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New Escapist Column! On How “Scream” is a Cutting Commentary on the Noise Around the “Star Wars” Sequels…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Scream this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to delve into the latest entry in the beloved horror franchise.

What is most interesting about the latest Scream is the extent to which it feels largely divorced and separated from the horror genre, particularly compared to the earlier films in the franchise. Instead, Scream seems much more engaged with the modern Star Wars films, borrowing key plot points and background lore from recent entries in the franchise. More than that, it’s a film that is very aggressively engaged with the fandom discussion around those films.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the “Chucky” Franchise Is About Being Both Mass Produced and Remaining One of a Kind…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. I’ve been watching the Child’s Play and Chucky franchise, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to delve into one of the more distinctive major horror franchises.

There’s an interesting tension to the Chucky franchise, one that plays out across the various entries. This is a horror series about a mass-produced piece of children’s entertainment, controlled by the demented soul of a monstrous serial killer. Much of the franchise is about the contrast between those two ideas: the factory-assembled doll and the distinctive spirit inside of it. It works well as a metaphor for the larger Chucky franchise as a whole, which has changed form repeatedly across its various incarnations, but somehow managed to retain a unique and consistent identity.

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

Non-Review Review: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

There is something inherently cinematic about Macbeth.

More than the other three of Shakespeare’s “big four” tragedies, Macbeth is a movie that lends itself to bold cinematic adaptations. To be fair, there are great cinematic adaptations of Hamlet and King Lear, but there don’t seem to be quite as many of them that linger in the consciousness. It’s interesting to wonder why cinema seems to be such a perfect form for this Jacobean tragecy. Maybe it’s the overt supernatural elements, or the grim setting, the intersection of stark morality and brutal violence. It might even be uncanny imagery suggested by the dialogue. Perhaps it’s all of these. Perhaps it is none of them.

Black and white morality.

Whatever the reason, from straight adaptations like those of Orson Welles through to Justin Kurzel and more abstract interpretations like Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, Shakespeare’s historical tragedy is one that really pops within these heightened and formalist adaptations. It helps that the play works in any number of registers: as tragedy, as horror, as drama, as morality play. Indeed, in the context of The Tragedy of Macbeth, it’s tempting to argue that Macbeth fits surprisingly well within the Coen Brothers’ larger filmography of inept and over-confident criminals undermined by their own incompetence.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is a worth addition to both this list of impressive adaptations and the filmography of director Joel Coen.

A doorway to madness…

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New Escapist Column! On How “The Matrix Resurrections” Utilises Franchsie Nostalgia…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the release of The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max and in theatres, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film and its themes, in particular its relationship with the earlier films in the franchise.

The Matrix Resurrections exists as part of a larger wave of long-delayed nostalgic sequels to older franchises, from Space Jam: A New Legacy to Ghostbusters: Afterlife to Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, what distinguishes The Matrix Resurrections from these other examples is the way in which it uses nostalgia to a very specific purpose. It’s a film that is aware of both the passage of time since the original film and very engaged with the debate over the reason for its own existence. The result is a movie that has something meaningful to say about the modern movie landscape… and much beyond.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Matrix Resurrections” and the Rejection of False Binaries…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max and in theatres, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film and its themes, in particular its relationship with the earlier films in the franchise.

The Matrix Resurrections is a movie that exists very much in conversations with the previous films in the series, expanding and developing the core themes that made the original such a hit. In some cases, director Lana Wachowski has taken the opportunity to expand upon and develop the big ideas in the previous films. In particular, The Matrix Resurrections is a film that rejects the idea of rigid boundaries – the red and blue pills, the black-and-white green-tinted filter, “us and them”, even Neo and Trinity. It’s a very thoughtful and considered update of the ideas that underpin the larger franchises.

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

New Podcast! Your Feature Presentation – “What Worked and Didn’t Work in Spider-Man: No Way Home”

The Escapist have launched a new pop culture podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and KC Nwosu or the first episode. With the recent release of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the recent Marvel Studios productions.

New Escapist Column! On Making Sense of “For the Fans”…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier this week. With the recent releases of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of SkywalkerGhostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on the argument that franchise brand extensions exist “for the fans.” What does that even mean?

As a fan myself, I find myself unsettled and disturbed by the idea that these sorts of properties should exist primarily for the satisfaction and consumption of the existing fanbase, not least because it means validating certain kinds of fans above others and pushes franchises towards an aesthetic conservativism that often strangles them. Perhaps the best thing to do “for the fans” is simply to make media as good as possible and let history sort the rest out.

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

New Escapist Video! “The Matrix Resurrections Is a Winning Franchise Revival – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. 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 film review of The Matrix Resurrections, which is in cinemas and on HBO Max now.

New Escapist Video! “The King’s Man Gets the Job Done – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. 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 film review of The King’s Man, which is in cinemas now.

New Escapist Column! On Willem Dafoe as the Stealth MVP of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This weekend marks the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, so it seemed like a good idea to take a look at the movie. In particular, its best and most interesting performance.

No Way Home marks the return of several classic villains from early franchise iterations. Among them is Willem Dafoe, returning as Norman Osborn from Spider-Man and Spider-Man II. It’s a wonderful reminder of how Dafoe codified a lot of the modern comic book movie supervillain, establishing a template that has rarely been equalled in terms of quality across the ensuing decades. However, it’s to the credit of No Way Home that the film manages to use the character of Norman Osborn in a way that enriches and explores the villain.

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