The X-Files (S1-Ep23) – “Roland”

The X-Files – Season 1 – Episode 23 – “Roland” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Director: David Nutter. Writers: Chris CarterHoward GordonAlex Gansa Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonZeljko Ivanek 

When scientists at an aeronautics lab die under mysterious circumstances, Mulder and Scully begin to suspect a mentally challenged janitor. Zeljko Ivanek is brilliant in this (especially when you see him playing the villain in 24, True Blood or Heroes) and possibly he’s the highlight of the episode, however I wonder if today in our ultra-sensitive world, they would have ever been able to make a story like this (the scene with the other mentally challenged patient are particularly corny and on the nose). Once again (spoilers ahead) the X Files plays with life after death, but here the twist works extremely well and when it comes it’s very unexpected. Once again David Nutter directing proves himself a winner.

The X-Files (S1.Ep22) – “Born Again”

Series 1 – Episode 22 – Born Again ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Jerrold Freedman Writers: Chris CarterHoward GordonAlex Gansa Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonBrian Markinson 

Back to the average fair that’s mainly been season 1. There’s always something to be gained by having scary looking kids in films. It works most of the time and some of the best horrors have creepy kids in them: The exorcist, the Omen, Goodnight Mommy, Pet Seminary, The Ring, the shining.. and the list goes on. This is not as good as any of the above mentioned movies, but it feels like a story we’ve seen before (in fact the idea of re-incarnation and revenge is explored a few times in this season). Nothing particularly stands out here. I’m not saying it’s boring, but hardly exciting. Also, annoying the title “Born again “ gives away the mystery from the start. Also after 2 such strong episode, this felt even more of a let-down.Probably the episode is more famous now for having Maggie Wheeler (a the time Duchovny’s girlfriend) playing a detective. She became well known as Janice in friends (and her famous catch-line “Oh my Gooooood!”).

The X-Files (S1.Ep21) – “Tooms”

Series 1 – Episode 21 – Tooms ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Jerrold Freedman | Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Brian Markinson, Mimi Lieber

Eugene Victor Tooms from “Squeeze” is back for a classic X-File episode which is also the Diest sequel in the series. I remember when this used to be sold as a double-bill on a VHS tape… (cue nostalgic music). It’s the episode where the Cigarette Smoking Man speaks for the first time (“can he actually act” they were apparently wondering in the production) but it also serves as an introduction to Mitch Pileggi’s Walter Skinner. Pileggi is not really a great actor to be honest (throughout the entire series he’ll only have 1 or 2 expressions), but his character will become not just an integral part of the series, but also more and more fun as we move through the seasons.Doug Hutchinson in the role of Tooms is even better this time around (by the way, do you remember him in the “Green Mile”?)

We may have lost some of the mystery surrounding his character (and some of the creepy factor too), but his presence still makes you very uneasy. There are some lovely character moments between Mulder and Scully too here: during their stake out in the car for example, Scully calls him by name. This is consider as a key moment a key for their relationship. Another great moment later on in the FBI office where she defends him in front of her superior shows her investment in the X-Files but also her affection for him.

Love this episode.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Director: Dean DeBloisCast: Jay BaruchelCate BlanchettGerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill

In a world where a sequel to an animated feature usually means “finishing returns”, I was expecting something a lot worse than this (Toy story” is obviously an exception to the rule). In fact I thought this was rather good. “How to train your dragon 2” has quite a few surprising twists to the old formula up its sleeve. For a start it has the courage to jump ahead 5 years since “part 1” and have all the kids grown up. While this choice might be a surprising one to start with, once the ending is revealed and you see where it was all heading to (No spoilers for those who haven’t seen it), it all makes a lot of sense. It’s a sequel that has its own story and its own arc, without having to retread old grounds or having to rely of you having seen the original (though there are enough call-back for the fans).

It is slightly more chaotic and unfocussed than the first one (especially at the start) and it’s also aimed at slightly older kids too (with plots about war and actual deaths) and what’s probably lost this time around is that magic, that senes of mystery and discovery that made the first one so endearing and lovable, but there’s also has a much stronger emotional resonance to it and consequently it feels more weighty.

I have to confess that this time around I found the voice of “Hiccup” a little bit distracting. Jay Baruchel’s nerdy and high pitched/nasal voice might have worked for the younger version of his character, the slim unsuspecting hero, but now that “Hiccup” has grown and his animators have made him look cooler, I found the dichotomy between the look and the voice slightly jarring. However, on the technical side of things, the animation is possibly even better this time, aside from the great flying sequences (now a must for this series and always the highlight), those grand vistas and the atmospheric lighting, there are some truly breathtaking shots (a particular one comes to mind where the camera zooms down from the sky to find a huge battle taking place below, swoops around dozens of men down below and ends up focussing on one of the baddies shouting), exciting battles, fast visual gags and lots of beautiful dragons.I was never bored and got even a bit moved… though with all the playing with “sheep” and feasting with “fish” sequences (all of them played for laugh of course), the vegans and vegetarians out there may want to give this one a miss. 🤣

The X-Files (S1.Ep20) – “Darkness Falls”

The X-Files (Series 1 – Episode 20) – “Darkness Falls” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director:Joe Napolitano Writer: Chris Carte Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonJason Beghe

This was another of those “Bottle episodes” which are usually restricted to one location to save money spent on the other episodes. Just like it happened in “Ice”, the constraints somehow help making this one of the strong ones (though apparently filming this was a bit of a nightmare because of weather conditions, in fact if you pay attention the weather/rain continuity is all over the place). The sense of dread and suspense created while Mulder and Scully anxiously wait for the day to arrive hoping the generator will last long enough to supply list for them because “they come at night” is a fairly basic plot line but it’s very effective. I quite like the downbeat ending too, though after all that build up, it all seemed to happen a bit too fast. One of those times where I wished the episodes were a bit longer than those 46 minutes.

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