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256. Breach (Anti-Life) (-#69)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Joe Griffin, 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, John Suits’ Breach.

Earth is dying. Mankind’s last hope lies in the stars. On board one of the last colony ships ferrying the handful of survivors to their new world, something inhuman is stirring. The vessel’s maintenance crew find themselves in a battle against an alien entity, with the fate of mankind in the balance.

At time of recording, it was ranked 69th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! “Dune Is One of the Year’s Best Movies – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Dune, which is released theatrically in Europe and the United States next weekend.

New Escapist Column! On the Timelessness and Timeliness of “Foundation”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the first two episodes of Foundation on Apple TV+, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Isaac Asimov’s hugely influential science-fiction series.

Foundation casts a long shadow over American science-fiction, its influence felt on projects like Star Wars and Star Trek. However, while it has been adapted as a radio play, the new television show marks the first successful effort to bring the show to screen. What is it that makes Foundation so difficult to adapt? Why has it taken so long for such a foundational text to come to film or television? How is a science-fiction saga that began in the late forties and carried on into the fifties still relevant today?

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

Non-Review Review: Reminiscence

Reminiscence is an intriguing concept in desperate need of a stronger execution.

Reminiscence marks the feature film directorial debut of Lisa Joy, the co-creator of Westworld. In some ways, this is revealing. It often seems like the best version of Reminiscence might be a television pilot, a two-hour feature-length exploration of a futuristic dystopia that lays a lot of groundwork to be explored by later episodes and seasons. It’s very clear that Joy has put a lot of thought into the world of Reminiscence, about how it works and how it developed, and why it turned out the way it did. All of that work is either on-screen or blasted over the audio system via helpful voiceover exposition.

On the record.

Unfortunately, Reminiscence struggles to devote any real energy to its actual narrative or characters. Reminiscence is clearly constructed as an affectionate homage to classic film noir, in everything from its production design to its plot structure to its thematic concerns. However, it lacks the richness and the complexity that distinguishes the best of the genre. Instead, because so much time is spent explaining and re-explaining the mechanics of the world, everything else feels like a thinly-drawn sketch.

Reminiscence often feels like the faded memory of a much more engaging film.

Shining a light on it.

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New Escapist Column! On James Cameron’s “Aliens” as a Challenge to Ridley Scott’s “Alien”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. James Cameron’s Aliens is thirty-five years old this July, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at one of the best sequels ever made.

Aliens works in large part because it’s smart enough to avoid directly challenging Alien, in that it avoids simply recycling the original formula with a shift in location or with a new cast. Instead, it offers a very different approach to the core material. More than that, James Cameron positions Aliens as a direct challenge to Alien, deliberately and pointedly inverting some of the core themes of the original film. This choice enriches both films, turning Alien and Aliens into a conversation.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Rick and Morty” Embracing Exponentiation Over Escalation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The fifth season of Rick and Morty is currently airing, a the most recent episode has been greeted as a modern classic, so it seemed like a good time to take a look at what makes the show work.

Rick and Morty is a science-fiction comedy. Both comedy and science-fiction thrive off the dramatic principle of escalation, of extrapolating from one iteration of an idea to the next. What is so interesting about Rick and Morty is how the show adopts an exponential approach to that philosophy. The comedy and the stakes of Rick and Morty often derive from starting with a straightforward science-fiction concept and then doubling down on it repeatedly.

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

228. Interstellar (#29)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Andy Hazel, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

Cooper is a former astronaut who has resigned himself to life on a farm, raising his two children Tom and Murph. However, when the fates align to send Cooper back out into space, he finds himself faced with the terrible choice to leave his kids behind with no idea of when – or even if – he might return.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 29th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On How “The Expanse” is the Science-Fiction Show for the Moment…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. Since I binged The Expanse and since the season finale is out this week, I figured it was worth taking a look at the show as one of the defining television series of the past ten years.

Every generation gets a science-fiction show that reflects its particular anxieties. The Expanse is a show that engages aggressively with the concerns of the moment. It is a show about fragmentation, about nationalism, about inequality, about exploitation and about power. In the same way that Star Trek spoke to the uncertainty and tumult of the sixties, and Battlestar Galactica spoke to the nightmare of the War on Terror, The Expanse resonates with a world still coming to terms with the aftermath of the Great Recession.

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

215. Dune (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Charlene Lydon and Joe Griffin, 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, David Lynch’s Dune.

The galaxy is in turmoil. Rumours swirl of a plot against House Atreides. As Duke Leto Atreides takes control of the desert planet of Dune, he tries to track down the traitors in his midst. Meanwhile, his son Paul finds himself on the verge of an awakening that will have a profound impact on the future of mankind.

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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Non-Review Review: The Midnight Sky

The Midnight Sky is an ambitious and sporadically interesting mess.

There are a lot of individual elements that work relatively well in George Clooney’s most recent directorial effort. Indeed, the most surprising thing about this apocalyptic space drama is the way in which is eschews a lot of the stylistic trappings of the recent “sad astronaut” subgenre. Conceptually, The Midnight Sky feels like a companion piece to films like GravityInterstellarThe Martian, First Man, and Ad Astra. It is a story about isolation and about a space mission with the potential to go horribly wrong. However, Clooney gives the film a distinct texture, brighter and bolder.

Drinking it all in.

However, The Midnight Sky never coheres in a satisfying manner. Part of this is simply structural, with Clooney having to consistently cut between two sets of characters in radically different situations in a way that constantly undermines momentum. However, part of this is also narrative, with The Midnight Sky essentially built around a powerhouse closing twenty minutes that are obvious from the opening ten, but have to be delayed and postponed with a series of tonally disjointed episodic adventures to prevent the film from ending too soon.

This is a shame. There are hints of a much better movie in The Midnight Sky, but the film itself gets lost in space.

“Nuke the sky from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

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