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New Escapist Column! On What Disney Should Learn from Andor

I published a new piece at The Escapist over the weekend. With Andor winding down its first season, it seemed like as good an opportunity to take a look at what Disney could and should learn from the best of their franchise streaming show.

While there is some suggestion that Andor might be less popular on initial release than other Star Wars streaming shows like The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett, there is some sense that Disney recognises that they have created something very special and unique. So what is it that makes Andor so compelling? More than that, what can Disney do to capitalise on that success and replicate it?

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

313. Ratatouille – Bird Watching 2022 (#219)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Graham Day, 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.

This week, we’re continuing a season focusing on the work of one particular director: Brad Bird’s Ratatouille.

Remi is a French rat with a taste for the finer things, quite literally. Remi longs to be a chef. When circumstances bring the young rat to Paris, and into the kitchen of a legendary restaurant, Remi is given the chance of a lifetime to seize his dream. He just needs to grab it by the hair and pull hard.

At time of recording, it was ranked 219th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Mythic Quest” as a Professional Relationship Comedy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the third season of Mythic Quest launching last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what is quietly one of the best sitcoms on television.

Mythic Quest is a comedy about the idea of creation as a collaborative process, the sense that very few things originate from one mind in particular. As such, the show’s sitcom structure bends around that idea in interesting ways. In particular, the show approaches relationships through the prism of professionalism. Most sitcoms lean into romantic tension between their leads, but Mythic Quest applies that relationship template to a more professional and creative environment, exploring how fulfilling professional relationships can be profoundly fulfilling.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Peacemaker” Turns Its Weaknesses Into Strengths…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, which is streaming weekly on HBO Max. The fifth episode of the show released last week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Understandably, given that the show is built around a piece of established intellectual property and superheroes, much of the discussion around Peacemaker had focused on creator James Gunn’s earlier work on films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and The Suicide Squad. However, with its (relatively) lower budget and scrappier aesthetic, Peacemaker arguably hews closers to Gunn’s earliest films as director, movies like Slither and Super. Enjoying incredible creative freedom and lack of ocersight, Gunn is reconnecting with the aesthetic of his earliest work.

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

Non-Review Review: Ford v. Ferrari (Le Mans ’66)

Ford v. Ferrari very much the Ford model of mid-budget adult-skewing awards fare.

It’s sturdy and reliable. It handles well. It also doesn’t have too many surprises under the hood. Ford v. Ferrari knows exactly what the audience wants from a film like this, and it often delivers right down to the shot. The camera is exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there – whether capturing the concerned expressions on a family nervously leaning in close to a radio or flying by the team manager as he watches his car cross the finish line on one of the last laps.

Food for thought.

It is easy to be cynical about all of this. Were somebody to approach Ford v. Ferrari cynically, they could argue that it is the product of a factory floor that is just as much a conveyor belt as those operated by Ford. However, there is a reason that this model of awards fare became an industry standard. Ford v. Ferrari constantly reminds its audience of the appeal underpinning this factory-built American craftsmanship. This sort of film was a staple of awards seasons for decades, and Ford v. Ferrari demonstrates just why that was.

Ford v. Ferrari is good, old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing awards fare.

Miles to go.

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Non-Review Review: Spider-Man – Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an amazing Spider-man movie.

There is no other way to describe it. Into the Spider-Verse is a clean lock for the best superhero film of the year, neatly leapfrogging the superlative Black Panther. Into the Spider-Verse is also the best animated film of the year, placing comfortably ahead of The Breadwinner or Incredibles 2. In fact, it seems fairly safe to describe Into the Spider-Verse as the best feature film starring Spider-Man since Spider-Man II. Even that feels like hedging, and would be a very closely run race.

Just dive on in.

Into the Spider-Verse is a creative triumph. It is a fantastically constructed movie, in virtually every way. The film’s unique approach to animation will inevitably dominate discussions, and understandably so. Into the Spider-Verse is a visually sumptuous piece of cinema that looks unlike anything ever committed to film. However, the film’s storytelling is just as impressive if decidedly (and consciously) less showy in its construction. Adding a phenomenal cast, Into the Spider-Verse is just a film that works in an incredibly infectious and engaging way.

Into the Spider-Verse does whatever a Spider-Man movie can. And then some.

Suits him.

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Non-Review Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is – as one might expect – a wonderfully well-constructed family film. Following a construction worker repeatedly described as “normal” or “average” – but, one colleague hastens to add, “not normal like us” – named Emmet, the movie is structured as a conventional “special one” narrative. However, veteran directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller stir things up just enough to keep it interesting.

With a wry sense of humour and an acute awareness of the clichés of a typical “hero’s journey” narrative, Lord and Miller have actually managed to tap into the core essence of Lego – if a massive multi-platform brand name empire can be distilled to a “core essence.” It’s a story about the magic of playing with toys and the necessity of throwing away the instructions every once in a while.

The ensemble fits together perfectly...

The ensemble fits together perfectly…

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It’s The End of Cinema As We Know It…

Tell us something we don’t know. Okay, I’m being mean, but Francis Ford Coppola, once so optimistic about the future of the medium of cinema, has become jaded and cynical about the studio system:

The cinema as we know it is falling apart. It’s a period of incredible change. We used to think of six, seven big film companies. Every one of them is under great stress now. Probably two or three will go out of business and the others will just make certain kind of films like Harry Potter — basically trying to make Star Wars over and over again, because it’s a business.

And, yes, this is from the man who made The Godfather III.

But does he have a point?

He gave us The Godfather III and Bram Stoker's Dracula and NOW he's worried about the death of cinema?

He gave us The Godfather III and Bram Stoker's Dracula and NOW he's worried about the death of cinema?

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