Angelina Jolie and Taylor Sheridan team up in the Those Who Wish Me Dead trailer


When it comes to writing, anyone who’s watched either Sicario, Hell or High Water or Yellowstone know that Taylor Sheridan’s a force to be reckoned with. The Sons of Anarchy alum has a pretty good track record. With his latest, Those Who Wish Me Dead, he’s also working in the Director’s chair, his first film since 2017’s Wind River.

Whether it’s onscreen or through activism, Academy Award Winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted , Maleficent) always maintains a powerful presence. Jolie’s performance mixed with Sheridan’s script should prove to be really interesting. Based on Michael Koryta’s book, Jolie plays a forest firefighter who finds herself protecting a small child on the run. The film also stars Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite), Jon Bernthal (The Accountant), Tyler Perry (Gone Girl), Aiden Gillen (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) and Finn Little (Angel of Mine).

Those Who Wish Me Dead is part of the WB’s Same Day Premieres, meaning that HBO Max subscribers can watch the film when it’s released on May 14, or in theatres.

Playing Catch-Up: Sing Street (dir by John Carney)


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The Irish musical comedy drama romance (that’s a lot of genres to take in, I know) Sing Street was one of the great and most sadly overlooked films of the previous year.  Fortunately, it’s on Netflix now and I seriously recommend that you watch it.  I watched it last night and I absolutely loved it.

Well, actually, it took me a while to realize that I loved it.  When the movie first started, I was kinda like, “Well, that’s cute and sweet but it’s not exactly blowing me away…”  It tells the story of a 15 year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is growing up in Dublin in the early 80s.  His father (Aidan Gillen) and his mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are constantly fighting and Conor suspects that they’re on the verge of separating.  His older brother, the charismatic but bitter Brendan (Jack Reynor), has dropped out of college and moved back home.  Brendan spends his days stoned and talking about music.

Because the family is short on money, Conor has been transferred to a free school, Synge Street.  It’s a far rougher school than what Conor is used to.  Bullies target him as soon as he arrives.  Meanwhile, the principal, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherly), has taken a somewhat disturbing interest in his newest student.  When Conor can’t afford to buy the black shoes that he’s required to wear to school, Baxter forces him to spend the school day in his socks.

Perhaps the only positive in Conor’s life is Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a 16 year-old who lives across the street from the school.  Raphina is an aspiring model with an older boyfriend and plans to move to London.  Conor tells Raphina that he’s in a band and that he wants her to star in a music video.  To Conor’s surprise, Raphina agrees.

Now, Conor just has to get a band together…

Sing Street was directed by John Carney, the same man who previously gave us the wonderful Once and the somewhat-less-wonderful-but-still-good Begin Again.  Much like those previous two films, Sing Street is a deliriously romantic and rather bittersweet little film, one in which love and emotion are expressed through song.  As a director, Carney has a real skill for capturing the excitement of creation.  The scenes in which Conor and his friend Eamon (Mark McKenna) work on their songs are just as enthralling as the scenes of Raphina and Conor falling in love.

And the music itself is wonderful.  While the soundtrack never quite reaches the heights of Once, it is a definite improvement over Begin Again.  The songs are all catchy and enjoyable but, even more importantly, they sound like the songs that actually would have been written by a talented but confused 15 year-old who has just started his own band.  There’s an aching sincerity to Sing Street‘s songs and they stay with you.  They remind you of how wonderful it is to know that you have your entire future ahead of you.

As I said, I didn’t realize how good Sing Street was until I had nearly reached the end of the movie.  Sing Street is one of those low-key films that kind of sneaks up on you.  At first, you think that you’re just watching another well-made coming of age film and then suddenly, you’re in tears.  You’re hoping that Raphina will make it to London and that Conor will find some sort of happiness.  The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note but, in the end, you realize you really don’t need to know the exact details of what happened to Raphina and Conor in the future.  Instead, what’s important is that they had this wonderful experience when they were young.  Regardless of what happens to them in the future, you’re happy that they had the experience.

The whole film is undeniably well-acted but I want to make special mention of Jack Reynor, who brings a wounded dignity and rueful humor to the role of Brendan.  He dominates his few scenes and you find yourself happy that, regardless of how messed up the rest of his family may be, Conor has a brother like Brendan.

As I said at the start of this review, Sing Street is on Netflix.  And you should definitely watch it.

Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises (Nokia Exclusive)


Marvel Studios’ The Avengers has been the runaway, blockbuster hit of 2012’s summer film season. The film has also become the film which detractors of Christopher Nolan’s third and final entry in his Dark Knight trilogy put up as the film to beat this summer. I like the fanboy enthusiasm that always comes out of the shadows whenever comic book films battle it out during the summer blockbuster season year in and year out, but I will say that instead of pitting the two mega-hits against each other fans of the comic book genre should embrace both because just around the corner will be the average to awful comic book films.

With just a month to go before the film’s release we get a new trailer (this one a Nokia Exclusive) for The Dark Knight Rises which looks to emphasis the action of the film where the previous trailers and teasers concentrated more on keeping the film’s story a secret. I’ve looked at these series’ of trailers and ads for the film like another of Nolan’s previous films with The Prestige. The first trailers and ads I see as the “The Pledge” from the film’s creators that hints at the grandiose event we’re going to be witness to. This latest trailer acts like “The Turn” as we see the magician performing the trick of this latest film giving the audience a bit more flash and pizzazz (maybe some misdirection as well to keep the story secret until the film’s release). For The Dark Knight Rises it will be on opening weekend when we finally see “The Prestige” that closes out (hopefully with critical-acclaim) Nolan’s turn as the caretaker of the Batman film franchise.

The Dark Knight Rises is set for a July 20, 2012 release date.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E05 “The Ghost of Harrenhal”


“Anyone can be killed.” — Arya Stark

The first four episodes of the second season of Game of Thrones has been consistently good to great despite the addition of a large number of new characters to a cast already considered massive by tv standards. Last week’s “Garden of Bones” was the weakest of the four and worked more like a set-up episode for the rest of the season. With tonight’s fifth episode in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” we get another set-up episode that looks to be the weakest entry in this new season.

The episode’s title comes from the novel and what Arya calls herself during her stay in Harrenhal. She becomes the ghost of the title as she takes the offer made to her by the engimatic Jaqen H’ghar. But before we get to Arya and her adventures within the cursed halls of Harrenhal we start the episode back at the Renly Baratheon camp where the younger Barantheon entertains Catelyn Stark with an offer to take back to her son Robb in the North. Before the armies of Renly and Robb could come together to fight against their common enemy that the shadowy thing from the end of last week’s episode finally make it’s appearance to end the fight between the Baratheon brothers once and for all.

As Arya comments to Tywin in Harrenhal thus Renly’s fate early in the episode prove her words correct. Anyone can be killed and it would seem anywhere.

The rest of the episode from then on is all about setting up what I can only guess would be the two set piece events for the season. There’s the planned amphibious invasion of King’s landing being planned by Stannis Baratheon with his reinforced army now that Renly’s bannermen has flocked to him after their former liege’s assassination. Then there’s the stuff brewing up north of the Wall with the entire Night’s Watch searching for and preparing for the massive wildling army being formed by former Night’s Watch brother and self-proclaimed “King Beyond the Wall”.

Most of the dynamic writing for tonight’s episode occur down at King’s Landing and Harrenhal where we see both Tyrion and Arya adjusting to the ever-shifting status in both places. With Tyrion he must now contend with an older sister in Cersei who seem to be waking up to the fact that she cannot bully the current Hand of the King and realizes that she too can play the manipulative game as her deformed younger sibling. The fact that a weapon of mass destruction has been in production for quite sometime without his knowing and put into motion by his sister has put the usually cocky and confident Tyrion on his heels. But as we’ve seen since this show began airing the dwarf Lannister is very quick to adjust his footing. It’s going to be interesting how the writers will keep the personal battles between Tyrion and Cersei for control of King’s Landing to not feel like wheel’s spinning in place. Sooner or later one of them will find the chink in the other’s personal armor and make the “killing” stroke.

Further up north we see Arya do her own dance around the shifting circumstance she finds herself in as the personal cupbearer for the man who heads the house she despises and blames for the death of her father. The back and forth between her and Tywin was one of the highlight’s of tonight’s episode even though it didn’t move the story forward, but did add another layer of character growth on the youngest Stark daughter. Maisie Williams as Arya continues to impress in the role. She looked like she belonged in the scene with the older veteran actor in Charles Dance. It’s a small wonder that she’s become one of the show’s favorite characters.

With tonight’s episode we hit the halfway mark of the season and even though there’s still another half to go so much stuff occurred with tonight’s episode that it’ll be a surprise if the season finale gives all of them a satisfying resolution. I haven’t even mentioned the scenes with Theon trying to find his footing with his crew before setting off to raid the coastline near Winterfell as his father has ordered him to do.

If there was ever a weak point in this season it’s that we seem to get a new subplot introduced with each new episode and tonight’s episode was a perfect example. Not saying that tonight was poorly written and acted. Everyone seemed to be in top form, but instead of streamlining what is already turning out to be a season with an ever-growing number of storylines we get more. It’s going to be a wonder how the show’s writers will be able to juggle everything as the season enters it’s second half. Maybe they won’t find a resolution for every thread introduced this season and I’m betting that is how it’s going to pan out, but that could also mean delaying some of these threads for next season.

If there’s one thing people should know about George R.R. Martin’s novels it’s that plots, subplots and side stories only continue to pile on each other even when some past ones get a resolution. Sooner or later the showrunners will have to make a tough decision to abandon certain storylines from the novel even if it means angering and alienating the fans of the books who are already grumbling about some of the changes the show has already made in adapting the series to television.

I’m all for fidelity to the source material, but as Arya said in tonight’s episode, “Anyone can be killed”, and I say the same thing should go in how the show moves on into the second half and beyond. Any storyline can be cut and I’m all for it if it keeps the series from becoming a narrative bloated mess.

Notes

  • Looks like Renly Baratheon will not be able to play at war again.
  • Brienne is not a woman that any man should anger if what she did in Renly’s tent was any indication.
  • Littlefinger and Margaery Tyrell would make for quite a formidable couple if these two manipulative kids ever decide to get together.
  • We don’t see it happen often but Tyrion definitely looks like he’s not in control of the situation during his conversation with Cersei and then later on with Lancel and his talk of wildfire.
  • For all his work to try and protect the people from Joffrey’s madness Tyrion still ends up on the short end of the stick.
  • Stannis is turning out to be quite a conundrum. One second he’s willing to use underhanded tactics to win over his younger brother’s bannermen to his army, then turns around and becomes his rigid self once again. It’s a wonder that he still has Ser Davos’ loyalty.
  • Tywin at Harrenhal with his war council is a major change from the novel, but it makes sense now that we get a sort of confrontation between the Lannister patriarch and Arya Stark.
  • Highlight of the episode has to be Jaqen and Arya making an arrangement where the former shall repay his life-debt to the latter with the deaths of three names Arya will give the enigmatic soldier.
  • Tyrion finally gets his footing on solid ground again as he takes control of the wildfire production from his sister. I’m thinking King’s Landing would be better served to have the volatile wildfire in the hands of Tyrion than his more equally volatile sister and her insane son.
  • Daenerys gets another lesson in the cutthroat world of diplomacy as she gets a tempting offer from Xaro Xhoan Daxos.
  • Her next lesson on how to be a capable ruler comes from her trusted knight and advisor Ser Jorah who thinks Daxos’ offer will contain strings that she may not be able to cut once accepted.
  • Bran’s dreams seem to portent the coming Ironborns and the former ward and friend in Theon leading them.
  • Rickon Stark looks like he’s becoming wilder and wilder with each appearance.
  • A surprise for the lack of any sort of sexposition or even nudity. Might be a first for this show.
  • One down and two to go.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E04 “Garden of Bones”


“A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man has none.” — Lord Roose Bolton of Dreadfort

I will say that tonight’s latest episode of HBO’s medieval fantasy series, Game of Thrones, probably qualifies as a set-up episode. The episode was quite good, but it was also one that moved around the world of the series to help establish some upcoming storylines for characters in the show. What each of these set-ups had in common was how much they dealt with death both the past, present and future. Tonight’s episode lacked any sort of balance to it’s downbeat and doom-laden tone.

“Garden of Bones” was the title of tonight’s episode and it comes from the description the people of Qarth called the area outside their city-state’s walls. It’s an area full of death and the bones left behind by the enemies and unfortunate individuals who were barred from entering the city’s gates. The show has been very good with introducing those fans who have never read the book to the culture of the many peoples in Game of Thrones. While these many disparate cultures have differences that make them unique they also seem to have a common denominator and that’s with how they view the concept of death. This is a world where death has become the norm and almost a currency for those in power. It’s no wonder that death would be described in such interesting and flowery ways.

We see death on the battlefield as Robb Stark’s army opens up the episode with another major victory over forces of Tywin Lannister and his bannermen. While the battle itself wasn’t shown the aftermath is something we do see in very grim and detail. Bodies of the dead from both sides litter the battlefield and we get a mention about how the butcher’s bill for the battle itself was 5 Lannister men dead for every Stark men. It’s a grim reminder that the world Martin has created with his novels is one that doesn’t glorify or sugarcoat the nature of warfare, especially the medieval kind, and how it grinds away men both soldier and civilian alike. We get a sense of how even the very one king out of the five vying for control in this season has no clue as to the consequences of his actions. A nurse who is tending to the wounded and crippled of the battle’s aftermath pretty much calls bullshit on Robb Stark’s assertion that he’s the good guy in this war. A good guy the nurse calls out for not having a proper exit plan if and when Robb defeats Joffrey. Even Robb’s compassion towards his defeated enemies seem to ring hollow considering that it’s his reaction to his father’s death which has brought about all the death we see in this episode’s beginning.

It’s that exit plan that Tyrion seems to be working on whether his family wins the war or not. Once again it’s the one person everyone (well except Bronn) seems to not take seriously due to his appearance and undeserved reputation who sees clearly that if the war continues the only one who would have won would be the dead and that’s because they won’t have to deal with the post-war mess Joffrey and the other claimants to the Iron Throne (or carving out their own kingdoms from the ashes) have made with the execution of Ned Stark in season 1.

The theme of death continues to permeate even when it comes to the younger roles in the show. Across the Narrow Sea we see Daenerys and her khalasar on the brink of starvation and death until news comes from one of her outriders that the city-state of Qarth wants to meet with her. It’s a meeting that doesn’t go well for the young Targaryen queen as those in power in the city (a city of merchants) are not overly impressed by the so-called Mother of Dragons. It’s a misstep in her attempts to negotiate diplomatically that threatens to add her and her khalasar to the ever-growing Garden of Bones which encircles the walls of Qarth.

It’s from the youngest of the Stark daughters that we see the death and brutality of this war come into vivid view as Arya arrives with the rest of the prisoners into the cursed castle of Harrenhal. We see torture in full display as a prisoner is brought into questioning as Harrenhal’s current lord wants information on a band of warriors who call themselves “The Brotherhood” who continue to harry the Lannisters in the region. Arya’s journey from being the rambunctious and wild young daughter of Ned Stark in season 1 to the damaged and old-before-her-time survivor continues as she witnesses the torture of the prisoners and the utter disregard for human life some of the men of Harrenhal have towards the prisoners and villagers living nearby. It’s ironic that the very person who actually shows a semblance of compassion (though probably less compassion and more of a pragmatist who sees waste in killing of prisoners) would be the head of the house which killed her father and took her away from family and home. Yet, it’s her near-ritualistic repeating of the names of everyone who has wronged her from Joffrey and the Lannisters to Ser Amory Loch who killed Yoren in the previous episode.

Tonight’s episode doesn’t treat it’s young characters with kid gloves and with Arya we see how much she’s becoming accustomed to all the death around her and even uses it to keep herself focused on her personal quest of vengeance. For one of the youngest characters in the show she’s turning out to be the one who is learning to understand the power the concept of death has over everyone. It’ll be interesting to see if the show does the brave thing and really follows the novel in terms of Arya’s journey into what I can only call the dark side.

“Garden of Bones” wasn’t as streamlined as the previous two episodes this season, but it does set-up some major plot threads for the rest of the season. While it they all seem to be lines of story that look to not interconnect they all seem to agree on the fact that more death will be forthcoming as the season heads toward what I can only see as a bloody, fiery conclusion. Oh, plus it did have quite a major turning point in the show and another step towards making magic and the supernatural part of the show’s narrative fabric as Melisandre show’s Ser Davos Seaworth the true extent of her powers.

Notes

  • We get two new locations and clockwork cities in the show’s intro sequence: Harrenhal and Qarth.
  • Love the detail of the clockwork Harrenhal being made to look like the dead and cursed castle and land that it is with no clockwork motions given to it in the intro.
  • Another battle that is done off-screen. The Battle of Blackwater Pass better be epic.
  • Great to see Greywind actually being used as part of Robb Stark’s army.
  • We get another new character introduced that fans of the books should know very well: Lord Roose Bolton of Dreadfort
  • Joffrey takes another step into Emperor Nero-level of royal madness.
  • If anyone ever wonder just how crazy the Mad King Targaryen was then Joffrey may be giving glimpses of that very madness when it was still in it’s early stages.
  • Fans of the show may still not be enamored with Sansa Stark, but Tyrion is beginning to understand just how much a survivor she’s becoming in the dangerous world Joffrey has turned Westeros into.
  • Tyrion and Bronn continue to be one of the highlight’s of this new season with Tyrion once again having some of the best dialogue. You’d think the show’s writers were making sure Dinklage wins another Emmy for his work on this show.
  • Natalie Dormer in the role of Margaery Tyrell continues to own the role as she more than holds her own during a verbal joust with Littlefinger in the Renly war camp.
  • We hear the first mention of something called “The Brotherhood”. It will be interesting if the writers decide to make them a major part of the tv series considering it would add another half dozen or so characters to an already large cast for the season.
  • We see how much Daenerys has to go to be a political queen as she deals with the Thirteen of Qarth.
  • Some more great work from young Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in tonight’s episode. She continues to be the star of the cast of young actors on this show.
  • Stannis may be a rigid man in terms of whats right and wrong, but not when it comes to battle or war it seems.
  • Davos’ reaction to what Melisandre has planned all along in the secret mission Stannis has sent him on was classic. It had all sort of WTF written all over his face.
  • One of the most important scenes in Martin’s story was done quite well and disturbingly so.
  • Which ends the episode that was shorter by a few minutes than previous ones.

RANT BEGINS

Some major changes in tonight’s episode in regards to the books and in this season as a whole. I’ve seen many on Twitter complain about this. All I can say to these people: they had to be made and Martin has been involved in making sure they fit into the overall story he’s been telling. Either stop watching the show looking for the next book-to-tv change and bitch and moan about it when it happens or just treat the show as it’s own thing separate from the books they love so much. As a fan of the book series from the very beginning I understand the changes for tv and don’t see it as making the novels worse in the end.

What’s the point of watching something that’s suppose to entertain and bring about discussion when one already going into with a negative bias about the show. Get off the show’s jock and watch something else if you can’t get passed the changes. No point in spoiling things for those who have never read the book and must read and listen to the complaints.

RANT ENDS

Review: Game of Thrones Ep. 09 “Baelor”


My mind is a little bit jumbled as I sit down to review episode 9 of Game of Thrones.  As I’ve always been quick to admit, I’m not sports fan and, to be honest, I find most sporting events to be 1) tedious, 2) confusing, or 3) both.  So, there’s a lot of I don’t understand about the game between the Mavericks and the Heat tonight but I do understand that my city’s team won and YAY! for that.  Right now, there’s a huge party going on in downtown Dallas and, if it were just two years earlier, I would probably be down there, drinking too much, dancing in the middle of the street, flashing my boobs at passing cameras, and basically having a grand old Mardi Gras.

However, I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years and that’s why, instead of partying downtown, I instead observed the Mavs victory by going to the beloved DVR and playing the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

So, if you’re totally unfamiliar with the George R. R. Martin books, tonight’s “twist” was undoubtedly the shock of the television season.  The folks at Entertainment Weekly have already declared it to be so.  Now, if you’ve read the books or, if like me, you’ve only read an outline of them, then you already knew what fate lay in store for Nedd.  Still, I think HBO should be commended for actually going through with it.  It’s one thing to kill off a major character in a work of literature.  It’s another to kill off the star of your show.

So, tonight’s episode began with Nedd chained up in a dungeon and ended up with him being beheaded while his terrified daughters watched.  Nedd was executed despite the fact that, in order to protect his daughter, he’d just announced that Joffrey was the rightful heir to the throne.  And Joffrey repaid him by ordering his execution.  So, if you didn’t hate Joffrey before…well, why didn’t you?  I mean, seriously, not only has he been a consistent asshole (at least as far as the TV series goes, I understand that all the characters are a bit more nuanced in the books) but he still looks like Justin Beiber possessed by Pazuzu.  But anyway, if you had any wonders about the type of king Joffrey will be, those doubts were answered tonight.

A lot of viewers (like me) have commented that, in the first few episodes, Nedd came across as well-meaning but largely ineffectual and a little bit dull.  We knew that he’d have his moment at some point because he was played by Sean Bean.  But, far too often, it seemed like Sean Bean would be forever overshadowed by the more flamboyant characters played by Peter Dinklage, Aiden Gillen, and others.  Well, tonight, Sean Bean finally got his chance to shine and, as a result, viewers who had been casually dismissive of Nedd Stark will now be forced to look at him in a different light.  Whether it was the defiance he showed at the opening of the episode or the doomed dignity with which he faced his fate, Nedd was suddenly revealed as perhaps one of the strongest characters among this epic’s large cast.  And Bean proved himself to be exactly the right actor to portray that strength.

This episode was clearly dominated by Nedd’s death but here’s a few other points:

1) I don’t know whether this was intentional or maybe it’s just my Catholic background coming out on Pentecost Sunday but Nedd’s execution — with the rabid crowd calling for his blood — had a definite “Give us Barabas!” passion play feel to it.  The execution itself, I felt, was quite well-directed and seemed to be meant to remind us of Nedd putting down the dire wolf earlier in the season.

2) Peter Dinklage had a host of good scenes as Tyrion tonight.  Dinklage plays the role with just the right mix of duty and cynicism.  The brilliance of his performance, I think, is that he doesn’t go overboard with either trait.  It’s that perfect balance that makes Tyrion such a consistently interesting character.  As well, I loved his scenes with Charles Dance and Sibel Kekilli (playing the character of Shae).  Dinklage is one of those actors who seems to bring out the best of those appearing opposite him as well.

3) This episode’s other main plotline seemed to be Drogo’s sudden illness and the bloody approach the was taken to cure him.  The blood didn’t really surprise me because, quite frankly, it seems like anyone within the vicinity of Drogo is going to end up getting splattered with blood every other day.  Still, I like Drogo and it goes beyond the undeniable sex appeal of a big, strong man who takes what he wants.  He and Danys have probably one of the most genuine relationships on this show.  Then, to top it all off, Danys goes into labor.

So, next week brings us the season finale of Game of Thrones.  I’ve enjoyed discovering this new world over the past two months and I’ve enjoyed losing my Game of Thrones virginity here online with the readers of this site.  I can’t tell you what’s going to happen on episode 10 but I can tell you that I picked up a copy of George R. R. Martin’s novel earlier on Saturday and I plan to read it over the summer.  I look forward to discovering what the television series left out and also to preparing myself for season two of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Review: Game of Thrones Ep. 08 “The Pointy End”


Okay, this is my third time to review an episode of Game of Thrones for this blog.  I previously reviewed episode 2 and then episode 6.  I always seem to end up reviewing episodes in which Drogo does something really brutal and makes me go, “Agck!”  And tonight was no different.

So, when we last left Game of Thrones, the king was dying and Nedd had been appointed protector of the realm.  Nedd was ordered to bow down to Joffrey Beiber but Nedd refused, saying that Joffrey was not the heir to the throne.  This led to the creepy little brat demanding blood and suddenly, Aiden Gillen was holding a knife to Nedd’s throat and saying — in this wonderfully evil way — “I did tell you not to trust me.”

Last week’s episode ended with the promise of violence and the beginning on tonight’s episode delivered on that promise as the Lannister guards came for Nedd’s two daughters — Arya and Sansa — and cut down anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way.  By this point, we expect the violence in this show to be brutal.  Indeed, I think we almost demand it because each drop of blood shed onscreen serves notice that Game of Thrones isn’t just a “sword-and-sorcery fantasy.”  Instead, it’s a show about real people, all of whom have their own motivations, personalities, and individual complexities.  This show is a fantasy that feels real and that was especially evident tonight.

The casual and needless brutality of the Lannisters was emphasized by the fact that they were clad in anonymous armor and carrying metal swords while the majority of their victims were both without weapon and armor.  If nothing else, this sequence left little doubt who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.

Speaking of good guys, I have to admit that I hadn’t given much thought to Syrio until tonight’s episode but I still had to hold back a tear as I watched him knowingly sacrified himself for Arya.  There was something so incredibly poignant about the sight of him standing there with his broken wooden sword, facing down that faceless, armor-clad giant.  For all the respect I give this show for not shying away from the brutality of violence, I was thankful that we didn’t see Syrio struck down.  It allowed the character to go out with the respect that he had definitely earned.

From the moment this show began, I’ve been aware that Arya and (to a much lesser extent) Sansa are two fan favorites and this episode — perhaps for the first time since we saw Arya dealing with Joffrey Bieber in episode 2 — gave me some clues why.  Though Arya was only in the first ten minutes of the episode, she also provided tonight’s most shocking moment when she killed a young boy with “the pointy end.”  It was a well-played scene and one that once established that this is a fantasy with a very human dimension.

Arya escaped the Lannisters but Sansa — not surprisingly — didn’t.  Instead, she was taken into custody.  I have to admit that it’s easy to dislike Sansa.  Previously, I’ve always thought of her as being the equivalent of those silly girls who go on twitter, change their last name to Beiber, and spend all of their time hating on Selena Gomez.  It didn’t help that every time we saw Sansa, she was chasing after that little creepy Joffrey.  However, at the end of tonight’s episode, Sansa partially redeemed herself by begging Joffrey to spare Nedd.  I say partially because she still felt the need to say that she understood that Nedd must have done something wrong.  Obviously, that was probably a diplomatic move on her part but I still found myself wishing that Arya had been there because she would have just ripped the little brat’s throat out.  Still, this final scene was very well-played by both Jack Gleeson (as Joffrey) and Sophie Turner (as Sansa).  Though it ended on a much quieter note than last week’s episode, the end of tonight’s episode carried a lot more emotional weight.

I think one reason that Arleigh wanted me to review this particular episode is because some much of it centered on the two sisters and the different methods they used to deal with the situation they found themselves in.  Just by coincidence, I ended up watching tonight’s episode with my own sister, Erin.  As usual, Erin and I both started to discuss which sister I was like and which sister she was like.  And, as usual, we both wanted to be Arya.

Erin’s argument for being the most like Arya comes down to the fact that, like Arya, she’s athletic, not given to vanity, and has little use for the silly and superficial.  My argument was that, like Arya, I’m the youngest.  Yes, I’m afraid that’s the only argument I could come up with.  As I watched tonight’s episode, I finally forced myself to admit that I’m not Arya.  No, I’m just silly little Sansa, constantly flirting with the wrong guy, getting my entire family into trouble but, if nothing else, always looking good while doing so.  That’s hard to admit because, ultimately, who wouldn’t rather be Arya?

After watching tonight’s episode, I can say that even though I would still rather be an Arya, I can at least be a little less embarrassed about actually being Sansa.

Though this episode was pretty much dominated, for me, by the two sisters, there was actually a good deal else going on.  A few quick highlights:

1) In reaction to the imprisonment of his father, Robb Stark is gathering an army to lead a counter attack against the Lannisters.  I have to admit that Robb hadn’t previously made much of an impression on me but tonight, he came into his own a bit.  I’m still not really sold on him but he did show that he’s not quite as much of a cipher as I originally suspected.  As well, Robb Jon Snow had a great fight scene with a truly creepy assailant.  (Yes,turns out that wasn’t Robb fighting with the assailant, that was Jon.  Sorry, to be honest, neither Robb nor Jon have made a huge impression on me up to this point in the show. — LMB)

2) It was nice to the see the surviving dire wolves pop up on tonight’s episode and actually get to do something.  I’m still angry about that wolf that was put down in episode 2.  Hopefully, one of them will get another chance to bite Joffrey before the season ends.

3) Sometimes, when I think about Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones, I’m reminded of how I originally assumed that Lost would be the Dominic Monaghan show.  Once the show actually started, it quickly became apparent that Monaghan was just a distinctive member of an ensemble and one reason that I knew Lost was special was because this didn’t bother me.  Monaghan, himself, was so good in his role and such a charismatic presence that you often times found yourself assuming that he had been in more episodes than he actually was.  I often feel the same way about Dinklage.  Even when he only has a few minutes of screen time, Dinklage’s performance dominates.  Dinklage had some strong moments in tonight’s episode and I hope that Emmy voters will take note of how effortlessly he went from providing comic relief to showing some very real and genuine emotion when he heard that Robert was dead. Week after week, Dinklage is such a compelling presence that he almost gives the Lannisters an appeal that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

4) Okay, I’ve said in the past that Drogo is sexy and I’ve had a lot of people give me a hard time about that.  Here’s my argument — yes, he’s a brute and yes, he does occasionally look like he should be sacking Rome in a 1960s biblical epice but he’s also a strong, powerful man who sees what he wants and takes it.  And, sorry, that’s sexy.  Add to that, his clear devotion to Danys and…oh my God, where to begin?  But anyway, the fact that he’s hot doesn’t make it any more appealing to watch him rip someone’s tongue out of their mouth.  Then again, how many men do you know who are capable of actually doing that?  So, tonight’s episode left me conflicted on Drogo but, in the end, he and Danys remain two of the most unpredictable and complex characters that have ever appeared on a television screen.  I don’t know that I’d trade places with Danys but … well, I probably would.  Maybe just for a night…

5) Speaking of disturbingly sexy, Aiden Gillen (playing Littlefinger) may just be one of the great villianous character actors of the 2010s.  He has the wonderfully perverse glint in his eye and he delivers every line with just the right amount of arch contempt.

6) Ironically, the original and interesting and compelling Game of Thrones is followed every Sunday night by its exact opposite, an aggressively hyped and overrated show called Treme.  If I ever have to explain why Game of Thrones is one of the best shows on television, I’ll start by comparing just how real the people of fictional King’s Landing feel when compared to Treme‘s portrayal of the people of the very real city of New Orleans.

Now, as I’ve admitted in the past, I was a Game of Thrones virgin when this series began.  I haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s original novel — though I plan to this summer — and what I know about the eventual direction of the series is pretty much limited to what I’ve read on Wikipedia.  (If some total stranger put it in Wikipedia, it’s got to be accurate, right?)  As such, I know — in the vaguest sense — some of what is going to happen if this series stays true to Martin’s source material.  As such, watching these last few episodes have been a bit like watching a cryptic prophecy steadily start to make sense before your eyes.  I’m now eagerly waiting for the final 2 episodes to see if the prophecies come true.

Review: Game of Thrones Ep. 07 “You Win Or You Die”


HBO was kind enough to allow people who registered for their HBOGO.COM service to watch this seventh episode of Game of Thrones a full week before it aired. I wasn’t planning on watching it ahead of time, but since I already was signed up I decided to just go ahead and watch it. I must say that this latest episode continues to build on what has been a very strong first season for the tv adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s popular and critically-acclaimed medieval fantasy novel series of “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

The last episode was a major turning point for some of the characters in this series. “A Golden Crown” saw Daenerys Targaryen finally become her own woman in the face of her older siblings buffonery and childish tantrums. Behavior which finally got him the “golden crown” he deserved from Khal Drogo (and one which Daenerys seems to approve of). Tyrion Lannister using his wit and cunning mind to get himself extricated from the craziness that was Lysa Arryn and her court in the Eyrie of the Vale. The episode also brings together all the clues and evidence Ned Stark had been gathering about the death of the previous Hand of the King.

One would think that nothing could top all the pivotal events of episode six’s “A Golden Crown”, but this seventh episode surely tops that one with some building on the revelations of the previous episode. It’s really a major testament to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at how they’re able to not just stay true to the source material but also condense some of the minor threads of subplots and backstory into an hour episode that’s thrilling, engaging and not pandering to it’s audience.

This episode was aptly titled, “You Win Or You Die” as the fight for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms finally begins. We see the introduction of the Lannister patriarch who has loomed over the series as some unseen Sword of Damocles who holds King Robert’s tenuous hold on his kingdom. It was a treat to see veteran British actor Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister and see him playing the character as a no-nonsense, pragmatic but ruthless leader of his House. His brief time in this episode told us all we needed to know about Tywin. He’s so unlike his three children and this fact has become such a burden to him that he’s willing to take whatever virtue from the one child he sees as his most capable heir in Jamie that he’s willing to forgo all the faults. The scene of him butchering and dressing the stag while talking down (and propping up) Jamie for his foolishness with challenging Ned in episode five was very prophetic.

The episode also sees the return of Jon Snow and his part of the series’ story as he finally gets formally inducted into the Night’s Watch with Sam and the rest of the new recruits. What should’ve been a momentous occasion has been tempered by the sudden news of his uncle Benjen’s disappearance north of the Wall. It also shows Jon at his most petulant. What he saw as punishment from the Night’s Watch trainer and resident asshole in Ser Allister when he gets assigned as the Commander’s squire and steward was seen by his friend Sam as Jon being groomed for future command. For those who have been quite tough on chubby and cowardly Samwell should really have second thoughts about just how useless he is. He is surely becoming the voice of reason and logic to Jon’s more impetuous and “act now, think later” mentality. We also see the return of one of the direwolves as Jon’s (aptly named Ghost) brings him a gruesome gift once he has taken his vows.

The third major event in this episode before we get to it’s climactic finish brings us back to Vaes Dothrak and to Daenerys and Khal Drogo. With Viserys now out of the picture we see Daenerys begin to assert herself on Khal Drogo. While her brother’s dreams of becoming the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms have been dashed with a golden, metallic clang her own ambitions have not. She now sees herself as the true Dragon and still wishes to have the Iron Throne for her unborn son, Rhaego. While Khal Drogo still doesn’t see such things as important for him and his people an event in a marketplace which puts his khaleesi and son in danger finally convinces him of the danger the Seven Kingdoms poses.

This all leads us to the beginning of the “game of thrones”. Ned now fully knows why his predecessor was killed as the secret of Joffrey “Bieber” Baratheon’s lineage becomes quite clear. While more crafty and politically adept individuals would keep the secret from Cersei this is Ned Stark we’re talking about and he confronts his Queen with the news. To say that Cersei wasn’t flustered would be an understatement. This episode showed Lena Headey in full control of the Cersei character as we see her play the role with more iron and spine than what was shown in the novel.

“You Win Or You Die” finally sees an ignominious end to King Robert and his whoring and drinking. What was suppose to be a boar-hunt to help alleviate the stress he has been getting from both the Lannisters and the Starks finally gets him gored by the very boar he’s trying to hunt (though there’s suspicion that his inattentiveness during the hunt may have had some help). Mark Addy does a great job as Robert on his deathbed as he confesses his failings not just as a ruler but as a husband and as a father to the Seven Kingdoms, Cersei and Joffrey respectively. He appoints Ned to become the Regent of the Kingdoms until Joffrey is of age and does so officially with a sealed document.

One would think this final and dying declaration from a dying ruler would be enough to give Ned the power he requires to put the kingdom into order from the coming chaos but that would be selling all the characters with something to gain short. Robert’s not even cold when his younger brother Renly approaches Ned about plans to seize the throne from Cersei, but Ned being the honorable type refuses. Whatever ally he might’ve had to help him leaves the city as he confronts Cersei and Joffrey about the plans of succession. This is where the episode finally explodes into the conflict that’s been building since the very episode.

Some might say that this episode seems quite full of subplots and story threads and might not devote enough time for each. In fact, I was surprised at how much the writers were able to cram into this episode and still make each storyline have the time to make their events important to the series as a whole. While the episode ends with the the “game of thrones” in full swing in King’s Landing, the episode could also mean that things in the Wall and north of it has finally sunk into Jon and his fellow recruits as being truly serious. He and his new brothers must win or die. It’s as simple as that. Even Daenerys’ situation across the Narrow Sea fits the episode title well. With her now the bearer of the Targaryen line and her husband the leader of a powerful army she must also win or die.

Everyone in this episode seems to know the rules of the game their playing except the one person who seemed to be the one who had the most to win or lose. This episode showed Ned at his most intractable and honorable self, but it also showed just how much ill-prepared he is to fight in a battlefield where he doesn’t know who to trust and the very people who he shouldn’t trust might be his only allies. The final scene of the episode really highlight’s this dilemma for Ned and was such a great cliffhanger for the final three episodes to come before the series end’s it’s first season.

For fans of the books this episode shouldn’t disappoint and for new fans it should excite and really pull them in deeper into the world of Martin’s creation. Next week should continue the events we’re left to process as this latest episode ended. Will war finally break out between the two major houses of Lannister and Stark? Will Drogo finally bring his Dothraki horde into the Seven Kingdoms to gift his wife the Iron Throne she covets? What agenda does Littlefinger have and will it be the downfall of one of the houses?

There’s so much to be answered but seeing how this series just seems to get better with each successive episode I don’t doubt that episode eight will drop the ball and disappoint us with the answer (or will more questions arise) to those very questions.

Review: Game of Thrones Ep. 05 “The Wolf and The Lion”


For those bemoaning the fact that the last couple episodes of Game of Thrones had been lacking in the action department and had veered into exposition territory should be sated by the events of the fifth episode simply titled, “The Wolf and The Lion”. This episode still retains much of the excellent writing and storytelling done by showrunner David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, but it also brings to the forefront the violent conflict that will soon engulf the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

George R.R. Martin’s books of which this show’s based on never lacked for brutality and medieval violence on a scale not seen often in fantasy. “The Wolf and The Lion” finally brings to this series the two lead houses which becomes the spark for the show’s upcoming conflict. The episode adds more intrigue to the proceedings even as it begins a hard boil into the climactic end that should make the second half of this series to finally and fully hooked it’s viewers.

We see Lady Catelyn and her entourage on the road as they travel to her sister’s realm at the Vale to conduct a trial of Tyrion Lannister who she has accused of conspiring to assassinate her young son Bran. It’s while on the road we see a hint at how violent this show can get as brigands from the hill tribes on the road to the Eyrie in the Vale ambushes her group. Blood flows and even Tyrion gets a chance to prove his martial prowess in defense of the very woman who has accused and planning to pass judgment on him. I must say that his scene with the kite shield and the head of a hill tribesman probably brought more than a golf-clap and courtesy cheer from fans of Peter Dinklage.

This episode also continues the show’s growing habit of inserting more backstory to supporting characters like Theon Greyjoy who we see visiting his favorite redhead Ros outside of Winterfell. This scene may seem out of left field for those who have never read the book, but for those who have it’s a nice touch seeing the seed of doubt enter Theon’s mind about his relationship with House Stark and his role as a noble son of House Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. Though I must say I think I became temporarily blinded when the camera failed to pan up and audiences were shown Greyjoy junk flapping in the breeze.

The rest of the episode really centers on the Wolf, the Lion and the Stag. The wolf would be Ned Stark who continues his investigation on the true reason why the former King’s Hand was killed. Each question answered brings up new ones and we begin to see Ned finally begin to notice that he is definitely out of his element. Intrigues, schemes and shadow-games surround him and for a man used to fighting enemies he knows and sees this revelation really knocks him back. The final nail in his growing fear that he made a mistake coming south is brought to bear by his friend and king.

A council meeting conducted by Robert himself brings the question of what to do with the newly pregnant Daenarys Targaryen. While Daenarys doesn’t appear in this episode her presence still looms large over the episode’s many subplots and threads. She’s deemed a danger to the Seven Kingdoms and Robert is willing to do the unthinkable (in the mind of Ned, at least) to make sure Daenarys never crosses the Narrow Sea with an army of 40,000 Dothraki horsemen and the might Khal Drogo to take back the Iron Throne. It’s this decision by Robert and his council to expedite Daenarys with extreme prejudice that finally convinces Ned that it’s time to go back North where the real danger to the Seven Kingdoms lie waiting for winter to arrive.

I won’t spoil the rest of the episode. Especially the last five minutes which really amps the action for this series. For fans of the books this sequence should be a delight. The show has been readily accepted by the book’s fans despite some changes in how certain characters have been introduced and allowed to grow. While these very fans understand the nature of adapting a novel of over 800 pages into a 10-episode series of an hour per they still worry that too much cutting and trimming will occur to fit the first novel into this season. I’m happy to say that the series and the book have met pretty much in the same place in terms of storytelling and further trepidations about how the showrunners ar ehandling the adaptation should really go away by now. If one is a fan of the book and has stayed with this series up to it’s halfway mark then complaining about changes and tweaks to characters and storylines is just nitpicking. For those who are new to the work of George R.R. Martin then this episode should whet their appetites even more for more action, intrigue and, of course, sex as the show moves inexoribly towards a boiling point and the explosion of war and violence when it finally occurs.

It will be interesting to see the second half of the first season of Game of Thrones play out as we finally begin to see battle lines being drawn. House Stark and it’s allies on one side and House Lannister and the lesser houses and bannerman loyal to them in the other. Then there’s the King Robert himself stuck in the middle trying to keep the Seven Kingdoms from imploding as the threat of a Targaryen with an army of Dothraki horsemen looms dangerously on Westeros across the Narrow Sea. This episode didn’t even mention anything about the problems at The Wall and what lies beyond it to the north. Not once did this episode mention anything about “winter is coming” yet that unspoken warning also looms like a shadow over everyone.

It’s going to be a very long wait til the next episode and, for those who have HBOGO, the next two episodes. Up next week will see the return of Daenarys and her idiot brother Viserys in the sixth episode titled, “A Golden Crown”.