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Now I feel I must start this off by urging anyone who's just read the generic synopsis above, not to pay the slightest bit of attention to it. With that I am course referring to this particular line: "Cox is determined to settle the score by wreaking vengeance by whatever means possible, whether within the law or not". While 'Red' does deal with the theme of revenge that is not at all what the character of Avery Ludlow is about. In fact, at a fairly early stage in the film he explicitly states so. This is a far more brooding, thought provoking affair. All the man wants is a simple apology and for the culprits to show even a sliver of remorse or humanity for the heinous crime they've committed.
Avery doesn't get an apology, and even though his beloved pet of 14 years was brutally slain, not even the law is on his side (pets are considered property, and murdering one counts as nothing more than destruction of property and comes with a small fine and a slap on the wrists, disgustingly true I'm afraid). It also just so happens that two of the three teens responsible belong to the town's wealthy businessman (played by Tom Sizemore, who stands out for all the wrong reasons, oddly failing to deliver in a part that was once his bread & butter, here he seems to merely wave his hands around in most of his scenes, rather than put in the level of performance we could once expect from him) and are thus considered untouchable. You can't help but feel Avery's frustration as he asks unwilling parents to chastise their tearaway offspring (Amanda Plummer & Robert Englund put in terrific support as the third teen's parents, they clearly know their son is capable of such an act, but refuse to accept any real responsibility for what he's done)
While Avery's pet dog (and the film's title character) is murdered in the opening few minutes, before we've gotten to know the full extent of their relationship, the true weight of the already tragic shooting is slowly revealed as the film progresses (making the act itself, in future re-watches, all the more shocking and heartbreaking). Co-directors Trygve Allister Diesen & Lucky McKee (both pretty much anonymous over here, Diesen's CV is rooted more in Norwegian TV while Lucky McKee is usually associated with cheap, schlocky horror pics) do a fantastic job of balancing the morality of Jack Ketchum's source novel while getting powerful performances from (most of) their cast, none more so than the powerhouse and national treasure that is Brian Cox. Cox has been acting up a storm in the little screen time so many of his previous works have offered and now all of a sudden at the age of 62 he's handed two brilliant lead roles back to back (this, followed by the excellent 'The Escapist'), not even the likes of De Niro & Pacino can get that these days, and Cox is clearly relishing it. With 'Red' he just further solidifies his already legendary status, adding so much depth and compassion to a character that could have seemed two dimensional in the hands of a lesser talent.
As the film descends into escalating violence (and not necessarily the way you'd expect it to) the morality of it all moves into overdrive. By the time the end credits roll even those who've never loved and lost a beloved pet and companion will be asking themselves some serious questions about the series of events they've just witnessed. 'Red' is a gripping, challenging thriller, one that will remain with you long after you've watched it. This is powerful, demanding cinema and deserves a much larger audience than it's likely to receive.
Fallout 3: Collector's Edition
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Prepare for the gaming experience of a lifetime while you're at it. From Bethesda Studios (the guys who reinvigorated the Role Playing Game genre in '06 with the wonderful 'The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion') comes Fallout 3, an RPG exuding class, one that's also relentlessly fun. I know, just when you thought 'Mass Effect' was gonna be tough to top. The game starts with your character's birth, from there you instantly begin your growth, from choosing your sex & name, to what you'll look like when you grow up. While this does make the building of your character more involving & entertaining than your average RPG, it does also make the action a little slow to start. Once you leave the security of the vault & enter the harsh terrain of the now decimated Washington D.C., that's when the action really starts.
Now this isn't one of those RPGs that just sticks that title on but doesn't really have the stones to back it up, Fallout 3 offers up different challenges (& even different sidekicks), some quests being easier or more difficult depending on how good or evil you decide to be. The weight of your actions can really be felt as you progress through the game. While this is an RPG (& I know a lot of folk are put off by that) it has more than enough for even the itchiest of trigger fingers. You're never too far from a band of Super Mutants or Raiders trying to spoil your daily stroll, not to mention the general wildlife you'll come across out in the wastes. Sometimes it's easy to forget this is an RPG and think you're playing a First Person Shooter. There's also a genius added factor in the puzzles (try hacking a computer or 2, once you figure out the knack it becomes addictive)
Not only is the action and the gameplay top notch, so too are the characters you'll meet along the way. Each character, no matter how insignificant to the plot, is given such depth & believability that you can't help but get wrapped up in their story, giving even the smallest encounters a feeling of complexity, sincerity and charm. A few celebs even pop up to breathe life into some of the more significant roles. The brilliant Malcolm McDowell appears as President Eden & Liam Neeson does an excellent job as your character's father, who the main storyline revolves around. Ron Pearlman adds a touch of class reprising his role as narrator from the first 2 games. If you haven't played the first 2, don't worry so much, this is a completely different animal, one that lovingly references the first 2 but doesn't hold too strictly to them.
4 years in the making (10 years since Interplay's Fallout 2) & worth every second that was put into it. Personally, I clocked a good 90 hours questing & wandering the 16km² wastes & when my friends & I compared our findings we'd all had many experiences that the other didn't (talk about value in a world where so many games fall foul of such brevity in their campaigns). The effort that went in truly shows. Graphically 'Fallout 3' is nothing short of spectacular, raising an already impossibly high standard even further & setting the bar for games to come. Standing around in the wastes during the day & just taking it all in is nothing short of breathtaking. By night, or wandering around in one of D.C.'s many abandoned subway tunnels is nothing short of nerve-jangling.
It's now a couple of months since I finished the game & I'm still struggling to fill the void that it's left. Having lost countless hours playing this with that "just one more side mission" or "I just wanna find out what that guy's up to" attitude nothing else seems as worthwhile. Fallout 3 is an epic in every sense of the word. Quality & quantity, at long last, a game that has it all (cool bobblehead & a nice tin too)
The Foot Fist Way
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When asked by anybody to describe this film I simply say this: "Imagine an update on 'The Karate Kid', all grown up, his 15 minutes of fame spent, he's no longer in the best shape, he's running a small training centre, married to the town slut all shot in the style of 'The Office'..." Now I know it's Tae Kwon-Do (which translated into English is 'The Foot Fist Way', clever, huh?) but I think that summary works pretty well. Shot much the same as Kevin Smith's breakthrough debut 'Clerks' (not in style, however) director Jody Hill made it by racking up a debt of $70000 on credit cards with the help of good friends Danny McBride & Ben Best (both of whom excel in the movie as does Hill himself who appears as Simmons relentlessly creepy & dangerous friend Mike McAllister)
The film really took off when it was viewed by the Apatow stable while they were making 'Superbad' (yes, this film was made back in 2006 & criminally took over 2 years to get even a limited release this side of the Atlantic. Some may have spotted Danny McBride's cameo in 'Superbad', followed by his casting in 'Pineapple Express' amongst others, all based purely on the comedic chops he displayed with this film) & also by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay (director of 'Anchorman') all of whom have since pioneered the movie (thankfully so). Mere minutes into 'The Foot Fist Way', it's not hard to see why.
The film opens with a few young charges talking to some locals about their master, Fred Simmons (McBride) and the kind of teacher that he is. We then get an introduction to the man himself and within the opening three minutes learn exactly what kind of man he is. He's pompous, brash and egotistical, without the talent or success to back it up (& credit to co-writers Hill, Best & McBride, as well as McBride's performance, they found a way to make him loveable and sympathetic as his life and loves slowly crumble around him).
While this film is painfully short (at a measly 82 minutes long), you can't help but feel that, in one way or another, maybe it works in the movie's favour. Come the end credits you find yourself sitting there wanting more (as all truly great films make us feel). Also it makes repeat viewings (which you may very well find yourself thinking about before the film's final reel) more enticing. The film's humour is delightfully varied, mixing cringe-worthy situations (watching Simmons pursue the new female in his class whilst being blissfully unaware of - or perhaps just choosing not to notice - her complete lack of interest in him springs to mind), hilarious dialogue (Simmons explains, in almost medical detail, what exactly a hand-job is to one of his excruciatingly uncomfortable, teenage pupils before berating the boy for not matching Simmons' own high standard), with kick-ass physical humour (pun intended, Simmons confidence in a sweet little old lady as he pits her against a hulk of a man with obvious attitude and possible mental problems being one fine example with plenty others throughout).
In many ways 'The Foot Fist Way' is this decade's 'Clerks'. Both were low budget, made on a wing & pretty big prayer, both are ridiculously funny (there were honestly some moments during this film were I laughed so hard that I feared for my own physical well being) & with any luck this will go on to receive the kind of recognition it deserves, much like 'Clerks' did, with a steadily growing fan-base leading to a similar, special feature packed release (as the extras here are nothing short of disappointing, hopefully it won't take 10 years this time). Until then, at such a reasonable price, this is definitely a movie that's well worth adding to your collection.
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Watching this (which I've now done countless times) I never cease to be baffled by the fact that this was a fairly low budget film (truly baffled...) By this time director Brain De Palma (of 'Carrie' & 'Carlito's Way' fame) was having something of a dry spell (his last two pictures failed to recapture the success of 'Scarface') He was no longer the next big thing in Hollywood, so giving him a smaller project like this seemed like no big deal. Maybe it was the lack of pressure to deliver Box Office gold, or maybe it was just pure inspiration, but whatever it was De Palma delivered arguable his finest work.
Despite the lack of funds, the casting people managed to pull in 2 of Hollywood's heavy hitters in Sean Connery (who turned in an Oscar winning performance no less) and Robert De Niro (ever the method man he refused a fat suit and did a 'Raging Bull' by piling on the pounds. He also had Capone's real-life tailor make his suits, right down to the unseen silk underwear. Even more unbelievable, the studio was so convinced he would turn it down that they were already looking to recast before he'd replied) They also managed to bag 2 of Hollywood's then unknown (now legendary) talents in Kevin Costner & Andy Garcia, all of whom were on inspired form. With a great debt owed to the immense script, De Niro almost steals the entire film with one of his most menacing performances to date, brilliantly realising Capone as he loses his cool, spewing hatred and bile at all those around him as Ness and his band of "Untouchables" close in on him (also worth mentioning is Billy Drago who exudes smarm and sleaze as Capone's head goon Nitti).
Speaking of the immense script, David Mamet was signed on to write (a man as gifted with the English language as Da Vinci was with a brush and canvas) and that's where the film really begins to shine. He churns out one memorable scene after another, Sean Connery interrogating a dead man in order to get a confession out of someone (typical Mamet), De Niro going to town on a member of his "team" with a baseball bat (more shocking than a thousand 'Saws') as well as the endlessly quotable lines ("You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word" & none more so than "They pull a knife, you pull a gun, he puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue, that's the Chicago way") Surely to take such brilliant writing and turn it into a bad film would've been a much more difficult task. 'The Untouchables' also contains one the best slow motion shoot-outs ever committed to film. De Palma expertly racks the tension up to boiling point.
Now, 'The Untouchables' is by no means a perfect film. Criticism has been launched at it for many reasons. Mostly because it takes incredible liberties with the truth (making it all that much more entertaining) and De Palma's flair for style over content (and what style it is, I mean, the costumes are by Armani) While all of this may be true, 'The Untouchables' never tries to pass itself off as a thought provoking indictment of prohibition laws or those who go against them. It more owes its basic roots to the classic western (with Ness as the new sheriff in town and Capone the bandit running it), and for sheer entertainment you'll search long and hard to find one as joyous as this (I have my doubts that De Palma's upcoming prequel 'Capone Rising' will get anywhere close to this quality-wise).
As for the Blu-ray transfer, suffice to say 'The Untouchables' has never looked or sounded so good, for more details on that the first review here has you very well covered, all I'll say is that for anybody with the DVD who's wondering if this is worth shelling out for, yes, it is.
Due South: The Complete Series Box Set (18 Discs)
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From the pilot episode (& be thankful it was included in the season 1 set, in America the pilot wasn't included until the 3rd season box set) you know that there's something special about Due South. When you consider it was created by Paul Haggis, a man who would go on to become a back to back Oscar® winner, well then it comes as no surprise. Only a mere handful of episodes later you know for sure that it was no fluke. Add to that he had on his writing staff none other than David Shore (the man who would go on to create House M.D.) & it's clear you're on to something.
Constable Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) of the RCMP transfers to Chicago hot on the trail of his father's killer. As a result he alienates the entire RCMP in Canada & so finds himself with no choice but to stay in Chicago, where he is (albeit begrudgingly) befriended by Detective Raymond "Ray" Vecchio (David Marciano). While 'Due South' has its roots firmly in the buddy comedy genre, it can also be equated with your average dysfunctional family drama (Ray's family & the various oddballs found around the police department go a long way towards that conclusion). In later episodes Fraser is even haunted by his dead father. A brilliant and original twist, one that's been used since in some popular shows (see Six Feet Under or Ally McBeal for example). For a show about the good in people, one that gently mocks America's (& the world's) view of polite Canadians, the show is not without its darker moments.
Season 1 is the finest & it does contain most of the shows highlights. 'Manhunt' featuring a great guest appearance from none other than that Canadian legend himself Leslie Nielson (his father was actually a member of the RCMP, & I should also point out that his guest appearances in the next two seasons make them worth having), 'The Man Who Knew Too Little' (in which we learn just how much Ray loves his car as he and Fraser are forced to transport Ian, a compulsive liar, across the border) , 'Victoria's Secret parts 1 & 2' (in which we see a whole new side of the Mountie) & the Rear Window type season finale 'Letting Go' (Due South was originally intended to be a one off 22 episode show, but due to popular demand a final episode was written to make season 2 possible)
Season 2 has many highlights also: 'North', 'Bird in the Hand' (the man who killed Fraser's father makes an unwelcome return in the last episode written or directed by Haggis before he took a more backseat, Exec. Producer role), 'Starman' (Ian returns) and 'All the Queen's Horses' (Leslie Nielson returns in the first episode to be written and directed by star Gross). Season 3 (actually 3 & 4 combined) is the weakest. Due to a contractual obligation, amongst other things (playing second fiddle to the wolf for example), when the show was recalled, star Marciano decided not to reprise his role & had to be written out of the show. Callum Keith Rennie (perhaps most recognizable for his work on Battlestar Galactica) takes over. But the very foundation on which the show was based had now been altered (not a terrible thing, but the show was never as clever or witty once Haggis stopped nurturing it).
All in all Due South is has its flaws, but with writing and characterisation this strong (even Fraser's deaf wolf Diefenbaker is more fleshed out than many of the characters in dramas these days) it would be churlish to point them out. For anybody out there who remembers watching this good natured & highly entertaining show on those lazy Saturday afternoons, its well worth seeking it out, you may even find yourself growing a whole new appreciation for it. As for those who are unfamiliar, I say go ahead, treat yourself to something special why not?
The Tick: Complete Box Set (6 Discs)
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Like a mighty blue salmon of justice, The Tick swims onto DVD to remind us all of the fun we've been missing. Die-hard fans will already know exactly what's on offer here, as will anybody who had nothing better to do on a Saturday morning between 94-96. For those of you who weren't lucky enough to catch it all those years ago, here's all you need to know. The animated series was the second incarnation of The Tick (the first being the comics). He's a superhero sworn to protect The City (yes, it's called The City) & nigh invulnerable (he has a little trouble with knocks to the head & his antenna are a little sensitive, aside from that). He's also a little slow on the up & fond of morals that don't really make an awful lot of sense. One prime example: "So may Evil beware & may Good dress warmly & eat plenty of fresh vegetables". This makes him one of the most quotable characters in history. Plus the sheer fact that he's a superhero who has to catch a taxi to stop crime is hysterical.
Townsend Coleman (better known for his voice work as Michaelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) was an inspired choice to breathe life into The Tick. He brilliantly sells every line with a juxtaposition of righteous gravitas and downright silliness. The Tick was a perfect & loving mock of superheroism (faced with the current flood of superhero movie fare, there was never a better time to relive this classic gem) & his cast of supporting players are no exception. The Tick's trusty sidekick Arthur (no powers of which to speak, his battle cry is "Not in the face, not in the face" but he's definitely the brains of the operation) & his fellow supers, Die Fledermaus (literally translates as 'The Bat', again, his battle cry is "I think I'm gonna sit this one out"), American Maid (definitely the most useful aside from The Tick), The Human Bullet ("Fire me, boy!"), Bi-polar Bear (my personal favourite) & of course Sewer Urchin (protecting parts of The City most dare not tread sounding suspiciously like Rain Man) to name but a few.
But nothing can top the villains of The City, Chairface Chippendale (his head's a chair, that's pretty much it), Mr. Mental, The Brainchild, The Deadly Bulb (aka Pig-leg), El Seed & probably the greatest evil that ever lived, The Terror (the only thing being that he's somewhat passed his prime). Episode highlights (& it's not an easy choice let me tell ya with hardly a weak moment to be found over its 3 short seasons) include The Tick vs. The Uncommon Cold, The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account, Alone Together, Grandpa Wore Tights, The Tick vs. Filth (in which we see what Sewer Urchin can really do) & what turned out to be the final episode The Tick vs. Education.
Like most great shows, The Tick never got a chance to outlive its welcome. There were many (mouth watering) plans for a fourth season before word came that Fox had cancelled it. This was definitely a show made with kids in mind, hence why The Tick's origin between comic and cartoon changed somewhat. In the comic he escaped from a mental institution because he was bored. Personally I think it's funnier & would explain a lot, but it's not as kiddie friendly as the pop-idol cartoon version. Also the humour of the show is a lot more innocent & a lot less edgy compared to the current cartoon standard set by the likes of 'Family Guy', 'American Dad', 'South Park' or anything connected with 'Adult Swim', but that only stands to further set The Tick apart from anything else. However, The Tick does contains countless high-art & literary references. That said, the only really important thing to take from all this is that The Tick was, in its day, a cult phenomena, one that's lost none of its childish delight. A must have.
Crime Story - Series 1 (Anchor Bay) (5 Discs)
Following the success of 'Miami Vice' Michael Mann was green lit on a project of his choosing by network NBC. Thus 'Crime Story' was born (Michael Mann devised the project, but it was created by Gustave Reininger & Chuck Adamson who researched the story & wrote the pilot). 'Crime Story' is based firmly in real life on a high ranking Detective (who, since 2002 is serving out a 16 year sentence, pleading guilty to racketeering when it was discovered he had "connections" in high places within the mafia, you can't make this stuff up). The show itself constantly strives for realism & that stands to its credit. For example, the creators based the character of up & coming mobster, Ray Luca, on an actual gangster whose story bore more than a passing resemblance to that used in the show. Also, co-creator Chuck Adamson & Dennis Farina (who plays tough guy cop & main pursuer of Luca, Lt. Mike Torello) were both officers in Chicago's Central Investigative Unit on which the show's Major Crimes Unit is based. Another prime e.g., John Santucci (who plays Ray Luca's right hand man, Pauli Taglia) was, in his day, a renowned jewel thief &, as such, had been arrested by both Adamson & Farina (again, can't make it up). These stories are what commentaries are made for, which is a shame, because there are no extra features.
However, the show speaks for itself. While Mann was not its creator his presence is felt throughout, in its style & use of music. 'Crime Story' was perfect relief from 'Miami Vice'. It offered a grittier, edgier view of the criminal underworld in (let's face it) two more metropolitan cities than Miami. While almost everything in Vice was bright and colourful (right down to their outfits), Chicago & Las Vegas are quite different, filled with dark alleys, dangerous men & neon-lit cityscapes. Places where the only men harsher than the criminals are the ones in pursuit. Mike Torello & co. are the kind of guys who shoot first & ask questions later (although there generally isn't anyone left standing so the questioning part is pretty rare). The original plan for 'Crime Story' was to make it like a 22 hour movie (there is a 2nd season, but it's not a patch on the this one) this meant every episode led right into the next as a continuous story-arc (a seminal method that's had an impact on shows from '24' to 'Deadwood').
While this show was once hard hitting, it's now somewhat tame in the wake of shows like 'The Wire' & 'The Shield' (both also heavily influenced by 'Crime Story'). That noted, Mike Torello may be the toughest guy ever to carry a gun & a badge & Dennis Farina gives the performance of a lifetime in a role he so obviously reveled in. The cat & mouse element is brilliantly played out between the leads, but the show loses some of its momentum when it moves to Vegas. The rough edges of the Chicago streets are sorely missed & the pacing never seems as brisk. On another note, the ending feels contrived & is something of an anti-climax after you've invested so much in these exceptionally well devised characters (another Mann trademark).
'Crime Story' was made in the 80s & it suffers some of the lesser qualities of the era. The two biggest examples being that pick-up shots were too expensive, so characters are poorly dubbed in a few scenes here & there, & when people get shot they don't bleed until the cutaway shot, both of which take away from the realism of the show. But for all of its flaws, this was a trail-blazing show that never felt formulaic in its unravelling. If you happen to be watching this box set after countless other cop shows, not having seen it before, & if you find yourself thinking it stale or clichéd, just remember one thing: 'Crime Story' got there first.
Millennium - Season 3 Box Set (6 Discs)
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When Chris Carter came back from 'The X-Files Movie' and saw what had become of his beloved 'Millennium' he wept (okay, I might be describing that a little bit too melodramatically, he more got annoyed and fired supervisors James Wong and Glen Morgan for what he considered to be the suicide of his show). So when 'Millennium' got the surprise notice that a third Season was on the cards at Fox (having been told months earlier they were finished), he set about bringing the show back to its roots. Not nearly as easy as it sounds given the finale of Season 2 (I won't spoil it for you, it has to be seen to be appreciated). Unfortunately, the mess proved virtually impossible, even for the show's creator, to clean up. Too many vital elements had been toyed with, or just completely demolished, for 'Millennium' to ever sail again to heights it had once enjoyed. The show now seemed to be just banging its head off a brick wall.
Don't get me wrong, they made one hell of a go of it (the plane crash, big bang, welcome back is one hell of an effort to bring it round, even if it is too much, too soon after the Season 2 finale), and Season 3 is not without merit (it is more like the first Season in style and tone) but too much had changed too quickly. Some of the themes from Season 2 are inevitably carried over though. Once the seed of conspiracy is set, it's like a weed, near impossible to eradicate completely, so that plot thread stayed put, even though this series is back to Frank investigating cases more so than uncovering the Millennium Group's nasty secrets, although almost all of the horror had now left the show.
But one of Season 3's biggest mistake is its effort to discredit Season 2, great lengths have been taken to distance one from the other and in some cases even insult it. For example, on a rare occasion when a character mentions anything from S2, he's quickly shot down and told to forget it. Even further measures are taken, a good deal of the actors who popped up in S2, at one point or another, are taken back playing completely different characters. One, maybe even two, would be forgiven as a slip up (& had happened already) in the casting department (or because they just really liked working with them), but in S3 it happens more than enough to raise suspicion that this was a conscious effort on the maker's part to completely dishonour Season 2 altogether.
When the notice arrived yet again that 'Millennium' was not going to last another Season, the folks behind it all decided to give Frank Black a better send off, to give the show a definite ending (more of a luxury given the impromptu cancellations these days), albeit a somewhat open ended one. In the extra features you'll find an episode of 'The X-Files' from Season 7 featuring Frank Black, in an effort to give him a thorough (and once and for all) send off (seeing as this show wasn't around for the millennium). As an 'X-Files' episode it does exactly what it says on the tin (the dead rise for some reason or other and Mulder and Scully think Frank Black might be able to help), but as far as closing the book on 'Millennium' goes, it's a weak and rather half-assed effort (from, let's face it, one of the lesser Seasons of 'The X-Files'). 'Millennium' could have been noted as one of the greatest TV shows around where it not for the unfortunate handling of the show. More frustrating though, for all of its efforts to be less like 'The X-Files' and more its own beast, 'Millennium' was sold as being "from the creator of The X-Files" and was consistently a Top 10 rated show in the States. So the reason it was finally cancelled then? Because Fox were looking for the next 'X-Files', and 'Millennium' wasn't it...
Millennium - Season 2 Box Set (6 Discs)
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Picking up pretty much where Season 1 left off, Season 2 of 'Millennium' set out its stall straight away as a show that wasn't afraid to go in different directions (some good, others display the show's ultimate downfall). The first episode sees Frank tracking his wife's kidnapper, while those around him try to get him off the investigation and prevent him from doing something he'd ultimately regret. The only problem being Frank is the only man equipped for the task of finding her. From that episode on, 'Millennium' yet again proved itself to be anything but conventional. From the moment you open this box set and see that the first two discs are rated 12 (given that 4 of the 6 from the first Season are rated 18, and none under 15) you begin to wonder. It becomes clear that the shocking nature of the original series is one of the unfortunate factors that make way (not completely, but very noticeably so).
By the time this second Season rolled out, Chris Carter had handed over the reins to his 'X-Files' stalwarts James Wong and Glen Morgan (the men behind the 'Final Destination Trilogy' and 'Jet Li's The One') as Carter himself was busy working on 'The X-Files Movie'. While Carter was always conscious that he wanted to steer 'Millennium' away from 'The X-Files' type conspiracy business, Wong and Morgan had other ideas, it proved to be the beginning of the end for 'Millennium'. Almost from the off they establish that the Millennium group may not be all it's cracked up to be, that they might not have been formed for the sole purpose of the good of mankind. The show soon finds itself on thin ice.
From this Season are born some of the lesser (more 'X-Files' orientated) episodes from the entire three Seasons, 'The Curse of Frank Black' (an odd Halloween episode sees Frank haunted by past memories), 'Jose Chung's Doomsdays Defence' (about a writer and a cult leader) and 'Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me' (four devils, yes devils, meet in a coffee shop to swap stories, itself not a bad episode of TV, but in 'Millennium' and so late on in the series a terrible decision) are a few stand-outs for all the wrong reasons.
Having said all that, some of the finest episodes are also contained here, 'The Mikado' (showcasing some of the dangers of the World Wide Web), and the double bill finale, 'The Fourth Horseman' and 'The Time is Now', made in an effort to send 'Millennium' off with a bang after word came in that the show wasn't going to make it to another Season. It's an ending the likes of which will never be seen again (and one that made starting and continuing Season 3 a very difficult task indeed). So all in all, Season 2 is ultimately the most muddled of the three, playing out some of the best and worst this show had to offer, making it only an occasionally worthwhile watch. If nothing else, it's a fascinating look inside a show about to implode upon itself.
Millennium - Season 1 Box Set (6 Discs)
Back in the day, when 'The X-Files' ruled the waves, creator Chris Carter was considered a solid gold investment. He could have picked anything out of the air and had it commissioned as a full 22 episode series (at 44 minutes an episode). Then in 1996, Carter came up with 'Millennium'. The subject matter is grim and grizzly. Frank Black, an ex-FBI serial killer profiler (so disturbed by his work and the places it took him that he feared for his family's lives as well as his own mental health) realises his gift is too valuable to waste and begins working for the mysterious Millennium Group, themselves all former FBI, secret agents, etc. But Frank is not your run of the mill profiler. Due to his many run-ins and close calls with murderers, masochists and other nefarious people, Frank developed an almost supernatural gift to place himself in the mind of these monsters as they carried out their deviancies. Think 'Manhunter' and then some.
Given its subject matter, it's hard to recommend 'Millennium' as entertainment, but it is entertaining as you find yourself drawn into Frank's world, and taking into account Frank's somewhat otherworldly ability it's hard to see this as realism, although a lot of the cases and killers are rooted firmly in fact (and disturbingly believable). But the strength and shocking nature of the 'Pilot' episode has you gripped from the get go. On top of that, the character Frank Black is a man so constantly tortured by his own talent (in some of the most brilliantly filmed sequences on TV, or film for that matter) you would think he would be hard to empathise with. However, the fact that Frank is trying to do right by his family and the world, while balancing the two, coupled with a career best performance by Lance Henriksen as Frank, it's harder not to sympathise with this tormented man.
By the time 'Millennium' had reached its sixth episode, 'Kingdom Come', the show was being criticised (as was 'The X-Files') for its monster of the week approach. It was still better than most things on TV, but a fair complaint none-the-less. That said 'Millennium' quickly established itself as a different animal altogether and was moving into overdrive come the halfway point of the season with episodes like 'Force Majeure', 'Walkabout' and 'Lamentation' (written by Carter himself and to this day one the best and bravest examples of television that I've ever seen) and anything else from the latter half of the season for that matter. It's a great shame that this was to be the only consistently great season of 'Millennium', because during its peak 'Millennium' could top anything being done by 'The X-Files' and beyond. Unfortunately the show ran into trouble in its next two seasons and was subsequently cancelled (as most good TV shows often are, see 'Firefly', 'The Job', 'Deadwood' and so many more for example, but with one slight difference, it was cancelled twice) thus ending before it's time in 1999, never actually making it to the millennium. A disturbing and rewarding watch.