Thursday, January 18, 2007

The X-Files Season Five

Review by Garnet Brooks

By Season Five the long running series had developed a complex mythology about aliens and governmental conspiracies. These themes are developed across the years at times becoming so intricate that only loyal viewers could easily understand them. At the end of Season Four the X-Files project is being discredited and Mulder is presumed dead.

Season Five begins with a two part-episode. The action is picked up where the last season cliffhanger left off. In it Mulder seems to be dead. Having been surveilled by a man upstairs, Mulder has found the location of the surveillance and confronted the man. This man who is an employee of the Department of Defense is then killed in a struggle. Mulder places the body in his own apartment and asks Scully to lie to her superiors gaining the pair a little more time to investigate. Another government employee named Kritschgau has become a whistleblower and is instrumental in convincing Mulder that the alien invasion theory is a lie and that a supposed alien body is actually the fulcrum of a hoax. While Scully has cellular material tested Mulder goes to a DOD facility looking for a cure and he finds multiple alien bodies which appear to be housing growing alien embryos. Scully finds that the cellular material is a chimera hybrid which is neither plant nor animal and is not identifiable. Mulder finds a sample labeled with Scully's name hidden among many others and delivers the sample to his three friends who publish the Lone Gunman magazine. Mulder makes it known that he is not dead. He returns to find that Scully is hospitalized and near death. Mulder finds that a chip is in the container he found and that it may be the cure for her cancer. He persuades her to try implanting the chip. For whatever reasons, Scully's cancer goes into remission.

This season begins with speculation about whether or not the aliens are real. What emerges across the season is the nature of the alien physiology. Often in the series the thing in question is glimpsed briefly and is vague, half-hidden, or ambiguous. But the aliens are real-they just have a complex etiology and genealogy. They are transmitted in black oil. They can grow in a human host. They have more than one stage of adult development. By the season's end we see that there is actually a way of communicating with them. This is through a little boy named Gibson Praise, a boy who is telepathic. He can read their thoughts. For this reason he is extremely important to the Smoking Man who schemes to take him for the leaders of the governmental conspiracy to use as an experimental subject. When Mulder and Scully find the child he is guarded and hidden away. But while a friend of Mulder's, Diana Fowley, is guarding Gibson she is shot and seriously wounded. Gibson is taken. Through an intricate set of maneuvers, the Smoking Man is able to discredit Mulder and Scully and by season's end the X-Files are shut down.

This season is one which contains a number of extremely good stand alone episodes. One of those is "Unusual Suspects." This episode is a flashback to 1989 where Mulder first encounters the three men known as the Lone Gunmen. The episode is focused on Byers, the most traditional of the three. We see Byers in a three piece suit attending a trade show as a representative of the FCC. He is enamored of a mysterious blond named Susanne Modeski. She tricks him into hacking into a governmental database and retrieving and decoding a secret document. She persuades Byers that Mulder is a psychotic and abusive ex-boyfriend who has kidnapped her child. The child is nonexistent. Modeski is really a chemist who has fled a top secret project when she finds that they plan to use her work to harm the public. A newly developed drug which makes people paranoid is to be tested on a sample of the population by distributing the medication in asthma inhalers. Modeski is able to persuade Mulder and the trio to help her find the shipment of dangerous chemicals. There is a showdown in the warehouse in which they are stored. Two mysterious men threaten Mulder then try to kill him. Modeski shoots them. In the process some of the medication is released causing Mulder to hallucinate. A clean up squad comes in taking the evidence away leaving the trio standing there alive. Modeski flees. Mulder and the trio are picked up by the police where the trio spend time in a jail cell till Mulder is well enough to verify their story and get them out. Byers sees Modeski one last time as she is attempting to get newspapers to print her account of the whole incident. As she leaves the men who were responsible for the clean up take her away in a car leaving Byers with his regrets. This is the beginning of the friendship between Mulder and the trio and is apparently the point in time that he changes directions looking into conspiracy theories and a little later finding the X-Files.

Another great stand alone episode in the season is "The Post-Modern Prometheus." This is one of the darkly comic episodes that punctuate the X-Files gloom from time to time. It is the story of a mad scientist type called Dr. Pollidori in homage to Mary Shelly who wrote Frankenstein. This silver haired scientist is played by John O'Hurley. His experiments in genetics have produced a mutated human whose distorted appearance makes him a social outcast. He lives in secret in his grandfather's basement. The grandfather loves him and protects him. The local people see glimpses of the boy from time to time. One of them Issy Berkowits a budding comic book writer and illustrator has already immortalized him as "The Great Mutato" in his comic book. Mutato is obsessed with Cher probably because of her role in the movie Mask. In this film she is a good mother to a boy whose appearance is like that of Mutato's. He craves a mother like this but has only his grandfather. In a very unrealistic fairy tale scenario Mutato impregnates lonely childless women including Issy's mother presumably because Issy is eighteen and about to leave her. Its tragic-comic plot mirrors the plot of Frankenstein, at least the film versions of it. Done in black and white, it evokes the feel of those early films. The plot builds to a conclusion as an angry mob pursues Mutato to his grandfather's barn where instead of burning the monster they decide he is not so bad after all. Mulder's character insists that the sad ending which must necessarily include loneliness and isolation for Mutato be rewritten. Issy is the ostensible author inside the story and its real author Chris Carter makes a nicer ending-one in which Mutato gets to go with the FBI agents and some of the townsfolk to a real live Cher concert. At least briefly, the mutant gets a good mom.

These two outstanding episodes are not the only ones in the season. Other stand alone episodes include "Kill Switch," "Bad Blood," "Mind's Eye," and "All Souls." Each of these deserves repeated viewing. "Kill Switch" is a cyberpunk episode authored by William Gibson. In it a cyber vixen named "Visigoth" is part of a plan to create a cyber intelligence. It becomes willful and gets loose on the net. "Bad Blood" is a rarity in the X-Files universe: it is a vampire tale. Scully becomes fascinated by the sheriff vampire played by Luke Wilson. "Mind's Eye" is about a blind woman played by Lilli Taylor. "All Souls" is a venture into Scully's Catholicism and in some ways echoes the themes developed in the second season of Millennium, also a Chris Carter creation.

The DVD boxed set of this year contains the usual features. The commentary is quite good especially Carter's. This is the year that precedes the X-Files movie. It takes up where the last episode leaves off and by the beginning of Season Six the FBI agents' artic adventure is over leaving them to try again to explain to their superiors why they believe in little grey men.

The Magrit Collection

Review by Garnet Brooks

This is a twelve episode multi-disc DVD set produced by Granada Television in conjunction with PBS. Its star is Michael Gambon as the French detective Maigret. The series is an adaptation of some of the detective novels of Georges Simenon.

The series has a somewhat gritty, noir feel. It is set in the 1940's with its characteristic dress and hats that one sees in the American noir detective novels of authors like Raymond Chandler. Everyone smokes and drinks a lot. The sets are often dark and evoke a sense of black and white films despite the fact that it is filmed for television and in color. Paris itself is a character in the series. We see grand and decrepit city buildings with their tall ceilings, elaborate decor and peeling paint. The elevators are all metal cages being hoisted by chain and pulley. Stores are small family businesses with tins stacked in the windows. Jewelry stores display their exquisitely expensive wares right there in the front windows all the easier for the unexpected smash and grab.

Maigret is happily married to a lovely wife who stays home and takes care of him seeing to it that his appearance is always natty at least at the beginning of the day. He wears that hat that all the noir forties men seem to wear. Maigret himself is in his early fifties. He has balding scalp and a bit of a pudge to prove it. Madame Maigret is played by two different actresses. The first is too stereotypical and unemotional. The second incarnation of Madame Maigret is played by Barbara Flynn with a greater degree of warmth and liveliness.

Though Maigret has a happy home life he lives with the down and outs in his professional life. Paris is full of murder and thieving gangs and unlucky women who are no better than they should be. Maigret is no snob and he hobnobs with suspects in a way that sometimes displeases his superior. He even befriends them though this does not stand in the way of defeating them. Though he is a Chief Inspector, Maigret has trouble delegating work to his men and often goes himself to the bar or den of this or that iniquity to question the suspects himself. His men are quite loyal to him. The French police have much broader powers than American ones so that the suspects have few actual rights when they are being investigated. If they are not forthcoming enough Maigret is not above threatening to ruin their businesses to get them to talk. Maigret seems to be a rather famous policeman in the Montmartre district and desperate people are forever showing up on his doorstep pleading to talk to him and only him.

One of the best episodes is "Maigret and the Maid." The maid in question is a girl named Felice. The episode is set in Jeanneville not Paris. Maigret comes to this small town by invitation to investigate the murder of a man named Jules Lapie. The elderly man has been killed. He was living with Felice whom the villagers call his housemaid but she seems to be like a daughter to him and he leaves her everything in his will. Felice will not cooperate with Maigret and she frustrates as well as amuses him. The episode is more of a character study. It is short on plot development and the actual culprit's motivation and involvement are not the most sterling of detective fiction's creations.

In one episode we see a nightclub dancer Arlette (Minnie Driver) who comes to plead for help. The detectives on duty sends her away and she is killed before Inspector Maigret can speak with her. Arlette has been dancing as a stripper at the Picratt Club and she is one of the types of people who often frequent Simeon's stories. One of the junior inspectors named Javier has become fond of her and thinks she is an innocent trapped in circumstances beyond her control. Arlette's identity begins to emerge as Maigret purses her murderer. One suspect is a sinister man named Oscar who has known Arlette since she was quite young. She accidentally entered his orbit and Oscar does not allow women to leave him.

The DVD boxed set contains notes about both author Georges Simenon and actor Michael Gambon. There is a quote in the notes from Simenon in which he says he was lucky to get away from his surroundings and felt that had he not he might have become an unlucky denizen like the ones he creates for Maigret to investigate. As it was he became instead a reporter on the police beat and a prolific author of over eighty Maigret novels.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The X-Files Season Three

Review by Garnet Brooks

By its third season The X-Files had a dedicated fan base and was doing well in the ratings for its network Fox. It also had been nominated for several Emmy awards. The series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as a pair of FBI agents investigating the paranormal. They are Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The unlikely pair strike up a friendship. Mulder is the believer and bears the scars from a childhood trauma: his sister was kidnapped when they were children and presumably she was abducted by aliens. Mulder morns and he searches for his lost sibling. He has found a group of files that obsess him. Scully who was sent to spy on him has the integrity to take each case seriously though she does not share Mulder's beliefs. She sees scientific explanations where Mulder sees wonder.

At the beginning of season three it appears that Mulder is dead. He was last seen at the end of season two in a buried railway car which "the Smoking Man" then sets on fire. It seems impossible that Mulder could have survived. In the first episode of season three ("The Blessing Way"), one of the Navaho Native Americans spots something unusual. The boy and several others find Mulder underneath a rock in a shallow cavern. Mulder is almost dead and is in a coma. He is taken to a sacred place and the Navaho begin a ceremony in which he encounters spirit guides. Mulder fights to survive and talks with the significant people in his past who have died and moved into the sprit realm.

While Mulder is missing Scully goes to a session of regression hypnosis and has mixed results. She attends Mulder's father's funeral. One of the friends of Bill Mulder was a man who is only known in the series as "the Well-Manicured Man." This man overhears Scully telling Mrs. Mulder that she believes that Fox is alive. Though Mulder recovers Scully is now in danger. She is warned and escapes but her sister Melissa is mistakenly shot in her stead.

The mythology of season three continues in an episode called "Paper Clip" and it is elaborated. Mulder finds a picture of his father and his father's associates. It was taken in the 1970's and Mulder sees in the background a facility which turns out to be an abandoned mine in rural West Virginia. Mulder and Scully go there looking for answers and find an extensive underground storage facility for files. They are records of numerous individuals who have been secretly monitored without their knowledge. Samantha Mulder's sister has a file as does Scully. They speculate that the tissue samples in the files may mean that people have been experimented on as was Scully. Mulder sees what appears to be a flying saucer overhead just outside the facility.

Season three sees the introduction of more mythology about abductions. Mulder and Scully find a group called Mufon who claim they have been repeatedly abducted and that their lives are going to be short lived because of the illnesses given to them by their abductors. In one episode a Japanese diplomat is killed. Many episodes this season contribute to the mounting mythology of alien presence. There seem to be different incarnations of the aliens. They are there just out of Mulder's reach as grey creatures with black eyes. The aliens may be somehow related to the presence of "black oil" and this substance becomes a focus of the mythology in several episodes. There are also clones who are hard to kill but when the base of their skull is pierces they die emitting a toxic green gas.

We see something called "black oil" introduced in one episode. The crew of a French ship called the Piper Maru all die except for one diver. He has been exploring the wreckage of a World War II downed fighter. Inside it is a pilot still alive after all those years. His eyes reveal the presence of the "black oil" obscuring them. It is transferred to the diver and once ashore begins to jump from body to body eventually taking that of Alex Krycek who is busy trying to sell information that he gleaned from "The Thinker" tape.

There appears to be a governmental conspiracy to experiment on humans who are exposed in one way or another to alien matter. One of them is a leper colony. Mulder suspects that an alien is aboard a train and is saved at the last moment from its explosion by the mysterious contact whom Mulder summons from time to time. The episodes are focused on discovery of evidence of alien presence in whatever form.

In the last episode of the season a saint-like man appears played by Roy Thinness. He heals people who have been shot in a diner and disappears from under the nose of an investigative officer. This man Jeremiah Smith is being pursued by an alien bounty hunter who seeks to kill him because Smith is an alien-human hybrid of some sort. He is presumably one of the many clones which appear across the seasons in the series. Mulder finds one of the stiletto weapons that kill the hybrid creatures. His mother has been at the family summer house and she is confronted by the "Smoking Man." The distress causes her to collapse and she is taken to a hospital where she gives Mulder a hint that allows him to discover the weapon. The alien bounty hunter captures Scully to draw out Mulder and Smith. Mulder wants Smith to heal his mother but before this can happen Smith is killed.

Season three contains some really good stand alone episodes. One of the best is "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose." In this episode Peter Boyle plays the title character. He is an insurance salesman so obsessed with the question of death that he becomes able to foresee the deaths of others as well as his own. It is one of the grimly humorous interludes in the series that lightens the tone a little. Another good episode is "War of the Coprophages." It is perhaps the best of the series' "bug episodes." In another of the episodes "Syzygy" a couple of teens are the focus of the energy of the cosmos allowing them to kill with their thoughts. Not surprisingly, this power in teens is not something they can manage well and they send their community into a witch hunting hysteria. Another of the stand alone episodes is "Pusher." The man named Modell is called "Pusher" because he is able to get into the minds of others pushing them to acts which they would not normally commit.

The DVD boxed set for Season Three contains very good commentary and documentary segments. Those by Chris Carter are particularly good. It has the usual deleted scenes and special effects commentaries. The last disc has a DVD-ROM game.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ginger Snaps (2000)

The Story: An oddball teen tries to cure her lycanthropic sister.

Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) are a pair of misfit teens with a touch for the morbid; as a school project, they photograph one another in various scenes of death, including one with Ginger impaled on a white picket fence.

The girls are shunned and made fun of at school, and their home life isn't any better; both girls are three years past the age where menstruation starts, and their flakey, June Cleaver-ish mother (Mimi Rogers) is a dopey pain in the ass. The father's not much to speak of either, as he's constantly disregarded by both the girls and their mother.

But there's something wrong with the neighborhood, as well; a wild beast has been making meals out of neighborhood pets, ravaging them and ripping them to bits. One night while out, the girls walk through a playground and come across a still-warm dog that's been shred to pieces; that instant, blood begins running down Ginger's leg as her long-delayed menstrual cycle abruptly begins. The smell of fresh blood draws the attention of the mysterious animal, and Ginger is quickly attacked and dragged into the woods. Brigitte gives chase, trying to pinpoint where her sister's terrified screams are coming from.

Within moments, Ginger reappears, bloodied and torn, and the sisters run for their lives. Still hungry for prey, the creature follows them across a highway where it is suddenly pulverized by a passing van belonging to the school pot dealer, Sam.

Back at home, the sisters sneak into their basement bedroom where they're amazed to see that Ginger's wounds are already healing. From this point on, Ginger begins acting strangely; you see, she's becoming a werewolf. Soon, Brigitte hooks up with Sam as the two try to find a cure for Ginger.

Ginger Snaps is a terrific example as the horror movie as metaphor where lycanthrope is compared to puberty. Brigitte is aghast as her sister suddenly begins to grow hair in funny places, starts dressing sexy, and even grows attracted to members of the opposite sex. The metaphor is justly taken to the extreme and by the halfway mark Ginger's attraction to boys has literally turned her into a bitch in heat. It's this kind of blatantly metaphorical approach that makes Ginger Snaps work so well.

The performances aren't too shabby, either. Perkins is perfect as the painfully shy Brigitte who, after a lifetime of having her sister take up for her, is pushed into having to look out for the now feral Ginger. Isabelle, as Ginger, is also very good in a role that requires her to wear at first subtle fangs and claws and eventually full body prosthetics. Rogers is a gas as the ditsy mother whose face lights up with glee when she learns Ginger's period has begun.

The strengths of this movie lie in the treatment of the material and the fantastic performances, but there are a couple weaknesses.

First off, the father at one point is shunned out of a conversation between mother and daughters and is never seen or heard from again. Rogers also disappears after going to a party to pick the girls up, and this is after having found a body the girls buried and telling Brigitte that she'd take the girls, burn down the house and they'd get away. It would have been interesting to have seen her during the finale, or in an epilogue, if they had one (I'll get to that in a sec).

The final werewolf creature is a disappointment as well. Despite the fact that Ginger Snaps is a low budget Canadian production, it still could have been a bit more convincing; as it is, it more resembles the Rat Creature that Tom Savini turns into in From Dusk Till Dawn than any kind of wolf. However, the rest of the makeup effects in the film are well done.

And lastly, the ending itself is a bit of a letdown. It really could have used an epilogue, letting us know what happened to the characters after the final ordeal. Though there is definitely an ending to the film, it seems hollow without any kind of follow up.

Still, Ginger Snaps is a great little movie. Though the story weaknesses do indeed have an effect, the rest of the movie is so fresh, and done so intelligently and convincingly that I'm willing to let some of the faults slide. But not all of them.

Summing up, Ginger Snaps is, despite it's few weaknesses, one of the best werewolf movies since An American Werewolf In London. Definitely try a rental before purchasing, but I think it's worth the money.

The Frighteners (1996)

The Story: A broken down architect preys on the families of the recently deceased by using his ability to communicate with the dead.

We start the film with Patricia Bradley (Dee Wallace-Stone of Cujo, The Howling, and E.T.) being chased through her home by some sort of entity. This entity is after her with a vengeance and is coming at her through the house. It crawls through the walls, carpet and furniture. The second it catches her, Patricia's mother (Julianna McCarthy) puts it down with a double barreled shotgun.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has a unique ability. After a car accident years ago, he's now able to communicate with the dead. Not only does he communicate with them, he uses them to make a living as a psychic investigator. Cyrus (Chi McBride of Fox's Boston Public), Stuart (Jim Fyfe), and the Judge (John Astin) all work with Frank haunting houses. Frank's plan is simple; plant a business card in a house (or a pocket), send the ghosts to haunt it, and wait for the phone call.

During a call to a clients house, Dr. Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvarado), Frank sees a number carved into the forehead of the Doctors husband Ray, (Peter Dobson). Shortly after this, Ray dies and Frank runs into his ghost on the way to the funeral. Frank explains to Ray that he's dead and Ray forces him to communicate with Lucy. During a dinner with Lucy and Ray's ghost, we find that the marriage between the two had fallen apart and Ray had lost a large amount of Lucy's money on a bad investment.

While in the bathroom, Frank sees a second man with an incremental number carved into his forehead. He then witnesses the Grim Reaper reach into the mans chest, crushing his heart, killing him. Frank runs from the restaurant chasing the cloaked figure in an attempt to catch it. Shortly after this at a local museum, Frank sees a third number engraved into a reporters forehead. He kidnaps her in an attempt to save her life but the Grim Reaper catches them and kills the woman anyway. The local Sheriff, played by Troy Evans, brings Frank in for questioning after the reporters death.

Frank is introduced to FBI Agent Milton Dammers (Jeffery Combs). Dammers is an odd agent with 20 years of parapsychology case experience. We also find out later in the film that Dammers is obsessed with parapsychology and the ability to communicate with the dead and other things.
While Frank is incarcerated, Lucy comes to visit and attempts to bring him out of his depression. Once Frank comes around, he hugs Lucy and sees a number carved into her forehead. Seconds later, the Grim Reaper pays a visit to the cell and tries to kill Lucy. But thanks to Frank's sidekicks Cyrus and Stuart, Lucy is saved and they both escape the jailhouse.

After this event, the story starts to unfold and the viewer gets a peek as to who the Grim Reaper is and why he's taking the lives of innocent people.

Although you'd never know it due to its all American cast, The Frighteners was produced and shot in and around New Zealand. The countryside settings and the remarkable sets all add to the atmosphere of the film.

Performances by Fox, Stone, McBride, Alvarado, and Combs are all outstanding. Combs in particular plays his role as FBI Agent Milton Dammers brilliantly and should have been nominated by the academy with a "best supporting" actor nomination. If you ask me, this is his best performance in a horror film since his role as Herbert West in Re-Animator.

The script and story are fairly tight but could have used a bit more polishing. For the most part though, the story is believable and the mix of comedy and horror make this a fun film to watch. This is something Peter Jackson has a knack for.

I didn't care too much for the CGI effects, but they work well in adding to the film and it's over-all goal to scare the audience. For those of you who despise the over-use of CGI, no fret here, it's only used when needed.

As in most Jackson films, Peter does make an appearance in the film. Although he's tough to see, you can catch him bumping into Frank Bannister coming out of the Gazette. Just look for the punk rocker with the Grim Reaper t-shirt.

In the end, I highly recommend this modern day ghost story. It's fun from start to finish and has a bit of everything for everyone.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The X-Files Season Four

Review by Garnet Brooks

By it's forth year The X-Files was a wildly popular series. It had established its own dark, brooding look and had spun an elaborate mythology about extra terrestrials and sinister governmental conspiracies. Its tone though usually somber enough contained a reservoir of whimsical humor to lighten it and make it more entertaining. In addition to its two main characters, a number of regular characters had grabbed the viewer's interest. Mulder and Scully, the FBI agents, were always the focus on the series but their boss Walter Skinner came to play a larger role. One bad guy in particular, a man called "The Smoking Man" came to be the larger than life villain of choice when things got bad. A trio of quirky characters called "The Lone Gunmen" had frequent roles. Some of the most memorable characters had comparatively little air time but were nonetheless beloved. One of those who appears in this year was an abductee named Max.

The first episode of the forth season is a mythology episode taking up where the last episode of season three ended. Mulder is with a man named Jeremiah Smith. The two of them find a farm where children are cultivating bees and harvesting pollen. There Mulder finds a mute clone who looks like his sister Samantha as a child. The alien bounty hunter finds them there. They hide in a shed which contains numerous bees. Mulder and Smith escape and the bees attack the bounty hunter. The bees are seen again much later in the X-Files movie where their meaning becomes clearer.

Across the season the mythology of the "black oil" is again taken up. In one episode Mulder and Krycek travel to Russia where they are captured by the men there who are running a mine and an experimental base. Krycek smoozes with the men while Mulder is imprisoned and sent out with the work force. Mulder escapes taking Krycek with him where they are separated in the dense woods. Krycek is taken in by local residents who cut off his arm to prevent him from being an experimental subject. Mulder escapes just in time to make it to a Senate hearing saving Scully from citation for contempt.

The last episode in the season spins the myth in a different way. After four years of Mulder being a stanch believer in the presence of aliens we find him having doubts. He has them in the context here of actually finding what appears to be an alien corpse. It is buried in ice and the party who find it are all murdered except one man. A scientist performs an autopsy and is very detailed in his evidence of the alien's authenticity. A man named Kritschgau contacts Mulder persuading him that the evidence is manufactured. Mulder is confused and devastated. He sees the possibility of all his years of suffering and work coming to nothing in the end. The episode begins with Scully reporting to a group of FBI supervisors that not only was Mulder's work false but Mulder is himself dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. From this the episode flashes back showing how Scully was lead to make her report of Mulder's death. Of course he is not actually dead and this thread is taken up at the beginning of the next season. Given the gossip about the series that flourished in the internet it is apparent that the viewing audience genuinely may have supposed the Mulder character might be dead for good.

This season is one in which some really good stand alone episodes dominated the series. They are outstanding because of writing, plot or characterization. One of these is an episode about Max, a character who had appeared before in the series. In the episode called "Max" the character called Max Fening (Scott Bellis) has just died in a plane crash. Max leaves behind a video which Mulder and Scully find and view. Max is a winsome loner and conspiracy buff who in a previous episode discerned Mulder's alias authorship of a science fiction magazine article. Max had acquired an object, an alien energy source, and it gets him killed. He boards a plane with it and dies along with all the passengers. As Mulder and Scully put together what has happened they find a woman named Sharon, a former aeronautics employee, who stole a device to help Max document the presence of alien technology being used in the military.

Another much loved episode from this season is "El Mundo Gira." This is the story of two brothers, migrant workers who quarrel over the love of a woman. Reuben Blades guest stars in this episode. He partly helps Mulder and Scully but ultimately misleads them so that the migrant community can solve the dispute in their own way. One of the brothers is cursed and becomes a creature who sucks the blood of goats. When the brothers at last confront each other the second brother is himself cursed and they disappear into the landscape presumably wandering forever.

Another episode called "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" delves into the psyche of its reoccurring character. Here we see why he has become what he is. The man believes in what he is doing even seeing it as patriotic whereas most people who encounter him see his motives as sinister and evil. He has a hankering to be an author and produces norish spy novels which he consistently fail to sell. Here he manages to sell one to be serialized in a magazine. He decides to quit the government conspiracy business. When he sees what a chop job the magazine has made of his novel he despairingly goes back to his old ways. In a small act of kindness he spares Fro hike's life.

In another stand alone episode Mulder finds that he has led a past life and encounters a doomed woman who remembers him from long ago when they were very close. In another stand alone episode we meet a character called Eddie Van Blundht who envies Mulder his good looks and position in life. This man sees himself as a loser in life. He is able though to mimic anyone's physical appearance. He uses his ability to fertilize women who want babies and when Mulder pursues him he takes on Mulder's likeness almost scoring with Scully a thing Mulder with his personality quirks has never come close to doing. He berates Mulder in the end telling Mulder that the FBI agent is an even bigger loser than he.

As usual, the DVD boxed set of this year has very good commentary especially from series creator and writer Chris Carter. It has the usual special effects sequence commentaries and has deleted scenes. It has a documentary. The last disc has a DVD-Rom game.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Destiny is one thing we find lovers as fantasy but the hope of finding who is meant for us is something we dreamed of having .I could just remember when I was way younger that I will never say yes if someone proposes to me if and only if I find signs that we are really meant for each other. I believe that there is a cosmic power, keeping us and holding us to our destiny. A light that shines almost invincible but you can find its signs along the way. As if God is watching from a far and predetermines that right person at the right time. Of course, others are skeptical about destiny.

I found myself in serendipity that for a long years there is always one person you seem to have longing. Although we get that all the time but this one is something special. And by watching this movie, it draws me back on how coincidental and unimaginable the meeting with the guy I had with.

Serendipity is crossing in the twilight of love, a meeting by accident but seems like it was ought to happen. A natural feeling as if a love at first sight defined in this film.

Serendipity is the movie directed by Peter Chelsom that brings out the essence of love and relationship, how it unfolds and beholds in every man as he dwells in it. Another entertaining and enchanting love story about the chase and courting that binds two hearts as if cupid plays his role. The desire insatiable that no matter how you keep it, the heart always finds its ways to find the true love, as any old love stories that keeps their promises even time and space departs them.

John Cusack stars, as Jonathan is handsome and very much compatible to his love interest Kate Beckinsale as Sara. They both are passionately a match made in heaven. Jonathan who instantly head over heels in loved with Sara in the first time they met in the shopping store. Both desired to have a single item, out of stock and just the last pair. They accidentally scuffle on the only pair of black cashmere gloves and instantly electrifying attraction got on them leaving wanting to remember to forever.

Kate Beckinsale, the all unpredictable star whose fanaticism about love as a form of destiny lead her to long for Jonathan as she thought in the beginning that they are not meant to be. The story twisted and complicated because of this idea about destiny leading them further from each other. But love catches them as they are few weeks into tying the knot in others love mates.

From the first time they saw each other, it was evident that as they were far from each other, miles away the desire of seeing each other grows stronger. They cannot fathom the fact that inside their heart something is missing, something that cannot be filled by their love interests. Sara in faith believes that love will always lead them together while Jonathan as realistic though agreed still cannot confine his feelings for her. In that little game they took seriously, Sara kept her name in secret from Jonathan, only in that single book she bought and place it to any library she finds. Jonathan also writes his name and number in a $5 bill. They separated ways without knowing each other's names. They swore if both of them or even one of them finds this sign, they knew that they're meant for forever.

Five years passed, distanced from each other and are ready to commit in their partners. Still they sought for each other. Sara soon to marry Lars, a hair banging musician with an exotic type of music and barbaric type of lover which is quite unexpected love interest for Sara. Jonathan who also has Hally, a well brought up woman from a very conservative family, idealistic and upright. Few days before the marriage, arrange and plans for the matrimony but Jonathan's longing for true love is not settled. Together with his best friend, they had gone from one bookstore after another to find the book where Sara signs her name. There is just one thing he has to prove for himself, could be her before he says the final words in the wedding day. Sara having the same feeling yanked best friend to fly to where they can accidentally meet. After all courses and dismay with the twist and turns, finally they come to meet in serendipity.

Serendipity is one movie all moviegoers wanting to realize soul mates for real. Can it really be possible that someone you saw at the counter, cafeteria, a mall or just someone who rescue or help you might be the one. In just increasing impression that accidents do happen for reason, this film just made it happen. Love moves in different reasons, others believe in patient courting and while others believe in destiny. Whichever it may be, if both are willing to share their lives together, then it is a happy ending.

I actually like the story and how it goes though scenes are quite funny. It is like a guessing game, the undetermined passion that cannot keep secret. It was when Jonathan was all over the town looking for the book only to find through her bride. Sara also after she saw the $5 bill handed to a customer. Just in time they are about to get married, the signs showed up. Though these types of stories though we find it typical as other love stories yet it is delightful.

Shallow Hal

People perceived and judged by physical aspect was the essence of the film. In the fast phase world of dating, we consider their physical aspect as the major criteria in finding relationship that delineates us to understand the person within. This fiction love story implicitly sends morality in love and relationship that we seldom realize the importance of the beauty inside. In the on going competition between people that separates beautiful to not so beautiful only by physical aspect, we forget to realize that love is the inner feelings towards others.

Farrelly Brother produced this film-sending message of true meaning of beauty that shines from the inside. However, rumored from the Farrelly brothers who seemingly are not subjective based on their own experience. They are not famous to have the sensitivity to women as proclaimed in the film.

Shallow Hal is a person of having a one-dimensional perspective towards his relationship, seeing only the beauty outside. Together with his best friend, they scrutinize girls with the shape of their bellies, skin, face, hair and even assets to what society calls as beautiful. Jack Black stars as Hal, he is an idealistic or towering standards for women that sees Hollywood stars meant for him. A fictional character Tony as fate who enters to the realm of reality of man as he hears the narrow-mindedness of Hal. Hal also sees that finding the woman of that he finds is not Barbie alike is a tragic date. Tony listens and understands solution for Hal that will change his life tremendously. Using a hypnotic spell on Hal, Tony decides that it is best for Hal to see the personality of women as something that will determine their physical aspect only in his eyes.

In that hypnoticism Tony had made him see the other side of beauty. As he walks along the street seeing many beauty girls of that in reality, they are not beautiful physically. Girls he used to know as beautiful became rag and old. Gwyneth Paltrow starred by Rosemary, the enormously fat but having a good heart is as sexy as the real Gwyneth Paltrow. Who would ever resist her, Hal wont!

All of the sudden, the old Hal who does not notices these girls before had him get interest in them in fact flattering them. This confuses Jason Alexander as Mauricio, Hal's best friend, who has indisputably had a different taste on women. Just like Hal, who determines beautiful girls in the perfect ness of their physique. He soon convinces his own best friend and for the conversion of the spell that will lead to opening the eyes of his friend. Mauricio, had it perfectly inverted that bringing Hal into the reality he once knew.

The love that Hal had for Rosemary was beginning to end, as he sees the slim girl turns fat. The people he thought were amazingly beautiful were kept in the inside. But Hal had already seen enough and cannot deny the fact that in that short span of time, indeed Rosemary made his heart pump truly for her.

Shallow Hal was really funny movie, with all the misconceptions of beauty you will find differences of what is seen and unseen. This is just one laugh-out-loud and hilarious film. Rosemary who got into the pool is just one slapstick but few laughs I would say, what is admirable in this film is that the director did not make it as funny but just a way of acceptance to what they are.

This kind of morality and issues being raised are things left on the wall in the world where beauty is defined in a box. It also send us messages of three variable, women who are not so attractive sure are nice since they compensate with their looks. If there is nothing in you that looks nice, at least you have a nice attitude that you can brag about. While those who are naturally good looking can just relax from having a bad attitude, anyway people will still attribute their looks more than their behavior. While to those having both good looks and good attitude is just a matter of upbringing from childhood.

Anyway, Hal and Mauricio aren't that attractive individuals at all. They might see beautiful women as they are no matter what attitude they give since society conducts them to approve so. Hal starred by Black is just the right person to have these characters because he is convincing portraying the bad and the nice guy.

True enough, this film just speak of not judging the person no matter what. It is always not right that as soon as we see the person having flaws is already a reject in the society. Every individual are unique in different ways and society must realize this in order to break indifference.

I am happy this film is being produced that will tackle positive consciousness in the society. Many films depicts racism, prejudices and unjustly judgments especially among youth or children. Man should start inverting this kind of thinking so that everyone will be appreciated. This means all colors, sizes, ages and differences will be valued. If this is so, models will not be just the slim and slender, white and fair complexion, and will not depend on the age.

Shallow is PG-13, some scenes are prohibited from minors and the film runs one hour and 54 minutes. Moviegoers will not just be entertained but also learns a lesson as they leave every theatre.

View from the Top

Dream is something elusive but can be achieved if we only find ways of getting what we want. When we are up there succeeding we can look down to where we came from as looking viewing from the top. This inspirational movie "View from the Top" tells us about not giving up, pursuing and later achieving things that make us matter.

I just happened to watch a collection of stories from courageous people in all types of field whether in politics, community involvement, students achieving and all people who rose beyond their situation. This let me remember about this movie, dreaming and making it come true. It is so easy to look back what we just sowed and reap its glory but we neglect how difficult it is to get to the top. Many believed that to achieve our dreams it will cost us power, money, influence and even social status. But it is far more appreciated and most celebrated if man was raised from rags to riches, from difficulty to glory and from nothingness to abundance. This we attribute to what man can achieve if he has perseverance, faith and courage.

View from the top is a story about a girl who just happen to dream and that all she has. Raised from a very poor family where education seems neglected, Donna Jenson starred by Gwyneth Paltrow is about an amazing life struggle and achieving goals. She thought of leaving her small town where she lives and where people thought of her as small. She yearns to follow her dreams after being dumped by her own boy friend through a happy birthday card she received from him. It is all for the reason that she is small town girl who lived up to her boy friend's dreams.

She instantly found interest seeing a successful flight attendant on television. Hypnotized by all its claims, she soon bought a book and studied how to get to her dreams. With a few dollars, a suitcase and a dream, she followed as what the boy says. She went to a local airport in her first internship. From a very local flight attendant, she soon find friends Kelly Preston and Christina Applegate as flight attending buddies and drag them over to their higher dreams. They knew that they had all the potential as any royale flight attendant can.

Determined to pass all the exams, she persistently and consistently did her best in all their activities until the final exam. In all sudden, she was scammed by her own friend by changing the control number in their exam papers. Although she still belong to Royale flight attendant only for local commuters and not the prestigious family of Royale flight attendant in Paris.

Donna in the long run also finds the law student she bumped in during their vacation. They were in loved but Donna's determination of getting her place to the Royale family even leaving her own boy friend. But nothing can stop her from following her dreams.

Through the help of her mentor played by Candice Bergen who supported her all the way and to the discovery of the scam she soon earned her place in the Royale family. Being one of the best flight attendant there is, she never ceases to belong in her dreams to get to Paris and other parts of European countries. Weeks turn months and months turned years, Donna was happy but never been happier when she was with her boy friend. In that one realization, she knew that she was not chasing her dreams anymore but her happiness.

Finally, Donna got back to her boyfriend but did not end on dreaming. She soon become a plane pilot herself.
View from the top movie is witty-hilarious film having scenes wherein Gwyneth struggles how to get things right during the activities and all girl type funny scenes. Nevertheless, it did not eliminate the drama especially in her photographic scenes in Paris, the feeling of loneliness. The interview with Mike Myers as John Whitney was also amusing. The cross-eyed flight attendants together with other interns are just a big gag.

As a whole, the movie is inspirational in nature. Gwyneth portraying as an achiever all throughout and watching this film wants you to kick your butt and get things done. It also depicted about happiness that cannot be bought by money and that is love. She thought that without her lover, she could still move on in her life. Donna sets her priorities and these might give answers to what we call happiness and success.

The movie is funny at the same time dramatic. People who want to have a few laughs; this movie is just entertaining with its shallow aspects of funny scenes. Gwyneth just appropriately casts along with her girls that brought all blond funny jokes.
View from the Top showed us how humble beginnings can be glorifying if done in hard work. There was never a bit in the movie where Donna stopped dreaming and succeeding. Learning from her, it all takes small steps and trying to alleviate yourself from where you are. She constantly encourages herself even though she lived alone, without guidance and even the sight of her lover, she placed priority to where she wants to be. The most influencing character is her mentor who never ceases to give her support and words of wisdom. What is really good about the movie is also surrounding yourself with people who in the end can help you get to where you want to go. Their influence can be a great factor also in inspiring her and same true to us.

Rocky II (1979)

After the huge success of his first feature film, "Rocky" in 1976, Sylvester Stallone could have taken it easy. Rocky, after all, won an Oscar for Best Picture and Stallone became a very, very rich man. But his story of Rocky Balboa, the underdog boxer, wasn't finished. In fact, Stallone would continue Balboa's saga in 5 more feature films over the next 30 years. I have seen all of them, except for the recently released "Rocky Balboa" (in theaters now), but I can firmly say that my favorite movie from the entire Rocky series is 1979's Rocky II. In fact, the release of "Rocky Balboa" prompted me to dust off my old DVD of "Rocky II" and my husband and I watched it last night.

"Rocky II" starts off with a recap of the first l Rocky movie. Rocky's big fight against champion Apollo Creed was deemed a draw-- and Apollo isn't one bit happy about it. But Rocky has retired from boxing after this match, as he was beaten up pretty badly.

Meanwhile Rocky asks girlfriend Adrian to marry him, and then they proceed to spend the 37 thousand dollars he cleared from his fight with Creed. They buy furs, a car (even though Rocky can't drive) and a house in Philly Before long the money is gone, Adrian is pregnant and Rocky is working manual labor jobs. He does try a stint at commercial acting but he's not good at it and ultimately would rather be a meat packer. After Rocky gets laid off from the meat packing job, he goes to the gym and lugs buckets and mops floors for his former trainer, Mickey. He loses most of hi self respect at this point, the sees Apollo Creed on TV demanding a rematch. Creed calls him things like "The Italian Chicken" and Rocky knows what he needs to do-- he needs to get back in the ring and prove that the last fight was not a fluke and that he is worthy of fighting the champ, that he can indeed defeat the champ. He agrees to the rematch, despite breaking his promise to Adrian that he would never fight again. She is devastated by the thought of a rematch and it causes a distance between the two of them.

After some half-hearted attempts at training for the rematch, you can tell that Rocky has lost his drive. He's not focused and he's not training hard. His wife Adrian goes back to her job at a local pet store and, at 8 months pregnant, strains herself from overwork. She goes into early labor and is rushed to the hospital. The baby is born healthy, but Adrian has slipped into a coma from losing so much blood. It's at that point that Rocky halts everything and sits by Adrian's hospital bedside. He doesn't even want to see his newborn son until Adrian wakes up. He sits by her side day and night until one day when she squeezes his hand and opens her eyes. After a celebration and an introduction to their new son, Rocky tells Adrian he'll do whatever she wants-- he'll withdraw from the upcoming fight with Creed is that's what she wants. Instead she only wants him to do one thing. "Win" she tells him.
That's the only motivator he needs. Suddenly the feel good music starts up and you see Rocky running around Philly, up the art museum steps, lifting weights, punching bags, etc.

The night of the fight, Rocky prays while Apollo Creed strokes his own ego. The fight scene is pretty long and I don't want to give away how it ends. Ultimately, this is a great movie that shows things form the underdog's perspective. I love the acting and imagery in this movie, as I'm a Philly native. This is one of those films that I never tire of, and even though I could do without the bloody boxing scenes, that's what the movie is about. It's another well done movie by Stallone, who could have rested on his laurels an ended the Rocky saga after the first film. Instead, he treated us to several sequels, all of them worthy, but "Rocky II" being the most touching and my personal favorite.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Take an unbelievably gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor in her prime and pair her with an impossibly handsome young Paul Newman and you've got the main characters from one of my favorite movies, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Filmed in 1958 and directed by Richard Brooks (Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the Happy Ending), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the story of Maggie "the cat" (Taylor) and her alcoholic, depressed husband Brick Pollitt (Newman). Based on the famous play by Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof packs in some powerful performances from all of the main characters.

Brick Pollitt is depressed. No longer a star football player, and recovering from a broken leg, he's a broken down and sad man. His wife Maggie is starved for his affection. Brick drinks all day long while his wife tries to cover for him. It's his father, Big Daddy's, birthday and Maggie picks out a luxurious robe which she says Brick picked out. The character of Big Daddy is portrayed flawlessly by the legendary Burl Ives. Although Ives was only in his late 40's when he played this part, he convincingly comes off as the patriarch to the Pollitt family.

Also living on the family estate is Brick's brother, Gooper (played by Jack Carson), his horrible wife (played by Madeleine Sherwood, best known as Mother Superior on The Flying Nun) and their unruly kids. Gooper and his wife are trying to set themselves up to someday gain control of Big Daddy's estate.

On the night of Big Daddy's birthday party, the family gets some devastating news from the family doctor: Big Daddy has advanced stage cancer and he doesn't have long to live. At first the family tries to keep the news a secret from Big Daddy (this would never happen today, due to patient privacy laws, but remember this film is from 1958).

Bi Daddy is one smart man and can instantly tell that something is up. He tries talking to his sons but no one tells him the truth. Meanwhile, Gooper and his wife begin gathering legal and financial papers in preparation for Big Daddy's death. Maggie "the cat" steps in and gives them all a piece of her mind. Meanwhile Big Daddy, on to his son Gooper's greedy ways, calls Brick down into the cellar for a little chat. In a powerfully emotional scene, all of the pain and hurt from the past come out and Brick has a compete breakdown. It is then that you see that this son and his distant father have a strong emotional bond. You can tell that Brick is Big Daddy's favorite and that he is disappointed in his other son, Gooper.

When they go upstairs, Big Daddy catches Gooper with the stack of legal papers and makes a snide comment. It is then that Maggie announces her birthday gift to Big Daddy-- that she is pregnant. Everyone knows this is impossible, as a perpetually drunk Brick has had no interest in her for quite some time. Gooper's wife even makes a comment about how she hears the "nightly pleadings and the nightly refusals". Still, Big Daddy and Big Momma are pleased as can be that Maggie is with child, even if they don't completely believe it. Then Big Daddy takes his wife by the arm (the first time he treats her respectfully in the entire movie) and they go out to stroll their grounds and take stock of the rest of their lives together.

The movie ends with Brick trying to make amends with his wife. It is clear that he realizes that she has always stood by him and that it is time that he treats her like a wife.

So why do I love this movie? Granted the subject matter-- family strife, mortality-- is not exactly uplifting. But the movie's performances are so well done and I love the Southern drawl of Liz Taylor. And Burl Ives and Paul Newman are always engaging to watch. In this day of high tech action films, it's sometimes refreshing to sit back and watch a story set in a simpler time. There are no elaborate sets or special effects like we see in today's movies-- just two or three sets and classic storytelling, with powerful acting performances. Now that's what makes a great movie, in my opinion.


Metalocalypse is a unique animated program on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming line-up. The first season recently finished airing a few weeks ago, on New Year's Eve, the network played eight straights hours of the show in a marathon, and it's currently playing during the line-ups weekday strip of shows. It comes from Brendan Small, the mind behind a decidedly different animated series, Home Movies. Small also provides several voices and musical direction.

The show follows the adventures of a heavy metal band named Dethklok, made up of Nathan Explosion, William Murderface, Pickles the Drummer, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, and Toki Wartooth. They are a worldwide phenomenon, with their songs, concerts, and daily actions having the ability to profoundly influence their fans for good or for evil. Throughout the series, a group of shadowy tribunal constantly monitors the actions of Dethklok. They seem to be concerned by Dethklok's powerful influence, and they attempt to sabotage them at every opportunity, plots that always end up backfiring.

Metalocalypse isn't a show for the faint of heart. It is consistently rated TV-MA for violence. Enjoying the show takes a certain dark humor, particularly an ability to see humor in violence.

The one downside to Metalocalypse is that it only clocks in at 15 minutes, so sometimes it feels like things have barely gotten started before they're wrapped up and it's all over. A final scene will often play along with the closing credits, but these scenes could have been more involving if they were allowed to stand on their own instead of being rushed.

As the lead singer of Dethklok Nathan Explosion often slips into the stereotypical heavy-metal growl, and some of the best lines come from Nathan saying the most mundane things in that metal voice. He also likes to declare things "brutal," usually a sign of approval, because it means those things are sufficiently "metal."

One problem for the new viewer may be that the characters are difficult to understand. Murderface has a generally slurred way of speaking, perhaps implying that he's always drunk, or just that he's slightly crazy. Toki and Skwisgaar are Norwegian and Swedish, respectively, and their dialogue is influenced by heavy accents. These accents can lead to additional humor from their mangled English, but it can be troublesome to decipher. When I first started watching the show, I had to watch it with closed captioning on for the first two or three episodes. However, upon watching those earliest episodes for a second time recently, I realized that I could understand them now. It seems it must be a matter of getting used to the way they speak more so than any incomprehensibility in the first few episodes compared to later episodes.

Even as the songs featured in the show are created with humor in mind or to set a plot in motion, they really do stand on their own as heavy metal songs. My personal favorite is the "Awaken Mustakrakish" song, featured in an episode in which the band accidentally awakens an ancient troll. Some of the songs have been made available for download on the website and the show's MySpace page. Rumor has it that a full-length Dethklok album will accompany the future DVD release of the show, with the songs expanded beyond the clips you hear on the show.

Even as the larger plot in each episode unfolds, some of the best moments come from the interaction between bandmates and the sideplots. For instance in the previously mentioned episode in which they awaken a troll, the second story featured in the episode involves the band licensing their own band of cell phones, a ridiculously pointy and dangerous-looking metal phone. Murderface annoys everyone by talking loudly on the phone at every opportunity. The shows even appear in other episodes as a bit of a running gag. Later, as they work on a way to subdue the troll, they express their disgust at having to play "grandpa instruments," in other words, acoustic instruments. So even though the main point of the episode is the troll storyline, the episode is made by these other little moments.

If you have an appreciation for heavy metal and a twisted sense of humor, Metalocalypse may be the perfect show for you.