Friday, March 20, 2009

OFF THE RAG

My Leprechaun/Guinness evening didn’t turn out quite like I’d planned. After two beers, and sitting through half of the first film, I fell asleep. I mean, sure, he killed a guy with a pogo stick, but other than his little outfit, there wasn’t much about Leprechaun that got me in an Irish mood. Warwick Davis’ piss-weak brogue and the casting of Jennifer Aniston didn’t help (although we all know that the Greeks are the natural enemy of the Irish).


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OK, the Sorority Row trailer released today didn’t really put the stiff breeze in my skin flute, so I thought I’d write about something not so recent. In fact, I’ve made up a new regular feature: OFF THE RAG!

What is OTR? Well, every week or so, I’m going pick a movie that was widely panned upon its release and defend it because, well, I’m an asshole, but also because I liked the fucker. I’m going to take a movie everyone ragged on and take it OFF THE RAG! Get it? (Harry Knowles would be proud at my use of bodily secretions for a movie review).

First up is a movie I picked up for a buck-fitty at Best Buy over the holidays: X-Files: I Want to Believe. For much of 2007-2008, I was psyched over the return of Mulder and Scully to big screens. Adding to the anticipation was the fact that this movie would steer away from the conspiracy story arc that dominated the series, and focus on a monster-of-the-week type plot.

Early trailers didn’t give much away. Unfortunately, it turns out there wasn’t much to give away. Released a week after the Dark Knight, audience reception was poor and reviews were scathing, comparing it to a mediocre episode of the series at best. So like a chump, I avoided seeing it in theatres. This might have been a good thing.

I was bored last week, and it was a typical snow-covered turd of a day here in dEdmonton, so I popped open an afternoon beer, and popped in the DVD – and I actually enjoyed the fucker. The plot, which I’ll run through briefly, concerns Mulder and Scully, now a couple that occasionally skronk (let’s call them “Sculder” ala “Bennifer” and “Brangelina”), called back into action by the FBI. Scully is a doctor at a churchy type hospital and Mulder just sits at home growing a fake beard, so the excitement is welcome. The feds need their help on the case of a missing FBI agent, a case whose only lead seems to have come from the mind of a former pedo-priest-turned-psychic (Billy Connelly). The investigators, led by Amanda Peet and (sigh) X-hibit wanna know if Father Joe is really psychic or just pulling stuff out of his ass. After a few conversations, and a chase or two, Connelly eventually leads Sculder to the abductors – some freaky Russian head-swapping scientists looking to take sex changes to a whole new level.

Plot wise, yeah it seemed like director-writer-guru Chris Carter just raided the vaults for some unused scripts, but somehow the movie kinda gelled with me. The icy, snow bound setting and brilliant cinematography were as moody as any classic X-file, Duchovny and Anderson slipped right back into their roles with ease, and Billy Connelly’s Father Joe was a standout. Sure, there were no monsters (other than a two-headed dog), and both the gore and grue were limited, but the gruesome bits that made it onscreen were effectively chilling. Also, the whole Russian head grafting angle was well played – these fuckers were actually trying this stuff back in the 1950s, and many two headed dogs actually did ensue.

I do have one major issue with the film, and I’m going to post a major spoiler in hopes that when you watch this, you’ll shut it off when the credits start rolling. After said credits, we see Mulder and Scully clad in beach wear, rowing a boat to some tropical island. I shit you not. Is this an X-files movie or some fucking Matthew McConaghey-Kate Hudson romcom? Maybe Chris Carter felt all the snow was too depressing, so he tacked on a vacation scene for the test audiences.

Anyways, yeah my expectations were in the shitter, and watching it on the small screen probably helped with the average plot, but Carter and co. did a lot of things right, and took a lot of chances. They could have opted for a big-bang return of TV’s favourite feds; instead, they told a more intimate, thoughtful, character-based story. The problem was that after such a long hiatus, the fans wanted more. Plus, the whiz-bang summer competition made X-Files pale in comparison. I get the feeling that if Fox has released this in late fall, it would have done a hell of a lot better than it did.

So go plunk down your cash and at least rent the fucker, so Fox can at least justify another sequel and we can get the return of one of the classic freaks, like Tooms or the inbreds.

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