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Non-Review Review: Cats and Dogs III – Paws Unite

The pandemic has been an interesting time for film critics.

The general dearth of mainstream theatrical releases has allowed critics to essentially pick and choose the films that they cover on streaming. As a general rule, this has led to the elevation of good films, with critics generally picking films out of the mass of streaming service releases that merit coverage and attention – films like Palm Springs or Greyhound. Of course, there have been a couple of stinkers, particularly among children’s fare with mass audience appeal like Artemis Fowl or Scoob!, but by and large critics have been able to avoid true stinkers.

Dogsbody work.

As such, the arrival of Cats and Dogs III – Paws Unite! marks something of a return to normality and business as usual. It is the kind of film that critics would have had to see and review as a matter of course in the pre-pandemic era as a major theatrical release, but which might have slipped under the radar had it gone straight to streaming. Watching Cats and Dogs III – Paws Unite is a reminder of a time not too long ago when critics were expected to see every major theatrical release, no matter how dark or how soul-destroying that experience might be.

With that in mind, there is something almost reassuring in the awfulness of Cats and Dogs III – Paws Unite!, a movie that few critics would actively seek out if it weren’t for the obligations of their job. In a world that is desperately scrambling for any vague sense of a return to normality, Paws Unite! servers as a welcome reminder when seeing terrible movies was the worst thing with which film critics had to contend.

Keep on trucking.

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197. The Circus – This Just In (#232)

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.

This time, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.

Desperately fleeing the authorities, a lovable tramp finds his way into the heart of a local circus. Initially struggling to find a place among the performers, the rogue strikes up a connection with the cruel ring master’s daughter. However, as a dashing tightrope walker vies for her affections, can the tramp strike the perfect balance?

At time of recording, it was ranked 232nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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195. The Third Man (#177)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Neasa Hardiman, 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.

This time, Carol Reed’s The Third Man.

Holly Martins arrives in Vienna to visit his old friend Harry Lime. However, Holly quickly discovers that all is not what it seems. Harry apparently died in a freak traffic accident shortly before Harry arrived. As British officers start asking pointed questions about the dead man, Holly becomes increasingly anxious that something has gone very wrong.

At time of recording, it was ranked 177th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “TRON: Legacy” as a Disney Princess Film for Boys…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With news that Disney have commissioned another sequel to TRON, it felt like the right time to take a look back at the last attempt to revive the franchise in TRON: Legacy.

TRON: Legacy is a fascinating film, a product of a strange time at Disney – it was between the purchase of Marvel Entertainment and the release of The Avengers, and before the purchase of LucasFilm. So Disney was trying, with films like John Carter, The Lone Ranger and Tomorrowland to craft live action blockbusters that would appeal to young male audiences. Legacy was the earliest of these examples, perhaps the most successful and the most fascinating: in large part because it tried to translate what Disney did so well in animation into live action.

Legacy is effectively an effort to reimagine the classic animated princess story as a big tentpole blockbuster. It doesn’t entirely work, but the results are fascinating. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Captain Marvel” and the Perils of Prioritising Plot Above Character…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the news that Nia DaCosta will be directing the sequel to Captain Marvel, it seemed the right time to take a look back at the earlier film.

There is a lot to like about Captain Marvel. It is an extremely charming movie. However, it also suffers from one of the bigger recurring problems of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is structured around a major plot reveal that lands at pretty much exactly the halfway point. However, this plot reveal is both incredibly obvious and something that prevents the first half of the movie from engaging in any characterisation. Captain Marvel feels like an expression of the recurring sense that Marvel Studios movies are nothing more than plot delivery mechanisms.

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

Non-Review Review: M.o.M. Mothers of Monsters

M.o.M. Mothers of Monsters is an ambitious and clever piece of indie horror constructed on a tight budget.

It marks the feature-length narrative directorial debut of Tucia Lyman. Lyman has a variety of experience in horror, particular on television shows like Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Ghosts of Shepherdstown and Ghosts of Morgan City. With that in mind, it makes sense that Lyman’s first narrative feature should borrow a lot of the language of paranormal reality television. M.o.M. is essentially a found-footage horror film, with the audience navigating and assembling a collection of seemingly raw video files into a cohesive narrative.

Will he snap?

There is something inherently old-fashioned about the found footage horror template. The format was all the rage in the early years of the twenty-first century, perhaps informed by the use of first-person camcorder footage to document events like 9/11. It arguably reached its apotheosis with the release of the security-camera home haunting horror Paranormal Activity in 2007. Contemporary horror has moved back toward more traditional approaches, prompted by the success of films like The Conjuring, making M.o.M.‘s found footage approach feel decidedly retro.

M.o.M. is occasionally a little clumsy and heavy-handed, sometimes stretching its premise a little too far and struggling to balance sharp tonal shifts between heightened sensationalism and grounded domestic horror. Still, there’s something endearingly committed and energetic in this low-fi horror thriller, an infectious and gleeful embrace of its more absurd elements.

Receiving a dressing gown.

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New Escapist Column! On How COVID-19 Will Change The Movies…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening, looking at the future of film distribution.

COVID-19 has already had a huge impact on film distribution, from the cancellation of film festivals through to the early arrival of new releases on streaming. However, as the crisis continues and as debates extend over how long the situation will last, it seems fair to wonder about what the long-term implications of this will be in terms of film distribution and movie-watching. After all, there’s a sense in which the massive changes to the industry in the past few weeks are ultimately just the acceleration of trends that studios have been pushing for a while.

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

New Escapist Column! On the New Films Available Early on Streaming…

I published a new Don’t Miss It piece at Escapist Magazine this evening

Basically, with the shutdown of theatres, a lot of content is landing on digital streaming services very quickly. It can be hard to keep track of it all, so we thought we’d throw together a quick round-up of the headlines, drawing attention to films like Just Mercy, The Way Back, Birds of Prey, Emma., The Hunt, The Invisible Man and more that will be available straight to your television set in the next couple of days.

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

172. Left Behind (-#33)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with guest Andy Melhuish, 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.

This time, Vic Armstrong’s Left Behind.

Captain Ray Steele has it all: a beautiful wife, a loving family, a successful job as a high-flying pilot. Still, he finds his eye wandering and temptation calling. Everything changes when disaster strikes during a long-haul flight, when Ray’s co-pilot and several passengers mysterious disappear without any reason whatsoever. What could possibly abduct passengers from an airplane mid-flight? And what happens to those who are left behind?

At time of recording, it was ranked 33rd on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the “Just Create New Female Characters” Argument…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, on an interesting and age-old debate.

The question of how best to foster diversity in cinema and wider pop culture is a challenging one. Whenever the suggestion of race- or gender-shifting an existing character like the Doctor or James Bond comes up, the responses are always the same: “just create new characters!” It’s a strong argument conceptually, because it’s rooted in the (entirely correct) moral presumption that women shouldn’t need to repurpose old characters, but instead should have new characters. However, it also glosses over the economic and cultural realities of the current cinematic climate. The debate is more complicated than it might appear.

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