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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Quick Look: The Kings of Summer Preview

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What is The King’s of Summer all about?

The King’s of Summer is a quirky, seemingly low budget, coming-of-age title that deals with the story of three teenage guys Patrick (Gabriel Basso), Joe (Nick Robinson) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) who take it upon their selves to build a fully fledged house in the woods during their summer, to avoid the ever annoying presence of their parents authority. Living off the land and fending for their selves out in the wild of course proves be a far trickier task than the boys had ever come to expect, this leads to some tough tests on their friendships and harsh realizations on the importance of family. The Kings of Summer’s unique and charming flair – that I suppose you could compare to a Wes Anderson movie if you really wanted too – coupled with its coming-of-age style story that I have a particular soft spot for, leaves my interests in this movie at a peak.

Who’s in it, and what have they done before?

Nick Offerman, who you may have noticed in the trailer still below, plays the role of lead character Joe Toy’s suburban father, Frank Toy. Offerman’s has notably starred in the popular TV comedy Parks & Recreation and last year’s brilliant big screen cop comedy 21 Jump Street. Nick Robinson (Joe Toy) has very little in the way of major screen time to his name, if you ever saw the movie adaptation of the Goodnight, Mister Tom (which was the subject of my primary school English classes) he was the WWII evacuee Willie Beech.

Gabriel Basso, who plays Patrick (Joe’s ginger friend), will be recognized by some of you following his performance in the well received Sci-Fi Super 8 in 2011. Moises Arias (Biaggio) voice acted the character Spiller in the anime The Secret World of Arrietty, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes mention little else aside from a couple of Hannah Montana films so it could be interesting to see how the young actor fares in The Kings of Summer.

How has the critical perception been so far?

The King’s of Summer’s premiere at the illustrious Sundance Film Festival churned out what looks to be wholly positive reviews from the press. The Rotten Tomatoes page references 8 ‘fresh’ reviews giving the movie a fantastic 100% positive reception from the small crowd. One review overview on the page that particularly grabbed my attention came from Erik Childress from Film Threat, who made this remark on the movie: ‘Toy’s House is what Moonrise Kingdom might have been like if the director’s played-out style and monotone quirkiness had not interfered with its similar tale.’ Moonrise Kingdom left me disappointed for the same reason and it is a shame considering all of the potential the film had. Thankfully, if Childress is to be trusted, that sorely missed potential is set to be pounced upon by The Kings of Summer.

When will The Kings of Summer be released?

The current North American debut is rumored to be May 31st, this rumor sounds about right to me, considering the movies title I wouldn’t expect it to come any later than August in cinema’s worldwide.

Official Site    IMDB

If you wish to leave any thoughts on The Kings of Summer, by all means feel free to leave them 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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Game Of Thrones Season 3 Review: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”

Valar Dohaeris introduced what may arguably be Game of Thrones most important season to date in tremendous fashion, slowly but surely reintroducing and building new plot lines following Season 2, whilst still slipping in the iconic moments of intrigue here and there. Dark Wings, Dark Words aimed to refresh the stories of those sorely missed in the opening episode; Bran’s escape from Winterfell, Arya and Co’s journey to the Tully seat of Riverrun and Brienne’s quest to return Jamie Lannister the Kingslayer to King’s Landing looked set to take the forefront of the season’s second installment. Keeping the audiences gripped, especially in the early episodes of a season, is an undeniably crucial task for any TV series; Game Of Thrones looked set to achieve this aim following Valar Dohaeris. Dark Wings, Dark Words fortunately didn’t fall short of the examples set by its predecessor, in fact it surpassed those examples.

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The production quality of Game of Thrones – as with all HBO programming – is simply uncanny, especially when it comes down to the production design and cinematography. Dark Wings, Dark Words made this very evident on two occasions; the establishing shots and stunning greenery of the location in Bran’s three-eyed-crow dream were totally awe-inspiring for one. Much the same can be said of the Tyrell garden scene’s set where Sansa, Margaery and the newly introduced Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) , had a very intriguing discussion over cheese and lemon cakes.

Olenna and Margaery’s inquiry to Sansa as to whether or not the boy King Joffrey truly was the monster they had heard rumors about made it crystal clear that the Tyrell family are not content with naivety, and that they fully intend to play the Game of Thrones with the sole intention of winning. Plot intrigue aside Diana Rigg’s was a perfect casting choice for Olenna, she delivered her lines with the suitable wittiness and loveable condescension that totally matched the book character; I can definitely see Olenna quickly becoming a fan favourite. Sophie Turner was equally impressive, flawlessly depicting how petrified and reluctant Sansa was to talk of Joffrey’s cruelty in fear of punishment in such a way that it even unnerved me to hear her talk of it.

vlcsnap-2013-04-08-10h34m17s219Dianna Riggs as Olenna Tyrell, The Queen of Thorns.

Margaery again demonstrated a real knack for dealing with some of the trickiest people, and the trickiest situations. In the scene with Joffrey and his beloved crossbow, Margaery somehow managed to achieve the impossible by defusing Joffrey’s anger at her for associating with the traitor Renly Baratheon, which was in no way a simple task. Natalie Dormer impressed me in this scene. She showed that in spite of her character Margaery having a deft hand for court manipulation she could still come close to cracking under pressure through the use of brilliantly subtle facial expressions and momentary stammering. The ‘Oh shit’ look on her face when Joffrey revealed he would make homosexuality punishable by death was priceless, and it also showed just how close and concerned the Tyrells are for one another.

 Their tight knit family harshly contradicted the state of the Lannister household. Cersei is losing her handle on Joffrey week by week as the King slowly becomes more and more of an independent thinker. Joffrey’s dismissals of his mother appear to be another example of masterful foreshadowing from the Game of Thrones Screenwriters. I’m interested to see the imminent trouble that could unfold in Kings Landing with all the rising tension. When putting your hatred for Joffrey aside it is hard not to recognize how well Jack Gleeson performs the role, maintaining the asshole persona flawlessly in spite of his characters better developments.

vlcsnap-2013-04-08-12h10m05s122Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera’s (Ellie Kendrick) first appearance.

Further North we saw Isaac Wright return to our screens as Bran encounters the surprisingly nimble Reed duo. The pair appear to have been sent by their elusive father Howland Reed to both guide and protect Bran. Jojen is focused on the task of helping Bran control and enhance his magical abilities whilst Meera serves to merely provide protection to the rag tag band. Although Thomas Sangster’s screen time was unfortunately brief in this installment the role of Jojen seems to fit him like a glove, he captured the boys friendliness and vague cockiness with sublime accuracy without the over exaggeration that is often apparent in young actors performances.

However I found it hard to judge Ellie Kendrick’s performance as Meera this week because it appears the shows scripting has altered her characteristics from the book, but it is too early to be totally sure of this, so for now Kendrick gets my benefit of a doubt as she was pretty bad ass.

Theon’s torture was given an early inclusion into the series in Dark Wings, Dark Words, which was a wise deviation to make from the books considering the issues that could’ve arisen with Alfie Allen’s contract in his absence. The allegiances and identity of his captor are surprisingly unknown to me because I can’t be entirely certain that deviations aren’t being made from A Feast For Crows. Although I have strong suspicions as to who it may be there is still a very welcome mystery lingering over the situation which is making the gradual unveiling far more interesting than I anticipated it to be; props to the screenwriter Vanessa Taylor for making it so.

Beyond The Wall the Night’s Watch and the band of Wildling’s each got very momentary showings, in spite of this one of the groups showings proved to be quite enticing. Jon Snow greeted us to the fantasy powers of the skinchanger this week through his introduction to the Wildling raider Orell (Mackenzie Crook). Skinchanger’s have the ability to take control of animals minds and bodies, an initially subtle connection inferred by a superb use of cross cutting between Orell and his Hawk, which he used to scout the massacred Night’s Watch at the Fist of the First Men that are undoubtedly going to be visited by the Wildling party in a few episodes time. Was their perhaps foreshadowing of Jon Snow being able to warg into Ghost in the future, like Bran does with Summer?

vlcsnap-2013-04-08-13h21m23s76Mackenzie Crook playing the Wildling Orell mid-skinchanging.

Unfortunately the Night’s Watch feature felt very lackluster this week. Samwell’s pitiable behavior has begun to wear on me a tad, and is proving to irritate me more than evoke any of my empathy. That said I still feel this is for good overall effect; male character’s in fantasy fiction are often portrayed as increasingly stale run-of-the-mill hero’s. Samwell Tarly wholly contrasts this character archetype which makes him one of the more interesting characters for a majority of the time, regardless of how infuriating he may be at moments.

Final Thoughts: Dark Wings, Dark Words was a thoroughly entertaining addition to the new season that demonstrated the Game of Thrones team, from the editors to the directors, are a wildly talented bunch in spite of nothing more than a few hiccups here and there. If you have any thoughts to add on this episode or perhaps disagree with me, let your opinions be heard in the comment section below!

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New Trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby; More Slo-Mo Shouting!

Baz Luhrmann’s big screen adaptation of the cult classic novel The Great Gatsby has an almost unrivaled potential to be the greatest film to hit cinemas in 2013 simply because of the sheer weight of the totally enthralling and captivating story that it already has behind it; with the release of the third and final trailer I can safely say I have never anticipated a movie so eagerly in my lifetime.

The third trailer unveiled some fantastically dramatic new musical numbers from the likes of Jay Z, Beyoncé and Florence + The Machine that will no doubt serve to enhance the flamboyant style I suspect Luhrmann intends for the flick if his previous titles Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet are anything to go by. A wealth of shots showed off the utterly stunning sets of both Jay Gatsby and the Buchanan’s glorious mansions, there were also glimpses of some very impressive special effects, the most notable of which being the visual effects used to create the brilliant sight of The Manhattan Bridge.

It wouldn’t have been a true The Great Gatsby trailer if it wasn’t crammed with those goose-bump inducing clips of Gatsby’s famous parties and Slo-Mo close ups of various members of the cast letting out their anger; finally we got to see Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) have a good old scream at the perpetually infuriating racist Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), and more surprisingly we were treated to a couple shots of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) getting carried away (apologies) for one reason or another.

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Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Jay Gatsby

It’s reassuring to see that Baz Luhrmann has clearly utilized his talent for extravagance to perfectly portray that magnificent 1920’s style that’s so crucial to making a successful on screen adaptation of the novel. Whether or not the movies plot will do justice and stay faithful to the iconic book remains to be seen, but with the absolutely stellar casting choices that have been made I’m placing all my faith in this summer blockbuster. The Great Gatsby will be released in cinemas on May 10th, and the aforementioned visuals will make it almost essential to check this movie out at an IMAX 2D screening if your local cinema gives you the option.

Have any thoughts on The Great Gatsby? Leave them in the comment section below!

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Game of Thrones Season 3 Review: “Valar Dohaeris”

The nearly 365 day wait for Game of Thrones season 3 has been a truly agonizing one. I blasted through the entire book series just to tide myself over but that only covered my unsettling addiction for a meager two months, since then my anticipation for season 3 has been outrageous. Albeit one concern I had with season 3 was that it wouldn’t live up to the ridiculous expectations I had laid at its feet. However Executive producers and directors David Benioff & D.B.Weiss’s sublime talents, which were exhibited in seasons 1 & 2 of the epic fantasy/drama, near enough put this concern to rest in spite of a couple of questionable deviations fmade from A Clash of Kings in season two, in regards to the situations at Harrenhall and Winterfell.  Valar Dohaeris kicked off season 3, introducing us to a handful of the new cast members and sub plots whilst also continuing on those left unfinished from the last series; would Valar Dohaeris mark a seamless return to form, or did it surface new found problems?

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Valar Dohaeris opened the gates with an unfortunately brief continuation of the Night’s Watches sub plot following the sadly un-shown battle at The Fist of the First Men where-in the survivors of the attack, with Samwell Tarly and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont amongst them, are marching back to wall following the defeat. Here the first minor deviation from the books occurs, Samwell is scolded for failing to send the ravens with message of the attack to the wall because it was his only task and a crucial one at that. I think deciding to make this deviation from the original text was wise because it reinforced Samwell’s sheer incapability when put under any pressure, showing that Samwell has yet to truly transform into a man of the Night’s Watch. The tension building in this scene through incredible camera work and sequencing from the editing crew masterfully took complete hold of my attention, a praise that strictly can’t be said for many other TV drama’s out there. Jon Snow’s induction to ranks of wildlings led by the ex-crow Mance Rayder was the next key scene on the cards. This scene certainly felt far less brief than the last, and introduced us to the immaculately detailed and fearsome CGI Giants, the equally fierce Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and the aforementioned wildling leader Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds). Although their limited screen time makes it hard to call whether Hivju and Hinds have wholly grasped their respective characters, last nights performances entrusted me with confidence in the pair; both have the appearance, dialogue delivery, body language and attitudes that near perfectly reflect how the books led me to imagine them, leading me to believe the two of them have done their homework on the roles.

Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) and Charles Dance (Tywin) undoubtedly stole the show last night with their visceral back and fourth in the Tower of the Hand. Charles Dance and sterling scripting flawlessly encapsulated Tywin’s belligerent disgust of his son Tyrion, who showed monolithic restraint and exasperation thanks to the superb subtleties in Dinklage’s acting, as Tywin denounces the imp’s claim to the Lannister seat of Casterly Rock and chastises him for killing his mother on birth and bringing the whore Shae to the capital. A wealth of intrigue was uncovered at Kings Landing in Valar Dohaeris; Cersei’s paranoia began to spill through the cracks as she came to realize that the elegant Margaery Tyrell knocked her off the top of King Landing’s hottest 100 list and also managed to steal the hearts of the poor through honorable charity work, sparking the beginning of a power play between the two women that will surely spawn some brilliant scenes much like the Tyrell/Lannister dinner we saw this week. The mischievous mastermind Petyr Baelish had his moment in the spotlight as he is seen further discussing with Sansa his intentions to remove her from the capital and lead her to safety, amidst the exchange the sidelined servants Ros and Shae strike up a conversation of their own where-in Ros dishes out some subtle foreshadowing, momentarily warning the Essosian hand maiden of the danger Petyr presents to Sansa. It’s often the small moments like these in Game of Thrones that shape it into such an intelligent, refreshing and gripping example of a modern TV drama done right.

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Across the Narrow Sea the Dragon Queen Daenerys had a slew of troubles lobbed her way in the slaver city of Astapor, the hilariously condescending and crude unsullied master who churned out some of the best dialogue in the episode, turned out to be least of those problems. The Warlocks have clearly not forgotten the defiance Daenerys showed them at the House of the Undying, provoking one of the younger members of their ranks to make a narrowly unsuccessful attempt on her life, a chance denied by the sudden yet triumphant return of the legendary Ser Barristan Selmy which was accompanied by one of the series wonderful trademark orchestral tracks that always raise goosebumps without falter.

On a more critical note Robb Stark’s venture to Harrenhall and meeting with Qyburn deviated from the events in A Storm of Swords to an extent that formed discomfort in my mind and left me pondering the daring scale of any other changes that may be made in the latter half of the series. On the other hand Jamie, Brienne, Arya and Bran’s no show in Valar Dohaeris was a decent plot decision as their inclusion would have left show watchers with an unmanageable amount of information to take in and would have likely had a negative impact on the other story lines showcased this week.

Final Thoughts: Valar Dohaeris was a magnificent start to the third season of this totally unrivaled fantasy/drama series, implementing emotionally and mentally involving plot lines that are captured with creative technical prowess from everyone on the production team which  has left me with a strong faith in the episodes to come. Leave any thoughts on Valar Dohaeris or any anticipation for the rest of the series in the comment section below!

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Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars (released January 10th 2012) is author John Green’s fifth addition to his acclaimed line of young adult novels; much like his previous works young love is a major theme in The Fault in Our Stars, this time around the love is shared between two young Cancer survivors. Seventeen year old, lung cancer sort-of-survivor Hazel Grace is the novels narrative voice, detailing how living with Cancer sculpted her personality as it dealt out some of the worst, and surprisingly best experiences of her life time such as when she bumps into the one legged charmer Augustus Waters at a Cancer kid support group. Although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed John Green’s previous works I was hesitant to believe this would be of a similar quality, because as Hazel Grace so delicately puts it ‘Cancer books suck.’ While this isn’t always the case, it is safe to say a fair amount of Cancer books do fall into this terribly sucky category due to their corny predictability and somewhat unrealistic representations of cancer sufferers; would The Fault in Our Stars add to the pile of literary casualties or strive through the clichés it so frequently mocked?

Warning: Spoilers Throughout!

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The Fault in Our Stars unmistakably achieves the latter. Hazel-Grace’s tale dispenses with the sappy emotional baiting and misrepresentation to accommodate for harsh realities, accurate representations and above all a love story that feels refreshingly alive. I quickly found myself getting emotionally invested into the lives of the novel’s sublime characters, and much to my surprise it wasn’t just the polar opposites of happiness and sadness that were drawn from their stories. On Hazel and Augustus’s long awaited first meeting with their favourite author, the belligerently pretentious alcoholic Peter Van Houten, I found myself positively infuriated by his callous behavior to a point where I actually felt the fist clenching tension I can only imagine Augustus’s character would have felt. Green also managed to set aside the space for some unexpected, yet welcome humor that did a brilliant job of not only providing entertainment but also humanizing Hazel, Augustus and Isaac’s characters through their often witty and self-mocking line deliveries. However on a few occasions the intended comedy felt  frankly cringe worthy, for instance when Isaac describes Augustus as ‘The Mayor of Cancervania’ in his eulogy I felt the emotional weight was torn out of the eulogies latter parts.

Another related criticism I would make of  The Fault in Our Stars is that Augustus Waters death had next to no emotional impact on me because I feel it was simply too easily anticipated. The short, sharp plot pacing in the chapters before Augustus kicked the bucket were clearly intended to build a sort of ‘surely he wont die’ tension in the reader’s head, but it had a totally reverse effect on me that ended up making the supposedly tear jerking and sudden death of Augustus nothing more than a wholly disappointing and anti climactic experience.  Thankfully the chapters proceeding Gus’s death were incredibly satisfying to read, providing the two greatest highlights of the novel including Hazel’s bad-ass ‘go fuck yourself’ speech to the pest Van Houten as he fails to redeem himself, and the contents of Augustus’s final letter to the author.

It is this passionate final letter that reveals John Green’s challenging opinions on how we perceive the idea of being successful and whether or not leaving a grand legacy is a wholly negative and selfish thing to do. Through the clever metaphor of a scar, Augustus criticizes his own selfish ambition to leave behind a world of people that would miss him for the sake of his reputation after his death and praises Hazel’s determination to leave behind as small a scar on the world as she possibly can, finally going on to say ‘you have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.’ John Green demonstrates for a fifth time his thoroughly outstanding ability to inspire readers into contemplating the veracity of their base ideals.

Final Thoughts: Despite the issues of what I feel to be poor plot pacing and snippets of questionable humor, The Fault in Our Stars is an involving and thought provoking roller coaster of a novel that will have any reader thoroughly engrossed in the superb story it has to tell with its encapsulating realism and endearing characters. If you have any thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars feel free to leave them in the comment section below!

Grade: B

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