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Iron Fist – Snow Gives Way (Review)

So, what is Iron Fist about?

To be fair, it is a tough question to answer. The final Netflix series, publicised as “the Last Defender”, seems to have been a hard sell. Indeed, the emphasis on the show’s position as “the Last Defender” recalls the marketing of Captain America: The First Avenger. In both cases, Marvel was selling a property that posed a creative challenge by tethering it to a looming mass-market crossover, counting on its position as “the last piece of the puzzle” to draw in audiences that might otherwise hold little interest in the material.

Fist first.

And, by and large, Iron Fist is defined by these outside demands. Any audience member trying to figure out what Iron Fist is or what purpose it serves will arguably get a better sense of that by tracing the outline established by the other Marvel Netflix shows. Iron Fist is not a television show that defines itself, instead existing in a narrative and marketing space that has already been defined for it by the demands of other multimedia. Iron Fist is not so much a television show as a bunch of stuff that fits in that space before The Defenders.

That much is evident even as early as Snow Gives Way, the first episode of the Netflix series. The pilot is arguably as instructive in what it fails to do as it is in what it actually accomplishes. It eats up fifty minutes of airtime without providing the audience with any real sense of who these people are, what they want, or what the series is trying to say that isn’t on the agenda already set up by the other Marvel Netflix shows.

He’s acting. Really hard.

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The X-Files – Triangle (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.

There are a lot of reasons to celebrate Triangle.

The episode gets a lot of attention for its wonderful use of long tracking shots. According to Chris Carter’s commentary, there are only twenty-four individual shots stitched together to produce the forty-five-minute episode. Considering the amount of split-screen action at the climax, that is not a lot. Triangle is an artistic tour de force for writer and director Chris Carter. The success that both Birdman and True Detective enjoyed in 2014 due to their extended takes suggests that Carter was significantly ahead of the curve.

Dragging up the past...

Dragging up the past…

There are other aspects to note. Triangle also ushers in a new mood and tone for the sixth season of The X-Files. The show had moved to Los Angeles, and would struggle with how to retain its identity in the new (and bright) surroundings of California. The Beginning and Drive had both answered the question in their own way, but Triangle ushers in a whole new approach to storytelling. Triangle is the first of a series of light and breezy episodes in the early stretch of the sixth season where The X-Files almost turns into a paranormal sitcom.

However, there is one other reason to celebrate Triangle. It is an extended forty-five minute pun on the word “ship.”

Cigarette-Smoking Nazi...

Cigarette-Smoking Nazi…

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Millennium – 5-2-2-6-6-6 (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the scripts that Morgan and Wong wrote for the fourth season of The X-Files with the scripts that they wrote for the first season of Millennium. The duo were writing for both shows at the same time – with episodes frequently airing within a week of each other. Morgan tended to focus more on the four X-Files scripts, while Wong worked primarily on the three Millennium episodes. While the seven scripts are all fascinating in their own way, there is a marked difference in how the duo approach the two shows.

Their four episodes of The X-Files are very bold and experimental – they look and feel utterly unlike anything that the show has done; before or after. These four scripts seem to needle at the show, pushing it further. Home seems designed to see how much unpleasantness the writers can get on to Fox prime time in the nineties. The Field Where I Died is a thoughtful and melancholy romance with no companion in the X-Files canon. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man parodies the show’s central conspiracy. Never Again makes the Mulder/Scully dynamic toxic.

Having a blast...

Having a blast…

That makes a great deal of sense. After all, The X-Files was in its fourth season. It was approaching that impressive “one hundredth episode” landmark, the number of episodes necessary before the show would be secure in syndication. (At least in the television landscape of the nineties.) Although less than half-way through its eventual nine-season run, The X-Files was an old dog by this stage of its life cycle. As such, it made a great deal of sense for Morgan and Wong – two writers who had been there at the beginning – to shake things up.

In contrast, the three scripts that Morgan and Wong wrote for the first season of Millennium are a bit more conservative in scope and tone. They are fascinating pieces of television that help to establish the mood of the show, but they are not as experimental of the work that Morgan and Wong were doing on The X-Files. Again, this makes a great deal of sense. Millennium was still a very young show. It was still defining its own identity, figuring out what it wanted and needed to be. Morgan and Wong’s three scripts are essential in that development.

Taking a page from the Group...

Taking a page from the Group…

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Alien Nation: What the Aborted Superman Returns Opening Sequence Tells Us About Bryan Singer’s Man of Steel…

I’ve already talked a great deal about Superman Returns and why the movie doesn’t really work as a Superman story, but I was still fascinated to get a glimpse at the aborted $10m dollar opening sequence that never made it to the final cut, but only wormed its way onto the internet today. The clip is well-made and there’s no doubt that it was abandoned fairly late in the process, almost ready to fit in Bryan Singer’s epic story about the Man of Steel. It’s fascinating what the clip tells about how Singer sees his protagonist, and how the clip bolsters his own take, while demonstrating some of the more fundamental flaws with his vision.

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Non-Review Review: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Jay and Silent Bob is a movie that runs hot and cold from scene to scene. More a collection of random jokes set against an ever-shifting premise than a fleshed-out over-arching story, the film frequently fluctuates between brilliantly and subversively hilarious, and just a little bit awkward. While the randomness of Kevin Smith’s original Clerks was a large part of the appeal, the mish-mash approach doesn’t work so well this time around. Part of it is, perhaps, that this movie does clearly have a plot (a roadtrip to Hollywood), but I think it might also be a question of the characters involved.

While Jay and Silent Bob work well in supporting roles, it seems perhaps a bit much to ask them to carry their own movie. It’s a criticism Smith seems to accept, even including it in the movie itself. “Bluntman and Chronic and their stupid alter egos Jay and Silent Bob only work in small doses, if at all,” an anonymous on-line “militant movie buff” writes about a fictious movie to star characters modelled on the pair. “They don’t deserve their own movie.”

Well, at least he’s self-aware.

The latest in the Jay and Silent Bob cycle?

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Does Whatever a Spider Can: How Sam Raimi “Got” Spider-Man…

This is a post as part of “Raimi-fest”, the event being organised by the always wonderful Bryce over at Things That Don’t Suck.

Watching all three of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy back-to-back, it becomes increasingly obvious that the director harbours an honest and genuine affection for the source material. In fairness, it’s hard to believe that the cult director seemed like a safe option for a multi-million dollar movie franchise, but it worked out remarkably well – just look at the box office figures and the critical acclaim (of at least the first two films). So what is it about Raimi that really “clicks” with Spider-Man? How does the director get the character so well?

Goblin it all up…

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And They Lived Happily Ever After? Will Gnomeo & Juliet Have a Happy Ending?

It started out like Romeo and Juliet, but it ended up in tragedy.

– Milhouse Van Outen

I have to be honest. I studied Romeo and Juliet in secondary school and I just didn’t get it. Not the fancy-ass language or the outdated words, but the appeal of the play. Seriously? This piece of work right here is frequently regarded as one of the romantic pieces of literature ever written? A play about a teenage fling which ends in suicide? Where Romeo falls for Juliet on the rebound and they never get to spend any time together? Where a convenient third-act quarantine serves to lead to the play’s tragic conclusion? I never really got the appeal of the work – I mean, it was good and smart, but it struck me as a lot more cynical and bitter than most seem to think it is. And so this trailer for Gnomeo and Juliet arrives, and I’m wondering – will a whole generation of children end up scarred by the image of gnome suicide?

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