Following on from the excellent first season, Season 2 of The X-Files deepens the mythology and mystery. After the first season, the only way was up and that is definitely the case this time around. Carrying on the torch lit but the set up in the debut season, this second one is a real success as the cases deepen for Mulder and Scully, introduces more memorable characters and gets a lot darker. Be warned readers, spoilers will follow in my review.
We open were the last season left off with The X-Files shut down just as both Mulder(David Duchovny) and Scully(Gillian Anderson) were growing closer to answers regarding government experiments and knowledge of extraterrestrials. Mulder and Scully have both been reassigned since, with Scully teaching at the FBI academy and Mulder assigned to wire tapping operations. Mulder has lost some of his faith in what is out there, but slowly regains it once more. Scully though reassigned continues to converse with him in secret, for fear of being watched by the powers that be. Yet danger soon awaits both of the agents in various forms. In this case, Scully and Mulder are both affected by what they experiences. Scully in particular has an interesting arc here. In it she is abducted by aliens after a psychopathic former FBI agent and abductee uses her so that aliens won’t take him again for unusual tests. Scully mysteriously returns a while after with no memory of her abduction, which only deepens the mystery for Mulder. Eventually, Assistant Director Skinner(Mitch Pileggi) re-opens The X-Files, allowing the two to work together once more and delve into more unexplained mysteries and government secrets about aliens. We also have the mysterious Smoking Man(William B. Davis) skulking around and a new informant for Mulder, known as X(Steven Williams). Plus, there is a traitorous agent called Alex Krycek(Nicholas Lea), who is initially assigned to work with Mulder and is then revealed to be in league with those most corrupt. And not forgetting a shape shifting Alien Bounty Hunter to add to the mix. Let’s just say events get a lot more creepy and mysterious as the season progresses as curious things relating to Mulder( like the whereabouts of his missing sister) are teased out in typically enigmatic fashion leading to an excellent finale.
If Season 1 was the blue print for what was to come, Season 2 is the expansion of the story and underlying mythology with a deeper intent. The story arcs here have an added depth as they explore both personal things for Mulder and Scully. I like how we as the audience can see the growth in the relationship between the two. This is most clearly evident when Scully is found comatose and Mulder, driven by anger and the desire to unearth the truth, does everything in his power to find out what happened to her. The writers really know how to explore the relationship without letting it fall into anything predictable. We sense the closeness between them but it isn’t forced and feels like a real development of caring friendship and respect. They are also adept at continuing the mythology and giving more clues about the government conspiracies, the disappearance of Mulder’s sister and the impact the abduction of Scully has on Mulder and herself. The paranoia is really cranked up this season and executed with atmospheric style and direction as government tampering and unexplained events plague the investigations of Mulder and Scully. The music provided from Mark Snow is also highly creepy and laced with unnerving tension. It’s often said that shows that have a successful first season can suffer in the second, but Season 2 of The X-Files is the exact opposite. It only gets better as it goes along. And with more darkness to the mix, it adds yet another layer of tension and suspense to the episodes. And speaking of effective episodes, many of them are in need of discussion and praise in this season. The opening episode ‘Little Green Men’ provides the first sight of a live alien and we flashback to the night Mulder’s sister Samantha was taken. The Duane Barry episodes are fantastically atmospheric and tense highlights, with the former crazed mental patient taking people hostage and speaking of his experiences of being an alien abductee. His kidnapping of Scully is a creepy scene indeed and the way it plays out gets more unusual. In the tense and emotional ‘One Breath’ as Scully’s life hangs in the balance and we watch Mulder’s quest to get answers on why she is taken. Then there’s the creepy death fetishist who sees Scully as his next victim in the horrifying ‘Irresistible’ and black magic in ‘Die Hand Die Verletzt’. and special mention has to go to the tense finale ‘Anasazi’ that finishes with one hell of a cliffhanger. It’s safe to say that Season 2 of The X-Files is chock full of exceptional episodes to watch. I could go on listing the amazing episodes, but that would go on forever and this review would become very long-winded. Not every episode can be a success because that would be impossible, but there are so many this season that are of sterling quality and style, that build on the ground work set up in the debut season and are consistently engrossing.
Once again turning in outstanding work is David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Duchovny impresses by imbuing Mulder with a dogged sense of drive, building obsession to expose the truth and deep care he has for Scully, evident in how he goes after who he believes responsible for her abduction. I appreciated the added depth that was given to Mulder in the exploration of how his sister’s disappearance had an impact on him and his discovery that his own estranged father may know more than he’s letting on. Gillian Anderson exudes strength and a level-headed demeanor as Scully, who finds her faith being tested significantly this season. Anderson burrows into the impact the abduction has on Scully and how she tries to repress her vulnerability and fear in order to stay grounded within her personal life and job. The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson is once more a delight and has significant amounts of depth added that only expands the relationship between the two. Each of the two compliments the other and while they are often like the two sides of the coin, their banter and closeness shines through. I liked the expanded role given to Skinner this season and Mitch Pileggi makes the most of it. Seemingly gruff and not in favour of Mulder’s theories, Pileggi brings forth a sense of growing admiration for his work and even though he Skinner has his hands tied, he is starting to show signs of defiance to those who govern him. Steven Williams brings layers of ruthless mystery to the part of informant X, who you never quite know is on your side or not. Then there is the slimy presence of Alex Krycek, who is played wonderfully by Nicholas Lea and gives ounces of deceit and oiliness. Krycek is introduced as an energetic agent who helps Mulder, but he is really infiltrating his work while under the command of The Smoking Man and something shadowy. And speaking of The Smoking Man, William B. Davis is given more screen time this season and really makes a mark once more on the enigmatic character. Over two incredible episodes there is also Brian Thompson sending shivers down the spine as an alien bounty hunter.
- Little Green Men – A
- The Host – A
- Blood – B+
- Sleepless – B+
- Duane Berry – A+
- Ascension – A+
- 3 – D
- One Breath – A
- Firewalker – C-
- Red Museum – B
- Excelsis Dei – C –
- Aubrey – B+
- Irresistible – A
- Die Hand Die Verletzt – A
- Fresh Bones – B
- Colony – A
- End Game – A
- Fearful Symmetry – D
- Død Kalm – C+
- Humbug – A
- The Calusari – C+
- F. Emasculata – B+
- Soft Light – B-
- Our Town – B
- Anasazi – A+
Dark, effectively told and atmospheric to boot, Season 2 of The X-Files is a resounding success that helps expand the mythology and engross the audience with its stories. I can’t wait to see what Season 3 holds if this is anything to go by.
I did a post a while back about my love of strong women and it was a resounding success. This post is another tribute to amazing women, the women who I’ve come into contact with through blogging. You have all been such an outstanding collection of bloggers who have had an impact on me. So this song below is for all of you wonderful women out there.
As anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know, I love a bit of magic in my movies and television. The Illusionist and my reviews of Charmed will more than back this up. The good old Hocus Pocus is mainly an added plus when I watch something on the subject of the supernatural and magical. So today I ask, what are your favourite shows and movies about magic? Is it an older movie? A modern show? Whatever your pick, please let me know.
2000's, Amy Brenneman, Drama, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Jimmy Smits, Kathy Baker, Kevin Zegers, Lynn Redgrave, Maggie Grace, Marc Blucas, Maria Bello, Robin Swicord, Romantic Comedy, The Jane Austen Book Club
The Jane Austen Book Club
- Kathy Baker as Bernadette
- Maria Bello as Jocelyn
- Emily Blunt as Prudie
- Amy Brenneman as Sylvia
- Maggie Grace as Allegra
- Hugh Dancy as Grigg
- Jimmy Smits as Daniel
- Marc Blucas as Dean
- Kevin Zegers as Trey
- Lynn Redgrave as Mama Sky
A thoroughly charming romantic comedy drama about the joys of reading, friendships and the ups and downs of love, The Jane Austen Book Club may be predictable but it is so lovely, funny and given heart by a talented cast that it more than makes up for the feeling that you’ve seen something similar.
In California, the eponymous book club is set up by the lively and loving Bernadette, who is something of an authority on the works of Jane Austen. Part of the inspiration comes from meeting Prudie, an unhappy and prim French teacher who is married to Dean, a man who seems to busy with his work and other ventures such as watching basketball to pay her any attention. Prudie is also somewhat enchanted by one of her handsome students Trey. The other half of the inspiration comes in the form of good friend Sylvia, who is currently in the process of separating from her philandering husband Daniel after he admits to having an affair. Also joining the club is dog breeder Jocelyn, who has never really been in love, Sylvia’s adventurous lesbian daughter Allegra who delights in daring stunts and seems to always get injured in the process. And not forgetting the one man of the bunch, science fiction geek Grigg, who is brought in by matchmaker Jocelyn tries to set up with a broken-hearted Sylvia. The amusing thing is that Jocelyn tries to force Grigg on Sylvia without realising that he actually likes her, though it’s obvious to everyone else where the affections of Grigg lie. Over six months, they will read the six books by the legendary Jane Austen and meet to discuss them with one another. As the reading of these classic books continues, each member’s life begins to resemble many of the aspects contained within the books. Romance, repair and camaraderie ensue within the group as they all become more enlightened on love through the reading of literature.
Writer-director Robin Swicord does a very successful job at bringing these characters and their stories to life. In her writing, she really has a knack for showing us the changes they make both in terms of funny moments and touching ones. Swicord just knows how to bring them to life and make a fairly predictable and none too new story seem very interesting and filled with warmth. Wit, romance and friendship all feature heavily throughout this movie and by the end it does you make you feel very cosy. Now it must be said that sometimes the pacing is a bit off within The Jane Austen Book Club, but there are enough distractions to settle this flaw. Mainly, there is the examination of how Austen’s work still rings true today that keeps events ticking over nicely. It seems that even after all these years, Jane Austen’s witty look at relationships and romance is still just as fresh and keen as ever, as the six members navigate their way through life and love, while finding their lives somewhat mirror the characters that populate the work of Austen. A well-chosen soundtrack compliments the tone of finding love and discovery within the movie very well.
A finely assembled cast adds up to a wonderful ensemble film where the characters are given time to grow. As the mind behind the book club Bernadette, Kathy Baker is delightfully warm-hearted, bohemian and matriarchal in every sense of the word. Maria Bello is natural and good-hearted as Jocelyn, who begins to play matchmaker much like the character of Emma, yet doesn’t realise that love is staring her right in the face. The talented Emily Blunt manages to blend poignancy with a sharp brittle quality as the unhappy Prudie. The character could have easily been extremely unlikable, but in the hands of Blunt, we at least see why Prudie acts the way she does to others and that she just needs an outlet for her feelings that she finds in the book club. Amy Brenneman is sympathetic as Sylvia, who doesn’t know how to react to her husband’s cheating but later regains her confidence. A youthful humour along with the impassioned way of throwing herself into love is provided by Maggie Grace, who resembles the character of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. While the women of the story are the main focus, the men also get a look in, especially in the case of Hugh Dancy, who plays the sole male member of the book club. Exuding affability and geeky tendencies, it’s hard not to like Dancy in this movie because of his energy and spirit. The other guys in the movie(Jimmy Smits, Marc Blucas and Kevin Zegers) have smaller roles but still have things to do and a great cameo from Lynn Redgrave as Prudie’s pot-smoking hippie mother is really funny.
A cosy, warm-hearted film full of humour and pathos, The Jane Austen Book Club is far from original but filled with life and verve that is enjoyable nonetheless.
The questions and debate regarding nudity in film and television has been going for a very long time. It appears that everyone has an opinion on when someone strips down to their birthday suit in front of the camera. So today I thought I should do a post asking about movie and television nudity. Below are 10 questions on the subject that I’d like you all to answer in the comments as I’m very interested in reading your thoughts on this topic.
- Do you find movie and television nudity to be degrading or tastefully done?
- When someone mentions nudity in either film or television, what scene springs to mind?
- Do you think that nudity in these mediums is one-sided and sexist?
- Which actor or actress to you seems to always be nude on screen?
- Do you find nudity on screen embarrassing to watch?
- Do you feel there is too much nudity in movies and television today?
- Do you think actors and actresses who go nude should be paid more?
- If you were and actor or actress, do you think you could do a nude scene?
- In your opinion, why do you think people make a big deal when someone goes nude on screen?
- And lastly, which celebrity was the first you saw nude on screen?
Age of Consent
- James Mason as Bradley Morahan
- Helen Mirren as Cora Ryan
- Jack MacGowran as Nat Kelly
- Neva Carr Glyn as Ma Ryan
One of the last movies made by the great visionary director Michael Powell, Age of Consent may not be his finest work but it has a lot to recommend and it is far from a disaster. It just could have done with some tweaks here and there along the way.
Bradley Morahan is a jaded artist who of late has found inspiration hard to come by. Disillusioned with his life in New York, he decides to return to his native Australia, so he can find something to get his creative mind going again. He ventures to a tropical island on The Great Barrier Reef were he sets up in a shack, that is mainly quiet and seems ideal for him to regain a sense of purpose once more. While on the island he encounters Cora Ryan; a highly spirited young girl who sells fish that she catches and occasionally steals as a way to get money. Cora is kept under the watchful eye of her alcohol swigging old crone of a grandmother who tries to keep the girl on a tight leash and constantly insists on observing whatever she does. Something about the wild and striking Cora catches Bradley off guard and as he gets to know her, he begins to feel a sense of protection and care for her. Cora herself wants to escape the island and head for Brisbane, which is why she has been saving whatever money she can. Knowing that she wants to escape and earn money enough to do so, Bradley asks the young girl to pose for paintings for him. It seems that Cora has given Bradley his inspiration back and she continues to pose for him, often in the nude. Yet Ma Ryan is constantly on the look out for something to catch Cora out on anything and Bradley’s nuisance of a friend Nat Kelly arrives to disturb him. In the midst of this, a gentle friendship begins between Bradley and Cora, yet as Cora is growing into a young and very beautiful woman, she begins to feel a sense of love towards Bradley that she can’t quite explain as she has never known someone take such an interest in her before that felt genuine.
Michael Powell was a master at creating stunning visuals and with Age of Consent it is very much on show. Using the Great Barrier Reef as a backdrop, he shows the natural beauty of the place and how it combined with the youthful Cora give some inspiration back to Bradley. Age of Consent does deal with themes of blooming sexuality in the case of Cora, but it doesn’t feel salacious which is what it could have become with someone else directing. Instead, Powell conjures a lyrical beauty to the themes and examines Cora’s transformation with erotic strokes that are still very classy and non-exploitative. A particularly striking scene of erotic nature that is given beauty is when Cora is swimming underwater in the nude and Bradley paints. It may sound quite perverse, but the way the scene is shot is anything but that, focusing more on the tranquil beauty of the place and Cora’s ever-growing sensuality as she slowly swims among the colourful coral. Just like the relationship between Bradley and Cora that could have been made into some sleazy story, Powell keeps the characters strictly as artist and muse rather than him being the older man making a move on an impressionable girl. Where Age of Consent falls down is in the pacing and addition of comedy that really ruins parts of the film. The pace is meandering for the most part, but is thankfully given the occasional jolt of electricity it needs. It’s the comedy sub-plots involving Nat Kelly and his skirt-chasing antics that really do damage to the film. The comedy is just so needless and undoes some of the work that has been crafted very well before. Thankfully, there is a lush score that distracts from said antics and brings us back to the main story of the artist getting his mojo back and a young girl approaching womanhood.
James Mason is typically excellent in this film, giving us a jaded man who becomes more relaxed once he gets his inspiration back again. Mason is reliably good in this part. Yet it is a young Helen Mirren, in one of her first movies who really catches the eye here. As the young girl slowly blossoming into a beautiful young woman and beginning to realize it, Helen Mirren invests Cora with a youthful innocence, wild temperament and blooming sexuality. As the film progresses, Cora begins to see that she is turning into a young woman yet doesn’t quite know how to feel about it. In the hands of Mirren, the character really becomes something else and not just the bombshell beach babe that she could have been made into in the hands of another actress. It is with this role that Mirren became noticed as it provided hints at the talents of her and the sense of sexuality she could bring to the screen. Jack MacGowran can be sometimes amusing in his role, but the part becomes really aggravating after a while because of the way the character is written as a jester and nothing else. Neva Carr Glyn plays the role of the shrieking old harridan very well, making Cora’s grandmother a really nasty piece of work who it is understandable that you’d want to get away from as soon as possible.
So though it is wildly uneven in tone and often filled with some needless sub-plots, the vision of Michael Powell, the tranquil beauty of the setting and the earthy appeal of a young Helen Mirren ensure that Age of Consent is far more substantial than it could have been.
- Edward Norton as Eisenheim
- Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl
- Jessica Biel as Duchess Sophie Von Teschen
- Rufus Sewell as Crown Prince Leopold
An intriguing blend of mystery, romance and hints of fantasy, The Illusionist like its protagonist casts a spell on you from beginning to end. Handsomely directed and visually arresting, it burns itself into the memory with its sleight of hand events and effective performances.
In turn of the century Vienna, the magician Eisenheim thrills audiences with his performances that seem to defy the odds and point at possible supernatural talents. As a child, Eisenheim came from a poor family and he became interested in magic tricks and similar things. He also fell in love with Sophie, a young duchess from a prominent family. Their relationship was forbidden when discovered because of the difference in social standing. As a result, a teenage Eisenheim traveled the world, honing his craft with the art of magic. Now back in Vienna, he is the centre of attention for his audience. During one specific performance, the Crown Prince Leopold attends with a now grown up Sophie, who he is engaged to. During the performance, Eisenheim requires a volunteer and finds one in Sophie. Both recognize each other immediately and remember how their love was thwarted. An obvious candle still burns between them after meeting again. But the Crown Prince is not one to be competed with, as he exercises strict and sadistic control over the people around him, mainly Sophie who sees more as a possession than as a lover. Eisenheim also gives a private performance for the Crown Prince in which he humiliates him. Angered by what he sees as an attack on his authority, the Prince tasks his Chief Inspector Uhl to investigate Eisenheim and prove he is nothing but a money-making fraud. But Uhl, while loyal to the Prince and his job, begins to respect Eisenheim and his act, becoming very curious about how he does it. As Eisenheim and independently minded Sophie secretly start their relationship again due to the thwarted passion that separated them, a battle of wills ensues between the magician and the prince, leading to shocking consequences. But in this game of trickery and love, all is not as it seems.
From the opening frames of mist and golden curtains, you just know that The Illusionist is going to draw you in. And so it does with its plot and execution. Writer and director Neil Burger conjures up a mysterious atmosphere of stifled emotions and repressed romance eventually breaking through with aplomb. Burger successfully keeps the audience on their toes regarding the mystery over Eisenheim and his talents. Is he really channeling something not of this world or not? That is where the effectiveness of this movie lies, in the intriguing mystery surrounding the eponymous magician. A huge highlight of The Illusionist has to be the sumptuous cinematography. It cloaks the movie in hues of burnt gold and shadows, enhancing the magical aura that Eisenheim brings and also the lavish but restricted lives of those in power. You couldn’t have asked for better cinematography for a film like this, it is that awe-inspiring to view as you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to turn of the century Vienna. A swirling score from Philip Glass gives romance to The Illusionist, while effectively giving us many pieces that enhance the overall mystery that hangs over Eisenheim.
In terms of acting, The Illusionist succeeds thanks to a talented cast giving their all to their roles. Heading the proceedings is the ever intense Edward Norton portraying the elusive Eisenheim. Filled with intelligence, passion and glints of mystery, Edward Norton has fun with the part that doesn’t reveal too much but just enough to keep us curious over whether Eisenheim is supernaturally talented or merely just a clever conjurer fooling his audience. The always reliable Paul Giamatti contributes nervous energy and a sense of conflicted loyalty as his character feels obliged to do the Prince’s bidding but is very curious about Eisenheim as well. Giamatti successfully blends those two components to make a great performance. I’ve spoken in the past about how Jessica Biel for a while didn’t do much for me as an actress. I always found she was in loads of action movies and not given enough to do. It’s then I realized that it wasn’t Biel I had the problem with, it was the films she was lumbered with. When given the right material she really flourishes and that’s exactly what she does in this movie. Luscious, composed and filled with an imprisoned desire, Biel makes quite an impression as Sophie; the object of affection who still carries a deep love for her childhood friend. Rounding out the impressive quartet of performers is Rufus Sewell as the sadistic and cruel Prince. Sewell emits this immediately slimy quality that makes the audience feel revulsion towards and he does it well.
Passionate and laced with enigmas, The Illusionist is well-crafted film making that gains power from striking visuals and stellar work from the cast.