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My 12 for ’18: “Annihilation” and Creating Something New…

It’s that time of year. I’ll counting down my top twelve films of the year daily on the blog between now and New Year. I’ll also be discussing my top ten on the Scannain podcast. This is number one.

It’s not destroying. It’s making something new.

Rankings can be very revealing. They say a lot, both about wider culture, but also about the person who is making the list and the time at which the list is being made.

The best top tens inevitably reveal something about the time at which they were made. New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, and a large part of the process of putting together these sorts of end-of-year lists is to reflect upon the year that has been. Any end-of-year top ten (or twelve) inevitably reveals something about how the person making that list experienced the previous twelve months. Whether consciously or not, every such list suggests a time capsule of the year, offering a snapshot of the general mood or even an outline of the zeitgeist.

A lot of the movies included in this list are examined through the lens of 2018, whether in terms of filmmaking, storytelling, or broader cultural concerns. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a superhero origin for a hyper-literate internet-raised generation. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a meditation on how quickly and viciously anger can spread. A Quiet Place reflected trends in contemporary horror cinema at literalising the experience of watching a horror film, a “meta” mode of horror.

Annihilation does something very similar. Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel is a film that is about a strange phenomenon that warps and distorts the biology of anything that comes into contact with it. Those who wander into “the Shimmer” are lost, their sense of direction disturbed and they are promptly confronted with monstrosities that appear to be sewn together from a variety of familiar shapes, often bent and broken in unsettling ways. In this sense, Annihilation feels like a knowing commentary on popular culture in 2018.

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Non-Review Review: Annihilation

Annihilation is a science-fiction smorgasbord.

Early in the film, a group of scientists determine that the are of land which they have been sent to investigate has taken strange properties. Local plants and animals seem to have mutated and warped under the influence of some strange beings. Impossible hybrids stalk the landscape, exotic combinations of recognisable forms in order to create something uncanny and unsettling. In its own way, Annihilation feels self-aware.

The mouth of madness.

Alex Garland’s latest film is very much a hybrid itself, a synthesis of iconic science fiction elements, fused together to create something novel and exciting. Audience members will recognise a strand of DNA here, a stronger marker there. Even its harshest critic must concede that Annihilation has a broad palette; a dash of Stalker, a shade of Alien, a hint of Arrival, the slightest trace of Solaris, a nod towards The Thing, some 2001: A Space Odyssey for flavour. All these elements thrown together and mixed to create something eccentric and something intriguing.

Annihilation is a brainy high-energy imaginative science-fiction mixtape, and one both enticed and horrified by the idea that this is essentially the future culture.

“He was always throwing himself into his work.”

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #3!

Continuing the revival of the Scannain podcast!

A weekly podcast looking at events in the world of Irish and international film, the Scannain podcast is the perfect way to start the weekend. Discussing everything from what the hosts watched this week to the top ten and new releases, the team also discuss the Irish Film Board’s funding initiatives for the new year and access to film via streaming services.

I’m thrilled to be part of a panel including Jay Coyle, Ronan Doyle and Alex Towers. Give it a listen below.

The Thanos Imperative (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” This doesn’t exactly feature the Avengers, but a similarly all-star cast of cosmic Marvel superheroes…

Read our review of The Avengers here.

I have to admit, I have really enjoyed the “cosmic” Marvel crossovers in the past few years, perhaps more than I’ve enjoyed the big Avengers-themed events that they’ve been churning out consistently. Being honest, I think part of the reason that the cosmic line balanced these events so well was because it was smaller, and thus easier to handle. You didn’t have to worry about splitting character beats between the main miniseries and the supporting titles, nor did you have to worry about a dozen other comics feeding into (and flowing out of) your miniseries. At its peak, the line – as helmed by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – consisted of two titles (Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy), and nobody else was playing in the sandbox. Maybe I’m just a little bit selfish, but it’s always fun to watch a writer play with toys that he’s not being asked to share.

Five cosmic powerhouses walk into a bar...

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Annihilation: Conquest (Review/Retrospective)

This is the tenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Perhaps it was the novelty of Marvel’s Annihilation crossover which lent the series its appeal. It took some of the more often overlooked space heroes of the Marvel Universe and tied them all together as part of a gripping narrative fighting against the extinction of life itself. It was loud and bright and colourful and frentic – it was perhaps the best crossover that Marvel have produced in the past five years or so. So I was very much anticipating the sequel, Annihilation: Conquest – hoping that it could be another breath of fresh air in this long trek through Marvel’s shared universe. Unfortunately, it seemed that a lot of energy of the original was gone – the series couldn’t help but feel somewhat anti-climactic.

Feel the Wraith...

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Nova: Annihilation (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

I’m currently taking a look at the modern history of the Marvel Universe. I kinda figured that I should go through at least one cycle of big continuity-heavy events to at least engage with this style of storytelling, so I can get a feel for it. Although I’m focusing on The Avengers (what with the movie and all), I’m also checking out cosmic Marvel and the X-Men at the same time. My review of the big intergalactic crossover Annihilation: Conquest is going out today, so this is a bit of a sidenote on that. Nova was the first relaunched on-going “cosmic” Marvel series, launched in the wake of Annihilation, so I thought I’d follow the first year of the book. 

I have to confess that I quite enjoyed Marvel’s attempt to reinvigorate their line of cosmic comic books with the gigantic crossover event Annihilation. And it apparently did quite well, spawning a series of associated crossovers in the years that followed, as well as an on-going series following the character perhaps most greatly affected by the events of the miniseries. Although the character has had his own series in the past (no fewer than three times) and featured in a few high-profile teambooks, it’s good to see Nova returned to prominance, particularly written by two authors who clearly know and cherish him.

Iron Man expects Richard to show some Initiative...

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Annihilation – Vol. 1-3 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fifth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s mainstream shared universe over the past five or so years – primarily with a focus on The Avengers as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity. This is more of a tangential entry, though, as we’re going into space with marvel’s “cosmic” titles. But still, sometimes you need to go away to come back.

When people think of the Marvel crossover events of the past decade, they’ll name ones like Civil War or Secret Invasion or House of M. Very few will mention Annihilation, Marvel’s first big cosmic crossover event of the past ten years, but those few will generally speak quite highly of it.

The Silver Surfer goes for gold...

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