REVIEW: THE GREAT WALL

 

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Jing Tian (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Andy Lau (A Simple Life)
Zhang Hanyu (Operation Red Sea)
Pilou Asbæk (Ghost In The Shell)

Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Tian Jing, and Cheney Chen in The Great Wall (2016)Searching for the secret of gunpowder, twenty European mercenaries have traveled to China during the reign of the Renzong Emperor (AD 1010–63). A few miles north of the Great Wall, they are pursued by Khitan bandits, who kill some of the men. Upon escaping, they seek refuge in a cave but are attacked by an unknown monster, leaving only William and Tovar alive, with the former having slashed off the monster’s hand. The two decide to bring the arm with them. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect, called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao and Strategist Wang.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of monsters called Tao Tieh who rise every sixty years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the monster’s severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still a week away. Suddenly, a large wave of monsters attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized.Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal in The Great Wall (2016)The Nameless Order is divided into five special units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop, the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the horse-mounted Deer Troop. Losses are sustained on both sides before the monsters’ queen recalls her warriors. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Sir Ballard, a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder and had been serving as an English and Latin teacher. William saves Peng Yong, a warrior in the Bear Troop, from the attacking monsters. William and Tovar’s battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin, leader of the Crane Troop.The Great Wall (2016)Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied in battle. Later, Wang meets William and explains the situation: the monsters that he fought were Tao Tieh, which originated from a green meteor that crashed into Gouwu Mountain two thousand years ago. The Chinese believe the Tao Tieh were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and its people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)During the night, two Tao Tieh reach the top of the Wall and silently kill several watchmen. Shao and Lin lead the Deer soldiers to investigate, but are ambushed. The Tao Tieh are slain but Shao, wounded beyond recovery, succumbs to his injuries and dies, leaving Lin to take command of the Nameless Order. Around this time, an envoy from the capital Bianliang arrives with an ancient scroll which suggests that the monsters are pacified by magnets. Wang believes that the stone William carried all this time enabled him to slay the Tao Tieh he fought before entering the Wall. To test the hypothesis, William suggests that they should capture a Tao Tieh alive and agrees to help. This results in his delaying his escape plans, which puts him at odds with Tovar who nevertheless delays his escape plan to assist William, much to Ballard’s chagrin.During the next attack, the Tao Tieh are numerous enough to cause Lin to resort to using black powder rockets, whose existence had been kept secret from the Westerners until now. They manage to capture a living Tao Tieh and prove the hypothesis. The monster is taken to the capital by the envoy. A short while later, a tunnel is discovered at the base of the Wall, which the Tao Tieh queen has used to lead her hordes to the capital. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard try to escape and knock William unconscious for resisting. William is then arrested by the Chinese soldiers, and despite being saved by a statement from Peng Yong, is locked up in the Wall. Some distance away, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but is himself captured by the Khitans, who inadvertently kill themselves and Ballard after carelessly igniting the powder. Tovar reclaims the horses but is recaptured by the Deer Troop. At the capital, the envoy shows their theory to the Emperor, but the Tao Tieh wakes up and signals to the Tao Tieh queen.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)Knowing that the horde is approaching the capital, Lin orders the use of unstable hot-air balloons to follow the Tao Tieh. Before setting out for Bianliang, the capital, Lin passes word to set William free, with Wang telling him to tell the outside world about the danger about to come. However, William decides to stay and boards the last balloon with Peng and Wang. They arrive just in time to see Lin’s balloon crash-landing in the now destroyed capital, and save her from being devoured. They land safely in the Emperor’s palace, where Wang proposes an idea to kill the queen by tying explosives to the captured Tao Tieh and giving it meat to be delivered to the queen. While transporting, a horde of Tao Tieh breach the sewers. Peng Yong sacrifices himself to save the others.Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016)With the Tao Tieh released, Lin and William climb the tower to shoot a black powder rocket and detonate the explosives. Wang sacrifices himself to buy time for Lin and William to move to the upper floors. Two of William’s arrows are deflected by the Tao Tieh queen’s bodyguards, but William throws the magnet into the horde, creating a gap in the shields and allowing Lin’s spear to breach the defenses. The queen is destroyed, and the rest of the horde is frozen solid. With the horde destroyed, William is given an offer, forgoing the powder to instead free Tovar, much to the latter’s annoyance. The two, guided by cavalry, begin their journey back to Europe as Lin, now the General, watches from the Wall. William says that he wants to go back, but jokes that he doesn’t trust Tovar going home alone.Overall, the plot is quite linear and simple and is centred around one important moment. Character development was welcoming, but not impressive and definitely not unexpected. The best part was not fulfilling the love sub-plot, even though I half expected this and I would have been really disappointed if it had happened. It was an enjoyable film with better effects than I expected and many other films, so give it a try. But be open minded and admire what is to be admired.

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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2011)

CAST

Adrienne Palicki (Agents of Shield)
Elizabeth Hurley (EDtv)
Tracie Thoms (Cold Case)
Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)
Justin Bruening (Knight Rider 2008)

In an inner city home a teenager tells his family that he has been accepted to college moments before he begins convulsing and bleeding from the eyes and ears. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is in a foot chase with a super-strength criminal on Hollywood Blvd and, after knocking him out, takes a sample of his blood and leaves him to the police. Wonder Woman returns to the headquarters of Themyscira Industries, a large corporation which she runs as the CEO in her alter-ego of Diana Themyscira. Themyscira Industries owns and operates the concept of Wonder Woman as both a privately run crime fighting operation and for marketing the image of Wonder Woman as a role model to the outside world. Diana has trouble balancing her life as both the CEO of the corporation and as Wonder Woman. Diana’s frustration with having to maintain a perfect image to the outside world in both these capacities leads her to create a third identity for herself, “Diana Prince,” so that she can have an element of normalcy in her life and sit at home with her cat watching romantic comedies and surfing the internet.

At Themyscira Industries Diana grows suspicious of evil businesswoman Veronica Cale for distributing an illegal performance-enhancing drug that gives users super-human strength and endurance, but can cause death through repeated use. The blood sample she draws from the Hollywood Blvd fight and the story of the college bound teen confirm Diana’s suspicions. Without enough hard evidence to bring Cale to justice as Wonder Woman, Diana holds a press conference and airs her beliefs about Cale to the world. Cale in turn confronts Diana in person to intimidate her and threaten legal action. In a flash back, Diana ends up breaking it off with her boyfriend Steve Trevor because of her busy life. Back in present day, the college bound teenager dies from his drug sickness and Diana is galvanized to confront Cale as Wonder Woman. She arrives at Cale’s facilities, defeats all of her super-powered henchmen and confronts Cale face-to-face.

Cale threatens legal action and to release security footage of Wonder Woman killing the henchmen, but Wonder Woman responds by pulling Cale down with her lasso and throwing her against the wall. Later Cale is put in jail and a Justice Department representative comes to meet Diana. This turns out to be Steve Trevor who says that he will be working with Diana in her capacity as Wonder Woman but also reveals that he has married another woman.

The Wonder Woman pilot that is floating around on the internet is an unfinished work designed to function as a display for potential companies to sign it and assign to their network. Some of the digital effects are not finished and this apparently makes some people say that the show is low quality. Therefore if you are going to watch this you should be aware that it is in an unfinished form  I really enjoyed this pilot. From what I had been hearing I was expecting dreadful, but by comparison to what is on TV today on most channels I’m really disappointed that it never went to a full series.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 4

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

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