Category Archives: Review

Review: Sightseers

Sightseers_TitlecardRating: 8/10     Director: Ben Wheatley     Starring: Alice Lowe (Tina), Steve Oram (Chris)     Screenwriters: Amy Jump, Alice Lowe, Steve Oram Director of Photography: Laurie Rose

Warning! Spoilers Throughout

Sightseers” has permanently altered my view on the Caravan holiday. In Britain the Caravan trip is widely viewed as a piss poor excuse for an adventure often reserved for families of the suburbs and the elderly; over here no Caravaner is safe from public ridicule. Thanks to “Sightseers” I will now forever associate Caravaning with ginger bearded serial killers, Daily Mail readers and a dog named Banjo … or is it Poppy? Ben Wheatley has demonstrated a knack for blurring the lines between genres in his previous titles, but intertwining comedy and horror will have undoubtedly presented a fresh yet daunting challenge to the director and his screenwriters.

Although “Sightseers” is undeniably a black comedy (and a very dark one at that), the brutal violence and humor refuse to intertwine for so much as an instant. Obviously this has been done to dodge the issue of taking dramatic effect away from the severity of the murders, but I feel the juxtaposing scenes of horror and comedy infer that “Sightseers” is wrestling with an identity crisis of sorts. When compared to “Four Lions”a superb example of British black comedy that also grapples the theme of mass murder – the absence of a connection between comedy and violence in “Sightseers” feels a little disappointing, perhaps more could have been done by Wheatley and the writing trio to mend the gap between comedy and horror as Chris Morris managed to with “Four Lions”.

In spite of its slightly confusing demeanor “Sightseers” remains comical in a charmingly witty and quirky British sense. Tina (Lowe) and Chris’s (Oram) meal at the roadside restaurant yielded the funniest moment in the film; Tina’s justification of Chris’s murders as being ‘green’ in the long run was a witty, satirical nudge at European obsessions with environmental security and the very British way of trying to justify absolutely everything.

The majority of “Sightseers” slander targets the inconsiderate and the self entitled that Chris possesses a strong taste for murdering. These detestable characters were very notably targeted in the incident with the Daily Mail reader and the dog poo where-in Chris openly expressed annoyance with the mans smug sense of self entitlement, before providing him with a long overdue bludgeoning. On discovering a copy of the Daily Mail in his bag Chris denounces the notion of him being a human, expressing Wheatley, Lowe, Oram and a majority of Britain’s current disdain for conservatives and the right wing without reserve.

The motives behind Chris and Tina’s murders are still debatable, despite the aforementioned focus of “Sightseers” jibes. Chris always seemed driven by his disgust for inconsiderate behavior and pompousness, the running down of the tram litterer in the first half of the movie cleverly signposted these motivations for slaughter to come in the latter half of the film.

On the other hand the reasons behind Tina’s murders are a little less straight forward. It could be argued that Tina – much alike Chris – murdered the bride on the basis of her inconsiderate behavior, but I’m convinced it was an act largely motivated by revenge. Moreover Tina managed to park the Caravan on top of a road side runner, and shove Chris’s new friend/business partner off of a steep cliff face whilst he lay encased in his hopeless Carapod contraption. The latter killing was seemingly brought about by Tina’s paranoia and distrust of Chris’s friend, but the murder of the runner was fueled simply by Tina’s demand for Chris’s approval.  In light of Chris not satisfying her desperation for approval in the face of her whacking his new mate, Tina tricked him into launching himself off the Ribblehead to his death. I personally think she decided to dupe him because of his hypocritically self absorbed and inconsiderate behavior that you’ll have likely twigged in the latter half of the film.

I never found myself rooting for Tina or Chris, but their depth of character was the foundation for an engrossing and wholly original story that owes a lot of its worth to Lowe and Oram, who both formulated this brutally grim idea behind this dark as can be comedy, and acted out the key roles masterfully. The Director of Photography Laurie Rose delivered justice to the serenity of northern British countryside and the ancient architecture that lies within it through the regular use of picturesque establishing shots that were crucially important to maintaining the immersion in a story so heavily influenced by the locale of scenes.

Overall “Sightseers” is an ultimately enjoyable, must watch black comedy with an air of charming, off beat originality and a resonant moral message to British society: try not to be inconsiderate, and stop reading the Daily Mail – ginger serial killers hate it.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Game of Thrones Recap: The Bear, The Bear, and The Maiden Fair!

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Warning: Spoilers Throughout!

Jamie and Brienne stole the show again in “The Bear and The Maiden Fair” as their complex, multi layered relationship continued to develop. Instead of opting for a scene implementing the tired high fantasy trope – where-in a knight in shining armor (Jamie) rescues a clueless damsel in distress (Brienne) – George R.R Martin ensured that an appropriate emphasis was placed on the mutual respect and cooperation of Jamie and Brienne as they escaped the perilous bear pit.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) neatly summarized why the unlikely duo have such a strong, new found companionship:  “[Jamie] didn’t respect her at first but he respects her now. I think that any relationship whether romantic or friendship, the core value of that is respect. Their relationship isn’t about attraction, but about two people meeting and in many ways seeing themselves in the other person.”

Nikolaj hit the nail on the head. Brienne’s respect for Jamie became evident when she referred to him as ‘Ser Jamie’ as opposed to his slanderous title of ‘King slayer’, recognizing that he is a truer knight than any of the cruel pretenders she has encountered in her past. I’m pleased to see such a successful translation of their relationship from the books to the screen; a lot of that success is owed to Nikolaj, and Gwendoline Christie who have been persistently outstanding in their performances.

vlcsnap-2013-05-13-10h20m48s69I get the impression that a certain cinematographer is a fan of Moonrise Kingdom.

On the subject of convention defying female characters, Daenerys further exerted her power by threatening to siege the slaver city of Yunkai. Oddly the Dragon Queen’s goals appear to have shifted from conquering the Seven Kingdom’s to emancipating the slaves of Essos. Ignoring whether or not this shift in goals is permanent, it can’t be ignored that Dany has begun to wield her power with a cool competence that managed to strike fear into the powerful male representative of the Yunkai slavers; similarly to Brienne, Daenerys breaks the mold of the ‘traditional’ female fantasy character.

Dany’s negotiation scene with the slaver was masterfully punctuated with some superb cinematography; the shot above is the most outstanding example in my mind. The direction in this scene was of an equivalent quality to the cinematography. The coordination of the many extras playing the unsullied as they shifted stance was impressive, as was the inclusion of the eye catching props and clothing that can again be noted in the fantastic shot above.

Joffrey’s slipping control over his uncle, perfectly juxtaposed the improving leadership of Daenerys. The boy king’s meeting with Tywin amply portrayed his uncle’s authoritative demeanor; when Charles Dance climbed the stairs to tower over Joffrey as he sat on the throne, you couldn’t help but connect with Tywin’s sense of power, which was illustrated perfectly through the use of high angle shots over Gleeson as he shifted uncomfortably and helplessly in his seat. Joffrey’s notably unpredictable temperament could potentially lead to quite an ugly outcome if these boiling tensions between uncle and nephew continue to rise.

vlcsnap-2013-05-13-10h20m05s111Tywin’s overriding strength being illustrated by the higher flame.

The theme of disillusionment from “The Climb” bridged over into this episode, most noticeably when Osha said this during her lecturing of Bran: ‘All these bad things happen ’cause the gods got big plans for you? I wish it were true little lord, but the gods wouldn’t spare ravens called shit for you, me or anyone.’ Bran didn’t seem to take any note of this hard truth, but his sister Sansa appears to have gained a better sense of reality.

Sansa instantly called herself stupid for fantasizing about an idealistic wedding with Loras, further chastising herself for not expecting the worse despite all the terrible things that have happened to her since her move to King’s Landing. However in spite of her innocence beginning to fade, Sansa still has a great deal of naivety to overcome; Margaery obviously didn’t garner that sexual knowledge from her mother Sansa. Did the Lannister guards shown in the final shot over hear anything they shouldn’t have? It can only be assumed trouble is afoot for Margaery, I mean why else include the ‘guards’ if not to signpost problems?

If only Robb shared the sentiment of Sansa’s nearing disillusionment. I can’t be the only getting the impression that Talisa isn’t writing back to ‘her mother in Volantis’, but rather acting as an informant for the Lannister party, sewing discord in Robb’s camp and reporting his movements. In fact I discovered a very interesting YouTube video providing the evidence in support of the theory that Talisa is likely a Westerosi Spy; with this very convincing theory brought to light, you can’t help but wonder what will unfold at The Twin’s.

Unfortunately the intrigue of this scene was lined with a degree of corniness (‘I love you, do you hear me?) that I would usually expect to be found in a Tyrion & Shae sequence. The aforementioned Tyrion/Shae exchanges are really starting to grind on me; both the strains on Shae and Tyrion’s love affair, and Gendry’s new knowledge of his grand heritage could’ve been inferred. We don’t need bland scenes to tell us these things, we aren’t stupid.

In the wildling camp, Tormund finally let rip with a few cock gags and his legendary ‘Har! Har!’ thanks to George Martin being at the writing helm, putting all wrongs to right. Orell is intent on stirring up trouble between Ygritte and Jon, forcing the wildling woman to revisit why she supposedly loves everybody’s favorite crow. Jon did an equally fantastic job of planting discerning thoughts in his lovers head by letting her in on the harsh reality of the several failed attempts made by the wildling’s to seize the north. In doing so he subconsciously distanced himself from the wildling’s giving away his remaining loyalty to the Night’s Watch that spells out a tragic end to the couples affections.

Elsewhere in the north Theon’s torture persisted, exceeding last week’s level of cringe worthiness. I thank the seven that they didn’t show his yoghurt lobber getting lopped off and flayed, because that would have gone way over the line of remote decency that is regularly jumped over by films of the new french extremity. Regardless of the effective portrayal of Theon’s torture, the little bit of fumbling in the build up to his captors entrance was nothing less than uncomfortable, if you watch the show with your parents you’ll understand what I’m getting at here.

Finally we come to Arya. Although her showing was brief, it shed light on the sinister developments of Arya’s character under the influence of the recent turmoils in her story. Her growing disdain for Beric and the falsity of The Brotherhood Without Banners as a whole became overwhelming, subsequently leading her to flee straight into the hands of Sandor who lingered near the brotherhood who had yet to repay him. It is safe to say Sandor has his repayment settled, that is of course if he fully intends on handing her back for a ladies ransom.

Have any thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below!

Final Rating: B

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap: “The Climb”

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It’s difficult to believe that six weeks have now come and gone since the premiere of Game of Thrones third season; before we know it the finale will be upon us and another year of agonizing waiting will follow.

Criticisms have been contrived from the ever so gradual build up season three has opted for that has only recently shown any signs of changing. Honestly I do find myself empathizing with the irritation of those who have yet to read the books and feel little of worth is happening. That doesn’t mean to say I disagree with Weiss & Benioff’s decision to keep the show at a brisk stroll for the time being. The Climb was no exception to the rule of gradual pacing, yet it made for another truly remarkable watch nonetheless.

Jon and Ygritte were presented with a rather literal climb of the 700ft wall of ice standing between the Wildling special forces team and the expanse of the Seven Kingdoms. In the moments of preparation before the climb Rose Leslie demonstrated that she wasn’t about to let the phenomenal standards of her performances as Ygritte slip now, amply expressing the Wildling women’s endearing affections for Jon with the assistance of impressive dialogue supplied by another superb screenplay.

When fate slowly edged them up the face of The Wall, it was impossible to avoid the feelings of fear and vertigo as the now infatuated couple came close to taking the dive on several occasions. In spite of the undeniably great acting, the air of finesse placed in the cinematography and editing efforts lent the scene almost the entirety of its dramatic effect. The sequencing from the shot of Jon glancing down, to the hauntingly slow pan in showcasing the potential fall he contended with instilled a nightmarish fear in me that couldn’t have been evoked solely off the back of high quality acting.

Sterling cinematography was a consistent element throughout this week’s episode. The continuation of Arya’s adventures alongside The Brotherhood Without Banners (TBWB) were introduced with a very striking shot* where-in a close up of Arya firing a bow shook gently, whilst remaining masterfully in sync with the reverberation of the bow string to seamlessly reflect the feeling of firing an arrow.

vlcsnap-2013-05-06-09h42m42s142*Note the spectacular shot framing also involved in the close up.

Prior to a controversial trade off – Thoros, Beric and Melisandre shared a rather interesting moment of conversation. Thoros admittance of seeking the help of The Red God whom he formerly abandoned in his time of desperation was an accurate, parallel, and perhaps cynical representation of the timeless tendency of people seeking guidance and/or other worldly power in their times of need even if – unlike in Thoros’s fantasy case – they are wholly aware their desires will go unreceived. Beric further bolstered the unromantic, harsh tone of the episode by informing Melisandre that her notion of there being an ‘other side’ was deluded drivel. ‘There is only Darkness’ rang true to very harsh realities that we all face; rarely does a TV show provoke such deep thought from an audience like Game of Thrones can in its prime.

Many book reader’s strong suspicions regarding the intentions behind Melisandre’s ventures away from Stannis’s seat at Dragonstone were all but confirmed when she struck up her exchange of gold for Gendry with TBWB. Clearly she has substantial expectations invested in the blacksmith’s apprentice, expressing her belief in his future role in taking down Stannis’s key opponents. Still a key question lingers: what exactly does the red priestess intend to do with Gendry?

vlcsnap-2013-05-06-12h52m50s255An impressive piece of lighting technique from the cinematographers.

Theon is trapped in a perpetual state of terrible luck that revealed zero indication of letting up on him as his cruel torture persisted. The monstrosity of the games his captor plays with him are on a sickening level that reflect the typical antics of the boy king Joffrey to the letter; thankfully momentary shots of Theon’s finger flaying were all that was necessary to extort a strong wincing and cringing from everyone, I couldn’t have handled much more. Alfie Allen effectively drove the anguish home with his blood curdling whimper-screams, and sniveling pleas to have the finger chopped off; I anticipate Allen’s adept acting in Game of Thrones will end up placing a major Hollywood blockbuster role or two at his feet in the coming years.

The King of the North’s military campaign proceeded down an increasingly slippery slope, however seemingly unbeknownst to Robb, who eagerly considered the successfully wagered terms with the Frey visitors – after a bit of good cop/bad cop interrogation against Edmure – to be a god send. It was difficult to miss the sinister tone that lined the voices of the Frey’s, and it definitely shouldn’t be disregarded yet. On top of this, Robb’s liege lord Roose Bolton exposed a disloyal tendency to his King in choosing to allow Jamie right of passage to King’s Landing instead of returning him as a captive to Robb as per-instruction. Brienne, draped in a suitably ridiculous pink dress, was not forgiven for her supposed treason’s quite so easily, it would appear that ‘befitting’ punishment will come into being for her next sunday.

vlcsnap-2013-05-06-09h46m58s147A splendid example of production design, and a superb shot color palette.

Kings Landing was unsurprisingly the hotspot for the narrative’s political intrigue. Tyrion and Cersei collected their frustrations – not just with one another, but with their fathers indignant insistence on their marriages to be – temporarily repairing their relationship before it inevitably crumbles into mutual disdain once again. Both Headey and Dinklage came out with gratifying performances, but what pleased me most in the scene was the subtly clever matching of the shot color palette with the topic of conversation. Cersei and Tyrion both wore pieces of red clothing, green was evident in the appearance of Cersei’s chair and a golden yellow was prominent in both the Lannister’s hair colors, and in a large part of the set design. These colors are dominant features on the Lannister and Tyrell banner devices.

Aiden Gillen delivered a fittingly devious, and almost frightening monologue as Littlefinger that accentuated his characters fearsome thirst for power, position and chaos, particularly in the depicting of the metaphorical climb of the chaos ladder as being ‘all there is.’ This monologue further reinforced the pessimistic, cynical overtone of the episode through the ample use of sound bridging to a shot of a weeping Sansa, as Littlefinger mocked those who place their hopes in the illusions of love and gods.

I personally embrace this harsh line the show is taking against romanticism for the larger part, because it gives Game of Thrones a distinct style that defines it as something bolder than your typical piece of high fantasy, forsaking the corny ideas of knights in shining armor and damsels in distress, in exchange for a welcome sense of realism.


Final Rating: B+

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap: “Kissed by Fire”

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Game of Thrones left me in total amazement after last week’s episode “And Now His Watch Has Ended” turned up a return to form with all the action, tension and intrigue that drew me to Game of Thrones so intensely in the first place. The title for this Sunday’s episode “Kissed by Fire” brought about two assumptions in my mind; one assumption was that Melisandre’s intentions would be a key unveiling, and the other was that Ygritte and Jon may end up sharing a pretty unexpected moment of passion that endeared so many who have read A Storm of Swords. Were these assumptions correct? Did the exhilarating action continue? How much fire would we see? Find out below!

Warning: Spoilers Throughout!

The thirst for fire was quenched straight out of the gates. It is safe to say that the Beric vs Sandor duel didn’t disappoint a single soul; from the blood fire sword prop, to Beric’s hasty resurrection, everything in this scene was simply a flawless fan service. The pacing was handled perfectly by the editing team. The action was never too fast which averted any potential confusion on who was dominating the fight at any given moment. The shot framing was also masterful on occasion, the shot from behind Beric as he knelt with Sandor’s sword buried in his shoulder stood out as a superb example of the cinematographers profound talents. This fight scene, and the discussion between Arya and Beric that followed later further cemented my belief in Richard Dormer being the perfect casting choice for Beric, as he once more demonstrated a decent depth of understanding the character’s niches.

Proceeding that little stint, we were taken beyond The Wall where Ygritte and Jon’s story strolled back onto our screens. Jon still finds himself an untrustworthy ‘companion’ amongst the Wildlings – despite Tormund beginning to take a liking to him- which is particularly causing tensions to rise between him and the skinchanger Orell. Admits their argument the subject of Orell’s control of his eagle beyond the dead was mentioned, you can’t help but ask yourself, why?

Putting violent tension aside, the sexual tension between Ygritte and Jon collapsed as they finally consummated their relationship. Kit Harrington marvelously portrayed Jon’s sudden, new found affections for Ygritte which may have a later impact on his loyalties as a man of The Night’s Watch, whose vow of celibacy he forsook so contently. Rose Leslie carried out her part in the scene with total finesse, delivering a very endearing couple of lines about never wanting to leave the cave with Jon, keeping these lines from the books was a brilliant choice. The weight of those words could be felt ten fold in weeks to come.

vlcsnap-2013-04-29-10h37m02s177An excellent piece of cinematography from the Beric vs Sandor duel.

Jamie and Brienne found their road trip had come to an end as they were finally forked over to Roose Bolton at Harrenhall. Jamie, his stump now a weight of rot, was taken to the ‘maester’ Qyburn’s (Anton Lesser) quarters where-in we were tossed a bone of intrigue, as we came about the knowledge of Qyburn’s likely rather twisted experiments that forced the citadel to confiscate his maester’s chain and remove him from their order. It is almost definitely too early to call it straight out, but I’m seeing the potential in Lesser’s performance, which came with an essential air of chilling mystery.

Subsequent to his excruciating treatment at the hands of Qyburn, Jamie dropped by the great baths to freshen up and have quite the exchange with Brienne. Jamie’s character defining monologue concerning his slaughtering of the Mad King- that although appeared treasonous on the surface, was undoubtedly an act of heroism if ever there was one – was impeccably delivered by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. If he isn’t showered with awards for that monologue I will consider it a crime, film makers please take note of this man’s talents! The mise-en-scene during this sequence was of a sublime quality; the gradually nearing proximity between Jamie and Brienne was a great way of showing progression in their relationship, and the set, although not extravagant, was an almost an exact translation of how I imagined the room when reading the scene in A Storm of Swords.

In spite of this I feel that the emphasis on why Jamie ultimately collapsed in pain wasn’t there, a fault which I think lies at the feet of either the editing team or the cinematographers. In A Storm of Swords, if I remember correctly, Jamie ends up fainting when he knocks his injured stump on the side of the pool, no cut to a close up of this happening was included despite Nikolaj seemingly acting it out, which unfortunately took away the effect of, and reason behind him fainting.

vlcsnap-2013-04-29-10h39m56s144Nikolaj delivering his faultless monologue, note the great shot palette!

In the capital, Tyrion manage to ween Olenna round to accepting to pay up for the Tyrell half of the royal wedding, despite her successful efforts to outwit the imp, who had a pretty rough time of things in this installment.  Tywin unveiled to our favourite dwarf that he was to have Sansa’s hand in marriage (surprisingly to his annoyance) in the vain attempt of stopping the Tyrell plot to have her marry Loras (who will now be preoccupied with Cersei), giving their family the key to The North – of course that is if you believe in the notion of Robb’s coming demise. Littlefinger’s retrieval of this invaluable information through his network of informants suitably portrayed the sheer danger he presents to the stability of Westeros, if he stands to gain any more power and position.

Regardless of the interesting plot and character developments I was thrown off by the very sudden, almost rushed, pacing of the shots that made the supposedly climactic unveiling of the coming marriage’s a little underwhelming. Had a few of these scenes been strewn about in earlier parts of the episode, the build up of tension and the unfolding of the machination would have served a far greater dramatic purpose.

Meanwhile in Riverrun, Robb found himself very preoccupied with throwing his war efforts to the dogs. His follies, including his fatal lack of patience with the belligerent Lord Karstark, have left him with just half the force he once possessed. Robb’s ambition clearly didn’t let those dreadful facts deter him from his goal, as he revealed a new plan to seize the under-defended Lannister seat of Casterly Rock, provided of course he can acquire the necessary troops from Lord Walder Frey, the man whose marriage pact he chose ever so stupidly to ignore. Fat chance of him garnering those troops, hey?

vlcsnap-2013-04-29-10h37m30s188Jon & Ygritte sharing a moment. You’ll likely see this on Tumblr.

“Kissed by Fire” granted Stannis long awaited quality time with the fans, thankfully upholding his character’s image as a strict, honorable and stubborn individual this time around. Stannis the Mannis briefly dropped in on his bat shit crazy wife, Selyse Baratheon (Sarah Mackeever). Selyse really needs to work on her rooms Feng Shui; keeping your stillborn children in great jars of green liquid wont warrant any guests coming to visit, and evidently it doesn’t do much for your mental well being either. I’m not sure if whether me questioning the likelihood of people being able to preserve bodies like that is a bit redundant considering the whole dragon thing, but it was definitely something that bothered me nevertheless.

Stannis’s daughter Shireen was a polar opposite to her mother, ignoring the rather creepy song she was singing before Stannis entered her chamber, she was actually very sweet; the greyscale that mutated her face was pieced together perfectly by the make-up department, who I honestly though might fuck it up. It may be helpful to note for those of you who haven’t read the books, greyscale is an infectious skin disease that people obviously prefer to avoid – explaining why Shireen’s quarters were so isolated. The friendship between her and Davos was an unexpected deviation, but like many deviations made this season it was a wholly worthwhile one, their heart felt exchange that highlighted Davos’s illiteracy ended with great sound bridging of dialogue concerning Aegon the Conqueror into Daenerys brief scene.

Daenerys travels through Essos continued, unfortunately nothing particularly astounding happened aside from a bit of subtle probing between Barristan and Jorah, and the showcasing of the Unsullied’s first freely elected leader Grey Worm, who supplied his own little monologue that sadly didn’t really have shit on Jamie’s earlier ravings.

Final Rating: B+

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Review: Fat Kid Rules the World

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Fat Kid Rules the World certainly isn’t a movie that is sold by its title. Matthew Lillard- who starred in Scream and The Descendents – debuted in the director’s chair for this coming-of-age comedy that follows the fat kid Troy Billings’s (Jacob Wysocki) transformation from a nobody to a somebody when his life is saved by local punk guitarist, Marcus Macrae (Matt O’Leary).

Regardless of Fat Kid being his first film out of the gates as a director, Lillard had a lot of competition to stand up to, with the likes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Richard Ayoade’s superb premier title Submarine in the same playing field, Fat Kid Rules The World couldn’t afford to be much less than spectacular in order to compete with its peers.

Warning Spoilers Throughout!

Unfortunately Fat Kid Rules the World had a handful of pretty serious problems that stopped it from being anything more than a just above average watch. My biggest gripe with the movie was its terribly slow rate of plot progression; the film’s open ending was nothing short of infuriating, and I am still bewildered as to why such little focus was placed on not only the punk music genre, but more importantly Troy’s progression as a musician. In spite of the fact that not a lot physically happened, Troy’s coming-of-age and progression as a character was handled well and prevented Fat Kid from feeling like a total waste of time.

Another bone I have to pick with Fat Kid Rules the World concerns just how hard it tries to be funny on occasions. In the scene where a parallel tracking shot follows Troy as he takes his dinner tray through an assortment of random areas, that  culminates with him pencil diving into the deep end of a swimming pool, I felt the references to the influential coming-of-age films Rushmore and Submarine were just a poorly handled, witless nod at the writer’s influences. The sequence simply added nothing to the narrative or my enjoyment of the movie.

Troy’s trailer line – ‘Don’t fuck with the fat kid!’ – is another particularly distinct example of humor gone awry in Fat Kid Rules the World; honestly I wouldn’t call Fat Kid a comedy, watching it with the mindset of it being a drama will leave you far less disappointed with the final product. That said Fat Kid Rules the World isn’t totally void of hilarity. Troy’s first near-performance that ends up making him so anxious he projectile vomits over his drum kit (and some of the audience) was a brilliant little moment, it’s just a shame there wasn’t more of the same.

Negatives aside, Fat Kid Rules the World was still an entertaining, and at times a briefly thought provoking venture too. Billy Campbell’s performance as Mr Billings was phenomenal, it is a crime that neither the BAFTA association or the Academy gave his legendary acting efforts at least some recognition through a nomination for the Best Actor award. Mr Billings gifting of a drum kit to Troy, that most importantly came with placing his trust in Troy to fulfill his responsibility regarding its maintenance, made for a genuinely endearing moment that owes a lot of its emotional impact to the stellar and charming performance dished out by Wysocki.

Troy’s love interest with Isabel (Lili Simmons) pulled off an unexpected, controversial yet effective twist when Troy quickly came to realize and accept that she and his old best friend Manoj (a largely unmemorable character) were already pretty intimate. Had Troy simply gone through the standard ‘comes from nothing, then finds love (and music)’ story archetype, Fat Kid only would have really suffered for it on the whole. Thankfully the writers showed some good sense and decided to opt out of the cliché route, delivering a very welcome, and refreshing surprise.

Fat Kid Rules the World also used Marcus’s character effectively as an embodiment of the problems surrounding narcotics abuse; tactfully showing the gritty nature of drug addiction and the helplessness of those deep into addiction without making the fatal mistake of dehumanizing them. In spite of this, I never really appreciated Matt O’ Leary’s performance as Marcus, at times it felt far too forced and over zealous which definitely broke the immersion at a couple of key points.

The largely functional but disappointingly unimpressive and uninspired technical aspects of Fat Kid Rules the World sadly sealed its fate as little more than your average coming-of-age movie. I just wish movies like this weren’t afraid to show off a little bit of individual and innovative technical/visual style; it’s the only sure fire way to set their selves a way from the pack and avoid being stale and easily forgettable pictures.

Final Grade: C-

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap: “And Now His Watch Has Ended”

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Game of Thrones has become an addiction that I, and many others, just cannot seem to kick, nor would any of us want to do so. Monday morning’s have become the highlight of my week simply because I get the chance to unwind and watch the intricacies and action unfold in this fantasy drama that is nothing short of truly spectacular programming. Last week’s installment The Walk of Punishment set its focus on essential plot pushing and admittedly far less essential, but certainly not unappreciated, comedy elements that went a long way in pleasing some fans (myself included), and frustrating others who grow ever irritated by the slow start to the third season. Jamie’s shock hand amputation at the end of the last episode inferred a change of pace to come; did And Now His Watch Has Ended bring desperately needed action to the table?

Warning Spoilers Ahead!

That much awaited notch up in the pace has arrived. Daenerys venture in the slaver city of Astapor was greeted with a brief showing, but I will be damned if it wasn’t a moment of complete euphoria. The tension in this scene – delivered through a combination of Emilia Clarke’s outstanding performance and brilliant sequencing work – was completely off the charts. When The Dragon Queen spoke in the tongue of High Valyria I was grinning like a complete idiot in sheer amazement at just how perfectly this reveal and the sacking of Astapor was translated from the books by the evidently very talented Game of Thrones production team. Dany’s sacking of Astapor now holds the unrivaled title as my favourite TV moment. So Daenerys has seized her army of 8000 Unsullied soldiers but a question remains, where will she be taking them?

vlcsnap-2013-04-22-18h46m32s103Daenerys black dragon Drogon going HAM in Astapor.

Beyond The Wall the Night’s Watch were determined to bring a shock of their own; dissension amongst their ranks lead to a violent divide amongst the men and the first death of a beloved character in season 3. Jeor “The Old Bear” Mormont’s death likely came as a terrible shock to those yet to read the books, which is an oddly positive testament, not only to the quality of the story and its endearing characters, but also to how crucial the shot pacing is in making these very dramatic moments come about as if in the blink of an eye. Thankfully the foul wildling Craster’s death softened the weight of the Jeor’s loss, frankly his inevitable demise was surprisingly drawn out and in my opinion could have happened last episode if it wasn’t for so many ‘filler’ scenes. It mustn’t go unsaid that I’m also really not warming to the acting of Luke Barnes who plays Rast, the brother who stabbed Mormont.

Rast’s complaints and anger at the Lord Commander’s choices concerning Craster, prior too his murder, felt far too over dramatized and broke the immersion at some pretty key moments in the story. On a more positive note, Dolorous Edd’s (Ben Crompton) witty remarks grow and grow by the episode, to a point where he now has a highly deserved major role in the story of the Night’s Watch, that may come to an abrupt end if the situation at Craster’s Keep takes a further turn for the worse.

Heading south to the expanse of The North, shit hit the fan for the infamous Theon Greyjoy as his ‘rescuer’ was revealed to be one with his enemy, the shroud around his identity lifting not an inch. Theon is a widely detested character, there is no doubt about it, but it is impossible to not feel sympathy for the man considering the mess of a situation he is in. Alfie Allen pulled off Theon’s depressing monologue – concerning his struggles with fitting into the Stark family which he saw as his own, and his total remorse for the sacking and burning of Winterfell – with the exact heart-string-tugging perfection that it required. I honestly cannot praise Allen enough, he has never once failed to astound me in his performances as Theon, and I see no signs of that changing soon.

vlcsnap-2013-04-22-17h20m27s168Dolorous Edd: ‘I never knew Bannen could smell so good.’

Heading to the Middle Earth of the Riverlands, we finally received an eagerly anticipated introduction to Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), the leader of  “The Brotherhood Without Banners” that Arya and Gendry acquainted their selves with. Dormer was a sublime choice from the casting director to play the role of Dondarrion, he flawlessly emitted the same calm, strength and an arguably awry sense of justice that I took away from the characters introduction in A Storm of Swords. The references and signposting inferences in Beric’s dialogue toward his belief in the Red God – who’s power has literally served to revive him on multiple occasions – was a very welcome touch to the scene, providing an ever so slight degree of fan service to the book readers amongst us.

Over at King’s Landing the Tyrell’s further pursued their ever almost attained goals, much to the distaste of one Lannister in particular. The brilliantly witty Olenna Tyrell popped back onto screen this week, cleverly planting seeds of irritation in Cersei’s head regarding her takings from her father Tywin’s grand legacy, whilst also conversing with Varys on the matter of Sansa’s future that looks set to involve a marriage between her and the Knight of Flowers and heir to Highgarden, Loras Tyrell. The intricacies in Charles Dance’s acting as Tywin during his character’s conversation with Cersei on the matter of the Tyrell problem that she has found herself wholly convinced of, following her stint with Joffrey at Baelor’s Sept, lead me to believe that he currently knows a lot more about the Tyrell’s than he is readily willing to give away for the time being.

vlcsnap-2013-04-22-10h17m15s217Richard Dormer making his debut as Beric Dondarrion.

The set for the Great Sept of Baelor was genuinely mesmerizing, props to the production design team that really went to town on creating such an authentic atmosphere. On the subject of the Sept, Margaery further demonstrated her uncanny ability to appease Joffrey’s monstrous side and then take total control of his sometimes untamed, sadistic whims, miraculously getting some positive nature out of the boy through encouraging him to wave to crowds waiting outside the Sept.

Lastly we go to our downtrodden, slowly receding amputee Jamie, and his partner in crime Brienne as they journeyed through a seemingly endless succession of forests. Jamie’s abysmal and frankly embarrassing attempt to rid himself of his captors – minus his stronger sword hand – made for a painfully saddening watch; it is a true wonder how George RR Martin and the screenwriting team changed this thoroughly despised character into a fan favourite, but I’m thoroughly impressed nonetheless. Jamie’s inability to explain to Brienne why he saved her from rape was very out of character, honestly I was expecting the sort of rude remark he would dish out to Robb Stark, but his silence said more than dialogue ever could. Jamie and Brienne edits will likely be popping up on your Tumblr feed as we speak.

Final Thoughts: “And Now His Watch Has Ended” had problems, although I left it unmentioned I though the continuation of the Podrick sex joke and the overall exchange between Varys and Ross was terribly cringe worthy, and I’m none too impressed with one or two of the casts acting efforts. In spite of those minor issues, this episode was only slightly short of total perfection, it definitely joins the contenders to be one of my all time favourite Game of Thrones episodes. If there is anything you would like to share regarding “And Now His Watch Has Ended”, by all means feel free to do so in the comment section below!

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap: “The Walk of Punishment”

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The third season of the now legendary HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones has gotten off to a spectacular, albeit slow start that has begun to slightly divide opinions amongst fans of the brilliant show. The Walk of Punishment, although only the third entry into the series, perhaps needed to kick the pace up a notch to avoid alienating those viewers who have quickly grown tired of the world building and scene setting that takes up far more time in the book series. Could The Walk of Punishment deliver on much needed, new found action whilst retaining all the cunning and intrigue that makes Game of Thrones such an intelligent piece of programming?

Warning, Spoilers Throughout!

The highlight of The Walk of Punishment in my eyes was Podrick’s induction to manhood courtesy of Tyrion’s generosity and the shady service provided by Littlefinger, otherwise known to Bronn as “Lord Twat-beard”. Although the two scenes had no real relevance in helping to further push the story, they gave Podrick’s character a far greater, desperately needed depth in comparison to his book series counterpart, whilst allowing for some much appreciated banter between the frat like duo of Tyrion and Bronn. Dinklage and Flynn have an utterly uncanny chemistry that translates perfectly through their characters, generating some of the wittiest banter you will find on television.  Hopefully the great mystery of Podrick’s free tumble at the brothel will be unraveled in next weeks episode.

vlcsnap-2013-04-15-10h28m44s109Podrick getting probed for his secrets by Bronn and Tyrion.

Extra hilarity was found in the surprisingly revealing small council meeting scene when Cersei and Tyrion played their own version of musical chairs. In the very same council meeting Littlefinger’s assignment to woo and wed Lysa Tully -consequently bringing the armies of The Vale into the war on the Lannister side – was revealed. Unbeknownst to Tywin and the rest of the small council Littlefinger also has a promise to Sansa to set her free of Kings Landing, a trip to the Eyrie provides a very good opportunity for King’s Landing’s number one deviant to achieve both of his goals.

Moving from King’s Landing to the Riverlands, Arya’s road trip with The Brotherhood without Banners (BWB) took an unexpectedly depressing turn for the worse. Following Hot Pie’s demonstration of his mean bread baking skill he unveiled to Arya and Gendry he was going to take up the offer of working for the innkeeper, putting an end to his travels with the rag tag band.  The translation of the event from the book to the screen was outstanding; Hot Pie’s dialogue and gift of the bread wolf to Arya almost broke me, which was completely unexpected because it contrasted the ‘none of us really give a shit’ vibe that I took from the event in A Storm of Swords.
Props to Ben Hawkley and Masie Williams for their meticulous acting efforts.

vlcsnap-2013-04-15-10h20m13s144Bread baker and professional bullshitter Hot Pie parting ways.

Over at Riverrun two major members of the Tully household – Catelyn’s brother Edmure (Tobias Menzies) and her uncle Brynden the Blackfish (Clive Russell) – got their delayed introduction. Edmure’s folly at his father Hoster’s funeral, and the chastising he took from Robb (who has finally flaunted his fierce leadership skills) successfully portrayed his complete ineptitude at doing anything that requires the slightest bit of competence. On the other hand we had the Blackfish, who in overcoming the issue with his short time on screen, fully came across as the absolute boss he is portrayed to be in the books. Clive Russell deserves a lot of the praise for making that happen, without any dialogue given to him in the funeral scene he still managed to come across as a bad ass on his actions alone.

That said the screenwriters Benioff & Weiss penned some brilliant lines that really developed the character, including this particular line that sprang to mind: “It often comforts me to think that even in war’s darkest days, in most parts of the world, absolutely nothing is happening.” Unfortunately far less can be said of other pieces of dialogue in the episode. Stannis and Melisandre’s brief exchange left me pretty disgusted with how creepy and out of character Stannis’s behavior was. There is no way Stannis the Mannis would grovel away so desperately, his character’s concern with honorability is far too established for the thought to even cross his mind.

vlcsnap-2013-04-15-10h23m09s59Missandei alongside her new master, Daenerys Stormborn.

Jamie & Brienne’s capture yielded the grandest dramatics in The Walk of Punishment. Brienne’s misfortune of being a female captive meant that she was almost certainly going to be raped by the captors from House Bolton, a startling moment of compassion and vague wit from Jamie saved her from molestation and murder, albeit this compassion unfortunately landed him in a hefty amount of shit. Locke wasn’t going to bow down to the looming threat of Jamie’s feared father Tywin, to make his feelings clear he made quick work of chopping off Jamie’s sword hand which I’m certain came as a jugular surprise to those yet to read the books. Having no sword hand presents a lot of problems for a man almost solely revered because of his swordsmanship, therefore positive character development is the obvious next stage for the leader of the Kings guard. I can see Jamie quickly rising to the place of fan favourite in episodes to come.

Daenerys and The Night’s Watch both look dead set on starting some serious shit that unfortunately wasn’t given the chance to unfold this week. Daenerys came to a decision that in order to secure the unsullied she would have to trade the black dragon Drogon with the slavers. Initially this will have seemed like a real ‘wtf are you doing’ level of decision making, then it clicks in, how do you chain and enslave a dragon with a free will and the abilities to fly and breath fire? Daenerys has a nasty surprise cooking for the slavers of Astapor that’s for certain. Meanwhile beyond The Wall, The Night’s Watch made their return to the vile wildling Craster’s Keep. Hostility and tension have raised in place of the mannerisms and courtesies they demonstrated during their first visit. These hostilities look certain to bring imminent acts of violence that could divide The Watch, which is something they could do without considering the now ever present threat of the wildling army.

Final Thoughts: Unfortunately those fans irritated by the seasons slow start will likely be in little better a mood following The Walk of Punishment as it was another episode dedicated to building up the tension for later events in the plot to unfold. In spite of this fact I truly loved The Walk of Punishment and I think to criticize it for contributing to the seasons ‘slow’ start is to be a little unappreciative of just how perfect the plot developments, political intrigue and humor were in this installment. If you disagree with me or would otherwise like to share your thoughts on the newest episode, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

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