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Millennium – The Curse of Frank Black (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

The Curse of Frank Black is a phenomenal piece of television, and an episode that demonstrates the raw potential of the approach that Glen Morgan and James Wong have adopted towards Millennium, making the show feel (simultaneously and paradoxically) more intimate and more epic. It is a show about the end of the world, but where the end of the world can be conveyed through the late night wandering of an old man on Halloween. It is a superb piece of work on just about every level.

The Curse of Frank Black is, in a many ways, the perfect encapsulation of many of the themes and ideas that Morgan and Wong have played with over the years. It is constructed in the style of a classic horror film, but is driven by character. As with Scully in Beyond the Sea, Mulder in One Breath, and McQueen in The Angriest Angel, Frank Black finds himself facing an existential crisis at the darkest moment of his life. What will Frank do when faced with the most horrific of possibilities?

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What does anybody do when they are confronted with the end of their world? Morgan and Wong are fond of putting their characters through the metaphorical crucible, seeing what happens when the foundations are eroded and the support framework is taken away. The Curse of Frank Black suggests that there are only two possible options when the world falls to pieces: either you stand safely on your side of the line and watch it happen, or you pick up a bucket of water and start cleaning up.

It is a simple choice, an elegant metaphor, and it sits at the heart of The Curse of Frank Black.

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Non-Review Review: Devil’s Due

The single biggest problem with Devil’s Due is that it’s boring.

There are a lot of other flaws. It’s really creepily xenophobic. It has little interest in the female character carrying this baby. It is completely uninterested in the “found footage” thing, but still commits to using it. It is really just a bunch of clichés that we’ve seen done much better elsewhere. Its protagonists rank incredibly low on the intelligence scale for horror movies, which sets a pretty low baseline to begin with.

However, the most frustrating flaw with this reproductive horror is the fact that it’s just deathly dull.

The belly of the beast...

The belly of the beast…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 3 (Review)

Dammit, Frank! You can’t just roll up on my property like you own it!

Oh but I can.

And we’re back to square one. I suppose this is inevitable in the transition to American television, but House of Cards is beginning to feel strangely episodic. The British version ran ran for four episodes, moving at an incredible pace as Francis Urquhart manipulated his way to the position of Prime Minister. The American version, running thirteen episodes, seems to be more about stopping and starting. Indeed, there’s relatively little traction here on the Secretary of State subplot, or Frank Underwood’s plan for political revenge against those who he feels wronged him.

Instead, this third episode feels like something of a breather episode, the kind of character-orientated piece that might have worked a bit later in the year, after the show had built up a decent momentum. Instead, it seems like we accelerated last time only to pump the breaks this time around.

Just peachy...

Just peachy…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 1 (Review)

House of Cards is a classic piece of BBC television, the story of a Chief Whip in the House of Parliament who is so slighted by the incoming Prime Minister’s refusal to promote him that he decides to bring the whole Conservative Party crashing down around him. If you’re at all interested in political drama, British wit or even great television, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Still, I suppose that an American adaptation was inevitable. And, to be fair, you couldn’t have asked for greater talent. Kevin Spacey stars as Francis Underwood, the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives. David Fincher is producing and directing the two first episodes. It’s written by Beau Willimon, who wrote both The Ides of March and the stage play Farragut North, upon which it was based. That’s a very talented bunch of people.

And yet, one episode in, it feels a little uneven. It’s not so much the sense that the new House of Cards seems to have a bit of bother figuring out what made the original so great, nor is it the fact that changes have to be made in translating the story from London to Washington. It’s more a sense that show is really trying to figure out what it wants to be.

Let's be Frank...

Let’s be Frank…

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Non-Review Review: The Omen

A whole bunch of ropey sequels and a dodgy remake aside, The Omen remains a rather wonderful little Satanic thriller, and a fantastic horror movie in its own right. The sixties and seventies were populated with reproductive horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and I think that there’s a reason that The Omen has endured. More than three decades after its original release, The Omenremains a superb example of seventies horror at its very finest.

Not quite father-of-the-year material…

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Non-Review Review: Devil

Devil actually has a pretty interesting B-movie premise, evoking the sort of cheesy thrill of an eighties horror. Six strangers are trapped inside an elevator… and one of them might be Satan. It’s a fairly straight-forward idea, albeit one that the script and direction needlessly complicate and convolute as they attempt to fill up the seventy-seven minutes. In many ways, Devil feels like something of a classic horror throwback, a simple high concept that relies on occasionally overstated jump scares rather than gratuitous gore or carnage. It’s not necessarily the best representation of the genre, but – if you can suspend your disbelief and live with the overwrought corniness – it’s an affectionate old-fashioned homage.

And things were just looking up…

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Non-Review Review: Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance

I’m convinced that there must be a half-decent Ghost Rider movie to be made. In fact, I’m sure that Nicolas Cage already made it, in the form of the deliciously pulpy Drive Angry, which touched on a lot of the grindhouse and B-movie qualities one expects from a movie featuring a stunt driver with a flaming skull who sucks souls from criminals. In contrast, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance feels like it’s trying a little too hard. The script feels just a little bit too stilted and conventional, while the direction seems to overcompensate, feeling gimmicky to the point of being distracting and almost disorientating.

Hell’s Angel…

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