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New Escapist Column! On “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Finding Hope Amid the Apocalypse…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week. There’s understandably been a lot of talk about the end of the world lately, understandably, but I thought it was worth unpacking Mad Max: Fury Road.

Fury Road is one of the best blockbusters of the past decade, appearing on countless lists of the best films of the 2010s. However, what distinguishes it from a lot of apocalyptic cinema is that it embraces hope in a very meaningful and practical way. Fury Road is largely about the impulse to retreat from horror and from untenable situations, to abandon a world that appears to be fallen. However, the film argues that such an impulse is ultimately self-destructive, as eventually such a retreat runs out of road. Instead, Fury Road contends that the proper response to a broken world is to turn around and face it head on, to fix it from the inside. It’s a brave and empowering message, and a large part of the film’s appeal.

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

Non-Review Review: The Jesus Rolls

The Jesus Rolls is a loaded premise on a number of levels.

Most obviously, it is a film that takes a memorable supporting character from a beloved film and asks them to hold focus for ninety-odd minutes. Not all characters are designed to support a feature film, as the cavalcade of failed Saturday Night Live films will attest. It’s possible to get lucky, as with cases like Wayne’s World, but these happen relatively infrequently. Jesus might be a character who works best as part of the larger wacky ensemble of The Big Lebowski, where he exists in a heightened world of wandering cowboys, conceptual artists, pornographers and nihilists.

The risks are compounded by the change of authorship. Jesus Quintana was a character created by the Coen Brothers, and so makes a great deal of sense in their world of dysfunctional and cartoonish eccentrics. While actor John Turturro has experience as a writer and director, he is very clearly a different sort of filmmaker. Turturro’s last theatrically released feature was Fading Gigalo, released in 2013. There’s little in Turturro’s filmography to suggest that his approach to Jesus will mesh with the character’s origin in a stylised Raymond Chandler homage.

The Jesus Rolls is a strange sort of misfire. It’s a surprisingly flat film, which says a lot considering its gonzo inspirations and its bawdy preoccupations. There’s a hollowness to it all, an emptiness and a lack of focus. It lacks the energy or zeal that might excuse its paper-thin approach to its plot and protagonist, aspiring towards a weightiness that neither its characterisation nor its content can support. The Jesus Rolls often feels like a series of interlocking vignettes rather than a movie, but none of which succeed at holding the audience’s attention.

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New Escapist Column! On the Eternal Appeal of Lando Calrissian…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the release of the nine core Star Wars films on streaming in Ultra-HD, I thought it was worth revisiting the most compelling character in the franchise, Lando Calrissian.

Lando is great. A lot of that is down to the cool and charismatic performance of Billy Dee Williams in the role. However, there’s also something very interesting in the way that Lando is built. He’s a lot more flawed than the other heroes of the franchise, a lot more relatable. Lando is a pretty normal guy who suddenly happens to find himself drawn into this epic battle between good and evil, largely to serve as a foil to the genuinely heroic Han Solo. Lando’s primary function is that he demonstrates that Han really is the leader and hero that Leia believes him to be, by showing the audience and the characters what a selfish rogue actually looks like.

It’s a trend that continues with the character, right through to the way in which Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker parallels Lando’s loss of his only child with Han’s loss of his son. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Understated Power of Pierce Brosan’s Bond…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week. With the release of No Time To Die pushed out, and St. Patrick’s Day relatively understated, I thought it was worth taking a look at Pierce Brosnan’s tenure playing James Bond.

Brosnan is often overlooked in assessments of the James Bond franchise, largely overshadowed by the (deserved) reappraisal of Timothy Dalton’s vulnerability in the role and the (deserved) celebration of the emotional complexity that Daniel Craig brought to the icon. This is a shame, because there’s a lot to like about Pierce Brosnan’s interpretation of the superspy. Most obviously, there’s a sense in which Brosnan’s interpretation of the character refused to be tormented and tortured by the work that he did. Brosnan played Bond as a man uniquely attuned to the demands of his job, an unchanging man in a rapidly changing world. The result is a character who seems unflinchingly brutal, but who also collapsed his patriotism into satisfaction of his more personal vices.

Whether intentional or not, Brosnan’s interpretation of the character makes the audience uncomfortable, particularly the joy that he takes in violence and the sense in which little really matters to him beyond satisfying his own urges. It’s a provocative approach to the character, one that stands in marked contrast to the more considered introspection of the the two performers either side of him. Brosnan’s Bond often seems to be challenging the audience, asking whether we enjoy the callous violence and detached brutality as much as the protagonist does, without offering us the “get out of jail free” card that Dalton and Craig’s more solemn portrayals afford viewers.

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

New Escapist Column! On the New Films Available Early on Streaming…

I published a new Don’t Miss It piece at Escapist Magazine this evening

Basically, with the shutdown of theatres, a lot of content is landing on digital streaming services very quickly. It can be hard to keep track of it all, so we thought we’d throw together a quick round-up of the headlines, drawing attention to films like Just Mercy, The Way Back, Birds of Prey, Emma., The Hunt, The Invisible Man and more that will be available straight to your television set in the next couple of days.

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

New at The Sunday Independent! An Idiot’s Guide to Screening…

In one of those rare “I feel like a real journalist!” moments, I was asked to write a little piece at The Sunday Independent about streaming.

The film critics at The Sunday Independent, the wonderful Áine O’Connor and the sensational Hilary A. White, have put together a guide of what to watch on various streaming services. There’s a lot of really great material there, but there’s also a sense that this might be a new frontier for a lot of older readers used to physical media. So I put together a quick guide to service providers anf mechanics, and demonstrating what is available and how in terms of getting that streaming movie from your phone or laptop to your own big screen set-up.

It was great to be asked, and hopefully provide something of a useful public service in these turbulent times. You can read the article (and get those recommendations) here. Incidentally, I’ll be having a guide to some of the new releases available to stream early going up at The Escapist later on this evening.

174. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (-#5)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Donal Smith and Donal Sweeney, 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.

This time, James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Software salesman Rod has the perfect life. He has just closed the biggest deal in the history of his company, which has itself just been bought out by a giant conglomerate. More than that, a chance encounter with an old school friend leads to a blossoming romance with a Victoria’s Secret model. Everything is going well, until death swoops in from above.

At time of recording, it was ranked 5th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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