X-Files – Milagro (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

The teaser establishes the mood quite quickly. It is a rather striking opening sequence for an episode of The X-Files, focusing on a writer staring at a blank page. The sequence cuts through time as the writer searches for inspiration, trying to take his cue from the index cards helpfully arranged on the wall. Eventually, the writer makes a grand gesture. He reaches into his chest, and pulls out his heart. It is a very effective opening sequence, one that makes it clear that Milagro will not be a normal episode of The X-Files.

The sequence also makes it clear that Milagro will not will it be a subtle piece of television. The teaser is not a particularly elegant metaphor, but it is an effective one. What is writing but tearing out a piece of yourself? Sometimes you have to wear your heart on your sleeve; sometimes you have to put it on the page. The teaser to Milagro is a very earnest piece of work from Chris Carter, a clear acknowledgement that what follows is a deeply personal piece of work.

Burning heart...

Burning heart…

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Star Trek – A Piece of the Action (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

A Piece of the Action is the last script credited to Gene L. Coon.

Of course, Coon would write two episodes for (and contributed two more stories to) the show’s troubled final season under the alias Lee Cronin. However, A Piece of the Action could be seen as the last hurrah for Gene L. Coon’s vision of Star Trek. The writer and producer had helped to shape and define many of the ideas that Star Trek fans take for granted. A lot of the core Star Trek ideas that have permeated into popular culture – the Federation, the Klingons – originated with Coon.

Dey call his Boss Koik...

Dey call his Boss Koik…

While Coon is often overlooked when it comes to crediting those responsible for creating Star Trek as fans have come to know it, history has tended to gloss over his wry subversive streak. In many ways, Coon could be said to be the godfather of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Had he not passed away at the tragically young age of forty-nine, Coon might have been coaxed back to write a first season episode of Deep Space Nine alongside Dorothy Fontana. Coon was, after all, the first Star Trek writer to shrewdly and knowingly problematicise the Federation.

So it feels appropriate that the last Star Trek script credited to Coon should have Kirk proposes the Federation as an intergalactic racket.

Top gun...

Top gun…

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Doctor Who: Last Christmas (Review)

There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.

Last Christmas is perhaps the most Moffat-esque Christmas Special of the Moffat era.

As such, it is an episode that will inevitably provoke a strong reaction, playing as it does to the writer’s strengths and interests in Doctor Who. As a show, Doctor Who has a long history of crashing genres into one another. One of the most endearing aspects of the show is the way that it can be a completely different show from week to week. One week, it is a western; the next, it is a horror film. One episode is a period adventure; another is a science-fiction comedy. Doctor Who is a show about a mad man in a box who crashes into random stories.

doctorwho-lastchristmas4

Last Christmas is quite overt about this. When Shona wakes up towards the end of the episode, we are treated to a glimpse of her “to do” list for Christmas Day, which happens to feature a variety of clear influences on the episode. Strangely, she plans to open her Christmas Day binge with a double-bill of Alien and The Thing From Another World, before taking a breather and returning for Miracle on 34th Street – you really do need a bit of space before properly digesting the truly heavy stuff. (She’s also marathoning the Hugo-winning Game of Thrones.)

Last Christmas is a story that is incredibly (and almost cheekily) aware of its own fictionality. As with so much of Moffat’s Doctor Who, it is a story about stories. And dreams, which are really the same thing. “Time travel is always possible in dreams,” the Doctor observes, to borrow a quote from The Name of the Doctor. Dreams and stories.

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X-Men: Age of X (Review)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Age of X is a weird little story. On the surface, it appears like an homage to the classic Age of Apocalypse storyline, an alternate universe yarn that swept through the X-Men titles back in the nineties. It odes, after all, portray a universe very different to the one that we recognise, and the one that we’re familiar with. However, on inspection, it seems like writer Mike Carey might have been attempting something just a bit bolder, a critical examination of the X-Men books, and how far they’ve moved since the nineties – an attempt to determine if the editorial policy that has reshaped their fictional world – is truly for the best.

X-over time…

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Does Cabin in the Woods Out- “Hunger Games” The Hunger Games?

Sometimes I form weird movie connections in my head – tying two particular films together even if there’s very little common ground on which to link them. For example, I sat through quite a bit of Shame thinking of Collateral, a film linked tangentially thematically, as both offered rather scathing portraits of anomie against the backdrop of a major American city. On the other hand, I also formed a rather strong connection between the superb Cabin in the Woods and the mega blockbusting phenomenon The Hunger Games. As I watched Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s powerful exploration of the horror genre, I couldn’t help but feel that this was exactly what The Hunger Games wanted to be, even if the film adaptation couldn’t quite manage it.

The show must go on!

Note: This article contains some background information on Cabin in Woods. Nothing too big, but I would honestly recommend that you see the film as blind as possible. It is, by some considerable margin, one of the best films of 2012, and entirely deserving of both your time and your money. This article will still be here when you get back.

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Non-Review Review: Cabin in the Woods

Part of me wonders when it’s appropriate to start ranking the year’s films. I say that, because I’ve just had the pleasure of catching The Cabin in the Woods, which is easily one of the best films of the year so far, and the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. I know those sound like trite clichés, but Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s exploration of the horror genre just bristles with a raw energy that sweeps up the audience.

It’s a rare horror film that has you laughing when it wants you to laugh, while keeping you anticipating shocks that you know it knows you know are coming. In many ways, it seems like Cabin in the Woods comes from a very raw and personal place from both director and writer, one conflicted over the genre as a whole. From the outset it’s clear that Whedon and Goddard truly love the conventions and the thrills, while loathing the inherent voyeurism and nihilism that is almost inseparable from those aspects. It’s a weird dichotomy, and Cabin in the Woods is a weird film, but weird in that most brilliant of ways.

Who is afraid of the big bad wolf?

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Non-Review Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a wasted opportunity. The superb graphic novels by Alan Moore are among the best that comics have to offer, and even the basic concept of picking a variety of public domain character to base an action adventure around has a sort of pulpy thrill to it. It could have been a very witty and a very clever film, or it could have just been an effective big-budget blockbuster. In the end, unfortunately, the film is neither – it ends up feeling more like a waste of effort for all involved.

I feel like shredding this film...

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