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.

Love and Monsters

Love and Monsters ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director:Michael Matthews. Cast: Dylan O’BrienJessica HenwickMichael Rooker 

Ok, let me start by saying that I know perfectly well this film is stupid and it may be a bit derivative from hundreds of other films before, but I will also say that this is possibly the most fun I’ve had with any film this year so far. There’s some real (invisible) craft at work here and I’m not just talking about the special effects (which are very very good and for which it’s nominated for an Oscar), but even in its predictability it manages to be surprising by making the inevitable happening just a fraction of time before you might expect it, or going off on a slight tangent from what you might think before veering back towards the predictable.

The film knows exactly what it is and never takes itself too seriously right from the very catchy, charming and hilarious credit sequence which recaps the end of “the world as we know it” (what would usually be the first act of a movie like this) in a few minutes with childish drawing and a very humorous narration (talking about saving budget money!) in a sort of opening credits sequence.

Right from that start I was hooked and laughed. Dylan O’Brien, from the Maze Runner franchise is the likeable protagonist trying to be a hero and constantly failing in the most hilarious ways. He’s accompanied by a cute and wonderful dog and an array of equally likeable characters (including a robot).

Take it as it is, don’t expect “raiders” and you’ll have great time with it. It’s charming, scary, gross (you’ll be squirming on your sofa), extremely funny, very silly but without making you feel like an idiot for watching it and with just enough cheese to make it sweet but not vomit inducing.

Forget the pompous “Godzilla vs Kong” or any other blockbuster this side of 2021, this is the monster movie of the year… even for those who don’t like monster movies.

I didn’t expect to like to so much and neither will you

On Netflix.

The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Director: Mark Dindal. Cast: David SpadeJohn GoodmanEartha KittPatrick Warburton

Crazy to think that this is now 20 years old! Its wacky humour and quick pace is just as fresh today as it must have been when it was first release in 2000. 

“The Emperor’s New Groove” may not be the most refined, original or life-affirming Disney feature, but it’s certainly one of the funniest, if not THE funniest (and yes, even more than Aladdin). The sheer amount of jokes and the speed at which they are literally thrown at the audience are both astonishing: breaking the fourth wall, the banter between the two protagonists (Lama-Kuzco is just hilarious!), the slapstick (“Why do we even have that lever?!”), the edge of your seat action… You just can’t help go along with it and after a while you actually realised that your jaws are beginning to hurt from all the smiling and laughing. 

I haven’t seen the second one, but even thought it was one of those “straight to video” affair, I’m now tempted to give it a go.

(Currently on Disney+).

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