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New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – What If – “… Earth Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the third episode of What If…?, streaming on Disney+.

New Escapist Column! On “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as a Limit Case for the MCU…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that Avengers: Age of Ultron turned five years old, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at it.

Age of Ultron was an interesting film at the time, and it has become an even more interesting film in hindsight, following the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In many ways, Whedon positioned The Avengers as an argument in favour of the superhero genre as a romantic fantasy worthy of attention and respect. Age of Ultron feels like the flipside of that argument, a film about the limitations inherent in the genre and its perpetual second act. Age of Ultron is a deeply flawed film, but one flawed in very interesting ways.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Avengers: Endgame” as a Shared Cultural Experience…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that Avengers: Endgame is one year old, it seemed only fair to mark that anniversary with a reflective piece.

I’m not a huge fan of Endgame. I think it’s a modest movie that works very hard to avoid doing or saying anything substantive, wrapped up in the power fantasies that drive so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet, in spite of that, I admire Endgame as something that has become increasingly rare in the twenty-first century: a piece of shared cultural experience that ties us all together.

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

New Escapist Column! On Black Widow’s Death Sequence in “Avengers: Endgame”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that Avengers: Endgame is one year old and that Black Widow was supposed to open today, it seemed appropriate to discuss Black Widow’s death sequence from Endgame.

It has become a cliché in recent years to talk about “subverting expectations”, a term normally employed by fans frustrated with the direction of franchises like Game of Thrones or Star Wars. In short hand, it seems to imply a bad twist, one that undermines the franchise. However, films like Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and shows like Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who employ subversion for very particular purposes, to catch the audience off-guard and to ask interesting questions about the stories that are being told.

In contrast, the death of Black Widow is the worst sort of subversion or twist. It is a cheap “gotcha!”, designed to catch the audience off-guard by taking a sharp swerve away from the story that has been set up and offering a development simply because it’s unexpected and because surprise has inherent value. The result is something very shallow and superficial, a decision that sacrifices an admittedly predictable and cliché story for something that isn’t even a story at all.

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

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #22!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay CoyleGrace Duffy and Luke Dunne from Film in Dublin to discuss what we watched, the week in film news, the top ten and the new releases.

What We Watched

The Week in Film News

The top ten:

  1. Paw Patrol Mighty Pups
  2. The Hustle
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. John Wick: Chapter III – Parabellum
  5. Ma
  6. Detective Pikachu
  7. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  8. Rocketman
  9. The Secret Lives of Pets II
  10. Aladdin

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

Note: Due to unforeseen technical issues, the audio quality is a little rougher this week than usual, and there was some audio lost towards the end of the conversation – including the discussion of Late Night.

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #18!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Ronan Doyle to discuss the week in film. Ronan is just back from Paris and from the Trish McAdams season at the Irish Film Institute. Jay has been continuing his journey into Columbian noir and enjoyed Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles.

In film news, there’s a bumper crop of Quentin Tarantino news, including the Netflix cut of The Hateful Eight, the late Cannes entry of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and his continuing plans to make a Star Trek film. Beyond that, the Writers’ Guild of Ireland announced the nominees of their annual ZeBBie awards.

The top ten:

  1. Shazam!
  2. Greta
  3. Wild Rose
  4. Tolkien
  5. Wonder Park
  6. Dumbo
  7. The Curse Of La Llorona
  8. A Dog’s Journey
  9. Long Shot
  10. Avengers: Endgame

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #17!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay Coyle, Grace Duffy and Ronan Doyle to discuss the week in film. Ronan has been away for a few weeks at the Irish Film Institute’s “Our Battle in Images” season, looking at (largely outside) perspectives of the Troubles and curated by Donal Foreman, and so discusses a few films that he saw as part of the season. Jay has been watching more Columbian noir on the Criterion Channel and took in the latest Liam Neeson action joint Hard Powder Cold Pursuit. Grace watched Colossal and took in her first Agnés Varda film. I watched The Dig, and took in a couple of classic Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

In film news, there’s a lot to cover, including the passing of director John Singleton. There is also the IFI Spotlight coming in early May, and the announcement of the latest batch of W.R.A.P. funding. As ever, we also cover the top ten and the new releases in a crowded week under the shadow of Avengers: Endgame.

The top ten:

  1. Five Feet Apart
  2. Little
  3. Missing Link
  4. Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun
  5. Wild Rose
  6. Greta
  7. Shazam!
  8. Wonder Park
  9. Dumbo
  10. Avengers: Endgame

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

129. Avengers: Endgame – This Just In (#6)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Tony Black, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Endgame.

At time of recording, it was ranked 6th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Avengers – Endgame

It says a lot about the state of contemporary pop culture that the biggest movie of the year is essentially a clip episode.

Pop culture has always been vaguely nostalgic, evoking an idealised past and reminding audiences of times when the future seemed brighter. After all, much of the New Hollywood canon is explicitly nostalgic, sixties and seventies films that pay loving homage to the thirties and the forties, often explicitly; The Sting, The Godfather, Paper Moon, Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde. The past has always had a certain allure for cinema, perhaps because that’s what pictures have always been; individual moments captured on film and frozen in time, removed from their original context. Film is simply those frozen images run together to create the illusion of movement and life. Every film is a time machine, some are just more explicit than others.

Assembly line.

However, there is something fascinating about the modern wave of nostalgia, the speed at which pop culture is consuming itself. Recent waves of seventies, eighties and nineties nostalgia are still cresting. Earlier this summer, Captain Marvel channeled some of this nineties nostalgia into blockbuster (and Blockbuster) form. However, it also feels like nostalgia is getting closer and closer to the present, brushing up against the current moment. In some respects, the success of Lady Bird is indicative here. After all, Lady Bird is a film that is explicitly nostalgic about the post-9/11 era, evoked through footage of the Iraq War and the sounds of Justin Timberlake playing at a teen house party.

Avengers: Endgame is a strangely nostalgic beast. It is not strange that the film is nostalgic; after all, this is something of a coda to a decade of superhero films. However, it is strange how that nostalgia brushes up against the present, the climax of the film feeling very much like a loving homage to Avengers: Infinity War, a film that only premiered one year ago.

Stark raving mad…

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To Infinity and Beyond: Of Life (and Death) Without Meaning in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Avengers: Infinity War”

Avengers: Infinity War is a staggering accomplishment, from a purely logistical standpoint.

The film features approximately fifty major characters drawn from ten years of cinematic storytelling, all drawn together to face a major existential threat in a story that spans from a fictional African kingdom to the depths of outer space, all told within two-and-a-half hours, and all packaged in a neat and easy-to-follow delivery mechanism. Marvel Studios and the Russo brothers might make it look easy, but there’s no denying the level of skill and technique involved in shepherding a story like this to the big screen and making it work in a fundamental “this is entertaining” kind of way.

It’s important not to undersell this, not to dismiss the level of craft involved in stitching together a coherent narrative from the differing lengths of cloth. There is pleasure to be had in watching the various characters come together; in watching Peter Quill get insecure around Thor, in listening to Rocket joke about stealing the Winter Soldier’s arm, in the fact that Tony Stark and Stephen Strange spend the bulk of the movie attempting to out-Sherlock one another. Infinity War succeeds on these terms. It’s easy to be dismissive of this cinematic experiment, given how easy it looks, but that does not diminish the accomplishment.

However, there’s also something gnawing away in the background of Infinity War, an awkward question that the film never actually answers. “What is this actually about?” somebody might legitimately ask, and there are any number of possible answers. Infinity War is a film about a big purple dude with a magic glove. Infinity War is about paying off ten years of continuity. Infinity War is about proving that it is possible to make a movie like Infinity War. Infinity War is about ensuring that the next Disney shareholders’ meeting is a blowout party.

All of these are legitimate answers, but they dance around the truth. On its own terms, taken as a piece of popular culture projected on to a screen for two-and-a-half hours, Infinity War isn’t actually about anything. When people sit down to look at Infinity War in the years and decades ahead, to dissect and examine it, what will they come back with? What is it actually saying? What is it actually talking about? Not even in some grand “thesis statement about the universe” way, but in a more basic “this is the thematic arc of the film” manner?

Watching Infinity War, there is a deeply uncomfortable sense that Infinity War is about nothing beyond itself.

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