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New Escapist Column! On “Fast Five” as the Best (and Most Complete) “Fast and Furious” Movie…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the trailer for F9, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the best entry in the larger Fast & Furious franchise: Fast Five. Fast Five arrived at an important moment for the larger Fast and Furious franchise, representing a pivot point between the earlier urban western adventures and the superpowered blockbusters that would follow. Fast Five is the moment at which the film series commits to becoming a twenty-first century blockbuster franchise, but also never loses sight of the origin. The result is a movie that is perhaps the most holistic and representative embodiment of the Fast and Furious as a franchise. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “All Hail Judas and the Black Messiah”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard for the twelfth episode of the year, for a jam-packed discussion that covered Chaos Walking, Judas and the Black Messiah and Promising Young Woman.

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

New Escapist Video! On the Appealing Meaninglessness of “Godzilla vs. Kong”…

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 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.

This week, following the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film’s appealing meaninglessness, particularly in an era that seems so over-signified with meaning.

New Escapist Column! On the Unknowable Monstrosity at the Heart of “Shin Godzilla”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Japan’s iconic reptilian monster. In particular, the way in which Godzilla evolved from an embodiment of monstrous uncertainty to protector of the planet. In this context, Shin Godzilla is a fascinating piece of work. Building on co-director Hideaki Anno’s work on earlier projects like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the monster at the centre of Shin Godzilla is hauntingly unknowable, a grotesque intrusion of something almost beyond human comprehension into the material world. The film is all the more effective for that. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Thunder Force

There is a recurring joke in Thunder Force about how one character cannot tell a joke. It feels like a metaphor for the film itself.

To be fair, it’s more than just the premise of that joke itself, it is also the execution. The opening section of Thunder Force offers something of an origin story for its two lead characters, Lydia and Emily. The two meet at school. At school, their only other friend is a geeky kid named Clyde. In these flashbacks, Clyde is introduced with an obvious crush on Lydia, and an inability to tell a joke properly. When the film rejoins Lydia in adulthood, Clyde is quickly reintroduced and still unable to tell a joke properly.

A thundering disappointment.

The basic law of comedy – or storytelling – would suggest that this is a plot point being set up so that it might pay off. It is the standard “rule of three.” A concept is introduced to the audience. It is then repeated to establish it. Then, finally, it is subverted. It is that third iteration of the concept that serves as a punchline. It’s the heart of the joke. Instead, Clyde just disappears from the film. His inability to tell a joke is ultimately just an inability to tell a joke. It eats up screentime in building this world, and doesn’t go anywhere.

There’s something almost fourth-wall-breaking in this. It’s a joke about how a character in this movie cannot tell a joke, told in such a way that it isn’t really a joke either. It’s a moment that captures so much of Thunder Force, albeit in an unflattering light. It is also, much like the rest of Thunder Force, painfully unfunny.

The script could use a punch-up.

Continue reading

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “A Monster of a Godzilla vs. Kong Podcast”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard for the eleventh episode of the year, with a special guest Liz Finnegan, for a titanic discussion of Godzilla vs. Kong.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Guardians of the Galaxy” as the MCU’s Best Exploration of Loss…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. With all the talk about how so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe is about “loss”, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not a machine that is designed to deal with concepts like loss head on. After all, most of its major departures were down to contract negotiations rather than narrative priorities. Characters are often resurrected, and losses are often temporary. This is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so compelling. Director James Gunn understands that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a space into which the audience and characters escape to avoid dealing with loss, even if it haunts them still.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Meaninglessness of “Godzilla vs. Kong”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release and success of Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max and in cinemas last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film’s aggressive rejection of meaning. Godzilla vs. Kong is not a movie particularly concerned with subtext or metaphor. It is not a parable for mankind’s confrontation of the unknown, the hunger for war that lurks in every human heart, or even the dangers of how mankind is treating the environment. Instead, it’s a movie about a giant monkey punching a giant lizard until one of them falls down. However, maybe there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, particularly following a year that has – for many people – been over-infused with meaning. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the MonsterVerse Has Forsaken Awe and Wonder…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good opportunity to look at the film in the context of the larger MonsterVerse – in particular, Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla vs. Kong is pure spectacle. The film features a host of impressive and showstopping sequences, including two major bouts between the title characters. However, there is something missing in all of this carnage. Like King of the Monsters before it, and like a lot of other modern blockbusters, there’s a curious lack of awe and wonder to the spectacle on display.

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

A smashing success?

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Sound of Metal and the Oscars”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard for the tenth episode of the year, with a special guest Stacy Grouden, to talk about Sound of Metal and The Empty Man.

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