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Non-Review Review: Songbird

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Songbird is how tame and lifeless it is.

The trailer arrived in a multimedia firestorm, positioning the movie as a piece of “pandemic-xploitation”, set against the backdrop of a hypothetical future where the current global pandemic had raged for four years. In this climate, public health officials have begun abusing their power, the black market thrives, the government has set up ominous and secretive “Q-zones” to house those affected. “Once you go to the Q-zone, you don’t ever really leave,” an influencer remarks early in the film. The United States operates under “marshal law”, as virus has “mutated” to attack the brain.

Sick privilege, bro.

All of this sounds very crass and very charged, something similar to what happened with the release of The Hunt earlier in the year. Songbird and The Hunt are movies that position themselves as genre pieces with biting resonance to a highly charged and combustible situation. However, like The HuntSongbird is ultimately something of a damp squib. It makes grand gestures towards the current moment, importing all manner of iconography and language associated with the pandemic to give it a patina of relevance, but ultimately ties it to a fairly conventional story.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between something like The Hunt and something like Songbird. The Hunt was ultimately a standard genre movie that disguised itself as something more relevant, but it was reasonably well constructed. In contrast, Songbird is an absurdly slipshod production. The film often feels like it was cobbled together over a weekend to ensure that it would be released at a point where it was still relevant and timely. The result is a shoddily made and vapid piece of work, that somehow feels even more vulgar than a full-throated exploitation film might.

Cooking up a Stormare…

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New Escapist Column! On How COVID-19 Will Change The Movies…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening, looking at the future of film distribution.

COVID-19 has already had a huge impact on film distribution, from the cancellation of film festivals through to the early arrival of new releases on streaming. However, as the crisis continues and as debates extend over how long the situation will last, it seems fair to wonder about what the long-term implications of this will be in terms of film distribution and movie-watching. After all, there’s a sense in which the massive changes to the industry in the past few weeks are ultimately just the acceleration of trends that studios have been pushing for a while.

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

New Escapist Column! On the New Films Available Early on Streaming…

I published a new Don’t Miss It piece at Escapist Magazine this evening

Basically, with the shutdown of theatres, a lot of content is landing on digital streaming services very quickly. It can be hard to keep track of it all, so we thought we’d throw together a quick round-up of the headlines, drawing attention to films like Just Mercy, The Way Back, Birds of Prey, Emma., The Hunt, The Invisible Man and more that will be available straight to your television set in the next couple of days.

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

174. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (-#5)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Donal Smith and Donal 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.

This time, James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Software salesman Rod has the perfect life. He has just closed the biggest deal in the history of his company, which has itself just been bought out by a giant conglomerate. More than that, a chance encounter with an old school friend leads to a blossoming romance with a Victoria’s Secret model. Everything is going well, until death swoops in from above.

At time of recording, it was ranked 5th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On COVID-19 and a Globalised Film Industry…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week. Ironically, it’s probably already well out of date.

In the time since the article was published last Monday, the COVID-19 pandemic has only escalated further. Movie and television studios have halted production and distribution of various major titles. However, all of this illustrated how incredibly globalised the modern film industry truly is, both in the stories that we tell and the manner in which we are telling them. These are films that rely on global audiences, and so an outbreak in Japan and China has major repercussions within Hollywood itself.

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