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The X-Files – Darkness Falls (Review)

Darkness Falls is the best script Chris Carter has written so far. It it is far superior to Fire or Space or Young at Heart or The Jersey Devil or even The Pilot. It’s quite possibly the strongest normal “monster-of-the-week” episode that Carter ever wrote, discounting his work on “special” episodes (like Post-Modern Prometheus or Triangle) or even some mythology stories (I’m quite fond of Redux).

Darkness Falls is – at its most basic – just a very strong monster-of-the-week installment, hitting all the right buttons to provide an atmospheric horror thriller.

If a tree falls in the woods...

If a tree falls in the woods…

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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: Flight

Flight has a lot to recommend it. It has an interesting subject, a fantastic central performance and wonderful supporting cast. As a result, it’s a shame that the movie makes such a mess of all these things. Flight is never less than interesting and Washington is always watchable, but it isn’t quite as compelling as a two-hour drama film needs to be. Director Robert Zemeckis struggles a bit with the tone of the piece, and Flight seems to be a bit all over the place, making it quite difficult to enjoy and hard to engage with.

Things are looking up...

Things are looking up…

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Playhouse Presents: Nixon’s The One (Review)

I can’t help but feel just a little bit disappointed by Nixon’s the One. Sky Arts have been producing a series of television plays as part of Playhouse Presents bringing together a wealth of talent including Emma Thompson, Richard E. Grant, Tom Jones, David Tennant, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen Fry and Olivia Williams among others. Nixon’s the One, the third in the series of ten plays, caught my eye because it was a re-enactment of various exerts from Nixon’s infamous White House tapes, brought to life by a talented cast. While the approach is fascinating and Harry Shearer makes a convincing Nixon beneath far too much make-up, the play is simply too short to capture any real portrait of America’s most controversial President. It drops some interesting insights, but doesn’t have enough room to expand or develop them beyond what we already knew of Nixon.

Just dossier-ing around…

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Non-Review Review: The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is an interesting film. It’s undoubtedly well made, featuring a strong cast and a pretty great script. Being honest, we’ve had more than enough death and destruction amid post-apocalyptic wastelands, so a movie that doesn’t dwell too much on the soulless nihilism of the setting – well, relatively speaking. It’s sort of an action movie response to the after-the-end thrillers we’ve been seeing a lot of in recent years (The Road comes to mind, as does Carriers and Hollywood’s current fascination with zombies). However, the movie comes across as a little too polished and stylised for its own good – at times it seems as if the cast are recording a perfume commercial set amid the ruins of a world that once was.

Have we been down this road before?

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