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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” Explores Children Trying to Escape the Shadows of Their Parents…

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

Gunn’s projects return time and again to the relationship between parents and children. In particular, Gunn’s films and television shows are often about childrens trying to escape from the shadow of their abusive parents. This was true of Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and The Suicide Squad. It is also true of Peacemaker, with the show placing a lot of emphasis on the relationship between its central character and his racist father, Auggie.

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’s 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.

Non-Review Review: The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad is a stunning piece of blockbuster cinema.

There’s an understandable urge to treat The Suicide Squad as something of an outlier, particularly in the modern wave of big superhero blockbusters. After all, this is an R-rated blockbuster about a bunch of super-villains populated largely be characters that few people will recognise, let alone care about, and which exists in something of a strange continuity limbo away from the rest of the shared continuity. It is darkly funny, bitterly bleak, and decidedly uninterested in things like brand synergy. It is a sequel to a maligned film from a director now best known for his work with a rival studio and a rival property.

Squad goals.

Looked at from a certain angle, The Suicide Squad must seem as alien as the monster that rampages through the film’s third act – a space oddity that fell to Earth. However, this just makes it all the more remarkable that writer and director James Gunn has managed to fashion all of this into a thrilling and spectacular piece of blockbuster cinema that understands the appeal and the potential of the superhero genre without forsaking its own distinct perspective and while delivering on everything that a well-made populist blockbuster should.

There are very few superhero movies that are put together like The Suicide Squad. That’s their problem.

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Non-Review Review: The Peacemaker

It’s interesting to look back at George Clooney’s early road to movie stardom. Indeed, the actor’s first leading roles seem like movies that really should have been star-making turns, but just weren’t. There’s obviously his portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin, a performance not quite as bad as the film around it, but there’s also his roles in films like The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker also was the first film released under Spielberg’s Dreamworks company, and it’s hardly an auspicious début. It’s not that The Peacemaker is a bad film. It’s a very well made, and the production values are excellent.

However, the problem is the premise itself, the plotting, the pacing and the script. The Peacemaker feels like it really wants to be a Tom Clancy thriller, and it really wants us to accept George Clooney as a more dynamic Harrison Ford. Unfortunately, it feels like all the plot points, characters and motivations all came second-hand. There isn’t one thing here that hasn’t been done before, and done better, and those parts aren’t even assembled in an especially original way.

The name’s Clooney. George Clooney.

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