Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Game of Thrones- Series 6 (thus far) Spoiler-filled.

SO anyone who knows me is aware that I am a big fan of the world George RR Martin has created. Westeros is by far one of the most interesting fictional lands ever created. From The Wall to Dorne, I find myself investing a lot of time and emotion into this creation.

A number of people who watch the show are fans of the book and feel like it doesn't quite hold the candle to the original text. I am an admirer of both mediums as separate entities.

Whilst the TV show, Game of Thrones, uses the majority of the story plots and characters as the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, I find each to have their own identity.

So what can be said for the most recent installment of the behemoth which is the TV series. Only being four episodes in it would usually be too hard to tell, but as this ship enters uncharted waters (now the TV show has surpassed and deviated from the book) we have started to get into the real beginning of the end.

So far series 6 has given fans some of the most stand-out moments of the whole run time to date, in my belief anyway.

Now before I continue I must say that there will be spoilers from here on out. Just remember, the internet is dark and full of terrors.

In the first episode in Series 6 we have already been shown Sansa and Reek  Theon being saved by Brienne of Tarth, about bloody time too! We are finally getting to see a Stark find themselves in a spot of good fortune (but more on that later). We are also shown the struggle for Mereen, something that was bound to happen once Daenerys was whisked away by the Khalesaar. But this gives us more time to enjoy the laddish banter between Varys and Tyrion (two of the best characters in my opinion).

Things pick up nicely from the shit-shock-horror which was the series 5 finale. And it really begins to unfold once the closing credits for episode 2 make their way across the screen.

We find Arya blind and begging in the streets of Bravos, playing the game of truth with the unbearable Waif (easily one of my least favourite characters along with Olly). After being hit by sticks and insisting that "A girl has no name" Arya is finally welcomed back through the doors of the House of Black and White by Jacquen Ha'agar, the Faceless Badman.

The main point behind this series is the resurrection of Jon Snow, something which wasn't saved and dragged out like a series of The Walking Dead. The return of the Lord Commander, Bastard of Winterfell, savior of the Freemen and all-round hero Jon Snow means a few things for the series. As soon as he was revived I, probably with hundreds of others, knew this would mean the end of his Watch, you know, as death frees a member of the Night's Watch from their vows. After waking from his long slumber Snow decides that this will in fact be the end, but not before taking all of the traitors with him. A shocking but powerful scene which sees Jon hang Ser Alliser, Olly and other members of the mutiny leaving an uneasy feeling deep inside, knowing this was the right thing to do but seeing Jon's reaction to this decision. After all, death can change a man.

The long wait for members of the Stark clan to be reunited was finally witnessed by audiences around the world with Sansa, escorted by Brienne and Pod to Castle Black, finally finds herself in the company of her long lost half-brother. This was a feel good moment which left a smile on my face...but not for long as another bastard in the North has seemingly gained a rather large piece of leverage.

Ramsay Bolton, remember? The torturer, sadistic, flay-master extraordinaire? Well he is cranking the crazy up to 22 with the killing of his kin, first his father then his newly born step brother and mother making him the 'Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell'. As a welcoming present to the new role a member of the Umber family presents Ramsay with a shocking surprise in the form of the head of a Direwolf, a wildling and son of Eddard Stark himself Rikon. A truly astonishing move.

As is tradition with Game of Thrones all of the storylines seem to drive forwards either slowly or so quick you could blink and miss an important narrative twist. So far the slower paced scenes are set in Mereen with Tyrion and Varys as well as the painfully uneventful Kings Landing sequences, only until the Mountain starts crushing people like he did poor old Obi Martell will things truly kick off.

With the absence of Bran and our lovable giant Hodor from series 5, it felt only too right for the series to have a large focus on beyond the Wall. This is welcome in my opinion as we are starting to see Bran's true potential shine through with help from the Three Eyed Raven. Now....if you are a GoT fan you will know where this paragraph is leading....

So we come to "The Door"....truly one of the saddest, most heartbreaking and down-right depressing episodes that Game of Thrones has delivered.

We finally got to find out a bit more about the Children of the Forest. A race of magical beings that reside North of the Wall and who are as old as Westeros itself. During one of Bran's greenseeing visions we encounter Leaf, one of the Children who assisted Bran into the Weirwood tree at the end of series 4, pushing what seems to be either Dragonglass or bark from the Weirdwood into the chest of a man causing him to transform into the frosty bastard Night's King. What a revelation that was. Oh but the ride doesn't stop there.

Bran, bored from sleeplessness, goes into a vision without guidance from the Three Eyed Raven where he sees the army of the undead, lead by the four main Night's Soldiers. Within seconds the Night's King grabs Bran, still in the vision, leaving a mark on his arm once he wakes. This can only mean one thing, disaster. The Wight's attack the Weirwood, slaughtering all of the Children whilst Bran, Meera and Hodor make their escape, Summer on the other hand sacrifices herself to save her Stark master.

As Bran is currently having a vision whilst these events unfold he can only hear Meera shouting as if it was a whisper. After the Three Eyed Raven tells Bran to warg into Hodor to save himself, the warged Hodor pulls the Branmobile down a long hallway with Meera in tow being chased by hundreds of the undead. Cue Leaf sacrificing herself to save them, the death of the Three Eyed Raven and a struggle to open...the door...the real tragedy unfolds.

Everyone who is anyone who knows Hodor knows his vocabulary is limited to..well..Hodor. During the visions Bran has of Winterfell long before the events of Robert's Rebellion we meet Wyllis (Hodor) a simple stable boy who can definitely speak more than his own 'name'. As the warged Hodor opens the door from the Weirwood passage and the three escape Meera shouts at him to hold...the...door. These shouts can be heard by a young Wyllis in Bran's vision causing him to have a fit and repeatedly shout "Hold the door" as Bran looks on solemnly. As  poor Wyllis keeps shouting "Hold the door", whilst in the present Hodor is being scratched, stabbed and attacked whilst holding the door, young Wyllis' words slur to become just one word....and that is how our poor, simple, gentle giant Hodor began and one fell swoop one of the only innocent characters in the whole series is no longer. And that is the tragedy which is Game of Thrones, as quoted earlier in the episode "Do you think death comes just for the wicked?"

Friday, 20 May 2016

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse. It's the end of the world as we know it.

AS trilogies go it is rare to find a third installment which outshines the previous two. This can be for many reasons such as story development, introducing too many new characters or even something as simple as changing the theme.

Unfortunately, X Men: Apocalypse suffers from all three of these points. Don't get me wrong, it isn't Last Stand level of poor, but marks a disappointing ending to what could've been the perfect X Men trilogy.

With First Class and Days of Future Past the film was set during large events in America's history such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of JFK, but Apocalypse pulls the mutants away from this clever plot structure to focus on one of the team's most formidable enemies, the main man himself, Apocalypse.

Starting with the birth of Oscar Isaac's iteration of the big bad during the times of Ancient Egypt, the film throws you straight into the history of the supposed 'God'. Whilst this is quite an exciting prospect, having such a powerful antagonist for our friendly X Men to battle with, it just feels like it has either been done too late or completely rushed.

When we arrive in the 80's we find ourselves meeting a group of familiar faces, well characters rebooted with younger actors. This was one of the most exciting prospects for me as Nightcrawler has to be my favourite character from the comics (with the exception of Deadpool, but I shall touch on that later). In fact, the rebooting of the characters is the strongest part of this movie, Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones' Sansa Stark) plays a struggling Jean Grey quite well and Tye Sheridan as a teenage angsty Cyclops is entertaining.

One of the main elements of this film is Apocalypse gathering his Four Horsemen, in fact that probably lasts longer than the end spectacle. Magneto, Archangel, Psylocke and Storm fill the roles after being promised a place in the new world and having their powers cranked up to 11. But as Horsemen, they don't really seem to do much, there is the fight at the end of the film but very little gravity to bring these characters down to Earth.

Going into this film you can expect a lot of flashbacks to the previous installments, well more First Class than DoFP, supposedly to bring the trilogy into a full circle, but even that sadly falls short of the mark.

The one element carried on from DoFP is the hilarious Quicksilver (fantastically played by Evan Peters) who once again has the most entertaining scene in the film to the tune of Eurythmics. A real stand-out moment in what can be described as an average superhero film.

In the film there are certain aspects which try and stay fairly loyal to the comics, one moment stands out in particular, and that is the cameo from the wild one himself Wolverine. His scene in the film is a true depiction of what Wolverine is supposed to be, feral and violent. I am sure the increased amount of violence was used after the success of the bloody, sweary Deadpool film and as the latest Wolverine film has been given an R rating (probably a 15 in the UK) it wouldn't be a surprise that Fox are trying to emulate the blockbusting success of the Merc with a mouth. And that doesn't bother me in the slightest as Wolverine was always supposed to be a much more violent character.

Overall X Men: Apocalypse has its merits, but still falls short of the mark when the overall trilogy is concerned. For die hard fans this film will probably satisfy their needs, but for me I can honestly say that I was not convinced.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War (aka Avengers 2.5)

So I have just returned from watching the latest installment of the gargantuan cinematic behemoth which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What more can I say about the Marvel cinema experience other than its ambition has become its own worst enemy, a victim of its own success. I shall just go ahead and say, I did enjoy the film, for all of its flaws and all of its perfections.

While some of the many entries into the comic book adaptions have been good, for the most part, I have started to feel like it has become a constant loop where the only winners will be Disney (and hardcore fans of course).

Firstly, the spectacle of having all of these heroes on screen (the Avengers Assemble boasting six of the earth's mightiest heroes where Civil War showcasing a further three, but more on that later) is something to behold. Other films haven't been as lucky to get away with such an ideal (see X-Men 3 Last Stand and Batman Vs Superman) but here, in the complete nerdgasm which is Civil War, it works for the most part.

New entries into this latest super-flick include the UK's own Tom Holland as the truly fantastic adaption of Spiderman, a spectacular and refreshing interpretation of our friendly neighborhood web-slinger, and the wonderfully acted Black Panther, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman. These heroes add something to the film that an Avengers film has been yearning for, not to say that the other actors don't fill in the screen time as well. Paul Rudd as Ant Man surpasses his stand-alone film, which I still find irritatingly disappointing.

The story, whilst a bit lackluster overall, does keep you enthralled. Since Avengers Assemble the idea of seeing these iconic characters battle it out has always been something of dreams, but in Civil War it blasts those early-in-the-series scenes out of the water. Seeing RDJ fighting Chris Evans is grand to say the least, no matter which side you take (personally #TeamIronMan all the way). Each has their own motives and their own way to make the audience take a side.

I do not wish to ruin any massive plot points, as someone who detests spoiler-filled reviews I fully apply myself to keeping the secrets. But, wherein lies continue, the bad guy- an overly ambitious Zemo (not Baron.....just no) that continues to show that Marvel cannot seem to get a bad guy right, apart from the enigmatic Ultron in what was overall a disappointing film. Zemo doesn't play much purpose in the film at all, same can be said for the usually great Martin Freeman (hopefully a character that will have a massive development further down the line).

Now, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, the architect of all the heroes' pain..sorry I almost got myself mixed up with Christoph Waltz in Spectre, he is essentially the same as he was at the end of the second Captain America, a man who has had his head messed about with by a higher power which results in a lot of Jason Bourne-type shit. Whilst his part is much bigger, and holds a pivotal role in this film, he is still the same teenage-angsty sort of character, with more scowl than 100 Batmans. In all fairness he needed to be for the conflict to work in the first place, and Sebastian Stan nailed the Winter Soldier.

Now I am well aware this is my opinion and, like the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one. But I did enjoy the two hours of crazy, CGI-belted action which was Civil War. With all of its peaks and all of its troughs I did think it was an acceptable addition to the MCU line-up. I am just saddened that nothing will be able to surpass Avengers Assemble, point and case is Loki, the best onscreen Marvel baddie ever. It seems no other Marvel film will ever encapsulate the essence of a decent antagonist, we shall just have to wait and see what Thanos holds in store (hopefully something other than an Infinity Gauntlet).

Captain America: Civil War- 4/5 (and that is me being generous).

I shall leave you with a thought- in a world full of superhero movies and reboots, where will blockbusters end up? Surely, just surely, the superhero trend will die out.