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New Escapist Column! Twenty Years Later, “Battle Royale” Still Stands Apart…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because Battle Royale is twenty years old this month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the iconic Japanese film.

In the years since the release of Battle Royale, there has been an explosion of dystopian young adult fiction based around similar premises: the idea of children forced to kill other children to survive. There are plenty of examples of this subgenre, most notably The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. However, Battle Royale has aged better than these other films for two core reasons. First of all, it acknowledges the horror of its premise, rather than sanitising it. Second of all, it understands that this social decay is perhaps more mundane than sensationalist.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Terrible “Terminator” Metaphor at the Heart of “Hillbilly Elegy”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With Hillbilly Elegy arriving on Netflix tomorrow, it seemed like the right moment to take a look at one of award season’s biggest misfires.

There are a lot of problems with Hillbilly Elegy, many of which have been explored by writers with a lot more probing insight and personal experience than I have on the matter. That said, one aspect of the film has stuck with me since I first watched it: Hillbilly Elegy has possibly the worst Terminator metaphor that I have ever seen. It’s impressive how terrible the metaphor is. It relies on both a fundamental misunderstanding of the Terminator franchise, but also on a misunderstanding of what Hillbilly Elegy is trying to say.

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

New Escapist Video! On the True Horror of John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse” Trilogy…

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. Because Halloween was coming up, we thought it would be fun to look at something horror-related. I’ve been watching a few John Carpenter films lately, and so I thought I’d delve a little bit into how Carpenter’s craft works and how it has aged so effectively and so hauntingly. In particular, Carpenter’s loose “Apocalypse” trilogy (The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness) count among the most unsettling (and resonant) depictions of the end of the world in popular cinema.

 

New Escapist Column! On the Potential of the Pandemic Awards Season…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. There’s been a lot of interesting debate recently about the Academy Awards, and what what they might look like this year, so I thought it was worth taking a closer look.

With cinemas closed around the world – and most obviously in the familiar movie markets of Los Angeles and New York – it would be impossible for this awards season to work in the same way as previous years. The Academy has made changes to its rules to compensate, but some observers argue that the Oscar simply cannot go ahead in the current climate. However, there’s a solid argument to be made for pressing ahead under these conditions – for an awards season that looks as bizarre as the year that led into it.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Rejection of the “Chosen One” in “Blade Runner 2049″…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Since Blade Runner 2049 opened three years ago this week, I thought it was worth taking a look back at the science-fiction sequel.

One of the interesting tensions within Blade Runner 2049 is the way that the film continuously gestures at an epic plot – a story of a lost replicant messiah, of “miracles” and “angels”, of wars and revolutions. However, the film largely eschews this in favour of focusing on a much more intimate and personal level of drama. Blade Runner 2049 is a story about a character wrestling with the fact that they were never a “chosen one”, in a manner that perhaps reflects the mood of the culture around it.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Snyder Cut and the Future of Pandemic Production…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With news that Zack Snyder will be reuniting with actors like Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot to shoot new scenes for his long-gestating cut of Justice League.

Although there’s been some understandable confusion at the news that Snyder will be shooting new footage to extend his planned film into a miniseries, the reality of Justice League is that it represents one possible path through the pandemic for Hollywood studios, allowing for the production of a blockbuster-level spectacle both for a reasonable budget and in relative safety. As the industry braces for an uncertain future, Zack Snyder’s Justice League might represent an unlikely model for the medium-term.

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

New Escapist Video! On How the “Star Wars” Sequels Didn’t Need a Plan, “The Rise of Skywalker” Needed a Vision…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the frequent argument that Disney needed a “plan” for the sequel trilogy, when in fact Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker just needed a vision. You can watch the pilot video here, and read the companion article here.

 

New Escapist Column! On The Riddler….

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With DC’s Fandome event unveiling a new trailer for The Batman at the weekend, it seemed like a good time to take a look the Riddler.

The Riddler is an interesting character for a number of reasons. He is considered one of the most iconic Batman villains out there, but he’s also a character who is difficult to write; who disappears for extended periods of the Caped Crusader’s history. His prominence is largely due to the work of actor Frank Gorshin in Batman!, but Gorshin’s performance has gone on to be hugely influential on later iterations of the Joker. As a result, the Riddler occupies a strange place. He is the ghost of Batman’s Silver Age, which makes him an interesting antagonist for the modern Dark Knight.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Dark Knight Rises” Abolished Its Billionaire to Build a Better Batman…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. TENET reviews are dropping in under an hour, and DC Fandome is happening this weekend, so it seemed an appropriate time to take a look back at Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises is a particularly interesting project in the current climate. It’s become common to criticise the idea of Batman as a billionaire who spends his fortune to dress up as a bat instead of actually using it to help the poor and impoverished of Gotham. In that context, The Dark Knight Rises is a work ahead of its time. It’s a story about how Bruce fails Gotham in his role as a billionaire, how maybe Batman shouldn’t be “a man from privilege” and a story in which Bruce donates his family home to the city’s “orphaned and at-risk youth.”

The Dark Knight Rises is the rare superhero story to posit an actual and meaningful ending for its protagonist, and The Dark Knight Rises argues that the only possible happy ending for Batman is for Bruce to lose his fortune and be declared dead, understanding that maybe the mantle of Batman should go to another person who is more keenly aware of what it means to live in Gotham. It’s a very clever and very insightful commentary on the Batman mythos, and one that has aged remarkably well.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Mulan” is Coming to Disney+, and Studios Are Leaving America Behind…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the news that Mulan will be streaming on Disney+ – for a hefty $30 fee – it seemed worth discussing the real story.

A lot of the discussion around Mulan releasing on Disney+ has revolved around the studio’s plan to charge an additional fee, on top of the subscription, for it. This is reasonable. It is a big shift in the American cinematic market. However, it is only part of the story. The video-on-demand release of Mulan will not be enough to turn a significant profit of itself, and it’s clear that the decision to release Mulan at all is rooted in the fact that the international theatrical market is coming back to life. Disney are banking big on Chinese box office.

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