• 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.

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 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.

Non-Review Review: Pieces of a Woman

If only Pieces of a Woman were interested in allocating more space to its central female character.

Pieces of a Woman is notable as Vanessa Kirby’s first cinematic lead role. The actor has a long career in theatre and on television, and has made an impression with a couple of strong supporting turns in blockbusters like Mission: Impossible – Fallout or Hobbs and Shaw. However, Pieces of a Woman marks the first time that Kirby takes centre stage, and the film gives her the juicy role of a young woman trying to come to terms with a home birth that ended in tragedy, as her life falls to pieces around her.

Where’s LaBeouf?

Kirby is great in Pieces of a Woman, offering a central performance that is layered and nuanced, one that often opts for interiority instead of extroversion. It’s a quiet performance, but a rich one. Kirby deserves a lot of credit for her work. However, Pieces of a Woman refuses to give Kirby’s performance the credit that it deserves, instead drowning out that powerhouse dramatic in a sea of prestige drama clichés and larger-than-life supporting turns from actors like Shia LeBeouf. Kirby winds up somewhat lost in a film that should be centred on her, through no fault of her own.

If Pieces of a Woman is a story of a fractured response to grief, it often feels like some of the pieces get lost because the film has no real interest in looking.

Pregnant pause.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: One Night in Miami

The past year has seen an interesting resurgence in old fashioned stage-to-screen adaptations.

It is been a common criticism that screen adaptations of classic stage plays tend to be “stagey” rather than traditionally “cinematic.” After all, many plays are written in such a way as to play to the strengths of theatre as a medium, built around core characters delivering monologues on standing sets in an intimate scale. One of the more common criticisms of movies like Doubt is that they fail to fully translate the material so that it is optimised to work in the language of cinema. As a result, quite a few adaptations will try to disguise their theatrical origins.

The cast is great, bar none.

However, this past year has seen a number of high-profile stage performances adapted for film, completely unashamed of their roots. Hamilton was not a conventional cinematic adaptation of the hit musical, but instead a recording of a performance pieced together in such a way as to attempt to recreate the experience of watching the show in a theatre. On Netflix, The Boys in the Band and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom made no effort to disguise their theatrical roots. Even Ryan Murphy’s The Prom embraced the hyperrealism of Broadway.

One Night in Miami is another example of this trend, with playwright Kemp Powers adapting his own play for the screen. Director Regina King never tries to make One Night in Miami seem especially cinematic or epic in scope, instead opting to focus on what made Powers’ play such a success in the first place. One Night in Miami is a piercing and biting snapshot of an ongoing argument in progressive minority circles, powered by sharp dialogue and a set of winning performances. It is perhaps a little too stagey for its own good, but it still works a treat.

Raising the roof…

Continue reading

New Escapist Video! On “Die Hard” as a Christmas Movie…

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 the Monday 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 channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

It’s not the 8th of January yet, so it still seems like an appropriate time for Christmas movie discussion. As such, I took a look at one of the great film debates of our time: whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

New Escapist Column! On 2020 Being Hindsight…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It’s 2021. So it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look back at 2020.

2020 was a game-changing year in many ways, but especially for cinema. It was an exhausting roller coaster of constant news and data, of massive announcements and radical contradictions. Cinemas faced unprecedented hurdles, even as cinema itself seemed to thrive. As a result, it seemed like the right time to take a look back at 2020 as a year in cinema to try and make some sense of it all.

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

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Wonder Woman 1984 is Anything But a Wonder”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard for our first episode of the year. Because we’re easing ourselves back in, we really only focus on one movie this week. We go in-depth on the divisive Wonder Woman 1984.

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