They’re Here: “Poltergeist” and Franchise Hauntings

Poltergeist (2015)

Releasing one week after Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Poltergeist (2015) represents an altogether different resurrection of a decades-dead film franchise. Whereas Fury Road is a loose sequel to the three Mel Gibson-led Mad Max films (1979, 1981, and 1985), Poltergeist is a more-or-less direct remake of the 1982 film of the same name. Furthermore, Fury Road’s Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 98%, nearly triple the 33% score that Poltergeist has received.

Both films, however, are typical of the contemporary Hollywood trend of attempting to breathe new life into film franchises, both beloved and not-so-beloved. The idea is that making films related to other films that carry name recognition and brand awareness represents less of a financial risk than a film based on an original idea. Film series continuation forms include the direct sequel or prequel, the loose sequel, the reboot, and the remake. Continue reading

All Shiny and Chrome: The Controlled Chaos of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Much digital ink has been spilled on the grandeur of Mad Max: Fury Road and, at the risk of being repetitive, this review is not an exception to the rule, but a brief contribution to the discourse. Fury Road represents the modern reworking of the iconic Mad Max movie franchise. Similar to its predecessors Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1981) and Beyond Thunderdome (1985), it takes a post-apocalyptic vision of the future to unleash a high-octane spectacle of vehicular destruction onto the screen. Continue reading

Blogging and/as Grey Literature, or, How Media Studies Can Continue to Learn from Cultural Studies

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What is online film criticism good for? I ask this question earnestly. As the Mediascape Blog moves into its third year of operation, I want use the precedence of “grey literature” as one potential answer to the question of film criticism’s worth, and a potential direction for our work’s future. Continue reading

Film Review: Wild is a Successful Adaptation

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed, who, following her mother’s death, the demise of her marriage, a brief foray into heroin, and an abortion, decides that she will spend three months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She initially plans to end her journey in Ashland, Oregon, but because heavy snowfall causes her to have to skip over a portion of the trail, she decides to go further north, to a place called Bridge of the Gods. Her adventures on the trail– in which she struggles with a too-heavy backpack, too-small boots, encounters with wild animals like foxes and rattlesnakes, and numerous interactions with other hikers (mostly male, some friendly, some threatening)– are intercut with flashbacks to her past: a poor but mostly happy childhood with her mother and brother (the film excises the stepfather and sister that are present in the memoir on which this was based); her mother’s bout with cancer, which came on suddenly and led to her death much more quickly than the doctors predicted; her marriage, which ended primarily because of Strayed’s many infidelities with random men; and her dalliances with heroin. Continue reading

A Most Violent Year; Slow-Boiling Suspense

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In the winter of 1981, New York City was an altogether different and unrecognizable place from the tourist friendly metropolis it is today. Crime was rampant, from the petty thieves on the street to the politicians and lawmen who controlled the streets and businesses. In 1981 that crime turned to violence and made the year the single most dangerous in the city’s history. Writer/director J. C. Chandor’s (Margin CallAll is Lost) newest film A Most Violent Year finds itself in the midst of this violence and captures how good intentions can slowly erode in an environment like ‘80’s New York City.

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