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New Escapist Video! On “WandaVision” and the Death of Ambiguity…

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 every second 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.

This week, following the end of WandaVision, it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look at what the show said about contemporary pop culture, in particular the show’s approach to its “mystery box” format and its insistence on explaining every ambiguity without any willingness to leave space for interpretation. It’s a big, ambitious video essay that looks at everything from Lost to Twin Peaks to The X-Files to Doctor Who, and I hope you enjoy.

New Escapist Column! On Why Chris Evans Returning to the MCU Would Be a Bad Idea…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, there were rumours that Chris Evans might be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following his departure in Avengers: Endgame.

This is interesting, because it potentially undermines one of the more interesting facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Comic books are largely shaped and defined by nostalgia, with beloved characters filling familiar roles in perpetuity, with any major change to the status quo eventually rolling back to the default. In contrast, a cinematic universe operates by different constraints: actors move on, age out and even die. This would force a long-form shared universe to evolve in a way that comics haven’t had to. This is a good thing, as evolution is necessary.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Die Hard” as a Christmas Movie…

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.

It’s not the 8th of January yet, so it still seems like an appropriate time for Christmas movie discussion. As such, I took a look at one of the great film debates of our time: whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

New Escapist Column! On 2020 Being Hindsight…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It’s 2021. So it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look back at 2020.

2020 was a game-changing year in many ways, but especially for cinema. It was an exhausting roller coaster of constant news and data, of massive announcements and radical contradictions. Cinemas faced unprecedented hurdles, even as cinema itself seemed to thrive. As a result, it seemed like the right time to take a look back at 2020 as a year in cinema to try and make some sense of it all.

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

New Escapist Column! On How Christopher Nolan Became the Internet’s Villain…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, the cinematic wold was shaken by the announcement that Warner Bros. would be releasing their entire cinematic slate day-and-date on HBO Max. This drew a lot of discussion and debate, but also demonstrating one of the internet’s weird cinematic fault lines: the strong hatred of director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan is one of the most interesting directors working the day. He is the last director who can approach a major studio with an original idea and secure hundreds of millions of dollars to realise it with minimal interference. In his early career, Nolan was a critical and internet darling, with a strong online following. However, since around 2012, Nolan has become a figure of a vocal and persistent derision online, much of which is anchored in the portrayal of the director as an old-fashioned auteur with a distinct sensibility.

This hatred of Nolan – which seems to bubble over in relation to anything from Anne Hathaway sharing chat show anecdotes about working with him to his reasonable critique of Warner Bros. failing to inform any of their directors or collaborators about the move to HBO Max – is interesting because it tied to other cultural trends that overlap. The internet’s passionate dislike of Nolan reflects broader shifts in the embrace of an intellectual-property- and corporate-identity-driven fandom. This hatred of Nolan often feels like a hatred of what he represents as a filmmaker.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Strange Logic of Netflix’s Cancellations…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. With Netflix announcing a number of major cancellations recently – from GLOW to Altered Carbon – it seemed like an interesting topic to discuss and explore.

Netflix operates a bit more opaquely than more conventional television broadcasters, and so its internal logic is a little rougher around the edges. However, the logic of cancellation has become a little clearer over time, as the streamer has drawn the shutter down on more and more of its shows. Indeed, with the benefit of the growing dataset, it appears that the underlying logic of cancellation for the streaming service is not radically different from that of television – even if the underlying math is a little more unusual.

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

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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Non-Review Review: Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes is a movie with a lot of charm, anchored in a sense of playful enthusiasm and a winning central performance.

Adapted from Nancy Springer’s The Enola Holmes Mysteries series of novels, the basic premise of Enola Holmes is straightforward enough. The classic Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes is given a younger sister, who inevitably finds herself forced to navigate the wider world while solving mysteries and avoiding the best efforts of her older brothers to ship her off to a suffocating and restrictive boarding school where she might be taught to be a lady.

Make yourself at Holmes…

Enola Holmes moves quickly and cheerfully through its starting premise and central mystery, bouncing from one sequence to another with considerable grace. However, it’s lead actor Millie Bobby Brown who carries the film. Brown is probably best known for her work on Stranger Things and a prominent role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but Enola Holmes suggests a long and promising career ahead of the young actor. It is impossible to imagine the movie seeming as effortless without her at its centre.

In fact, Enola Holmes suffers most when it moves away from its protagonist and makes room in her story for less compelling (but more nominally “important”) characters that wind up sapping the film’s energy. Enola Holmes has a surprisingly slow start for a film that breezes along once it finds its footing, and that is largely because it is initially reluctant to give its central character the breathing room that she needs. Still, once the film gets past that, it is a highly enjoyable adventure.

Enola that look…

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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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