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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Marvel’s Strength at Improv…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about Marvel Studios’ production model.

After more than a decade of success, Marvel Studios have built up a deserved reputation as a company that makes efficient and clean blockbusters. However, this reputation is often built upon the myth of the company’s ability to make and commit to long-term plans, to map out the shared universe months and years in advance. In reality, the opposite is true. Marvel Studios succeeds in large part because it has built a robust production machine that has the flexibility to adapt and evolve on the fly and in real-time, to account for any number of unforeseen potential possibilities.

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

284. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Luke Dunne, 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, both Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The master of the mystic arts, Doctor Stephen Strange, is attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer when New York is attacked by a strange creature chasing a young refugee named America Chavez. Strange finds himself drawn into a chase across the vast and infinite multiverse, questioning the nature of the reality in which he has found himself.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the Forgotten Nineties Pulp Superhero Boom…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Sam Raimi’s first superhero movie: Darkman.

Darkman is notable because it belongs to a wave of early nineties superhero movies that were heavily influenced by the pulp heroes of the thirties and forties: Batman, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, The Mask, The Phantom. This is a fascinating and often overlooked trend in the history of what would become the biggest genre in Hollywood. It’s interesting to look at these movies collectively, to place in the wave of a broader cultural nostalgia for the pop culture of the era.

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

New Podcast! Your Feature Presentation – “Ranking the Spider-Man Films From Worst to Best”

The Escapist have launched a new pop culture podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Marty Sliva for the first episode. With the upcoming release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at the cinematic adventures of the webslinger, and discuss how they rank.

New Escapist Video! On Sam Raimi and What it Means to be a Good (Spider-)Man…

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 release of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the central stakes of the film: the question of what it means to be a good man, Spider- or otherwise.

New Escapist Column! On Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and What It Means to be a Good Man…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. There’s been a lot of coverage about the new videogame Spider-Man: Miles Morales, so it seemed like a nice opportunity to go back and take a look at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.

In hindsight, one of the most striking things about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is how low the stakes are. Barring the climax of Spider-Man II, Peter Parker never faces an apocalyptic threat. Even when Peter does face down larger-than-life supervillains, Raimi is sure to ground the films in more relatable stakes. Raimi’s trilogy is fascinated with the question of whether Parker Parker will become a good man. It understands this question as it relates to a lot of young men. Peter’s dark side doesn’t build omnicidal robots or order killer drown strikes, but offers a more mundane evil.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – Pilot (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very competent production. It looks lavish. It connects the dots. It reminds the audience that it’s connected to a string of blockbuster movies without being pushy about it. It introduces a diverse ensemble. It sets up long-running mysteries and story arcs. It’s a tight and focused, and controlled piece of television.

Perhaps too controlled. There’s something oddly restrained and oddly refined about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., feeling a little smoother and a little more polished than a pilot really should. There’s not a hair out of place, but only because everything has been so meticulously styled. This isn’t a bad thing – the pilot plays remarkably well – but it just feels a bit limp, a bit lifeless.

It’s as if we’ve tuned into a Life Model Decoy of a Joss Whedon show.

Phil us in...

Phil us in…

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Non-Review Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead does has a bit of a quirky charm to it, serving as perhaps the best-made horror throwback I’ve seen in quite some time, much more effective than most of the recent splurge of exorcism movies. As far as competent execution of classic horror movie tropes go, complete with the sense of “something gruesome’s gonna happen” dread and a healthy amount of gore, Evil Dead succeeds admirably. There are some issues in the final act, but Evil Dead checks all the necessary boxes, and does so with a minimum amount of fuss or pretension, which makes it a surprising enjoyable watch for those looking to enjoy a good old-fashioned video nasty.

That said, it can’t help but feel a little awkward, through no fault of its own. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead was a genre classic which worked in a large part because it eschewed all but the most basic tropes of horror storytelling, refusing to dress a video nasty in anything too fancy. The movie came to embody a particular subgenre of horror, and it wore its grotesqueness on its sleeve. Last year, Cabin in the Woods offered a fitting follow-up, a capstone to that approach to horror. As such, through no fault of its own, this version of Evil Dead feels like it arrived a little late.

Down the rabbit hole...

Down the rabbit hole…

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Any Witch Way But Backwards: How Oz The Great & Powerful Erodes the Feminist Appeal of The Wizard of Oz…

I quite enjoyed Oz: The Great & Powerful. The visuals were amazing, and I thought that Sam Raimi brought the world of Oz to life in a way that audiences haven’t really seen since 1939. Despite the fact that the film was limited to elements from the source novels rather than the classic film, meaning no red slippers and the Winkie Guards chanting a generic “ho-ho-ho” instead of “ho-ee-ho-ee-oh”, I think that Oz: The Great & Powerful is the first time that a film has taken us back to that version of the wonderful world of Oz.

It’s a shame, then, about the script. I have a lot of problems with the screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Indeed, I’m less than thrilled that Kapner has apparently been tapped by Disney to prepare a sequel. While Raimi and his cast, and his production designers, seem to understand a great deal about the magic of The Wizard of Oz, it seems like Kapner and Lindsay-Abaire seem to have missed the point.

It’s a shame, then, that Oz: The Great & Powerful rolled on March 8th, celebrated as International Women’s Day. Dorothy Gale has been described as “the first feminist role model” and The Wizard of Oz is packed to the brim with strong female characters. Although Dorothy obviously can’t play a major role in this prequel, one does wonder where all the strong women have gone.

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Note: This post contains spoilers for Oz: The Great & Powerful. Consider yourself warned.

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Non-Review Review: Oz – The Great & Powerful

Oz: The Great & Powerful is a fabulous production. A few minor misgivings aside, it looks and sounds fantastic. Sam Raimi has done the best job bringing Oz to the screen since the original version of The Wizard of Oz all those decades ago. In its best moments, there’s an enthusiasm and a lightness of touch that fits the material perfectly and captures the wonder that we associate with Oz. It’s very clear that a lot of love and care was put into the production design of the film, and that Sam Raimi’s hand moved with the utmost consideration and affection for the original film. It makes it a little disappointing, then, that the script to Oz: The Great & Powerful should feel so undercooked, more like an early draft than a finished screenplay.

Up in the air or down to earth?

Up in the air or down to earth?

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