TV Review: The X-Files 11.2 “This” (dir by Glen Morgan)


If nothing else, last night’s episode of The X-Files was definitely an improvement over the season premiere.

The whole thing started off with a bang, as a bunch of Russians showed up and tried to gun down Mulder and Scully.  It turns out that apparently, the Executive Branch has hired a Russian agency to handle America’s secret intelligence work.  The Russians can even give orders to the FBI.  Yes, it’s all about Trump and I’m sure the Resistance loved it while the majority of MAGA probably wasn’t watching The X-Files to begin with.  Speaking for myself, as a fairly nonpartisan reviewer, I stopped being shocked by Russian villains a long time ago.  At this point, whenever a mobster or a mercenary shows up in a movie or TV show, I always expect to hear a Russian accent before they even open their mouth.

Anyway, as Skinner explains, the fact that the Executive Branch now hates the FBI is going to make it even more difficult for Mulder and Scully to do their thing.  I’m not really sure how much I agree with Skinner on that, though.  If there’s anything that quickly became apparent about these Russian mercenaries, it was just how totally inept they were at their job.  They literally blew up Mulder and Scully’s apartment and yet, Mulder and Scully still escaped without a scratch.  Later, another Russian assassin popped up and, even though he had the element of surprise on his side, he still couldn’t manage to hit either one of them.  Part of me hopes that the Russian ineptness was deliberate on the part of the show.  That would be the ultimate joke, wouldn’t it?  The Russians aren’t even good at their job and they still managed to secretly take over the country.

When Mulder and Scully weren’t running from the Russians, they were dealing Langley, an old friend who, despite having been dead for 16 years, still kept appearing on Mulder’s phone and asking if Mulder was there.  It turns out that Langley, like a lot of geniuses, arranged for his consciousness to be transported into a simulated world after his death.  However, it turns out that the simulation is actually a prison where people like Steve Jobs are being used for slave labor.

It also turned out, of course, that Erika Price (the great Barbara Hershey) was the one behind both the Russians and the dead slave labor.  She explained that every time you use an iPhone, a piece of your mind is scanned and stolen.  When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

Last night’s episode was all about paranoia, which is one reason why I enjoyed it.  Admittedly, things did get off to a somewhat shaky start with the whole shoot out between Mulder, Scully, and the Russians, which was so haphazardly edited that I was worried I was going to get carsick just from watching it.  But, after that, the episode became a deliberately paced mediation of darkness, death, and a paranoia.  The extended sequence where Mulder and Scully explored the shadowy National Cemetery was brilliantly handled.  As I watched, I was very much aware that there was undoubtedly a secret behind every tombstone.

That said, the main reason that last night’s episode worked was because of the playful chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  The main problem with the premiere — well, one of them — is that Duchovny and Anderson didn’t have many scenes together.  Instead, Anderson spent almost the entire episode is the hospital while Duchovny spent his time driving through tobacco country.  Last night, though, Duchovny and Anderson were together in nearly every scene and their banter was the best thing about the show.

As I watched last night’s episode, I was able to understand why so many people love The X-Files.  It’s not the conspiracies.  It’s not even the monsters.  Instead, it’s all about the way that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bounces lines off of each other.  Here’s hoping that the rest of the season understands this as well.

TV Review: The X-Files 11.1 “My Struggle III” (dir by Chris Carter)


Well, let’s get this over with…

(Seriously, if I ever get tired of “Stay supple!,” that’ll probably be my new catch phrase…)

As you my remember, way back in 2016, I reviewed the 10th season of The X-Files.  With the exception of the episode that featured Rhys Darby, I didn’t care much for it.   In fact, the episode that was set in Texas almost drove me to throw a shoe at the TV.  However, the 10th season did end with a big cliffhanger and, since I hate the idea of a story going unfinished, I knew I would have to watch the 11th season whenever it premiered.  And I also knew that I’d have to review it because that’s what I do.

Well, tonight, the 11th season premiered.  Armed with as much knowledge as one can hope to gain from scanning Wikipedia, I twice watched My Struggle III.

The episode began with a lengthy monologue from the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), in which he talked about how, if the American people knew about what was truly going on in the darkest corners of the government, there would be riots in the streets.  Personally, I love conspiracy theories and I’m generally opposed to all forms of controlling legal authority so I enjoyed that part of the show.   The episode managed to work footage of every U.S. President except for Obama into the opening conspiracy montage.  Personally, if I had edited the show, I would snuck Obama in there just to mess with people and their expectations.  But that’s just me!

Anyway, as much fun as that little conspiracy monologue may have been, I was more concerned with how the show was going to deal with the fact that the world literally ended at the end of season 10.  Well, it was quickly revealed that nothing that happened during My Struggle II actually happened.  Instead, it was all just a vision that Scully had.  Apparently, it’s a premonition of what will happen unless Mulder … does something.

Does what exactly?  I’m not sure and, to be honest, I’m not really sure that the show does either.  I understand that this episode is meant to be part of a bigger mythology and, as a result, it was supposed to be a bit open-ended.  However, as I watched My Struggle III, I got the feeling that the episode was mostly just something that was hastily whipped up so that the show could do away with season 10’s disastrous finale.  And it was hard not to feel that, narratively, the show took the easy way out.

The majority of the episode was made up of Mulder driving his car from location to location, searching for the Cigarette Smoking Man.  This led to Mulder breaking into a mansion and having a conversation with Mr. Y (Alexandre Campion) and Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) about aliens and the secret history of the world.  To be honest, it was kind of boring and it didn’t really hold my attention.

Meanwhile, the Cigarette Smoking Man and Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish) were having a conversation with Skinner (Mitch Pileggi).  During the conversation, the Cigarette Smoking Man revealed that he, and not Mulder, is the true father of Scully’s son, William.

And twitter exploded in rage.

Don’t fear, twitter!  There’s always a good chance that next week’s episode will open with the Cigarette Smoking Man revealing that he actually isn’t the father or maybe it’ll just turn out that someone else was having a vision.  By dismissing season 10’s cliffhanger as just being a dream (or a vision or premonition or whatever), The X-Files has reminded us that nothing on the show actually means anything.  Who needs to maintain continuity or narrative integrity when you can just shrug and say, “Well, y’see, it’s all a part of the conspiracy…”

(As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself thinking about Twin Peaks: The Return.  No matter how weird or convoluted Twin Peaks got, I still never doubted that David Lynch did have a definite destination in mind.  That’s not a feeling that I got from tonight’s episode of The X-Files.)

Now, here’s the good news!  I have heard, from people who I trust, that the upcoming episodes are nothing like the premiere.  Apparently, the premiere was one of those “we have to do it” things.  The upcoming episode will be stand-alone episodes, much like the one where Mulder met the Were-Monster.

So, with that in mind, I will tune in next week to see if episode 2 is any better than episode 1.

Will you?

A Movie A Day #353: The Public Eye (1992, directed by Howard Franklin)


New York in the 1940s.  Leon “Bernzy” Bernstein (Joe Pesci) is nearly a legend in the city, a freelance news photographer with a police radio in his car and a darkroom in his trunk.  Bernzy is a solitary man who lives for his work, the type who has many acquaintances but few friends.  He gets the pictures that no one else can get but his dream of seeing a book published of his photographs seems to be unattainable.  As more than one snobbish publisher tells him, tabloid photographs are not art.

Bernzy is invited to a meeting with Kay Levitz (Barbara Hershey).  Kay is the widow of one of Bernzy’s few friends.  She has inherited a nightclub but now a mysterious man is claiming to be a former partner of her husband and says that he owns half of the club.  She asks Bernzy to discover who the man is.  Bernzy agrees and soon finds himself a suspect in a murder.  Even as Bernzy tries to clear his name, he never stop looking for the perfect shot.

Joe Pesci made this neo noir shortly after winning an Oscar for GoodfellasThe Public Eye was an attempt to elevate Pesci from being a character actor to a leading man.  It may not have accomplished that but it is still one of the better neo noirs of the 90s.  Howard Franklin does such a good job of recreating the style of film noir that the movie seems like it’s in black-and-white even though it’s in color and Barbara Hershey is perfectly cast as a sultry femme fatale.  The tough but eccentric Bernzy turns out to be a perfect role for Joe Pesci, who gives one of his best performances.  This overlooked film is one to watch for.

A Movie A Day #259: Take This Job And Shove It (1981, directed by Gus Trikonis)


Originally from a small town in Iowa, Frank Macklin (Robert Hays) is a hotshot young executive with The Ellison Group.  When Frank is assigned to manage and revitalize a failing brewery in his hometown, it is a chance for Frank to rediscover his roots.  His childhood friends (played by actors like David Keith, Tim Thomerson, and Art Carney) may no longer trust him now that Frank wears a tie but it only takes a few monster truck rallies and a football game in a bar for Frank to show that he is still one of them.  However, Frank discovers that the only reason that he was sent to make the brewery profitable was so that his bosses could sell it to a buffoonish millionaire who doesn’t know the first thing about how to run a business.  Will Frank stand by while his bosses screw over the hardworking men and women of the heartland?  Or will he say, “You can take this job and shove it?”

Named after a country music song and taking place almost entirely in places stocked with beer, Take This Job And Shove It is a celebration of all things redneck.  This movie is so redneck in nature that a major subplot involves monster trucks.  Bigfoot, one of the first monster trucks, gets plenty of screen time and, in some advertisements, was given higher billing than Art Carney.

A mix of low comedy and sentimental drama, Take This Job And Shove It is better than it sounds.  In some ways, it is a prescient movie: the working class frustrations and the anger at being forgotten in a “booming economy” is the same anger that, 35 years later, would be on display during the election of 2016.  Take This Job And Shove It also has an interesting and talented cast, most of whom rise above the thinly written dialogue.  Along with Hays, Keith, Thomerson, Bigfoot, and Carney, keep an eye out for: Eddie Albert, Royal Dano, James Karen, Penelope Milford, Virgil Frye, George “Goober” Lindsey, and Barbara Hershey (who, as usual, is a hundred times better than the material she has to work with).

One final note: Martin Mull plays Hays’s corporate rival.  His character is named Dick Ebersol.  Was that meant to be an inside joke at the expense of the real Dick Ebersol, who has the executive producer of Saturday Night Live when Take This Job and Shove It was filmed and who later became the president of NBC Sports?

A Movie A Day #125: Diamonds (1975, directed by Menahem Golan)


Originally, for today’s entry in Movie A Day, I was hoping to follow up my review of Mad Dog Coll by reviewing Hit The Dutchman.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a review-worthy copy of Hit The Dutchman so, instead, I am going to review another film that was directed by Menahem Golan, Diamonds.

Filmed and set in Golan’s home country of Israel, Diamonds is a heist film.  Richard Roundtree is Archie, an experienced thief who has just been released from prison.  Sally (Barbara Hershey, though she was known as Barbara Seagull when she made this movie) is Archie’s girlfriend.  Robert Shaw plays  Charles Hodgman, the businessman who recruits Roundtree to help him break into a vault located in the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange Center.  The twist is that the vault was designed by Charles’s twin brother, Earl.  Earl is also played by Robert Shaw and the two of them have an intense sibling rivalry.  If you have ever wanted to see Robert Shaw fight himself in a karate match, Diamonds is the film to see!

(In true Golan fashion, Shaw wears a puffy wig whenever he is supposed to be Earl.)

If he had not died, in 1978, at the tragically young age of 51, Robert Shaw would probably be known as one of our greatest actors.  As it is, he will always be remembered for playing Quint in Jaws and Red Grant in From Russia With Love.  (I am also a fan of his performance in the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.)  Diamonds is typical of the many films in which Shaw was better than what he had to work with.  He gives two good performances but even he is occasionally overshadowed by the swaggering cool and floppy hats of Richard Roundtree.  As for Barbara Seagull/Hershey, she was, as always, beautiful but she had little to do (which was a common problem for her until she rebooted her career with her performance in The Stunt Man).  Shelley Winters is also in this movie, providing tepid comic relief as an American tourist.  (It’s typical of the type of roles in which, following her performance in The Poseidon Adventure, Winters got typecast.)

Barbara Hershey’s beautiful.  Richard Roundtree’s cool.  Robert Shaw is Robert Shaw.  The Israeli location distinguishes it from similar heist films.  The plot may be implausible and the dialogue may be weak but, just as he did with Get Carter, Roy Budd offers up a great score.  Diamonds is typical of many Golan films.  It’s not good but it is damn entertaining.

A Movie A Day #68: Hoosiers (1986, directed by David Anspaugh)


I’m back!

Even though it has only been a week since I last did a movie a day, I feel like I’ve been gone forever.  Thank you to everyone who commented or messaged me while I was gone.  It turned out that I just had a bad sinus infection.  It was painful as Hell but, with the help of antibiotics and the greatest care in the world, I’m recovering.

Last week, I asked if anyone had any suggestions for what the 68th movie a day should be.  Case suggested Hoosiers and so it shall be.

In 1951, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) arrives in the small Indiana town of Hickory.  He is a former college basketball coach who has been hired to coach the high school’s perennially struggling basketball team.  Emphasizing the fundamentals and demanding discipline from his players, Dale struggles at first with both the team and the townspeople.  When he makes an alcoholic former basketball star named Shooter (Dennis Hopper) an assistant coach, he nearly loses his job.  Eventually, though, the Hickory team starts winning and soon, this small town high school is playing for the state championship against highly favored South Bend High School.

For many people, Hoosiers is not just “a basketball movie.”  Instead, it is the basketball movie, the movie by which all other sport films are judged.  Hoosiers is inspired by a true story.  In 1954, small town Milan High School did defeat Muncie for the Indiana State Championship and they did it by two points.  Otherwise, Hoosiers is heavily fictionalized and manages to include almost every sports film cliché that has ever existed.  How good a coach is Norman Dale, really?  Almost every game that Hickory wins is won by only one basket.

Why, then, is Hoosiers a classic?  Much of it is due to director David Anspaugh’s attention to period and detail.  Some of it is due to Gene Hackman, who gives a tough and unsentimental performance.  Whenever Hoosiers starts to cross the line from sentimental to maudlin, Hackman is there to pull it back to reality with a gruff line delivery.  Even his romance with the one-note anti-basketball teacher (Barbara Hershey) works.  Hickory feels like a real place, with a real history and inhabited by real people.

And then there’s Dennis Hopper.  Along with Blue Velvet, Hoosiers was Hopper’s comeback film.  After spending twenty years lost in the Hollywood wilderness, better known for abusing drugs and shooting guns than acting, Hopper had just come out of rehab when he was offered the role of Shooter.  Amazingly, he turned the role down and told the producers to offer it to his friend, Harry Dean Stanton.

According to Peter L. Winkler’s Dennis Hopper: Portrait of an American Rebel, this is what happened next:

Stanton (who, ironically, was also considered for Hopper’s role in Blue Velvet) called Hopper up and asked, “Aren’t you from Kansas?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t you have a hoop on your barn?”

“Yeah.”

“I think you may be the guy that David Anspaugh’s looking for.”

Harry Dean Stanton was right.  Dennis Hopper, still very much in recovery, totally inhabited the role of the alcoholic Shooter and gave one of the best performances of his often underrated career.  Both Shooter and the actor playing him surprised everyone by doing a good job and Hopper received his only Oscar nomination for acting for his performance in Hoosiers.  (He had previously been nominated for co-writing Easy Rider.)

You don’t have to like basketball to enjoy the Hell out of Hoosiers.

Insomnia File No. 6: Frogs For Snakes (dir by Amos Poe)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

220px-Frogs_for_Snakes

If you were suffering from insomnia last night, at around two a.m., you could have turned over to Flix and watched the 1998 film Frogs For Snakes.

And if you were suffering from insomnia, watching Frogs For Snakes would probably have been a good idea because this film is amazingly dull.  In fact, I am not sure that I have the words to express to you just how tedious Frogs For Snakes truly was.  It may be necessary for me to go back to school and learn how to speak in a dead language in order for me to express the boredom that I felt while watching Frogs For Snakes.

And yes, I realize that I’m talking about an obscure film that was released nearly 20 years ago and it might seem kind of petty to, at this late date, make a big deal about how terrible this film was.

But seriously, Frogs For Snakes was really, really bad.  In fact, it was disturbing to think that a film this bad could have actually been made.  It was even more disturbing to consider that this film was apparently given a theatrical release and, all these years later, still pops up on cable so that it can proudly display its overwhelming mediocrity.

Now, I’m going to tell you what Frogs For Snakes is about and you’re going to think, “That actually sounds like it might be kind of interesting.”  Don’t be fooled!  The film may sound interesting but it’s not.

Frogs for Snakes takes place in a stylized, neo-noir version of New York City.  Eva Santana (Barbara Hershey) is an aging actress who claims to have quit the business, though it’s clear that it’s more a case of the business quitting her.  She talks about leaving New York and raising her son in a better environment.  However, until she gets around to leaving, she’s making ends meet by working as a waitress at a diner owned by the kind-hearted Quint (Ian Hart).  And, of course, when she’s not waitressing, she’s working as a debt collector for her ex-husband, a loan shark named Al Santana (Robbie Coltrane).

That’s right, this actress has a gun and she uses it frequently.  However, because Eva is good at heart, she rarely kills anyone.  Instead, she just shoots them in the foot and tells them to pay back their loans while they lay on the floor and scream in agony.  (All that agonized screaming got pretty old after a while.)

As for Al, he’s not just a loan shark.  He’s a theatrical impressario.  He’s planning on putting on a production of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.  He promises his driver a role in American Buffalo on the condition that the driver assassinate Eva’s new boyfriend (John Leguizamo, of course).

Soon, actors all over New York are literally killing to get a role in Al’s play.  Meanwhile, Eva just wants to retire and get out of New York but first, she has to do one last job for Al…

In between all the killing, the characters frequently launch into monologues that have been lifted from other films.  John Leguizamo does a Brando imitation.  Lisa Marie (Tim Burton’s ex, not yours truly) delivers the cuckoo clock speech from The Third Man.  A suggestion for aspiring filmmakers: if you’re going to make a bad film, don’t remind your audience that they could be watching The Third Man instead.

Anyway, the plot sounds interesting but none of the potentially intriguing ideas are explored.  I imagine that the film was meant to be a satire of Off-Broadway ruthlessness but ultimately, the film is just another tediously violent indie film from the 90s.  This is one of those movies where nobody can do anything without spending an excessive amount of time talking about it beforehand and, when things do turn violent, it’s the worst type of quirky, sadistic, drawn-out, “look how crazy we are” violence.

There’s a scene towards the end of the film where Al shoots a group of people in a bar.  This is intercut with clips from the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin.  As Al leave, he shoots the TV showing Battleship Potemkin and, I have to say, that really annoyed me.  Seriously, just as a bad filmmaker should not remind people that they could be watching The Third Man, he shouldn’t invite them to compare his film to Battleship Potemkin unless he’s willing to back up the comparison.  When Al shot the TV, I found myself hoping that Sergei Eisenstein would pop up and shoot him.

Frogs for Snakes is one of the worst films that I’ve ever seen.  It may, in fact, be the worst but I would need to rewatch Ted 2 before I said that for sure.  But, if you have insomnia, Frogs For Snakes will at least put you to sleep.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice