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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.

Non-Review Review: Scoob!

Have you ever wondered what it might look like is a beloved fifty-one-year-old children’s television franchise had a midlife crisis?

If so, Scoob! might just be for you.

We have lift-off.

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“Someone Who Hides Behind a Mask.” “Joker”, Superheroes, Vigilantes, and Pulp Friction…

A lot of digital ink has been spilled about Joker.

This makes sense. After all, it entered the discussion as a source of moral panic. It then emerged as a box office smash. It is a potential awards contender. And it provides an interesting intersection of genre. It is a hybrid of the dominant genre at the contemporary blockbuster with more ambitious and abstract awards fare. As such, it is not a surprise that Joker has dominated public attention in the way that it has. It seems almost tailor-made to generate discussion and debate, even if that can occasionally feel deafening.

That said, one of the most interesting and frustrating aspects of Joker is the way in which the film deliberately and consciously avoids crossing any particularly provocative lines. The film sidesteps a lot of potentially thorny issues of race and gender, perhaps wary of the potential internet blow back. If the film is making a point about anything, it seems to be a self-aware acknowledgement of the desire to imbue objects with symbolic weight and meaning even when they have not been designed to bear the weight. “I’m not political,” Arthur Fleck asserts, as political meaning is imposed upon him.

That said, there is something very interesting at the heart of Joker, something that likely emerged almost entirely by accident. Joker provides an interesting genre hybrid of the seventies and eighties vigilante thriller with the contemporary superhero blockbuster. And, in doing so, suggests an interesting throughline. Joker suggests that the superhero blockbuster isn’t as far removed from these urban power fantasies as the audience might like to believe.

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New Escapist Column! How “The Empire Strikes Back” Invented the Modern Sequel and Franchise…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine late last week, hopefully one a little bit less contentious than discussions of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

The piece takes a look at Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and the impact that it had on shaping a lot of modern blockbusters. We tend to think of Jaws and Star Wars as the cornerstones of the modern blockbuster movie, and that’s certainly fair. However The Empire Strikes Back has arguably had an even greater impact on the way in which franchise movies are built – from ballooning budgets to the idea of the perpetual second act.

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

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.