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New Escapist Video! On How the “Star Wars” Sequels Didn’t Need a Plan, “The Rise of Skywalker” Needed a Vision…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the frequent argument that Disney needed a “plan” for the sequel trilogy, when in fact Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker just needed a vision. You can watch the pilot video here, and read the companion article here.


New Escapist Column! On Colin Trevorrow’s “Duel of the Fates” and JJ Abrams’ “Rise of Skywalker”…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday, looking at the leaks around director Colin Trevorrow’s plans for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

Of course, there are a lot of variables involved. Are the leaks authentic? Even if the leaks are authentic, how much faith do you place in the director of Jurassic World and Book of Henry to realise them? More than that, though, there’s a sense in which the proposed “Duel of the Fates” is so appealing precisely because it will never actually exist. It will never disappoint anybody, because their imagined version of the film will never brush up against harsh reality. It’s interesting in this age of “alternative facts” that we long so strongly for “alternative movies.”

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

57. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (#244)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Grace Duffy, 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 second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, J.J. Abram’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, the First Order and the Rebellion struggle for control of the cosmos. Against this backdrop, three unlikely heroes ascend, embarking upon a mythic journey that will reveal dark secrets and promise new hope.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 244th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film you’re looking for. Mostly.

In many respects, Star Wars was the film the helped to launch the modern “blockbuster” model of cinema, and a large part of The Force Awakens is the reassurance that not too much has changed in the intervening years. Sure, there are a few script tweaks to reflect more modern tastes for the post-Dark Knight era, but the basic storytelling engine is still the same underneath. If The Force Awakens is a hybrid, it is a hybrid fashioned from the parts of the three original Star Wars films and just a dash of something more twenty-first century.

The Force is strong with this one...

The Force is strong with this one…

After the issues with the prequels, it is reassuring to know that the engine still runs. The franchise’s history as one of the forerunners of blockbuster cinema makes it perfectly suited to JJ Abrams’ nostalgic stylings. Abrams gets a lot of flack for his evocation of seventies and eighties blockbuster cinema, but he does have a fundamental understanding of how (and why) it works. Ever the keen student of Spielberg and vintage Hollywood blockbusters, director JJ Abrams is able to effortlessly blend that classic aesthetic with a contemporary sensibilities.

There are moments when The Force Awakens threatens to suffocate under the weight of what came before, but it largely succeeds on its own terms as a doorway to something new and exciting.

Handover from one generation to the next...

Handover from one generation to the next…

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Star Trek (IDW, 2009) #13 – The Red Shirt’s Tale (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The IDW monthly comic series that launched after the release of Star Trek is an interesting beast.

Writer Mike Johnson has been on board since the title launched in September 2011, lending the comic a sense of creative consistency. Much has been made of the involvement of Roberto Orci as “creative consultant” on the title, as if to imply that the comic might somehow be legitimised in relation to the blockbuster franchise that spawned it. Certainly, the series does not enjoy the same loose attitude towards contemporary continuity that characterised the DC comics series published during the mid-eighties.

Suit up!

Suit up!

At the same time, it is not as if IDW’s on-going Star Trek comic series can claim a closer relation to canon. After all, the events of the comic’s first arc were rendered explicitly non-canonical by a casual conversation between Pike and Kirk in the first twenty minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness. This is not a problem of course – any more than continuity issues were a problem for the mid-eighties DC series – but they do suggest that the series’ fixation on continuity is perhaps misplaced.

This weird fetishisation of “continuity” defined the first year or so of the title’s existence, with issues dedicated to essentially re-telling classic Star Trek stories using the new cast and crew. (Indeed, only one story from that year – Vulcan’s Vengeance – was not based on a classic episode.) The Red Shirt’s Tale serves as something of a half-way marker as the comic began to transition away from these sorts of continuity-heavy retellings, focusing a bit more on the new characters and the new world. The issue is a retelling of The Apple, but in a way that is more thoughtful and playful than a lot of what came before.



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Watch! New Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer!

This is a bit of a surprise. Given how secretive JJ Abrams can be about his projects, I really hadn’t expected to see too much more of Star Trek: Into Darkness before the release date, so the new trailer is a bit of a pleasant shock.

That said, it isn’t as if the new trailer gives anything new away. John Harrison is a very bad man with a very sexy evil voice. Kirk is pursuing him. There are explosions, chase sequences and soul-searching. I honestly love that we know relatively little about Into Darkness before it has been released. It seems like we know absolutely everything about other blockbusters, while we can’t even confirm the identity of John Harrison. Which is great. I love speculating. It’s so much more fun than actually knowing.

Anyway, the latest trailer is below. Also, we’ll be doing a bit of a Star Trek geek-athon starting 1st May. I suspect it might be the most intense month of Star Trek fun anywhere on the interwebs. Which is quite a boast, but I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t think I could back it up. Anyway, enjoy!


Watch! Star Trek: Into Darkness Teaser!

Given we’re spending a month covering Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s twenty-fifth anniversary, it’s worth sharing this, the trailer for JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m actually quite looking forward to it, as Benedict Cumberbatch is making quite a name for himself, and he seems perfectly suited to this sort of role.

The trailer plays it a bit coy, refusing to reveal Cumberbatch’s identity. Based off a one-scene-longer Japanese version of the trailer, the internet is going wild with the speculation that he is Khan, the villain from the episode Space Seed and also Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I can’t see the production team recycling such an obvious character, if only because he’s so iconic to fans as to be sacrosanct, but not easily recognisable to casual movie goers. (Okay, that shot of Kirk screaming “KHANNNNN!” is one of the great movie moments, but beyond that… do casual movie-goers recognise the character in the same way they would Darth Vader or the Joker?)

Personally, I’m hoping that Abrams and his creative team have done something similar to what Meyer did when he drafted Khan into Star Trek II. Meyer reviewed the original series to find a villain who offered the potential for an exciting story and found Khan. I would like to think that an examination of the show might find another. Given his dialogue about revenge against the Federation, I wouldn’t mind seeing Garth of Izar from Whom the Gods Destroy get reimagined, but that’s off the top of my head.

Still, enjoy the trailer and sound off below.

Non-Review Review: Super 8

Super 8 is a love letter to film. It’s an ode to the trashy, forgettable – yet still endearing – stuff, like a bunch kids screwing around with an obvious fixation on the work of George A. Romero. It’s also a sweet tribute to the film that emotionally connects with us, like the footage of a long lost relative projected against a wall, almost convincing us for a second that they’re still with us. JJ Abrams might consciously evoke early Spielberg with his style, but it’s only to celebrate the common ground they both share, the believe that film is truly powerful and emotion medium, one that strikes a chord on the most improbable of notes, teaching us life lessons and engaging us in nothing short of magic. The posters and trailers might convince you that Super 8 is a classic monster movie with seventies trappings – and it is – but it’s also that other difficult-to-get-quite-genre, the coming-of-age tale. Just one that features giant monsters.

Nice camera work...

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Lost for Words? Do We Really Need an Explanation for Lost?

Lost is entering its final phase. Just two weeks left and it will all be over. I have no doubts that The End, the final episode, will be a bit of a phenomenon – ABC are reportly charging nearly $1m for advertising space during the finale. However, I imagine that a lot of people tuning in will be disappointed – as I expect a large number of viewers will be expecting an easy answer or several to (in fairness, perfectly reasonable) questions like “what is the island?”, “why was there a polar bear on the island and how did it survive?” and “what the hell happened?” To be honest, some of these questions have already been answered (not necessarily satisfactorily), but I still don’t think that the answers – even if they are provided – will be offered in a viewer-friendly mode. And I’m actually reasonably okay with that.

Lost at sea?

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Non-Review Review: Mission Impossible III

Before Star Trek, JJ Abrams had his eye on another geek property. The Mission: Impossible franchise has had bit of a rocky history, with a deconstruction helmed by Brian dePalma and an explosively mind-numbing shaving commercial of a sequel from John Woo. With the Bourne franchise already checking the box for an American spy movie franchise, it seemed that the odds should have been against JJ Abrams’ action movie vehicle. In fairness, he doesn’t manage to entirely revive the franchise or provide a kickstart to a cinematic series, he merely provides a solid action movie with a bit more sparkle than most. In hindsight, it almost seems like it was just practice for his directing duties on Star Trek.

Somebody's Cruisin' for a bruisin'...

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