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New Escapist Column! On The Rise of “the Fakeout Death”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist during the week. With the most recent seasons of both Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi playing the same familiar trick, it seemed like a good time to talk about one of my bugbears in modern pop culture.

In recent years, it has become customary for piece of popular culture to indulge in a phenomenon best summarized as “the fakeout death”: a beloved character dies, the audience feels sad, and then they are magically restored and resurrected. It has become ubiquitous in the past five or so years: Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, The Book of Boba Fett, even the recent Scream movies. Pop culture feels incredibly reluctant to kill off any characters with any popularity, and the result is part of the reason so many of these franchises are stagnating.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange” as a Film About Time and Death…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Scott Derrickson’s somewhat underrated contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange felt like an oddity when it was released, sandwiched between Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. It was a very conventional origin story, stripped of the legacy character attributes of Ant Man, the crossover baggage of Black Panther or the period piece nostalgia and narrative trickery of Captain Marvel. It was perhaps the most straightforward superhero origin story since the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically recalling both Iron Man and Thor.

However, underneath the surface, there was something more interesting happening. Doctor Strange is a rare superhero movie that is about both the passage of time and inevitability of death, where the ultimate act of villainy is to pervert either flow. It’s a movie about accepting that change happens, and that sometimes a moment doesn’t last forever. It’s a theme that felt particularly relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that it was going to lose two of its three lead characters in the very near future.

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

282. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (#67)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jason Coyle and Aoife Martin, 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.

So this week, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The unthinkable has happened. At the height of the Cold War, American bombers have been ordered to enter Russian airspace and deploy their ordinance at the order of General Jack D. Ripper. The President of the United States scrambles to stop the crisis from escalating further, but the situation becomes even bleaker when it is revealed that the Russians have just deployed a failsafe that could wipe out all life on Earth in case of a potential American attack. Powers on both sides of the Iron Curtain find themselves racing against time, with the fate of the world in their hands.

At time of recording, it was ranked 67th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “That Which Survives”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about That Which Survives.

The third season of Star Trek is an interesting season of television. It is largely dismissed and overlooked by many fans, who write it off as a season in clear decline. Certainly, the season contains no shortage of terrible episodes: And the Children Shall Lead, The Way to Eden, The Paradise Syndrome, Turnabout Intruder and many more. However, there’s an interesting atmosphere that pervades the season, the sense that the third season of Star Trek is drifting through a haunted and dead universe. That Which Survives is a pure example of this, like The Tholian Web or Spectre of the Gun or All Our Yesterdays.

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

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251. Up (#123)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Brian Lloyd, 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, marking the passing of Ed Asner, Pete Docter’s Up.

Carl Fredricksen is a widower who finds himself facing the end of a modest life in the small house that he once shared with the love of his life. When it looks like what little remains of that life migth be disturbed and destroyed, Carl decides to embark on the one last adventure that he never got to take with his beloved life: a trip to mysterious “Paradise Falls”, without leaving his home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 123rd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Guardians of the Galaxy” as the MCU’s Best Exploration of Loss…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. With all the talk about how so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe is about “loss”, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not a machine that is designed to deal with concepts like loss head on. After all, most of its major departures were down to contract negotiations rather than narrative priorities. Characters are often resurrected, and losses are often temporary. This is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so compelling. Director James Gunn understands that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a space into which the audience and characters escape to avoid dealing with loss, even if it haunts them still.

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 Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 3, Episode 12 (“The Sound of Snow”)

Last year, I was thrilled to spend a lot of time on The Time is Now discussing the second season of Millennium. Since the podcast has moved on to the third season, I have taken something of a step back as a guest. That said, I was flattered to get an invitation to discuss The Sound of Snow with the fantastic Kurt North and the wonderful Chris Knowles.

The Sound of Snow my favourite episode of the third season of Millennium, serving as a nice epilogue to the second season finale The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now. It is an episode that is largely about grief and moving on, about coming to terms with loss and about working through it. In some ways, it feels like a necessary story for the third season of Millennium as a whole, and it is only a shame that it takes half a season for the show to reach the point where it can tell this story.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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216. Soul – This Just In (#178)

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.

So this week, Pete Docter and Kemp Power’s Soul.

Music teacher Joe Gardner catches a once-in-a-lifetime break, the opportunity to play on stage with the legendary Dorothea Williams. Joe boasts that he could die a happy man, which makes it doubly ironic when a freak accident sends Joe hurdling into the Great Beyond. However, Joe is convinced that a little thing like death won’t keep him from living the best day of his life.

At time of recording, it was ranked 178th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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“It Will Always Be Broken!” The Strange Melancholy of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, has been running a season of coverage of director Martin Scorsese. Last weekend, we discussed Scorsese’s Hugo. It’s a fun, broad discussion. However, watching the film and talking about the film got me thinking about the film’s strange melancholy.

Martin Scorsese is a more complex and nuanced filmmaker than a casual glimpse at his filmography might suggest.

The clichéd depiction of Scorsese is largely shaped and defined by his most popular movies: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, CasinoGangs of New York, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall StreetThe Irishman. Based on these films, there is a tendency to pigeonhole Scorsese as a director who makes violent films about violent men, usually filtered through the lens of the seedy underbelly of organised crime or urban decay. This does not quite capture the breadth and the scope of Scorsese’s interests.

Indeed, Scorsese is a much more interesting filmmaker than that list of classics might suggest, reflected in films as diverse as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, New York, New York, The Last Waltz, After Hours, The Colour of Money, Age of InnocenceThe Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun and The Aviator. However, even allowing for that range, Hugo stands out as an oddity in Scorsese’s filmography. The film was something of a flop when it was released opposite The Muppets, and is often glossed over in accounts of Scorsese’s career and history.

This is shame. Hugo suffers slightly from arriving in the midst of a late career renaissance for Scorsese that includes some of the best and most successful films that the director ever produced: The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman. In the context of that body of work, Hugo is often overlooked. This is a shame, as it’s a magical and wonderful film. It manages to be a children’s film as only Martin Scorsese could produce, suffused with a melancholy and introspection that is rare in the genre.

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