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New Escapist Column! On “The Clone Wars” and the “Star Wars” Prequels…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. The Clone Wars wrapped up recently, and so I had occasion to binge the series.

The Clone Wars is an interesting artifact, existing largely space between the prequel and sequel trilogies, although briefly resurrected after the release of the sequels for an abridged final season. Watching the show, what was most striking about it was the way in which it felt true to the prequels, embracing and embodying the myriad complexities and contradictions of that divisive and polarising era of Star Wars output. This was reflected in everything from the kind of stories that The Clone Wars told to the ways in which it opted to tell them.

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

New Escapist Column! On “TENET”, and Christopher Nolan’s Fascination With Time…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week saw the release of the latest trailer for TENET, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk a bit about the work of Christopher Nolan.

Nolan’s filmography is absolutely fascinated by the flow and manipulation of time. It warps, distorts and bends around his protagonists. However, it’s a force that cannot be controlled or governed, but which acts upon the characters nonetheless. The trailer to TENET is interesting because it seems to suggest that the villain of his latest film has learned to manipulate time, which in the context of Nolan’s filmography suggests that he’s messing with the most primal of forces.

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

183. Koe no katachi (A Silent Voice) – This Just In/Ani-May 2020 (—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guest Graham Day, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta and Hauru no ugoku shiro. We’ll also be covering a bonus on a recent entry on the list next week, Naoko Yamada’s Koe no katachi.

This week, the third and final installment of this year’s Ani-May, Koe no katachi.

Teenager Shoya Ishida finds himself haunted by guilt over his merciless bullying of his deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya six years earlier. Coming back from a suicide attempt, Shoyo makes an awkward attempt to reconnect and reconcile with Shoko, but are either of them prepared for the strong emotions that this reunion will provoke and the consequences that it will have for their friends and their families?

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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New Escapist Column! On the Fan Reaction to the Final Season of “Game of Thrones”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. It’s the one year anniversary of the end of Game of Thrones, so it seemed appropriate to look back on the fan reaction to that final season.

The final season is admittedly a flawed season of television. However, that doesn’t quite explain the level of vitriol that it provokes online. After all, the finale was widely enjoyed by general audiences, performed reasonably well at the Emmys and is doing very well for itself in streaming in social isolation. This contrast is interesting, suggesting that there’s something particularly prickly about the final season that alienated its most vocal fans so extremely.

In hindsight, this seems to be the actions of Daenerys Targaryen in the second half of the season. In the home strange, Daenerys ceased to be seen as a “liberator” of the continent, and instead became a conqueror. She did what all conquerors do, raining down death and destruction on those civilisations that do not welcome her. This was all very clearly seeded across the previous seven seasons, but it turned rather sharply against the audience’s sympathy for Daenerys. In doing so, it made the audience complicit in the carnage. One suspects that complicity stings.

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

New Escapist Column! On Versatility and Adaptability as Batman’s True Superpowers…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. It’s been a busy couple of weeks with actors talking about the role of Batman. Val Kilmer discussed it in a long-form interview with The New York Times and Robert Pattinson brought it up in his GQ quarantine profile.

Kilmer argued that the actor playing Batman was unimportant in irrelevant, which is both true in the general case and false in this specific situation. In a general sense, Hollywood is moving away from movie stars and towards intellectual property. However, Batman remains one of the few established brands that is flexible enough to allow a unique approach shine through; Adam West, Kevin Conroy, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Will Arnett and Ben Affleck have all offered distinctive takes on the Caped Crusader, each finding a different window to explore the cultural icon.

There is no single “right” interpretation of Batman, and this has contributed to the character’s ubiquity and endurance. Indeed, it’s arguable that Superman has struggled to remain relevant precisely because he doesn’t have that same flexibility. Superman remains largely stuck in a template defined by the Richard Donner movies, unable to escape their gravity and the pull of the nostalgia around them. Batman can be anything that he needs to be – and that is why he remains as popular as ever.

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

182. Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle) – Ani-May 2020 (#134)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta and Hauru no ugoku shiro. We’ll also be covering a bonus on a recent entry on the list next week, Naoko Yamada’s Koe no katachi.

This week, the second part of the double bill, Hauru no ugoku shiro, Miyazaki’s first film after the breakout success of Spirited Away.

Chance encounters with both a mysterious young wizard and spiteful old witch find Sophie Hatter cursed. The eighteen-year-old young woman finds herself trapped in the body of a ninety-year-old crone. Never one to be defeated or outwitted, Sophie embarks on an adventure to lift the curse that takes her into the wilderness and to the heart of a majestic ambulatory castle inhabited by a fascinating bunch of misfits. As war simmers on the horizon, Sophie finds herself drawn to the temperamental but sensitive young magician Howl, but can they ever find peace?

At time of recording, it was ranked 134th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On Qui-Gon Jinn as the Flawed Figure at the Centre of the Phantom Menace…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Earlier in the week, a clip of Dave Filoni on Disney Gallery: The Manadalorian went viral, discussing the role of Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Filoni argued that Qui-Gon was a hero fighting for Anakin’s soul.

This is interesting, because it reduces Qui-Gon to a much more generic character than the version featured in the film. Qui-Gon is a deeply flawed character, one with several blindspots and one who is unable to assume the role of hero whether because of the audience’s understanding of the mechanics of a Star Wars prequel or because of the character’s increasing sense of disconnect with the larger universe. Qui-Gon is a character that means well, who positions himself as a hero in this story, but is unable to fulfill that function.

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