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.

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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?

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Transformers: The Last Knight (dir by Michael Bay)


So, I’m just going to be honest here.

I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight.  I didn’t see it at the theaters, of course.  To date, I’ve only seen one Transformers movie on the big screen.  It was the fourth one and not only did I get motion sick but when I left the theater, I discovered that I was having trouble hearing.  Even though I watched Transformers: The Last Knight on a small screen, I still made sure to take some Dramamine beforehand.  That may have been a mistake because this movie somehow drags things out for 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That’s a lot of time to spend trying to stay awake while watching something that doesn’t even try to make sense.

So, yes, I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight but I’m not really sure what I watched.  I know that there was a lot of camera movement.  There was a lot of stuff blowing up.  Robots would fly into space.  Robots would return to Earth.  Robots turned into cars.  All of the robots spoke in these gravelly voices and half the time, I couldn’t really understand what they were saying.  Mark Wahlberg was around and he spent the entire movie with this kind of confused look on his face.  His Boston accent really came out whenever he had to deliver his dialogue.  One thing I’ve noticed about Wahlberg is that the less he cares about a movie, the more likely he is to go full Boston.  To be honest, if I just closed my eyes and listened to Wahlberg’s accent and tuned out all of the explosions and robot talk, I probably would have thought I was watching Manchester By The Sea.

Anthony Hopkins was also in the movie, playing a character who might as well have just been named “Esteemed British Person.”  It’s always fun to see Hopkins in a bad movie, just because he knows that his deserved reputation for being a great actor isn’t going to suffer no matter how much crap he appears in.  He always goes through these movies with a slightly bemused smirk on his face.  It’s almost as if he’s looking out at the audience and saying, “Laugh all you want.  I’ll still kick anyone’s ass when it comes to Shakespeare…”  Anyway, Hopkins is mostly around so that he can reveal that the Transformers have been on Earth since time began.  Why, they even saved King Arthur!

The plot has to do with a powerful staff that can be used to bring life back to the Transformers’s home planet.  The problem is that using the staff will also destroy all life on Earth or something like that.  So, of course, the good Transformers are trying to save Earth and the bad Transformers are like, “Fuck Earth, let’s blow stuff up.”  Or something like that.  The main good Transformer — Optimus Prime, I guess — gets brainwashed into becoming an evil Transformer.  Of course, since Anthony Hopkins is in the movie, the majority of the film takes place in England and that can only mean a trip to Stonehenge!

And…

Look, I’ve exhausted myself.  I’m not going to say that Transformers: The Last Knight is a terrible movie because, obviously, someone out there loves this stuff.  I mean, they’ve made five of these movies so someone has to be looking forward to them.  They’re not for me, though.

Some day, I hope Micheal Bay directs a Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  I look forward to watching Christian and Ana discuss consent while the world explodes behind them.

Back to School Part II #22: Three O’Clock High (dir by Phil Joanou)


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For the next entry in my back to school series of reviews, I want to say a few words about the 1987 comedy, Three O’Clock High.

I have no idea how Three O’Clock High did when it was originally released into theaters.  I know, I know — I could just look it up on Wikipedia or the imdb but I’m lazy and, besides, I hate that whole idea that box office success is somehow synonymous with quality.  That said, Three O’Clock High is one of those films that seems to be in a permanent cable rotation (seriously, it always seems to be playing somewhere and there’s always a few people on twitter talking about how excited they are about coming across it) and I kind of hope that it did well when it was originally released.  It’s an entertaining and genuinely funny little high school comedy.

Three O’Clock High tells the story of Jerry (Casey Siemaszko).  Jerry is a high school student, one of those kids who is a bit anonymous.  He’s kind of a nerd but so much of a nerd that he painfully sticks out of the crowd at this school.

You know who does stick out of the crowd?  Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson).  Buddy is the new kid at school.  He’s a big, hulking, and rather intimidating figure and he comes with quite a fearsome repuations.  All anyone can talk about are the stories that they’ve heard about Buddy’s dangerous past.  The one thing that the rumors all have in common is that Buddy does not like to be touched.  In fact, it appears that his aversion to being touched has made him the most dangerous high school student in the country.

The first hour of Jerry’s school day is spent working at the school newspaper and, of course, his teacher has a bright idea.  Why not welcome Buddy to the school by interviewing him!?  Sure, why not!?  Everyone loves to be interviewed!  And why not get Jerry to do the interview?

The problem is that Buddy doesn’t want to be interviewed.  And, once he realizes that Buddy not only doesn’t want to talk to him but is actually getting rather annoyed with him (this may be because Jerry chooses to approach Buddy in the boy’s bathroom), Jerry asks Buddy to forget that he even bothered him and then reaches over and punches him on the arm.

Of course, this leads to Buddy announcing that he and Jerry are going to have a fight.  At 3 pm.  In the school parking lot…

The rest of the film plays out like a surrealistic, teen-centered parody of High Noon, with Jerry desperately trying to figure out a way to avoid the fight.  He tries to frame Buddy by placing a switchblade in his locker, just to have Buddy use the knife to disable his car, effectively trapping Jerry at the school.  He tries to help Buddy cheat on a test.  He tries to get the principal to kick him out of school.  He even tries bribery!

But ultimately, three o’clock arrives and Jerry must face his destiny…

Three O’Clock High is cheerfully cartoonish and rather entertaining little film.  Director Phil Joanou pays homage to a countless number of other films, often framing the high school action like a Spaghetti western stand-off and, when the final fight arrives, it’s just as wonderfully over-the-top and silly as you could hope for.  Casey Siemaszko, who was also in Secret Admirer, is perfectly cast as Jerry and Richard Tyson is both funny and intimidating as Buddy.  Meanwhile, ineffectual adults are played by everyone from Philip Baker Hall to Jeffrey Tambor to Mitch Pileggi.  There’s a not a subtle moment to be found in Three O’Clock High but the relentless stylization definitely works to the film’s advantage.

I’d keep an eye out for the next time that Three O’Clock High shows up on Showtime.  It’s an entertaining film about teens doing what teens have to do.

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.6 “My Struggle II”


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(WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.)

I have to admit that, after I finished watching the finale of The X-Files “revival,” I felt totally and completely confused.  I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I wondered if maybe, as a relatively new viewer of The X-Files, I simply did not have the necessary background information to follow the episode’s plot.  And then I wondered if maybe I just had not been paying enough attention while I was watching.  Maybe I was too ADD to follow an episode of The X-Files…

So, I rewatched the episode.  I made sure to sit right in front of the TV and to turn on the closed captioning so that I would be able to understand what everyone was mumbling about.  During the second viewing, I came to understand just why exactly I had been so confused.  To say that the editing of My Struggle II was ragged would be an understatement.  It was often difficult to figure out how much time had passed between scenes or where the characters were in relation to one another.  The whole episode felt as if it had been haphazardly constructed, with scenes randomly tossed together.  But then again, that’s been true of the entire season.  Even the better episodes have shared that ragged quality.  The parts, as good as they have occasionally been, have rarely added up to a coherent whole.  I imagine that, if you were a fan of The X-Files before the revival, you might have enough of an emotional commitment, in Mulder and Scully as characters, that you can overlook the revival’s weaker moments.  But for a new viewer, like me, it can get frustrating.

This has been a very uneven season.  Season 10 was made up of 6 episodes, each of which seemed to have a totally different tone and outlook from the other.  There’s been one great episode (Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster), one terrible episode (My Struggle), one mediocre episode (Babylon), and two episodes that were above average but nothing special (Founder’s Mutation, Home Again).  For the first 40 minutes or so, I thought that My Struggle II would be another mediocre episode.  But, towards the very end, things started to get better.  After spending most of the episode separated from each other, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson finally got to share a scene.  (The only time that Duchovny and Anderson seem truly invested in their roles is when they’re playing off of each other.  Each brings out the best in the other.)  And the scene ended with a cliffhanger that was so batshit crazy that, almost despite my better instincts, I found myself saying, “Yes, give us a season 11 because I have to know what just happened!”

And really, thank God for that cliffhanger.  A good final scene can make up for so much.  My Struggle II opens with Mulder missing and, it’s a sign of that ragged editing that I mentioned earlier, that I wasn’t sure how long he had been missing or who exactly was aware that he was missing.  It turns out that Mulder’s missing because he’s busy driving to South Carolina so he can confront the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), the big villain from the show’s original run.  Apparently, the CSM is aware that humanity is about to be wiped out by an alien plague but he has a cure and he wants Mulder to join him and a few others that he has judged worthy of survival.

Meanwhile, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) is back!  When we last heard, Tad had vanished and his web site had been shut down.  And yet, at the start of this episode, Tad has suddenly returned and his web site is once again active.  No mention is made of where O’Malley has been and nobody — not even Scully — seems to be curious about the details.  Maybe O’Malley was never really missing in the first place.  It’s hard to tell with this show.

Anyway, the main reason that Tad shows up is so that he can announce, during his podcast, that humanity’s DNA has been corrupted with alien DNA and, as a result, everyone is essentially a walking time bomb.  This, of course, leads to rioting in the streets which is … odd.  I mean, let’s be honest.  He may look like Joel McHale and his show may be surprisingly well-produced but, ultimately, Tad is just a guy with a podcast.  As I watched the original world react to Tad’s podcast, it occurred to me that Season 10 may be airing in 2016 but it still has a 2002 sensibility.

Working with Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), Scully is able to use her DNA to create a cure for the virus.  I’m not sure how that works but, in all fairness to The X-Files, this may be one of those plot points that would make more sense to me if I had watched more of the previous seasons of the show.  By this point, Mulder has returned from confronting the CSM and is on the verge of dying from the virus.  Scully announces that, in order to cure Mulder, they have to get DNA from their son William but she’s not sure where he is and…

AND THAT’S WHEN A BIG OLD FLYING SAUCER APPEARS IN THE SKY ABOVE!

And, as frustrated as I had been with My Struggle II, I cheered a little when that UFO showed up.  Ever since this revival started, I have been predicting that William would return.  Now, I don’t know for sure who is in that flying saucer but seriously, it has to be William, doesn’t it?  I mean, who else would it be?  As frustrated as I have often been with The X-Files, I ended My Struggle II wanting a season 11 because I want to know who is in that flying saucer.

And, ultimately, I guess that has to be counted as a point in the show’s favor.  When a show can be as flawed as The X-Files has been this season and still leave the viewer hoping for more, that has to be considered a success of some sort.

So, my final verdict on My Struggle II: Uneven but intriguing when it mattered.  I think the same can be said of Season 10 as a whole.

Will The X-Files return for an 11th season?  Well, if it doesn’t, there will be a lot of disappointed people on twitter.  Assuming the show does return and that William is on that flying saucer, can we all start calling him “Sculder?”

Seriously, I’ve been trying to make Sculder a thing for a while now…

A Few Thoughts On … The X-Files 1.1 (“My Struggle”)


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Tonight, after a football game that apparently everyone but me was super excited about, the first episode of The X-Files revival premiered on Fox.  The episode was called My Struggle, I watched it, and now I’m going to offer up just a few thoughts on it.

Why just a few?

Well, first off, it’s just the first of six episodes.  As I watched tonight, I had to keep reminding myself that My Struggle was just the first episode and you really can’t say much about a show based on just the first episode.  My Struggle felt rushed but then again, it had a lot to do.  It had to reintroduce Mulder and Scully, it had to lay the foundation for the rest of the series, it had to introduce a few new characters, and it had to leave the audience intrigued enough to actually watch the 2nd episode.  It was a balancing act that My Struggle often struggled to maintain but I’ve also been told, by people who have claimed to have seen it, that tomorrow’s episode is going to be a lot better.

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So, I am going to try to put off passing judgment on The X-Files until I at least see that second episode.  When you’re a critic, putting off judgment goes against your every natural instinct but that’s what I am going to try to do.

I should also admit that, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I am hardly an expert on The X-Files.  I’ve seen reruns but I didn’t watch the show regularly when it originally aired.  When I think of The X-Files, my first thought will always be laughing at the opening of the first movie, which featured a kid falling into an underground cave in North Texas.  (As a resident of North Texas, I can assure you that we don’t have caves and the last thing you’re going to see in Dallas is a mountain on the horizon.)

My Struggle started out well.  I enjoyed the pre-credits scene, where David Duchovny explained everything that had happened in the past.  Along with telling us about the previous series, he also talked about the history of UFO sightings and Duchovny’s hypnotic delivery was perfect.

I was a bit less impressed with what immediately followed the credits.  The early scenes, of Mulder and Scully meeting talk show host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), felt extremely forced.  I found myself wondering how long I was going to have to listen to Mulder and O’Malley debate gun control.  The attempt at political satire was predictable and tedious.  But I stuck with it because … well, it’s Joel McHale.  Who doesn’t love Joel McHale?

For the first half of the episode, I was bored out of my mind.  It was too talky and all the mumbling was getting on my nerves.  Gillian Anderson — who was so brilliant in The Fall — seemed totally bored and I was not feeling any of that famous chemistry between her and Duchovny.

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But then, things started to get better.  O’Malley showed Mulder a flying saucer that had been made from alien technology and not only did Mulder get excited but the previously stone-faced David Duchovny finally started to show some emotion.  He got excited and his excitement was fun to watch.

And then we got a lengthy monologue from Tad O’Malley, one that basically explained how the military-industrial complex uses alien technology to secretly (and not-so-secretly) rule America and being the lover of history and conspiracy theories that I am, I was absolutely enthralled.  (Though, if the show really had guts, it would have featured a clip of Barack Obama during the conspiracy montage, to go along with the clip of George W. Bush.)  That monologue really saved the episode for me.

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In fact, as I watched, I realized that I may by a skeptic about many things but I am definitely pro-paranoia.  Paranoia makes for a better and more thrilling story and, hopefully, that’s what this new version of The X-Files will continue to focus on.

So, overall, this was a very uneven hour of television.  But I’m still definitely going to set the DVR to record the next episode.

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