• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

230. The Father – This Just In (#142)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall and Stacy Grouden, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Florian Zeller’s The Father.

Anthony finds himself entering old age, and struggling with dementia. His world seems to shift around him. His home becomes increasingly foreign. The people that he loves are replaced with strangers. Can he find a way out of the labyrinth of his own mind?

At time of recording, it was ranked the 142nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Thunder Force

There is a recurring joke in Thunder Force about how one character cannot tell a joke. It feels like a metaphor for the film itself.

To be fair, it’s more than just the premise of that joke itself, it is also the execution. The opening section of Thunder Force offers something of an origin story for its two lead characters, Lydia and Emily. The two meet at school. At school, their only other friend is a geeky kid named Clyde. In these flashbacks, Clyde is introduced with an obvious crush on Lydia, and an inability to tell a joke properly. When the film rejoins Lydia in adulthood, Clyde is quickly reintroduced and still unable to tell a joke properly.

A thundering disappointment.

The basic law of comedy – or storytelling – would suggest that this is a plot point being set up so that it might pay off. It is the standard “rule of three.” A concept is introduced to the audience. It is then repeated to establish it. Then, finally, it is subverted. It is that third iteration of the concept that serves as a punchline. It’s the heart of the joke. Instead, Clyde just disappears from the film. His inability to tell a joke is ultimately just an inability to tell a joke. It eats up screentime in building this world, and doesn’t go anywhere.

There’s something almost fourth-wall-breaking in this. It’s a joke about how a character in this movie cannot tell a joke, told in such a way that it isn’t really a joke either. It’s a moment that captures so much of Thunder Force, albeit in an unflattering light. It is also, much like the rest of Thunder Force, painfully unfunny.

The script could use a punch-up.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla vs. Kong is in some ways an anticlimax, and not just because it’s arriving on HBO Max rather than as a cinematic blockbuster.

Clocking in at under two hours, Godzilla vs. Kong is technically the shortest entry in the Warner Brothers “Monsterverse” series. It comes in a few minutes shy of Kong: Skull Island and well short of both Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This is strange, given that Godzilla vs. Kong is nominally supposed to be the triumphant climax of this shared universe, the event towards which everything has been building. It’s strange that this clash of titans should up feeling so small.

That sinking feeling.

To be fair, there is a strong sense of an attempted course correction about Godzilla vs. Kong, especially in response to the overcrowded cacophony of King of the Monsters. In many ways, Godzilla vs. Kong is a smaller and more contained movie than King of the Monsters, notably hinging on three core monsters rather than an entire menagerie. It’s also to the credit of director Adam Wingard that Godzilla vs. Kong is a tighter, more contained and more focused film with a greater sense of internal coherence.

Unfortunately, though, there’s very littler surprise or wonder to be found in this titanic throwdown.

Continue reading

New Escapist Video! On “Justice League” and the Triumph of Art Over Content…

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 every second 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.

This week, following the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the theatrical release of Justice League. In particular, the differences between the two cuts and the way in which the theatrical cut was a cynical plot to erase any distinct identity from the film and reduce it to empty superhero “content.”

New Escapist Video! On “WandaVision” and the Death of Ambiguity…

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 every second 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.

This week, following the end of WandaVision, it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look at what the show said about contemporary pop culture, in particular the show’s approach to its “mystery box” format and its insistence on explaining every ambiguity without any willingness to leave space for interpretation. It’s a big, ambitious video essay that looks at everything from Lost to Twin Peaks to The X-Files to Doctor Who, and I hope you enjoy.

New Escapist Column! On the Fifth Anniversary of “10 Cloverfield Lane”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because it’s the fifth anniversary of 10 Cloverfield Lane, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the paranoid and claustrophobic thriller. In particular, 10 Cloverfield Lane arrived on the cusp of a wave of similar movies about characters trapped and suffocated in claustrophobic horror: films as diverse as Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room and even Todd Haynes’ Carol.

Looking at these wave of films in hindsight, they suggest something simmering beneath the surface of American consciousness, a nightmare about characters who find themselves in hostile and oppressive environments and forced to survive as best they can. 10 Cloverfield Lane was perhaps the culmination of this cinematic trend, and galvanises many of those themes into a potent allegory for abuse and survival, ending with the revelation that not all of this monstrosity is trapped behind locked doors.

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

Non-Review Review: The Mauritanian

The Mauritanian is an odd film in a number of ways.

In some ways, The Mauritanian feels like it has arrived late to the party. Obviously, the War on Terror is still a major defining event of the twenty-first century. Guantánamo Bay is still open and housing forty inmates. It’s possible to trace the xenophobia that defines so much of contemporary American politics back to the War on Terror, most obviously by looking at the countries affected by President Donald Trump’s infamous “travel ban.” So the War on Terror is very much an ongoing concern that merits discussion and exploration.

Maur, Maur, Maur…

However, it is also a period of American history that has been very thoroughly explored in film and television, particularly in the context of prestige awards-season releases. The Hurt Locker won Best Picture a decade ago. Zero Dark Thirty was a major awards contender a few years after that. The War on Terror has been dissected through the lens of forensic introspection in movies like The Report and through broad satire in movies like Vice. As such, any movie hoping to explore the War on Terror exists in the shadow of larger culture.

This is perhaps the biggest issue with The Mauritanian. Director Kevin Macdonald’s earnest exploration of the incarceration and torture of Mohamedou Ould Salahi feels like a movie that should have been released during the early wave of this cinematic excavation. Even allowing for the fact that Salahi was only released five years ago, those five years feel like a very long time. The result of all this is that The Mauritanian feels like a movie displaced in time, feeling like a retread of the earliest films grappling with the topic, like Lions for Lambs.

Interrogating the War on Terror.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon offers a reminder of just how quietly and efficiently Disney have managed their animated properties.

For a while at the turn of the millennium, the company seemed to struggle to defines its place among younger and hungrier animation studios like Pixar or Dreamworks. The company responded with a push away from the princess-centric movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas and Mulan that had anchored their renaissance-era output, pivoting sharply: first to animated movies aimed at boys like Atlantis and Treasure Planet, and then to computer-animated adventures like Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons and Bolt.

Raya hope?

However, towards the end of the decade, the company arguably found its feet again, with a wave of somewhat traditionalist stories. The Princess and the Frog is often treated as the end of an era of hand-drawn animation, but it also marked a rejuvenation of the classic “princess” movie. It was followed by Tangled, Frozen, Moana and Frozen II, all of which were computer-animated takes on a familiar Disney archetype.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a reminder of just how sturdy that old “princess” movie template is, demonstrating the hard work that the company has put in to keep its oldest archetype both resonant and recognisable.

Continue reading

219. Dom za vešanje (Time of the Gypsies) – This Just In (#220)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Jason Coyle and Ronan Doyle, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Emir Kusturica’s Dom za vešanje.

Perhan lives a simple life in a gypsy community outside of Skopje. He dreams of marrying Azra, but his social standing is not high enough. Events conspire to take Perhan away from his community, embarking on a trip to Italy with local legend Ahmed and with the promise of a new and prosperous life waiting for him. Inevitably, Perhan discovers that this life is not what was promised, and faces the possibility that he might also be something different than he expected himself to be.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 220th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Little Things

The Little Things was reportedly written by John Lee Hancock in the mid-nineties, and it shows.

The film is largely set against the backdrop of October 1990. There frequent reminders that this is effectively a period piece. During the opening sequence, one potential serial killer victim sings along with Roam from the B-52s on her car stereo. Another victim has a pink flyer for No Doubt pinned up on her fridge and a poster for The Lost Boys hanging in her living area. There are repeated references to how Richard Ramirez, “the Night Stalker”, still lingers in the living memory of the Los Angeles Police Department.

A new release window.

However, The Little Things feels like a period piece in some more fundamental ways. Most obviously, there’s the fact that The Little Things exists as a star vehicle, its cast including Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Jared Leto, along with Oscar nominee Rami Malek. The film is not based on any existing intellectual property, even if it is highly derivative in other ways. More than that, it harks back to the serial killer boom of mid-nineties cinema, when big studio films were dominated by procedural thrillers and forensic meditation.

The Little Things is neither an exemplar nor a deconstruction of the genre, but instead a straightforward reminder of its tropes and conventions seemingly cobbled together to construct something close to the statistical mean. The common refrain with a film like The Little Things is to suggest that this is the kind of film that they don’t make any more. The more worrying thought is that The Little Things seems to illustrate why.

Continue reading