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New Escapist Column! On the Narrativisation of the “Birds of Prey” Box Office…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday, discussing the inevitable armchair quarterbacking of the Birds of Prey box office.

The film under-performed at the box office in its opening weekend, particularly relative to some of the more bullish predictions. It pulled in an opening weekend box office closer to similarly budgeted films like Kingsman: The Secret Service and Ford v. Ferrari than breakout smashes like Deadpool or 300. As a result, there’s a been a rush to account for those results, which often boils down to an attempt to narrativise the film’s failure – to argue that the causes for that result are easily discerned by outside observers. Of course, those analyses often handily fit various pre-determined narratives.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Just Create New Female Characters” Argument…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, on an interesting and age-old debate.

The question of how best to foster diversity in cinema and wider pop culture is a challenging one. Whenever the suggestion of race- or gender-shifting an existing character like the Doctor or James Bond comes up, the responses are always the same: “just create new characters!” It’s a strong argument conceptually, because it’s rooted in the (entirely correct) moral presumption that women shouldn’t need to repurpose old characters, but instead should have new characters. However, it also glosses over the economic and cultural realities of the current cinematic climate. The debate is more complicated than it might appear.

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

164. Cats – This Just In (-#34)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall, Jenn Gannon and Luke Dunne, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Tom Hooper’s Cats.

Abandoned by her owner in a surreal wasteland of early twentieth century London, the young cat Victoria finds herself drawn towards the neighbourhood’s feline inhabitants on the night of a most special and peculiar celebration.

At time of recording, it was ranked 34th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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141. Escape Plan 2: Hades – This Just In (-#100)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Babu Patel and Giovanna Rampazzo, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 100 worst movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Steven C. Miller’s Escape Plan 2: Hades.

At time of recording, it was ranked 100th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Insidious – Chapter 2

Horror sequels are tough to execute, particularly where you have a returning cast. After all, strong horror films typically work by ramping up the pressure on the central character, building inexorably towards a climax. It’s very hard to follow on from that – where do you go? It’s very difficult to wind the tension back down and start ramping up from scratch, and the same trick is never as effective the second time.

Insidious: Chapter 2 faces these challenges, and – to its credit – it tries to work around them. It embraces an almost camp aesthetic to help compensate for the fact that it effectively kicks off at maximum volume, relishing the sheer absurdity of its demonic co-stars. It splits the main cast up in order to allow it to try to maintain a constant sense of pressure, while also delving into back story and origin. It subtly shifts its frame of reference from movies about possession and haunting toward a different sort of horror film.

However, these attempts aren’t as successful as they might be. While there are moments of wit, the humour and heightened camp occasionally causes tonal confusion. Splitting the cast up is too convenient a narrative device and diffuses (rather than maintains) the tension. Slasher and serial killer movies are hard to get right at the best of times, and the movie’s climax feels awkward grafted on to a possession story. Insidious: Chapter 2 has moments where it works very well, but also spends a significant amount of its running time groping in the dark.

Well, at least it's an amicable haunting...

Well, at least it’s an amicable haunting…

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John Carter: A Disney Prince of Mars

It looks like John Carter didn’t make enough of a splash at the box office to justify a sequel. To tell the truth, I am more than a little disappointed, because I actually enjoyed the cheesy throw-back charm of a science-fantasy epic that didn’t feel the need for irony or wry self-awareness. However, it’s interesting to look at the movie as part of the Disney canon, and measured against the big Disney films released over the last couple of years (and planned through the end of this one). John Carter seems to fit alongside Tron: Legacy as part of a concentrated effort by the studio in recent years to shift away from their traditional “princess”-orientated features and to produce movies aimed at boys.

Boys are from Mars...

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Tinkers, Tailors: The Phantom of the Prestigious Sequel…

If rumours are to be believed, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is such a dramatic success that discussions have begun about a possible sequel, with Gary Oldman even chiming in that a follow-up might do well to adapt both The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People into a single film – reducing leCarré’s trilogy to a duology. Still, even if there’s only one more film produced, the news can’t help but seem a little strange: after all, it’s very intellectual material for a Hollywood franchise, isn’t it?

Every right to be Smiley...

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