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New Escapist Video! On How “Black Widow” Demonstrates the MCU’s Humour Problem…

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 every second Monday’s 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 content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the release of Black Widow earlier in the month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film. In particular, the use of humour in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general and in Black Widow in particular. In its best moments, the Marvel Cinematic Universe uses humour to enrich and deepen its themes. However, in Black Widow, it undermines them.

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Will Black Widow Have Us Russian Back to Cinemas?”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Richard Newby for the twenty-first episode of the year. With the release of Black Widow on streaming and in cinemas, there was only one movie to discuss. So we went for a deep dive into Marvel’s interquel, its character-centric movie for a dead Avenger.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Rick and Morty” Embracing Exponentiation Over Escalation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The fifth season of Rick and Morty is currently airing, a the most recent episode has been greeted as a modern classic, so it seemed like a good time to take a look at what makes the show work.

Rick and Morty is a science-fiction comedy. Both comedy and science-fiction thrive off the dramatic principle of escalation, of extrapolating from one iteration of an idea to the next. What is so interesting about Rick and Morty is how the show adopts an exponential approach to that philosophy. The comedy and the stakes of Rick and Morty often derive from starting with a straightforward science-fiction concept and then doubling down on it repeatedly.

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

238. To Be Or Not To Be – w/ The Movie Palace (#199)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guest Carl Sweeney, 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, a crossover with The Movie Palace, Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be.

War rages across Europe. Hitler is on the march. In Poland, a troupe of actors find themselves cast as the most unlikely heroes in a daring mission to prevent vital intelligence from making its way to the Nazi authorities. Saving the day will require courage, guile and the ability to hit their marks.

At time of recording, it was ranked 199th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – “M.O.D.O.K. Full Series Review”…

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, in the gap between The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, KC Nwosu and I take a look at a rather unconventional entry in the Marvel television canon: M.O.D.O.K., the half-hour sitcom from Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum about the maniacal supervillain trying to strike a work/life balance.

Non-Review Review: Thunder Force

There is a recurring joke in Thunder Force about how one character cannot tell a joke. It feels like a metaphor for the film itself.

To be fair, it’s more than just the premise of that joke itself, it is also the execution. The opening section of Thunder Force offers something of an origin story for its two lead characters, Lydia and Emily. The two meet at school. At school, their only other friend is a geeky kid named Clyde. In these flashbacks, Clyde is introduced with an obvious crush on Lydia, and an inability to tell a joke properly. When the film rejoins Lydia in adulthood, Clyde is quickly reintroduced and still unable to tell a joke properly.

A thundering disappointment.

The basic law of comedy – or storytelling – would suggest that this is a plot point being set up so that it might pay off. It is the standard “rule of three.” A concept is introduced to the audience. It is then repeated to establish it. Then, finally, it is subverted. It is that third iteration of the concept that serves as a punchline. It’s the heart of the joke. Instead, Clyde just disappears from the film. His inability to tell a joke is ultimately just an inability to tell a joke. It eats up screentime in building this world, and doesn’t go anywhere.

There’s something almost fourth-wall-breaking in this. It’s a joke about how a character in this movie cannot tell a joke, told in such a way that it isn’t really a joke either. It’s a moment that captures so much of Thunder Force, albeit in an unflattering light. It is also, much like the rest of Thunder Force, painfully unfunny.

The script could use a punch-up.

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197. The Circus – This Just In (#232)

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, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.

Desperately fleeing the authorities, a lovable tramp finds his way into the heart of a local circus. Initially struggling to find a place among the performers, the rogue strikes up a connection with the cruel ring master’s daughter. However, as a dashing tightrope walker vies for her affections, can the tramp strike the perfect balance?

At time of recording, it was ranked 232nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the Paradoxical Nostalgia of “Star Trek: Lower Decks”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Star Trek: Lower Decks launched last week, the latest entry in the larger Star Trek canon.

Lower Decks is an interesting phenomenon. It is perhaps the most overtly nostalgic Star Trek show of the new era, given how transparently it harks back to Star Trek: The Next Generation in both form and content. However, the show’s aesthetics – an animated series with a modern comedic sensibility – are likely to alienate those fans most obviously yearning for a nostalgic Star Trek hit. At the same time, the show’s reverence for the trappings of Star Trek prevents it from working in the mold of good comedy – even good Star Trek comedy.

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

Non-Review Review: Palm Springs

On the surface, Palm Springs is instantly recognisable as a genre-savvy update of the classic Groundhog Day template for the twenty-first century.

The basic plot finds two young adults – Nyles and Sarah – trapped living the same day over and over and over again. There is no escape from this nightmare, which finds the pair constantly reliving the wedding of Sarah’s sister Tala. As befitting the more modern media-literate approach to these sorts of stories, Palm Springs joins Nyles at a point where he has already been trapped in the loop for an extraordinarily long amount of time. He is already as familiar with the rules and limitations of this sort of narrative as any audience member who watched Groundhog Day on loop.

Making a splash.

This level of self-awareness in a story is potentially dangerous, encouraging ironic detachment. It’s very each for stories about these sorts of genre-savvy protagonists to feel more like plot devices than actual characters, particularly when operating within constructs that audiences only recognise from other films. “It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard of,” Nyles casually explains to Sarah early in the film. Sarah responds, aghast, “That I might have heard of?”

There are certainly moments when Palm Springs feels like it might be just a little too knowing and a little too arch, its own story too consciously framed in terms of familiar narrative devices. Most notably, even though the film is not directly named, one of the big emotional beats in Palm Springs seems to be lifted directly from Jurassic Park. Released the same year as Groundhog Day, it exists within the same nostalgic framework and was just as defining for an entire generation of movie-goers. Moments like that feel just a little bit too heavy-handed.

Some “him” time.

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188. The Truman Show (#177)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Kurt North, 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, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show.

Truman Burbank has the perfect life. He has a good job, a loving wife, a charming best friend. He lives an idylised existence, one where he wants for nothing. However, a series of freak occurences jolt Truman out of his blissful world and force him to confront a potentially horrifying reality: what if everything that he knows is just an elaborate lie?

At time of recording, it was ranked 177th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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