REVIEW: STAR WARS – EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

 

CAST
Daisy Ridley (Scrawl)
John Boyega (Attack The Block)
Oscar Isaac (Ex_Machina)
Mark Hamill (Batman: TAS)
Harrison Ford (Blade Runner)
Carrie Fisher (Sorority Row)
Adam Driver (Bluebird)
Andy Serkis (Lord of The Rings)
Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant)
Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie)
Max Von Sydow (Conan The Barbarian)
Peter Mayhew (Killer Ink)
Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones)
Simon Pegg (The World’s End)
Kiran Shah (The Hobbit)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The originals)
Warwick Davis (The Ewok Adventures)
Mark Stanley (Kajaki)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Billie Lourd (Scream Queens)
Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Ewan McGregor (Mordecai)
Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, the last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker, has disappeared. The First Order has risen from the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate the New Republic. The Resistance, backed by the Republic and led by Luke’s twin sister, General Leia Organa, opposes them while searching for Luke to enlist his aid.
Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets village elder Lor San Tekka on the planet Jakku to obtain a map to Luke’s location. Stormtroopers commanded by Kylo Ren destroy the village and capture Poe. Poe’s droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and encounters the scavenger Rey near a junkyard settlement. Ren tortures Poe using the Force, and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, unable to bring himself to kill for the First Order, frees Poe, and they escape in a stolen TIE fighter; Poe dubs FN-2187 “Finn”. They crash on Jakku, and Finn survives but is unable to determine if Poe did as well. He encounters Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike. Finn, Rey, and BB-8 flee the planet in the Millennium Falcon, which they steal from a junkyard.
The Falcon breaks down and is captured by a larger ship piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca, looking to reclaim their former vessel. Two rival gangs, seeking to settle debts with Han, board and attack, but Han and company manage to escape in the Falcon. The gangs inform the First Order of the events. At the First Order’s Starkiller Base – a planet converted into a superweapon that harnesses energy from stars – Supreme Leader Snoke orders General Hux to use the weapon for the first time. Snoke questions Ren’s ability to deal with emotions relating to his father, Han Solo; Ren replies that Han means nothing to him.
The Falcon crew views BB-8’s map and determines it is incomplete. Han explains that Luke attempted to rebuild the Jedi Order but exiled himself when an apprentice turned to the dark side. The crew travels to the planet Takodana and meet with cantina owner Maz Kanata, who offers assistance in getting BB-8 to the Resistance. Rey is drawn to a vault on the lower level and finds the lightsaber that once belonged to Luke and his father Anakin Skywalker. She experiences disturbing visions and flees into the woods. Maz gives Finn the lightsaber for safekeeping.
Starkiller Base fires and destroys the Republic capital and fleet. The First Order attacks Takodana in search of BB-8. Han, Chewbacca, and Finn are saved by Resistance X-wing fighters led by Poe, revealing that he survived the earlier crash. Leia arrives at Takodana with C-3PO and reunites with Han and Chewbacca. Meanwhile, Ren captures Rey and takes her to Starkiller Base, but when he interrogates her about the map, she is able to resist his mind-reading attempts. Discovering she can use the Force, she escapes using a Jedi mind trick on a nearby guard.
At the Resistance base on D’Qar, BB-8 finds R2-D2, who has been inactive since Luke’s disappearance. As Starkiller Base prepares to fire on D’Qar, the Resistance devises a plan to destroy the superweapon by attacking a critical facility. Leia urges Han to return their son alive. Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, and Finn infiltrate the facility and plant explosives. Han confronts Ren, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. Ren kills Han, enraging Chewbacca, who fires and wounds Ren. He sets off the explosives, allowing the Resistance to attack and destroy Starkiller Base.
Ren pursues Finn and Rey to the surface. A lightsaber battle between Ren and Finn ensues, leaving Finn badly wounded. Rey takes the lightsaber and uses the Force to defeat Ren, before they are separated by a fissure as the planet begins to disintegrate. Snoke orders Hux to evacuate and bring Ren to him to complete his training. Rey and Chewbacca escape with Finn in the Falcon. On D’Qar, the Resistance celebrates while Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han’s death. R2-D2 awakens and reveals the rest of the map, which Rey follows with R2-D2 and Chewbacca to a distant planet. She finds Luke and presents him with the lightsaber.
Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.
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REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 4

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MAIN CAST
Peter Dinklage (Threshold)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Kingdom of Heaven)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator:L Genysis)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Liam Cunningham (Wrath of The Titans)
Stephen Dillane (The Hours)
Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins)
Alfie Allen (Elizabeth)
Isaac Hempstead-Wright (The Box Trolls)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
John Bradley (Borgia)
Rose Leslie (honeymoon)
Kristofer Hivju (The Thing)
Hannah Murray (Skins)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Iwan Rheon (Misfits)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Sibel Kekilli (Tatort)
Iain Glen (Kick-Ass 2)
GUEST / RECURRING CAST
Diana Rigg (The Avengers)
Pedro Pascal (The Mentalist)
Indira Varma (Human Target)
Daniel Portman (River City)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Roger Ashton-Griffiths (A Knight’s Tale)
Anton Lesser (Charlotte gray)
Finn Jones (Wrong Turn 5)
Dean-Charles Chapman (Ripper Street)
Ian Beattie (Alexander)
Michiel Huisman (The Young Victoria)
Ian McElhinney (Hornblower)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Jacob Anderson (4.3.2.1.)
Ciarán Hinds(the Woman In Black)
Thomas Sangster(Love Actually)
Ellie Kendrick (Being Human)
Kristian Nairn (Ripper Street)
Burn Gorman(The Dark Knight Rises)
Michael McElhatton (Intermission)
Peter Vaughan (Silk)
Owen Teale (Stella)
Noah Taylor (Powers)
Mark Stanley (Dickensian)
Ben Crompton (Doctor Who)
Josef Altin (The Young Victoria)
Charlotte Hope (Les Miserables)
Elizabeth Webster (Call The midwife)
Gemma Whelan (The Wolfman)
Kate Dickie (Tinsel Town)
Lino Facioli (Get Him to The Greek)
Whilst nothing in Series 4 comes quite as close to the sheer jaw dropping drama of Series 3 classic episode “The Red Wedding” the Series 4 finale has a quality about it that can only be found in great films like “The Godfather II”. The drama unfolds in almost a Shakespearian fashion and whilst loose ends are tied up a myriad of questions evolve out of the pulsating script. The acting throughout deserves Grammys by the shedload not least one of the most unlikely “buddy” pairings in TV history namely Ayra Stark (the brilliant Maisie Williams) and the strangely loveable uber thug “The Hound”. The scriptwriters have also played a huge role in this series with more deviations from George R R Martins books which makes the plot and storyline sharper and more dynamic. For example that gigantic Brienne and the Hound fight never happened in the novels, but it was stellar television. The other key dimension of the series is that the multiplicity of individual story lines are now merging ever closer so the overall plot line is much clearer and the context more powerful. Despite the ritual disposal of numerous major characters in Series 4 the deep fascination of the future of existing characters like the mystic Bran, the heroic Jon Snow, the Machiavellian “Littlefinger” and the worlds most popular dwarf (Peter Dinklage) is utterly engrossing. We also have nagging doubts emerging not least is Daenerys Targaryen’s unstoppable rise now threatened by her errant dragons, and whilst the key figure of Stannis Baratheon looms large was that also an alluring smile from the sinister but sexy Melisandre, the priestess of the Lord of Light to Jon Snow? Meanwhile beyond the Wall in the frozen north the Whitewalkers are massing.

Game of Thrones has been renewed for a further two seasons and we are informed that the day after the premiere of season 4, filming started in Belfast on the next instalment.The new season is scheduled to start on TV between the end of March and mid-April 2015. Can however the programmes show runners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, be asked nicely by all Amazon readers to get a move on and bring this true wonder back to our screens. Indeed this reviewer could be reduced to begging. Game of Thrones – Series 4 is absolutely essential television and the best current drama on the small screen.

 

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)
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)
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)

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.