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New Escapist Video! “The Last Duel Proves Ridley Scott Is Still Sharp – 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 Last Duel, which released theatrically worldwide last weekend.

Non-Review Review: The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch is a sweet and sincere love letter to a certain kind of journalistic endeavour, and to the creative process beyond that. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly disjointed and uneven.

To be fair, these structural problems come with the format. Wes Anderson has constructed his latest film as an anthology, one loosely designed to mirror the flow of a magazine like The New Yorker. The film is comprised of an opening obituary, a travellogue, and three short stories, all designed to emulate the structure of reading a classic journalistic magazine. It’s an interesting and ambitious approach to structuring a movie, one not without challenges and one that allows Anderson the opportunity to lean into his already heightened sensibility.

That is a lot of Wes Anderson.

However, as with many anthology films, The French Dispatch suffers from an unevenness in terms of pacing. As one might expect from an anthology directed by a filmmaker as distinctive as Anderson, The French Dispatch does maintain a consistent tone across its various elements, but it also suffers from stopping and starting five times over. It doesn’t help that each of the three stories flows in much the same way, playing on many of the same tropes of Anderson’s storytelling, starting with Anderson’s signature arch detachment and inevitably puncturing it with small glimpses of humanity.

The appeal of a magazine like the fictional French Dispatch is a diversity of voices and perspectives. The film positions itself as a celebration of the individual journalists relating their stories to the audience, finding their own ways into these narratives and sharing something over themselves with the world. However, while the film does afford some shading of the characters themselves in the framing sections and within the narrative, the stories themselves all feel like they are cut from the same clothe. They are even similar in stylistic terms, mostly shot in black-and-white Academy ratio, occasionally breaking that for dramatic effect.

Stu(dent)ing resentment…

To be fair, this isn’t a fatal problem. Anderson remains a director with a strong aesthetic and keen sense of humour. His worlds are elaborately constructed, both rich and textured. For all that Anderson’s rigid formalism can seem twee or arch, his films are often possessed of a real heart, one that is all the more effective for sneaking up on the audience through these otherwise carrefully composed surroundings and often caricatured characters. The French Dispatch is no different. It is a film with charm to spare, and with a genuine heart beneath it.

Still, for all that The French Dispatch is a celebration of artistic freedom and discovery, and a passionate argument for an editorial hand the encourages distinct voices and approaches over one that imposes a consistent style, by the time the third story is finished, it feels too much the work of a singular voice working a familiar framework.

The Wright stuff.

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New Escapist Video! On the Enduring Appeal of Michael Myers…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday’s article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the release of Halloween Kills, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the larger Halloween franchise. In particular, the enduring and lasting appeal of Michael Myers as a character. What is it that makes Michael Myers such an icon of horror cinema?

New Escapist Column! On The Enduring Appeal of Michael Myers…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Halloween Kills, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger Halloween franchise.

What is it that makes Michael Myers such an enduring and unsettling figure? Why has the character remained so popular and iconic across four decades? Why are audiences constantly drawn to the serial killer, who is remarkably straightforward in many ways? Indeed, it seems like the relative simplicity of Michael Myers is part of the appeal. Myers is somewhat uncomplicated as far as slasher movie antagonists go. However, he is also fundamentally unknowable, and all the more effective for that.

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

New Escapist Video! “Halloween Kills is a Bloody (and Ambitious) Mess – 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 Halloween Kills, which released theatrically and on Peacock this weekend.

New Escapist Column! On “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” as a Romantic Comedy…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. With Venom: Let There Be Carnage releasing in Irish cinemas this weekend, it seemed like as good an opportunity as any to take a look at the film.

Like its predecessor, Let There Be Carnage isn’t really a functional superhero movie, at least in the sense that modern audiences understand the genre. It’s lumpy, it’s irrational, it’s more interested in immediate thrills than world building. However, despite this, Let There Be Carnage is a surprisingly effective romantic comedy. It’s built around many of the same conventions and adheres to many of the same beats, telling a heart-warming story of an alien symbiote and its parasite.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” Updated the “Star Wars” Template For a New Generation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the announcement that Will Poulter has been cast in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, it seems like a good opportunity to take a look back at Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.

The Star Wars franchise was a frequent point of comparisons in discussions of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. However, it’s arguably the sequel that engaged most heavily with the core themes of George Lucas’ work. In particular, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 was a story about fathers and sons. However, it is notable for taking that archetypal and generation-defining story, and filtering it through a twenty-first century lens. In doing so, it was a valid companion piece to both Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

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

Non-Review Review: Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills is an ambitious sequel, if a little messy – and not just in the way that one expects a slasher movie to be messy.

Halloween Kills is a direct sequel to David Gordon Green’s Halloween. It picks up in a very similar place to where the two other direct sequels to a movie named Halloween start. Like Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, the film follows Laurie Strode to hospital as Michael Myers continues his rampage through Haddonfield, Illinois. Although Zombie’s Halloween II takes a sharp turn in its second act, all three direct sequels extend the eponymous night into the early morning that follows.

Gripping stuff.

There is a lot going on in Halloween Kills. The film effectively splits across three main plot threads that only intermittently overlap with one another. One of these threads centres on Laurie’s recovery in the hospital, while the second follows the reaction of the local community to the carnage, and and the third focuses on Myers’ continuing rampage through an Illinois suburb. The film is disjointed, with Green inheriting a lot of continuity and character baggage from his previous film while heaping even more connections back to the original film upon it.

Still, perhaps the best and worst thing that can be said about Halloween Kills is that it marks a return to the grim nihilism that defined John Carpenter’s original.

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New Escapist Video! “Dune Is One of the Year’s Best Movies – 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 Dune, which is released theatrically in Europe and the United States next weekend.

Non-Review Review: The Last Duel

The Last Duel is a thorny and compelling medieval epic. It’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s undeniably part of the appeal.

The Last Duel is adapted from the book of the same name by historian Eric Jager. As its title implies, the film offers an account of the last judicial duel permitted by the Parlement of Paris. That duel was fought between two noblemen: Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. The challenge was offered over allegations that Le Gris had raped de Carrouges’ wife, Maguerite. The assumption was that divine authority would ultimately determine where the truth lay in the matter, that the victor in this mortal combat would ultimately be vindicated.

Duel narratives.

Naturally, the events that inspired The Last Duel remain contentious. Historians are not entirely sure what happened, and how much of the various accounts reflect the truth of what happened or have been shaped by the convenient narratives of the victors. The film, with a screenplay from Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, leans into this ambiguity. The film is structured similarly to Akira Kurosawa’s Roshomon, outlining three separate accounts of the events leading up to the trial from the perspective of each of the key figures: Jean, Jacques and Maguerite.

The result is a film that touches on the blurred boundaries between history and narrative, and explores the way in which these sorts of stories are shaped by wounded pride and vain ego. It’s an uncomfortable and unsettling film, occasionally a little clumsy in its execution, but which grapples with big ideas.

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