• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 7, Episode 11 (“Closure”)

The X-Cast is covering the seventh season of The X-Files. It’s an interesting and divisive season of the show, a season that seems to have been intended to serve as the end of the show’s run, but is now closer to the middle of the series’ run. Although the sixth season had wrapped up a lot of the mythology in Two Fathers and One Son, the seventh season still had some tidying up to do. I was thrilled to join Carl Sweeney and Chris Knowles for an episode doing some of that tidying up: Closure.

Samantha Mulder had haunted the show since the very beginning. In The Pilot and Conduit, Samantha’s mysterious disappearance was positioned as the reason for Mulder’s quest. Over the years, in episodes like Colony and End Game or Redux II, Samantha remained pivotal to the show’s central mythology. She was perhaps the biggest remaining plot thread as the show entered its seventh season. Closure is an attempt to wrap up that dangling plot thread, and to provide a satisfying answer once and for all to one of the show’s biggest remaining mysteries.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 6, Episode 22 (“Biogenesis”)

Coinciding with The X-Files‘ move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, there has also been a shift at The X-Cast. Tony Black is no longer running the show, but it is instead now being run by Sarah Blair, Kurt North and Carl Sweeney. I was thrilled to join Carl to talk about the sixth season finale: Biogenesis.

Following Two Fathers and One Son in the middle of the sixth season, Biogenesis is a very odd season finale for The X-Files. It’s the only season finale that doesn’t have the luxury of hanging on the central mythology and which isn’t designed to serve as a potential finale for the series as a whole. As a result, it’s a very odd episode of television, and offers an interesting prism on the tropes and conventions of The X-Files.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 6, Episode 11 (“Two Fathers”)

Coinciding with The X-Files‘ move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, there has also been a shift at The X-Cast. Tony Black is no longer running the show, but it is instead now being run by Sarah Blair, Kurt North and Carl Sweeney. I was thrilled to join Carl to talk about one of the most important episodes in the show’s history: Two Fathers.

Following the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future over the summer, and with the move to California, the show was in a clear state of transition. There was a strong sense that things were winding down; even with David Duchovny’s contract extension, the expectation was that the show would be wrapping up in its seventh season. As a result, there was a clear desire to begin wrapping up story threads. Two Fathers was something of a television event, promising to bring the show’s internal mythology to a satisfying conclusion. The results were more complicated.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

New Escapist Column! On the Rejection of the “Chosen One” in “Blade Runner 2049″…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Since Blade Runner 2049 opened three years ago this week, I thought it was worth taking a look back at the science-fiction sequel.

One of the interesting tensions within Blade Runner 2049 is the way that the film continuously gestures at an epic plot – a story of a lost replicant messiah, of “miracles” and “angels”, of wars and revolutions. However, the film largely eschews this in favour of focusing on a much more intimate and personal level of drama. Blade Runner 2049 is a story about a character wrestling with the fact that they were never a “chosen one”, in a manner that perhaps reflects the mood of the culture around it.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“There’s Nobody Here to See Us”: The Untamed Frontier in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, continued our belated Summer of Scorsese last week with a look at Goodfellas. This week, we’re looking at Casino. It is a fun and broad discussion that is well worth your time, but it spurred some of my own thoughts about Martin Scorsese’s 1995 gangster classic.

When Casino was released, it experienced something of a minor backlash.

Part of this backlash was motivated by the film’s perceived similarities to Goodfellas – Scorsese had made another soundtrack-heavy period-piece mob movie starring both Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, adapted from the work of Nicholas Pileggi. To a certain extent, this was fair. There were legitimate concerns that Scorsese was simply repeating himself, and that any comparisons to Goodfellas did not flatter Casino.

These problems were compounded by content. At time of release, Casino was Scorsese’s longest movie, clocking in at just shy of three hours. That is a lot of mobster movie, particularly if that movie felt in anyway derivative of the appreciably shorter Goodfellas. There were also rumblings of the movie’s brutality and violence, which was seen as being particularly excessive and graphic. These complaints circulated even before Casino hit cinemas. Peter Travers summarised the mood, “Even before Casino opened, the black cloud of letdown hung over Scorsese’s epic tale.”

However, time has been kind to Casino. Although the film undoubtedly still exists in the shadow of Goodfellas, it has come to be recognised as one of the great crime films and to merit some appreciation on its own terms. Casino is a fascinating piece of work. It is bold and ambitious, epic and sweeping. However, what is most striking about Casino is not how it compares to Goodfellas, but how it contrasts. The differences are instructive.

Casino is often categorised as a mob movie, and it is definitely that. It is a story about gangsters and organised crime. However, it is also a western. It is perhaps the closest that Scorsese has come to making a traditional western in his entire cinematography. More than that, while Goodfellas is anchored in the character of Henry Hill, Casino lacks a similar hook. Both Sam and Nicky are much more oblique characters than Henry; Sam is less proactive, and Nicky is much more brutal. They are harder to invest in, tougher to root for.

However, this allows Casino to take a much wider view of this world and the people that inhabit it. Casino is arguably a religious parable, a story about mankind’s destruction of paradise and the inevitable exile that followed. In that sense, Casino feels like more of a bridge between Goodfellas and Scorsese’s more overtly religious-tinged parables like Bringing Out the Dead or Silence than it initially seemed. This is a story about heaven on earth, and the fallen sinful human beings who turn that heaven into a nightmarish hell.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 14 (“The Red and the Black”)

Continuing on from our discussion of Patient X last week, I was thrilled to join the sensational Kurt North on The X-Cast to discuss the second half of my second favourite mythology two-parter, The Red and the Black.

This was a fun and wide-ranging discussion of the two-parter, which really leaned into the sort of goofy epic stuff that I loved about The X-Files at its peak, the sort of free-wheeling “all ideas at the wall” approach to plotting that managed to fold in concepts like an existential “war in heaven” while recycling ideas from Millennium for a blockbuster adventure that seemed to be as interested in setting up Two Fathers and One Son as it was in lining up with the pending release of The X-Files: Fight the Future. There’s an enjoyable ambition to the two-parter, which has largely been missing from the mythology since Talitha Cumi.

As ever, I hope you enjoy. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 13 (“Patient X”)

Anybody who has heard me talk about The X-Files knows that Patient X and The Red and the Black are comfortably my second-favourite mythology episodes, behind Nisei and 731. So it was a huge pleasure to be invited on The X-Cast to discuss them with the sensational Kurt North.

I get into it a lot on the podcast itself, but I think a large part of what I love about Patient X and The Red and the Black is that there is so much to it. As a two-parter, it’s the rare X-Files mythology episodes that manages to blend the propulsive blockbuster aesthetic of stories like Colony and End Game with the more existential musings of episodes like Biogenesis, The Sixth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati. It has both big ideas and an epic scope, offering one of the strongest overlaps between The X-Files and Star Wars, which has always been bubbling away in the background as a key influence.

As ever, I hope you enjoy. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below. Kurt and I will be teaming up again next week to discuss The Red and the Black.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 2 (“Redux II”)

It’s a bit of a change up on The X-Cast this week. Last week, I joined Tony Black to discuss the first part of the fifth season premiere Redux I. This week, Tony swapped out with Russell Hugo, whom I joined to discuss Redux II.

Redux II is an interesting beast. I am actually appreciably fonder of Redux II than I am of Redux I. I think the second part of the premiere does a lot of the stuff that the first half attempts, but in a much more interesting and compelling manner. It’s not quite as good as Gethsemane at the end of the fourth season, but it’s still a surprisingly ambitious and adventurous story for The X-Files to tell at this point in its run – the moment at which the series is at the peak of its popularity and The X-Files: Fight the Future is looming large in the horizon. I hope this was a fun and interesting discussion.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 1 (“Redux I”)

The X-Cast just kicked off its season coverage, and I’m back with Tony Black to discuss the first part of the fifth season premiere Redux I.

Redux I was famously the second-most watched episode of The X-Files, behind Leonard Betts. It’s easy to see why. Not only was the episode following on from an edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger involving the supposed suicide of the male lead on one of the buzziest shows of the decade, but it was also the launch of the season that would lead into the feature film adaptation, The X-Files: Fight the Future. As such, it was a pretty daring move on the part of Chris Carter to devote so much of the premiere to purple prose monologues playing over Mulder walking down grey corridors.

I think this is a pretty fun and interesting discussion. Redux I is always an episode that I’ve have complicated and conflicted feelings about, and the podcast was a nice opportunity to work through some of those strange emotions. Anyway, I hope there’s something worthwhile in here.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: IT – Chapter Two

IT: Chapter Two is muddled, messy and bloated, particularly in its middle stretch.

The horror sequel opens relatively strong and delivers a satisfying emotional pay-off. Unfortunately, the film’s structure means that it meanders wildly between those two fixed narrative points. Chapter Two runs a muscular two-hours-and-fifty-minutes, a full quarter-of-an-hour longer than the original film’s already impressive run time. In fact, taken together, the two films are more than one-and-a-half times the length of the early nineties miniseries adaptation of the novel. Chapter Two spends a lot of time on repetitive storytelling beats, splitting up the cast so each of the leads has their own identically-structured adventure.

Glowing, glowing… gone.

These structural flaws feel inevitable. Part of what worked so well with IT: Chapter One was the decision to largely eschew the complicated and convoluted mythology that King wove through his beloved doorstopper of a novel. The original film was not concerned with alien invaders or local legends beyond what was strictly necessary, allowing it to offer an extended horror movie riff on Stand by Me, a coming-of-age saga about young teens on the cusp of adulthood. In Chapter Two, that bill comes due. The sequel not only has to do its own heavy lifting, but take on a lot of the world-building the original film mostly ignored.

Indeed, there is a sense that Chapter Two works much better as a companion piece to the earlier film than as a narrative in its own right. Indeed, there is something interesting in the way that, taken as a whole, the two IT films represent the first real cinematic glimpse of Stephen King as an author of the American epic. IT is the story of a group of childhood friends facing a monstrous evil, but it feels much larger than that. Perhaps the most compelling thing about Chapter Two is the manner in which it creates a sense of scale and scope that has previous eluded adaptations of King’s work.

Pennywise, pound foolish.

Continue reading