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The X-Files – Pilot (Review)

The X-Files is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’ll be spending Month X looking back at the first season.

There was a time, around the third season, when The X-Files became the show. It had grown from the quirky newcomer of Fox’s prime time line-up, through its status as a cult hit, into a bona fides pop culture touchstone. Looking back now, twenty years after the show first began, it is something entirely different. It’s weird to look back over a long-running television, divorced from the immediacy of broadcast, a sort of “if I knew then what I know now…” sort of thing.

However, looking back at The X-Files, it’s more than just knowing how it ends. It’s more than just knowing about the show’s slow and drawn-out two-year death. It’s more than knowing that the conspiracy plotline kinda (but not quite entirely) makes sense, if you look at it the right way and don’t over-think it. Approaching The X-Files now, twenty years later, is more like opening an old tomb, unlocking a time capsule. The musky smell of the past seems to seep out of the television screen, transporting the viewer to a time that really isn’t that far away, but feels like centuries ago.

The X-Files is, undeniably, a pop culture artefact from the nineties, a show that seems to slot almost perfectly between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. It’s an exploration of a version of America that simply doesn’t exist any longer, the long and silent pregnant pause where the United States was the world’s sole unchallenged superpower. The X-Files really embodied that period of time, much like 24 managed to channel the anger and the rage of the post-9/11 era into piece of the zeitgeist.

And, to be fair, you can sense that sort of nineties existential anxiety even as early as The Pilot.

Beam me up...

Beam me up…

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Non-Review Review: Blood (2013)

Blood feels a little too familiar on times, verging on cliché. Director Nick Murphy crafts a rich and atmospheric take on a story we’ve seen quite often before. A story of brothers keeping a dark secret, of the way that the islands off the coast of Britain seem to operate under their own law, of the way that guilt and secrets eat us from the inside out. It looks and sounds impressive, with the cast delivering powerhouse performances, George Richmond’s cinematography evoking a harsh wasteland where rules seem looser and myth intermingles with fact, and Daniel Pemberton’s score setting a suitably ominous note.

I wanna take you to the island...

I wanna take you to the island…

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My 12 for ’12: Moonrise Kingdom & The Virtues of Eternal Childhood

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #8

I’ll freely confess that I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan. I admire the fact that he has managed to maintain a distinct and consistent aesthetic, one quite different from that found elsewhere, but I’m not necessarily fond of his entire body of work. I harbour a fondness for Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and – now – Moonrise Kingdom. They are, in theory at least, three very different films – one of them is a stop-motion animated adaptation of a classic Roald Dahl story, for instance. However, the linking theme among (what I perceive to be) Anderson’s strongest work is a romantic sense of childhood. Anderson’s characters are often children, no matter their actual age or how far they’ve travelled, and I think that Anderson’s work is at its very best when it embraces that sense of perpetual childhood.moonrisekingdom

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Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. II (Review/Retrospective)

It’s fantastic that Marvel have gone to such pains to collect all of the classic seventies Tomb of Dracula. The main title is collected in the first of three volumes, with this second oversized hardcover rounding out Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s run on the on-going series. Indeed, with Colan’s consistent pencils and Wolfman’s long-form plotting, Tomb of Dracula feels remarkably close to a single long-form story, one massive epic in seventy-odd chapters, with ideas hinted and developed years before they would eventually pay off. As such, the collection holds up remarkably well, and is a joy to read. While the second half of the series might not be as solid as Wolfman and Colan’s work on the first thirty-odd issues, it still makes for a satisfying conclusion to this chapter of Dracula’s story.

Out for the Count?

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Non-Review Review: Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve always felt that Wes Anderson sees the world through the eyes of child. Events take on a surreal larger-than-life significance, characters are exaggerated, emotional interactions are somewhat simplistic, yet peppered with nuance and hidden depth. To be entirely honest, I’ve found this has a tendency to make Anderson’s adult characters difficult to relate to and his movies difficult to engage with. That’s why I think The Fantastic Mr. Fox worked so well, because it was a childish view of an adult work through the prism of a children’s story.

That’s also why, I think, Moonrise Kingdom works just as well as Anderson’s quirky foray into the world of stop motion animation. While many of Anderson’s films are tragedies about overgrown children living in the bodies of adults, Moonrise Kingdom is more keenly focused on how adults and children interact with one another – giving the movie a depth to complement Anderson’s unique stylistic vision, and heart to go with its cynical wit.

“Well, we know where we’re going…”

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Win! Moonrise Kingdom T-Shirts!

The lovely folks over at Universal Pictures Ireland have give us ten T-shirts to give away from the latest Wes Anderson release, Moonrise Kingdom. It premiered at Cannes last week, and it opens here on Friday. To be in with a chance to win, answer the question below.

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Non-Review Review: Silent House

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Chris Kentis and Laura Lau are both big fans of Edgar Allan Poe. In translating the cult Uruguayan horror for American audiences, the two directors seem to evoke Poe at every opportunity, from the dreary New England setting, with its early sunset and dreary overgrowth, through to symbolism lifted almost directly from Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. However, they juxtapose this classic American horror film vibe with a self-consciously modern filming technique. “Real terror in real time,” the poster boasts. While the decision to film the movie so it would seem like one continuous take is generally technically impressive, but also undermines a lot of the stronger elements of the tale. There is, after all, a reason that directors tend to favour long takes for very particular types of films.

In the silent house, nobody can hear you scream...

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