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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.

Non-Review Review: Promising Young Woman

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Promising Young Woman is a deeply uncomfortable watch. As it should be.

The basic premise of Emerald Fennell’s theatrical debut is decidedly thorny. Cassandra is a thirty-year-old woman who spends her weekends going to bars and acting so drunk that she can barely stand. Inevitably, a “nice guy” arrives to volunteer to help. He usually bundles her into the back of a taxi and takes her back to his place. Then, things get very uncomfortable – particularly when they realise that Cassandra is nowhere near as incapacitated as she appears to be. It’s a hell of a hook.

Promising Young Woman is the kind of film that is going to generate lots and lots of “discourse.” It will stoke strong opinions. It will spark uncomfortable conversations. It is an incredibly loaded film. All of this makes Fennell’s accomplishment all the more impressive. Promising Young Woman is a remarkably confident and assured debut feature, a film which navigates an almost impossibly fraught subject with a surprising amount of charm and wit. Promising Young Woman is heartbreaking and hilarious, raw and riotous, often pivoting between extremes in the space of a single scene. It’s a deft balancing act.

However, the most remarkable thing about Promising Young Woman isn’t just the way that Fennell manages all these tensions within the film. Promising Young Woman manages to create a palpable and compelling tension with the audience – a perfectly calibrated push-and-pull that knows exactly which buttons to push and when, for maximum effect. Promising Young Woman is a film that challenges its audience as much as its characters, and that is what makes it such a striking piece of film-making.

Note: It is probably best to see Promising Young Woman as blind as possible, without any real foreknowledge of what the film is doing or how it does it. This review will not go into too much depth, but discussing the film means discussing some of those mechanics. Consider this a light spoiler warning, and an unqualified recommendation.

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Black Mirror – Bandersnatch (Review)

What exactly is Bandersnatch?

In narrative terms, it is very difficult to describe Bandersnatch, given the structure and format of the latest installment of Black Mirror. After all, two people consuming Bandersnatch might have very different experiences of it. It is possible for certain audience members to experience the narrative fundamentally different ways. Conversing about Bandersnatch largely involves defining what each participant experienced of the narrative, establishing a frame of reference for discussion. It is fascinating in this regard.

However, that is arguably an even bigger question. Is Bandersnatch an episode of television, given that it is being released under the Black Mirror brand by Netflix, even though it is being released on its own terms? Is Bandersnatch a film, given that it is a self-contained narrative? Is Bandersnatch just a video game, given how much it relies on audience participation? These are three very different classifications, and Bandersnatch blurs the line between each of the three.

Marshall McLuhan famously argued that “the medium is the message”, but Bandersnatch takes that a little further. What if we’re not sure what the medium is at all?

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Farewell to Nerds: The Big Studios & Comic Con…

Last year, around this time, I was discussing how great it was to be a nerd or a geek. Hell, Comic Con in San Diego seemed like an obligatory stop-off point for the major studios promoting their latest blockbusters to an overly geeky crowd, debuting the trailer for Tron: Legacy or announcing the cast of The Avengers, not to mention footage and panels based around any number of big-screen blockbusters designed to cater towards the geeks and nerds in the movie-going audience. So it feels like a rather dramatic shift that very few of the major movie studios appear to be planning much for the iconic (or, at least, briefly iconic) Hall H in San Diego this year.

Does this mean that the era of the geek is over?

Will Stars stop Trekking to Hall H?

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Straight Up, With A Twist…

In the run-up to Inception, I got thinking about Christopher Nolan’s extensive filmography, and how many movies of his involve massive twists in the last third (The Dark Knight is arguably the exception, unless you consider the addition of a second villain to be a ‘twist’). It got me thinking about the nature of plot twists and how they can essentially harm and help a movie.

Yes, this would be the best twist ending ever...

Note: This article is going to discuss twists on the ends of movies and – as such – might be fairly heavy on the old spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

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G.I. Joe teams up with Uncle Sam…

I’ll admit it. In my defense, I’m suitably ashamed. But I am a little bit interested in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Yes, I know – deep down in my heart – that it will be terrible. No, I was not a fan of the television show, nor the toys – so I have no defense. I am a fan of Christopher Eccleston and I always have been, so my faith in him is on the line. And Stephen Sommers is the guy behind the two really good Mummy films, right? Still, the most interesting aspect of the production (amid all the rumours and gossip, the leaked reviews – both good and bad) is the approach that the studio is taking to marketing. Some movies – like The Dark Knight or Tron: Legacy or Cloverfield – go the subtle, nuanced approach of viral marketing. They create an emersive, engaging experience. G.I. Joe, on the other hand, is not subtle. The marketing team seems to be hammering home on single message: if you don’t dig this movie, you just ain’t patriotic enough.

No Dennis Quaid, you can't out act him... He's Christopher Eccleston!

No Dennis Quaid, you can't out act him... He's Christopher Eccleston!

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