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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.

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New Escapist Column! On “Cobra Kai” and the Future of the “Netflix Bump”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because the new season of Cobra Kai arrived on Netflix last week, I thought it was worth taking a look at the show’s relationship to Netflix.

Cobra Kai is just the latest in a series of shows that have been “saved” by the streaming service, with earlier seasons struggling on other providers only for Netflix to find an audience and even take up the bill; Arrested Development, You, Lucifer and so on. However, things are changing. As companies like YouTube bow out of the streaming wars and as companies like NBC begin consolidating their broadcast and streaming wings, there’s both fewer of these gems produced and less room for Netflix to get the ones that are produced to larger audience.

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

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.

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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…

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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 3, Episode 10 (“Borrowed Time”)

Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to spend a lot of time on The Time is Now discussing the second season of Millennium. Since the podcast has moved on to the third season, I have taken something of a step back as a guest. That said, I was flattered to get an invitation to discuss Borrowed Time with the fantastic Kurt North.

Borrowed Time marks an interesting point of transition for the third season of Millennium. It arguable marks the point at which the third season begins acknowledging the second season as something that actually happened and something that has to be explored – both thematically and literally. Borrowed Time kicks off a triptych of episodes that continues through Collateral Damage and into The Sound of Snow, which begin to unpack and work through the shadow of the second season in increasingly direct and literal ways.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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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.

215. Dune (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Charlene Lydon and Joe Griffin, 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, David Lynch’s Dune.

The galaxy is in turmoil. Rumours swirl of a plot against House Atreides. As Duke Leto Atreides takes control of the desert planet of Dune, he tries to track down the traitors in his midst. Meanwhile, his son Paul finds himself on the verge of an awakening that will have a profound impact on the future of mankind.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks (Review)

“Have you had work done?”

“You’re one to talk.”

Like Resolution before it, Revolution of the Daleks is a special that largely works through momentum and spectacle, while failing to cohere into anything greater than the sum of its separate parts.

The cobbled together Dalek casing from Resolution is a major plot point in Revolution of the Daleks, but it also plays as metaphor for the episode itself. Even as early as The Woman Who Fell to Earth, it was clear that the Chibnall era did not share the same strengths as the Davies and Moffat eras before it. It is impossible to imagine Chibnall constructing a holiday special featuring characters bantering around a couple of generic sets. If he did, it would probably resemble The Timeless Children more than Twice Upon a Time, with characters just expositing at one another.

Insert political joke here.

Instead, Chibnall tends to construct his more successful episodes around propulsion and momentum; he likes to have multiple characters doing things simultaneously, while constantly throwing new elements into the mix to maintain some sense of forward movement. Revolution of the Daleks is not so much an episode as a collection of familiar Doctor Who elements thrown into a blender with even more familiar elements thrown on top. There’s a frantic sense of “… and then…” plotting to the episode, as Chibnall rhymes off any story coming into his head.

The result is an episode that is messier and more overstuffed than Resolution. Indeed, Resolution might have somewhat bungled the eponymous reconciliation between Ryan and his father, but at least it understood that this relationship was meant to be both the heart of the episode and the pay-off to a thread running through the season. In contrast, Revolution seems like a bunch of stuff happening incredibly quickly as the stakes frantically escalate and the story switches before the audience can get bored of it.

To be fair, everybody looks at Christmas leftovers the same way.

Revolution of the Daleks doesn’t really work. After all, despite all the stuff that happens in the episode, it is hard to pinpoint what it is actually supposed to be “about.” There are certainly scenes and developments that feel like they should be important, but they never really feel like organic evolution from one scene to the next. That said, Revolution of the Dalek manages to avoid falling completely flat. The sense of constant escalation prevents anything from collapsing into itself. Revolution of the Daleks is certainly more Spyfall, Part I than Spyfall, Part II.

At the same time, it is hardly revolutionary.

“It’s hard to keep track of how many stories this is referencing.”

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