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Non-Review Review: Fear Street Part One – 1994

Nostalgia is a strange creature, by turns deceptive and revealing.

Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, based on an original story inspired by the books written by R.L. Stine, is effectively a loving slice of horror nostalgia and a trip through slasher movie history. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is very obviously an effort to take the genre back to its roots, evoking classics like Halloween or Black Christmas, and with its summer camp setting directly inviting comparisons to Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th, Part II. Similarly, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is clearly constructed as a loving homage to the slasher revival of the nineties, to films like Scream, Urban Legends or I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Skull Kill Crew…

In some ways Fear Street feels like a companion to that other big Netflix nostalgia property, Stranger Things. The three films are directed and co-written by Leigh Janiak, who is married to Stranger Things co-creator Ross Duffer. Like Stranger Things, there is a strong sense that Fear Street Part One: 1994 is aimed at a generation of viewers too young to remember the era firsthand. As such, Fear Street Part One: 1994 doesn’t feel like an attempt to accurately recreate the era so much as provide a cartoonish snapshot. It captures the pop memory of the period much more than the reality.

Fear Street Part One: 1994 is an appealing slice of genre nostalgia populated with a charming cast and an appealing high concept, albeit one that is occasionally so preoccupied by its broad brush strokes that it misses the final details. Then again, that is how nostalgia often works. Ironically, Fear Street Part One: 1994 probably has less to say about the genre than the movies that it is invoking.

“I have a bone to pick with you.”

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Non-Review Review: In the Heights

When it premiered, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights was a radical piece of work.

Miranda had begun working on the musical when he was in his sophomore year of college, producing an eighty-minute version of the play in 1999. He would take a prototype of the completed musical to Waterford, Connecticut in 2005. The show would move Off-Broadway two years later, and would open on Broadway in February 2008. It was a move that very much announced the arrival of Miranda as a serious talent, and would serve as a springboard to his later success with Hamilton.

“There’ll be dancing…
Dancing in the Street…”

In the Heights is set against the backdrop of Washington Heights, a neighbourhood on the north west side of Manhattan. Inspired by Miranda’s own experience as a Puerto Rican immigrant, the musical follows the inhabitants of the neighbourhood as they navigate a changing world. The story is told through the eyes of Usnavi, the young owner of a small bodega who dreams of returning to his home in the Dominican Republic, but who needs to find a way to express his feelings for Vanessa, who is considering a move of her own to the West Village.

Miranda wrote In the Heights as a very pointed response to traditional staged musicals like West Side Story. It’s no small irony that, more than twenty years after it premiered, the film adaptation feels as much like a traditional musical as any of the classics that Miranda had railed against.

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New Escapist Column! On How the “Saw” Franchise Has Always Played With Its Audience…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw this weekend, it seemed like a good excuse to take a look back at the larger Saw franchise.

For good and for ill, the Saw movies are inexorably tied to the George W. Bush era, with their meditations on torture and their emphasis on moral hypocrisy. However, discussions of the franchise tend to overlook the way in which the films intersect with another millennial trend: reality television. The Saw franchise is the rare horror movie franchise that is actively engaged with the idea of watching horror movies. In particular, in the relationship that exists between horror movies and their audiences – and whether those watching at home are observers or participants in the carnage.

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

231. Mac and Me (-#83)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Niall Glynn and Richard Drumm, 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, Stewart Raffill’s Mac and Me.

Following a move to California, young Eric is feeling a little alienated and disconnected. However, the young boy’s life is quickly turned upside down following a chance encounter with a creature from another world that has a strange hunger for Coca-Cola and Skittles.

At time of recording, it was ranked 83rd on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and Superman as an Inspiration…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to dig into the movie’s portrayal of Superman.

Snyder’s portrayal of Superman has always been controversial among more hardcore fans of the character, particularly in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are those who claim that Snyder misunderstands the Man of Steel, and that his films fail to grasp the most compelling aspect of his character. Instead, Zack Snyder’s Justice League offers a fascinating and rounded view of the superhero, one not defined by nostalgia for past iterations – but instead by hope for the generations inspired by him.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”, and Saying Goodbye to Old Friends…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the passing of Christopher Plummer recently, and with the film celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, I thought it might be worth taking a look at Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The Undiscovered Country was the last Star Trek film to focus on the entire cast of the original show. However, it is not an entirely celebratory farewell. Instead, it’s a movie that makes a valid and convincing argument for the need to move on, for characters like Kirk and Spock to get out of history’s way and to surrender the stage to Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s an introspective (and occasionally even acerbic) rejection of nostalgia that is particularly hard to imagine today, particularly in the era of films like Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Return of the Jedi” Set Boundaries on What “Star Wars” Could Be…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. With the new season of The Mandalorian on the air and with the release of The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at nostalgia within the Star Wars franchise – in particular, at Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

209. Shutter Island – Summer of Scorsese (#156)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Jay Coyle and Darren Mooney, with special guest Kurt North, 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, continuing our Summer of Scorsese season, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island.

Martin Scorsese is one of the defining directors in American cinema, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that have shaped and defined cinema across generations: Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, Boxcar Bertha, Cape Fear, CasinoThe Aviator, The Departed, Silence. The Summer of Scorsese season offers a trip through his filmography via the IMDb‘s 250.

Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels makes a trip across Boston Harbour to visit the psychiatric institution on Shutter Island, investigating the mysterious disappearance of one of the patients. However, as Teddy probes deeper and deeper into the workings of the facility, it becomes very clear that things are not as they appear.

At time of recording, it was ranked 156th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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New Escapist Column! On the Cynical Honesty of “Terminator: Genisys”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Terminator: Genisys turned five years old this month, so it seemed like the right time to take a look back at the third (of four) attempts to make a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Genisys has been largely forgotten, even overridden by the next film in the saga – Terminator: Dark Fate. This makes sense. Genisys itself overrode the previous two films on its own terms. Still, Genisys is an instructive and informative piece of blockbuster cinema. It’s a messy film, but in that messiness there’s an honesty. Genisys is a film that is naked in its ambition and its intent, in its efforts to reiterate and regurgitate the past while erasing any potential evolution. It’s a film that captures the emptiness of modern franchise filmmaking at its most cynical, and its most honest.

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

 

187. Catch Me If You Can (#194)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Luke Dunne and Jess Dunne from The Breakout Role Podcast, 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, Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.

When his parents announce their divorce, high school student Frank Abagnale runs away home. He never stops running. The enterprising young man reinvents himself as a dashing airline pilot, a debonair doctor and a diligent lawyer. However, Frank can only stay ahead of the long arm of the law for so long. As the ground starts shrinking out from him, as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty closes in, Frank wonders if he’ll ever be able to stop running.

At time of recording, it was ranked 194th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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