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New Escapist Column! On How “Wakanda Forever” Picked the Wrong Black Panther…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Disney+, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the movie with spoilers, given that now everybody who might want to see the movie has had the chance to see it.

Even though it was a foregone conclusion, the identity of the new Black Panther was treated as something of a spoiler in certain fandom circles. Still, four months after the movie’s release, it seems fair to concede that the film made the worst possible choice. Shuri was the logical choice to assume the role based on comic book continuity, but she has the least compelling arc of any of the major characters in the superhero sequel. Wakanda Forever would be a much stronger movie if it made a bolder choice.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Heirs of the Dragon” Places House of the Dragon in Daenerys’ Shadow…

I am doing weekly reviews of House of the Dragon at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the Game of Thrones prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

Part of what is so interesting about the first episode, The Heirs of the Dragon, is the way in which the show immediately positions itself in the shadow of Daenerys Targaryen, perhaps the biggest breakout character from Game of Thrones. The first three scenes of The Heirs of the Dragon place the show firmly in the context of Daenerys, fixating upon the idea of what it means to be a Targaryen Queen of Westeros. It is a bold move from the show, and a strong statement of purpose, one that immediately establishes House of the Dragon as a series in conversation with Game of Thrones.

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


New Escapist Column! On “Top Gun: Maverick”, “Thor: Love and Thunder” and the Rise of the Anti-Legacyquel…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of both Top Gun: Maverick and Thor: Love and Thunder recently, it seemed like an opportunity to unpack what might be described as “the rise of the anti-legacyquel.”

The term “legacyquel” emerged in the middle of the last decade to describe a new kind of franchise film, one that allowed an aging cast to gracefully hand over the series to a younger generation. For a few years, it seemed like this might offer a sustainable model for Hollywood’s future. However, recent years have seen a very firm rejection of this approach, with Maverick and Love and Thunder serving as two very recent and very high-profile examples of stories about an older generation seemingly welcoming a new generation of heroes, only to take back control at the climax of the story.

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

252. Platoon (#222)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guest Joe Griffin, 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, Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

In late 1967, Chris Taylor volunteers for service in Vietnam. Arriving in country, Taylor quickly discovers that the war is not what he expected. As the platoon descends into civil war, Taylor finds himself torn between the two sergeants: the monstrous Barnes and the philosophical Elias. Taylor discovers that he might not just be fighting for his life, but for his very soul.

At time of recording, it was ranked 222nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On The Complicated Legacy of “Shrek”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the twentieth anniversary of Shrek, it seems like a reasonable opportunity to take a look back at the film and its sizable pop culture legacy.

Shrek emerged at the turn of the millennium as a response to the kind of animation that had dominated American cinema during the nineties. In contrast to the calculated earnestness and sincerity of the Disney Renaissance, and its many imitators, Shrek‘s irony and cynicism felt like a breathe of fresh air. It was a film that didn’t take itself too seriously, indulging in knowing jokes and winking references. It was a bold counter-cultural statement that nobody expected to succeed. However, it did succeed, and ironically became one of the defining films of the twenty-first century.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Legacy of “Game of Thrones”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the tenth (or “iron”) anniversary of Game of Thrones coming up, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show’s enduring legacy – in particular, the disconnect between the internet’s narrative of that legacy and the reality of it. To listen to the internet, Game of Thrones ended in such a way as to erase its cultural footprint and any residual cultural goodwill towards it. It’s not uncommon to hear people talk, at length, about how nobody talks about Game of Thrones anymore. However, there’s a fascinating dissonance here, because Game of Thrones appears to be thriving by any quantifiable measure. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: The Craft – Legacy

The Craft: Legacy is, as the title implies, a legacy sequel to The Craft.

The Craft is an interesting film. It received something of a critical drubbing on initial release, but there have since been conscious efforts to reevaluate it. This is not unusual in female-focused horror; Jennifer’s Body has undergone another recent critical reappraisal, and deservedly so. The Craft is an interesting film in this sense; it is certainly a better movie than many critics thought it was, if not quite the hidden masterpiece that its modern defenders would want it to be.

Picture imperfect.

One of the key and enduring strengths of The Craft was that it was a relatively rare example of a female-focused supernatural horror movie when it was released, explicitly engaged with the idea of female empowerment in the context of the mid-nineties, filtered through a teenage perspective. (It arrived a year before Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The fact that this was an underserved market was perhaps best illustrated by the launch of the similarly-themed television show Charmed two years later, which would quietly run for eight seasons.

The Craft was imperfect, but it scratched a very strong itch. The Craft: Legacy naturally arrives at a very different time. While audiences looking for these sorts of genre stories about young women grappling with supernatural metaphors for empowerment in a hostile world, there are far more options than there were in 1994. The Craft: Legacy needs to do more than just offer a nostalgic reminder of a film that has slowly and surely built up a cult following. Unfortunately, the film can’t even do that.

Getting Coven with Stepdad.

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Escapist Column! “It: Chapter 2” and the Dangers of Nostalgia…

Another In the Frame column from Escapist Magazine!

This time, taking a look at the recent release of It: Chapter 2, and what the film has to say about the gulf between memory and history. It: Chapter 2 is a story about coming home, and processing the reality of what happened, so that it can be truly put to rest.

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

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 16 (“Apocrypha”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, to cover the second-part of the late third-season mythology two-parter Apocrypha.

Picking up where Piper Maru left off, this conclusion finds Mulder and Scully continuing their separate investigations. Mulder is chasing down the missing tape from Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip while Scully is dealing with the fallout from the assassination attempt on Assistant Director Walter Skinner that brings her face-to-face with the man who killed her sister. Justice, legacy and guilt are all major preoccupations, tying into the broader themes of the season as a whole.

Once again, a pleasure to substitute in for Tony Black as host of The X-Cast for an episode, and absolutely thrilled to be joined by the great Christopher Irish from The X-Files Lexicon.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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Night Stalker – The Sea (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

One of the interesting aspects of doing a long-running pop culture project is the subtle shifts that you can see taking place over time.

The realities of media consumption change over extended periods; in response, the methods of media production also change. It is not too hard to imagine a world where Night Stalker would have been cancelled by ABC six episodes into its run, ending on a cliffhanger with the remaining four episodes buried for all eternity. Television would have moved on to its next reboot, its next new launch, and the cycle would have continued. Night Stalker would have been dead and buried, even more of a genre curiosity than it is now.

Fenced off...

Fenced off…

There was a time when Night Stalker would have been consigned to history. At best, it might have been a footnote in Frank Spotnitz’s filmography, a point of reference in interviews and conversations about how mainstream American television treats science-fiction history. Had Night Stalker appeared (and been so promptly cancelled) even ten years earlier, it would probably be a curiosity on the IMDb pages of its cast and crew. The name would resonate with genre fans, and t would casually be dropped in career overviews. But it would largely be lost.

However, the reality of television had changed by the twenty-first century, the explosion in home media ensuring that even a six-episode failure like Night Stalker could receive a neatly-packaged DVD release and remain easily accessible to the generations that followed. In some respects, this feels like the worst thing that could have happened. The biggest obstacle between Night Stalker and the status of “cult classic” is ease of access to the show itself; the readiness with which the nostalgic refrain of “cancelled before its time” might be rebutted by simply buying the DVD.

A blast from the past...

A blast from the past…

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