TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jason Beghe, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.

Film Review: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

Release Date: June 7th, 1991
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Neil Landau, Tara Ison
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy, Keith Coogan, John Getz, Josh Charles, David Duchovny, Kimmy Robertson, Danielle Harris

HBO Pictures, Outlaw Productions, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“I’m right on top of that Rose.” – Sue Ellen “Swell” Crandell

I had the rare opportunity of revisiting this film on the big screen. Okay, not in a theater per se, but on a large silver sheet stretched between two large trees at my friend’s makeshift movie theater in his backyard in the woods.

This was a pretty good vehicle for Christina Applegate, who was huge at the time for playing the slutty teenage daughter of Al Bundy on Fox’s television hit Married… with Children. This was Applegate’s attempt at breaking out and as being seen as someone other than a slutty daughter on a sitcom.

Here, she plays a much smarter and resourceful character and this is ultimately, a coming of age story. Applegate shines, as does the rest of the young cast, who had great chemistry and felt like actual siblings.

I’ve always liked Keith Coogan but Kenny is my favorite role he’s ever played. Also, horror icon Danielle Harris, pretty fresh off of Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, plays the youngest sister of the five children here. We also get to see Joanna Cassidy, David Duchovny and Kimmy Robertson in supporting roles.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a comedy where you have to suspend some disbelief because the premise sees a babysitter die, the kids stuff her into a trunk and drop her body off at a cemetery – this way they can have their summer to themselves. This really is kind of a black comedy at its core, even if the darkness is buried in colorful teen comedy candy.

I can’t honestly say that this is a great film but I still love it to this day and, at least for me, it’s had some staying power. Maybe I was always attracted to it because of it’s dark narrative underbelly. But I think that the real reason this film has stuck with me for over a quarter of a century is that everyone in it works so well together. Plus, Christina Applegate is kind of a badass in this and it forever changed how I perceived her.

This is a film that was underappreciated and underrated at the time it came out. Most people have probably forgotten about it, all these years later. But for some reason, I still pop it into the DVD player every few years.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Chris Carter
Written by: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Based on: The X-Files by Chris Carter
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner, Mitch Pileggi

Crying Box Productions, Dune Entertainment III, Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

After binge watching The X-Files television series in its entirety and revisiting the first film, I had to cap it off by checking out the second film, which I had never seen.

The film is not a continuation of the alien conspiracy story. It plays more like an extended version of an X-Files monster of the week episode. The story is fine and dandy but I don’t think that it warranted a feature film.

Sure, it serves to help Mulder and the FBI bury the hatchet, it goes on to show what happened to him and Scully a few years after the series finale but other than that, there isn’t much here.

The new agents played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit are pretty disposable. Peet dies a senseless death that doesn’t impact the film, the plot or the characters. It would have been nice to see her continue on from this picture but she’s essentially just the tool to bring Mulder back into the fold and then just done away with. Xzibit was awful in this film. He’s just a grumpy skeptic asshole at every turn and isn’t even remotely likable or interesting.

Walter Skinner shows back up in the end and it is a nice reunion but it isn’t as impactful as you feel it should be. Doggett and Reyes are nowhere to be found and as far as I saw, not even mentioned, after being a huge part of the series’ final two seasons.

The film plays like a mediocre episode of the show but it is entirely too long and drawn out. It isn’t a complete waste of time and it isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t what should have warranted a theatrical release and would have served the franchise better as a television event instead of trying to be a summer tent pole film.

It isn’t nearly as good of a follow-up as the revival miniseries (or season ten) that they just aired last year.

This film should have picked up the alien conspiracy plot or it should have served to close out Doggett’s story of trying to solve his son’s murder, which still, to this day, is not resolved.

Film Review: The X-Files (1998)

Also known as: The X-Files: Fight the Future
Release Date: June 19th, 1998
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Written by: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Based on: The X-Files by Chris Carter
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, John Neville, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Jeffrey DeMunn, Terry O’Quinn, Michael Shamus Wiles

Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox, 121 Minutes

Review:

I already reviewed The X-Files television show. This review is for the first film in the franchise, which is also known as The X-Files: Fight the Future.

The film takes place between the fifth and sixth seasons of the series and was released at that time as well. It continues and expands upon the main plot thread of the show regarding the alien conspiracy. It moves along the story pretty well and doesn’t have a definitive ending, thus leaving it open for further expansion on its mythos.

The film is really good if you are a fan of the television series and it was one of my favorite chapters in the overall story. However, if you aren’t versed in the series, it is probably hard to watch and even harder to follow. Sure, it is eerie and creepy and has a lot of cool shit in it. The problem, is that it relies on the viewer to have knowledge on the series and the alien conspiracy plot thread that has spanned five seasons, by this point.

It also doesn’t feel like a feature film, it feels more like an expanded episode with a much larger budget and better special effects.

Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are great but when aren’t they?

It would be best to watch this film between seasons five and six, if you are binge watching them. In fact, if you are watching the television series, this is required viewing because a lot happens that effects the show and jumping into season six may be a bit confusing without seeing the film first.

I do like the film in the same vein as the series but it should really be a part of the series and not a chapter placed elsewhere that may be missed by modern viewers because it isn’t available on Netflix like the show is. Although you can rent it on Amazon Video for a few bucks.

TV Review: The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016- )

Original Run: September 10th, 1993 – May 19th, 2002
Revival Run: January 24th, 2016 – present
Created by: Chris Carter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Nicholas Lea, Chris Owens, James Pickens Jr., Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund, Laurie Holden, Brian Thompson, Mimi Rogers

Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, 208 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

the-x-files-tvReview:

The X-Files was on television for quite a long time: nine years. In fact, it just recently had a revival series that lasted six episodes and there will probably be some sort of follow up to that. It also spawned two motion pictures and two spinoff television series: Millennium and The Lone Gunmen. It also propelled the careers of stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It even paved the way to greatness for producer and writer Vince Gilligan, who would go on to create Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul. Many don’t realize that The X-Files isn’t just a show, it is a massive franchise.

I hadn’t watched the series in its entirety, even when it was still on television, as I was a teenager at the time and being home on Friday nights wasn’t the cool thing to do. We also didn’t have DVR, On Demand or Hulu back then. But I did catch a lot of episodes and watched through most of the earlier seasons once the show went into syndication.

It wasn’t until recently, in early 2016, that I decided to dedicate some serious time to binge watching the 200-plus episodes.

There are certainly episodes that haven’t aged well in the two decades since the show was on television but there are many that are still pretty chilling and freaky. And many episodes hold up really well today and I can now consider some of them to be classics, as they stood the test of time and still maintain their effectiveness. Season Two was especially nightmarish and it still is at its high points.

For those who don’t know, the show follows FBI Agents Mulder and Scully. Mulder works on the FBI’s secret X-Files cases while Scully is sent in to partner up with him in an effort to be the skeptical voice in Mulder’s conspiratorial goose chases. Of course, Mulder is most often right and Scully is left questioning everything she knows while still maintaining her stance of skepticism until she can’t any longer. It’s actually a great relationship to watch, seeing these arguments happen throughout the show, as it always tries to debunk the weird stuff and usually does a good job of it until the shit hits the fan or a twist pops up near the end.

Duchovny and Anderson were perfect for the roles of Mulder and Scully and their relationship is the driving force of the series. Yeah, it’s cool to see aliens, vampires, monsters, demons and whatever other weird shit they throw at you, but without Duchovny and Anderson, the show doesn’t work. And that was apparent after Duchovny left the show at the end of the seventh season. He made sporadic appearances here and there but the show wasn’t the same. The magic was gone.

The X-Files is one of the greatest pop culture things from the 1990s. Hell, it is one of the greatest franchises out there. It is still eerie, unsettling and it plays well for the most part. And honestly, I would be okay with further miniseries and films until the end of time. Or just as long as Duchovny and Anderson want to keep doing them.