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New Escapist Video! On “Dune” and “Flash Gordon” as Biblical Epics for the Eighties…

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.

As Flash Gordon is forty years old this month and as a new Dune was supposed to open this month, I thought it was worth taking a look at Dino DeLaurentiis’ two big eighties science-fiction epics. In particular, the ways in which they responded to Star Wars by drawing on the scale and spectacle of the biblical epics of the fifties.

New Escapist Column! On “Flash Gordon” and “Dune” as Biblical Epics for a Secular Age…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. As this week marks the fortieth anniversary of Flash Gordon and this month would have seen the release of the next cinematic adaptation of Dune, it seemed like a good time to talk about Dino DeLaurentiis’ science-fiction epics.

Flash Gordon and Dune exist in the shadow of George Lucas’ Star Wars, but they are markedly different films. While Lucas drew heavily from classic science-fiction serials, he adopted modern techniques in production and editing. In contrast, Dune and Flash Gordon are more old-fashioned in their storytelling. More than that, with the death of New Hollywood and the emerging blockbuster film market, it seems like the studios leaned rather heavily into the kind of epic that they knew how to make. As a result, Dune and Flash Gordon feel rather like biblical epics… in space!

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

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Deadly Assassin originally aired in 1976.

I deny this reality.

– the Doctor

The Deadly Assassin is a rather boldly experimental episode of Doctor Who. It’s the first story told without a companion character, and it also ventures quite forcefully into the realm of surrealism. It offers a rather bold deconstruction of the Time Lords, a rather cynical depiction of the aliens who had seemed all-powerful in stories like The War Games or The Three Doctors. More than that, though, The Deadly Assassin feels – appropriately enough – like a treatise on the inevitable death of Doctor Who.

Located in the middle of the fourteenth of twenty-six seasons, and broadcast thirteen years from both the start and the end of the show’s initial run, The Deadly Assassin seems to be positioned at the very heart of Doctor Who.

A rough outline of what's going on...

A rough outline of what’s going on…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Shared Pop Culture History (Ted)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #2

When it comes to end of year “best of” lists, comedy seems to draw the short straw as a genre. Like some of the less earnest genres, comedy is far too easily overlooked in favour of something more “worthy” of attention. Seth MacFarlane’s Ted has been something of a contentious film this year. Depending on where you sit, the film is either the epitome of everything wrong with American comedy, or it was a refreshingly profane yet heartfelt breath of fresh air. I lean more towards the latter than the former, and I appreciated the way that it played to MacFarlane’s strengths – concealing a surprisingly sincere sentiment behind a cynical and glib exterior.

As such, it’s no surprise that the most effective sequence in the film – the opening credits – managed to play to both that side of MacFarlane and also to his wonderful ability to channel pop culture as something of a shared collective history. Call me sappy, but there was something wonderful about seeing Ted interact with Johnny Carson and watching Ted and John queue for The Phantom Menace in costume, that created a tangible sense of back story between the characters.

ted10

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Non-Review Review: Conan the Barbarian (1982)

The 1982 Conan the Barbarian is one of what might be described as the “pop culture epics” of the eighties, a decidedly cheesy and campy take on an epic mythology – like Masters of the Universe or Flash Gordon. To be fair, John Milius’ adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s pulp hero holds up considerably better than most similar efforts to get an epic pulp product to screen. It’s still more than a little campy and cheesy, and more than a little dated. It still takes itself, perhaps, a little too seriously. However, it’s also a more thoughtful and considerate film than most give it credit for, and exceptionally nuanced in its portrayal of themes and ideas that most critics and pundits casually dismiss.

Steeling himself…

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