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New Irish Independent Column! On “Willow” and Disney’s Fantasy Pitch…

I published a new piece at The Irish Independent this evening. With the release of Willow on Disney+ this week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the show means for the Disney brand, and why it is so important to the company going forward.

The past couple of decades have seen an explosion in fantasy film and television: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones. However, studios have quickly discovered that audiences aren’t necessarily enthusiastically engaged with fantasy, struggling to connect with the genres. Studios like Disney have invested millions trying to tap into that audience, with numerous high-profile failures. Willow represents the latest attempt by Disney to craft a live action fantasy universe with a built-in fanbase, and the company is using the same playbook that it did with Star Wars.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the Future of Streaming Looks a Lot Like Old-Fashioned Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent launch of Netflix’s ad-supported tier, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look at the larger trends in contemporary streaming.

Streaming services have moved away from the binge model. They have become more transparent in their ratings. They have begun scheduling the release of particular episodes across various days of the week. They have even begun releasing some episodes in prime time. The plotting on these shows has become a lot more reminiscent of turn of the millennium zeitgeisty mystery box shows than early streaming stories. All of this is to suggest that the future of streaming seems to look a lot like old-fashioned television.

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

New Escapist Video! “House of the Dragon is a Worthy Return to Westeros”

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 five-minute film review of the first season of House of the Dragon, which is on HBO Max.

New Escapist Video! On “Andor” as a Show About Loving “Star Wars”…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at Andor, the new Star Wars streaming show. There are a lot of interesting things about Andor, including how good it is. However, the show also feels like a meditation on Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon. Showrunner Tony Gilroy has talked candidly about how he was never a particular fan of Star Wars, and ended up working on the franchise almost by accident. As such, Andor feels like it is, in some small way, about learning to love Star Wars and to understand what Star Wars is capable of.

New Escapist Video! On How the Streaming Era Has a Writers’ Problem…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at one of the more under-explored and unspoken issues facing the so-called “streaming age.” In an era where there is so much content, and so much content derived from intellectual property that major corporations protect so severely, where are these studios going to find the writers and storytellers to guide these series? One of the more interesting shifts in television over the past decade has been a slow creep away from the idea of it as a writers’ medium, but that shift comes with a surprisingly high cost.

The Mondaylorians – “Andor Episode 4: Mrs Doubtfire in Space!”

This week, I had the pleasure of stopping by the podcast The Mondaylorians, hosted by Niall Glynn. I was thrilling to get to talk about the fourth episode of Andor, Aldhani.

It’s a broad and fun discussion, one full of tangents that place Andor in the context of the larger Star Wars franchise and pop culture in general. What is it that makes Andor stand out from shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett, comparable to She-Hulk and Moon Knight. We also talk about the way in which Andor harks back to George Lucas’ original idea for Star Wars, pasting a science-fantasy veneer over both a loving homage to the pop culture of his youth and a biting piece of social commentary. It’s a good chat.

You can listen below, click the screenshot, listen directly at this link or even listen to back-episodes of The Mondaylorians here.

New Escapist Video! On What the Cancellation of “Batgirl” Means for the Future of Streaming…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at the recent cancellation of Batgirl, following the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery Media. There has been a lot of noise and shouting about the decision from various angry corners of the internet, but what does it actually mean? And what does that cancellation mean in the context of the larger streaming landscape, which has become an incredibly volatile space within the last six months?

New Escapist Column! On “She-Hulk” and Unnecessary Origins…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of She-Hulk, which is streaming weekly on Disney+. The first episode of the show released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Like a lot of these streaming shows, She-Hulk suffers from an identity crisis. It is caught between the show that it clearly wants to be and its obligations to the familiar formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In particular, She-Hulk begins with an extended and unnecessary origin story, which the show itself doesn’t seem particularly enthused about. It’s strictly formula. Giving the first thirty-odd minutes of the show over to this generic and paint-by-numbers exercise undermines a lot of the show’s potential appeal.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Sandman” and the Art of Adaptation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. It’s a big weekend for media releases, and one of those new releases was The Sandman from Netflix, an adaptation of the comic book series from Neil Gaiman.

The Sandman is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the source material, often lifting images and dialogue directly from the comic. However, it’s also an interesting illustration of the art of adaptation as it purtains to ten-episode seasons of streaming television shows. It’s interesting to see how the source material is tweaked and altered to make it fit that familiar template, and what the adaptational choices say about what the streaming service and the production studio want from the show.

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

New Escapist Video! On How Streaming and the Algorithm are Shaping Modern Franchises…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at a broader cultural trend: the way in which streaming services and the algorithms that drive them are reshaping modern franchise media in a way that makes them more aesthetically conservative. When the algorithm drives studios to push towards recycling familiar ideas and iconography, it discourages any attempt to do something new or interesting with these long-lasting properties. As a result, many of the larger franchises have become hollowed versions of their past glories.