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+).

Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Darius Marder. Cast: Riz AhmedOlivia CookePaul Raci 

It’s rare when talking about a film to highlight the sound mix and sound design as its winning features which make it so special, but in this case they really are. Never before the experience of what must be like for a person to go deaf has been so cleverly and successfully rendered in a film. It’s a simple and beautifully judged device, but it’s also very effective. If that didn’t work as well as it does, I believe most of the power of the film would diminish, despite Riz Ahmed’s great performance, which is really the soul of the film. At times we really understand what he’s going through and what he’s feeling because of the way the sound make us understand his predicament. I’m not trying to take anything away from him performance (he may even get the Oscar, snatching it from Anthony Hopkins), but in this case the acting and the sound go together hand in hand.

Beyond all that, the plot itself is actually very simple and the arc of the story rather predictable (It has echoes of another film about deaf people, “Children’s of a lesser God”).

There are various subplots and open-ends which don’t quite fulfil their duties: for example , his friendship with one of the people from the community (plot which seems completely abandoned in the third act), or the whole recovering drug addict side fo the story. None of that plot line is developed and in the end it makes no difference whether he used t one a drug addict or not.

Also the timeframe seemed a bit too contrived and conveniently opaque: I could never quite grasp how much time was passing between scenes: it seemed it could have been weeks or months, but often the film plays it as if it was just days (though clearly one doesn’t just walk into a hospital to have an hearing surgery), while in reality these things probably take years.

But I don’t want to sound down on the film, even if it didn’t quite manage to touch my buttons (surprisingly, because I am usually a cry-baby for this sort of things, which leads me to believe that the film was missing something) there were still plenty of lovely movements in it, particularly in the middle section within the school/community environment, those earlier scenes around the dinner table where Ahmed feels completely alone surrounded by dozens of deaf people (a trick played again later on during a birthday party, that time among people who can actually hear) and every single scene with the scene-stealer Paul Paci (Oscar Nominated too) which I adored for every single frame he was in the film.

This is going to be talked about quite a bit at the Oscars and I’m happy for it, but it’s not quite the masterpiece people are making it to be (my rating is more 3 1/2 stars… than 4, but I don’t give half stars so here’s a 4 for you. Riz deserves it) 😉

The X-Files (S1.Ep19) – “Shapes”

The X-Files Season 1 – Episode 19 – “Shapes”

Director: David Nutter Writers: Chris CarterMarilyn Osborn Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonTy Miller 

A bit of a derivative episode, with a rather bland lycanthropy storyline which we might have heard so many times before, but eventually it is all saved by some pretty good direction (the ever reliable David Nutter), some of the best lighting in the whole first season (John S, Bartley who shot 64 episodes in all) which created a very tense atmosphere and a solid cast (including the sheriff played Michael Horse, once again another one from Twin Peaks). The score in this one was particularly unmemorable and actually quite bad (few annoying synthetized strings here and there, with no real theme or emotion). Scully and Mulder are both slightly sidetracked (Scully is particularly annoying with her skepticism even the the truth is right in front of her eyes) to give a bit more space to the secondary characters.

The episode is very short on surprises or anything of importance or relevance for the rest of the series.

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