REVIEW: JOHN WICK

Starring

Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin)
Michael Nyqvist (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)
Adrianne Palicki (The Orville)
Bridget Moynahan (Battle: Los Angeles)
Dean Winters (Terminator: TSCC)
Ian McShane (Hellboy)
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man)
Bridget Regan (Agent Carter)
Lance Reddick (Jonah Hex)

Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)After John Wick loses his wife, Helen, to a terminal illness, he receives a beagle puppy named Daisy from his late wife to help him cope with his grief. Despite John’s stoic demeanor, he bonds with the puppy and they spend their day driving around in his vintage 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. At a gas station, he encounters a trio of Russian gangsters whose leader, Iosef Tarasov, insists on buying his car, but John repeatedly states that it is not for sale. Angered, Iosef and his mobsters follow John to his home that night, knock him unconscious, steal his car, and kill Daisy.Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)Iosef takes the Mustang to a chop shop run by Aurelio to have the VIN changed. Aurelio recognizes the car and, upon learning that Iosef stole it from John, punches him before throwing him out of his shop. John visits Aurelio, who tells him Iosef is the son of Viggo Tarasov, the head of the Russian crime syndicate in New York City. Viggo, informed by Aurelio of Iosef’s activity with John, beats and berates Iosef before explaining to him who John Wick is: an assassin, formerly in Viggo’s employ, nicknamed “Baba Yaga” (translated in the film as Russian for “Boogeyman”) due to his lethal works. When John wanted to retire and marry Helen, Viggo gave him an “impossible task,” implied to involve multiple assassinations in a short period of time. John succeeded, and his efforts were key in establishing the Tarasov syndicate.Keanu Reeves and Alfie Allen in John Wick (2014)Viggo tries to talk John out of seeking retribution, but John silently refuses. Viggo then sends a thirteen-man hit squad to John’s house, but John kills them all and has the bodies professionally removed. An unsurprised Viggo places a $2 million bounty on John’s head and personally offers the contract to John’s mentor, Marcus. John seeks refuge at the Continental Hotel, which caters exclusively to the criminal underworld and permits no “business” on its premises. Viggo doubles the bounty for those willing to break the rules to kill John at the Continental.Keanu Reeves, Daniel Bernhardt, Michael Nyqvist, and Vladislav Koulikov in John Wick (2014)Winston, the Continental’s owner, tells John that Viggo has Iosef protected at his nightclub, the Red Circle. John enters the Red Circle and kills his way to Iosef, but Viggo’s henchman, Kirill, waylays John, allowing Iosef to escape. John retreats to the Continental to patch up his injuries. Ms. Perkins, an assassin and former acquaintance, sneaks into John’s room to kill him, but Marcus alerts John, allowing him to subdue Perkins. He forces Perkins to reveal the location of Viggo’s front, knocks her unconscious and leaves her with fellow assassin, Harry, to await punishment. However, Perkins frees herself and kills Harry.Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)John travels to the Little Russia church which serves as Viggo’s front and destroys Viggo’s cache of money and blackmail material. When Viggo and his team arrive, John ambushes them, but he is subdued and captured. Viggo taunts John for thinking he could leave his old life behind. Before John can be killed, Marcus intervenes again, allowing John to free himself, kill Kirill, and accost Viggo, who reveals Iosef’s location. John then travels to the safe house and kills Iosef and his bodyguards. Perkins learns that John and Marcus have been in contact and tells Viggo, who has Marcus beaten and tortured before executing him in his home. Viggo calls John to report this, planning to have Perkins ambush him. While waiting for John, Perkins is called to a meeting with Winston, who has her executed for killing Harry on Continental grounds.Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)Winston calls John to inform him that Viggo is planning to escape by helicopter. John races to the harbor helipad, where he kills Viggo’s remaining henchmen before engaging Viggo in a brutal brawl on the dock. Viggo pulls a knife, and John allows himself to be stabbed, surprising Viggo. John then disarms Viggo and fatally wounds him. John breaks into a waterfront animal clinic to treat his wound and releases a pit bull puppy scheduled to be euthanized. John and the dog walk home along the boardwalk where he had his last date with Helen.Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)What makes John Wick different from other shoot em’ up movies is that we’re provided with details of John’s former life, including old partners and a hotel front which leads the audience eager to wonder the many tales that can be told about John Wick. The movie is fast paced, never really a dull moment, and it always keeps you wondering what he’s going to do next and how.

REVIEW: THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

CAST

Natalie Portman (Thor)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Eric Bana (Hanna)
Jim Sturgess (Across The Universe)
Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
David Morrissey (Basic Instinct 2)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)

King Henry VIII’s (Eric Bana) marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) does not produce a male heir to the throne; their only surviving daughter is Mary (Constance Stride). Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) and his brother in law Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance), plan to install Boleyn’s older daughter Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman), as the king’s mistress. They hope Anne will bear him a son. Anne’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), is disgusted by the plot. Anne eventually agrees to please her father and uncle. Anne’s younger sister, Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), marries William Carey (Benedict Cumberbatch), even though his family had asked for Anne’s hand.

While visiting the Boleyn estate, Henry is injured in a hunting accident, indirectly caused by Anne, and, urged by her scheming uncle, is nursed by Mary. While in her care, Henry becomes smitten with her and invites her to court. Mary and her husband reluctantly agree, aware that the king has invited her because he desires her. Mary and Anne become ladies-in-waiting to Queen Catherine and Henry sends William Carey abroad on an assignment. Separated from her husband, Mary finds herself falling in love with Henry. Anne secretly marries the nobleman Henry Percy (Oliver Coleman), although he is betrothed to Lady Mary Talbot. Anne confides in her brother George Boleyn (Jim Sturgess), who is overjoyed and proceeds to tell Mary. Fearing Anne will ruin the Boleyn family by marrying such a prominent earl without the king’s consent, Mary alerts her father and uncle. They confront Anne, annul the marriage, and exile her to France.

Mary becomes pregnant. Her family receives new grants and estates, their debts are paid, and Henry arranges George’s marriage to Jane Parker. When Mary nearly suffers a miscarriage, she is confined to bed until her child is born. Norfolk recalls Anne to England to keep Henry’s attention from wandering to another rival. In her belief that Mary exiled her to increase her own status, Anne successfully campaigns to win Henry over. When Mary gives birth to a son, Henry Carey, Thomas and Norfolk are overjoyed, but the celebration is short lived, as Anne whispered to Henry that the baby was born a bastard, which infuriates Norfolk. Henry then has Mary sent to the country at Anne’s request. Shortly after, Mary is widowed. Anne encourages Henry to break from the Catholic Church when the Pope refuses to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine. Henry succumbs to Anne’s demands, declares himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, and gets Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to annul the marriage.

Anne’s schemes drive Henry to the breaking point, and in a fit of rage, he rapes her. A pregnant Anne marries Henry to please her family and becomes Queen of England. Despite the birth of a healthy daughter, Elizabeth, Henry blames Anne for not producing a son, and begins courting Jane Seymour (Corinne Galloway) in secret. After Anne suffers the miscarriage of a son, she begs George to have sex with her to replace the child she lost, because if anyone found out about the miscarriage, she would be burned as a witch. George at first agrees, realizing that it is Anne’s only hope, but they do not go through with it. However, George’s neglected wife Jane witnesses enough of their encounter to become suspicious. She reports what she has seen and both Anne and George are arrested. The two are found guilty and sentenced to death for treason, adultery and incest. Distraught by the news of the execution of George, his mother disowns her husband and brother, vowing never to forgive them for what their greed has done to her children.

After Mary learns that she was late for George’s execution, she returns to court to plead for Anne’s life. Believing that Henry will spare her sister, she leaves to see Anne right before the scheduled execution. Anne asks Mary to take care of her daughter Elizabeth if anything should happen to her. Mary watches from the crowd as Anne makes her final speech, waiting for the execution to be cancelled as Henry promised. A letter from Henry is given to Mary, warning her not to come to his court further, and implicitly revealing his decision to execute Anne after all. Ten days after Anne’s execution, Henry and Jane are married, Norfolk is imprisoned, and the next three generations of his family are executed for treason. Mary marries William Stafford (Eddie Redmayne) and they have two children, Anne and Edward. Mary takes an active role in raising Anne’s daughter Elizabeth (Maisie Smith), who grows up to become Queen of England, and reigns for 44 years.

An interesting take on the story of the Boleyn sisters (who did both have a relationship with Henry), and if it encourages more people to find out about the real historical events then in my opinion that can only be a good thing. Henry’s relationship with Anne changed England through his break with the catholic church, and is both fascinating and tragic.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 7

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Starring

Peter Dinklage (Avengers: Infinity War)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (The Other Woman)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Emilia Clarke (Solo: A Star Wars Story)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Aidan Gillen (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Liam Cunningham (Safe House)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (IBoy)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7 & 8)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
John Bradley (Man Up)
Isaac Hempstead Wright (The Awakening)
Hannah Murray (Chatroom)
Kristofer Hivju (The Thing)
Rory McCann (XXX: Return of Xander Cage)
Iain Glen (Resident Evil: The FInal Chapter)
Carice van Houten (Valkyrie)
Indira Varma (Exodus: Gods and Kings
Alfie Allen (Atonement)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Joe Dempsie (Monsters: Dark Continent)

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Richard Dormer (The Mighty Celt)
Paul Kaye (Anna and The Apocalypse)
Ben Crompton (Blow Dry)
Ellie Kendrick (An Education)
Bella Ramsey (Holmes & Watson)
Tim McInnerny (Automata)
Megan Parkinson (Ackley Bridge)
Daniel Portman (River City)
Richard Rycroft (Bridget Jones’s Baby)
Rupert Vansittart (Outlander)
Joseph Mawle (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
David Bradley (Harry Potter)
Ben Hawkey (The Kid)
Pilou Asbæk (Ghost In The Shell)
Anton Lesser (FairyTale: A True Story)
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Kickboxer: Retaliation)
James Faulkner (Atomic Blonde)
Tom Hopper (The Umbrella Academy)
Mark Gatiss (Starter For 10)
Jim Broadbent (Paddington)
Jacob Anderson (Chatroom)
Diana Rigg (Breathe)
Gemma Whelan (Gulliver’s Travels)
Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist)
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Mia and Me)
Keisha Castle-Hughes (The Almighty Johnsons)
Ed Sheeran (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (2011)It sure has been an interesting and enthralling journey since HBO’s Game of Thrones left George R. R. Martin’s book series behind back at the beginning of Season 6. At the time too, there was almost an “and not a moment too soon” quality to the break. Season 5 had caught some notable flack for being bleak. Not that the show hadn’t been bleak by design, as part of its actual blueprint, but after four plus years, some fans had reached their threshold.Aidan Gillen and Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones (2011)Once Sansa started getting victimized and brutalized again and then Princess Shireen got burned to death by her own father, there was a cry from the rafters regarding Thrones being too much of an agony parade, especially since those moments didn’t come from the books (or hadn’t happened in the books yet). Viewers wanted wins. They wanted the good guys to stand tall for once. Then Jon Snow got ganked in the Season 5 finale and it seemed all was lost. Fan theories held firm though (for readers and viewers) and there was hope that a Lord of Light loophole would save everyone’s favorite beautiful bastard.Thomas Turgoose, Ed Sheeran, and Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones (2011)So then, all eyes were on Season 6. This would be the first time that a major fan theory had the possibility of being confirmed, one way or another. Fully untethered from GRRM’s pages, Season 6 would proceed to hand out happy moments and payoffs like they were pocket candy. It was the happiest season of Thrones to date, capped off by the exceptional episodes “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” Still though, the run almost felt too rewarding given what the show, and story, had been up until that point. That vibe, plus some lingering complaints about “fast travel,” made Season 6 land in a much different way than other Thrones seasons. David Benioff and Dan Weiss were now finishing the story in a markedly different fashion than Martin would – despite some overall plot beats being the same. Thrones was now more of a traditional TV show than the celebration of audience contempt that we’d all grown to love (despite its knack for traumatizing us).Peter Dinklage, Conleth Hill, and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)Enter Season 7, which not only continued to feel more “TV,” but also ramped up the fast travel (to a degree where the only way to get past the geographical gaps was to ignore them completely) because there were now fewer episodes. Longer episodes sure (most by 10 minutes, the finale by 30), but fewer chapters overall to tell a story that would usually be spread out over 10. The silver lining to only having seven episodes was the increased frequency of massive battle sequences, which used to only come once a season. The show’s seasonal budget was, assuredly the same, but now more money was being put into the episodes.Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (2011)Now various gripes about the show have reached a bridge too far in the other direction. Thrones can no longer be too depressing and cutthroat, nor can everything play out too close to the way people expect. It’s a very slim Venn Diagram here for this tricky balancing act of tenderizing and terrorizing. We wanted people to die, and they surely did but – oh – they weren’t important enough to count. Their demise didn’t crush our spirits and make us want to rage-quit the series. It’s possible that we’ve all now reached a point, given everyone’s varied favorite characters/favorite pairings/theories/predictions, that the show cannot unify us the way it once did, even if that unity came via mortification. Seven years in and we’re splintered. Weiss and Benioff have a near-impossible task and a near-impossible audience to satiate.Richard Dormer and Kit Harington in Game of Thrones (2011)Most of the major complaints regarding Season 7 can be found within the penultimate adventure episode, “Beyond the Wall” (which even sounds flat as a title). Normally, this expedition would have been spread out over two, or even three, episodes. But here, within the “bell to bell,” this mega-quest felt crammed. For a show that literally opens with a map, and has been very much about geography with relation to story, things got super fuzzy regarding where Jon Snow and his men were, how far Gendry had to run, how much time was everyone was stuck out on that island, and how long it can actually take a raven to fly from Eastwatch-By-The Sea to Dragonstone.  On top of this, the bulk of the body count came from unnamed “Red Shirts,” who laughably all seemed to be wearing hoods so the main characters could stand out easier, and in a dire situation that was surely one of the most perilous expeditions ever undertaken on the show, only one main player perished — “main” being a generous term here.Joseph Mawle and Kit Harington in Game of Thrones (2011)The accelerated pace of the show now, which is a combination of both fast travel and fewer characters to follow in fewer places, definitely had its benefits too. Jon and Daenerys, the two linchpins of the entire series, finally met in the third episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” when original recipe pacing would have had them meeting sometime in the last quarter of the season. This allowed them to get to know one another and develop the bond needed for them to finally land in each others’ arms in the finale (with that Aegon Targaryen secret now dangling over their heads). The pacing also allowed for the war – Daenerys’ war – to kick in right away, despite her losing efforts out of the gate.Kit Harington in Game of Thrones (2011)What was really great here was the fact that Daenerys’ temperament, and the brutal history of Targaryens, was a major talking point. The show needed to have a reason for Dany not to instantly ride roughshod all over the realm and fortunately it had a superb one — her entire arc since Season 1, in fact. The idea that she made her name (her many names) fighting and ruling as a representative for the helpless and unfortunate. She literally took seven seasons to land in Westeros because ending the slave trade thousands of miles away was paramount to her character. Daenerys may have had three dragons – three “nukes” really – when she started, but it’s not like she could use them without serious consequences to both her legacy and dynasty. Yes, instead of supposedly having the upper hand, she came in with a tactical disadvantage. The show did a great job of showing us how difficult her task truly was, despite the fact that the soaring scene at the end of Season 6, with Dany sailing in with that giant fleet and all her allies, made us think it’d be easy pickings for her.Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones (2011)The battles were great this year too. Not just the “Loot Train Battle” (can this not be the official name, please?) but Dany flying in with her dragons to save Jon in the nick of time, Euron smashing Yara’s portion of the Greyjoy fleet, the entire closing seasonal sequence involving the east part of the Wall coming down – the Season 7 VFX get a top grade. The money usually meant for more episodes was definitely on the screen.Vladimir 'Furdo' Furdik in Game of Thrones (2011)With the war underway came new and game-changing alliances. Everyone of importance was now on one continent and, dammit, they were all going to meet. Dany’s faction would find Jon and Davos while Cersei and Jaime would wrangle the Tarlys and Euron. It would all culminate in the season finale during an excellent twenty minute scene involving an ancient Dragonpit and a dozen or more important characters all filling a single space. It was one lengthy scene all about fighting the Night King and his army, which was another element that really worked this year: the fact that the army of the dead, the show’s main antagonist that only a handful of people knew about, put a halt to the “Game of Thrones” conflict between Daenerys and Cersei and became everyone’s top priority. Except Cersei, naturally, who lied because she’s awesome and, pregnant or not, it didn’t quite feel right for her to give that much of a damn about anything that she couldn’t see and/or wasn’t directly affecting her in that moment.Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones (2011)Of course, not everyone was down at the Dragonpit for the finale. The Stark siblings had their own running arc up in Winterfell and while it all ended with a phenomenal scene featuring Littlefinger getting called to account for all of his dastardly schemes and then getting unceremoniously executed, the build to that moment was shaky at best. Arya, who got two of the biggest crowd-pleasing moments this year (on a series that now actually has them) with her Frey massacre and her Brienne sparring session, seemed “off” up in Winterfell during the weeks when we were supposed think she was out to usurp Sansa and falling for Littlefinger’s ploy. She wasn’t acting quite right. Either she was putting on a performance or she wasn’t, literally, herself . All of this was enough though for viewers to sense that something was going on and when viewers feel that something’s wonky, the theories come out. Then it became a little too obvious that Arya was setting a trap for Littlefinger. The best case scenario, of course, would be that Sansa was too. The last thing any of us wanted was either sister to be played of a fool given their respective journeys on the show. The two of them, many times over, earned the ability to stay a step ahead of him.Conleth Hill, Kit Harington, and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)In the end, Lord Baelish’s demise was fitting and fun, but the fact that Arya showed up acting a bit icy and hostile was a misstep because it immediately alerted us to the fact that the show wanted us to buy her possibly wanting to kill Sansa. In trying to not create a tell, they created a tell. By the end, I did wonder when it occurred to both sisters that Littlefinger was trying to play them, given that Bran (who himself had become no picnic to be around as the sedated “Three-Eyed Raven”) had the ability to see through time and space. Recently though, we spoke to actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright about a deleted scene between Sansa and Bran involving her asking him for advice and answers. Of course, it’s good that this moment wound up on the cutting room floor because it would have given away the Littlefinger scene at the end. Plus, it was only Sansa figuring things out, meaning Arya was being strange and confrontational on her own and wasn’t in cahoots with her sister until possibly the end. Meaning that she was possibly being duped. Yeah, good riddance to that scene. Now I can just pretend that the three of them cooked up this plot back as early as when they all met by the Godswood.Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (2011)Game of Thrones, in its seventh season, both benefited from and was damaged by the accelerated pace and shorter episode count. On one hand, the war started right away and a battle as magnificent as the one at the end of “The Spoils of War” could arrive as ferociously as it did. On the downside, huge moments sometimes got crammed together in such a way that it robbed them of weight and substance. Still, when this show goes for spectacle, or even smaller show-stopping moments (massacres, R+L=J revelations, even just The Hound smiling because he knows Arya is okay), it has no equal.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST
Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Black Hawk Down)
Michelle Fairley (Chatroom)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genysis)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)
Kit Harington (Seventh Son)
Charles Dance (Underworld 3)
Liam Cunningham (Dog Soldiers)
Isaac Hempstead-Wright (The Boxtrolls)
Richard Madden (Cinderella)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Alfie Allen (The Other Boleyn Girl)
John Bradley (Borgia)
Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins)
Rory McCann (Solomon Kane)
Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Stephen Dillane (The Hours)
Carice Van Houten (Black Book)
James Cosmo (Highlander)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Conleth Hill (Suits)
Sibel Kekilli (Tatort)
Tom Wlaschiha (Resistance)
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NOTABLE RECURRING/GUEST STARS
Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis)
Rose Leslie (Honeymoon)
Hannah Murray (Dark Shadows)
Mark Stanley (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Ben Crompton (Ideal)
Julian Glover (Indiana Jones 3)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and the Beast 1989)
Eugene Simon (House of Anubis)
Esme Bianco (the Scorpion King 4)
Donald Sumpter (K-19)
Ron Donachie (Titanic)
Natalia Tena (Harry Potter)
Kristian Nairn (Ripper Street)
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Ian Beattie (Vikings)
Daniel Portman  (River City)
Gemma Whelan (The Wolfman)
Patrick Malahide (Fortress 2)
Nonso Anozie (Dracula)
Roxanne McKee (Wrong Turn 5)
Amrita Acharia (I Am Yours)
Elyes Gabel (World War Z)
Oona Chaplin (What If…)
Finn Jones (Wrong Turn  5)
Michael McElhatton (Blow Dry)
Gethin Anthony (Aquarius)
Gwendoline Christie (Doctor Parnassus)
Ian Whyte (Alien Vs Predator)
Joe Dempsie (Monsters 2)
Robert Pugh (Love Bite)
Ben Crompton (Hit & Miss)
Eugene Simon (Ben-Hur
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Having won three victories, Robb Stark offers the Lannisters peace in exchange for the North’s independence, sending Theon Greyjoy to gain Balon Greyjoy’s support and Catelyn Stark to seek Renly Baratheon’s. Cersei Lannister rejects Robb’s terms. Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister exiles Janos Slynt, head of the Gold Cloaks, to the Wall, promoting Bronn to commander of the watch.
Catelyn arrives at King Renly’s camp to negotiate an alliance, and Brienne of Tarth wins the right to join Renly’s guard. Catelyn and Brienne witness Renly’s murder at the hands of dark magic sent by the ‘Red Lady’ Melisandre, an emissary of Renly’s brother and rival claimant to the Iron Throne Stannis Baratheon. Catelyn and Brienne flee Renly’s camp and rejoin Robb’s army as Renly’s supporters switch their allegiance to Stannis. Meanwhile, Theon betrays the Starks by siding with his father and seizing Winterfell by force. Robb receives news of Theon’s plans and sends men to retake Winterfell, while inside the city the Starks’ allies form plans to sneak Bran and Rickon Stark out.
Robb learns that his mother Catelyn has secretly freed Jaime Lannister, now escorted by Brienne of Tarth, in order to ransom her daughters Sansa and Arya; he also enters into a romantic relationship with Volantene healer Talisa Maegyr. Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell to bring Theon back to the Iron Islands, after his botched attempt to recapture the Stark boys.
Tywin Lannister leaves Harrenhal, which allows Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie to make an escape with the help of the enigmatic Jaqen H’ghar. In King’s Landing, Cersei attempts to blackmail Tyrion by abducting the prostitute, Ros, whom Cersei believes to be his secret lover. Leading the defense against Stannis’ attack on King’s Landing, Tyrion destroys many of the attacking craft with an exploding ship full of wildfire, and is forced to lead a counterattack as King Joffrey Baratheon and his bodyguard Sandor Clegane each desert the battlefield. Stannis’s forces make it inside the castle, but Tyrion leads his men behind the Baratheon forces via underground tunnels and attacks. Baratheon is defeated when Tywin’s forces arrive at King’s Landing shortly after.
Following Khal Drogo’s death, Daenerys and the remnants of her khalasar find refuge in the city of Qarth, where they are taken in by the merchant Xaro Xhoan Daxos. However, Xaro conspires with the warlock Pyat Pree to kill most of Daenerys’ servants, kidnap her dragons and assume control of Qarth. Daenerys is lured into a showdown with Pyat Pree at the House of the Undying, where her dragons kill Pyat Pree. Daenerys seals Xaro in his own vault as punishment for his treachery and leaves Qarth with Jorah and her remaining servants.Whilst on a ranging beyond the Wall, Jon Snow captures a Wildling, Ygritte, who soon leads him into a trap where he himself is captured by Ygritte’s fellow wildlings. Amongst the wildlings’ prisoners is fellow ranger Qhorin Halfhand, who convinces Jon to kill him in order to gain the wildlings’ trust so he can get close to their leader, King-beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder. The rest of the rangers set up camp at an ancient fortification, the Fist of the First Men, where they come under attack from an ancient enemy, the White Walkers. Season 2 is superior to Season 1. This show is quite extraordinary and just gets better and better as it progresses. Although the climax of each episode means the end, it’s not without some amazing cliffhanger which makes you crave for more.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 1

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MAIN CAST

Sean Bean (Lord of The Rings)
Mark Addy (The Full Monty)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Oblivion)
Michelle Fairley (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Kit Harringron (Pompeii)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Alfie Allen (John Wick)
Richard Madden (Cinderella)
Isaac Hempstead Wright (The Awakening)
Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Peter Dinklage (Elf)
Jason Momoa (Conan The Barbarian)
Harry Lloyd (The Theory of Everything)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
James Cosmo (Highlander)
Peter Vaughn (Brazil)
Brian Fortune (Savage)
Joseph Mawle (Ripper Street)
Francis Magee (Layer Cake)
Owen Teale (The Last Legion)
John Bradley (Borgia)
Josef Altin (Les Miserables)
Mark Stanley (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Bronson Webb (The Dark Knight)
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Clive Mantle (Alien 3)
Donald Sumpter (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Ronald Donachie (Titanic)
Jamie Sives (Rush)
Susdan Brown (The Iron Lady)
Kristian Nairn (The Four Warriors)
Natalie Tena (Harry Potter)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Lino Facioli (Get Him to The Greek)
David Bradley (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Katie Dickie (Prometheus)
Ian Gelder (Pope Joan)
Conan Stevens (The Hobbit)
Jerome Flynn (Loving Vincent)
Sibel Kekilli (When We Leave)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Gethin Anthony (Aquarius)
Conleth Hill (Whatever Works)
Joe Dempsie (Monsters: Dark Continent)
Esme Bianco (The Scorpion King 4)
Finn Jones (The Last Showing)
Ben Hawkey (Ra.One)
Roxanne McKee (Wrong Turn 5)
Elys Gabel (Warld War Z)
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If you have read the books then you will have the added advantage of going into this series with some serious background knowledge, which, given the expanse of Martin’s literature, can only be a good thing. It is good to see the characters portrayed on screen by, what can only be described as, an excellent cast. My personal favourites are Sean Bean  who plays Lord Eddard Stark, the proud, strong and brave Lord of Winterfell, the icy kingdom of the north. And, Peter Dinklage, who gives, as ever, a wonderful performance as Tyrion of House Lannister, a noble-born dwarf cursed by the hatred of his proud father but blessed with an unmatchable wit and intelligence.

Martin’s fantasy literature is about believability and realism; it is completely unlike Tolkien in that way. Whereas Tolkien favoured Orcs, Goblins, castles and wizards, Martin prefers the medieval touch, dealing with knights, lords and priests. One good thing is that Martin had a very close hand in the production of this series which means very little tinkering has been done. If you compare it to The Pillars of the Earth for example, parts of the tv series didn’t even come close to representing what happened in the book leaving hardcore fans a little bewildered, and not a little irritated. Martin’s books though are so jam-packed with plot and character building that there really isn’t much room for artistic license for the directors. They have a lot of story to get through, and only 10 episodes to do it in!!

If you have never read Martin before then, what can you expect? Well, it is fantasy first and foremost . Without spoiling or giving anything away the main plot is basically this: the continent of Westeros, ruled by king Robert Baratheon, falls into turmoil amidst a hungry power struggle between the realms nobles and knights. Expect a lot of plot twists and cliffhangers at the end of each episode. I would highly recommend people to take the time to see this series and get into the number 1 fantasy series of the modern era.

REVIEW: ATONEMENT

CAST

James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Keira Knightley (The Duchess)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Romola Garai (I Capture The Castle)
Vanessa Redgrave (Nip/Tuck)
Harriet Walter (Babel)
Patrick Kennedy (Mr. Holmes)
Brenda Blethyn (The Storyteller)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Nonso Anozie (Cinderella)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)
Tobias Menzies (Rome)

In 1935, Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old girl from a wealthy English family and has just finished writing a play. Briony attempts to stage the play with her three visiting cousins, twin boys and their teenage sister, Lola; however, they get bored and decide to go swimming. Briony stays behind and witnesses a significant moment of sexual tension between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, a servant’s son (a man that Briony has a childish infatuation with). Robbie returns home and writes several drafts of letters to Cecilia, including one that is explicitly sexual and erotically charged (specifically, it uses the word “massive pudenda”). Initially written for the sake of humour, he does not intend to send it and sets it aside. On his way to join the Tallis family for dinner, Robbie asks Briony to deliver his letter, only to later realise that he has mistakenly given her the prurient draft. Briony secretly reads the letter and is simultaneously disgusted and jealous. She tells Lola of its contents and they call Robbie a “sex maniac” while debating whether to turn him into the police. That afternoon, Lola and her younger brothers meet a friend of the Tallis family, a wealthy chocolate manufacturer named Paul Marshall. Though he is much older than her, he excites Lola by flirting with her and treating her like an adult.

That evening, Cecilia confronts Robbie about the letter which she has since read. They meet in the library where they make love and tenderly confess their love for one another. During the act, Briony watches through the partially open door and her confused emotions about Robbie become heightened. At dinner it is revealed that Lola’s twin brothers have run away; a search party is sent out and Briony goes off alone into the woods looking for them. She eventually stumbles upon a man running away from apparently raping Lola. Lola claims that she does not know the identity of her attacker, but then claims it was Robbie after Briony suggests that it must have been the “sex maniac” who attacked her. In a fit of pique, the still-hurt Briony tells everyone (including the police) that she saw Robbie commit the act. She shows Robbie’s shocking letter to her mother and the police. Everyone believes Briony’s story except for Cecilia and Robbie’s mother; Robbie is arrested and sent to prison.
Four years later, Robbie is released from prison on condition that he join the army. He is assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment and sent to France, where he is separated from his unit and attempts to return to them at Dunkirk on foot. He is then shown reuniting with Cecilia (who has not spoken with her family since the incident) in London six months earlier, where they renew their love before he is shipped off to the French front. Briony, now 18, has joined Cecilia’s old nursing corps at St. Thomas’s in London because she wants to be of some practical use to society after giving up an offer she received from Cambridge. Her attempts at contacting her sister go unanswered as Cecilia cannot forgive her for Robbie’s unjust imprisonment. Robbie, gravely ill and wounded, finally arrives at the beaches of Dunkirk where he waits to be evacuated.
Sometime later, Briony—at last fully understanding the consequences of her false accusation—visits the now-married Cecilia and Robbie to apologise to them directly. However, her apologies are rather weak and ineffectual; Cecilia coldly replies that she will never forgive her, while Robbie, in a rage that almost becomes physical, confronts Briony and demands that she immediately tell her family and the authorities the truth. Briony admits she knew all along that the real rapist was Paul Marshall, but that Lola cannot testify against him in a court of law because they have recently been married.
James McAvoy in Atonement (2007)
Decades later, an elderly Briony (now a published author) gives an interview about her latest book, a semi-autobiographical novel called “Atonement.” She reveals that she is dying of vascular dementia and states that this last book is one she has been working on for most of her adult life. Briony confesses that the book’s ending (in which she apologises to a married Cecilia and Robbie) is fictional: Cecilia and Robbie were never married and never saw each other again once he left for war. In reality, Robbie died at Dunkirk of septicemia while awaiting evacuation and Cecilia died a few months later as one of the flood victims in the Balham tube station bombing during The Blitz. Briony hopes that by reuniting them in fiction she can give them the happy ending they always deserved. The last scene of the movie shows a happy Cecilia and Robbie together once again as imagined by Briony.
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It is a delightful film, well paced, with a beautiful background, strong emotions and remarquable actors. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.