• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

New Escapist Column! On Power Without Responsibility in the MCU…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With WandaVision launching this weekend and with reports that Chris Evans would be returning to the role of Steve Rogers, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Captain America: Civil War as the point at which the MCU embraced the idea of power without responsibility.

Superhero stories are often about power and responsibility. However, one of the most striking aspects of the MCU has been its recurring embrace of the idea that power should come without any responsibility. Civil War is supposed to be a story about consequences, but instead becomes a story about characters desperately evading consequences, and asking the audience to cheer for them as they do. There’s something hollow and empty in that, and it’s arguably a rot at the root of the MCU.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How Netflix Failed the Punisher…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With WandaVision launching this weekend, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Marvel’s first foray into streaming, their Netflix series.

The Punisher was the last entry into the shared Netflix Marvel Universe, starring Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle. However, what’s interesting about The Punisher on Netflix is the extent to which the series is reluctant to let Frank Castle… be Frank Castle, to wallow in what makes the Punisher such a challenging and unsettled character. In contrast, the series reframes Frank as a much mroe generic streaming hero, stripping out anything that makes the character particularly compelling or engaging.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

217. Sherlock Jr. (#198)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Andrew Max Tohline, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr.

In a small town, a movie projectionist (and janitor) falls in love with a beautiful woman. He dreams of ways in which he might win her love, turning to detective fiction and the silver screen for inspiration. However, sometimes the boundaries between reality and fantasy are more porous than they might appear.

At time of recording, it was ranked 198th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

New Escapist Column! A Look Back at The First Season of “Daredevil”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With WandaVision launching this weekend, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Marvel’s first foray into streaming.

The series produced by Netflix are largely forgotten and overlooked in histories of the shared universe, which makes sense given that they operated at a remove from contemporaneous features like Avengers: Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War. However, when it originally premiered, the first season of Daredevil was jaw-dropping. It was bold and ambitious in a way that stood apart from the rest of the live action content associated with the studio. Marvel Studios could learn a lot from it as they return to the medium.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Outside the Wire

Outside the Wire often feels like Netflix resurrected Cannon Films, and tasked them with remaking Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Training Day, without any constraints in terms of logic or internal consistency.

Outside the Wire is a bad film, but it is a bad film in somewhat interesting ways. This is not the dull lifeless quality of Wild Mountain Thyme. It is instead the gonzo “throw everything at the wall, regardless of how it fits together” energy of a film like Serenity or Book of Henry. It is a film that makes a number of bizarre choices that often seem to confusingly double back on one another, to the point that any review of the film inevitably comes across as a deranged play-by-play rather than coherent criticism.

“You’re a droid, and I’m a ‘noid.”

Outside the Wire is set in Eastern Europe in the distant future of 2037, as a new Cold War brews between Russia and the United States, raging as a proxy war in the Ukraine. (It perhaps says something about the state of current politics that this reference feels very dated.) Lieutenant Thomas Harp is a drone pilot. During a routine assignment, he breaks the chain of command and fires a missile that kills two servicemen. As a penalty, Harp is assigned to active duty on the frontier.

This is a fairly standard set-up. It recalls movies that meditate on the morality of drone warfare, like Good Kill or Eye in the Sky. Indeed, as Harp arrives on site, the commanding officer outlines the brutal cynicism of this punishment. “You’re here because somebody deemed the dollar value of your training to be higher than the lives of those two men. If you survive, air force keeps a pilot. If you die, you’re a cautionary tale to all the other fly-by-wire assholes.” The stakes are grounded, logical. The moral at play is clear. Harp is going to learn what war is really like.

Robot Wars.

Then, in the space of three minutes, Harp is assigned to work with an officer named “Leo.” Leo is an oddity. “He’s not like us,” the commanding officer warns. Leo works alone in a large office, filled with records. He listens to vinyl music. He types on an analogue keyboard. Within minutes of arriving, Leo has already conscripted Harp on a covert mission behind enemy lines. It initially seems like Leo is planning to deliver a set of vaccines to a local children’s hospital. “So you’re hearts and minds, sir?” Harp asks. Leo replies, “Yes, I’m hearts and minds. Ostensibly.”

It turns out that the vaccine run that Harp has been assigned moments after arriving to his first active deployment is actually a clandestine strike mission to take out local war lord Victor Koval. Koval is plotting to take control of the Ukrainian nuclear arsenal, and Leo is committed to stopping that from happening. Leo walks Harp through an elaborate exposition machine, involving photo plays and interactive maps. There’s a lot of elaborate detail, but the mission is clear. This is a “save the world” buddy movie.

And then Leo takes off his shirt, and reveals that he is android. All of this is twenty minutes into the film.

Continue reading

New Escapist Video! “Outside the Wire – Review in 3 Minutes”

I’m thrilled to be launching 3-Minute Reviews on Escapist Movies. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute feature film review to the channel, discussing Outside the Wire.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Cast Daniel Craig as a Bond Girl…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. Because The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is now on American Netflix, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at David Fincher’s underrated adaptation.

Daniel Craig has always had a challenging relationship with his most iconic role, that of super-suave super-spy James Bond. Many of his roles play off that tension, juxtaposing Craig with the audience’s expectations of him. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is no exception, essentially casting Craig in the role of the Bond Girl to Lisbeth Salander. Craig is repeatedly presented as vulnerable and distressed, often requiring rescuing and often existing as an extension of the women around him. It’s a clever, self-aware piece of casting.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

New Escapist Column! On How “Doctor Who” Is Less “Woke” Than It’s Been In Decades…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With rumours that Jodie Whittaker may be departing Doctor Who, it seems an appropriate time to look back her time on the show. In particular, the weird political furore around it.

Under producer Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who has been criticised for being “too woke” and “too politically correct.” This is interesting, because – if anything – the show is more conservative than it has been at any point since the mid-eighties. Under Chibnall, Doctor Who believes that “the systems aren’t the problem” and is openly deferential to authority. It frequently rejects the idea of radical systemic change, instead suggesting that the status quo is something to be preserved rather than disturbed.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “The Mandalorian Season 2 Finale Discussion”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and KC Nwosu for the second episode of the year. We talked about the upcoming Rubik’s Cube shared universe, the release of Disney Pixar’s Soul, and the season finale of The Mandalorian.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

216. Soul – This Just In (#178)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Graham Day, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Pete Docter and Kemp Power’s Soul.

Music teacher Joe Gardner catches a once-in-a-lifetime break, the opportunity to play on stage with the legendary Dorothea Williams. Joe boasts that he could die a happy man, which makes it doubly ironic when a freak accident sends Joe hurdling into the Great Beyond. However, Joe is convinced that a little thing like death won’t keep him from living the best day of his life.

At time of recording, it was ranked 178th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading