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203. Kundun – Summer of Scorsese (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Jay Coyle and Darren Mooney, 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, continuing our Summer of Scorsese season, Martin Scorsese’s Kundun.

Martin Scorsese is one of the defining directors in American cinema, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that have shaped and defined cinema across generations: New York, New York, Raging Bull, The Colour of Money, Goodfellas, Casino, Shutter Island, The Irishman. The Summer of Scorsese season offers a trip through his filmography via the IMDb‘s 250.

The fourteenth Dalai Lama navigates the complicated web of faith and politics at a highly volatile time in the history of Tibet, meditating on both his divine responsibilities and the looming threat of Chinese intervention as the world changes around him.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – ” Mulan, Dune and The Academy”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Bob Chipman for the third episode, primarily discussing Disney’s release of Mulan, the first trailer for Dune and the new changes to eligibility for the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

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

New Escapist Column! On Disney’s Chinese Gambit with “Mulan”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Mulan as a premium video on demand this weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a look at what the film represents in terms of Disney (and larger Hollywood’s) relationship with China.

The streaming release of Mulan is just one prong of Disney’s rollout strategy for a film that reportedly has a larger budget than The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. The company has an eye on the Chinese box office, which makes sense given that China has become a global powerhouse in terms of box office. Mulan has been consciously tailored to appeal to Chinese audiences, but this is really just the culmination of Hollywood’s long-running courtship of Chinese censors and audiences, a trend that has been in motion for over a quarter of a century.

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

Non-Review Review: Mulan (2020)

Niki Caro’s Mulan is an interesting beast.

As a piece of production, it’s impressive. It lands neatly among the best of Disney’s live action adaptations of its classic animated films, simply by virtue of its willingness to offer something new. It avoids the limp and slavish devotion of films like The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, even if it never quite transcends its origins like Pete’s Dragon. It is vibrant and dynamic film, one that leans into what is possible in live action rather than animation, with cinematographer Mandy Walker ensuring that colours really pop off the screen.

Claws for concern

However, there’s also something slightly frustrating about Mulan. It often feels like the changes from the animated film were not made with the intention of improving the film or finding a new angle, but instead to render Mulan more palatable to a targetted Chinese audience. After all, for all the attention paid to the film’s video-on-demand release, its box office prospects have always had one eye on China. The result is a film that feels more cautious and more conservative than an animated film produced over two decades ago.

Mulan is clean and stylish, but feels a little too calculated and sterile to be its best self.

A prime cut?

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176. Mou Gaan Dou (Infernal Affairs) – World Tour 2020 (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, 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, Alan Mak and Andrew Lou’s Mou Gaan Dou.

Trouble is brewing in Hong Kong. Crime boss Hon Sam has managed to evade the clutches of Superintendent Wong Chi-shing once too often. There can only be one explanation: Sam has a mole buried within the police department. However, as the police close in around him, Sam becomes convinced that Wong has is own embedded operative. What follows is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as the lines between cop and criminal – and self and other – blur

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best 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: Ying (“Shadow”)

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Shadow is a mess.

Shadow aims for opera, but winds up in soap opera. The film’s plotting is a mess of internal contradictions grasping desperately at pseudo-profundity. The film’s structure is completely chaotic, with what should be the climax of the third act coming about a half-an-hour before the end credits in order to make room for even more plot twists and betrayals and reversals. Shadow simply does not work on a number of fundamental levels.

And yet, in spite of that, there’s an incredible charm to the film. Director Zhang Yimou commits wholeheartedly and unquestioningly to his premise, right down to the heavily desaturated-to-the-point-of-almost-being-black-and-white colour scheme. Shadow never seems to have any hesitation or self-doubt as it commits to an increasingly convoluted plot and a series of increasingly absurd visual flourishes. It is as exhilarating as it is infuriating.

Shadow is a movie in which an invading army cocks their razor umbrellas before riding said umbrellas through the streets of a city under assault. It’s completely off the wall, but also impossible to completely resist.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 19 (“Hell Money”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, covering Hell Money with the great Carl Sweeney.

This is an interesting one. Everybody has their own personal underrated favourites, whether in film or on television or in any other media. Pieces of art on which we feel much more strongly than the consensus, and in which we see a bit more than our fellow audience members. In my case, this is true of quiet a few episodes of The X-Files, typically episodes that meet with a shrug from the collective audience, but with which I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love. Hell Money is one of those episodes.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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Non-Review Review: China Salesman

China Salesman is fascinating disaster.

China Salesman is not a good film by any measure, but it is strangely compelling. There is something intoxicating about the film, in spite of its myriad flaws – the awful script, the atrocious dubbing, the clumsy editing, the terrible performances, the muddled storyline, the abundance of nonsensical technobabble. Part of this is down to the sheer abundance of energy that director Tan Bing brings to proceedings. China Salesman whips and whirls, cranks and zooms, pans and swirls with a kinetic energy that renders these flaws almost bedazzling, offering an effect that in some ways evokes a bad trip.

The gun show.

However, China Salesman is perhaps most interesting as a mirror and a prism. It is, like Wolf Warrior II, very much the Chinese equivalent to those old patriotic eighties American action movies like Delta Force or Iron Eagle, the kind of populist nationalist cinema that is currently channeled through franchises like Transformers. As such, there is something intriguing in seeing the image that China Salesman projects into the world, as an assertion of multinational intent to the rest of the world and as a statement of patriotic self-image to the country itself.

China Salesman is terrible. It is also terribly interesting.

The old man and the Seagal.

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Iron Fist – The Blessing of Many Fractures (Review)

As “The Last Defender”, Iron Fist bears the burden of tying most heavily into The Defenders.

This is not a surprise. This has been a large part of the Marvel Studios model, with productions teasing concepts and characters that will not arrive for quite some time. By the time that Thanos moves against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers: Infinity War, it will have been more than half a decade since the stinger at the end of The Avengers teased his looming threat. Even since Samuel L. Jackson appeared at the end of Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. dropped by the stinger in The Incredible Hulk, these teases have been a way of doing business.

Glowing yellow peril.

As such, it makes sense that the company would put a lot of groundwork into setting up the summer’s big-ticket crossover between the four different Marvel Netflix shows. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage had largely been their own thing, while Daredevil had devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to introducing concepts and ideas that would pay off down the line. However, as the last of the shows to be released before the big summer event series, Iron Fist carries a heavier burden than any of its predecessors.

Unfortunately, Marvel and Netflix seem to have wholeheartedly committed to the idea of the Hand as the enemy of choice for this eight-part crossover miniseries. And so Iron Fist gets burdened with the Hand.

“Time for snooping.”

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