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New Escapist Column! On How the Summer of 2011 Changed Blockbuster Cinema, Forever…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because it was Labour Day on Monday, officially marking the end of summer, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to take a look back on the summer from a decade ago. The summer of 2011 was arguably the blockbuster movie season that defined the modern cinematic landscape.

Many observers would trace the root of the modern blockbuster era to the summers of 2008 and 2012 with epoch-defining smash hits like Iron Man and The Dark Knight or The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. However, these movies were exceptional. They were seismic. Doing something like that was an innovation and a miracle. However, the key for Hollywood is to find a way to make these sorts of models sustainable and reproduceable. That is why 2011 was such a big year, because it marked the season that Hollywood found a way to mass produce movies like Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

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

New Escapist Column! On the the Folly of Franchising the Predator…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With news that Dan Trachtenberg’s new Predator film might receive an edit for PG-13, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the difficulty in trying to reshape the iconic eighties movie monster into a modern franchise.

The appeal of the Predator is very simple. It hunts. It’s a concept that is perhaps best suited to a mode of franchising that doesn’t really exist any more, a set of reasonably budgeted sequel films that swap out characters and locations while retaining the core concept. However, modern franchises demand more. They demand world building, mythology, scale, spectacle and a shared universe. There’s something absurd about trying to retroactively apply that to the Predator as a concept.

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

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “TENET and 2020’s Not-busters”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Lee Murkey for the fifteenth episode of the year, for a discussion looking at the not-busters of the pandemic era, particularly Russell Crowe’s road rage thriller Unhinged and Christopher Nolan’s TENET.

You can listen to back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

New Escapist Column! On the “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” as the First Fan Service Blockbuster…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Mortal Kombat over the weekend, it seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back at the earlier nineties iteration of the cinematic franchise.

In particular, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a much more interesting movie than is often acknowledged. It is a complete disaster in just about every sense, but is a revealing one. Watched from remove of two decades, Annihilation often feels like a template for the sort of fan service blockbuster that we now take for granted, with its broad themes of “family” and its plot that serves primarily as an object on which continuity references and nostalgic shoutouts might be ornately arranged.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On the Meaninglessness of “Godzilla vs. Kong”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release and success of Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max and in cinemas last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film’s aggressive rejection of meaning. Godzilla vs. Kong is not a movie particularly concerned with subtext or metaphor. It is not a parable for mankind’s confrontation of the unknown, the hunger for war that lurks in every human heart, or even the dangers of how mankind is treating the environment. Instead, it’s a movie about a giant monkey punching a giant lizard until one of them falls down. However, maybe there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, particularly following a year that has – for many people – been over-infused with meaning. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Jurassic Park” Increasingly Feels Like a Warning About Itself…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. For no reason other than because I watched it this week, I took a look at Jurassic Park and how it feels strangely prophetic.

Jurassic Park is many things: a cautionary tale about science run amok, about mankind’s hubris, about dads. However, watched decades later, it stands out as a cautionary tale about the kind of movie that it is. Jurassic Park is one of the best blockbusters ever made, but it was also a game-changer. It seemed to herald a revolution in computer-generated imagery that fundamentally altered the blockbuster landscape. In that sense, the film’s anxiety about the unforeseen consequences of these sorts of innovations, and of bringing the past to life again, have aged very well.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Force Awakens” Killed the Unlikely Adult-Oriented Christmas Blockbuster…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It has been five years since the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. While this anniversary has been discussed and dissected from countless directions over the past few weeks, there is one under-explored aspect of it.

In the early 2010s, as blockbuster cinema came to dominate the cultural landscape, something interesting happened in the Christmas release window. Movies like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street somehow managed to thrive in the Christmas corridor, by offering reasonably-budgeted adult-skewing movies that could draw crowds over the holiday season, safe from the blockbuster pile-up over the summer. Sadly, The Force Awakens signalled the end of this.

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

212. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (#86)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy, Luke Dunne and Andy Melhuish, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi.

It is a time to settle old scores. Returning to his home planet of Tatooine, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker begins the final stage of his journey towards reconciliation with his father Darth Vader. Meanwhile, the Empire has embarked upon construction of another planetary superweapon, as the Emperor hatches a plot to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all.

At time of recording, it was ranked 86th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Flash Gordon” and “Dune” as Biblical Epics for a Secular Age…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. As this week marks the fortieth anniversary of Flash Gordon and this month would have seen the release of the next cinematic adaptation of Dune, it seemed like a good time to talk about Dino DeLaurentiis’ science-fiction epics.

Flash Gordon and Dune exist in the shadow of George Lucas’ Star Wars, but they are markedly different films. While Lucas drew heavily from classic science-fiction serials, he adopted modern techniques in production and editing. In contrast, Dune and Flash Gordon are more old-fashioned in their storytelling. More than that, with the death of New Hollywood and the emerging blockbuster film market, it seems like the studios leaned rather heavily into the kind of epic that they knew how to make. As a result, Dune and Flash Gordon feel rather like biblical epics… in space!

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

New Escapist Column! On the Cynicism of “Inception”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier this week. Because Inception turned ten years old this week, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to look back at Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster.

Inception is often discussed as a movie about movies, how the film’s team of dream infiltrators often feel like a team of filmmakers constructing an elaborate spectacle for an audience of one. However, this train of thought is rarely developed beyond the original premise. If Inception is a movie about movies, what exactly does it have to say about movies? How does it feel about them? The answers are surprisingly complicated and nuanced, especially in the context of a summer blockbuster from a director who clearly adores the format.

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