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New Escapist Column! On How “Mission: Impossible” Would Cause Fan Outrage Today…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With Brian dePalma’s Mission: Impossible turning twenty-five years old this month, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look back the film that started the modern iteration of the franchise.

In hindsight, it is impossible to imagine Mission: Impossible getting made today. The movie’s big twist is the revelation that the one character carried over from the television show, a standard bearer for the larger franchise, has secretly betrayed everything that the audience took for granted. The twist was controversial at the time, with several members of the original cast and some fans objecting to the characterisation. However, in a franchise-driven age where any deviation from the template is a source of outrage, it’s impossible to imagine Mission: Impossible attempting anything so bold today.

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

221. Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly journey through the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. And sometimes, because we can, a movie not on the list.

This week, to mark the passing Christopher Plummer, a special midweek bonus episode covering Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

An explosion on the Klingon moon of Praxis sends the Klingon Empire into disarray, and forces the warrior race to consider an unlikely alliance with their old enemies in the Federation. The Enterprise is sent to meet the Klingon Chancellor, under the command of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. However, things do not go to plan.

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

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New Escapist Video! On “GoldenEye” and an Unchanged Bond in a Changed World…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of GoldenEye, we took a look back at the first James Bond film of the nineties, which introduced the suave secret agent to a whole new generation. Indeed, the genius of the film lay in its understanding of Bond. It presented a version of Bond that had no changed, even as the world around him had.

New Escapist Column! On the Perpetual Apocalypse of “Atomic Blonde”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Since it’s three years old, and there are rumours of a sequel coming, I thought it was worth taking a look at Atomic Blonde.

Released in July 2017 and set in November 1989, there’s a pervasive sense of apocalypse to Atomic Blonde. Set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall and released in the early months of the Trump Presidency, Atomic Blonde captures the sense of a world collapsing into madness. The deliberately jumbled spy thriller unfolds as the ordering principles of the Cold War collapse around it. There’s a grim, suffocating, brutal nihilism to Atomic Blonde, one underscored in the film’s central fear: what if the apocalypse itself never actually ends? what if it’s eternal?

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

 

Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards, 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Snow! Christmas! Terrible but enjoyable (and apparently, this year, controversial!) music! End of year “best of” lists!

I’m a member of a couple of critics’ organisations, so we’ll be releasing a couple of these lists upon which I voted. I’ll also hopefully be releasing my own top ten as part of a Scannain end-of-year podcast some time this week.

In the meantime, the Dublin Film Critics Circle have released their end of year awards. Thrilled to be a part of the group, who are voting on films released in Ireland during the calendar year of 2018. As such, it will be a different pool of films than the Online Film Critics Society awards.

A massive thanks to the wonderful Tara Brady for organising the awards this year, balloting members and collating results.

Anyway, without further ado…

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Non-Review Review: Creed II

Creed II is a much better sequel than Rocky IV deserves.

At the heart of Creed II is the grudge match that fans of the franchise had been anticipating since the core concept of this “legacy-quel” series was first suggested. Adonis Creed in the ring against Viktor Drago. The son of Apollo Creed squaring off against the son of Ivan Drago, a generational rematch of the bout that cost Apollo Creed his life in Rocky IV. Adonis Creed is haunted by the name that he inherited from a father that he never met, and so it seems only reasonable that his film series would circle back around to allowing him closure on this.

A Rocky Road Less Travelled.

There is an irony in all of this. One of the central themes of Creed was the challenge of this spin-off movie franchise existing in the shadow of the original beloved Rocky series. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler rose to that challenge, and created one of the great franchise success stories of the twenty-first century. As a result, it occasionally feels like Creed II is not so much fighting to escape the shadow of Rocky IV as much as it is wrestling with the weight of Creed.

Creed II is a solid and sturdy sequel to Creed, although not a superior one. It isn’t necessarily the sequel that Creed deserves.

To the Viktor, the spoils…

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Non-Review Review: Mute

Mute is a bold and ambitious mess.

Mute is perhaps most interesting for what it is, and most frustrating in what it is about. In its own way, Mute stands as a triumph of the Netflix model. As it streams, Mute is undoubtedly the film that director Duncan Jones wanted to make. Indeed, it is next to impossible to imagine Mute making its way through the conventional studio system, and certainly not in the form that appeared on Netflix. Even watching the film play out, those never-materialised studio notes suggest themselves. (Most notably, “What is this film saying?”) There is nothing that feels like compromise about the film, and there is something very appealing in that.

However, there is also something deeply frustrating in Mute. The film is undoubtedly the unfiltered creative vision of its director, but there is something overwhelming in that. Mute is beautiful to look at, but almost too much to take in. Its world is vivid and fully formed, its atmosphere rich and evocative. However, there is something awkward in the story that unfolds within this dystopian landscape, the narrative never quite cohering in the same way as its grimy futuristic Cold War Berlin.

Mute is a film that is fascinating and impressive, if far from satisfying.

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Non-Review Review: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a beautiful emerald fairy tale, told from the fringes.

Set in the early sixties, against the backdrop of “the last days of a fair prince’s reign”, The Shape of Water promises to regale audience members with the story of “the princess without a voice” and “the monster who tried to end it all.” However the most striking aspect of The Shape of Water is in how it chooses to focus its magical story. The Shape of Water is a story largely about those who are silenced on the margins, right down to its decision to cast Sally Hawkins as protagonist Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner working in a secret government lab.

He’s in a glass case of emotion.

The Shape of Water is very much an exploration of the concept of “the other”, of the lives of those who exist outside the confines of “normal” society. The film’s central antagonist is a happily married white American man, who finds himself set against a collection of misfits and outcasts; a mute orphan, a black cleaning lady, a gay designer, an immigrant scientist, and a monstrosity pulled from the depths of the Amazon river. Coasting from the conservative fifties, Colonel Richard Strickland faces the threat that everything he accepts as granted might be washed away.

The Shape of Water suffers from some minor pacing problems in its romantic adventure, but these are minor issues in a haunting and enchanting piece of work.

The Creature from the Black Ops Department.

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Non-Review Review: Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a very pretty mess.

Atomic Blonde is a stylistic showcase for director David Leitch and star Charlize Theron, a bruising and beautiful ballet of brutality with a killer soundtrack. Atomic Blonde is a film set in a funhouse mirror version of Berlin in November 1989, a movie that argues its location is more a state of mind than a physical place. The violence in Atomic Blonde is visceral, the mood tangible, the soundtrack delectable. Atomic Blonde is a feast for the senses.

Seeing red.

However, Atomic Blonde also makes next to no sense. The film is an action movie dressed in the attire of a nihilistic espionage thriller, and a little narrative confusion inevitably comes with the territory. These films are all but obligated to have twists and betrayals, macguffins and revelations, switches and levers. Atomic Blonde embraces that zany approach to plot and structure with relish. However, the problem with Atomic Blonde is more fundamental than all that. It often struggles to remain coherent from one scene to the next, from one set piece to another.

Atomic Blonde is beautiful chaos, an exploding collage that probably didn’t make any sense to begin with.

Putting her turtleneck on the line.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Bar Association (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

The politics of Star Trek can occasionally be difficult to pin down.

There are obvious reasons for this, of course. Television is a collaborative medium, the result of lots of different creative voices. It is hard to argue that Star Trek has an consistent set of politics, because those creative voices have very different politics. Even on the original show, episodes like Errand of Mercy and The Omega Glory suggested that Gene L. Coon and Gene Roddenberry had very different perspectives on the Vietnam War. Certainly, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have very different viewpoints.

Don't beat yourself up, Quark...

Don’t beat yourself up, Quark. We have some Nausicaans to do it for you.

However, it is also the case that the franchise has always been quite careful when engaging with political discourse, particularly in the context of its nineties incarnation. The myth of Star Trek paints the show as progressive and liberal, but the truth is that the series rarely broke new ground in the nineties and into the new millennium. Episodes like Rejoined and Judgment were very much the exception rather than the rule, engaging with big political and social issues in a very clear manner. A lot of the time, the franchise played it fairly safe.

That is part of what makes Bar Association such an interesting episode of television. As with Rejoined, there is a sense that the Star Trek franchise should take the liberal politics of Bar Association for granted. After all, while there is some ambiguity as to exactly what form of economic theory is employed by the Federation, it certainly isn’t capitalism. However, it is interesting to hear the franchise (perhaps literally in this case) put its money where its mouth is, allowing a major character to quote Marx and Engels.

Strike while the bar is hot...

Strike while the bar is hot…

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