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New Escapist Review! On “The Witcher: Blood Origin” as a Bloody Mess…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier in the week, a review of the upcoming Netflix show, The Witcher: Blood Origin. It is a live action four-episode miniseries spinning directly out from the streaming service’s fantasy hit, The Witcher.

Blood Origin has had a famously troubled production, with the show being cut down from six episodes to four in the editing bay, and undergoing fairly involved reshoots to work around this truncation. The results are as muddling and disheartening as this back story suggests. Blood Origin is a show that is filled with lore and backstory, but with no interest in its characters or their motivations. It’s a frustrating mess, a show that has clearly been hacked apart and reconstructed to hit a pre-determined runtime.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Willow” Gently Plays with Fantasy Tropes…

I am doing weekly reviews of Willow at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the legacy sequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

It is too much to call Willow a deconstruction or a subversion of classic fantasy tropes. Certainly, the show is often a celebration of the trappings of high fantasy, and a much more old-fashioned take on the genre than contemporary shows like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power or House of the Dragon. At the same time, the series is written with an understanding of the tropes and conventions of the genre, and a willingness to play with those ideas in a way that deepens and explores its own themes. Given that this is a show about divorce, Willow eagerly dives into familiar fantasy tropes about blood and lineage.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Fabelmans” as a Horror Story About Filmmaking…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the release of The Fabelmans on streaming today, it seemed like a good opportunity to explore Steven Spielberg’s loosely autobiographical family drama.

Spielberg’s recent films are preoccupied with his legacy, and the way in which his work has altered the cultural landscape. The Fabelmans is a much more personal movie, one that is more preoccupied with the art of filmmaking. The Fabelmans is a story about the power of the camera, and its ability to see things that are hidden from the human eye. The camera captures dreams, but it also reveals truths. The Fabelmans doesn’t romanticise this, but approaches with a palpable fear and dread.

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

New Escapist Column! On Modern Hollywood’s Daliance with Decadence…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The year’s awards season has a whiff of decadence about it. Movies seem to be getting longer. Directors are making autobiographical movies about their own childhoods. There’s a fascination with tearing down old Hollywood myths.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the re-emergence of water tank movies, of expensive blockbusters set in and around water. After all, water is expensive and dangerous. More than that, there’s no real evidence that audiences are particularly enthused or excited by water, it’s simply something that costs a lot of money to do. Throughout Hollywood’s history, whenever the blockbuster industry drives itself into a heated frenzy, movies embrace the water. James Cameron has always been riding te crest of that particular wave.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Die Hard” as a Christmas Movie…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. 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.

This week, with Christmas just around the corner, it seemed like a good opportunity to revist an older video, exploring how Die Hard isn’t just a Christmas movie, but is a truly great Christmas movie.

New Escapist Column! On “Wednesday” and the “Superherofication” of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the massive success of Wednesday on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show in the context of larger pop culture trends.

Wednesday is an addition to the larger Addams Family franchise, focusing on the family’s eldest child. The show is built around the decision to send Wednesday to an elite private school for freaks and monsters, “Nevermore Academy.” The series obviously riffs on the genre conventions of young adult drama, particularly the high school show. However, it is also notable for leaning into another inescapable trend in contemporary pop culture. At its core, Wednesday is a superhero show.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Strange Worlds” as a Love Letter to Disney’s Forgotten “Boys’ Own” Adventures…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the release of Strange World, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the latest animated film from Disney.

Many of the more recent high-profile Disney animated films have been anchored in the brand’s “princess” iconography, feeling like extensions of classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Part of what is interesting about Strange World is that it is a movie rooted in another, rather under-explored, chapter in the history of Disney’s animated filmmaking. Strange World is best understood as an extension of the wave of oft-forgotten “Adventureland” movies of the turn of the millennium, those movies aimed more overtly at boys, like Tarzan, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Better Call Saul”, “Andor” and Slow-Burn Classics…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier this week. As Andor winds down its first season, garnering rave reviews but not attracting as strong an audience as its predecessors, comparisons come to mind concerning Better Call Saul, which has quietly become one of the best television shows of the decade despite never reaching the same level of popularity as its predecessor.

What do Better Call Saul and Andor have in common? What is it that makes both shows so compelling, but which also makes them a tougher sell to audiences than what came before? Are they both just out of step with the zeitgeist, reflecting a mode of television production that doesn’t have the same cultural cachet that it once did? And, most importantly, does any of that matter if they are both creative triumphs? It’s interesting to explore and unpack.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The English” and the British Western…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the release of The English on Amazon Prime in the United States and on BBC in the United Kingdom, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the peculiar phenomenon of the British western.

The western is a quintessentially American genre. It is a foundation myth for the nation. As such, it is an awkward fit for British pop culture, given Britain’s historical relationship to the United States and the fact that Britain’s frontiers have never looked like that. However, given the intricacies of Britain’s relationship to its former colony, it is no surprise that the western has long been the subject of fascination for the British, and that the nation has put its own slant on the genre.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and Complicated Postcolonial Politics…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. This week marks the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the movie’s complicated postcolonial politics.

Wakanda Forever is a movie fascinated by the consequences of colonialism. Wakanda is defined by the fact that it has never experienced colonialism or imperialism, and Wakanda Forever throws the nation state into conflict with Talokan, a nation with an entire history shaped and defined by colonial violence. This gets at one of the central tensions of Wakanda Forever, in that it is a movie fascinated by the violence commited by victims of colonialism, rather than the violence inflicted by colonial powers.

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