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The X-Files – Deep Throat (Review)

Deep Throat was filmed in August 1993, more than a year after the production of The Pilot in March 1993. In a way, Deep Throat feels like the first proper episode of the show’s first season, even carrying the production number 1×01. It cements a lot of the themes and ideas suggested in The Pilot, more firmly establishing arcs and characters. Indeed, The Pilot ended with a glimpse at the massive government conspiracy surrounding encounters with alien life forms, but Deep Throat serves to demonstrate just how deep that conspiracy goes.

The episode builds on countless ideas and conspiracy theories, delving into the popular suggestion that the United States military has been reverse-engineering alien technology for its own purposes. This suggests that Mulder isn’t just dealing with modern interactions between aliens and humanity, he’s digging into something that is rooted far deeper. As the eponymous informant teases him at the end of the episode, “Mr. Mulder, they’ve been here for a very long time.”

The truth is up there...

The truth is up there…

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Jonathan Hickman’s Run on Ultimate Comics: Ultimates (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

There’s something to be said for keeping Marvel’s Ultimate Universe as a “do anything you want” sandbox for up-and-coming creators, a chance for writers and artists to demonstrate their ability to tell comic book stories without worrying too much about the status quo or putting everything back in something resembling the way they found it. After all, the Ultimate Universe provided a fertile starting point for creators like Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis and Brian K. Vaughn to demonstrate they could tell big bombastic superhero stories, with Millar and Bendis going on to radically shape  the mainstream Marvel continuity.

As such, Jonathan Hickman’s run on the awkwardly-titled Ultimate Comics: Ultimates feels like an audition. It’s very clearly a weird alternate-universe take on many of the ideas that he would carry over to his run on Avengers and New Avengers when he succeeded creator Brian Michael Bendis. Hickman’s Ultimates is bristling with big ideas, and an exciting willingness to tear down and build up without any hesitation. The only real problem is that it feels like a story sorely missing an ending.

Thor smash!

Thor smash!

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Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Silver Age comic books are, by their nature, different from modern comics. It’s more than just evolving social norms, or even shifting artistic sensibilities. There’s a massive world of difference between a fairly average comic written in the mid-sixties and a similarly average comic produced today. While I’d be reluctant to describe the comics contained in Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Vol. 1 as “great” or “brilliant”, they have a certain charm or novelty to them. They feel alien and unique, as if offering a raw and unrefined sample of a mood that Superman has been chasing for the past two or three decades.

While I don’t think Batman was as well-served by the sixties as he was by later decades, there’s a surreal innocence to these comics which speak to Superman as a character. These are the comics that probably inspired Richard Donner’s Superman film, and though artists like Al Plastino, Curt Swan or Dick Sprang might not have drawn a Superman who resembled Christopher Reeve, it’s very easy to imagine him fitting in among these stories quite easily.

The Silver standard?

The Silver standard?

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Non-Review Review: Olympus Has Fallen

It’s easy to see why Die Hard is such a popular action movie template. It’s a formula that is very hard to do wrong. Sure, you might end up with a clumsy and disjointed mess of movie, but the format of man trying to save hostages in a base under siege is so straight-forward that it’s almost always an effective vehicle for an action film. Olympus Has Fallen takes that familiar movie outline and rigidly adheres to it. After all, once you’ve figured out the formula, all you have to do is plug in a few variables and a movie practically makes itself. As compared to a boat or a train or in a stadium, Olympus Has Fallen at least has ambition. It’s Die Hard in a White House.

It’s a clumsily constructed film, one that doesn’t excel at anything and fumbles at quite a few things. However, there’s only so far you can screw up a formula and Olympus Has Fallen winds up being a watchable, if very far from exceptional, mid-tier action film.

"Look, this is what happens when terrorists attack while Bruce Willis is on holiday..."

“Look, this is what happens when terrorists attack while Bruce Willis is on holiday…”

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 2 (Review)

Get ready, Cathy, things are about to move very quickly.

– Frank is moving

That’s more like it. After a rocky season premiere, it looks like House of Cards might finally be settling into a groove. It’s very strange to see a four-part BBC drama adapted into a full thirteen-episode season of an American television show. Of course, the United States has a very different political system, so the machinations of the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives could never overlap fully with those of Sir Francis Urquhart. However, the first episode needed a sense of traction that was so sorely lacking.

Luckily, the second episode picks up the slack. The pieces are all in play, the characters are established. The game can be afoot.

Underwood tactics...

Underwood tactics…

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Non-Review Review: Broadcast News

Broadcast News feels like it has lost a bit of its bite as the years went on. Originally released fifteen years ago, it undoubtedly seemed like a prophetic commentary on trends in news media, voicing an understandable unease at the line blurring between merely reporting the news and “selling” it to an eager and unquestioning population. Back then, these trends were undeniably present and one could sense a none-too-subtle shift in the approach to news. Unfortunately, it looks like those trends are to stay, and I think that has aged Broadcast News considerably. It doesn’t feel like James L. Brooks’ telling media satire is attacking a coming change so much as it is making one last stand against it. It’s still a very clever, very powerful and very well put together piece of film, but it sadly feels like it’s fighting a battle lost long ago.

That, perhaps, makes Broadcast News the most depressing comedy I’ve seen in quite some time.

They let an Tom, Dick or Harry host the news…

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Non-Review Review: Sleeper

Sleeper is an enjoyable Woody Allen film, coming from relatively early in the director’s career. He had yet to direct either Annie Hall or Manhattan, arguably his two most popular works, but was coming off a string of well-regarded movies. Sleeper is an affectionate look at many of the science-fiction movies that Hollywood was producing in the late sixties and early seventies, to the point that Allen himself actually sat down with Isaac Asimov to make sure the science-fiction elements of the script were kosher. However, Sleeper is remarkably fluid, allowing room within that framework for Allen to really explore any and all ideas that might possibly have occurred to him. The result is, to borrow a quote from the poster, a highly enjoyable and almost whimsical “nostalgic look at the future.”

Robot in disguise…

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