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304. Speed 2: Cruise Control (-#97)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jason Coyle and Richard Drumm, 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, Jan de Bont’s Speed 2: Cruise Control.

SWAT team member Alex Shaw decides to take his girlfriend Annie on a luxurious ocean cruise, planning to propose to her. Fate has other plans, in the form of mysterious terrorist John Geiger, who has a score to settle and a score to pull, hijacking the liner and setting it on a collision course for disaster. Soon enough, it isn’t just Alex and Annie’s relationship that finds itself careening out of control.

At time of recording, it was ranked 97th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the MCU’s CGI Problems…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the trailer for She-Hulk last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the raging debate over the very questionable use of computer-generated imagery.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest multimedia franchise in the world, and its projects enjoy some of the biggest budgets. So why do so many of their special effects look so terrible? There are a number of reasons for this, tied to both larger cultural trends, the visual effects sector as a whole, and the peculiarities of Marvel Studios’ production methodology. The result of all this comes together to explain why some of the most expensive movies on the planet look so cheap.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Northman”, and the Desire to Make Movies Weird Again…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Northman in the United Kingdom this week and in the United States next week, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at the welcome return of weird to the blockbuster arena.

Modern blockbusters are frustratingly generic. As budgets have ballooned and intellectual property has trumped high concepts, studios have grown increasingly conservative with their larger projects. This is part of what makes The Northman so interesting. It’s great to see a director like Robert Eggers receive a reasonable budget and a sizable platform in order to make a movie that speaks very specifically to his own aesthetic. It’s refreshing to see a movie this expensive that is this committed to its aesthetic.

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

New Podcast! The Spookies Podcast – “The Dark Knight And The Joker “

I was thrilled to be invited to join the wonderful Michael and Stephanie Black for an episode of their new podcast, The Spookies Podcast.

It was a fun conversation, in which I got to chat a little bit about The Dark Knight, one of my favourite blockbusters ever. The nominal topic of the conversation was the Joker himself, but it was a broad and wide-ranging discussion that ended up touching on everything from modern fandom to Christopher Nolan to the state of modern auteurism. I hope you enjoy.

You can listen directly to the episode below or by clicking here.

New Escapist Column! On the “Planet of the Apes” Prequels as the Last Great Movie Trilogy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of The Batman, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Matt Reeves’ other recent films. In particular, Reeves directed the last two films in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy.

The recent Planet of the Apes prequels are the rarest of things: beautifully made and powerfully resonant blockbusters. The films are constructed with genuine artistry and craft, but – more than that – they speak to the particular moment in which they were released. These are films that against all odds manage to capture something of the soul of America on celluloid, beautifully encapsulating a deeply troubled era, and skilfully using their nostalgia in a way that deepens their themes and enhances their resonance.

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

New Escapist Video! “The Matrix Resurrections Is a Winning Franchise Revival – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of The Matrix Resurrections, which is in cinemas and on HBO Max now.

New Escapist Column! On The Reflective and Introspective Nature of Late Steven Spielberg…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the looming release of West Side Story, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the late career of Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg is a director who defined and shaped Hollywood, largely by inventing the modern blockbuster with Jaws. What is really interesting about so much of his twenty-first century output, starting with A.I. Artificial Intelligence and continuing into films like Ready Player One, is the sense in which Spielberg seems to be grappling with the long-term and unintended consequences of how he shaped cinema, to the point that many of his modern movies – from War Horse to The Post – seem to be the kinds of movies that he squeezed out of the market.

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

258. Dune – This Just In (#127)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jenn Gannon and Deirdre Molumby, 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, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

The galaxy is in turmoil. Rumours swirl of a plot against House Atreides. As Duke Leto Atreides takes control of the desert planet of Dune, he tries to track down the traitors in his midst. Meanwhile, his son Paul finds himself on the verge of an awakening that will have a profound impact on the future of mankind.

At time of recording, it was ranked 127th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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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.