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83. United Passions (-#55) – World Cup 2018

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Chris Lavery and Babu Patel, The Bottom 100 is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, a trip through some of the worst movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, to mark the launch of the World Cup 2018, Frédéric Auburtin’s United Passions.

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Non-Review Review: Red Sparrow

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Red Sparrow puts a tacky (and tame) erotic sheen on a tepid (and tawdry) espionage story.

Red Sparrow has an interesting premise, both in terms of history and in terms of genre. It is a spy film structured around one of the more unsettling and uncomfortable aspects of the Cold War, the use of espionage agents to harvest information through sexual means. It is also a premise that could serve as a fascinating deconstruction of the tropes that audiences have come to expect of such films, a timely exploration of how issues of consent apply in the sorts of deception-laden love scenes that populate the genre. Red Sparrow could be James Bond as a sexual horror story.

However, Red Sparrow is far too tame to deliver on either premise. The film is too devoted to the conventional structure and dynamics of an espionage thriller to upset the audience in the way that any meaningful exploration of this history of sexual exploitation would, and is too comfortable with the rhythms and beats of the genre to offer a searing deconstruction of how its characters frequently leverage sex as just another weapon.

As a result, Red Sparrow is a meandering and uneven example of the espionage, trapped between two stools. The film is not sordid enough to excel as a visceral thriller in its own right, and not committed enough to offer a sobering examination of its themes.

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64. Крым (Crimea) – This Just In (-#–)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 (and the 100 worst) best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Aleksey Pimanova’s Крым.

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Millennium – Maranatha (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.

Maranatha provides a nice close to Chip Johannessen’s four scripts for the first season of Millennium.

At its core, Maranatha is a story about stories. It is a tale about mythmaking and storytelling. It is about a monstrous man who seeks to transform himself into a creature of legend, brutally slaughtering innocent people in order to feed the idea that he is something much more than a corrupt political official. As such, the story sits quite comfortably alongside Johannessen’s other three scripts for the season, each of which is about storytelling or mythmaking in some form or another.

The power of Antichrist compels you...

The power of Antichrist compels you…

In Blood Relatives, James Dickerson attends the funerals of people he never knew, pretending to have been a part of the lives of the recently deceased; he tells stories and memories that never happened. In Force Majeure, Frank Black encounters a radical group of people who believe in the story of the end times; whether true or false, this story provides meaning to the life of the otherwise lost Dennis Hoffman. In Walkabout, Frank Black tries to piece together his recent history, constructing a narrative to account for out-of-character behaviour.

Maranatha serves as something of a culmination of this approach to Millennium. It the story of a sadist who seeks to elevate himself to the status of legend, dictating and shaping his own narrative through fear and manipulation.

"I wanna take his face... off!"

“I wanna take his face… off!”

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The X-Files – Terma (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.

Tunguska and Terma borrows the structure that made the show’s early mythology episodes so effective. Tunguska is full of intriguing and compelling questions, implications that would seem to broaden or deepen the mythology. However, instead of resolving any of the major threads, Terma simply turns itself into a roller-coaster thrill ride. A cynical observer might compare the weaker mythology episodes to a shell-game: the potential of an interesting premise, lost in a shuffle designed to disorientate and catch the viewer off-guard.

It is an approach that has served the show well. Ascension avoided answering too many of the questions posed by Duane Barry, barrelling along with the momentum of a runaway freight train. Similarly, End Game did not dwell too heavily on the questions posed by Colony, instead serving as a series of high-momentum chase sequences with Mulder following the Alien Bounty Hunter to the ends of the Earth. Paper Clip moved so quickly that the viewers never wondered why the documents recovered in Anasazi were no longer earth-shattering, but merely macguffins.

Things are really heating up...

Things are really heating up…

The X-Files is very good at this sort of dynamic mile-a-minute plotting. The production team are very good at what they do. There is a sleek professionalism to these episodes that makes them easy to watch. Although filmed in Vancouver, there were few shows in the nineties ambitious enough to send their character to a Russian gulag for human experimentation. However, the cracks are starting to show. Herrenvolk demonstrated how frustrating a lack of answers could become. Terma struggles to balance a number of potentially interesting plot threads.

There are a lot of elements of Terma that might have worked well, if they had been given more room to breath. Sadly, the episode spends most of its run time trying to build up momentum towards the inevitable scene where proof narrow slips through Mulder’s fingers one more time.

Evil oil...

Evil oil…

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The X-Files – Tunguska (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.

The show’s conspiracy plot line is rapidly approaching critical mass.

It is quite clear at this point that while colonisation might have a schedule, Fox had just thrown Chris Carter’s out the window. The X-Files: Fight the Future looms large on the horizon. Indeed, Tunguska is credited to Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, who would end up writing the screenplay for the feature film over the Christmas break. However, while Carter had originally conceived the movie to put a cap on the television series, Fox wanted it to tie more aggressively into the series. It would not be the end of the journey, but a middle chapter.

Flagging the danger...

Flagging the danger…

As such, the larger conspiracy plotline that had been gathering momentum since the end of the second season spends two years largely spinning its wheels to keep the feature film relevant. The film was written midway through the fourth season and shot in the gap between the fourth and fifth seasons. So, there is a lot of stalling required. To use the “cancer” metaphor that is cleverly (and almost subconsciously) woven through the fourth season, the central conspiracy plotline seems to go into remission for a while.

This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Indeed, the stalling allows the show to take stock and to devote space in the mythology to more personal stories like Tempus Fugit and Max or Christmas Carol and Emily. However, it also means that episodes like Herrenvolk, Tunguska, Terma and The End felt like attempts to buy time – offering the illusion of dynamism and change while only inching the plot along.

Wired up...

Wired up…

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Millennium – Gehenna (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.

Written by Chris Carter and directed by David Nutter, Gehenna feels very much like a continuation of The Pilot.

More to the point, it feels like a restatement of many of the key themes of The Pilot, an attempt to reinforce many of the core ideas in that first episode, and hint at something larger. In many ways, it is about ensuring that Millennium retains its identity as it transitions from a pilot that had a relatively relaxed schedule and high budget into a weekly (well, eight-day) production schedule. Gehenna is about Carter and Nutter proving that Millennium can do what it wants and needs to do week-in and week-out, while also indicating towards larger threads.

Touching (or, at least, seeing) evil...

Touching (or, at least, seeing) evil…

This isn’t a bad way to approach the first regular episode of a television series. Indeed, Carter had done something similar with The Pilot and Deep Throat on The X-Files, structuring the episodes as a one-two punch of reinforced themes and world-building. Gehenna is very much about convincing the audience that The Pilot was not just a flash in the pan, and that the series has a long clear arc ahead of it. Much like Deep Throat really sketched the outline of the alien conspiracy only hinted at in The Pilot, Gehenna features more than a few nods towards a larger evil at work in Frank’s world.

There are points where Gehenna feels a little bit too forced, and a little bit too eager to restate and repeat the themes and ideas of The Pilot. However, it is an interesting episode that does hint towards the show’s future in a number of interesting ways.

Ear today...

Ear today…

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