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Non-Review Review: Ice Age – Collision Course

Film franchises are delicate things. There comes a point at which certain concepts feel played out, at which familiar characters seem tired as they go through the proverbial motions. Over time, it can feel like a film franchise has done just about everything. It becomes harder and harder to generate conflict, to motivate the characters to action, to come up with credible stakes.

The art of franchise escalation is fine. It is more nuanced than most will readily acknowledge. Coming up with an organic reasons for an ensemble to reteam and embark on a new adventure can be tough enough after the original film, but it becomes a little exhausting by time that the fourth film rolls around. There is a point where even enlisting the audience feels like an insurmountable challenge.

Over the moon...

Over the moon…

However, there are film franchises that do manage to do this. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is comprised of over a dozen franchise films. The James Bond series is more than twenty films long, but it still periodically finds a new groove. It is not impossible for a film franchise to find new and exciting possibilities past its third entry. Even earlier this year, Creed is testament to the appeal of a new approach.

On the other hand, Ice Age: Collision Course is a film that opens with beloved squirrel Scrat hijacking a space ship while chasing his nut and setting an asteroid on a collision course with our protagonists.

Men and women of mist-ery...

Men and women of mist-ery…

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Non-Review Review: Irrational Man

If Blue Jasmine could be read as an adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, Woody Allen continues his journey through classic cinema (and novels and plays) with Irrational Man. The core of Irrational Man is built around the basic premise of Strangers on a Train, exploring the strange intersection of lives around a seemingly motiveless murder plot. Using the plot of Strangers on a Train as a springboard, Allen staged Irrational Man as a character study (very loosely) framed discussion of ethics and moral philosophy.

Set in a small-town New England college campus, Allen strips Patricia Highsmith’s novel down to its core elements. As with a lot of late-stage Woody Allen films, there is not so much a plot as a set of complications. The story is streamlined so as to allow a depth of focus on its central characters; murder is not swapped so much as volunteered, meaning that Irrational Man only has to focus on a single murder and its impact on a single set of characters. In this case, Allen focuses on Professor Abe Lucas and his student Jill Pollard.

Murder on the mind...

Murder on the mind…

Lucas is depressed and withdrawn; he is a philosopher who has lived a long and varied life, but who seems numbed by the experience. Lucas is not necessarily suicidal, but it doesn’t seem like he’d be too upset by the prospect of his own death. As fellow faculty member Rita Richards and bright young student Jill Pollard try to pull the philosopher out of his depression, a conversation overheard in a diner lights a spark. Listening to a stranger detail the injustices inflicted upon her, Lucas decides to set about righting wrongs on her behalf.

Irrational Man builds to a decidedly academic murder plot. It is very much “Woody Allen presents How to Get Away With Murder.”

"Voila Davis always gets higher student approval ratings."

“Voila Davis always gets higher student approval ratings.”

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