25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – THE CLIMB

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THE CLIMB

CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)

GUEST CAST

Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Karl Yune (Reel Steel)
Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)

You can draw a lot of parallels between season 1’s Flash mid season finale and Arrow season 3’s. Both served as mid-season finales. Both prominently featured a major villain who had only appeared briefly in the past. There were many similarities, but the overall impact in this episode was stronger. Arrow needed a bigger, bolder villain this season, and it got one in Ra’s al Ghul. Even the opening of “The Climb” paralleled “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” as we were treated to a brief flash-forward of Ollie surmounting a cliff before the episode flashed back 48 hours earlier. This framing device was repeated several times throughout the episode, always serving to heighten the tension and the build-up to the final showdown between the Arrow and the Demon’s Head.
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There was a definite sense of increased momentum this week. The mystery behind Sara Lance’s murder again became the focus, with Ollie and the gang now given a strict 48-hour ultimatum to either turn over her killer or face the League’s wrath. After two months of build-up, we finally learned the killer’s identity. I can’t say I was surprised to learn it was Thea, between the DNA almost matching Ollie’s and the footage of her accompanying Malcolm Merlyn. But that wasn’t really the point. The conflict quickly became more about Ollie trying to understand why Thea could have committed such an act, and choosing how far he would go to defend his last living family member. This became a much more emotionally stirring conflict than a mere whodunit.
I was almost disappointed that Thea’s actions were explained away by the magical brainwashing root. It would be far more interesting if she had fired the arrows of her own free will and was forced to be held accountable for her actions. Though maybe Thea needed that level of sympathy to her actions given how much Ollie gave up for her in the end. In any case, it was cool to see Ollie and Thea briefly battle it out in their apartment. His stunned reaction upon realizing that his sister had become a martial arts whiz was pretty great. This conflict culminated on a great note as Ollie decided that he would rather throw himself to the wolves and be devoured rather than risk turning the League’s wrath on Thea. He definitely played right into Merlyn’s hand, but he didn’t have much choice. Any chance that Merlyn might have softened since his defeat two years ago is clearly gone. Having already manipulated Ollie and wormed his way out of the League’s crosshairs, Merlyn is free to carry out whatever the next stage of his plan might be. You have to wonder if he’ll prove to be the true villain of the season rather than Ra’s.
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Ollie bidding farewell to his friends was easily one of the most emotionally stirring moments of the season. It was pretty clear that he knew he was going to his death and acted accordingly. His goodbye to Felicity was powerful stuff. The confrontation with Ra’s didn’t disappoint either. In a lot of ways, Matt Nable is an odd choice to play the iconic villain. He’s more rugged and scruffy than you’d expect of the character, and even his accent is less refined than what we’ve seen in the past. But Nable does bring charisma and danger to the part. He also has the physicality to pull off a shirtless sword fight with a guy who spends 90% of his free time on a salmon ladder. Nable doesn’t look or sound much like Ra’s, but he manages to be Ra’s all the same. The sword duel was definitely a highlight of the episode. From Ra’s story about his first kill (“I replaced great evil with death.”) to his choice to fight without a blade of his own, it was clear how badly outmatched Ollie was. And even though our hero nearly got the drop on Ra’s at the end, death finally came him, as promised.
Now, obviously the writers aren’t going to kill off the show’s main character halfway into the third season. Ra’s offhand remark about Ollie being the first person in 67 years to challenge him was full with meaning. It all but confirms that Lazarus Pits exist in this universe and that Ra’s uses them. The writers also found time for several subplots in between all the League business. Laurel continued to mourn her sister’s death, with the added complication that her mother briefly returned to town. Laurel’s confession was nonetheless another key emotional moment in an already emotional episode. Arrow never disappoints when it comes to finales (mid-season or otherwise). This episode offered a steady stream of tension and emotional drama as Ollie learned the truth about his sister and chose to confront his own death. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn emerged as clear and present threats to Starling City.

REVIEW: THE WOLVERINE

CAST
Hugh Jackman (Real Steel)
Tao Okamoto (Hannibal)
Rila Fukushima (Arrow)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Sunshine)
Svetlana Khodchenkova (Metro)
Brian Tee (Jurassic world)
Hal Yamanouchi (Push)
Will Yun Lee (Elektra)
Famke Janssen (The Faculty)
Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Iam McKellen (Lord of The Rings)
In 1945, Logan is held in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki. During the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Logan rescues an officer named Ichirō Yashida and shields him from the blast.

In the present day, Logan lives as a hermit in Yukon, tormented by hallucinations of Jean Grey, whom he was forced to kill to save the world (X-Men: The Last Stand). He is located by Yukio, a mutant with the ability to foresee people’s deaths, on behalf of Ichirō, now the CEO of a technology zaibatsu. Ichirō, who is dying of cancer, wants Logan to accompany Yukio to Japan so that he may repay his life debt. In Tokyo, Logan meets Ichirō’s son, Shingen, and granddaughter, Mariko. There, Ichirō offers to transfer Logan’s healing abilities into his own body, thus saving Ichirō’s life and alleviating Logan of his near-immortality, which Logan views as a curse. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the following day. That night, Ichirō’s physician Dr. Green (also known as Viper) introduces something into Logan’s body, but Logan dismisses it as a dream.The next morning, Logan is informed that Ichirō has died. At the funeral, Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko, but Logan and Mariko escape together into the urban sprawl of Tokyo. Logan is shot and his wounds do not heal as quickly as they should. After fighting off more Yakuza on a bullet train, Logan and Mariko hide in a local love hotel. Meanwhile, Ichirō’s bodyguard Harada meets with Dr. Green who, after demonstrating her mutant powers on him, demands he find Logan and Mariko. Logan and Mariko travel to Ichirō’s house in Nagasaki, and the two slowly fall in love. Meanwhile, Yukio has a vision of Logan dying, and goes to warn him. Before Yukio arrives, Mariko is captured by the Yakuza. After interrogating one of the kidnappers, Logan and Yukio confront Mariko’s fiancé, corrupt Minister of Justice Noburo Mori. Mori confesses that he conspired with Shingen to have Mariko killed because Ichirō left control of the company to Mariko, and not Shingen.Mariko is brought before Shingen at Ichirō’s estate when ninjas led by Harada attack and whisk her away. Logan and Yukio arrive later and, using Ichirō’s X-ray machine, discover a robotic parasite attached to Logan’s heart, suppressing his healing ability. Logan cuts himself open and extracts the device. During the operation, Shingen attacks but Yukio holds Shingen off long enough for Logan to recover and kill Shingen. Logan follows Mariko’s trail to the village of Ichirō’s birth, where he is captured by Harada’s ninjas. Logan is placed in a machine by Dr. Green, who reveals her plans to extract his healing factor and introduces him to the Silver Samurai, an electromechanical suit of Japanese armour with energized swords made of adamantium. Mariko escapes from Harada, who believes he is acting in Mariko’s interests, and frees Logan from the machine. Harada sees the error of his ways and is killed by the Silver Samurai while helping Logan escape.Meanwhile, Yukio arrives and kills Dr. Green as Logan fights the Silver Samurai. The Silver Samurai severs Logan’s adamantium claws and begins to extract Logan’s healing abilities, revealing himself to be Ichirō, who had faked his death. Ichirō regains his youth, but Mariko intervenes and stabs Ichirō with Logan’s severed claws. Logan regenerates his bone claws and kills Ichirō. Logan collapses and has one final hallucination of Jean, in which he decides to finally let go of her. Mariko becomes CEO of Yashida Industries and bids farewell to Logan as he prepares to leave Japan. Yukio vows to stay by Logan’s side as his bodyguard, and they depart to places unknown. In a mid-credits scene, Logan returns to the United States two years later and is approached at the airport by Erik Lehnsherr, who warns him of a grave new threat to the mutant race; and Charles Xavier, whom Logan thought was dead.

The  Wolverine was a step up from X-men origins: Wolverine with a more well rounded story, The action is amazing, and the nice little tag at the end of the film links it up with Days of Future Past.

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: ARROW – SEASON 3

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)
John Barrowman (Reign)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
Karl Yune (Real Steel)
Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine)
Peter Stormare (American Gods)
J.R. Ramirez (Power)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
Christina Cox (Defying Gravity)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Glee)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Nick E. Tarabay (Spartacus)
Jill Teed (Highlander: The Series)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Kelly Hu (The Scopion King)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Vinnie Jones (The Cape)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Austin Butler (The Carrie Diaries)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Eugene Byrd (Bones)
Marc Singer (V)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Francoise Yip (Andromeda)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)

Season 3 certainly started off on a strong note with the premiere episode, “The Calm.” That episode laid out the general status quo for team Arrow post-Slade uprising. Ollie had saved his city but found himself struggling to find meaning in his existence outside of putting on a costume and shooting criminals full of arrows. That struggle was complicated with the addition of a new recurring player in the form of Ray Palmer, a charismatic businessman who managed to steal both Ollie’s company and the affections of Felicity. Coupled with the debut of Peter Stormare as a much superior new version of Count Vertigo and the cliffhanger murder of Sara Lance.Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins emerged as the villains of the season, when we get to episode 8 & 9 we the one-two punch of “The Brave and the Bold” and “The Climb” had great momentum . The former offered the first extended crossover between Team Arrow and Team Flash, and the results were as fun as fans of the two shows could have hoped. The latter, meanwhile, saw Ollie journey to Nanda Parbat and confront Ra’s al Ghul in the flesh. Their clifftop duel easily ranks among the best action scenes in the show’s three-year history. The choreography was solid. being a mid season cliffhanger left fans hanging over christmas.Stephen Amell and Matt Nable in Arrow (2012)Ollie’s friends believed him to be dead and found themselves defending Starling City from the seemingly invulnerable crime lord Brick (played with gusto by Vinnie Jones). The three-part Brick storyline was another highlight for the season. Ray Palmer was a great addition to the show. He brought a charm and a sense of humor. Even when Ray’s ongoing story arc seemed tenuously linked with the rest of Team Arrow, the character’s sheer entertainment value and his dynamic with Felicity justified his presence. The fact that we got to see Ray evolve from billionaire industrialist to full-fledged superhero in his own right was a bonus.  Arrow continues to serve as prime breeding ground for other DC heroes to emerge.The show also deserves credit for the overall quality of its special effects and action choreography. That’s an area where Arrow has consistently improved over time as the budget has grown and the cast and crew have grown more experienced. A number of action scenes really stood out this season, whether it was the first glimpses of the A.T.O.M. suit in action, the epic street riot in “Uprising,” or the fateful duel between Ollie and Ra’s in “The Climb.” Looking back, the one action sequence that stood out more than anything this year was the shot of Roy running through a pipe while gunfire exploded behind him in “Left Behind.” There’s a growing cinematic flair to this show that never gets old.The season led to the showdown between Arrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, the resolve brought new dimensions to the character which will lead into the upcoming 4th Season. John Barrowman was also a great return addition to this season being a full time player, changing from villain to anti-hero. Katrina Law was always great to see again, every time she shows up you know it will be a great episode.Arrow continues to become a a shining beacon of the DC Universe and with season 4 on its way, it’s here to stay for a while.