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New Escapist Column! On “The Last of Us” As A Study of Evolving Masculinity…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. This week, the show’s sixth episode.

The sixth episode of The Last of Us, Kin, is steeped in the iconography of the western: there’s a frontier town, two indigenous characters, and even a horse on the railroad tracks. However, there’s also a sense that Joel and Ellie have reached the end of their push westward, their journey from Boston to Jackson. In that sense then, the show explores the legacy of the western in American consciousness, particularly the genre’s archetypal portrayal of masculinity. What does it mean or Joel to be a man or a father? How does that reconcile with the image he has cast for himself as a cynical and weary outlaw? Can he move past that?

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

New Escapist Column! “The Last of Us” is Solid, Sturdy Worldbuilding…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. This week, the show’s fourth episode.

The third episode of The Last of Us was a highlight of contemporary television, one of the best episodes of television produced in recent memory. The fourth episode is nowhere near as transcendent, but suggests that the show has found something resembling a groove. The fourth episode is a lot of what might be described as “shoe leather.” It’s largely dedicated to set-up and world-building. However, it also feels much more assured and comfortable in its own skin.

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

New Escapist Video! On How James Cameron is Corny as F&!k…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, with Avatar: The Way of Water continuing to dominate the global box office, it seemed as good a time as any to look at the life and career of director James Cameron. In particular, what is it that drives Cameron? What’s the glue that holds this director’s filmography together? It’s a fascinating deep dive on one of the most successful filmmakers of all-time.

319. Whiplash (#42)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Richard Drumm, 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, Damian Chazelle’s Whiplash.

Andrew Neiman is a young music student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. A jazz drummer, Andrew dreams of great things, of becoming a legend like Miles Davis or John Coltrane. However, he falls under the influence of band leader Terence Fletcher. Fletcher sees potential in Andrew, and draws the young musician into his orbit. The two find themselves trapped in a toxic push-and-pull relationship, with the stakes escalating quickly.

At time of recording, it was ranked 42nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On Matt Smith’s Complicated Men…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With theĀ release of House of the Dragon last weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Matt Smith’s career. In particular, how the actor has cornered the market on a particularly modern take on masculinity.

As Daemon Targaryen, Smith was the breakout star of House of the Dragon. However, Daemon typifies the kind of roles that Smith has been drawn towards in the years following his departure from Doctor Who. In projects as diverse as The Crown, Last Night in Soho and Charlie Says, Smith exemplifies a fascinatingly contradictory portrait of masculinity, one that is by turns alluring and pathetic, powerful and fragile, arrogant and insecure. Smith’s ability to play these conflicting facets off one another is what makes him such a compelling performer.

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

282. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (#67)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jason Coyle and Aoife Martin, 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, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The unthinkable has happened. At the height of the Cold War, American bombers have been ordered to enter Russian airspace and deploy their ordinance at the order of General Jack D. Ripper. The President of the United States scrambles to stop the crisis from escalating further, but the situation becomes even bleaker when it is revealed that the Russians have just deployed a failsafe that could wipe out all life on Earth in case of a potential American attack. Powers on both sides of the Iron Curtain find themselves racing against time, with the fate of the world in their hands.

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 “The Batman” as a Movie About Life Lived Behind Screens…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With The Batman continuing to perform well at the box office, it seemed like an opportunity to take another look at the film.

Much has been made of how much The Batman owes to David Fincher’s se7en and Zodiac. However, the film also owes a lot to the director’s work on both Fight Club and The Social Network. At its core, The Batman is a story about masculine violence and what happens when life is lived behind a screen. The result is a film that manages to riff on some of the most interesting films of the past quarter-century, filtering them through the lens of the superhero genre and reframing them for a modern context.

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

276. The Godfather: Part II (#3)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Brian Lloyd, 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, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II.

In 1901, Vito Andolini is evacuated from the small town of Corleone, fleeing to the new world in the hopes of a new life. In 1959, his son Michael Corleone continues his efforts to legitimise the family business. However, will Michael’s efforts to maintain control of the empire that Vito built ultimately lead to the collapse of what both men held most dear?

At time of recording, it was ranked 3rd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Peacemaker” and “MacGruber” as Reckonings with Reagan Era Action Heroes…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent release of MacGruber and Peacemaker, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to reflect on two comedy streaming shows that are very firmly anchored in a very particular nostalgia for a certain kind of eighties Reagan era action hero.

MacGruber and Peacemaker are essentially extended riffs on a very archetypal form of American heroism, a very militaristic and jingoistic expression of heroism. While both shows are reasonably affectionate and surprisingly sympathetic to its subjects, they are also quite aggressive in their desconstruction of this archetype. Both MacGruber and Peacemaker are shows about characters who are deeply unpleasant and incredibly juvenile, in what feels like an interesting interrogation of the action heroes of the era. It’s an interesting angle on this nostalgia, feeling at times like a tempered reflection.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On How “Peacemaker” Juxtaposes Eighties Nostalgia and Modern Masculinity…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re hopefully doing a series of recaps and reviews of James Gunn’sĀ Peacemaker, which is streaming weekly on HBO Max. The first three episodes of the show released today, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Gunn’s filmography is saturated with an affectionate nostalgia for the eighties. It comes to the fore in Peacemaker, down to the casting of John Cena. Cena is a lead actor in the style of classic eighties “hard body” action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, that nostalgia does not exist purely for its own sake. Peacemaker is a show engaged with modern masculinity, in particular deconstructing the sort of eighties masculinity embodied by its central character. Peacemaker is a story about whether its lead character can change and evolve, emerging from a cocoon as he investigates “Project: Butterfly.”

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