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The Lone Gunmen – Like Water For Octane (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Taken together, Like Water for Octane and Three Men and a Smoking Diaper represent perhaps the creative nadir of the first season of The Lone Gunmen.

They are the episodes that not only engage in the excesses of the show’s early first season, but practically revel in them. In particular, Like Water for Octane is an episode that thinks it is hilarious to have a sequence where Langly sticks his hand up the backside of a bull, while the climax revolves around Jimmy strategically tugging the bull’s “one giant udder” at just the right the moment. The problem is not that the gags are juvenile. The problem is that the gags simply aren’t funny. And there are a lot of unfunny gags across these two episodes.

New patriots...

New patriots…

Again, there is a sense that these are ultimately just teething problems, that The Lone Gunman has not quite figured out what it wants to be. The show improves in later episodes, but not necessarily because the gags get funnier. The gags do get funnier, but there is never really a sense that The Lone Gunmen is funny enough to carry forty-five minutes on cheap laughs. Instead, the show seems to release that it needs more than “dick and ass” jokes to sustain itself. Like Water for Octane and Three Men and Smoking Diaper are devoid of heart.

More than that, though, Like Water for Octane feels like a fundamental betrayal of the show’s core principles. It is a story about the Lone Gunmen struggling to expose the truth, only to decide that the people are too stupid to be trusted with the truth and that the trio should appoint themselves custodians of that truth. The episode seems entirely sincere in this belief, which makes it seem like the production team have somehow completely misunderstood their own characters.

Out of the night...

Out of the night…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 4 (Review)

So you lied to his face?

No. I revised the parametres of my promise.

Which is lying.

Which is politics.

– Bob Birch and Frank Underwood

After spending three episodes lining everything up and getting all the plot points and characters to where they need to be, it looks like House of Cards is finally ready to kick into high gear. There’s still a sense that show isn’t as comfortable with its amoral and sociopathic lead character as it should be, but there’s finally a sense of what Frank Underwood is capable of. We’ve seen him topple the incoming Secretary of State using just a college article that the man didn’t write, but that sort of politicking should be second-nature to Underwood at this point. Here, Frank is a bit more ruthless, a bit less concerned about collateral damage.

That’s really the key here. House of Cards needs us to root for Frank despite his drive for power at all costs, without excusing it. It looks like we’re getting to where we need to be.

Speaking Frankly...

Speaking Frankly…

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Non-Review Review: The Campaign

The Campaign is hardly the most complex piece of political satire ever written. In fact, the movie suffers a great deal because its observations about political corruption feel fairly superficial. The relationship between donors and politicians, and the sway that what the movie terms “big money” has over elected officials, are hardly cutting insights into the way that lobbying and electioneering actually works. To be fair, there is something in the way that the movie parodies the tendency of US elections to get incredibly dirty incredibly fast, but The Campaign ultimately winds up feeling a little superficial.

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of wit to be found here. Both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are skilled comedians, even when the material isn’t necessarily up to scratch. And in order to make fun of the extreme rhetoric that such campaigns may involve, the movie occasionally pushes itself into the realm of the surreal. However, its observations and its targets seem so obvious that the movie can also be remarkably frustrating.

A candid(ate) look at the electoral process?

A candid(ate) look at the electoral process?

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 4 (Review/Retrospective)

As with the previous collection, the War looms large in The Spirit Archives, Vol. 4. While Eisner had been keenly following events in Europe from the start of the strip, things really come to a head here. These are the strips for the six months following the attack on Pearl Harbour, and – understandable – there’s a strong patriot undertone to everything here. Eisner would eventually put his patriotism into action when he was drafted, leaving his character in the hands of his staff – who dutifully kept the comic warm for him during his term of service. While Eisner’s early work on the strip isn’t quite as good as the work that would follow, and the shadow of the Second World War dominates, these are still fascinating stories told by a master storyteller.

Carrying on, naturally…

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Non-Review Review: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Manchurian Candidate is a rather wonderful piece of Cold War paranoia, with a handy bit of social commentary and a rather surrealist perspective thrown in on top. John Frankenheimer’s vision remains unnerving because of its occasionally absurd and strange imagery and subtext, much of which remains unsettling long after the end of the Cold War. While The Manchurian Candidate remains a fascinating story, and one which has seeped into pop cultural consciousness, It’s Frankenheimer’s direction that elevates the film, managing to convince the audience that there is some meaning and purpose to all the bizarre imagery and interactions.

Play your cards right…

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G.I. Joe teams up with Uncle Sam…

I’ll admit it. In my defense, I’m suitably ashamed. But I am a little bit interested in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Yes, I know – deep down in my heart – that it will be terrible. No, I was not a fan of the television show, nor the toys – so I have no defense. I am a fan of Christopher Eccleston and I always have been, so my faith in him is on the line. And Stephen Sommers is the guy behind the two really good Mummy films, right? Still, the most interesting aspect of the production (amid all the rumours and gossip, the leaked reviews – both good and bad) is the approach that the studio is taking to marketing. Some movies – like The Dark Knight or Tron: Legacy or Cloverfield – go the subtle, nuanced approach of viral marketing. They create an emersive, engaging experience. G.I. Joe, on the other hand, is not subtle. The marketing team seems to be hammering home on single message: if you don’t dig this movie, you just ain’t patriotic enough.

No Dennis Quaid, you can't out act him... He's Christopher Eccleston!

No Dennis Quaid, you can't out act him... He's Christopher Eccleston!

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