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: 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: FAST & FURIOUS 8

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CAST

Vin Diesel (XXX)
Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas)
Jason Statham (Safe)
Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Tyrese Gibson (Transformers)
Ludacris (Gamer)
Scott Eastwood (Fury)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)
Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China)
Elsa Pataky (Snakes on a Plane)
Tego Calderón (Illegal Tender)
Don Omar (Los Bandoleros)
Luke Evans (Dracula untold)
Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones)
Helen Mirren (Red)

Dominic “Dom” Toretto and Letty Ortiz are on their honeymoon in Havana when Dom is challenged to a street race at an auto show by local racer Raldo. Dom races for Raldo’s car, intending to give it to his cousin Fernando, while wagering his own show car. After narrowly winning the race, Dom allows Raldo to keep his car, earning his respect, and instead leaves his cousin with his show car. The next day, Dom is approached by elusive cyberterrorist Cipher, who coerces him into working for her.Shortly after the encounter, Dom and his team, comprising Letty, Roman Pearce, Tej Parker, and Ramsey, are recruited by Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs to help him retrieve an EMP device from a military outpost in Berlin. During the getaway, Dom goes rogue, forcing Hobbs off the road and stealing the device for Cipher. Hobbs is arrested and locked up in the same high-security prison he helped imprison Deckard Shaw in. After escaping, both are recruited by intelligence operative Frank Petty/Mr. Nobody and his protégé, Eric Reisner/Little Nobody, to help the team find Dom and capture Cipher.Deckard reveals that Cipher was the mastermind of previous encounters with the team, such as employing his brother Owen Shaw to steal the Nightshade device and orchestrating the attempted theft of God’s Eye, Ramsey’s software program.The team tracks Dom and Cipher to their very location just as they attack the base and steal God’s Eye. When Dom begins to question Cipher’s motives, she reveals that she has held Dom’s ex-lover and DSS agent Elena Neves – as well as their son, whose existence Dom was previously unaware of – hostage in order to keep Dom loyal to her. Elena tells Dom that the child was born as a result of an unintended pregnancy, and that she wanted him to decide the child’s first name, having already given him the middle name Marcos.Cipher then sends Dom to New York City to retrieve a nuclear football held by the Russian Minister of Defence.Dom manages to evade her for a short time through a diversion created by Raldo, allowing him to meet with and persuade Deckard and Owen’s mother, Magdalene Shaw, to help. The team intercepts Dom after he steals the nuclear football, but Dom escapes, shooting and apparently killing Deckard in the process. Cipher facilitates Dom’s escape by hacking into all of the autonomous cars in the city and reprogramming them to auto-drive, wreaking havoc throughout the city. Letty catches up to Dom, but is ambushed and nearly killed by Cipher’s enforcer, Connor Rhodes, before Dom rescues her. In retaliation, Cipher has Rhodes kill Elena in front of Dom.Dom is then sent to Russia to use the EMP device to disable a nuclear submarine, enabling Cipher to hijack it and attempt to use its arsenal to trigger a nuclear war. They are once again intercepted by the team, provided with modified vehicles by Petty. Meanwhile, Deckard, who had faked his death and been extracted by Tego Leo and Rico Santos, former members of Dom’s team, infiltrates Cipher’s plane to rescue Dom’s son at Magdalene’s behest, with the help of Owen. Once Deckard reports that the child is safe, Dom turns on Cipher and kills Rhodes, avenging Elena’s death, before rejoining his team. Outraged, Cipher launches an infrared homing missile at Dom, but he breaks away from his team and maneuvers around it, causing the missile to hit the submarine instead. The team quickly forms a vehicular blockade around Dom, shielding him from the ensuing explosion. When Deckard reaches the front of the plane and confronts Cipher, she makes her escape by parachuting out of the plane. Petty and Reisner visit Dom and his team in New York City to report that Cipher is still at large. Hobbs is offered his DSS job back, but he declines in order to spend more time with his daughter. Deckard then arrives to return Dom’s son, putting his differences aside with Dom and Hobbs in the process, and is accepted into their family. Dom decides to name his son Brian, after his friend and brother-in-law Brian O’Conner, and they celebrate.Fast and Furious 8 is awesome and does what it is trying to do which is entertain with crazy action sequences. A great action packed film to a solid franchise.

REVIEW: FAST & FURIOUS 7

CAST

Vin Diesel (XXX)
Paul Walker (Brick Mansion)
Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas)
Jordana Brewster (Chuck)
Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil)
Tyrese Gibson (Transformers)
Ludacris (Gamer)
Djimon Hounsou (Staragte)
Tony Jaa (XXX: The Return of Xander Cage)
Ronda Rousey (Blindespot)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)
Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China)
Jason Statham (Safe)
Lucas Black (Jarhead)
Elsa Pataky (Snakes on a Plane)
Noel Gugliemi (Old School)
John Brotherton (Fuller House)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)

After defeating Owen Shaw and his crew and securing amnesty for their past crimes, Dominic “Dom” Toretto, Brian O’Conner and the rest of their team have returned to the United States to live normal lives again. Brian begins to accustom himself to life as a father, while Dom tries to help Letty Ortiz regain her memory. Meanwhile, Owen’s older brother, Deckard Shaw, breaks into the secure hospital that the comatose Owen is being held in and swears vengeance against Dom and his team, before breaking into Luke Hobbs’ Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) office to extract profiles of Dom’s crew. After revealing his identity, Shaw engages Hobbs in a fight, and escapes when he detonates a bomb that severely injures Hobbs. Dom later learns from his sister Mia that she is pregnant again and convinces her to tell Brian. However, a bomb, disguised in a package sent from Tokyo, explodes and destroys the Toretto house just seconds after Han, a member of Dom’s team, is killed by Shaw in Tokyo. Dom later visits Hobbs in a hospital, where he learns that Shaw is a rogue special forces assassin seeking to avenge his brother. Dom then travels to Tokyo to claim Han’s body, and meets and races Sean Boswell, a friend of Han’s who gives him personal items found at Han’s crash site.Back at Han’s funeral in Los Angeles, Dom notices a car observing them, and after a chase, confronts its driver, who is revealed to be Shaw. Both prepare to fight, but Shaw flees when a covert ops team arrives and opens fire, led by Frank Petty, a man who calls himself Mr. Nobody. Petty says that he will assist Dom in stopping Shaw if he helps him obtain God’s Eye, a computer program that uses digital devices to track down a person, and save its creator, a hacker named Ramsey, from a mercenary named Mose Jakande. Dom, Brian, Letty, Roman Pearce, and Tej Parker then airdrop their cars over the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, ambush Jakande’s convoy, and rescue Ramsey.The team then heads to Abu Dhabi, where a billionaire has acquired the flash drive containing God’s Eye, and manages to steal it from the owner. With God’s Eye near telecommunications repeaters, the team tracks down Shaw, who is waiting at a remote factory. Dom, Brian, Petty and his team attempt to capture Shaw, but are ambushed by Jakande and his men and forced to flee while Jakande obtains God’s Eye. At his own request, the injured Petty is then left behind to be evacuated by helicopter while Brian and Dom continue without him. Left with no other choice, the crew returns to Los Angeles to fight Shaw, Jakande and his men. Meanwhile, Brian promises Mia that once they deal with Shaw, he will retire and fully dedicate himself to their family.While Jakande pursues Brian and the rest of the team with a stealth helicopter and an aerial drone, Ramsey attempts to hack into God’s Eye. Hobbs, seeing the team in trouble, leaves the hospital and destroys the drone with an ambulance. Ramsey then regains control of God’s Eye and shuts it down. Meanwhile, Dom and Shaw engage in a one-on-one brawl on a parking garage, before Jakande intervenes and attacks them both. Shaw is defeated when part of the parking garage collapses beneath him. Dom then launches his vehicle at Jakande’s helicopter, tossing Shaw’s bag of grenades onto its skids, before injuring himself when his car lands and crashes. Hobbs then shoots the bag of grenades from ground level, destroying the helicopter and killing Jakande. Dom is pulled from the wreckage of his car, believed to be dead. As Letty cradles Dom’s body in her arms, she reveals that she has regained her memories, and that she remembers their wedding. Dom regains consciousness soon after, remarking, “It’s about time”.Shaw is taken into custody by Hobbs and locked away in a secret, high-security prison. At a beach, Brian and Mia play with their son while Dom, Letty, Roman, Tej, and Ramsey observe, acknowledging that Brian is better off retired with his family. Dom silently leaves, but Brian catches up with him at a crossroad. As Dom remembers the times that he had with Brian, they bid each other farewell and drive off in separate directions.Fast & Furious 7 is a no-holds, over- the-top and mindless action film, but this aside, it is an extremely entertaining and fun film to watch. With an all-star cast and some brilliant action sequences, Fast & Furious 7 is proof that certain franchises can continually make great movies. The most notable moment however in the entire film is the emotional and respectful ending during the send-off of Paul Walker, the film finishing with a montage of Walker in the previous six films, finishing with just two words. A fitting end for a great actor.

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.