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Non-Review Review: X-Men – Dark Phoenix

It reflects the strange state of the modern multimedia landscape that X-Men: Dark Phoenix feels almost like a plucky underdog.

This is a major studio summer blockbuster with a budget of well over one hundred million dollars. More than that, it is the twelfth film in a series that has historically been both critically and commercially successful; the films have earned over $5.7bn dollars worldwide, eight of the twelve films have positive scores on Rotten Tomatoes, seven of those twelve have been popular enough to end on the Internet Movie Database‘s top 250 films of all-time. The current franchise stars a two-time Oscar winner. The last film in the series earned an Oscar nomination for its screenplay.

A hot property.

Dark Phoenix should be an event. Instead, it arrives with a relative whimper. The release date was pushed back repeatedly, first from November 2018 to February 2019, and then to June 2019. It has been hounded by largely unfounded industry gossip about terrible test screenings. It is tracking for the lowest opening weekend in the franchise. In the time between the film entering production and its eventual release, it has been somewhat overshadowed by news that Disney are to buy 20th Century Fox, and that this franchise will be rebooted.

“I am inevitable,” Thanos famously boasted in Avengers: Endgame, the literal manifestation of death and time who existed to be vanquished by the assembled heroes. He might have been speaking of the influence of Disney. Dark Phoenix crashes against that inevitability, shattering and snapping against those immovable objects. Dark Phoenix is a mess, a disorganised husk of a movie carved out in an editing booth and built from last-minute reshoots. However, it is not quite the disaster that it should be. Instead, it seems almost endearingly defiant, a blockbuster flavoured with passive aggression.

Raining on their parade.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 7 (“Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”)

This was a surprise and a delight. Reteaming with Carl Sweeney, with whom I last discussed Unruhe, I’m back on The X-Cast this week covering Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man.

To tip my hand quite early, Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man is one of my favourite episodes of The X-Files. More than that, it’s one of my favourite pieces of nineties pop culture in general, the twisted evil twin of Forrest Gump and an exploration of the first half of the American Century through the lens of conspiracy theory. It’s a prime example of the sort of experimentation that made The X-Files such a great piece of nineties television, anchored in a playful and self-aware script from Glen Morgan and some great direction from James Wong.

So it was fantastic to get the chance to talk about it at length with Carl – even “Bad Carl” – on The X-Cast. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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132. Glitter (-#18)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Stacy Grouden, 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 time, Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Glitter.

Spotted as a back-up vocalist by fly D.J. Julian “Dice” Black, singer Billie Frank finds herself whisked away into a world of stardom and celebrity. However, Billie quickly discovers that fame and fortune do not offer the comfort and security that she has always craved.

At time of recording, it was ranked 18th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the worst movies of all-time.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #21!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I’m back hosting and I’m joined by Jay Coyle and Ronan Doyle to discuss the week in film. Ronan is fresh back from the Trish McAdams and “Memory on Screen” seasons at the Irish Film Institute, and so has a lot to cover from Spider to Memento to the work of Terrence Davies. Jay has had a busy week as well, watching The Virgin Suicides, The Childhood of a Leader and Valley of the Dolls. I’ve had a more eclectic week, watching animated versions of lost Doctor Who episodes, Holmes and Watson, and the surreality that is The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorised Bash Brothers Experience.

A lot of news this week, including Roman Polanski’s (failed) efforts to sell his latest movie at Cannes, Woody Allen releasing a trailer for A Rainy Day in New York on his personal Facebook, the major studios dealing with the Georgia Abortion ban, Dublin Oldschool arriving on Netflix, and a €3,000 prize on offer at the Galway Film Market in July.

The top ten:

  1. A Dog’s Journey
  2. Dumbo
  3. Paw Patrol Mighty Pups
  4. The Hustle
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. John Wick: Chapter III – Parabellum
  7. Detective Pikachu
  8. Rocketman
  9. The Secret Lives of Pets II
  10. Aladdin

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

Non-Review Review: Always Be My Maybe

Perhaps Always Be My Maybe is a more accurate reminder of the romantic comedy.

Much digital ink has been spilled on the state of the romantic comedy as a genre, particularly in the context of the streaming wars. Many critics and observers have lamented the death of the mid-budget movie at the American box office, citing the romantic comedy as one of the genres most obviously affected. However, there were a number of hopeful signs of life in the genre in recent years. Netflix has been consciously investing in these sorts of films, with internet favourites like Set It Up or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. (Tellingly, Netflix became the international home for Isn’t It Romantic?)

The script could use a punch-up.

However, the genre also performed robustly in cinemas with Crazy Rich Asians becoming a breakout success story for Warner Brothers and sparking a lot of excitement and interest around the genre. In fact, even Late Night looks like it might do something similar for the related “woman at work” subgenre; although its box office success seems much less assured, critical response is very positive. As a result, it seems like reports of the death of the romantic comedy and similar works have been greatly exaggerated. There is life in that old genre yet, whether theatrically or streaming.

The arrival of Always Be My Maybe underscores at least one factor in the success of breakout hits like Crazy Rich AsiansSet It Up or Late Night. A lot of the modern attention on the romantic comedy genre is focused on exceptional examples of the genre; films within the genre that are very, very good. In contrast, Always Be My Maybe feels like something of a grim corrective. It is perhaps more representative of the romantic comedy genre as it tended to be, rather than evoking the popular memory of it. This is to say that Always Be My Maybe is occasionally charming, largely derivative, and generally quite bland.

I left my heart in San Francisco.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Workforce, Part II (Review)

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II form an interesting two-parter.

A large part of this is purely structural, and down to the role that they play within the larger arc of the seventh season of Star Trek: Voyager. One of the most common, and biggest, criticisms of Endgame is that the episode doesn’t actually offer any meaningful pay-off to the seven-year journey. The characters never actually get set foot on Earth, never get to come home. The final shot of the series is the ship itself approaching Earth, with no sense of what it was like for those characters to return to the home that they had sought for more than half a decade. To be fair to Endgame, the finale does open with a flash-forward that features a crew reunion decades after their return, but that timeline is erased by the events that follow.

Chakotay or the highway.

Season finales tend to offer some indication of what happens to the characters after the end of the television series, an assurance to the audience that their journey is over and that their lives will work out. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, What You Leave Behind resolved the Dominion War in its opening sixty minutes before spending thirty minutes wrapping up various plot threads. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, the future timeline in All Good Things… hinted at potential futures for the characters. Even on Star Trek: Enterprise, the much-maligned These Are the Voyages… featured the characters bringing the ship home to be decommissioned so that Archer could lay the groundwork for the Federation.

In contrast, Voyager just stops. There is no real consideration of what happens to the crew; Admiral Owen Paris never gets to meet his granddaughter, the Maquis never get their pardons, Janeway never reunites with Mollie. There is no sense of how they settle into life after their adventure, no question of what happens to them when they aren’t defined by their seventy-thousand-light-year journey across the galaxy. Oddly enough, this complete absence in Endgame makes Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II feel much more important in the larger context of the season.

Over the moon about it.

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Non-Review Review: Godzilla – King of the Monsters

“There has to be another way!” a character pleads at one point in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Another responds, “There is no time for debate!”

This is King of the Monsters in a nutshell. A film where there is never time. There is just a constant bombardment of stuff happening. There is noise. There is shouting. There is shaking. There is exposition. There is spectacle. All thrown at the audience with an intensity that will overwhelm even the strongest flinching reaction. King of the Monsters isn’t just the proverbial ten pounds of sh!t in a five pound bag, it is those ten pounds being constantly fed to a whirling rotating blade. It is almost impressive that the fan lasts as long as it does. Almost.

A monster mash-up.

King of the Monsters is a sequel to both Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla and to Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island, and it somehow finds a way to synthesise the the most incompatible elements of both films into a monstrous mess of a single narrative. King of the Monsters is a movie of single-minded focus on what it is trying to do, and what it is trying to do is to cram as much monster madness and mythology into a two-hour film as possible. That single-minded focus leaves little room for any of the niceties of normal cinematic narratives.

King of the Monsters is frustrating and infuriating at times, but it is mostly just exhausting.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Rodamn.

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