• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Non-Review Review: The Highwaymen

The Highwaymen is an uneven and clumsy piece of work.

In many ways, The Highwaymen positions itself as a logical extension of the modern deconstructive western, the tales of men on the edge of the frontier grappling with the challenges of modernity. Sometimes, those stories are set in the old west as it faces massive social shifts; The Sisters Brothers is a recent, effective example. Sometimes, these stories unfold in a more contemporary setting featuring characters still processing how the world has moved past them; Hell or High Water may be the best of the recent examples. The Highwaymen positions itself somewhere on the spectrum between the two; an early scene has the Governor of Texas offering an elevator pitch for the entire film, “It’s 1934, Lee, and you wanna put cowboys on Bonnie and Clyde?”

This is the basic premise of The Highwaymen, and it is a good one. It is two different American archetypes thrown into stark opposition with one another, a story that pits two of the last cowboys in the old west against a newer and hungrier breed of American outlaw. The Highwaymen is the story of the two Texas Rangers drafted out of retirement to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde. Forget Monsters vs. Aliens or Cowboys and Aliens or Alien vs. Predator, this is a pop cultural match-up for the ages. It is cowboys versus gangsters. (It might be more accurate to describe Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as “public enemies”, but “cowboys versus public enemies” is not quite so evocative.)

With all of this in mind, it is disappointing that The Highwaymen feels so hollow.

Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – The 37’s (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The 37’s did not close out the first broadcast season of Star Trek: Voyager, as the producers had intended. The last episode produced in the first season run, it was held back in the schedule into the second season – a decision made by UPN to allow Voyager to get an early start the following autumn. Still, the decision to reposition The 37‘s as the premiere of the broadcast season is quite telling.

Airing ahead of the three episodes produced before it, and ahead of any episodes produced specifically for the second season, there’s a sense that the production team intend The 37’s to be an important episode. After all, the season premiere is just as important as the season finalé in the basic structure of a broadcast season. The finalé serves as a capstone for what has come before, while (hopefully) indicating what might follow. The premiere is a way of setting up what is yet to come.

We have lift-off...

We have lift-off…

So the positioning on The 37’s is interesting, because it indicates just how much the production team had invested in the episode. This is a big episode of Voyager, this is an important episode of Star Trek. As such, it makes for a completely unsatisfying experience. The 37’s isn’t a bad episode by any measure – it has a few interesting ideas and a few memorable elements – but it’s not ambitious. It doesn’t radically change Voyager, but it also doesn’t distil it. It doesn’t offer the sense of purpose lacking for morst of the first season.

The 37’s just sort of is. It’s an episode that would be functional shuffled into the middle of a season – a few episodes earlier or later than broadcast. However, it simply doesn’t work when scheduled into a high-profile slot, particular when it has been moved so consciously and so purposefully.

A second pilot?

A second pilot?

Continue reading

The Adventures of Tintin: King Ottokar’s Sceptre (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

In a way, King Ottokar’s Sceptre feels like the end of an era. King Ottokar’s Sceptre is the last adventure in the series that Tintin would spend alone (save for the company of the loyal companion, Snowy). Although Hergé began work on The Land of Black Gold next, the next completed story (The Crab With the Golden Claws) would introduce Captain Haddock, who would follow Tintin for the rest of the series.  It was also the last story that Hergé completed before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the sense of paranoia is palpable. After this story, Hergé would remove a lot of the more overt political commentary from the series, preferring to offer more subtle and biting commentary. I’m delighted to say that the animated adaptation retain pretty much all of the spirit of Heré’s original story, which I was a little worried about given how deeply rooted the story is in the European politics of the thirties.

Keys to the kingdom...

Continue reading