HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE FOREST

CAST

Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Eoin Macken (The Night Shift)
Taylor Kinney (Zero Dark Thirty)
Stephanie Vogt (The Royals)

The majority of the story is set in and around the Aokigahara Forest, a forest at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan known as a popular destination for suicide. Sara Price (Natalie Dormer), an American woman, receives a phone call from the Japanese police telling her that they think her troubled twin sister Jess is dead, as she was seen going into Aokigahara forest. Despite the concerns of her fiancé, Rob (Eoin Macken), she journeys to Japan and arrives at the hotel where her sister was staying.

At her hotel, Sara meets a reporter named Aiden (Taylor Kinney). They drink together, and she tells him of her parents’ death in a drunk driving accident, which her sister witnessed, but Sara did not. Aiden invites her to go into the forest with him and a park guide, Michi, so she can look for her sister. As the three enter Aokigahara, Michi tells Sara that Jess has most likely killed herself. Sara refuses to believe this, explaining how, being a twin, she can “feel” that Jess is still alive. Deep in the woods, the group discovers a yellow tent that Sara recognizes as Jess’s. With nightfall approaching, Michi suggests they leave a note for Jess and leave. Sara refuses, and Aiden volunteers to stay with her through the night.

That night, Sara hears rustling in the bushes and, believing it may be Jess, rushes into the woods after her. Sara finds a Japanese girl, Hoshiko, who claims to know Jess. The girl warns Sara not to trust Aiden and flees at the sound of his voice. Sara attempts to chase after her but falls and loses her. The next day, Aiden and Sara become lost and begin to walk around the forest. As they walk, Sara’s suspicions are raised and she demands Aiden to give her his phone and finds a picture of Jess on it. Aiden denies any involvement with Jess, but Sara runs into the forest alone. While running she begins to hear voices telling her to turn around. She appears to be unfazed by this until she hears the voice directly behind her. She turns around to see a hanging body and continues to run away. She then falls into an underground cave and goes unconscious, later she wakes up and discovers that she is in the cave with Hoshiko, who turns out to be a yūrei. Hoshiko then turns into what appears to be a “demonic figure”. Sara then runs the opposite way towards what appears to be Aiden. Aiden finds her and helps her out of the cave and, with some convincing, they continue to walk together.

Aiden brings Sara to an old ranger station he’d discovered while looking for her. Inside, Sara hears her sister’s voice coming from the basement and finds a note which implies that Aiden is holding Jess captive in the basement. Convinced that he is a threat, Sara attacks and kills Aiden with a small kitchen knife. As he dies, Sara realizes that Aiden was telling the truth and that the picture on his phone, the voice at the basement door and the note had all been hallucinations.In the basement of the ranger station, Sara sees a vision of the night her parents died from Jess’s point of view. It was actually a murder-suicide initiated by her father. The ghost of her father suddenly appears and lunges toward her, grabbing her wrist. She cuts his fingers away from her wrist and escapes the station. Running into the forest, she sees Jess running toward the lights of the search party. Sara calls to her sister, who is unable to hear her. She realizes that her escape from the ranger station was another hallucination. When she cut at her father’s fingers she was actually cutting deep into her own wrists, and is now dying from blood loss in the basement. As she succumbs to her wounds, a yūrei pulls Sara into the forest floor. Her very much alive sister is rescued by the search party and explains that the “feeling” of her sister is gone and it is assumed that Jess knows Sara is dead. As the search party leaves, Michi is seen staring at a figure and realizes that it’s Sara’s spirit.

Very good supernatural horror.  It`s a good story with a twist ending. Worth watching especially if you are a fan of Natalie Dormer.

 

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula untold)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Derek Luke (Glory Road)
Kenneth Choi (The Terminal)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
David Bradley (The Young Messiah)
Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who)
Amanda Righetti (Friday The 13th)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Simon Kunz (City of Ember)
Anatole Taubman (Taken)
Laura Haddock (Guardians of The Galaxy)

MV5BMTMxNDU2NDYxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc4MjIwNQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,756_AL_In the present day, scientists in the Arctic uncover an old, frozen aircraft. In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt and his men steal a mysterious relic called the Tesseract, which possesses untold powers, from the town of Tønsberg in German-occupied Norway.41aaA5+UHWLIn New York City, Steve Rogers is rejected for World War II military recruitment because of various health and physical problems. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend, Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes, Rogers again attempts to enlist. Overhearing Rogers’ conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine allows Rogers to enlist. He is recruited into the Strategic Scientific Reserve as part of a “super-soldier” experiment under Erskine, Col. Chester Phillips, and British agent Peggy Carter. Phillips is unconvinced by Erskine’s claims that Rogers is the right person for the procedure but relents after seeing Rogers commit an act of self-sacrificing bravery. The night before the treatment, Erskine reveals to Rogers that Schmidt underwent an imperfect version of the procedure and suffered permanent side-effects.
MV5BMTQ2ODc0MjI2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg3NTAyNw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,748_AL_Schmidt and Dr. Arnim Zola harness the energies of the Tesseract, intending to use the power to fuel Zola’s inventions, mounting an offensive that will change the world. Schmidt discovers Erskine’s location and dispatches assassin Heinz Kruger to kill him. Erskine subjects Rogers to the super-soldier treatment, injecting him with a special serum and dosing him with “vita-rays”. After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and more muscular, an undercover Kruger kills Erskine and flees. Rogers pursues and captures Kruger, but the assassin avoids interrogation by committing suicide with a cyanide capsule. With Erskine dead and his super-soldier formula lost, U.S. Senator Brandt has Rogers tour the nation in a colorful costume as “Captain America” to promote war bonds while scientists study him and attempt to rediscover the formula. In 1943, while on tour in Italy performing for active servicemen, Rogers learns that Barnes’ unit was MIA in a battle against Schmidt’s forces. Refusing to believe that Barnes is dead, Rogers has Carter and engineer Howard Stark fly him behind enemy lines to mount a solo rescue attempt. Rogers infiltrates the fortress of Schmidt’s Nazi division Hydra, freeing Barnes and the other prisoners. Rogers confronts Schmidt, who removes a mask to reveal a red, skull-like visage that earned him the sobriquet “the Red Skull”. Schmidt escapes and Rogers returns to base with the freed soldiers.
MV5BMTY4MzgzMjEwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTgwODYzMw@@._V1.._SX1777_CR0,0,1777,755_AL_Rogers recruits Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, James Montgomery Falsworth, and Jacques Dernier to attack other known Hydra bases. Stark outfits Rogers with advanced equipment, most notably a circular shield made of vibranium, a rare, nearly indestructible metal. Rogers and his team sabotage various Hydra operations. The team later assaults a train carrying Zola. Rogers and Jones succeed in capturing Zola, but Barnes falls from the train to his assumed death.[c] Using information extracted from Zola, the final Hydra stronghold is located, and Rogers leads an attack to stop Schmidt from using weapons of mass destruction on major cities around the world. Rogers climbs aboard Schmidt’s aircraft as it takes off, and during the subsequent fight the Tesseract’s container is damaged. Schmidt physically handles the Tesseract, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The Tesseract burns through the plane and is lost in the ocean. Seeing no way to land the plane without the risk of detonating its weapons, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor but is unable to locate Rogers or the aircraft, presuming him dead.
MV5BMTUzODkyNDE2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzNTIzMw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing from an anachronistic radio broadcast that something is wrong, he flees outside and finds himself in present-day Times Square, where S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury informs him that he has been “asleep” for nearly 70 years. In a post-credits scene, Fury approaches Rogers and proposes a mission with worldwide ramifications.MV5BMTUwMjc2MTgzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg0ODI4NA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1355,1000_AL_Overall, I enjoyed the immersion into the era that Captain America: The First Avenger takes you back into. The performances are capable and Johnston’s vision is convincing, and it makes for entertaining viewing.

REVIEW: THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

Starring

Taron Egerton (Legend)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)
Donna Kimball (The Happytime Murders)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club)
Caitriona Balfe (Crush)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Harris Dickinson (The Darkest Minds)
Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle)
Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider)
Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Mark Strong (Shazam)
Theo James (Divergent)
Louise Gold (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jason Isaacs (Fury)
Simon Pegg (The Boys)
Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8)
Bendedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Harvey Fierstein (The Simpsons)
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Ralph Ineson (Ready Player One)
Alice Dinnean (The Happytime Murders)
Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars_
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Bill Hader (Power Rangers)

Donna Kimball in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Dark Crystal is a tremendous filmmaking achievement that’s only a pretty good movie. A technical marvel, undoubtedly; definitive proof that film is a collaborative medium, and a formative experience for the devoted cult that saw it when they were young and have now passed it onto their children. But also a B-, B if you’re feeling generous. Like many other big-budget genre blockbusters flying in Star Wars’ contrails during the early 1980s—David Lynch’s Dune comes to mind—it puts a fully realized, authentically unearthly realm on the screen, and then fails to give that place much in the way of a narrative.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Another world, another time, in the age of Westeros: Netflix funds a return trip to Thra, winding the clock back to before the emergence of the heroic Jen and Kira, to an era when the elfin Gelfling and the monstrous Skeksis lived in tenuous (and, it turns out, entirely bogus) harmony. And a moment when the grand ambitions of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Brian and Wendy Froud, David Odell, and countless others are realized in The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance.Victor Yerrid in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)That original film is first and foremost a visual experience, and the imagery still takes precedence here: Age Of Resistance recreates Thra through further acts of practical-effects wizardry, a fantasia of forest glens, desert cliffs, underground caves, and castles both majestic and austere. The premiere episode leans into this (while also giving a good indication of the series’ pace) when it breaks from character introductions in order to send the camera corkscrewing through a glamour shot of the royal library favored by Gelfling princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy and Alice Dinnean—with a handful of exceptions, the principal performances are a collaboration between the puppeteers on screen and actors in the recording booth). With the elbow room of a potentially ongoing series, the writers—led by Will Matthews and Jeffrey Addiss (the duo who developed the series) and seasoned genre TV vet Javier Grillo-Marxuach—get deliberate with their opening chapters, luxuriating in palace intrigue amongst the Skeksis and the establishment of the seven fractious clans of Gelfling.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)It’s dense going, until the outlines of the heroes’ journey snaps into focus, showing the intersecting quests of the curious noble Brea, disgraced guard Rian (Taron Egerton and Neil Sterenberg), and the compassionate subterranean-dwelling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel and Beccy Henderson). It is not coincidental that Age Of Resistance hits its hot streak once these elements are in place—and after Deet acquires a sidekick: Hup (Victor Yerrid), one of The Dark Crystal’s diminutive and gibbering creatures known as Podlings. Hup has outsize chivalric aspirations, carries a spoon he calls a sword, and generally rules.Anya Taylor-Joy in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Age Of Resistance improves on its big-screen source material by giving viewers protagonists who are worth a damn; even Egerton—whose most interesting star turns to date have been primarily interesting because they’re bolstered by the Elton John-Bernie Taupin songbook—is an improvement over The Dark Crystal’s ineffectual, underwritten Baggins stand-in, Jen. But there’s a taller hurdle to clear in the Gelfling’s humanoid appearances, which even four decades of technological advances can’t pull from the depths of the uncanny valley. (It comes down to the eyes: Deet, with saucer-sized pupils suited to underground living, looks far enough from human for this to ever be a problem.) The effectiveness of the Age Of Resistance illusion can vary depending on the number of Gelfling on screen and the varying degrees to which their faces are articulated—large group scenes and Gelfling-to-Gelfling conversations occasionally have a ring of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to them.Nathalie Emmanuel in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Thank heavens, then, for the Skeksis. A monument to the Frouds’ gnarly aesthetics and Henson’s lack of qualms about frightening the youngest members of his audience, the villains loom large over The Dark Crystal. In Age Of Resistance, they occupy a role akin to that of the Lannisters in Game Of Thrones: deeply out-of-touch aristocrats who believe power is their birthright, and whose extravagances and squabbles account for the series’ most amusing set-pieces. (In a playful casting choice, Cersei Lannister herself, Lena Headey, voices a Gelfling leader on the show.) They chance upon a fountain of youth when Thra’s all-powerful Crystal Of Truth sucks the life out of a Gelfling, leaving behind only her essence—which is discovered to have a rejuvenating effect. This corruption of the planet’s most precious resource coincides with the experiments the Skeksis Emperor (Jason Isaacs and Dave Chapman) conducts on a glowing, purple hole in the ground—a “darkening” that is both key to the series’ political subtexts and a regally hued thread in Age Of Resistance tapestry of mythological nonsense.Hannah John-Kamen and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Here, as in later in The Dark Crystal’s chronology, the ugliness of the Skeksis’ deeds manifests physically: the craggy sculpting of the puppets’ faces, their combination of avian and reptilian features, as if situated on the evolutionary scale from velociraptor to plain old raptor. They’re treated to new textures and terrors in Age Of Resistance. Sequences depicting their indulgences in the seven deadly sins don’t stray too far from their cinematic predecessors, but the staging and satirical edge remain sharp. A spa treatment brusquely interrupted by the similarly lumpy crone Aughra (Donna Kimball and Kevin Clash) is one of the first season’s comedic highlights.Victor Yerrid, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis’ role in Age Of Resistance is more encore than elaboration, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like there’s been all that much change in the ruling class skewered by the Skeksis’ chomping, preening, condescending grotesquery. They’re perfect adversaries and an essential energy, which director Louis Letterier amps up in extreme close-ups and off-kilter camera angles. They’re creepy and campy, and the production lines up a murderers’ row of hams to handle their shrieks and whimpers: Simon Pegg, making a meal of the Chamberlain’s scheming murmurs; Mark Hamill, twisting his strangled Joker vocalizations into those of a mad Scientist; Harvey Fierstein, a choice so deliciously on the nose, it’s practically a part of the puppet’s face. Imperious turns from Isaacs and Benedict Wong make sure that the characters’ true, evil nature is never too far from mind.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis play the hits, but they bring some newly goopy accessories and freshly terrifying rituals, too. Bubbling, oozing pustules dot the face of The Collector (Awkwafina and Helena Smee), and the second episodes culminates in a royal-chamber sequence primed to send a new generation ducking behind the couch. A fantastical ingenuity prevails throughout Age Of Resistance: With an eye toward portraying Thra as a fully natural world, Matthews, Addiss, Grillo-Marxuach and team devised Skeksis carriages that roll across the landscape on giant pillbug wheels and a secret message etched into the geological equivalent of an Edison cylinder. Frames burst with creatures familiar and unfamiliar—each of them charmingly, refreshingly tactile.Jason Isaacs in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)And this time around it’s in service of a satisfyingly told tale with resonant themes of truth and rebellion. Age Of Resistance is the best type of YA fantasy fiction, engrossing and escapist and full of hidden depths, ideal for viewers weaned on Harry Potter and The Legend Of Zelda but not quite ready for George R.R. Martin. There is a complexity at play, particularly in the arc of Seladon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Helena Smee), Brea’s sister whose loyalties and worldview are tested as word of the Skeksis’ treachery spreads. There are mystical MacGuffins and blind storytelling alleys littered about, but they’re far outweighed by the intrepid thrust of the Gelfling uprising and every thought of “How did they pull that off?” For decades, bands of true believers have sung the song of Thra; now, thanks to Age Of Resistance, that melody carries with the strength, distance, and richness the Dark Crystal concept has always deserved.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Josh Hutcherson (The Forger)
Liam Hemsworth (Knowing)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Elizabeth Banks (The Lego Movie)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Julianne Moore (Freedomland)
Willow Shields (beyond The Blackboard)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Mahershala Ali (Alphas)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
April Grace (Lost)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

Katniss Everdeen is recovering after being attacked by Peeta Mellark, who has been brainwashed by the Capitol. The rebels attack and disable the Capitol’s weapons arsenal in District 2. Katniss tries to rally the loyalists against the Capitol, but is shot and injured in the confrontation. Despite Katniss’ desire to kill President Snow personally, Alma Coin refuses to allow her into battle. At Finnick and Annie’s wedding, Johanna Mason suggests Katniss sneak aboard a supply ship leaving for the Capitol, where Commander Paylor is planning an invasion. Unable to bring her back, Coin has her assigned to the “Star Squad”, led by Boggs and includes Gale, Finnick, Cressida, Messalla, Castor, Pollux, Jackson, the Leeg twins, Mitchell, and Homes; they will follow in relative safety behind the actual invasion of the Capitol providing video of their incursion for propaganda purposes. Boggs carries a holographic map (the “Holo”) to help them evade known booby trapped “pods” which line the streets of the Capitol. Coin also sends Peeta to join the squad, even though he has not fully recovered from the Capitol’s conditioning.

As they venture deeper into the Capitol, Boggs triggers a pod which sets off a land mine and mortally wounds him, and transfers command of the Holo to Katniss before dying. The squad triggers another pod, which releases a flood of lethal black tar. Peeta momentarily succumbs to his conditioning and attacks Katniss, pushing Mitchell into the tar and killing him. The group takes shelter in an abandoned building, where Jackson, the second-in-command, attempts to commandeer the Holo, until Katniss convinces them she is under secret orders from Coin to kill Snow. Katniss and most of the group escape just before a squad of Peacekeepers arrive and destroy the building, killing the Leeg twins. The Capitol broadcasts a message announcing Katniss’s death, which is interrupted by Coin, who delivers an impassioned eulogy for her, to rally the rebels.

The team descends into the Capitol’s sewers to avoid further pods, but they are attacked by a horde of genetically engineered creatures called “mutts”. Jackson, Castor, and Homes are killed as the squad flees through the sewers. Finnick is overwhelmed as he fights off the swarm to allow the team to escape, forcing Katniss to set the Holo’s self-destruct, killing him and the remaining mutts. The surviving team members reach the surface but are chased by Peacekeepers, and Messalla is killed by a pod that melts and disintegrates him. The team takes refuge in a shop, where Tigris, a former Hunger Games stylist and rebel sympathizer, hides them in her basement.

As rebel forces gain ground, Snow invites fleeing Capitol citizens into his mansion for protection. Katniss and Gale join the crowd, posing as refugees to gain access to Snow. Rebels arrive and attack, killing many in the crossfire. In the chaos, Katniss pushes forward to Snow’s mansion, where Peacekeepers are herding Capitol children toward the closed gates. A hovercraft flies overhead, and drops small parcels by parachute into the pen of children. The parcels explode, killing them. A team of rebel medics attempt to help the injured, among whom is Katniss’s sister Prim. A second wave of bombs detonate, killing Prim and knocking Katniss unconscious. Upon recovering, Katniss learns the Capitol has been conquered, and Snow captured. When Katniss confronts Snow, he claims that Coin orchestrated the bombing outside his mansion to turn his soldiers against him. Katniss realizes that the incident resembles a trap that Gale had developed earlier. When Gale is unable to assure Katniss that the bombs were not of his design, Katniss cuts all ties with him. Coin invites the remaining Hunger Games victors to vote on a proposal to have another Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol, as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the districts. Katniss swings the vote in favor, in exchange for the right to execute Snow personally.

At the execution, Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow. The rebels take Katniss into custody, while Snow is tortured and killed by the angry mob. Katniss is eventually pardoned for her crime and returns to District 12, where she is joined by Peeta, who has recovered from his conditioning. Commander Paylor is elected the new President of Panem, and Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch bond over their shared trauma. Years later, Katniss and Peeta play with their two children, as Katniss contemplates the nightmares of her past, and somberly reflects that “there are much worse games to play.”

The special effects are amazing, and the film gripped me throughout. There are some chilling and sad moments and with some twists along the way. Music from previous films is used to powerful effect. Jennifer Lawrence puts in an incredible performance as Katniss, and there are other strong performances from the cast. I was sad to see this end series, but feel everyone involved can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved. An outstanding and thought provoking finale.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 5

MAIN CAST
Peter Dinklage (Threshold)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Kingdom of Heaven)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Emilia Clarke (Termiantor: Genysis)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Natalie Dormer (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 & 2)
Stephen Dillane (The Hours)
Liam Cunningham (Clash of The Titans)
Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Indira Varma (Human Target)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
John Bradley (Borgia)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Hannah Murray (Dark Shadows)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Alfie Allen (Agent Cody Banks 2)
Michiel Huisman (The Young Victoria)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars – Episode VIII)
Kristofer Hivju (After Earth)
Tom Wlaschiha (16 Blocks)
Dean-Charles Chapman (Before I Go To Sleep)
Michael McElhatton (Blow Dry)
Iwan Rheon (Misfits)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: DS9)
DeObia Oparei (Doom)
Keisha Castle-Hughes (The Almighty Johnsons)
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Mia and Me)
Jessica Henwick (Silk)
Toby Sebastian (Barley Lethal)
Nell Tiger Free (Mr Stink)
Diana Rigg (The Avengers)
Jonathan Pryce (Stigmata)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Anton Lesser(Charlotte Gray)
Roger Ashton-Griffiths (A Knight’s Tale)
Ian Beattie (Alexander)
Finn Jones (Iron Fist)
Will Tudor (Humans)
Eugene Simon (Casanova)
Daniel Portman (River City)
Lino Facioli (Get Him To The Greek)
Ian McElhinney (Hornblower)
Jacob Anderson (4.3.2.1.)
Joel Fry (10,000 BC)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost)
Charlotte Hope (les Miserables)
Elizabeth Webster (Call The Widwife)
Tara Fitzgerald (I Capture The Castle)
Kerry Ingram (Wolf Hall)
Ciarán Hinds (The Woman In Black)
Peter Vaughan (Chancer)
Owen Teale (Stella)
Ben Crompton (Kill List)
Eugene Simon (Ben Hur)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Charlotte Hope (The Nun)
Rila Fukushima (Arrow)
Faye Marsay (The White Queen)
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Spides)
Hannah Waddingham (Krpyton)

In Meereen, the insurgent “Sons of the Harpy” have started to revolt against Daenerys Targaryen’s regime by murdering citizens and Unsullied, also taking the life of Barristan Selmy. In order to regain peace and control, Daenerys complies with the request of re-opening the fighting pits. Tyrion Lannister arrives in Pentos along with Varys, and they begin their journey to Meereen together. They pass through Volantis, where Tyrion is abducted by Jorah Mormont, who takes him to Meereen as a way to redeem himself to Daenerys. Daenerys takes Tyrion as her advisor, but orders Jorah exiled once more. After the Sons of the Harpy mount an attack on Daenerys and her retinue at the fighting pits, Jorah saves her life. Drogon reappears and Daenerys flies away on his back. Drogon flies far away from Meereen and Daenerys quickly finds herself surrounded by Dothraki horsemen. Jorah and Daario Naharis leave to search for Daenerys, while Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm remain to rule Meereen.
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At the Wall, Stannis Baratheon has Mance Rayder burned alive for treason. Stannis promises Jon Snow legitimacy and rule of Winterfell should he ride with him against the Boltons, but Jon declines the offer and stays at the Wall. As newly elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon forms an alliance with the Wildlings, much to the dismay of the rest of the Night’s Watch. They begin evacuating Wildlings at Hardhome, when the settlement suddenly comes under attack from White Walkers and their wight armies. Though many die and are revived as wights, the brothers still manage to rescue a large number of Wildlings and Jon leads them through the tunnel to Castle Black, south of the Wall. After Samwell Tarly and Gilly leave for Oldtown and Maester Aemon passes away, the majority of the Night’s Watch become disillusioned with Jon’s leadership and see him as a traitor. They lure Jon into a trap and stab him, leaving him to die.
In the Vale, Littlefinger puts Robin Arryn in the care of House Royce and leaves for Winterfell with Sansa Stark. Brienne, still loyal to the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark, and her squire Podrick follow them. In Winterfell, Sansa is reunited with Reek and marries Ramsay Bolton to form an alliance between the Vale and the Boltons. Ramsay subjects Sansa to physical and psychological abuse, including raping her on their wedding night while forcing Reek to watch. After Reek reveals to Sansa that he did not kill her brothers Bran and Rickon, the two escape together, jumping off the castle walls.
At his camp in the North, Stannis reluctantly acquiesces to Melisandre’s demands to burn Shireen alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. As a result, his wife Selyse is found hanging from a noose and half of his forces desert him. The remaining Baratheon forces ride for Winterfell, but are soon defeated by the Boltons. In the aftermath of the battle, Stannis is apparently killed by Brienne of Tarth. Melisandre flees for Castle Black. In King’s Landing, Lancel Lannister returns, now a member of the devoutly religious “Sparrows”. Following the wedding of Margaery Tyrell and Tommen Baratheon, Cersei Lannister begins losing control of Tommen, and with him her power source. She tries to regain her status by authorizing the revival of the Faith Militant, the military wing of the Faith of the Seven. The Sparrows quickly begin imposing their puritanical views upon King’s Landing by ridding it of all “sins”, in the process also seizing Loras Tyrell for being homosexual. They proceed to imprison him, as well as Margaery and Cersei herself for committing various sins. Cersei is released after confessing to adultery with Lancel and being forced to march naked through King’s Landing.
In Dorne, the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, seek vengeance against the Lannisters for the death of their father. After a threatening message arrives, Bronn and Jaime Lannister travel to Dorne, planning to rescue Myrcella Baratheon. Oberyn’s brother Doran Martell discovers that Ellaria Sand had sent the message and allows Jaime and Myrcella to leave for King’s Landing, provided Myrcella’s betrothed Trystane Martell joins them and obtains a seat on the Small Council. En route to King’s Landing, Myrcella dies, having been poisoned by Ellaria.
Arya Stark arrives in Braavos and starts training with the Faceless Men, guided by Jaqen H’ghar and another young woman. She disguises herself as an oyster seller and is told to kill a dishonest insurance agent at the harbor. But after Meryn Trant’s arrival, Arya steals a false face from the temple and assassinates him instead. Doing so causes her to go blind.
The adaptation continues to hit its sweet spot of getting complex stories from the novels across on screen in a simpler form, but one that is also clearer, more concise and retaining the thematic essentials whilst paring away unnecessary  supporting material and characters. King’s Landing particularly benefits from this, with lots of minor politics involving new or vanishingly minor characters swept aside in favour of a more ruthless focus on Cersei’s growing hatred of the Tyrells and the arrival of the High Sparrow, played with flawless passion by Jonathan Pryce. This culminates in the excellent, distressing “Walk of Shame” sequence, in which Lena Headey knocks it out of the park as Cersei is humiliated to the point where even the most hardened viewer may feel sorry for her, despite her many crimes.

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)
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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)
Tara Fitzgerald (Legend)
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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 3

CAST

Peter Dinklage (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama)
Lena Headey (Dredd)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator: Genysis)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Richard Madden (Cinderella)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)
Michelle Fairley (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Liam Cunningham (Clash of The Titans)
Stephen Dillane (The Hours)
Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Natalie Dormer (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Isaac Hempstead-Wright (The Boxtrolls)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Rose Leslie (Honeymoon)
Alfie Allen (John Wick)
Jack Gleeson (Batman Begins)
John Bradley (Borgia)
Oona Chaplin (What If..)
Joe Dempsie (Monsters 2)
Sibel Kekilli (When We Leave)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
James Cosmo (Highlander)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ciarán Hinds (The Woman In Black)
Robert Pugh (Robin Hood)
Mackenzie Crook (Ironclad)
Kristofer Hivju (After Earth)
Mark Stanley (Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
Ben Crompton (Kill List)
Luke Barnes (The Last Hours of Lauara K)
Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim)
Hannah Murray (Skins)
Edward Dogliani (The Hybrid)
Natalia Tena (Harry Potter)
Iwan Rheon (Wild Bill)
Thomas Sangster (Wolf Hall)
Ellie Kendrick (Misfits)
Kristian Nairn (Four Warriors)
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Peter Vaughan (Brazil)
Tara Fitzgerald (Legend)
Josef Altin (Eastern Promises)
Charlotte Hope (The Theory of Everything)
Patrick Malahide (Quills)
Gemma Whelan (The Wolfman)
David Bradley (The World’s End)
Gwendoline Christie (The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – Part 2)
Richard Dormer (11 Minutes)
Paul Kaye (Match Point)
Clive Russell (Ripper Street)
Tobias Menzies (Atonement)
Noah Taylor (Powers)
Michael McElhatton (Albert Nobbs)
Diana Rigg (The Avengers)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Finn Jones (Wrong Turn 5)
Esmé Bianco (The Scorpion King 4)
Daniel Portman (Outcast)
Ian Beattie (Alexander)
Paul Bentley (The Iron Lady)
Will Tudor (Vampire Academy)
Ian McElhinney (City of Ember)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Jacob Anderson (Adulthood)
Ed Skrein (Deadpool)

Stannis licks his wounds after his defeat in season two, becoming ever more obsessed with his new God and the Red Woman Melisandre, desperately trying to recuperate and get back in the game as a contender for the throne. Making life hard for his ever suffering but loyal second in command Davos as he attempts to reason with his Zealot obsessed king. Davos is such a likeable character and his loyalty to Stannis is both heart warming and heart breaking as we watch Davos desperately play off and counter the many savage suggestions of the religious Melisandre, with great chemistry between all three characters you can feel the tension in the room with every scene as the two confidants battle for their kings mind which is forever unbalanced and as likely to take either side depending on his mood.

Daenerys begins her liberation of slavers bay quickly gaining momentum and power throughout the series in the way only the dragon born can, quickly becoming the most powerful character in the show, gathering more and more allies to her cause, she becomes seemingly unstoppable, yet remains one of the viewers favourite candidates for the throne as she shows again and again compassion and fairness for the people she comes into contact with, really becoming the light in this dark world. Followed by her loyal and love struck aid Jorah he also has new challenges to face as he finds himself in competition with the new allies flocking to her side, including the humiliated Commander of the Kings Guard from season one Ser Barristen Selmy and the handsome Daario Naharis of the Second Sons mercenaries.

Robb Stark once again faces betrayal as he attends his grandfathers funeral in River Run, introducing us at last to the Tullys including the humorous Blackfish and the Mr Bean of Westeros; Edmure Tully. Watching Robb struggle to handle the political aspect is quite sad as we watch the young wolf, who has never lost a battle decline purely due to his lack of political leadership and his restricting honour, both marching him towards a fate like his fathers. The similarities between Ned and Robb become more apparent as he makes foolish decisions all in vain attempts to do the right thing or make up for mistakes made, all culminating in one of the most memorable and terrible scenes of the entire show.MV5BMjI5MzMyMzAzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjcyMTEwOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_Theon Greyjoy, probably has the worst time of it in this season, after his betrayal of Robb in season two he finds himself captured by an unknown assailant and very very violently tortured both Physically and psychologically as well as mutilated, forever distorting and changing the character into somebody entirely new. Despite his betrayals and actions in season two you really begin to feel for the character again very early on, even forgiving his actions as he confesses how he really feels about himself and is made the play thing of the sadistic Ramsey Snow.  Tyrion continues to play the game in kings landing, battling with his sister for their fathers approval who has now taken his place as Hand of the King. Tyrion now has a harder time keeping his head above water, struck from all his power by his father, Tyrion is left vulnerable to the cruelty of Joffrey who continues to enjoy torturing his subjects. Watching him keep his composure under such odds and witnessing the cruelty of his father first hand, Tyrion remains a solid favourite of the fans, who after his heroes exploits in season two deserves a lot more than he gets in this season.

Jon Snow follows his new Wildling lifestyle while ever secretly looking for an opportunity to escape back to his fellow men of the nights watch, Jon Snow begins to realise the real threat to Westeros and begins to understand that the only way to win the real war is unity… something nobody else wants. Breaking his nights watch vows and literally skating on real thin ice Jon begins to craft himself as the hero Westeros needs. Jaime Lannister continues life as captive, with the ever honourable and faithful Brienne charged with transporting him the two run into all sorts of adventures on their way to Kings Landing, including run ins with not so honourable Stark Soliders, farmers and then the sadistic soldiers of house Bolton and their leader Lock. Survival looks bleak for the pair and as Jaime attempts his usual charm and smarmy talk to get out of a situation it backfires changing his life forever, if he survives.

Overall, definitely the best season so far, completely shifting the power around the country and countless heartbreaking revelations and moments, this is the defining season that will make and break lifelong fans, if you thought the execution of Ned Stark was the pinnacle of Game of Thrones, that seems like child’s play after this season.