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New Escapist Video! “The Northman is a Breathtaking Blockbuster”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of The Northman, which is in theatres in the U.K. and Ireland now and in the United States next week.

277. The Batman – This Just In (#67)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Graham Day and Niall Glynn, 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, a new entry: Matt Reeves’ The Batman.

Bruce Wayne is in the second year of his war on crime in Gotham, and things are not improving. Indeed, the city is thrown into anarchy when a new villain calling themselves the Riddler begins targetting city officials and threatening to unmask the city’s darkest secrets. Can Bruce survive what is coming? Can the Batman? Can Gotham?

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 Escapist Column! On Overthinking “Jackass”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Jackass Forever this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the cultural phenomenon.

It’s possible to look at Jackass as the intersection of three overlapping traditions in entertainment, particularly American entertainment: the freak show, the silent comedy and early reality television. There’s a fascinating and heady cocktail at play in this, and Jackass exists as a curious modern hybrid. There is sense of evolution here. There’s perhaps something to admire in the way that the cast of Jackass retain control of their narrative.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Dearth of the Monoculture…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier this week. It’s been an interesting few weeks and months in terms of pop culture. There’s been a lot of debate about critics and the role of critics, there’s been a lot of news about pop culture that the internet doesn’t seem too excited about, and there’s been a lot of coverage about mundane aspects of The Batman.

All of these things speak to an interesting and ongoing anxiety about the “monoculture”, the idea of pieces of pop culture that are seismic enough to become part of the shared vernacular. The pandemic has had a number of major impacts on the production and the consumption of popular culture, and part of that has been an increasing sense of disconnect from a shared sense of the monoculture. However, is the monoculture truly dead? Or is it simply resting?

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Matrix Resurrections” and the Rejection of False Binaries…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max and in theatres, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film and its themes, in particular its relationship with the earlier films in the franchise.

The Matrix Resurrections is a movie that exists very much in conversations with the previous films in the series, expanding and developing the core themes that made the original such a hit. In some cases, director Lana Wachowski has taken the opportunity to expand upon and develop the big ideas in the previous films. In particular, The Matrix Resurrections is a film that rejects the idea of rigid boundaries – the red and blue pills, the black-and-white green-tinted filter, “us and them”, even Neo and Trinity. It’s a very thoughtful and considered update of the ideas that underpin the larger franchises.

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

New Escapist Column! On Making Sense of “For the Fans”…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier this week. With the recent releases of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of SkywalkerGhostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on the argument that franchise brand extensions exist “for the fans.” What does that even mean?

As a fan myself, I find myself unsettled and disturbed by the idea that these sorts of properties should exist primarily for the satisfaction and consumption of the existing fanbase, not least because it means validating certain kinds of fans above others and pushes franchises towards an aesthetic conservativism that often strangles them. Perhaps the best thing to do “for the fans” is simply to make media as good as possible and let history sort the rest out.

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

New Escapist Video! “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is the Year’s Best Nostalgia Play – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is in cinemas now.

New Escapist Column! On How Only Peter Jackson Could Have Made the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. This week, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, we’re taking a look back at the trilogy as a whole. We’ll be publishing three articles looking at the films, one each day. This is the first.

Most films are minor miracles. It is remarkable that films get made at all, let alone that many of them turn out to be good. This is particularly true of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which seemed like an impossible assignment. At the time, Peter Jackson seemed like the most unlikely of directors to successfully adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfilmable epic. However, in hindsight, it seems impossible to imagine that anybody except Jackson could have brought the film to life.

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

262. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (#250)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, 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, F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.

In the countryside, a married man finds himself tempted by a visitor from the city. Deciding to murder his wife and escape from his mundane life, the man has a last minute change of heart. Their passion reignited, the married couple embark on an adventure to the big city, where they might get lost in the crowds and perhaps find each other once again.

At time of recording, it was ranked 250th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On Squaring the Circle with Nostalgic Sequels Like “The Rise of Skywalker” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger trend of the modern nostalgia sequels, and the paradoxes at play within the genre.

By their very nature, belated sequels like Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens require the heroes to have left something unfinished or undone for years or even decades. Often, this involves forcing the heroes’ children to effectively grapple with the exact same problem that haunted their parents. There’s a recurring theme of generational failure running through these stories, a sense that the failure of these older heroes to wrap up their own stories exists at odds with the nostalgia that powers such stories.

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