View Post

Days Gone

Game, Gaming, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

When talking about Days Gone, it’s probably wise to address what the PS4 exclusive title isn’t, as much as discussing what it is. Days Gone isn’t another masterpiece from Sony, following in the staggeringly good run of Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man. This is a title with numerous problems and shortcomings, both technical and conceptual, and is destined to be treated like the red-headed stepchild of the PS4. All that being said, Days Gone is still pretty damn fine, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper into its somewhat rough charms.

Days Gone takes place in an open world largely destroyed by a fast zombie (or “freaker”) apocalypse that began a couple of years earlier. In that bitey beano, outlaw biker Deacon St. John lost his missus and now does odd jobs for various communities in Oregon. Deacon and his bestie, Boozer, keep talking about heading “up north” and Deek keeps trying to find out more about his wife’s demise, all the while fighting freakers and crazy humans. It’s an elegant premise, and a pretty convincing world, that you inhabit. After an initial bit of business Deek’s bike is trashed and he’s forced to use a gas-guzzling hunk of junk that you’ll do your best to improve as you engage in missions, main and side, plus other generic open world activities.

What Days Gone does best is its main story. The characters are well realised, if not always terribly original, and the freakers are legitimately scary, particularly when they form enormous, 200+ strong hordes. Moving from camp to camp, chatting with the leaders of each one, and finding out the philosophies that exist in a post-collapse America is engaging and interesting, and once you get used to the clunky controls, there’s fun to be had just tootling around getting into trouble. Less successful is the more time-wasting side content like bounties, which often aren’t worth the fuel you’ll waste – because, damn, you’ll be spending a lot of time refilling your crappy bike.

On the very downside, Days Gone is still – after a bunch of patches – beset by bugs of the visual, audio and frame rate variety. It never attains Fallout 76 levels of wretchedness, but it’s strange to see in a big budget AAA game, and for some folks that will be a hard pass.

However, if you rather like exploring the bones of a dying civilisation, and if you’re still engaged by zombies and apocalyptic cultists, then Days Gone is at least worth a squiz. It’s no masterpiece, and could have used some judicious editing, but Days Gone is, at many times, a diamond in the (very) rough.

 
View Post

The Vanishing

Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

The dark and stormy weather that clouds Gerard Butler and fellow lightkeepers in Scottish psychological thriller The Vanishing, is as menacing as the inner turmoil that plagues them.

Tasked to operate a remote lighthouse that stands isolated amongst savage waters, three lightkeepers struggle to maintain their sanity when they come into possession of a mysterious wooden chest.

The contents and manner in which the chest is received proves burdensome for the lightkeepers – offering a promise of escape from their hardships while also placing a target on their backs. The Vanishing builds to Shakespearean levels of storytelling, with the weight of the lightkeepers’ internal dilemma attacking at them like violent waves against a cliff-face.

Butler detours out of his action-flick comfort zone to deliver a career-best performance as the muscle of the lighthouse operation – a caring family man whose descent into madness channels something primal. Accompanying him are a grief-stricken superior (a sombre Peter Mullan) and recruit Donald (Connor Swindells). All three actors offer a different dynamic amongst the chaos, which keeps The Vanishing enthralling and tense throughout its duration.

The Vanishing is bolstered by considered direction from Kristoffer Nyholm, who is successful in maintaining a brooding atmosphere in every frame. There is a sense of poetry embodied in the screenplay, with the lightkeepers’ battle with darkness functioning on both a literal and figurative sense. This knack for being overly poetic feels more accustomed to stage, with several scenes involving Mullan reflecting on his grief coming across as excessive.

Serving as a cautionary tale on the fragility of spirit and how close the human psyche teeters on moral corruption, The Vanishing is a well-acted and captivating psychological thriller undersold by marketing that positions it as a Shutter Island lookalike.

 
View Post

Game of Thrones, Season 8 Episode 5: The Bells

Home, Review, Streaming, Television, This Week 6 Comments

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. Come on, you know how this works]

Game of Thrones’ penultimate episode ever, “The Bells”, is a perfect encapsulation of everything good and everything bad about the show. It manages to attain gripping, edge-of-your-seat tension and laughable, forehead-slapping stupidity in a propulsive 78-minute package. It’s the kind of episode people will remember for years, citing the pros and the cons, and will likely end up on numerous “best of” and “worst of” lists, with shouty people on the internet seemingly leaning towards the latter with frankly alarming zeal.

But before we dig deeper, let’s recap this bad boy and see what all the fuss is about.

We open in Dragonstone with Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) writing a note to send via Adorable Child Post. Said note is regarding Jon Snow’s rightful place on the Iron Throne. The sad music and somber tone of this scene suggests that this was not Varys’ smartest play. Continuing his stubborn resistance towards “smart things”, he then tries to convince Jon Snow that his missus may, in fact, be a little bit cray. Jon doesn’t want a bar of it and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) watches from afar, having a good old frown.

Tyrion then takes it upon himself to pay a mourning Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) a visit, informing her that she is being betrayed by Varys. This bit of dibber dobbing is a harsh pill to swallow and Tyrion tries to sweeten it by suggesting Varys’ heart, like all of their hearts, was in the right place. This goes down about as well as you might expect.

Nek minute, Varys is arrested by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and taken to the beach where Dany, Jon and Tyrion stand around with faces like smacked bums. Tyrion tells Varys that it was he who sold him out, and with a final moment of dignity, Varys tells Tyrion he “hopes [he’s] wrong… goodbye old friend.” Then Dany summons Drogon and fries one of the show’s best characters like a pork chop on a barbie. Goodbye, Varys, more characters should have listened to you, mate.

Dany has a bit of a debrief with Grey Worm, and she gives him Missandei’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) only possession, her old slave collar. Grey Worm burns the gift in the fire and leaves when Jon arrives. Dany grills Jon (verbally, unlike Varys) and wants to feel out his loyalty; she claims she wants more from Westeros than fear. She goes in for a pash but Jon is clearly not feeling frisky – on account of his ambivalence about aunty-fucking, no doubt – and Dany mutters, “alright then, let it be fear.”

Tyrion has one final crack at making Dany see reason, but she’s pretty intent on turning King’s Landing into a smouldering ruin. Tyrion makes one last play, begging her that if the city surrenders and rings its bells, will she then not kill everyone? Dany rather huffily agrees and as Tyrion goes to leave, offhandedly mentions that she has pinged Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) trying to sneak back home. That’s Tyrion’s final warning, she tells him.

Preparations for battle begin in earnest. At King’s Landing, we see scores of innocent people moving into the “safety” of the Red Keep. From there, we cut back to Tyrion asking a favour of Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), and it’s a biggie. Nearby, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Sandor Clegane aka The Hound (Rory McCann) bullshit their way past some guards and head to where the action is. Tyrion springs Jaime from his makeshift jail and we have the episode’s most moving and well-observed tender moment between the pair. Tyrion thanks Jaime for never treating him like a monster and they embrace and it’s sweet and- oh shit, Jaime’s defo gunna die, isn’t he?

In the light of day, everyone prepares for battle. Including Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), Tyrion, Jon, Cersei and everyone else. Cersei, in particular, smirks like the cat who got the cream and we have to wonder what her secret plan is. Downstairs, an adorable moppet and her mum are stuck outside the walls because Arya and The Hound pushed in. Yet again, the little people suffer because of the whims of the powerful, a classic recurring GoT theme.

The battle kicks off with Dany riding Drogon in a vertical attack pattern against Euron’s fleet. Apparently, Euron has run out of the magic arrows from last week because he gets absolutely fucked on, with Dany burning his boats and men from bonce to ballbag. Dany continues the wave of mutilation against the scorpions perched on the walls of King’s Landing with similar results. She’s the firestarter, twisted firestarter.

Outside the walls, the Golden Company led by Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann) get ready to show off the moves we’ve been waiting to see since they were first introduced. Wow, this is going to be good, what sort of epic- wait, no, Dany just bursts through the city’s walls and the whole company get wrecked by the Dothraki riders. Huh, you uh… kinda sucked, Harry.

Cersei, still watching from on high, loses about 34% of her smirk and continues to do nothing.

Jon and Grey Worm and crew, head in to face a group of very dispirited looking Lannister forces. Tension rises as we’re about to see a nasty battle but, sensing the reversal of fortune, the Lannister troops drop their weapons and surrender. Sanity has prevailed and a new dawn will rise. The bells ring out, a sound of hope, which causes Cersei’s smirk to vanish completely and everyone else to be much happier. Everyone, that is, except Dany who apparently has not spilt enough blood yet, because she kickstarts Drogon and, in an effective albeit predictable sequence, starts to burn King’s Landing to ash, one screaming peasant at a time.

The battle resumes despite Jon’s attempt to calm everyone’s tits, and what follows is some of Game of Thrones’ most effective, albeit staggeringly bleak, sequences of innocent people caught up in the grisly machines of rich people’s wars.

Jaime, while attempting to sneak upstairs to see Cersei, is interrupted by Euron and the pair have a rather silly sword fight. At the same time Qyburn (Anton Lesser), accompanied by The Mountain (Ian Whyte), tells Cersei they should really head off somewhere safer than the large building a dragon is currently burning. Cersei cries and agrees. This is literally the first thing she has done for this entire episode and… wow, okay.

The silly sword fights conclude with Jaime mortally wounded and Euron bleeding out, proud of the fact that he’s “the man who killed Jaime Lannister”. Which apparently means a lot to him, despite his guts hanging out. Weird flex, Euron, weird flex.

In the Red Keep, The Hound tells Arya she should probably leave because he’s about to die, one way or the other. Arya actually listens, realising revenge is no way to live, and scarpers. The Hound, meanwhile, finally confronts his brother on the stairs, killing all the adds and ready to fight the main boss. Qyburn tells the Mountain to protect the Queen and do as he’s told, so the big fella smashes his skull open and throws his body away like a sack of spuds. Cersei awkwardly scampers past the pair of them and Clegane Fight Night is about to begin!

Jaime finds Cersei and she cries a lot, and hugs Jaime. The pair of them will attempt to flee. Hound vs Mountain is a brutal battle, with The Mountain being super OP because no sword wound seems to hurt him particularly. This brutal blue is juxtaposed with an equally brutal sequence of Arya trying to escape King’s Landing, as the place literally falls to pieces. In the final moments of the brother battle, Sandor seems to realise that there’s only one way to win and tackles Gregor off the side of the building and the pair fall into a sea of seething fire. Farewell the brothers Clegane, you were both wonderful and horrible.

Jon rallies the troops to leave King’s Landing, and elsewhere Arya tries to help the mum and daughter we met earlier. It does not go well. Meanwhile, Jaime and Cersei’s escape plan is similarly stymied by the fact that the secret tunnel has been filled in. Cersei starts sobbing desperately (seriously, what’s happening with her this episode?!) and Jaime holds her close… as the pair of them are crushed by falling rubble. And… that’s a wrap on Cersei and Jaime, apparently. This is probably the episode’s weakest moment, sadly.

Arya has survived, the young mum and daughter have not. Arya mounts a friendly horse (a pale horse, in fact) and rides off into the distance and cue the end credits.

What a ride. A lot of extremely noisy people on the internet have decried Dany’s arc with this episode, but honestly that’s been on the boil for ages. While it might be sad and tragic, it was also inevitable, if a bit ham-fisted in its delivery. What really rankles about this episode is Cersei’s astonishingly passive reaction to everything. We’ve been building her up as the big bad for ages and she goes out like a scared child? It just seems like a waste. Sorry, Night King, you’ve just been surpassed as Most Underwhelming Villain Ending in GoT.

Having said that, the destruction of King’s Landing from a ground level perspective is the perfect Game of Thrones sequence, and shows how effective this program can be when it’s focusing on the right perspective. So now the tables are set for a final Starks vs Dany battle next week and while that will no doubt be entertaining it does feel a little rote and predictable.

It’s probably a little much to hope for a big surprise after eight seasons, but here’s hoping the GoT crew can deliver a few shocks. Like, say, THE RETURN OF SER POUNCE?! Okay, probably not. We’ll find out for sure in seven. See ya then.

 
View Post

Game of Thrones, Season 8 Episode 4: The Last of the Starks

Home, Review, Streaming, Television, This Week Leave a Comment

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

Can an episode of television be both a satisfying climax and an oddly empty anticlimax at the same time? It’s a paradox, or perhaps a Zen Koan for pop culture obsessives, but that’s how last week’s Game of Thrones feels, the big battle-orientated extravaganza known as “The Long Night”. Because, while it was as dark as advertised, it wasn’t all that long from any objective perspective, and at its conclusion we lost a potentially fascinating antagonist and his army of awesome looking ice zombies. Could this following episode, “The Last of the Starks” live up those lofty heights, now that only humans are left to squabble like the ghastly little monkeys we are? Well, the episode makes a decent, albeit not definitive, case for the affirmative but let’s revisit the concept after the recap.

The episode opens, appropriately enough, with the burning of the honoured dead. And there are a shitload of them! The heroic corpses have been all piled up, with Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) having a sook over the corpse of Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) cries over the body of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) grunts out a gruff speech about how everyone was pretty grouse, but now they’ve carked it, and it’s a bit of a kick in the tits (not his exact words). Then the bodies are burned and smoke fills the sky.

Later, at an increasingly hedonistic piss up, the survivors get on with their lives. Gendry (Joe Dempsie) really wants to find Arya (Maisie Williams), but balks at Sandor Glegane’s (Rory McCann) suggestion that it’s just for a root. The Hound reminds him that “of course it’s about that, you twat, the dead are dead. You’re not.” Well said, bro, well said. Gendry starts to head off when Dany stops him and makes him Lord of Storm’s End. This makes him, and everyone else very happy, and the party kicks off in earnest. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) admires Dany’s clever playing of the game of thrones.

The party gives rise to a number of interesting, well-observed character moments. Tyrion chats with Brandon Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) who claims to “not feel much of anything” and “mainly lives in the past”. Righto, Bran, thanks for the update. Hopefully you’ll actually do something before this bloody show finishes.

Later, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) starts playing drinking games with Ser Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Tyrion and Podrick (Daniel Portman) and boy, there seems to be a bit of frisson with Jaime and Brienne!

Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) gives an increasingly sloppy toast to Jon, and Dany seems to realise that the North loves its heroes but it will never love her. She leaves in a bit of a snit, and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) follows, sensing trouble brewing.

Tyrion somewhat cruelly outs Brienne as a virgin, which seems a very season one Tyrion move, and leaves after knocking Tormund back. Tormund begins to have a sook about losing his chance with the giant woman but swiftly scores a random groupie and perks right up. A different lady has a crack at The Hound but he doesn’t want a bar of it. He is, however, much more receptive to a visit from Sansa and the pair of them chat about old times. Sansa reckons her trials and tribulations transformed her from a “little bird” into the woman she is now, which is a fairly philosophical way to look at kidnapping, rape and attempted murder. But hey, go Sansa for finding that silver lining.

Gendry heads over to Arya and actually proposes, the big dumb galoot. Arya knocks him back in the gentlest way possible, but makes it clear that she “is no lady”.

Elsewhere, Jaime knocks upon Brienne’s door and after a bit of awkward flirting the pair hook up, launching no doubt endless fan fiction story prompts across the internet.

Jon and Dany have a heartbreaking scene where we see the ultimate way in which their natures are incompatible. Jon may not want the throne, but nor will he conceal his lineage from his family. Dany begs him to reconsider, because she is unwilling to brook even slight amounts of dissension to her rule. Blockheaded honesty and an unquenchable lust for power and control are not traits that gel well, and we get the feeling these two will be on opposite sides before this tale is through.

The next day, the gang plan the battle to come. Tyrion advises slow going but Dany has a lust for blood and wants the battle to commence quick-sticks. Sansa asks that the armies be given time to rest, but Dany won’t have it. Jon sides with her, but the tensions are palpable. Afterwards, in the Godswood, Jon tries to justify his missus to Sansa, Arya and Bran but the ladies are not fans. Jon, in a move that will no doubt set the final moments of this final season into action, asks Bran to tell them the truth of his lineage.

Tyrion and Jaime are shooting the shit about ladies (and “climbing mountains”) ,when Bronn (Jerome Flynn) lobs up and makes them an offer they can’t refuse. He won’t kill them with his fancy crossbow if they make him the Lord of Highgarden. Tyrion agrees, after copping a punch to the nose, and Bronn shuffles off. Hopefully that won’t be his final appearance, but he certainly doesn’t seem inclined to join any battle where dragons are involved.

The Hound is joined by Arya, and the pair of them ride to King’s Landing together, ready to settle their own private agendas. This is a bit of a limp moment in the episode, but no doubt it will pay off next week.

Tormund is buggering off up North and farewells Jon, who wants him to take Ghost. Pets are forever, not just a weekend, JON. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and preggers Gilly (Hannah Murray) bid Jon an emotional farewell and Ghost just sort of lurks in the background. Honestly, the show has never really known how to deal with the direwolves.

The fleet of the Unsullied sail towards Dragonstone with a dragon escort, and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) hold hands on the deck. Oh crikey, one of them is defo about to die, hey.

Tyrion and Varys, having being worded up on the Jon Snow secret, talk about options with Varys leaning towards Team Jon and Tyrion leaning towards Team I’d Prefer Not To Have to Kill Dany. Meanwhile, up in the sky, Dany flies along with surviving dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal and everything is fine until GIGANTIC ARROWS FLY FROM SEEMINGLY NOWHERE AND BLOODY EVISCERATE POOR BLOODY RHAEGAL! In a genuinely disturbing scene, Rhaegal dies horribly and sinks below the water. It’s fucken Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) swaggering onto the scene and mucking everything up. After killing one dragon, Dany attempts to swing down, but Euron’s fleet are equipped with dragon-killing giant crossbows. He also makes absolute mincemeat of the Unsullied ships, wrecking the boats and killing many.

At King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) tells Euron the bun in her oven is his, and then lets the castle fill with civilians so that when Dany attacks she’ll be forced to kill innocents. Boy, she is really leaning into this whole cartoony supervillain thing, huh? Oh also, she’s kidnapped Missandei, so that’s nice.

The next war room meeting is dicey, with Dany becoming increasingly focused on vicious plans of attack. Afterwards, Varys continues to suggest that Dany needs to meet a swift end and Tyrion is learning to love his wine once more.

Jaime buggers off like a thief in the knight, to either save or slice Cersei (it’s not entirely clear) and he leaves Brienne crying, because no matter how much she wants him to be a good man, he is just a man. And, actually, a bit of a shit one at times, to be honest.

The episode’s biggest moment comes outside the walls at King’s Landing. Cersei stands with Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) and captured Missandei. She also has numerous archers and crossbow peeps ready. Tyrion, standing ahead of Dany’s army, chats with Qyburn (Anton Lesser) about how, maybe, she could surrender and be totally chill. Unsurprisingly, Qyburn gives him very little so Tyrion makes the very risky move of begging Cersei directly. His speech appears to move her a little, but in the end Cersei goes full Cersei by getting The Mountain to decapitate Missandei; who at least makes her last word “Dracarys!” Dany’s facial expression speaks volumes and it looks like we’re about to see just how pissed off a mad Targaryen can be… next week!

“The Last of the Starks” feels, in a lot of ways, like several classic episodes of Game of Thrones smushed together. It’s light on action, but full of intrigue and menace, and is clearly building to what Dany optimistically calls “the final war”. And while it stills feels a little lacking in magic, both literally and figuratively, to have the Night King dispatched so quickly does set up what promises to be a visceral, cathartic and probably quite traumatic climax next week. It is a little table setty, to be frank, but having drunk Tyrion chatting with Varys is always welcome, and we can’t wait to see who triumphs in next week’s battle.

See you in seven days, when SER POUNCE WILL LAUNCH HIS SUPER SECRET PLAN (possibly).

 
View Post

Game of Thrones, Season 8 Episode 3: The Long Night

Home, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

Last week’s Game of Thrones, titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”, at times ran the risk of being all talk, no action. Well, that complaint certainly cannot be levelled at this week’s 82-minute extravaganza, and one of GoT’s most action-packed episodes ever.

Still, action isn’t everything – otherwise we’d be talking about Michael Bay the same way we do Stanley Kubrick – so did this much-anticipated episode deliver? Let’s loop back around to that after the recap.

The episode opens with Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), standing in Winterfell and trying very, very hard not to brown his daks in terror. We follow him for a while, as the living prepare for battle, and then swap over to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) who is frowning his frowniest frown.

Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) anxiously walks the battlements, while Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) stare into the baleful night. Dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal hoon over head, being ridden by Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) respectively. Everyone’s ready, everyone’s waiting and everyone’s squinting too, because bloody hell the colour grade’s a bit off in this episode and it’s hard to see a damn thing!

On the frontlines, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Ser Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) wait pensively, soon joined by Edd (Ben Crompton), Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). In other words, the gang’s all here and shit’s about to kick off.

Before the final order to charge is given, however, one final special guest star appears. It’s Melisandre (Carice van Houten), hater of clothes, burner of children. Davos defo wants to kill her on sight, something he promised to do last time they talked, but she uses her fiery powers to give the Dothraki burning weapons, which will be useful in battling the icy undead and lighting a celebratory durrie, no doubt. Melisandre tells Davos not to worry, she will in fact be dead by dawn. Crikey, Mel, spoilers, mate. Not cool.

The Dothraki pelt towards the approaching army of the dead, waving their burning weapons of wrath, but swiftly come a cropper thanks to the barely-glimpsed nasties that hide in the episode’s many shadows. Poor resolution claims yet more lives and the survivors flee back to the light, giving many of the warm-blooded serious cause for concern. The wave of the dead swallows the light and comes towards the living. It’s a heavy-handed metaphor, but nonetheless effective.

The dead charge, and the living do what they can. But it’s impossible to overstate how many of these bastards there are. All our heroes fight valiantly, but it’s a dirty, bloody business and we’ve only just begun. Dragons give a timely assist, burning legions of the armies of darkness, but it seems the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) and friends have weather-controlling powers, and have ordered up a brisk snowstorm to confuse the living, and further obfuscate the vision of the increasingly frustrated viewer.

Arya tells Sansa to pop down to the crypt, where it’s “safe” (lol). Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is guarding Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) but it won’t be long before Ser Cold Balls arrives. Battle rages, and Sam is injured. He’s still living, however, which is more than we can say for Edd, who cops a sharp weapon in the back and is the first of the named dead. Vale, Edd, we hardly knew ya. Literally, we had to look up your name every time. Soz, mate.

The battle’s looking dicey outside and the front lines move back into the castle grounds, protected by the Unsullied led by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson). The skies are not going well either, and the storms are throwing off the dragons’ GPS trackers.

The battle rages and reaches a pivotal moment where the dragons are meant to ignite a trench. However, due to the supernaturally-assisted inclement weather, Dany and Jon can’t see Davos’ signal. It’s Melisandre’s time to shine and she gets that trench burning. Just like an adorable child. This gives the living a moment of respite, however brief.

Down in the crypt, Sansa and Tyrion talk about old times and even get a little flirty. Sansa proves she is, once again, the smartest – and most practical – person in the room and suggests they leave the fighting to the warriors, because they’re essentially useless in battle.

“It’s the truth,” she says, “it’s the most heroic thing we can do now: look the truth in the face.”

“Maybe we should have stayed married,” Tyrion wryly opines.

“You were the best of them,” Sansa admits, with just a hint of sadness.

Up in the Godswood, Bran’s edibles have kicked in and he wargs into a murder of crows (or one crow? It’s hard to tell) and explores the battlefield from a literal bird’s eye view. The Night King commands a number of the dead to bridge the burning trench, paving the way with their cold bodies. The fighting is about to get even nastier now, as the dead are climbing the castle walls. An astonishingly tense battle sequence follows, with the stakes getting higher and higher. This is tremendously-staged stuff, and you may find yourself anxiously waiting to see who buys the farm. At first it looks like it’s going to be Arya, with the dead swarming over her, but she manages to escape in the nick of time again and again. Sadly, another rad lady is the first death you’ll really feel of the night. Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) faces off against an undead giant, and holds her own for as long as she can, however she is ultimately killed. Still, she takes the giant with her and dies like a deadset boss: defiant and awesome.

Dany and Jon are still hooning around in the air, when they finally come across the Night King who is riding Viserion. A messy, brief battle occurs, but no one is worse off for it. Back on terror firma, Arya is on a stealth mission through a library filled with undead. It’s a tense old time and ultimately she is rumbled, fleeing as fast as she can. The Hound and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) come for the assist, but it costs Beric his final life. Melisande is on hand to explain that Beric is out of lives, and that Arya will shut many eyes forever, “brown eyes, green eyes… and blue eyes.”

Heh. Brown eyes.

Shit gets worse everywhere. The dead start flooding into the Godswood, The Night King is burning down whole sections of Winterfell and Jon gets knocked off his dragon. In what almost seems to be a triumphant moment, Dany covers The Night King with dragonfire… and he shrugs it off like it’s a light summer drizzle. The bloke’s dragon-proof! Jon goes on the attack but the Night King raises an army of fresh corpses and crikey, it’s not looking good for our hero.

Down in the crypt, the dead start to rise because OF COURSE THEY ARE, YOU BLOODY IDIOTS, WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN YOU FIGHT A FRIGGEN NECROMANCER?!

Jon is saved by Dany, who then has her own problems as zombies swarm her dragon, causing the little tacker to piss off somewhere, and leaving Dany in a world of hurt. In fact, it’s looking grim for pretty much everyone. Tyrion and Sansa share a rueful moment of sadness before they’re eaten, Theon sighs as he runs out of arrows and moves onto melee weapons and basically it seems like all of the main characters are about to die screaming.

The Night King arrives in the Godswood and Theon, after giving a final farewell to Bran, goes for a frankly fairly stupid charge at the icy one. It does not go well, and Theon dies dickless, but with plenty of balls. Jon’s about to be fried, Dany and Jorah eaten, and Bran turned into a white non-walker? BUT THEN OUT OF THE DARKNESS COMES ARYA, SHOOTING THROUGH THE AIR. The Night King grabs her by the neck and starts to choke her, but she pulls a swifty, changes knife hands and STABS THE NIGHT KING RIGHT IN HIS ROTTEN GUTS!

The army of the dead is dispatched, collapsing into a desiccated, stinky pile and holy crap, what a save from everyone’s favourite pint-sized psychopath! Jorah succumbs to his injuries and Dany weeps over his body. And, in the episode’s final moment, Melisandre proves she is as good as her word and removes her necklace, walking into the snow and dying an ancient crone.

What an episode! Look, to be honest we had no inkling we’d get this far along by episode three. We’re only halfway there! Can the Night King really be dead? What does this mean for our surviving heroes? And once they (hopefully) defeat Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will they then turn on one another?

“The Long Night” is a stunning, kinetic episode, with minimal dialogue and maximum action. Colour grading problems aside, the direction by Miguel Sapochnik is superb and in terms of story we find ourselves in a really interesting position. What happens to the powerful people when the enemy that united them is gone? And can there really ever be a final winner in this game of thrones?

Still no ser pounce, but we reckon he’s playing the long game. As for the rest of it, what happens next? No bloody idea, and that makes it all the more exciting. See you in seven, readers!

 
View Post

I Still See You

Home, Review, This Week, Trailer Leave a Comment

Scott Speer’s (The Step-Up series) I Still See You, tells the story of a young girl being chased by a serial killing ghost. As odd as that may sound, the background to the film is surprisingly interesting. A post-apocalyptic event killed millions, leaving behind remnants of themselves, re-enacting a part of their lives. At the beginning, these remnants are dictated by a number of rules; non-sentient, can’t alter their image like a film reel on loop, and they can’t affect the natural world. However, further into the film they learn that the “Laws are Lies”.

The concept of the film is interesting and relatively unique (still a lot of Sixth Sense in there), and, to many, that alone can hold your attention throughout the film. The central idea of these remnants and their appearance at seemingly random intervals is often quite startling and creepy; never knowing if a non-main character is real or a remnant. However, behind the concept, the plot and script in general turns all too convenient. The story is riddled with cliches and too much is left unanswered.

Bella Thorne plays Veronica Calder, the generic edgy, angsty teenager. Richard Harmon (The 100) plays the bad boy new kid, Kirk Lane, who mysteriously arrives from another school and has an odd connection to remnants. Neither actor is school age, and their casting is distracting and inappropriate. Dermot Mulroney appears as August Bittner, the overly friendly high school teacher. who for some reason, has students come over to his house outside of school hours for random chats.

I Still See You has an identity crisis as to what genre it wants to be. Is it a romance? Thriller? Horror? Teen drama? Sci-fi? Mystery? It’s an unfortunately mix of them all, a diluted cocktail that leaves you wishing they had focused on one or two genres rather than all. This lack of focus is supported by the soundtrack, which tries to fit the genre of the individual scene. If the film was more focused, the soundtrack may have actually worked nicely, and when coupled with the excellent cinematography (by Simon Dennis – The Girl With all the Gifts), it may have been the starting blocks for a beautifully atmospheric film.

 
View Post

Date Announcement: What/If

From Mike Kelley (Revenge, Jericho, The OC) comes this Netflix Original series about acceptable people doing unacceptable things... starring Renee Zellweger, Jane Levy and Blake Jenner among other hot young things. Shame this teaser looks like a perfume commercial.
View Post

Game of Thrones, Season 8 Episode 2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Home, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

There’s one thing you should know up front about episode two of Game of Thrones season eight, and it’s this: the big battle they hint at will not occur in the following 50-odd minutes. The reason we mention this is because, viewed as an episode that’s building to something big, it might feel like something of an anticlimax, or at the very least a delayed climax. However, delaying a climax, in dramatic terms, can leave the eventual payoff feel all the more satisfying, and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” has some wonderful moments. But first, let’s recap.

The episode begins, and in fact exclusively takes part, in Winterfell. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is facing Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in the main hall and boy, tough crowd! Dany talks about how uncool it was of Jaime to murder her father, and Jaime takes it on the chin and informs the group that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will, in fact, not be helping out against the walking dea- erm, white walkers. This doesn’t exactly endear anyone to Jaime’s side, and it makes Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) look like a bit of a dickhead for believing Cersei in the first place. However, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) vouches for Jaime as a man of honour, which causes Sansa to do the same.

“I trust you with my life,” Sansa tells Brienne, “if you trust him with yours… we should let him stay.”

Post meeting, Dany is seriously pissed off at Tyrion for his lapse in judgement. Tyrion reckons his long term employment potential is starting to look a little dicey.

Elsewhere, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) is knocking out some lovely weapons using Dragonglass. Arya (Maisie Williams) pops by to say g’day, have a perv and ask where her bloody weapon is. Gendry seems to think Arya is still the same innocent little girl he first met back in the day. Arya showcases her blade-chucking skills to prove, pretty convincingly, that she’s very much not. Gendry is a little bit scared, a little bit horny.

In the Godswood, Jaime wants to know why Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) never dobbed him in about the whole ‘pushing him out the window, breaking his spine’ caper. Bran talks somewhat cryptically about the nature of fate and free will, and suggests in a subtle way, that these things happen for a reason. Bloody hell, Bran, you’re turning into a creepy InspiroBot quote machine these days.

Jaime then heads off for a chinwag with Tyrion and the pair reflect on life, death and the cruelly ironic nature of things. Jaime leaves Tyrion mid-monologue and pops down to the training grounds to chat with Brienne, telling her he’d be honoured to fight under her.

Meanwhile, Dany gets a visit from Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) who suggests that maybe Tyrion is a good resource to be used and not cast aside because of one mistake. He further suggests perhaps there is one other who should be kept close, which leads us into a lovely scene with Dany and Sansa. The pair really seem to connect, particularly while lightly mocking Jon, and they almost become besties… but it comes down to the issue of power yet again. Sansa wants the North to be free and Dany wants to rule over all the Seven Kingdoms. Neither seems willing to budge an inch, and though the conversation is interrupted, we get the sense this particular argument is far from over.

Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) arrives to much jubilation and hugging from Sansa, and much awkward shrugging from Dany. He pledges his allegiance to Sansa and the Starks.

Outdoors, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is feeding the troops, although many of them are far from ready for battle. A small child, scarred in a way that reminds him of Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) bravely offers to fight. Davos is touched but unsure how to respond when Gilly (Hannah Murray) saves the day, by asking the cute kid to defend the crypt where she and the children will be hiding.

With the announcement that the dead are near, thanks to Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), final battle plans are made. Bran will be used as bait in the Godswood, because the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) is super horny to maggot him. Theon offers to be Bran’s bodyguard and Tyrion offers to fight with Davos. Dany tells Tyrion she needs his big brain and he should probably keep it safe, showing that she forgives him and still needs him around. Awww bless. The rest of the plan is nutted out and can basically be summarised as “try not to die”.

We get short, but very well executed, character moments next. Firstly, Tyrion wants Bran to tell him his whole story, which Bran obliges. Gray Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) make travel plans for a post battle life, virtually guaranteeing one or both of them will die. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) gives Jon a bit of shit for not telling Dany his big secret, but then Edd (Ben Crompton) rocks up and the trio have a little Night’s Watch reunion. It’s quite funny, and very human, and a nice look back at the show’s twisty history.

In the episode’s funniest scene, we begin with Tyrion and Jaime drinking by the fire. They are soon joined by Brienne and Podrick (Daniel Portman). And then Tormund, who has clearly lost none of his passion for Brienne, pops in also, and then Davos. Tormund tells an alarming, and unlikely, tale about suckling on a giant’s tit and then drinks a hornful of grog, pouring a good third of the contents on himself. After that Davos decides to sink some piss too.

Outside and Arya has a chat with the Hound (Rory McCann), in which it’s clear that they have both changed a lot over time, and all is forgiven. Well, for the most part. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) arrives and starts banging on about the Lord of Light, and Arya decides she’s got better things to do than listen to old blokes have a sook. Point of fact, Arya decides it’s probably time she got a root, so as not to die a virgin. Gendry is her chosen target and she very bluntly seduces him and gets into it. Gendry doesn’t seem to mind, though, and it seems like a fine time is had by both.

Back to the drinking group and we get the episode’s best scene. Brienne talks about how women can’t be made knights and Tormund thinks this is insane. Jaime agrees and right then and there makes Brienne a knight. Gwendoline Christie absolutely nails this moment, her face portraying genuine emotion, and a fierce sense of pride, and you may find yourself misting up just a little. Brienne is now the titular Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

We then quickly move through Jorah attempting, and failing, to get Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) to sit out the battle to come (as if, Jorah!) and then Sam hands over his sword to Jorah, in a gesture of trust and admiration. Also a gesture of ‘Sam would prefer not to fight because he’s a bit shit at it’, to be frank. Podrick sings a sweet tune and those who have loved ones hold them close as the night draws to an end.

Dany visits Jon in the crypt and he finally tells her the secret that has been eating away at him. Dany is shocked at the ramifications of Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne (but not the incest, strangely), but before anyone can get too worked up about it the army of the dead arrive.

Then a fantastic battle scene tak- wait, what?! No it doesn’t! The episode bloody ends! Argh, curse you weekly episode releases, how can you be so cruel?!

Taken on its own merits, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a well written, well executed episode and another atmospheric hour from director David Nutter. Perhaps some of the character beats are a little more protracted than they need to be but it seems like next episode will probably dispatch at least a few cast members, so it’s essentially a little bit more calm before the storm. If you can get past the cliffhangery nature of the episode’s ending, it’s a grand session of character development, although the wait for the next ep will be dark and full of terrors.

Ser Pounce Watch: Still no sign of the furry legend, but that’s almost certainly because he’s just biding his time… see you next week!

 

 

 
View Post

Blockbuster (Podcast)

behind the scenes, Documentary, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

The technological revolution is rapidly changing the way that we watch movies and consume stories. For those of us who can remember when movies – mainstream and arthouse – were the main event when it came to cultural consumption, it may all seem like doom and gloom, however, one ray of hope is the podcast medium. The in-depth AAA interview with our favourite filmmaker or the retrospective story about the making of a classic film, both of which used to be available in magazine form, is now freely available on various podcast platforms of choice. Into the latter camp comes Blockbuster, a first of its kind 6x episode podcast that investigates the relationship between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, which changed the cinema landscape forever.

There have been various documentary style explorations of the making of classic movies, but Blockbuster is unique in its dramatisation of the story, putting scripted words into the mouths of actors playing the likes of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, John Williams and of course, Lucas and Spielberg, and possessing a story arc that keeps you gripped throughout.

Immaculately sound designed, with a score that pays tribute to the John Williams music that changed soundtracks forever, the podcast is appropriately, the brainchild of journalist/filmmaker Matt Schrader, whose best-known previous work is Score, an award-winning podcast and documentary. Schrader’s sombre tones narrate throughout, segueing between the dramatised sections.

If there’s a failing to Blockbuster, it’s the lack of critical faculty. Sure, we hear about these mythological people’s personality flaws, however, the whole notion of the negative changes that Spielberg and Lucas’s cinema wrought are not explored – not in the first episode, at least, though we highly doubt the other 5 eps will delve into this murky area. There are impressive elements of Peter Biskind style retrospective storytelling to Blockbuster, however, where Biskind took no prisoners, Schrader is obviously a superfan and the result is intriguing – there are reams of interesting factoids revealed – and engrossing, but ultimately this is nostalgia pop culture of the highest order, with, appropriately enough, ‘the final episode due to drop during the week of May 25 – the 42-year anniversary of Star Wars’ release, which would play in theatres for over a year continuously’, in the words of Schrader himself.

Available through iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.