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New Escapist Video! On Paralleling “The Expanse” with “Game of Thrones”…

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.

This week, with the penultimate season of The Expanse winding down and with the frequent comparisons to Game of Thrones, I took a look at what the two shows have in common – and where they differ from one another.

New Escapist Video! On “The Mandalorian” and “Star Wars'” Fallen World…

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. To mark the season premiere of The Mandalorian, we took a look at the series’ exploration of a fallen world. In particular, the trope of the last survivors of a fallen world wandering through the ruins has become a common trope in contemporary mass media science-fiction like the third season of Star Trek: Discovery or the new series Raised by Wolves. So we thought it might be interesting to look at the trope, and how it differs from the conventional portrayal of the Star Wars universe.

It’s All About Meme Meme: The Perfect Timing of “The Wicker Man”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, marked Halloween with a look at Neil La Bute’s adaptation of The Wicker Man. It’s a fun, broad discussion. However, watching the film and talking about the film got me thinking about Nicolas Cage, meme culture and the perfect storm of timing involved.

It’s possible to break down Nicolas Cage’s career into two phases: before and after The Wicker Man.

Before The Wicker Man, Nicolas Cage was a respected actor. He had won the Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. He had become an blockbuster movie star thanks to films like The Rock and Con Air. He had worked with auteurs like David Lynch on Wild at Heart and the Coens in Raising Arizona. Indeed, at the turn of the millennium, Cage had settled into a respectable cinematic middle age. In the years leading up to The Wicker Man, he worked on fare like Andrew Niccol’s earnest Lord of War and Gore Verbinski’s decidedly middle brow The Weather Man.

And then The Wicker Man happened. Almost immediately, Cage’s career shifted gears. There were where still franchise films like Ghost Rider or National Treasure: Book of Secrets. There were still auteur collaborations like with Werner Herzog on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. However, there were also movies like Bangkok Dangerous, Next and Knowing, which would lead on to films like Drive Angry, Seeking Justice and Trespass. Not all of these films were bad, but they were instrumental in establishing the Nicolas Cage audiences know today: “full Cage.”

To give Cage some credit here, his later work is often more interesting than his popular reputation would suggest. In particular, Cage works remarkably well in ensemble genre pieces like Kick-Ass or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. More than that, Cage works remarkably well in the context of films that are pitched to match his fevered intensity as a performer like Mandy or The Colour Out of Space. Nevertheless, The Wicker Man was very much a watershed moment for Cage, like the flicking of a light switch.

Part of this is simply timing. The Wicker Man arrived at the perfect moment in popular culture, as a seismic shift was taking place. Discussions about the history of cinema often focus on the mechanics and the politics of the industry itself – the way in which movies are produced, funded and distributed. This makes a great deal of sense. However, it’s also important to consider how movies are discussed and how audiences engage with those films.

The Wicker Man arrived at a moment where the internet was primed to change the way that movies were watched, and the impact on Nicolas Cage’s career is perhaps a graphic illustration of that seismic shift.

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New Escapist Video! On How the “Star Wars” Sequels Didn’t Need a Plan, “The Rise of Skywalker” Needed a Vision…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the frequent argument that Disney needed a “plan” for the sequel trilogy, when in fact Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker just needed a vision. You can watch the pilot video here, and read the companion article here.

 

New Escapist Video! Introducing “In the Frame”…

For about a year now, I have been writing the In the Frame column twice weekly at The Escapist on Mondays and Fridays. Today, we have a very special announcement. We are looking at launching a companion video series, In the Frame. Hopefully it’ll be releasing on Mondays, but you can get a sense of what we have planned by taking a look at the teaser below or watching the video here.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Grey (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

Well. That’s over now. Star Trek: The Next Generation limps across the finish line of its second season with a compilation clip show designed to save money and keep the season’s episode count up. Shades of Grey is frequently cited as the worst episode not just of the second season of The Next Generation, but of the show as a whole. While it’s hard to entirely agree with this assessment – Shades of Grey is cynical and lazy, but it’s neither as sexist as Angel One or The Child nor as racist as Code of Honour or Up the Long Ladder – it is possible to see where that argument comes from.

Like the first season before it, there’s a sense that the second season of The Next Generation might have been better had it ended an episode earlier. Indeed, the second season could have ended with Q Who? and the only episode anybody would really miss would be The Emissary. Unfortunately, one imagines the syndication agreements and network policy made this impossible. While one suspects many of those involved would be happy if Shades of Grey simply faded from existence, it remains part of the show’s syndication package.

This is a little like what this episode feels like...

This is a little like what this episode feels like…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Samaritan Snare (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

To describe Samaritan Snare as a step down from Q Who? feels like an understatement. Q Who? was Star Trek: The Next Generation realising that it needed to improve its game if it ever wanted to measure up to its predecessor, interrogating some aspects of the series that had been taken for granted, calling the crew out on their arrogance and offering an opponent that could really push the Enterprise crew for all that they are worth.

It was really the logical culmination of themes running through the second season, themes that seem to faintly echo into Samaritan Snare, another story about the arrogance and ego of the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately, while it does seem to acknowledge many of the same weaknesses and flaws that Q Who? hit upon, it can’t help but seem a little disappointing. Here, the Enterprise are not thrown against an impossible-to-defeat adversary. Instead, their arrogance turns them into interstellar marks.

His heart just isn't in it...

His heart just isn’t in it…

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Non-Review Review: The Hardy Bucks Movie

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a massive fan of The Hardy Bucks. Still, it’s hard not to smile at an Irish success story that seen a bunch of lads fooling around on YouTube, brought them to national television and launched a feature film. The Hardy Bucks Movie isn’t revolutionary. It’s not a work of comedy genius for the ages. Quite a lot of it feels overly familiar, an Irish spin on the “young men go wild abroad” subgenre that has proven popular in the past number of years. And yet, despite that, there’s a quaint charm to The Hardy Bucks Movie that makes it reasonably entertaining. The lads from Castletown has survived the transition to the big screen with their dignity – such that it is – intact.

The naked truth...

The naked truth…

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My 12 for ’12: The Muppets & Everything You Need, Right In Front Of You

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #3

I can’t help but feel that The Muppets probably aren’t quite as popular over here as they really should be. After all, we had to wait about three months for the eventual release of the film in Irish cinemas. Even later this year, following all the publicity around the recent revival, I was only able to find one cinema in Dublin doing three screening of The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, despite the highly-publicised re-release. However, perhaps I shouldn’t take their international publicity for granted either. After all, Jason Segal spent six or seven years trying to guide everybody’s favourite felt performers to the big screen again.

Still, The Muppets demonstrated that the gang had lost absolutely nothing in transitioning out of retirement and back to the screen, demonstrating that all these sorts of characters need is a bit of sincere love and affection.

muppets6

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Non-Review Review: Paranormal Activity 4

I actually quite liked the opening set-up of Paranormal Activity 4. As far as horror franchises go, the Paranormal Activity series is still much more spry than most other long-running series, and there’s a certain charm to the opening hour of Paranormal Activity 4 that seem almost playful. It feels strange to talk about a movie featuring an ominous demon hunting a small suburban family in these terms, but there’s a surprisingly warm and endearing sense of humour to be found in the first two-thirds of the film. Things definitely come off the rails towards the finalé, as the movie (and the series) become too burdened down with mythology and story – and the last third certainly becomes a little over-crowded and generic, threatening to collapse under its own weight as so many modern horrors do.

While it’s nowhere near as innovative, clever or genuinely frightening as Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 4 measures up reasonably well to the standard set by the sequels, ending up much stronger than Paranormal Activity 2, and about on-par with Paranormal Activity 3.

Something to watch over me…

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