(In French, On TV, December 2018) I can certainly understand Little Women’s timeless appeal—as a story detailing the struggles of the four March girls following the American Civil War, it’s got no fewer than five plum female roles, including four for young actresses. The 1930s version practically made a star out of Katharine Hepburn, and this 1994 version features a terrific cast, in-between Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst/Samantha Mathis and Claire Danes as the girls, with Susan Sarandon as the mother. But wait, it gets even better! Gabriel Byrne, Eric Stoltz and Christian Bale are also featured as some of the suitors of the March girls. Meanwhile, the story has just enough melodrama with war casualties, fatal illnesses, romantic entanglements and literary progression. Director Gillian Armstrong manages to adapt and propel the story in a way that avoids some of the hawkishness of earlier version, and create a convincing portrait of a family sticking through challenging times. I do like the 1930s version, but this Little Women may be even more accessible and lighter on cheap sentiment.
(On Cable TV, August 2017) I’ve never been more than a very lukewarm X-Phile (I had planned to watch the series seriously once it ended, but the end was such a mess that I never went back), so it’s not as if I was asking the world out of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Alas, this underwhelming sequel fails to meet even undemanding standards. Fatally conceived as a meaningless monster-of-the-week episode rather than something advancing the overarching mythology of the series, I Want to Believe sputters a long time on the basic charm and chemistry of David Duchovny (likably roguish with or without a beard) and Gillian Anderson (looking better than ever with longer hair), but reuniting with those two characters as they work out their relationship and what they want to do against the evil of the world isn’t quite enough to satisfy. The central plot is dull as dirt, and occasional visual flourishes from writer/director Chris Carter aren’t nearly enough to keep anyone interested. The ending is pat, leaving us again with our sympathy for Mulder and Scully to pick up the slack. I’ve waited nearly ten years before giving this one a try, but there really wasn’t any reason to hurry.