Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic:  
on THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015, 106 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
Vin Diesel is a gamer, and he has proved it here.  THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is at its core an adventure of epic proportions.  Because of that, we all know critics will hate on this film to the end of their days, and he still went through with the project.  It is true, this is a flavor film, so a limited audience will appreciate the time and detail that was put into this story.  The imagery and pageantry of the 'witch world' made this a great watch for me.  Director Breck Eisner (of THE CRAZIES and SAHARA) should be credited with making a heavily CGIed film that doesn't stumble with its human interaction.  The only problems I found (other than being marketable to a small audience) were spots of bad dialogue and being a commonly used plot thread.  The film was reminiscent of CONSTANTINE with Keanu Reeves.  So, if you liked that one, this will be a must see and screw the critics... oh, wait...

Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: THE GIFT

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 

on THE GIFT (2015, 108 minutes, R)

The Quick of It -
This little thriller will make you think twice when being... ahem... inconsiderate of someone's feelings.  A young married couple becomes the target of revenge by an old school acquaintance of the husband's.  I believe this movie will attract all the Jason Bateman haters out there.  I, for one, am not but it makes me think of all the ones who have expressed their opinions on his acting skills over the years.  He plays a real *** **** and is served a very cold dish.  The central plot is a great warning of what could happen to a bully who went too far.  The tension is real as you see the story unfold, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the final reveal.  THE GIFT fits well in this themed genre and carries a sense 'this could happen to you', because we "know" people like that.

Grade: B-

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: CRIMSON PEAK

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on CRIMSON PEAK (2015, 119 minutes, R)

The Quick of It -
When Guillermo del Toro has a vision, embrace what is to come.  I don't say that to mean you should have high expectations, more that he will treat you to something that you would not expect nor have experienced without his bizarre imagination.  I believe one of the proper ways to describe this film is like a scene used in the movie; when Tom Hiddleston's character, Thomas Sharpe, shows his American audience at a social gathering how to waltz the British way - fast and deliberate while having the finesse in movement to not snuff out the candle being held by the dance partners.  CRIMSON PEAK follows the same formula.  It holds no real surprises as the story is told.  Even when the information given seems vague, there are no great leaps to guess what is transpiring.  This is quite apparent since it starts out by stating 'ghosts are real' and continues along this course until the final scene.  What sells this film is the intricate storytelling, the striking costume design, and the elegant and elaborate settings.  Mr. del Toro, please continue to twist our reality.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: THE GALLOWS

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on THE GALLOWS (2015, 81 minutes, R)

The Quick of It -
This movie represents both an achievement for newbie filmmakers while a cautionary tale of lost chances to create a dark film that pushes the envelope.  THE GALLOWS is about a high school drama club performing a play titled 'The Gallows' 20 years after the original performance, which was disrupted with a tragic death ... of course.  Warning for some, this is a 'found footage' film.  I know how some people immediately write-off this style of storytelling.  The writer / director pairing of noobs Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing wants to create a new slasher-type in 'Charlie' and includes the elements to build on the mythos.  The film has its moments and shows glimpses of horror 'magic'.  But, in the end, this one will sit among the many titles that are good for one watch. 

Grade: C-

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: SICARIO

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on SICARIO (2015, 121 minutes, R)

The Quick of It -
Director Denis Villeneuve just might be making some waves before his possible involvement in the upcoming BLADE RUNNER project.  SICARIO is an intense action-thriller centering on the 'War Against Drugs'... or sorta.  I would say more about the plot but I think it would be better to experience it for yourself.  The bigger surprise to me is the writer behind the project, Taylor Sheridan.  You might recognize, but doubtful, the name as the deputy chief from 'Sons of Anarchy', Deputy Chief David Hale.  Sheridan did have one hiccup that didn't making sense and probably should have been corrected to make the story more realistic, but hey... whatever.  His crafting of the story with an acute sense of plot building and Villeneuve's incorporation of visual tension through the use of intermittent shots showing motion within stillness, or the reverse, made this film work far beyond the typical 'drug raid' extravaganza.  Another nifty set of shots was the idea of individuals being introduced into the story as almost faceless apparitions, the concept that there are people out there like these representations but you only hear about them.  The muddled reflections in glass, the silhouette with back turned, or blocked angled shots to the speaker added to the continued theme of being in the dark on what exactly is happening to our FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), while holding on to this rollercoaster ride of bullets and blow.  Each character in the film, large and small, came to life with great acting, and a chance to show their talent within intense exchanges and awkward situations.  Josh Brolin may have been at the forefront but it was Benicio Del Toro who ends up stealing the show by the closing credits.  For a movie that falls into a flooded genre, it stands out as one of the must sees.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


'Blu-ray or Bust'

Each time I sit down to watch a film aimed at a teen market, I cringe a little inside.

Okay, if you were to see me during one of those “cringes”, you’d think my face was having a seizure.  I know, I know, that’s kinda how I normally look anyways.  But consider what teen movies have subjected us to for the last several years: from the sparkly, heart-throb vampires of the stupid TWILIGHT series, to the inanity of THE HUNGER GAMES, there hasn’t been a whole lot of promising films.

And then last year, suddenly, there came a little film called THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.  It proved to young audiences that you didn’t have to have a love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf, and a horny yet expressionless female human to appreciate a (good) story.

Now comes ME AND EARL, hoping to expand into the heartstring tugging genre created by that excellent film.  And while EARL isn’t a classic, it is a decent addition to the genre I like to call “Non-Sparkling Teen Drama”.  (The one with the sparkly vampires I like to call “Sparkling Teen Drama”—STD for short.  Yeah, I went there.)

The performances of the three leads is surprisingly fresh.  There is an especially noteworthy scene between Greg (Thomas Mann, PROJECT X and FUN SIZE) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke, “Bates Motel” and THE SIGNAL).  The truest and most resplendent form of acting is never more present than it is when two actors communicate freely and effectively in a long take.  It screams of talent and appreciation of the craft, and these young actors pull it off splendidly.  Even Earl, played by the subtly awesome RJ Cyler in only his second onscreen role, does wonderful work here.  These are three enigmatic characters that you do not want to forget.

Mann is indeed a wonder to behold as a teenager who strikes up a friendship with Rachel at his mother’s (the always dependable Connie Britton) insistence.  It seems that Rachel has leukemia, and could use a good friend at the moment.  Greg and Earl are amateur filmmakers, and are soon asked to make a movie for the girl.  What follows is a tale about friendship, hope, and the undeniable necessity of growing up.  It isn’t a perfect film; some of the secondary characters, mostly the adults, are singular emotional players.  In a movie in which many of the characters are given room to exist, this waving off of the secondaries is almost distracting.

The special features aren’t so special.  You get some deleted scenes, one of which should have been included in the film just because of the performance Mann gives, and you get to see the entire film that Greg and Earl made for Rachel.  And besides a stills gallery and a commentary track, that’s it.  Nothing about the creation of the story, or how awesome the cinematography is (it is almost dizzying at times, just like life is for a teenager).  This, my friends, is a crime.

I sincerely hope that the teen genre continues in this fashion.  Movies that speak of experience and life are so much better than the ones about vampires that go to school and walk around in the daytime.  So unrealistic!  Everyone knows vampires can’t be outside in the daytime!  Freaking morons…
Film Grade: B
Special Features: C
Blu-ray Necessary: Not really, but I would (great sound, and those 360 degree shots…amazing!)

T.S. Kummelman

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Monstrosities and Horrifying Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

"Monstrosities and Horrifying Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

This is the only Netflix review you get this month, kiddies, but it should be enough to keep you busy through Halloween.  The suggestion comes from my OLD college buddy Dave, who wanted horror films from across the pond.  Unfortunately, Netflix, just in time for Halloween, removed some of the best ones.  Several that were available last year are gone, but for some reason they kept some truly crappy ones up.  Lucky for you, there’s me to help weed out the turds.  And if you see a few here that I’ve suggested before, there is a reason for that: BECAUSE THEY ARE REALLY FRIGGIN' GOOD... and because they are better than most of the crap that is available.  Happy Samhain, everybody!

New Arrivals

Horror/United States

(2015, R, 91 minutes, VICARIOUS ENTERTAINMENT)

This entertaining possession-fest is a wonderful mix of horror tropes that works so well, you wonder why it wasn’t better received by audiences.  A mashup of exorcism, slasher, haunted house, and black comedy, this movie takes the high road by mixing traditional scares, gore, and damn good effects.  The acting is excellent all around, and the cinematography by Eric Treml knows when to accentuate the gore and when to give us a little breathing room.  This is the best example of a haunted sanitarium you’ll find on Netflix.  Basically, a group of teens get trapped in an abandoned mental hospital.  Things turn nasty when one of them gets possessed, and from there this movie goes in directions you would never expect.  

Demonic Horror/Spain

(2014, NR—probably “R”, 81 minutes, MS ENTERTAINMENT)

Don’t let that run-time fool you—this slight and wicked little number about a priest and his granddaughter performing exorcisms throughout Barcelona is a nifty take on the demonic possession genre.  That’s the only synopsis I’ll give; anything more would ruin the surprises.  The only irritating thing about this on Netflix is that the Netflix Bozo In Charge presents this in closed captioning.  Yes, you can read the subtitles just fine, but the descriptive service also tells you every time a boom happens.  Or if there is ominous music playing.  So just read the screen when someone speaks.  But I wouldn’t even be mentioning the film if it wasn’t worth having to suffer through “soft piano music” appearing on my screen…  And that cinematography, some of the shots are gorgeously executed.  Beautiful and creepy.  Just like me!


(2012, NR—probably a hard “R”, 76 minutes, FILM FUND FUZZ)

A bit of Norwegian folklore comes to life in the atmospheric THALE, a tale about a gorgeous young woman…WITH A TAIL.  The beautiful Silje ReinÃ¥mo plays the not-so-innocent “Thale”, who may actually be a huldra, the Norwegian name for a female spirit of the forest.  Two crime scene scrubbers come across her in an underground bunker, and the rest of the story is one you have to watch.  More fantasy than it is horror in definition, it is the things done to Thale, and how she exacts her vengeance, which present the true horror here.  Very atmospheric, alluring, and haunting, this one just barely beats out TROLL HUNTER (PG-13, 103 minutes, also available on Netflix, hint-hint-hint) as my favorite Norwegian fantasy film.  But what about Norwegian horror?  Patience, Grasshoppers…

Vampire Horror/Iran

(2014, NR—hard “R”, 101 minutes, SPECTRE VISION)

This black and white Iranian film is a wonderful, gruesome, moody, and beautiful little story about love, drugs, a vampire, and the world’s greatest cat.  The vampire is played by the arresting Sheila Vand, who starts falling for “Arash”, a teenager caught up in thievery to support his father’s drug habit.  “The Girl” is as much an innocent as Arash is when it comes to affairs of the heart, and it is their love that drives this film forward.  Pay attention to the cinematography, which is solely responsible for the film’s noir-ish vibe.

Vampire Horror/United Kingdom

(2012, R, 118 minutes, DEMAREST FILMS)

Neil Jordan’s latest film is about a female vampiric duo, living life like grifters.  They move from place to place, staying just long enough for some evil corporate vampire types to catch up with them.  Settling down at a seaside town in Ireland, the younger of the two falls in love with a boy.  The older of the two opens a brothel.  This is a well written tale of redemption, love, and how not even a blood-sucking dead person can escape their past.  Great acting with some genuinely tense (and funny) moments.

T.S. Kummelman

Friday, October 9, 2015

"SKumm’s Thoughts" - X-FILES - Week X

"SKumm’s Thoughts"

X-FILES - Week X
“The X Files” (FOX, 1993, 9 Seasons)

Really, the end of last season would have been the perfect ending to the series.  But “The X-Files” had been a cash cow for so many years, you couldn’t really blame the Fox network for trying to milk it for another year.  They would even pump out another film a few years later.  But before that, there is this, the final season of a landmark series which spawned two short-lived spin-offs and helped solidify a science fiction fan base which would clamor for more in coming years.  This short season may not be the worst that has ever been on network TV, but you can see where creator Chris Carter started loosing his creative focus.  The conspiracy got too large, the characters too malleable.


Episodes 1 & 2: Nothing Important Happened Today
Never has a season of this show begun in a more lackluster fashion.  Totally ignoring the fast pace and explosive momentum of the near genius final episodes of season eight, this one starts off days after that finale.  And once again, the X-Files is in danger of being closed for good.  The absence of Duchovny is an obvious distraction; his name is said so many times in these two episodes, you wonder how the characters don’t start rolling their eyes every time they have to say it.  There are plot holes aplenty in the ever-widening super-soldier conspiracy, and guest star Lucy Lawless plays one such indestructible minion of doom, and she knows what’s wrong with Scully’s baby.  Besides the fact that, you know, IT WAS MADE IN A FREAKING ALIEN TEST TUBE.  And Doggett gets manhandled, which seems to be an unfortunate habit for poor Robert Patrick.  (Digital Drawback: there’s no way in hell you are running from the bridge of giant tanker to the bowels of the ship and into the secret lab, mention three times that the ship is going to blow up, and then back out again, and then off of the soon to be exploding ship in under two minutes.  Uh-uh, no way.)

Episode 3: Daemonicus (The One With James Remar)
A nutty professor (Remar) with a Hannibal Lector complex runs the agents ragged from murder scene to murder scene.  More plot holes, some not as glaring as in the first two episodes, and Doggett gets his butt kicked again.  Okay, actually he gets a never ending stream of plasma-vomit sprayed all over him.  And Scully gets her butt kicked.  And someone mentions Mulder’s name AGAIN.  (Digital Drawback: nice imagery with the clouds, bad animation with the truck—that’s not a dust cloud behind it, that’s a dust bubble.  Ain’t never seen no dust bubble before…)

Episode 4: 4-D
A decent episode about a killer with the ability to travel to other dimensions, which is totally ruined by an ending that doesn’t fit.  Played by the enigmatic Dylan Haggerty, who nails his character’s madness with an omnipotent and knowing glee, Lukesh proves a nearly fatal foe for both agents… depending on what side of the universe you are on…  (Digital Drawback: that ending… it’s a show about interdimensional travel, not time travel.  Freakin’ dummies.)

Episode 5: Lord of the Flies (The One With Jane Lynch)
Carter and Company attempt to recreate the humorous episodes of prior seasons, and fail.  There are some moments which are indeed funny, but overall, this episode about a boy that can control insects falls flat.  Not even Lynch can save it—mainly because she has no funny lines here.  (Digital Drawback: fake bugs... really obvious fake bugs.)

Episodes 6: Trust No 1
Perhaps the most poignant and beautiful of soliloquies starts off this episode, which delves deeper into the super soldier crap.  Only you have to wait until the very end for anything new to occur.  And apparently, this is the season where the good guys are all flipping idiots.  (Digital Drawback: slow motion action scene—egads.)

Episodes 9 & 10: Provenance/Providence
The stupidest representation of a cult ever placed on television digs up an alien spacecraft.  Scully’s baby gets kidnapped, and Dogget gets the crap beat out him.  I feel like we should be keeping score.  (Digital Drawback: they must have been running out of money for the special effects department, ‘cause that flying spacecraft looks kinda stupid.)

Episode 13: Improbable (The One With Burt Reynolds)
Best episode of the season, made so by Burt himself.  His performance here is humorous and fitting.  If you haven’t figured out who he is by the end of the show, message me, and I’ll try my best not to make you feel like a dummy…  (Digital Drawback: the unnecessary musical number at the end does not work half as well as the musical number with Burt and the cards…)

Episode 15: Jump the Shark
The Lone Gunmen make a final and mortal appearance.  They are trying to stop the release of a deadly airborne virus which is being carried by a creepy guy.  And the ending isn’t quite as fitting as you’d hope for.

Episode 16: William
The fate of Scully’s baby is decided, and you get the feeling that loose ends are being tied up, whether you like the outcomes or not.  A dude from the past that got his face shot off is back, supposedly on orders from the still missing Mulder. And, just in case you thought Doggett would get a week off, WRONG, he gets his ass kicked.  AGAIN.

Episode 19: The Truth Parts I & II
The series finale finds Mulder back, and on trial for killing a super soldier.  And Doggett gets abused again.  Almost a fitting end to such a defining series, but it leaves the biggest question unresolved.  All players, dead and alive, are on hand for the end game that isn’t an ending so much as it is a game.  We even get an exact date on when the aliens are supposed to invade, which leads us to…

THE X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (2008, PG-13, 104 minutes)
At no point is the date for the invasion discussed in this, the second and final theatrical film.  The movie plays out like a long episode of the show, more of a thank you to fans than it is a continuation or resolution to the alien conspiracy which drove the show for so long.  A pedophile priest has visions of a case involving a missing federal agent, and Mulder and Scully are brought in to consult.  From there, the movie does nothing to compliment the mythos.  The story is good, but if you are looking for resolution, this ain’t it.  Perhaps that will come with the revival, which begins airing on January 24th.

Until then, remember: The Truth Is Out There.

T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: THE MARTIAN

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on THE MARTIAN (2015, 141 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
Thankfully, this was no GRAVITY.  What I mean to say, the movie does not hinge on life-threatening situations that are drawn out to the fullest to tell a story.  The tension is there but the plot embraces the idea of overcoming adversity.  THE MARTIAN is a great watch as a theatre viewing and highly recommended for those that enjoy this style of film... but...


What I did have a problem with is writer Andy Weir painting himself into a corner.  This wasn't a deal breaker but I knew the only outcome for the story that would be acceptable.  I realized it at the start when they are discussing options - No one can die.  If someone were to die, the whole concept of having a successful conclusion (which is the way the story was designed), there can be no loss of life for it to end appropriately.  Now Ridley Scott (if you need me to tell you a brief filmography for this man, just quit watching movies and go read a book, like....  'The Martian') shot a great film.  The impressive cinematography and elaborate sets put you on Mars.  Matt Damon endears you to our stranded astronaut.  He gives you plenty of laughs while pulling you into his precarious dilemma.  And the supporting cast that consisted of the people on earth (yes, excluding the team in space who were left not fully developed, they seemed more like a vehicle to an end) made this film.  Their interaction, their conflict, and their emotional contributions almost gave the film a sense of 'based on a true story'.  I found that quite refreshing for a film with so many personalities.

I just can't wait for Scott to get working on his next projects!!!!  And if I have to tell you those... just go live in a barren wasteland already... say Mars, for instance.

Grade: B

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

'Blu-ray or Bust' - AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

'Blu-ray or Bust'

When I first saw this film in theatres, I wasn’t a big fan.

I know, I know, I’m a douche-canoe.  But going in, I didn’t really think that director Joss Whedon would be pulling an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK move on us.  I thought that, this being the Marvel universe and all, such a move wouldn’t be needed.  When you consider how vast it has become, you wonder that each movie needs to try and outdo the last.  Each has to be bigger and better than the last.

So how the hell do you top the first AVENGERS film?

The answer is, you don’t.  You just amp up the darkness a tad.  You know: lop off Luke Skywalker’s hand and give him some serious daddy issues.

The daddy issues in ULTRON come courtesy of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, who inadvertently create “Ultron”, an artificially intelligent consciousness.  Using the untapped power of Loki’s scepter, which happens to house one of the Infinity Stones, they think they are creating something that can protect the planet and give the heroes time to indulge in a normal, non-hero life.  But Ultron the “program” builds himself a body, and confronts the Avengers in a lovely and maniacal way.  The rest of the film is a lot of traveling, a lot of action, a lot of humor, and just the occasional moral chest-thumping concerning the creation of the A.I.

The movie works (and yeah, it took me two viewings to figure this out) mainly based on the performances of three people.  Everyone in the film plays their roles effectively and with great conviction, but the three that made the film almost as enjoyable (the second time around) as the first are as follows, and in this particular order:

1)         James Spader.  Spader’s performance of Ultron should be heralded as one of the best Marvel villains to date.  Yes, he’s even better than Loki.  He has a sense of humor, he has a sense of self, and, most importantly, it is James Freakin’ Spader.  Extra props to him for doing the motion capture work, too.  He gives just enough of a human aspect to the character to make his actions understandable, unlike most villains, who are evil just for the sake of being evil.

2)         Paul Bettany.  As Ultron’s baby, Bettany, whom has played the voice of “Jarvis” in the IRON MAN films, is a wonder.  His portrayal of The Vision seems the most honest and natural of the assembled heroes, and his delivery is spot on.  An insightful actor playing an insightful creation.

3)         Joss Whedon.  He is a master conductor of the world’s biggest orchestra.  From the lighting to the cinematography to the score by Danny Elfman, this is a big movie that knows it is a big movie, and it doesn’t hold back.  He sets up Phase III of the cinematic universe expertly and with exceptional attention to every detail.  He is a hell of a storyteller, Mr. Whedon is, and the tale he spins as his final Marvel film is both creative and generous.

The special features are pretty darn good, too.  The gag reel is funny, and the first long featurette covers the entire making-of with cast and crew interviews.  There is also a nifty little seven minute explanation of the Infinity Stones, which at this point is entirely necessary.

The Marvel Universe will miss Whedon’s skills, probably as much as the THOR series misses Kenneth Branagh.  Let us just hope that future Marvel filmmakers have half of the vision he did.  The next Avengers film is scheduled for release in May of 2018, so they’ve got a few years to “iron” out the bugs.  Sorry/not sorry.

Film Grade: B+
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Most Definitely


Friday, October 2, 2015

"SKumm’s Thoughts" - X-FILES - Week IX

"SKumm’s Thoughts"

“The X Files” (FOX, 1993, 9 Seasons)

Ch-ch-changes...  The second-to-last season introduces us to Robert Patrick, who replaces Duchovony as Scully’s new partner on the X Files.  Surely, creator Chris Carter can say that the show was always about Scully, and her journey from skeptic to believer.  But the ever-present chemistry between the two agents was always the biggest draw.  And now, one of them has been supplanted by Terminator 2…  This is not a horrible season; some of the episodes are well written, but keep in mind that they were written with new leads in mind.  And the fact that David Duchovony’s name only appears when he is in an episode (and sometimes those appearances are so brief you wonder why he isn’t listed as a guest star, instead) is disheartening.  The times, they are a changin’…


Episodes 1 & 2: Within/Without
Ever wanted to know what kind of experiments occur on a UFO?  Find out through little flashes of Mulder, who is having too much fun getting poked, prodded, and drilled into to help Scully and Skinner track down the psychic chess-kid.  The first episode introduces us to Agent John Doggett, who leads the manhunt for the missing Mulder.  The alien bounty hunter is back, there’s a spaceship hiding in the desert, and Scully gets her own annoying soundtrack. (Digital Drawback: gas was $1.87?  Back in 2000?  Huh.  Thanks, Obama.)

Episode 3: Patience
Guess whose name is no longer at the start of the credits?  In the first Mulder-free episode, Scully and Doggett look for a giant freaking killer bat-thing. 

Episode 5: Invocation
A creepy kid reappears ten years after he was abducted, and hasn’t aged a day.  Scully is in full Mulder role, and this episode seems more like a crash course in the supernatural for Doggett than anything else.  But it is a good episode.  Creepy kids make for fun episodes. (Digital Drawback: where’d the mean guy’s truck go if he was inside boning the mom?)

Episodes 6: Redrum
Joe Morton (TERMINATOR 2, “Scandal”) stars as a man jailed for the murder of his wife. To tell you more about the plot would give too much away.  Just know that this is probably THE MOST compelling and well written episode of the season.  Morton does an incredible and credible job carrying pretty much the entire show, and his performance will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Episode 9: Salvage
A guy with smart metals in his blood stream starts hunting down the people responsible, and Doggett proves he is the weakest skeptic on the planet.  He gets the most screen time this episode, but that does not make him the strongest character…(Digital Drawback: Bad voice-over; Clinton is president; the effect with the car was cool, but if the dude is that dense, wouldn’t he make more noise when he walks?  Just sayin’…)

Episode 11: The Gift
Doggett and Skinner investigate a Mulder appearance from the previous year; Mulder was investigating a “soul eater”, and current situations make it’s reappearance into a re-opened x-file.  A quietly moving episode, with an ending you kinda hope for, but are still pleased by.  Unlike my sex life.

Episode 12: Medusa
Doggett descends into the subway to investigate a mutilated corpse.  And everyone plays with glow-in-the-dark paint.  Suspenseful episode, and one that shows Patrick’s confidence in his new role.  But the man tends to get his butt kicked…

Episodes 14 & 15: This Is Not Happening/Deadalive
Mulder is back, and for more than just flashbacks this time. Krycek is also back, pushing Skinner’s buttons.  As an added bonus, Kahn’s right-hand man from the original WRATH OF KAHN plays a prophet at the middle of a bunch of sick abductees.  This arc also introduces us to Doggett’s future partner, Monica Reyes.  Who might be psychic.  Yeah, that’s what I said, too…

Episode 17: Empedocles
A peek into Doggett’s past, and Special Agent Reyes shows up again, investigating a killer that may have something to do with the death of Doggett’s son.  Also, we get a little glimpse of Reyes’ “special” abilities.  (Digital Drawback: Floppy discs.  And I saw the dead lady breathe!)

Episode 18: Vienen
Sometimes it is all about location.  Doggett and Mulder investigate an oil rig that is playing host to the alien virus.  This is the episode which ends with Mulder’s future uncertain.  He’s alive, but now he might be taking Scully’s order at the McDonald’s drive-thru…  (Digital Drawback: Cool idea, bad explosion.  And again with the “170 miles from land” thing, and you can see the FREAKING COAST IN THE BACKGROUND!!!)

Episodes 20 & 21: Essence/Existence
Talk about getting back to edge-of-your-seat episodes…the final two shows of the season deal with the climactic birth of Scully’s baby.  Billy Miles is back, but now he is a super alien soldier hell bent on killing every shred of alien/human fetus experimentation.  That includes the scientists that created it all, the alien fetuses, and…wait for it…SCULLY.  Krycek is also on hand, telling everyone to trust him again.  An epic conclusion to Mulder and Scully’s story arc, which has been the entire preceeding eight seasons.  Nothing, after this final episode of season eight, will ever be the same…  (Digital Drawback: worse fake head in formaldehyde that I’ve ever seen…)

T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 

on MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (2015, 132 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
We finally get the chance to see where our crew of 'gladers' ended up... and, you guessed it, not to a better place.  Director Wes Ball returns for the next installment of James Dashner's young-adult, post-apocalyptic trilogy and keeps to the same high level of cinematic pleasure.  Thomas (Dylan O'Brien of "Teen Wolf" fame) and the other escapees of the Maze find themselves aided by a mysterious group who takes in the wayward WCKD kids.  The palpable tension continues as you can sense not all is right with their saviors.  I mean, how could it not be when the leader is played by our loving Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, Aidan Gillen.  Yeah, your "Game of Thrones" role will forever brand you as an expert deceiver.  The visually stunning locations set the tone, from a city torn asunder to the epic lightening storm racing across the scorched sands.  I find this story outshines the HUNGER GAMES' sequels and a must see.  

Grade: A-