Month: August 2017

September film preview

Well well, summer is winding down and there goes the best season of the year…. anyway, we still have 4 more months left in the year and plenty of big films to come, so here are some prominent ones coming out over the next month as the leaves start to fall, just like the temperature. (US release dates by default).

Mother! – released on the 15th of September

Directed by Darren Arronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson.

Psychological horror film set around a stable couple whose life is disrupted by the arrival of another strange couple who stay with them.

 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – released on the 22nd of September

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum,Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal and Sophie Cookson.

Sequel to 2014s’ Kingsman film sees the UK Kingsman now disrupted after their headquarters is destroyed by the mysterious ‘golden circle’, Eggsy and Merlin head to the USA to team up with the Statesmen, the US equivalent of the Kingsman, in order to face and take down the threat.

 

Jeepers Creepers 3 – released on the 26th of September

Directed by Victor Salva

Starring: Jonathan Beck, Meg Foster, Brandon Smith, Stan Shaw, Gina Phillips

Horror sequel set right after Jeepers Creepers, as we follow Sgt Tubbs and a group of hunters who set about trying to stop the creeper after its feeding frenzy.

 

Flatliners – released on the 29th of September

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemens.

Sequel to the 1990s original film and psychological horror set around a group of medical student thrill seekers who conduct experiments to indulge in near death experiences, though they uncover that their experiments may carry more danger than they first perceived.

 

American Made – released on the 29th of September

Directed by Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson.

Biographical drama and true story set on the life of Barry Seal, a pilot who works for the CIA and becomes a drug runner in the 1980s.

Game Of Thrones season 7 x 7 ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’ – recap

So Thrones season 7 has now wrapped up with the season finale and let’s jump right in shall we – war. The army of the unsullied is in file and ready for action outside Kings Landing as Bronn and Jamie look on for the castle walls, both pondering on the battle to come, while the Dothraki come swooping in and add to their numbers, Bronn doesn’t seem to confident.

Meanwhile at sea, Tyrion, Varys and some of Danys cohorts travel to Dragonpit for the meeting between leaders, The Hound goes below deck to heck on the Wight and well, it’s…. still a wight. At Kings Landing, Cersei enquires about Danys whereabouts but is informed everyone but her is headed to Dragonpit, including Tyrion, she opts to go as well before giving the mountain orders to kill Dany, Jon and Tyrion if anything goes wrong.

Dragonpit

Tyrion, MIssandei and Jorah head to Dragonpit and discuss why it exists, as a place to house dragons in times gone by. Bronn, Brienne, Podrick and some Lannisters arrive to escort Jon and co to the meeting and The Hound spots Brienne and vice versa, awkwaaard. And speaking of awkward, the two converse over their past meeting and how they only fought over protection of Arya, The Hound is surprised to hear Arya’s still alive at Winterfell but as Brienne points out, the livewire Stark doesn’t need much protection anymore.

Tyrion tries to get Bronn to side with Dany but he’s not playing any dice. And now for the actual meeting, which is tense as you can imagine before a word is even spoken and holy re-unions Batman, Tyrion and Cersei, Theon and Euron, Jamie and Brienne, The Hound and The Mountain to name some, this meeting is full of people who want to kill each other, as you do. Where’s Daenerys, Cersei wonders…… and there she is, swooping down atop one of her babies and making quite the entrance, shocking Jamie a bit and Cersei too I’m sure, though she stays calm on the outside.

And as expected, the meeting is far from cordial, Tyrions opening statement is interrupted immediately by Euron who mocks both him and Theon but is asked back to his seat by Cersei (what a twat btw), anyway the conversation continues with the plans being laid out for a truce, though Cersei is doubtful of the truth behind Danys plans, not believing in the army of the dead which is perfectly reasonable, though she just saw a dragon and has a dead bodyguard at her side….  Anyway talking is getting nowhere as Tyrion points. so out comes The Hound with the Wight which is let loose, immediately charging for Cersei and making the point clear to everyone that hasn’t seen a Wight before, it’s dealt with by The Hound and then by Jon who points out how to kill them.

And… settle down, Euron is scared to say the least and opts to just get out of dodge pretty much, leaving everyone else to it, he says Dany should the same (what a twat!) but maybe not so surprisingly, even Cersei agrees to having a truce but wants Jon to remain in the North and not come south, Jon refuses as he’s already pledged to Dany, Jon dude you could have just lied… as Tyrion later points out. Angering Cersei who then retracts the truce and storms out of the meeting, Brienne tries to get Jamie to talk sense to Cersei but he points out that there’s not much use in trying anymore. Danys crew discuss how they’ve failed to gain any ground and how Jon should have just agreed to the terms but it’s no use now, Tyrion volunteers to go and talk to Cersei to smooth things out and that should be interesting.

An awkward re-union

Tyrion accompanied by The Mountain goes to Cersei, talking to Jamie first of all and while this seems like a terrible idea, it just could work. The two have a heated exchange as expected over past events and the state of the Lannisters, all Tyrions fault apparently and both sides have their valid points but Cersei refuses to just have Tyrion killed, though she could at any point. Things are complicated to say the least and Tyrion realises she’s pregnant, a point could be made about the future for her future child and a valid point at that.

Jon and Dany discuss the events of the day in Dragonpit, going over dragons of the past, after the dragons of old grew less influential, so did the Targaryens as Dany says, though Jon points out the noble family isn’t done with just yet. And result, Tyrion comes back to the pit with Cersei and co, annoucing she’ll pull her armies back to Kings Landing, agreeing to march some of her army north to fight the dead, importantly pointing out that she’s agreed to help out, which should matter after the war against the dead is over, what did Tyrion say I wonder….

In Wintefell, Littlefinger and Sansa discuss current events, including Jon leaving to go and help Dany, with Littlefinger implying Sansa could and should take the throne, though she seems doubtful over doing this, Sansa ponders over Aryas motivations in her actions and while we don’t know what this is, Littlefinger has an answer, “assume the worst”, lovely chap. And his plan is in motion, laying out a plan for Arya that may not really exist, this is all fictional of course and Sansa shouldn’t believe it but she seems to… Littlefingers plan seems to be working. In Dragonstone, Dany agrees to Jons plan to sail north to Whiteharbour with Jon, showing a united front to the Northern lords, though Davos has concerns over her safety.

Theon has a word with Jon over what Jon did at Dragonstone, being true and honest, Theon muses over his past actions and regrets over doing them, though Jon is forgiving and has choice words for Theon, reminding him who he is and what he did in the past doesn’t matter anymore and Mr greyjoy sets about to try and save Yara, the only person who came to try and save him from the cruel Ramsay Bolton. Theon tries to convince some of his soldiers to sail to Euron and try and save Yara and after a bloody battle and display of courage, he convinces the men to sail with him.

Back up north… and back South

Arya summons Sansa to the great hall where she stands accused…. Sansa and Bran sit at the high table while Sansa reads off the accusations of treason and murder, is it game over for Arya…… mic drop, no it isn’t, the accusations are for Littlefinger aka Lord Baelish who seems shocked and this whole thing was a ruse to out him. He denies the accusations stating no one was there to see what really happened with Lady Arryn, Ned Stark etc and he’s true… but Bran was, sort of, he’s the three eyed Raven now so he kinda knows everything, no way out for you now Littlefinger! The lying, scheming manipulator begins to panic as his plans are laid out, he wants to be escorted back to the Vale but is denied, his pleading gets a bit desperate but you know, what else do you expect to happen to you after all you’e done to the Starks and he is summarily executed by Arya, a huge character gone but good riddance.

And while seeing a cowering character die is always a bit cruel, in the world of Thrones you live or you die by your actions. In Kings Landing, Jamie prepares the expedition north for the Lannister family but what do you know, Cersei still wants to let Dany and Jon do their thing up north and stay in Kings Landing (the fool!), taking back land they’ve lost. Jamie is staunchly against betraying the truce but Cersei stands firm, The Golden company is the next step and the Iron Bank has enough money to get 20,000 soldiers on their side, it turns out Euron has sailed to retrieve the army and isn’t just running away. And after a tense encounter with the Mountain by her side, Jamie leaves Kings Landing, disillusioned and feeling betrayed, where is he off to I wonder?

Samwell arrives at Winterfell with his family, meeting the now woke Bran, learning of his new powers, Sam wants to offer his assistance but Bran brings a new bomb shell, the fact that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, he’s not a Snow or Stark but he’s a Sand, R+L=J indeed. And Bran sees this in a vision, Rhaegar didn’t kidnap or rape Lyanna in fact and that whole story was a lie. Jons real name is ‘Aegon’ Targaryen.

Aboard a ship, Jon goes to make love to….. Dany, his relative, his aunt technically speaking. But yeah wow, this isn’t news to a lot of fans but Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne being a Targaryen but no one knows this apart from Sam and Bran, huge news that could disrupt their alliance and partnership and cause further tension.

Winterfell

Sansa and Arya muse over recent events in Littlefingers death, discussing their current roles, Arya the executioner, Sansa the lady and they look like they’re back to normal as sisters, as close to normal as they can get anyway. Bran is warging and in some crows and is by the wall, manned by Tormund and Berric and there they are, the army of the dead marching forth but wait they can’t get through the wall but an ice dragon can, breathing magical fire on the wall and down it comes in quite spectacular fashion, the dead are coming, led by the Night King on a dragon….

And well there is, we are at the last season of Thrones and with a pretty fantastic finale, it’s been… fun re-capping the episodes week by week and it certainly flew by, there’s a lot to wrap up and look forward to in the 8th and final season in, 2019, apparently?

. What good will the Golden company be for Cersei when and if the Dead win the North?

. What will Jamie do now that he’s officially done with Cersei? Plan to kill her and stop her plan?

. Is Cersei the master schemer in this episode, is she even pregnant or did she use that as a lie?

. What will Sansa and Arya do when they find out the Dead are coming?

The Mummy – review

Who you calling four eyes?

Admittedly I’m a bit late with this review (2 months or so) but bear with me.

The Mummy is the latest incarnation of the horror film of the same name, directed by Alex Kurtzman, set to be the start to Universals Dark Universe, set around ancient mummy Ahmanet who is awakened from a crypt, planning to bring destruction and evil to the modern world by bringing the God Set to life, the film stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis and Courtney B Vance.

Ah The Mummy, a sort of loved series and one of the longest horror film icons in film history but here we are with a new reboot in 2017 and it’s…. well it’s a lot of things, the set up to Universals criticised Dark Universe, a universe criticised before it’s even started mind you. And this version, while it looked sort of promising, people never seemed to be too excited for it for one reason or another, even with Tom Cruise in the fold and ironically, he may be one of the reasons why the film has turned out to be the critical failure that it is. And it’s not that Cruise is a bad actor or anything and at his age he’s still impressively doing his signature run and a lot of his own stunts but I feel he was just a bit miscast and ultimately the film plays out very much like a by the numbers action film that also happens to feature an ancient re-animated mummy.

And by this I mean the horror element is pretty far removed, aside from dessicated corpses that come about from the Mummy stealing peoples essence (which we’ve seen in Brendan Frasers Mummy films), there’s little to no actual horror or fear factor for a so called horror film, everything is very PG and sanitised which is definitely a missed trick, the film also brought nothing exciting or nuanced to the mythos of the Mummy. We again have a Mummy (Ahmanet) obsessed with a modern day human, using her powers to make a giant sand face thing, etc etc, while watching you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve seen it all before but this time around without the charm, humour or good storytelling.

The plot flies by but negatively as we sort of coast from plot point to plot point perhaps a bit too quickly in the sake of the overall story, with there barely being any time to stop and take in what’s happening or even have a genuinely good emotional moment, the closest coming to that being the relationship between Nick (Tom Cruise) and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), though you don’t get a feeling they’re particularly that close and are more out and out buddies.  And even stranger is Nicks friendship with presumably long time co worker Chris (Jake Johnson) who is generally hilarious in his roles but used so oddly in the film for comedic value that it clashes with the more serious side of the plot, there’s humour thrown in at random points especially with Chris’ character but it pretty much always falls flat and just muddles up the tone.

A positive is the action, for the very little of it that’s done decently, it’s well shot and… yeah that’s about it really, Tom Cruise is again in cruise control and he does his thing, though a plot point in the final third involving his character was arguably the worst part of the film and really took away from any dramatic tension that might have been building up but negatives aside, Russell Crowe is quite good as Dr Jekyll, once again bringing gravitas to the role of a proper speaking Englishman. But to sum it up, The Mummy is a bit of a misstep, a weird tonal mis-balance of a film that feels rushed, charmless and suspense free, the ideas feel generic and like a re-hash of former films in the Mummy franchise and this one just brought nothing new to the table.

5.5/10

. Weird tone that makes for strange viewing

. Total lack of tension and suspense

. Russell Crowe is good but can’t save a weak film

Lights Out – review

Lights Out is a 2016 horror film directed by David F Sandberg, centred around Rebecca, now a guardian of her little brother who needs to protect him and uncover the secret to the mysterious entity that resides in darkness, that is tied to their mothers past, the film stars Teresa Palmer, Billy Burke, Gabriel Bateman and Maria Bello.

Right off the bat what I like about the film is that it’s different but this comes with a caveat that I’ll get to later in the review but on initial impressions, Lights Out occupies a bit of a niche in the modern horror genre, a film with a unique premise, centred on an entity that can only really exist and attack in darkness, something pretty terrifying and smartly, it taps into humans natural fears of darkness. Something we can all relate to in some form or can relate to having had a fear of as a child and from there on, the film doesn’t try too hard to expand on its ideas or set up and ultimately this is a negative point but the film does work decently enough with its simplistic approach to plot and storytelling.

The acting is… actually fairly decent, the evergreen Teresa Palmer puts in a god shift as caring sister Rebecca, taking care of her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) while their mother Sophie (Maria Bello) is a bit disturbed to say the least, taking pills for psychotic episodes that see Martin taken away from her. And yeah the family dynamic is a bit typical for a horror film with the ‘crazy’ mother being a threat to her kids but the film takes it to the next level, as you find out as the plot goes on. So what else does the film do good, well the scares are okay, I’m not particularly a jumpy watcher so I was never going to be terrified of a creature in the dark but seeing the entity in dark one second and vanish the next in light is quite the contrast, also knowing it can be anywhere in darkness makes for some particularly tense scenes.

The monster/entity itself is also pretty freaky and inhuman, seemingly being unable to defeat apart from using lights (which just keeps it at bay) and the best monsters keep audiences guessing on how to beat it and you know, scared and because of the light/dark dynamic, some of the set pieces are quite creatively done and are just different to a ghost or demon that can attack a character anywhere, this one can only attack in darkness. And that’s where my praise stops because beyond some decent scares, interesting set pieces and an intriguing premise, Lights Out is just a bit generic surprisingly, it doesn’t break the wheel and then again maybe it wasn’t trying to but nevertheless, the 2nd half of the plot especially is by the numbers, predictable and full of horror tropes that bring down the overall product for me, leaving it slap bang in by the numbers horror film territory.

And despite the cool effects with light and dark and Teresa Palmer being good, the film is just a bit meh, leaving no real lasting impact and its something you’ll forget about 2 weeks after watching it, nice idea for the film though.

6/10

. Final third of the film feels a bit rushed

. Plot is generic, by the numbers

. Some set pieces with light and darkness are cool

Ranking the American Horror Story series

This is an interesting ranking post for me, I posted one previously a few years ago actually but nothing since then, almost matching my current lack of enthusiasm for AHS and how I feel it’s regressed over its’ series run but alas, here we are a few months away from the upcoming season 7 and the show is still going… strong, I guess? Here’s my ranking!

Coven – (Season 3)

Coven, for me represents the show at its most quirky, fun and irreverent with interesting alternate history, some of the most memorable characters in the series and consistently great writing, from Queenie, the Regent to Emma Roberts bitchy Shenae, the season is a real joy ride of ups and downs, twists and turns and importantly, it’s engaging. There’s a consistent through line to the overall story despite a few random injections of monsters and spirits but the plot remains mostly on course, plus some great performances from Lily Rabe and Jessica Lange really do a lot.

 

Murder House – (Season 1)

I love Murder House, ok saying that out of context sounds a bit weird but the show started off very strongly in my opinion, with a very dark, gothic feel to things, focusing on the most terrifying horror trope of all – ghosts of course, some of the scenes in Murder House are still some of the most creepy and disturbing in the whole series I’d say, with the gimp and certain visions of the paranormal. I also really liked the tight, straightforward narrative that got more elaborate and tense as it went on, there’s a very classic horror feel for the story, like a horror story from the 70s or 60s and it was also backed up by some strong performances from Dermot Mulroney, Evan Peters and Taissa Farmiga, not to mention the fantastic Jessica Lange.

 

Asylum – (Season 2)

Asylum seems to be a lot of AHS fans favourite season and I can understand that, it was an out and out bonkers but fun ride of a season with the literal devil, aliens, killer santa… and no seriously, I’m not even making these things up! It had a lot of features for sure but it was actually quite engaging, Lily Rabe slayed it as sister Mary Eunice and Jessica Lange was again great, Asylum falls short of being amazing for me just because of its lack of focus in the back half of the season and with the way it wrapped up or failed to wrap up a few plot arcs that kind of went nowhere. That being said, while it’s not my favourite, hats off to Asylum for its crazy ambition.

 

Freak Show – (Season 4)

I wasn’t huge on Freak show, it disappointed me but I didn’t entirely hate it, with one of the more out there, interesting premises for a season, I was always wondering where exactly the season would go with its characters and it turns out, the show was wondering too because it just sort of did away with them and that was the end, the lack of a majorly menacing antagonist/villain was a big negative as well. Slappy the clown was there but there for about… 3 episodes, literally, so yeah, talk about a missed opportunity.

 

Hotel – (Season 5)

Hotel marked a real downward trend for AHS, being interestingly set up but very disjointed in terms of storytelling, lacking a compelling and engaging major story arc, we did get a lot of Lady Gaga but she was pretty divisive and was far from enough to save the season. The characters were actually fairly decent but not enough was really done with them and their storylines didn’t go anywhere interesting either.

 

My Roanoke Nightmare  – (Season 6)

Ah Roanoke, quite easily the most disjointed, confusing and incoherent season of the show, I just don’t really know what to say about this season honestly, it felt like Murphy and the writers ran out of ideas, filling the plot with just a lot of gore and generic slasher tropes, with the weakest storyline of all the seasons, some cringeworthy accents and over acting. I think we’d all rather forget season 6 and move forward, righto.

And there my ranking is, AHS season 7 – Cult, is out in just 2 months and should be an interesting ride, hopefully a big improvement on the last 2 seasons, agree on the ranking? disagree? Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Game of Thrones season 7 x 6 – Beyond The Wall recap

So the penultimate episode of season 7 is here and we’re following the band of unfortunate brothers who are travelling up north, by Eastwatch to go and try to catch a Wight, going by Jons rather crazy plan devised in the last episode, the ‘suicide squad’ as I’ll call them is an interesting mix and Jon and Tormund have a little discussion at the front of the pack, over how crazy this idea is. And over Mance Rayder and him refusing to bend the knee and we all know what that got him.

Gendry complains to Thoros and Berrick over their past actions, i.e. selling him to Melisandre, who wanted to sacrifice him and all, so yeah fair dos’ to Gendry being annoyed, though The Hound is having none of it, Gendrys interactions with characters are quite fun so far, unsurprisingly. And for another interesting interaction, Jorah and Jon Snow, Jorah had bad blood with Ned Stark but all is forgiven now, more or less, with Jon respecting Jorah and his house greatly.

At Winterfell, Arya and Sansa have a bit of a bonding session, talking about past memories and their childhoods and memories of Ned in a rather charming moment… that turns sour after Arya reveals the infamous note that Sansa was forced to write, to ask for Robb Stark to come back to Kings Landing. So things are a bit tense and I’m sure Littlefinger’s happy with this wedge being driven between the two Stark sisters, Arya is not happy at all, admitting she would have rather die than have written the letter and yes she was there but also did nothing, as Sansa points out. The two of them are at an impasse, it seems, Arya wants to keep a hold of the letter and seems to be using it as leverage against Sansa because she’s angry but yeah, we don’t need any more dead Starks, so stop fighting kids!

Back up North

Tormund and The Hound have a fun interaction over The Hounds backstory and how he got burnt, they also quite humorously talk about Brienne, who as you know tried to kill The Hound, who Tormund now fancies…. awkward but I’m loving it.

Berrick Dondarion and Jon discuss the lord of light and the purpose of their mission up north. “So what are you fighting for?” Jon asks, “Life”, Berrick replies, a pretty to the point answer and a clear laying out of what he’s fighting for, death (the White Walkers) is the enemy apparently and needs to be fought against.

In Dragonstone, Dany and Tyrion discuss Tyrion  and his demeanor, namely on his intelligence, which has kept him alive so far, unlike Khal Drogo, Daario, Jorah and Jon Snow (and hey two of these people are still alive at this point). The conversation turns to Kings Landing and what the plan is, if and when Dany wants to go there, Cerseis manner of ruling is highlighted in comparison to previous conquerors like Aegon, who was pretty traditional as Tyrion points out – though Dany wants to break tradition and do things differently.

The two then disagree over Danys emotions and how she reacts to situations, the recent execution of the Tarlys comes up, a controversial event for sure. And interestingly, long term planning comes up, namely Daenerys plans for Westeros after she rules and eventually dies, with there being no clear plan in place, Dany is reluctant to even entertain the idea for now.

And back north again

The squad trudges through a blizzard and can comes across a bear…. an undead bear that is and so it begins, killing a bear is one thing but it’s undead so that’s a bit difficult, even though it gets set on fire and everything. And Thoros, while injured by the bear is still okay for the time being.

In Winterfell Sansa confides in Littlefinger over the situation with Arya finding the letter, she’s worried the Northern lords will defect over news of the letter coming out and she has a valid point, with Sansa being married to and in the Lannisters presence in the past for a while. Littlefingers mind games seem to be taking shape here, with him seemingly trying to set up Brienne as a protector of Sansa, in case Arya goes full rogue. Back beyond the wall, the squad comes across a curious site and what do you know, it’s only part of the army of the dead, but where’s the rest of the army? Good question.

In what seems like a trap (that they’re setting up), the undead march to a river crossing and then clash with the squad and the dead apart from one Wight are all dispatched once their local leader is killed by Jon but not before it lets out a particular cry, so the dead Wight is captured and they can all leave. Wait…. that cry was a distress cry most likely and the whole army of the dead is coming, the rest of the squad without Gendry tries to get away but runs onto some precarious thin ice and they are swiftly surrounded, though a break in the ice takes a few of the undead and holds them, things are not looking good.

Gendry makes it back to the wall in record time and is taken in. Meanwhile of the rest of the squad essentially waits for their inevitable doom (or maybe not)…. Thoros passed away while the men were waiting sadly. And now what, I wonder what was going through Jons head, faced with all the wights around them and seemingly no hope, they still need to take the wight with them though and get back alive.

The Nights King is also present though, kill him and game over for the wights…. or so the idea is, though things won’t be that easy of course.

Further drama afoot

At Winterfell, Sansa receives an invitation to Kings Landing (by the Lannisters of course), Sansa refuses to go but calls for Brienne to do so, seemingly wisely while Brienne wants to leave protection for Sansa while she leaves, for her not to be swayed too much by Littlefinger. And really, Sansa, are you siding with the little scrote again?

At Dragonstone, Dany decides to set off to go to the North to help out the remaining squad and off she goes with her other two dragons, in what would be a fairly long trip I imagine but hey short season, characters teleporting etc.

Back beyond the wall, the squad remains waiting, while the Hound mocks them by throwing rocks, a lone wight ambles forward while others do as well, is there a plan or method to the wights attack? Maybe not but I’m sure the Night King has something in mind. Anyway the hordes of the undead march on and combat ensues in what seems like the most one sided fight in Game of Thrones since Hardhome. Tormund is almost, so closely taken down (and what a shame that would have been) but saved by The Hound.

And I mean things have looked bleak before but the fight seems hopeless, until dragonfire…. Dany and her dragons arrive (short season, it’s cool) and help to clear out large swatches of the wights in rather spectacular fashion. But not so fast, the Night King himself takes up a weapon and heads to the squad, throwing a spear at one of the dragons and killing it rather dramatically, as it sinks underwater….. Dany is devastated to say the least and now a dragon short.

Jon is taken down by some Wights and falls underwater but survives, as the remaining wights leave the area.  But he is of course noticed as the lone living person by the army but holy unexpected plot point, long lonst uncle Benjen arrives in the nick of time and sacrifices himself to save Jon in the second most selfless act of the day (after Dany).

The Wall

The remaining squad arrives at  the wall with a wight in tow, while Darnerys thinks over the days events, still mourning her lost dragon clearly, it’s so odd seeing Dragons in the frozen wastes of the north but it makes for some great spectacle. Jon arrives on a lone horse and is taken in, just in the nick of time – no Jon, no dying for you again.

And at Winterfell, Sansa searches Aryas room out of curiosity seemingly, finding her literal face masks, though Arya finds her in typical faceless man sneaking fashion, she wants to play the game of faces with Sansa and oh how little Arya has grown and I mean it is pretty weird you have a bag of faces Arya. She seems to threaten Sansa but only appears to be doing so to intimidate her and well, it worked Sansa is aware of Aryas abilities and power now, how will she act? Will she side further with Littlefinger?

Back out at sea, Jon and Dany have a little talk, with the latter seemingly now a bit smitten with Lord Snow but importantly, she now knows the dead are real and a real threat and driven by the death of her dragon, she seems driven to action, time to unite some armies am I right? Jon accepts to bed the knee for Dany figuratively and finally, you should’ve done this like 2 episodes ago, dude.

And back up north again, the Wights have giant chains somehow and are pulling something rather large from under the ice sheet, a dead dragon that is…. an undead ICE DRAGON!? This was fan fiction for a while but it’s now reality, the Nights king walks up to the dragon and brings it back to life. Now that’s gonna be an interesting thing to deal with.

. Dany’s now onboard to fight the undead, where does Kings Landing lie in importance for her?

. So the undead Ice dragon, will breathe fiire? and The White walkers also have a way over or around the wall now so…. everyone’s screwed, presumably.

. What is Arya planning exactly, to make Sansa aware of her abilities, then kill Littlefinger? Is sansa now too scared of Arya?

And phew there is is, a long re-cap for a long and exciting, great episode with some expected Deus ex machina moments but a lot of thrilling moments as well, can’t wait for the season finale in what should be something pretty spectacular.

We need to talk about the Alien franchise

So you’ve possibly seen the film if you’re a fan (Alien Covenant) and read some reviews and have your own thoughts and sure, opinions are subjective so people out there do like Covenant but with not that many great reviews out there for it and a pretty faltering box office return, it’s say to say the film was a but of a flop? But why didn’t it work out? What’s next for the Alien franchise? You might also wonder.

Well these are great questions and I’d also like to know the answers to them…. but I have my own thoughts, both on Covenant and on the Alien franchise as a whole and where it’s gone wrong in my opinion, I wanted to do a rant on Covenant initially but I think a discussion on the series as a whole would be more productive.

What went wrong

Ridley, Ridley, Ridley, you’re a visionary and great director but I think you’re trying to do too many things in the new Alien films, trying to please two sets of fans and failing at appeasing either which Covenant clearly showed, those two sets of fans are 1 – people that love to see Xenomorphs kill people and have face offs with unfortunate people and 2 – people that love speculative, philosophical sci-fi. So the people that were quite fond of Prometheus, the last film tried to do both and just felt like a bit of a wet blanket without really answering any pressing questions from Prometheus, basically re-hashing Aliens with the closing minutes of Alien and impressively not tying in to the original films in anyway whatsoever.

What I think happened here was that Ridley – or the studio just wanted to go for the audience pleasing route, get killer xenomorhps in there, some colonists with guns and let’s see what happens but unfortunately the longtime Alien fans just don’t seem to want that and audiences as a whole aren’t flocking to see new films in the franchise either, possibly because of bad word of mouth. I think that with these new prequels, the lore and overall story in the series has gotten convoluted and feels fairly aimless now, will anything ever tie to the original Alien? Does it even matter if anything ties in? What is the meaning of life? Where are all of the engineers?!

No direction

Okay, I’m calm….. but seriously, I don’t know what Ridley is trying to achieve with new films now and I don’t think he knows either to be perfectly honest, the generic horror flicks with xenomorphs is tried and true but also boring and predictable, the philosophical angle seemed to turn people off Covenant and the film also missed a trick by not digging deep into it anyway. I just don’t get what can happen next with the story and where it can really go in terms of interesting story telling, without going down some ridiculous plot lines, the problem here is that the more ambitious Ridley may get, the more he’ll be ridiculed but if he plays it say again like with Covenant, I feel the backlash over another tropey, by the numbers plot will be huge. And hey the Xenomorphs, protomorphs…. and Neomorphs are awesome and terrifying creatures but I don’t really care how they were made to be honest and introducing more and more of them just feels a bit pointless, they exist and they kill, we don’t really need more depth to them and I don’t think particularly cares about fleshing out the aliens in any meaningful ways as evidenced by his recent films.

And where the films have tried to bring in philosophy and depth to a series about people getting killed by phallic alien creatures, the result has been a bit weird and sometimes a bit cringey (I’m looking at you, flute playing scene in Covenant). This element has just felt way too forced into the films and feels completely at odds with the original films in the franchise and this isn’t to say that franchises can’t evolve and change but too much radical change in a series can easily divide a fan base down the middle, a la Star Wars and the prequels.

So what’s the solution? Well again, I don’t know but there are some interesting film theory ideas out there (on Youtube) for future films and yeah, they’re the crazy, ambitious ideas and some are intriguing. But back to the future of the franchise, I think Ridley needs to go back to what made people love Alien originally and no that doesn’t mean make another Ripley-esque character and rip scenes from the first two films, but make an intriguing, thrilling horror film really, make it provocative, avoid silly horror tropes and keep audiences guessing. Don’t avoid answering questions for future films sake and actually address things from past films, keep up the good work with the casting because that works but try to bring some nuance back to the series because it is seriously ailing and could quite easily get canned for good if the next film bombs and that’s if the studio even wants to commission another film.

Anyway those are just my thoughts and who knows what will happen with the franchise next (hopefully good things) but I cautiously anticipate what’s to come.

Pleasant surprises and disappointments from 2017 in film (so far)

So as we’re now quite some way into 2017, I thought it was appropriate to finally make a best of 2017 so far post but with a twist, not being just a top 5 or bottom 5 but more of a best surprises and disappointments kind of thing, so here are my top 3 pleasant surprises.

Pleasant surprises

Kong Skull Island is actually a solid, fun film

I wasn’t expecting bad things anyway but Kong was definitely a pleasant surprise, it looked intriguing and with a different take on Kong with the 70s, Vietnam war aesthetic, more monsters than you can shake a stick at a lot of classic rock, where can you go wrong? There are critics of the film understandably but the overall reaction is a pretty good one with most people seeming to have enjoyed their visit on Skull island and I’m glad that we got a monster film in 2017 that was actually good.

 

Get Out is a smash hit out of nowhere

So Jordan Peele is suddenly a director…. that’s cool, it was a pretty out of the blue turn but the reaction to Get Out was pretty electric and deservedly so, I didn’t really know what to expect from the film with the way friends described it to me/what I read online but I was intrigued, an interesting concept that doesn’t rely on silly tropes to get the plot going. Solid acting and a just very solid plot make the film what it is, it doesn’t try too hard going one way or the other with over the top gore or psychological, mind games and I think a lot of people were happily satiated with the result.

 

Disappointments

Alien: Covenant falls way short of the mark

This disappointment probably hurts me the most as a pretty big Prometheus and Alien fan, I’m intrigued and interested in the world that Ridley Scotts created and I’d love to find out more, in terms of answers to questions a lot of people have been asking since the divisive Prometheus, so picture my excitement when Alien Covenant looks pretty thrilling and is touted as direct sequel and follow up. And there goes my excitement, the film was just a generic slasher film with xenomorphs (protomorphs, neomorphs, whatever) killing people and you know we’ve seen that in every Alien film apart from Prometheus right? I just got the feeling that Alien fans and general filmgoers were interested in something a bit different in the franchise, with more depth, asking questions about humanitys existence, our place in the universe and the creation of the xenomorph and yup, there they are…. the horror tropes, dammit Ridley.

 

Assassins’ Creed is another not so great video game film

This was a real shame with AC easily having the potential to be one of if not the best video game film to date and to be fair, it’s not terrible but it’s far from the enjoyable thrill ride I was anticipating back in December of 2016, the plot was chopped up way too much between past and present day, we didn’t get enough context for Conor and his situation and the story was far too generic. Generic for Assassins Creed, that is, with some of the most elaborate plots I’ve seen in a video game, ironically if they stuck closer to the games, they could have probably made a more compelling and engaging film but hey ho, on we go to the next hopefully good video game film.

 

Ghost In The Shell fires damp squibs

As it turns out, one of the most visually intriguing and thought provoking anime of all time, Ghost In The Shell or GITS makes for a pretty bland, dull live action film, at least when given the hollywood treatment, I was actually pretty hyped for the film, I was down for Scarlett Johansson for the Major and the visuals looked good, the plot was kind of straightforward but there was just a lack of resonance with the story for some reason. I felt as empty watching the film as the shells that people inhabit in the plot and it just didn’t do much for me and probably for most people who say it, looking at its critical rating, Hollywood will possibly nail a live action anime at some point but this was just not that film. And the fact that most people have completely forgotten about the film in just 4 months just speaks to the point.

And that’s my list for films so far and with 4 months give or take, left in 2017, I’m curious to see what surprises (pleasant or not) lay in store for us film fans.

Game of Thrones season 7 x 5 – Eastwatch recap

Episode 5 is here and after some rather dramatic events in the last episode and how could you possibly top that this season? I wonder. Jon rallies forces and heads to Eastwatch to take the White Walkers on. What do you know Bronn and Jamie survived… much to no ones surprise and to put it bluntly, Bronn is not onboard to fight Dany and her dragons, though Jamie knows he needs to tell Cersei of the Lannisters predicament.

Dany offers a simple choice to the surviving Lannister POWs, bend the knee…. or die and 99% of them do, though not everyone does, in the face of a dragon no less and Dickon…. again, he refuses to bow and is… summarily burned alive, much to Tyrions dismay, though this puts the rest of the enemy soldiers in clear perspective of their situation. Jamie returns to King Landing (already!?) to report to Cersei and tell her of the situation, Cersei remains defiant but Jamie brings her a dose of reality, the two bicker over what to do next though they can’t quite agree, Jamie also reveals Olenna poisoned Joffrey, not Tyrion but that doesn’t sway her at all.

The two clearly disagree on how to move forward, Jamie is not on board at all but Cersei won’t be swayed. At Dragonstone, Dany and Drogon arrive to meet Jon Snow, who seems to…. bond (R+L=J!?) and Dany questions Jon on Davos saying Snow ‘took a knife to the heart’, we know what this means but before we can get into too much detail, the serial friendzoner, Ser Davos returns. And everyone is teleporting across Westeros but hey, seeing Davos and Dany re-unite was quite sweet.

Back in the North….

Crows are disturbed by something.. and what do you know, that something is the army of the dead led by the night king – oh and those crows were controlled by Bran, who sends for a raven to The Citadel, meisters at the citadel then discuss the message, doubting its validity. Though Sam vouches for Bran and his visions, the meisters remained unmoved.

At Dragonstone, Tyrion and Varys discuss the vents of the day and Danys…. temper. And onto more current events, Jon is eager to get back to the North as news of the ever marching White Walkers has spread and a plan to bring a Wight back to Cersei and Kings Landing, ambitious no doubt but how on earth will they get one… and get it to the South? Jorah volunteers to undertake the mission but Jon Snow takes point on doing it but Danerys doesn’t seem to want him to go interestingly. At Winterfell, the Northern lords/men loyal to the Starks pledge their loyalties to Sansa and there is some clear dissent among the ranks with not everyone on Jons side as he left to go to Dragonstone.

The Stark siblings (Sansa and Arya) discuss how to rule and Aryas’ clearly not too pleased with Sansa listening to Jons critics but she brings up the good point that you can’t go around executing people for dissent – which is a fair point, we get a hint that Sansa may be hungry for power and leadership but she doesn’t address it.

And back to the south

Tyrion and Ser Davos arrive near Kings Landing. Meanwhile Bronn and Jon (hey it rhymes!) come to a crypt to rain but wait no they don’t, Bronn’s brought Jamie to meet Tyrion and have another re-union and to discuss potential terms between Cersei and Danerys. And another re-union, it’s only freakin’ Gendry who’s been MIA for like 3 seasons, so that’s cool, he’s been making weapons for the Lannisters by the way and he’s well on board to leave and join whatever else is going on in the North.

Two soldiers stop Davos and Gendry from leaving on a boat while Davos puts the sweet talk on them, Tyrion returns and sparks their curiosity as Gendry sneaks up behind them and does them in, so he’s been practising with weapons too eh? Jamie returns to Cersei to tell her she met with Tyrion while she was aware of Bronn arranging the meeting, Daenerys wants an armistice to fight against the White Walkers but Cersei still, remains defiant (somehow), Cersei in quite simple terms announces she’s pregnant and she also reminds Jamie of their fathers old saying “lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep”.

At Dragonstone, Davos introduces Gendry to Jon Snow and they quite humorously quip back and forth, over their fathers (Robert Baratheon and Ned) and what they remember of them, Gendry’s eager and wants to fight. Jorah sets off and leaves Dany (again), departing is such sweet sorrow… as does Jon, though Dany is quite sad to see him leave, it seems. Do I smell a romance brewing?

Back at the Citadel, Sam is frustrated at his situation, he wants to help out and fight the White Walkers but is clearly restricted. At night he takes it upon himself to be rid of the Citadel and sets off with his family to leave.

Winter is here

At Winterfell, Arya sports Littlefinger discussing something with a girl who he hands something over to, bit dodgy if you ask me, what is he up to…. And we see a man hand a certain scroll and or text which Arya then searches for after he leaves, though Littlefinger plotted this and was aware she’d look for the text. What is the text and what is its important… interesting questions.

At Eastwatch, Jon, Tormund and Davos discuss what they’ll do next but hey look it’s The Hound and two of brotherhood without banners discuss what should happen next, they want in on whatever’s happening and out of their jail cell and off they go into the frozen wastes on what could well be a suicide mission with an intriguing mix of characters. And well that was an interesting episode, not too much movement on the White Walker front (no pun intended) but a lot of things happening south, Tyrion and Varys are growing weary of Dany while Cersei plots to fight against the world but may seek to trick Dany in some way, while Jamie grows a bit weary of her himself.

Gendry is also back so, that’s kinda great. Here’s some thoughts going forward to the end of the season.

. Everyone’s teleporting but hey whatever, we’re running out of airtime to tell the story

. Gendry’s back, so he was just in Kings Landing the whole… time?

. What exactly does Cersei plan to do now? Or is she just going a bit mad herself?

Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets – review

Luc Besson directs the sci-fi epic,Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets, based in a universe full of diverse alien species, congregating on Alpha, a metropolis with thousands of species and cultures intermixing. A dark force threatens Alphas stability and government agents Valerian and Laureline must take on a mission to uncover the mystery and save Alpha, the film stars Dane Dehaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke and Herbie Hancock.

Ah Valerian and the city of a thousand opinions, the film is seen as a bit of a flop currently and honestly, it’s not that surprising of a view, Besson is an interesting director who takes on intriguing projects and this latest outing is no different based on the French comic ‘Valerian and Laureline’ by Jean-Claude Meziere and with the scope and scale of the story, it’s quite incredible that it managed to even make it to the big screen. However a film isn’t judged on just its ambition and scope, otherwise films like Jupiter Ascending would be masterpieces and we all know that’s far from the case, Valerian suffers from some just really simple flaws, namely poor storytelling, weirdly shoed in plot points and pretty bad pacing.

At over 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’d wonder what there is to see and you’ll be left wondering as you watch as the plot just drags on and on, events in the 2nd half of the plot in particular move rather slowly and I was left literally checking the time on my phone – something I pretty much never do in a cinema but I either wanted something interesting to happen or the film to end, to be honest. It’s definitely overly long and could have used a 15 minute or so trim to the run time in my opinion, which would have helped a lot because of the bad pacing. Though on the positive side for the film, the leads, Dane DeHaan is great as the cocky, headstrong Valerian and he does play off Cara Delevingne well I feel, (who plays Laurelin) but the duos relationship is something we’re thrust into without much or any back story and because of this, their sort of flirty dynamic might feel a bit random – though it’s mostly coming from Valerian.

The lack of familiarity with the two makes their dynamic, while fun feel a bit forced, especially when it comes to romantic elements, although the two actors are a believable pairing. And aside from the two leads, the side characters don’t really do too much aside spouting off exposition and being there to just forward the plot, Rihanna – while being a bit disbelief breaking in her appearance is actually good as a shape shifting alien Bubble though and she brings some good laughs. Levity is another positive for the film, well placed throughout the film with some well told, simple jokes which keep things fairly light, although there are some dark themes present and that’s a credit to the writing, I’ve seen the films dialogue criticised as being forced and unrealistic but I actually enjoyed it and I felt it suited the characters, namely Valerian and Laureline. Also the visuals are another plus, with some awesome vistas, alien races and scenes among different Alien sections in Alpha, the set pieces are also visually pleasing but lack weight and any tension whatsoever, with the two main characters sort of wafting through action sequences unscathed and while I get that they’re expert agents, some suspense would have been a nice touch.

Ultimately Valerian is an intriguing project, something people thought couldn’t be filmed at all but it was and it’s not great to be honest, with some bad pacing, a story that really drags on and not enough context for Valerian and Laurelines relationship or any backstory on either of them, you may find it hard to engage with them or care about their relationship. And despite some great visuals, the storytelling is definitely lacking and there’s a notable lack of weight to the plots events.

6/10

. Poor pacing

. Story really drags in the 2nd half

. Has some great visuals