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New Escapist Video! On How James Cameron is Corny as F&!k…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. 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.

This week, with Avatar: The Way of Water continuing to dominate the global box office, it seemed as good a time as any to look at the life and career of director James Cameron. In particular, what is it that drives Cameron? What’s the glue that holds this director’s filmography together? It’s a fascinating deep dive on one of the most successful filmmakers of all-time.

New Escapist Column! On “M3GAN”, “Renfield”, “Cocaine Bear”, “Knock at the Cabin” and the Enduring Appeal of Universal Horror…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week, with the release of M3GAN, Renfield, Cocaine Bear and Knock at the Cabin all in the first four months of the year, it seemed like as good a time as any to consider Universal’s embrace of the horror movie and creature feature.

For the next couple of months, Avatar: The Way of Water is just going to dominate the box office. It will be unchallenged until the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in mid-February. However, what’s interesting is that other studios aren’t necessarily hiding from this. In fact, they’re releasing smaller and lower-budget movies in the space, in the hopes that they can quietly earn back relatively impresive box office on a low investment. In particular, Universal is returning to one of the studio’s most reliable models: the low-budget horror movie and creature feature.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Willow” Found Itself Adrift “Beyond the Shattered Sea”…

I am doing weekly reviews of Willow at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the legacy sequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

One of the both interestign and frustrating aspects of Willow is the way in which the show feels very much like an archetypal streaming show. It hits all of the marks and rhythms of the emerging medium, particularly in how it structures its story. There are several points in the season where the larger mechanics of the season arc become transparent. Wildwood was one such example, and Beyond the Shattered Sea is another. The second-to-last episode of the season very quickly entangles itself if doing all the necessary set-up for the looming season finale.

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

320. The Star Wars Shows: The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Andy Melhuish, 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 second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, a special New Year’s Treat. A discussion of the Star Wars television shows: The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor.

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New Escapist Column! On Netflix’s Cancellation of “1899”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week, it was revealed that Netflix had cancelled 1899, their prestigious and high-profile mystery drama series. It’s especially notable because the announcement didn’t even come from Netflix, but fits a pattern for streaming services.

Streaming is not like regular television. It adheres to different rules and conventions. In particular, streaming shows don’t operate according the same real-time conveyor belt as conventional broadcast television, where it is possible for a network and a production team to react to audience response in real-time. As a result, the only space that these shows have to grow is in between seasons, and that becomes increasingly difficult in a climate where many streaming companies are cancelling these shows after just a single release.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Witcher: Blood Origin”, “The Rings of Power”, and the Limits of Fidelity…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this week. With the recent release of The Witcher: Blood Origin on Netflix and the ongoing arguments about the perceived “faithfulness” around The Rings of Power, it seemed like a good time to explore how the quality of a work relates to its alleged faithfulness.

To put it simply, quality and fidelity are completely different metrics. It is entirely possible for a fiathful adaptation of source material to be terrible, for example the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. It’s also possible for an adaptation that has nothing to do with even the tone and genre of the original property, such as 21 Jump Street, to be brilliant. Ultimately, The Witcher: Blood Origin and The Rings of Power are adaptations that fail on their own measure.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the Bad Batch Are the Worst Part of “The Bad Batch”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. With the release of the second season of The Bad Batch, it seemed like a good opportunity to review the series.

The Bad Batch is an interesting series. It is essentially a spin-off from The Clone Wars, but one that rejects the anthology nature of that show for a fixed central cast and a linear series of episodic adventures. This is somewhat frustrating, as it strips the most compelling part of The Clone Wars in favour of a generic riff on The A-Team or Kung Fu. Still, when the show gets out of its own way, The Bad Batch is a surprisingly compelling and thoughtful addition to the Star Wars universe, a meditation on what happens to soldiers at the end of a Forever War.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Willow” Finds Itself With “Prisoners of Skellin”…

I am doing weekly reviews of Willow at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the legacy sequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

The sixth episode of the season struggles to recover some of the ground lost during the season’s fifth episode. Wildwood slowed the series to a standstill in order to run through a checklist of serialised streaming television tropes, in a mechanical and unengaging fashion. Prisoners of Skellin has the burden of getting the show moving again, in a way that is often clumsy and inelegant. That said, Prisoners of Skellin is an episode that has some measure of charm to it, in large part due to a winning guest performance from Christian Slater.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Modesty of “Kaleidoscope”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This weekend saw the release of Kaleidoscope, Netflix’s big interactive heist drama. The hook is that the viewer’s experience of the show is randomized, with different viewers watching in different orders.

It is a very modest experiment, particularly when compared to something like Bandersnatch from a few years back. Kaleidoscope is much more interesting on paper than it is in execution, a high concept that feels somewhat half-executed. There is something about streaming as a medium that lends itself to experiments like this, to viewing experiences that are truly singular and unique, where each viewer ultimately consumes their own version of the media in their own way, in a way that challenges the idea of mass media as a communal experience. Kaleidoscope isn’t quite that, but it hints at the possibility.

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

New Escapist Column! On 2022 as the Return of Spectacle…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the year wrapping up, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the year in cinema. In particular, one of the big unifying trends in the year’s blockbusters, which balanced a celebration and a fear of spectacle.

This was the year that “movies were back.” Many of the year’s biggest blockbusters were celebrations of blockbuster cinema in its purest form, from the IMAX cinematography of Top Gun: Maverick to the immersive 3D of Avatar: The Way of Water to the breakout international success of RRR. However, there was also an anxiety about the power of spectacle and the toll that it takes, whether on its audience or on its subject. This played out in movies like Nope or Elvis. There was also a clear worry that this might be the end of it all, playing out in movies like Babylon or even Blonde.

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