25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Starring

Ella Hunt (Robot Overlords)
Malcolm Cumming (Long Lost)
Sarah Swire (God Help The Girl)
Christopher Leveaux (Forgotten Man)
Marli Siu (Run)
Ben Wiggins (Pennyworth)
Mark Benton (The Second Coming)
Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones)

Anna-and-the-ApocalypseArriving just in time for Xmas the special edition Blu-ray of Anna and the Apocalypse is the perfect horror holiday movie offering up a seasonal display of drama, songs, and zombie slaying.annaIt’s the countdown to Christmas in the sleepy Scottish hamlet where very little happens and Anna (Ella Hunt from Cold Feet and Dickinson) is desperate to escape. Planning to fly as far away from her home town as possible as soon as school is done Anna goes through the motions placating her best friend and star of the upcoming school show Lisa (Marli Siu) while avoiding the attentions of  Nick (Ben Wiggins seen in Pennyworth and The Witcher). Her dotting dad Tony (Mark Benton) and love sick best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) who is far too timed to tell Anna his true feelings, would do anything to make her stay however even they might balk at bringing forth a full scale zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened and now the teens must fight for their lives all the while singing their hearts out while others get theirs ripped out all around them.Anna-And-The-Apocalypse-Clip-Zombie-JanitorMade by an assembled cast and crew of newcomers including the director John McPhail and writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, whose short Zombie Musical helped inspire this movie, Anna and the Apocalypse opens like any other high school musical with troubled teens, terrorising teachers and parents who just don’t understand.anna-and-the-apocalypse-release-date-700x300Thankfully 30 minutes in things take a terrific and terrifying turn in the spectacular sequence where Anna leaves her house singing “Turning My Life Around” while all around chaos reigns and zombies tear her neighbourhood apart. From this point things are far more interesting as Anna and John team up with Lisa’s filmmaking boyfriend Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and American exchange student Steph (Sarah Swire) whose girlfriend and parents have abandoned her in another country. Determined to make it back to the school where their parents, loved ones and in Steph’s case, car are they leave the unsafety of the Bowling Alley and battle through town coming across flesh eating oldies, infested Christmas Tree forest and an undead Santa who is determined to get them in his sack and stomach.AATA_DAY2_GJ_0033-edit-1Although few and far between horror musicals always work well from Little Shop of Horrors to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and various all singing adaptations of films like Evil Dead and Re-Animator. Anna and the Apocalypse is no exception in fact it is the highly original songs penned by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly that elevate this film over its so-so effects and stereotypical set-up. Packed with dual meanings from the melancholy ode to our over technologically dependent age “Human Voice” to the cynical “Hollywood Ending” detailing the young folks disillusion there are also more fun ditties including the swear word ridden “Soldier At War” sung by Nick and his crew all about killing zombies and “It’s That Time Of Year” sung by Lisa, a tune filled with so many double entendre’s it makes Santa Baby sound as clean as a carol.anna-and-the-apocalypse-600x338All of these musical numbers are performed with aplomb by the cast who are excellent although special mention goes to Sarah Swire as Steph, Mark Benton as Anna’s widower dad and best of all the always brilliant Paul Kaye who plays Mr Savage the villainous power hungry headmaster who revels in the terrible new world order and gets to sing about it as well in his anthemic “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”.MV5BODMyNzQ0MTQ4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzc3MjcyNjM@__V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_On Blu-ray for the first time in the UK this 2 disc set includes a stocking full of extras with the theatrical and an extended cut of the film alongside audio commentary with director John McPhail, writer Alan McDonald, composers Roddy Hart, interviews with the main actors, and crew, behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening and ending and much, much more. Far darker than you might expect and all the better for it, Anna and the Apocalypse is still a proper crowd pleasing horror musical comedy that will appeal to multiple audiences especially the younger crowd who will instantly identify with the characters dealing with growing up in the worst possible way. A perfect gift for horror fans this is a movie that brings the true spirit of Christmas to the fore all while adding undead guts and gore. Wow that sounds like a song lyric

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

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CAST
Simon Pegg (Star Trek)
Nick Frost (Snow White & The Huntsman)
Kate Ashfield (Spivs)
Lucy Davis (Ugly Betty)
Dylan Moran (Notting Hill)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Rafe Spall (Prometheus)
Bill Nighy (Underworld)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Matt Lucas (Alice In Wonderland)
Paul Kaye (Anna and The Apocalypse)
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old electronics shop salesman with no direction in life. His younger colleagues show him no respect, he has a strained relationship with his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy), and a tense one with his housemate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s other housemate and vulgar, unemployed best friend. Furthermore, Shaun’s girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) dislikes their social life as they spend every date at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favourite pub. Because Shaun always brings Ed, Liz is always forced to bring her flatmates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis). After a bad day at work, Shaun forgets to book a table at a nice restaurant, and after suggesting the Winchester again Liz breaks up with him. Shaun drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester. While celebrating at home, an enraged Pete — suffering from a bite wound caused by “some crackheads” — confronts Shaun on his flaws, telling him to sort his life out.
The next morning, a zombie apocalypse has overwhelmed the city, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his hangover to notice. He and Ed discover a female zombie in their backyard, but assume she is just drunk until she survives being impaled on a pipe. Another zombie makes its way into the garden, and Shaun and Ed run back inside. They learn more about the outbreak by watching the news and kill the two zombies (and another zombie that slips in through the front door) with blows to the head. The two decide to rescue Shaun’s mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and Liz so they can wait out the crisis in the Winchester.
Shaun and Ed escape in Pete’s car and pick up Barbara and Phillip — who has been bitten — and then switch vehicles after Ed deliberately crashes Pete’s car for Phillip’s Jaguar. They then head over to Liz, Dianne, and David’s flat and collect them. On their way to the Winchester, Phillip makes peace with Shaun, dies from his bites, and then reanimates — forcing them to abandon the vehicle and set off on foot. The streets surrounding the pub are overrun, so the group pretends to be zombies to sneak past them, but Shaun gets into an argument with Ed and breaks their cover. Shaun leads the horde away while the rest take refuge in the pub. Shaun rejoins them after losing the zombies.
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Several hours later, the zombies return; Shaun discovers the Winchester rifle above the bar is functional and the group uses it to defend themselves. Barbara reveals she was bitten along the way and dies, and a distraught Shaun is forced to shoot her after she reanimates. David is then pulled through a window and torn apart by the zombies, and Dianne frantically unbolts the front door to rescue him, disappearing into the advancing horde. Pete arrives as one of the zombies and bites Ed; Shaun kills Pete and sets fire to the bar, but also sets off the remaining rifle ammunition by accident. The survivors flee into the cellar and contemplate suicide, but discover a barrel hatch elevator that opens to the outside. Shaun and Liz escape on the elevator as Ed is left behind with the rifle. Back on the street, the British Army arrives and guns down the remaining zombies, rescuing the two. The couple approach the safety of the trucks, reconciled. Six months after the outbreak, civilization has returned to normal, but the living now use the zombies as cheap labour and entertainment. Liz has moved in with Shaun, and Shaun keeps Ed — now a zombie — tethered in the backyard shed so they can play video games together.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are both brilliant in this spoof of the zombie genre. If you are into zombie films, or comedy, then you will enjoy this film. It is a well made film that dosen’t fail to bring a smile to anybody who watches it.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DRACULA UNTOLD

CAST

Luke Evans (The Hobbit)
Dominc Cooper (Agent Carter)
Sarah Gadon (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Art Parkinson (Game of Thrones)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Paul Kaye (Pan)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)

In the Middle Ages, Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) is the Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania. As a child, he was a princely hostage of the Ottoman Empire and was trained to be a soldier in the Sultan’s elite Janissary corps, where he became their most feared warrior. He was called Vlad the Impaler after slaughtering thousands by impaling them on spears. Eventually sickened by his acts, he put aside his past and returned to rule his domains in peace. One day in the forest, Vlad and his soldiers discover a helmet in a stream. Fearing that an Ottoman scouting party is preparing the way for invasion, they follow the stream to a high mountain cave called Broken Tooth Mountain. Upon entering the cave, they discover the ground of the cave is carpeted in crushed bone; and they are attacked in the dark by an unknown creature (Charles Dance) with shining red eyes, as well as inhuman speed and strength. While his men are killed, Vlad cuts the creature of the cave with his sword before being thrown to the ground. The blood on the sword he used to cut the creature dissolves when exposed to sunlight, and the creature does not pursue Vlad into the sunlight at the mouth of the cave. Returning to his castle, Vlad learns from a local monk that the creature is a vampire, who was once a man who summoned a demon from the depths of hell and made a pact with it for dark powers before being tricked by the demon and cursed to remain in the cave forever until he is released by someone who drinks his blood, then drinks the blood of a human. The person is welcome to share his power in exchange for the freedom to escape the cave.

The next day, as Vlad celebrates an Easter feast with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), and his subjects, an Ottoman contingent arrives unexpectedly at the castle. Vlad offers them the usual tribute payment of silver coins, but the emissary notes that a battalion of Ottoman scouts has gone missing, implying that Vlad has had them killed. Vlad professes that he had not killed them. The emissary demands an additional tribute of 1,000 boys to be trained as Janissaries, through the devşirme system. Vlad refuses, but his army is small and no match for the Turks. Mirena believes that, because of Vlad and Mehmed’s (Dominic Cooper) history together as children, being close like brothers, if he were to ask, Mehmed would show him mercy. He approaches Mehmed II and asks him not to take the country’s boys. When that fails, he offers himself in place of the boys; but the Sultan refuses and demands Vlad’s son in addition. The Sultan sends the emissary to bring Vlad’s son. Vlad has an argument with his wife, as he is sending his son to meet the emissary and Ottoman soldiers. Vlad tells his wife to trust him before leaving his wife and son and going to meet the emissary and the soldiers alone. He is unarmed; but his son, afraid for him, runs to him, takes his hand, and tells his father that he is ready to join the Sultan’s army. As Vlad approaches the Turks, the emissary, smiling, tells Vlad that he thought there would be some kind of difficulty. Vlad tells his son to run back to his mother, then takes the emissary’s sword and kills him and his small entourage of soldiers.

Knowing his actions will lead to war, Vlad returns to the Broken Tooth Mountain cave to seek help from the vampire. Once he is inside, the vampire asks Vlad why he returned. Vlad replies, saying he needs the power of the vampire so that he can defeat the Ottoman army. The vampire tells him there are consequences and offers him some of his blood, which will temporarily give Vlad the powers of a vampire. If he resists the intense urge to drink human blood for three days, he will turn back into a human. Otherwise, he will remain a vampire forever and will one day be called upon to help his maker. Vlad accepts the offer and drinks the vampire’s blood, going through a painful and deathlike experience as he transforms.

Waking up in the forest afterwards, Vlad discovers he has been granted heightened senses, inhuman strength and speed, and the ability to transform into a flock of bats; but his skin slowly burns in direct sunlight. When he returns to Castle Dracula, the Ottoman army attacks, but Vlad single-handedly kills them all. He then sends most of the castle’s subjects to Cozia Monastery, which is situated on the edge of a mountain, as a better base for safety. During the journey, Mirena learns of Vlad’s curse as she sees Vlad holding silver to keep himself weak when near his people to avoid revealing his condition to them or attack them for blood. After Vlad promises he will resist human blood, she accepts that he will regain his mortality once the Ottomans are defeated. A Romani named Shkelgim, who knows Vlad is a vampire, proclaims himself as his servant and offers his own blood; but Vlad resists. As they near the monastery, the Valahs are ambushed by Ottoman soldiers; and, while Vlad and his men successfully repel them, Vlad’s sudden increased strength arouses suspicion among his subjects. The next day at the monastery, a monk learns of the curse and leads the Prince’s subjects to turn on Vlad, trapping him in a burning building in the sunlight. Black smoke blocks out the sun, allowing an outraged Vlad to escape the fire, and he angrily reveals that he became a vampire for the sole purpose of protecting his people from the Ottoman suzerainty. Before he acts out against them, Mirena stops him and calms him down.

That night, the Ottoman army marches on the monastery. Vlad commands an enormous swarm of bats to repel them; however, the soldiers are actually a decoy force, allowing a handful of Turks to infiltrate the monastery, kill many of the inhabitants and kidnap Ingeras. Mirena tries to defend her son, and falls from the edge of the monastery wall. Dying, Mirena pleads with Vlad to drink her blood before the sun rises to give him the strength to save their son. Vlad reluctantly drinks her blood, triggering his final transformation into a full-blooded vampire and granting him even greater powers. Vlad returns to the monastery and turns a small group of survivors and mortally wounded into vampires as well. At the Ottoman army’s camp, Mehmed prepares for a massive invasion of Europe. Vlad and his vampires arrive and easily massacre the terrified Ottoman soldiers, while Vlad himself goes after Mehmed, who is holding Ingeras captive. Aware that vampires are weakened by silver, Mehmed has lined the floor of his tent with silver coins, reducing Vlad’s strength and speed, and impairing his vision, and fights Vlad with a silver sword. He overpowers Vlad and prepares to impale his heart with a wooden stake, but Vlad turns into a flock of bats and evades him. Taking the name “Dracula, Son of the Devil,” he kills Mehmed with the stake and drinks his blood, fully succumbed to the savagery of his vampiric condition.

As they leave Mehmed’s tent, Dracula and Ingeras are confronted by the other vampires, who demand that his son be killed because he is human. The monk who had previously led the Valahs against Vlad appears and keeps the vampires at bay with a Christian cross. When one of the vampires attempts to kill Ingeras, Dracula impales him with a spear as a warning to the others not to harm his son. Dracula orders the monk to take Ingeras away, then uses his power to clear the black clouds in the sky. The sunlight burns the vampires into dust, while Dracula collapses into a charred corpse. With Vlad presumed dead and Europe saved from the Ottoman invasion, Ingeras is crowned the new Prince of Wallachia. However, Shkelgim secretly takes Dracula into a nearby tent and revives him with his blood.

In the present day, Vlad meets a woman named Mina, who strikingly resembles Mirena, in the streets of a modern city (London), and they have a conversation about a line of poetry they have in common. The vampire who cursed Vlad, now healed, in a more human form, and still alive, watches them from afar and follows them, and anticipates what he has planned for Dracula in the future, saying, “Let the games begin.”

It’s a film with some great effects, has a charismatic lead with Luke Evans and when added to a great performance by Dominic Cooper as the Sultan Mehmed all round gave a film that was quite enjoyable.

 

 

REVIEW: GOOD OMENS

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)

Starring

David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)
Michael Sheen (Passengers)
Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland)
Jon Hamm (Baby Driver)
Josie Lawrence (Humans)
Lourdes Faberes (Knightfall)
Adria Arjona (Life of The Party)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jack Whitehall (Bad Education)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Yusuf Gatewood (The Originals)
Brian Cox (Rise of TPOA)
Reece Shearsmith (Stag)
Nina Sosanya (Marcella)
Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders)
Ariyon Bakare (Rogue One)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Grinch)
Steve Pemberton (Psychoville)
Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones)
Nick Offerman (The Lego Movie 2)
Daniel Mays (The Bank Job)
Sian Brooke (Sherlock)
Simon Merrells (Legends of Tomorrow)
Susan Brown (Game of Thrones)
Paul Kaye (Anna and the Apocalypse)
David Morrissey (The Walking Dead)

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Once upon a time, Good Omens was considered unadaptable. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s sprawling, 400-page fantasy novel was notorious within the film and TV industries. Screenwriters turned their noses up at the project, and various attempts over the years to bring page to screen ended in disappointment. However, an adaptation of the unadaptable proved to be Pratchett’s last request to his co-author before he died in 2015, and Gaiman set about writing the screenplay for what would become an epic six-part BBC/Amazon co-production.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)So first things first: was the unadaptable, well, adaptable, after all? The short answer is, yes. Gaiman — also showrunner on the series — has pulled off a colourful, quirky, funny, poignant (although not entirely flawless) feat. One might even suspect there’s been a spot of divine (or devilish) intervention… The true triumph is the casting. Michael Sheen shines (quite literally, in some scenes) as the angel Aziraphale, a celestial field agent who teams up with his opposite number, the stylish demon Crowley — played with a Bill Nighy-esque swagger by David Tennant — in order to prevent Armageddon.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)It’s this pairing that proves to be the beating heart of the series. Crowley and Aziraphale have been on Earth since the very beginning, and in their own ways they’ve both “gone native”. Aziraphale owns a Soho bookshop, and likes gravlax salmon with dill sauce. Crowley drives a pristine 1926 Bentley and listens to Queen. They’ve formed a professional agreement not to meddle in each other’s affairs, and in their spare time they’ve enjoyed a series of rather nice clandestine lunches. Every time either actor appears onscreen, you can almost hear the costume department’s (and fandom’s) squeals of joy. David Tennant in snakeskin boots! Michael Sheen with artfully tousled bleached hair! A tartan bow tie! Tennant also sports appropriately flame-red hair (not in the books, but worth it for Doctor Who fans’ realisation that the Tenth Doctor finally got his wish) that frequently changes style. In one particularly memorable moment during episode one, Crowley disguises himself as a bobbed-haired nanny, a Satanic crossover between Nanny McPhee and Mrs Doubtfire.good-omensHe and Aziraphale have a teasing, love/hate relationship that fans of the book have shipped for almost two decades. Gaiman has since promised that “the TV series gets deeper into Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship,” and some viewers will be hoping that that will translate into a burgeoning romance. Certainly in episode one, Aziraphale seems rather overexcited at the prospect of he and Crowley becoming joint “godfathers” to the infant Antichrist, whose arrival on Earth threatens to catalyse the apocalypse. Gabriel has bright purple irises in the series, a nod to Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary lilac eyes according to the show’s companion book, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion. However, as anyone who’s worn thick coloured lenses for Halloween and lived to tell the tale will know, the effect is rather distracting and painful to look at, as are Crowley’s reptilian yellow eyes (thankfully hidden away under trendy shades for much of the show). Gabriel barely appears in the book, and he’s a welcome and much-needed addition to the series: someone to put the proverbial heat on Aziraphale.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Various sets are also new for the TV show: Heaven is now a vast corporate headquarters, while Hell resembles an overcrowded basement office. A rather gloomier version of The IT Crowd, if you will. Some of the show’s special effects can feel a bit hammy (think Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who with a couple of rubber frogs thrown in), but the scene depicting the entrances to both Heaven and Hell features a pretty cool bit of cinematography, including a mirror effect and an upside-down Tennant. However, despite the addition of characters like Gabriel, much of the show remains doggedly faithful to the books. Reams of dialogue are almost word-for-word during episode one, to the extent that there are certain moments and scenes where one feels that the show’s pace has been sacrificed in favour of preserving the ‘voice’ of the book. Of course, it’s understandable given the circumstances — Gaiman has spoken about the pressure to protect Pratchett’s narrative creations in his absence. For example, he made sure that one of Pratchett’s characters, the 17th century witch Agnes Nutter, remained in the show despite calls to replace her (and an expensive, explosive period shoot) with a series of woodcuts.good-omens-key-art-600x314In Agnes’s case, it makes sense to preserve her: her spookily accurate prophecies drive much of the plot and predict the present-day apocalypse. But there are chunks of God’s narration (voiced by Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) that feel a bit laboured. Some sections, like the bit about demons’ talents for “lurking” around graveyards, must have read well on the page in that distinctive Terry/Neil voice, but in reality they fall rather flat — much like a certain angel’s misguided attempts to pull a rabbit out of a top hat at a children’s birthday party. At the end of the day, however (and according to Agnes Nutter, there aren’t many more days left), the series is a love letter to the book, combining Gaiman and Pratchett’s brilliant characterisation and quippy jokes with vivid, gorgeous sets and memorable costumes.

 

 

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 7

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Starring

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

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

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

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

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 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)
Untitled
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.