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256. Breach (Anti-Life) (-#69)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Joe Griffin, 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, John Suits’ Breach.

Earth is dying. Mankind’s last hope lies in the stars. On board one of the last colony ships ferrying the handful of survivors to their new world, something inhuman is stirring. The vessel’s maintenance crew find themselves in a battle against an alien entity, with the fate of mankind in the balance.

At time of recording, it was ranked 69th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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254. All About Eve (#134)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guests Donald Clarke and John Maguire, 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. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve.

Late one evening, after a performance of Aged in Wood, Karen Richards find young Eve Harrington waiting outside the stage door. Taking pity on the young girl, Karen invites Eve backstage to meet her idol, the actor Margo Channing. Even very quickly insinuates herself into Margo’s life and it becomes clear that the young woman has ambitions that extend beyond mere fandom.

At time of recording, it was ranked 134th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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244. Swept Away (-#100)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Jenn Gannon, The Bottom 100 is a subset of The 250. It is a journey through the worst 100 movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away.

Amber Leighton is a spoiled socialite who insists on turning a Mediterranean holiday into a nightmare for everybody she encounters. This includes deckhand Giuseppe Esposito, a working class man with a very different view of the world. Circumstances conspire to maroon Amber and Guiseppe alone together on a remote tropic island, forcing them to renegotiate their relationship.

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

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New Escapist Column! On Tom Cruise as a Movie Star Defying Gravity…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that he just announced plans to shoot a movie in outer space, it seemed like a good time to discuss Tom Cruise.

Cruise is a fascinating movie star. He’s one of the rare movie stars who has managed to remain a movie star for over three decades, at a time when movie stardom increasingly seems like an outdated concept. It’s interesting to look at how Cruise has navigated this shift, by essentially exerting enough gravity to bend established intellectual property towards him. There is no boundary between Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise, whether Hunt is dangling out of an airplane in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation or atoning for a failed marriage in Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

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

173. I Know Who Killed Me (-#75)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with guest Cian Sullivan from the Selected and Sissy That Pod, 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, Chris Sivertson‘s I Know Who Killed Me.

Aubrey Fleming is a talented student, piano player and writer from the upper class surroundings of New Salem. She has lived a sheltered life, but this changes dramatically as a serial killer stalks the community. Disappearing after a football game, Aubrey is found dismembered but alive in a ditch. Rushed to hospital, she eventually regains consciousness. There’s just one complication. She claims to be Dakota, a stripper who has lived a much crueler life than Aubrey ever knew.

At time of recording, it was ranked 75th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Between Two Ferns – The Movie

Between Two Ferns: The Movie offers an abstract take on cringe comedy.

The film is an adaptation of the cult web series, which finds Zach Galifianakis planning a fictionalised version of himself. The basic set-up involves Galifianakis inviting on a particularly famous guest, and the interview coming very quickly off the rails. It often descends into awkward silence, although occasionally exchanges get a little punchier. The whole premise is a riff on the absurdity and tedium of celebrity interviews, which very rarely result in something so skin-crawlingly embarrassing, but can still feel deeply uncomfortable for both audience and participants.

At a crossroads.

The Movie wraps a framing device around that set-up, expanding the world of its fictionalised Galifianakis by offering a broader context for the viral web interviews. In the world of the film, Galifianakis is a small-town public access television host whose work has been distributed online by a cocaine-addled Will Ferrell. Ferrell has exploited this “grotesque” as a twenty-first century freak show, which has become a runaway success according to the click counters that Ferrell keeps on his office wall or even carries around in his pocket at all times.

The Movie adopts a familiar enough plot structure for this kind of adventure. It escalates the stakes while providing a framework for episodic encounters. After one particularly disastrous interview, Ferrell sets Galifianakis a challenge. If Galifianakis can land ten celebrity interviews on a road trip, Ferrell will secure his top seller a Lifetime (not life-time) chat show slot. So Galifianakis sets off on a road trip in the style of David Brent: Life on the Road, with a band of misfits sidekicks for a collection of broad comedic set pieces that run the gamut from genuinely hilarious to disappointingly repetitive.

That sinking feeling.

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101. A Star is Born (#182) – This Just In

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guest Stacy Grouden, 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, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 182nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Luke Cage – All Souled Out (Review)

It is interesting watching Luke Cage in the age of Donald Trump.

The first season did not have to worry about such things. Luke Cage premiered in late September 2016, more than a month before Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the United States Presidential Election. The first season had entered production a year earlier, in September 2015, only fourth months after Donald Trump had announced his presidential bid. Production on the first season wrapped in March 2016, a couple of months before Ted Cruz would formally throw in the towel and affirm Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

However, the second season emerges in a highly-charged political environment where it seems like every piece of popular culture exists in the shadow of Donald Trump. Trump exerts a strange gravity over popular culture, making every piece of pop culture a strange referendum on his premiereship. Is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom about Donald J. Trump? How about Darkest Hour? Could the analogy stretch to Avengers: Infinity War? There is so much pop culture and so little time.

At the same time, it seems inevitable that the second season of Luke Cage would have to confront the legacy of Donald Trump and what he represents in American popular culture. However, the series does this in a rather interesting way.

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Luke Cage – I Get Physical (Review)

Luke Cage is engaged with the idea of celebrity.

To be fair, it is perhaps the only Marvel Netflix series that could explore this particular theme. After all, Daredevil is about a vigilante who trades in fear and operates primarily at night. Jessica Jones is about a self-hating alcoholic who is constantly on the verge of imploding. Iron Fist is so mired in cultural appropriation that it is impossible to imagine the series pulling off the theme in a manner that wouldn’t make the show worse. The Punisher is afraid to acknowledge what its hero actually is.

In contrast, Luke Cage is anchored in a central character who is essentially a neighbourhood celebrity. Soul Brother #1 demonstrates how Luke has imposed himself on Harlem, his actions tracked through an application, his merchandise sold in the barbershop, his image graffitied on walls. In Straighten It Out, he hands out his contact details, with instructions to call him if there is an emergency. In Can’t Front On Me, it is made clear that the local community know that they can reach out to him in person at the barbershop in case of emergency.

However, what is most striking about the handling of celebrity within Luke Cage is not just that it deals with the idea of Luke as a celebrity, but that it then uses Luke in order to interrogate how society treats its celebrities and how popular culture hungers for the fall just as excitedly as they cheered for the rise.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Virtuoso (Review)

Virtuoso is an interesting companion piece to Blink of an Eye.

Blink of an Eye was in many ways an exploration and reflection of Star Trek as a multimedia franchise, looking at the way in which the franchise has touched and shaped contemporary culture in the thirty-odd years since its inception. As part of this, the episode touched on fandom in a variety of ways, whether the abstract fandom of those individuals inspired by the series to accomplish great things or the more specific fandom including merchandise. Blink of an Eye was very much an episode about loving Star Trek.

Music to our ears.

As a result, Virtuoso feels like a very strange choice to directly follow Blink of an Eye. The two episodes are not connected by plot, outside of the basic idea that the EMH might spend an extended period of time on an alien planet without access to Voyager. After all, Star Trek: Voyager had committed itself to producing standalone episodic storytelling. However, Virtuoso is also something of a metaphor for Star Trek fandom, a look at what it is to love a piece of popular entertainment and to eagerly embrace it.

Unfortunately, the proximity to Blink of an Eye does no favours for Virtuoso, emphasising the script’s weaknesses and tone-deafness. Virtuoso is an episode that feels very pointed and cynical in its portrayal of fandom, very broad and very unpleasant. It is a clumsy and muddled piece of television, on that struggles to hit the right notes.

Small pleasures.

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