Tag Archives: Review

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

vlcsnap-2013-04-29-10h40m59s9

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+

1 Comment

Filed under Review, TV

Review: Fat Kid Rules the World

fat-kid-rules-the-world-banner

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-

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Review

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

vlcsnap-2013-04-22-10h14m41s184

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, TV

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

vlcsnap-2013-04-15-10h18m16s202

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!

2 Comments

Filed under Review, TV

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.

game-of-thrones

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, TV

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?

game-of-thrones-1280x720_wallpaper

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.

vlcsnap-2013-04-08-00h01m26s134

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, TV

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!

fault-in-our-stars-e1361339568978

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Review