REVIEW: JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

CAST

Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious 8)
Jack Black (King Kong)
Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence)
Karen Gillan (Avengers: Infinity War)
Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians)
Alex Wolff (The Sitter)
Madison Iseman (Laid In America)
Ser’Darius Blain (Star Trek Into Darknes)
Morgan Turner (Remember Me)
Nick Jonas (Scream Queens)
Danny DeVito (batman Returns)
Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon)
Colin Hanks (Roswell)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men)
Dania Ramirez (Premium Rush)
Massi Furlan (Bad Boys For Life)
Deobia Oparei (Sex Education)
John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory)
Lucy DeVito (Dumbo)
Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers)
Lamorne Morris (New Girl)

 

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)In 2019, three years after their adventure in Jumanji, Spencer Gilpin, Anthony “Fridge” Johnson, Martha Kaply, and Bethany Walker lead different lives, but plan a reunion brunch in Brantford, New Hampshire that year. Spencer, apprehensive of the meeting due to depression, contemplates returning to Jumanji where he had purpose, and spends his first night looking over the broken video-game system he held onto. The following day, his friends visit his home, meeting with Spencer’s grandfather Eddie, who is recovering from hip surgery, and Eddie’s former friend and business partner Milo Walker, who is visiting for an unknown reason. Learning that they have no idea where Spencer is, the group search the house, and find the Jumanji game partially repaired in the basement. Realising Spencer returned to the game, his friends decide to follow him.Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, and Karen Gillan in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)The game malfunctions when starting up, sucking in only Fridge and Martha, along with Eddie and Milo, forcing Bethany to contact fellow Jumanji alumnus Alex Vreeke for help. Inside the game, Martha finds herself as her avatar Ruby Roundhouse, yet Fridge becomes Bethany’s avatar Professor Sheldon Oberon, while Eddie and Milo become avatars Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Franklin “Mouse” Finbar respectively. After instructing Eddie and Milo on the game’s rules, the group encounter non-player character Nigel Billingsley, the game’s guide, who reveals that since its last use, Jumanji is suffering from a massive drought. To leave the game, Nigel reveals that the group must recover the “Falcon Jewel” – a magical necklace stolen by warlord Jurgen the Brutal – which can end the drought if brought before sunlight and uttering “Jumanji”.Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, and Awkwafina in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)Transported to a desert called the Dunes to track down Jurgen, and after narrowly escaping a flock of pursuing ostriches, the group encounter Spencer operating as skilled thief Ming Fleetfoot, a new avatar, who agrees to help them after blaming himself for their predicament. While attempting to escape the Dunes, the group face new challenges and problems, along with collecting an in-game item called a Jumanji Berry, and discovering a pool of glowing green water that allows them to switch avatars. In the process, Eddie bickers with Milo, revealing their friendship ended when a diner they owned was sold behind Eddie’s back, forcing him into retirement. After the group convince the pair to work together in escaping a troop of mandrills, they soon become reunited with Alex, as his avatar Jefferson McDonough, and Bethany, operating a new avatar called Cyclone – a black horse that can only be understood by Finbar.Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Awkwafina in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)Working together, the party leave the Dunes, and find a river with the same glowing green water, allowing Spencer, Bethany, and Fridge to become their original avatars, while Eddie and Milo respectively end up as Ming and Cyclone. Shortly after changing characters, Jurgen’s mercenaries capture Eddie and Milo. The group infiltrate Jurgen’s fortress separately to rescue teammates and steal the Falcon Jewel. When the confrontation turns into a battle, Spencer pursues Jurgen to his airship, while the others distract his men. Finding himself unable to best Jurgen, Spencer discovers he is weak to the Jumanji Berry, incapacitating him long enough to send him plummeting to his death in the wintery fog below. Discovering Cyclone has retractable wings that allow him to fly, Eddie and Milo work together to rescue Spencer and bring the recovered Falcon’s Heart to the sun, calling out “Jumanji” and ending the drought.Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, and Karen Gillan in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)Returning the necklace to Nigel for safekeeping, the group are surprised when Milo elects to stay behind and protect the land. Learning he was dying in the real world and thus sought to make up for his actions, Eddie reconciles with him before parting ways. Upon returning to the real world, Spencer decides to teach his grandfather about video games, while Eddie uses what he learned in the game to convince the owner of his old diner to hire him on as a manager, with his grandson and his friends turning up to enjoy a meal together.Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)In a mid-credits scene, the heating mechanic who Spencer’s mother hired finally shows up, only to be drawn to the game, while Spencer and the others are surprised to witness a flock of ostriches rush past the diner.I first watched the Jumaji reboot around a year after it was in theaters. I did not expect much from it to be honest, but I ended up loving it. I was excited to hear that they had announced the sequel, but I did not expect much from it. I guess this is twice that I was wrong about this franchise. This movie made me laugh, hard, and a lot. It is well crafted, but does rely a bit much on the same elements that made the first such a success. I dare say though that this is a slightly better movie than Welcome to the Jungle. The ending was left to imply that there will be a another.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 8

Starring

Peter Dinklage (Avengers: Endgame)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (A Thousand Times Good Night)
Lena Headey (Terminator: TSCC)
Emilia Clarke (Last Christmas)
Kit Harington (The Eternals)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Maisie Williams (New Mutants)
Liam Cunningham (Harry Brown)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Alfie Allen (John Wick)
John Bradley (Anna Karenina)
Isaac Hempstead Wright (The Awakening)
Gwendoline Christie (Welcome To Marwen)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
Rory McCann (Jumanji: The Next Level)
Jerome Flynn (John Wick: Chapter 3)
Kristofer Hivju (The Witcher)
Joe Dempsie (Monsters: Dark Continent)
Jacob Anderson (Chatroom)
Iain Glen (Titans)
Hannah Murray (Dark Shadows)
Carice van Houten (Black Death)

Kit Harington and Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones (2011)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Richard Dormer (The Mighty Clet)
Ben Crompton (Blood)
Daniel Portman (Robert The Bruce)
Rupert Vansittart (Outlander)
Bella Ramsey (The Worst Witch)
Megan Parkinson (Ackley Bridge)
Richard Rycroft (The Turn)
Pilou Asbæk (Lucy)
Anton Lesser (Wolf Hall)
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Kickboxer: Retaliation)
Gemma Whelan (Emma)
Marc Rissmann (Overlord)
Tobias Menzies (The Crown)
Lino Facioli (Get Him To The Greek)
Josephine Gillan (Amy and Sophia)
Staz Nair (Supergirl)
Rob McElhenney (Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet)
Martin Starr (Spider-Man: Far from Home)

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (2011)Well, that’s it. Game of Thrones is over after eight years, and I don’t blame you if Game of Thrones season 8 leaves a slightly bad taste in your mouth. While it has its good moments, most of this season is simply too rushed, with characters taking minutes to make decisions that in previous seasons would have taken days. I would hope this goes without saying, but if you haven’t seen the final episode yet you should stop reading right now, as there are about to be some serious spoilers for the entirety of Game of Thrones season 8.Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)It starts out promising in the first episode, Winterfell, which shows our cast of characters responding to Daenerys coming North and the oncoming preparations for the Battle of Winterfell. We get some much-needed downtime to let the characters actually talk and react to revelations that came at the tail end of season 7, and this is where Game of Thrones shines: when people have the chance to play the politics game, charming and planning their next move from behind the scenes. Yet while we get plenty of that in the first episode and episode 2 (The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms), the rest of season 8 is a spectacle, for better and for worse.Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Liam Cunningham, Peter Dinklage, Kristofer Hivju, Gwendoline Christie, and Daniel Portman in Game of Thrones (2011)While two episodes dedicated to game-changing battles would have felt like the payoff after several episodes of planning in earlier seasons, this finale makes the mistake of sacrificing build-up in favour of pure shock factor. To be fair, with only six episodes there wasn’t really any other way it could be done, but nonetheless Game of Thrones simply deserves better. Watching the battles in Winterfell and King’s Landing play out doesn’t feel like the satisfying pay-off it needed to be after all the key players had carefully moved their pawns into place over weeks of plotting, so it lacked the emotional weight that came with the Battle of the Bastards or the duel between Oberyn Martell and The Mountain.Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Liam Cunningham, Peter Dinklage, Kristofer Hivju, Gwendoline Christie, and Daniel Portman in Game of Thrones (2011)Having said that, the best episode of the series is clearly The Long Night, where the Night King finally arrives for a showdown eight years in the making. Although we don’t get any insight into what those swirly symbols he kept leaving mean, or hear from his own lips why he wants to destroy Westeros, the battle does an almighty great job of showing that all our fears about him are well-founded. Each character grows in that fight: Sandor reaffirms his fear of fire, reminding us that he’s not healed from being abused by The Mountain as a child, Arya realises her destiny, Melisandre fulfills her purpose, and despite all their tactical maneuvering, Sansa and Tyrion realise that they can’t control everything. It should have been the punctuation note on a handful of episodes of build up yet, even still, The Long Night does the forces of the Night King justice… even if they can’t protect him from Arya’s stabby blade.Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones (2011)Daenerys’ descent into madness makes sense in hindsight, but – and yes, I’ve already mentioned this – dedicating a little bit more time to her unravelling sanity, especially after Rhaegal and Missandei’s death, would have allowed her massacre at King’s Landing to make more sense. Morality aside, she literally said that she’d take what was hers with fire and blood, so there has been quite a bit of foreshadowing when it comes to her rampage with Drogon. But, as with the whole of season 8, it’s not enough. There’s few things as satisfying as realising that the answer was right in front of your eyes all along, like Olenna using Sansa’s necklance to murder Joffrey or Littlefinger being the one behind Ned’s arrest, and I can’t help but feel a little cheated that Daenery’s madness doesn’t get the same treatment.Game of Thrones (2011)Emilia Clarke’s portrayal of the Mad Queen is exceptional from start to finish though, whether it’s her subtle expressive cues reflecting Dany’s transition from shock, to grief, to fury at Missandei’s death, or her rage-fuelled topple into insanity triggered by the sound of the bells at Kings Landing. Seriously, someone give that woman an Emmy already.Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones (2011)More delicious moments like that are held back from us in season 8 though, and the fact that we aren’t given much time to reflect on Dany’s madness means that her eventual death felt unearned, in a morbid sort of way. When she speaks with Jon in the finale, we see a brief glimpse of how she views the innocents she killed as evidence of her weakness, (paradoxically) thinking that Cersei was using them as bargaining chips. In Daenerys’ mind, killing them makes her strong. She’s more like Cersei than any of us thought, yet not being able to see her reign – or at least deal with the displaced inhabitants of Kings Landing – feels like a mistake.Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (2011)The Game of Thrones ending did as much as it could to tie up one of the biggest pop culture phenomena of the 21st century, but with so little time to do so, it was always going to feel slightly… meh. Almost all the decisions make sense (Bran being king could have done with a bit more explaining, especially considering Sansa’s suitability to rule) and having some characters come full circle feels right, but it did come across as rushed. And a little too happy, to be perfectly honest.Game of Thrones (2011)Game of Thrones has made us come to expect that bittersweet tinge left in our mouths at the end of each season, giving us endings that feel fair yet hard to stomach, so it’s a surprise that so many characters survive with a smile on their face. In the end, we all expected more from Game of Thrones. Season 8 doesn’t feel like it was earned, with too little time dedicated to growing characters paired with a greater emphasis on rushing to major plot points, rather than proving to those of us watching how inevitable they were. Oh well. At least Ghost got petted in the end.

 

REVIEW: XXX: THE RETURN XANDER CAGE

CAST

Vin Diesel (Riddick)
Donnie Yen (Rogue One)
Deepika Padukone (Chennal Express)
Kris Wu (So Young 2)
Ice Cube (21 Jump Street)
Ruby Rose (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter)
Tony Jaa (Ong Bak)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Daniel Kash (Bitten)
Shawn Roberts (Land of The Dead)

NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons attempts to recruit footballer Neymar Jr. for the xXx program when a satellite crashes in Brazil, killing them both. Shortly afterwards, a team of four skilled individuals led by Xiang infiltrates a highly guarded CIA office in New York City and retrieve “Pandora’s Box”, a device which is capable of controlling satellites to crash at specific locations as warheads. CIA Agent Jane Marke tracks down former xXx operative Xander Cage, who faked his death and has been living in self-imposed exile in the Dominican Republic, and convinces him to return to active service to retrieve the device.After enlisting an old friend, Ainsley, for help, Cage tracks down the attackers to the Philippines. A unit of Special Forces operatives led by Paul Donovan is assigned to help Xander, but he rejects them in favour of his own team, composed of sharpshooter Adele Wolff, DJ Harvard “Nicks” Zhou, and getaway driver Tennyson “The Torch.” They are also aided by introverted weapons specialist Becky Clearidge. The team locates Xiang and his teammates Serena, Talon and Hawk, and Cage meets Xiang in an underground nightclub on a remote island, where Xiang reveals that his team are all part of the xXx program, recruited by Gibbons. He claims to have stolen Pandora’s Box to prevent its misuse, although Serena believes they should destroy it.Shortly after, Russian soldiers raid the island. The group manages to fend off the attackers, while Xiang manages to escape with Pandora’s Box. Xander intercepts Xiang and chases him to a nearby beach. Serena betrays him, destroys the Box and joins Xander’s team, while Xiang escapes and regroups with Talon and Hawk. After another satellite crash in Russia, Marke determines that the device that Serena destroyed was only a prototype, and that both teams have been wasting time, while Cage determines that CIA Director Anderson is involved in the conspiracy and that the actual Pandora’s Box is in his hands.Cage’s and Xiang’s teams race to reach Anderson first in Detroit, tracking the unique signal of Pandora’s Box, with Xander and Xiang fighting and later protecting each other from Anderson’s men. Xander confronts Anderson, who admits to causing the satellite crash that killed Gibbons. Anderson is then shot dead by Wolff. The CIA arrests Xiang in an attempt to frame him for the attack in Russia, and secures the box. En route back to headquarters, Marke announces that the xXx Program has been shut down and shoots Xander in order to keep it for herself. She then sends a group of assassins to eliminate the others, who are awaiting extraction at a local NSA warehouse. They join forces to fend off their attackers and receive assistance from another former xXx operative, Darius Stone.Xander survives due to a bulletproof vest Becky had given him earlier and joins forces with Xiang to fight Donovan and his men, while Marke uses the box to send a satellite plummeting towards the warehouse where the teams are fighting. Xander ejects Donovan from the plane, while Xiang sends Marke falling to her death and then parachutes out with the box in hand. Despite Becky’s attempts to halt the signal, they cannot stop the satellite from crashing. In a last attempt to protect them, Xander crashes the plane into the approaching satellite before it reaches the warehouse and jumps out, using the cargo load to safely reach the ground. Xiang gives Cage the device, and Xander decides to destroy it. The team attends Gibbons’ funeral, where Xander is approached by Gibbons himself, who faked his death and is now rebuilding the xXx Program on his own, starting with Neymar as the newest recruit. Gibbons compliments Xander on a job well done and Xander decides to continue in service, ready for a new mission to watch the watchers and preserve liberty.This is a great action packed trilogy of movies that has no end, this third instalment is the best yet with plenty of badass over the top action and thrills to keep any action junkie happy!

 

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: BEOWULF & GRENDAL

Starring

Gerard Butler (300)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Ingvar E. Sigurðsson (Everest)
Sarah Polley (Splice)
Eddie Marsan (Deadpool 2)
Tony Curran (Outlaw King)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Martin Delaney (Zero Dark Thirty)
Spencer Wilding (Rogue One)

Gerard Butler and Martin Delaney in Beowulf & Grendel (2005)In 500 A.D., Hrothgar, king of Denmark, and a group of warriors chase a large and burly man, whom they consider a troll, and his young son, who already bears cheek and chin whiskers, to the edge of a steep seaside cliff. The father directs his young son, Grendel, to hide from the attackers’ view; whereupon The Danes shoot the father dead, and his dead body plunges onto the beach far below. The Danish king sees the young Grendel, but spares him. Later, Grendel finds his father’s body and cuts the head off to take it home. Many years later, the severed (and mummified) head is inside a cave where the boy Grendel has become as large and powerful as his father, and plans revenge.Gerard Butler and Tony Curran in Beowulf & Grendel (2005)When Hrothgar finds twenty of his warriors killed inside his great hall, the Danish king falls into a depression. Beowulf, with the permission of Hygelac, king of Geatland, sails to Denmark with thirteen Geats to slay Grendel for Hrothgar. The arrival of Beowulf and his warriors is welcomed by Hrothgar, but the king’s village has fallen into a deep despair and many of the pagan villagers convert to Christianity at the urging of an Irish monk. While Grendel does raid Hrothgar’s village during the night, he flees rather than fight. Selma the witch tells Beowulf that Grendel will not fight him because Beowulf has committed no wrong against him.Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd and Gerard Butler in Beowulf & Grendel (2005)A villager, recently baptized and thus now unafraid of death, leads Beowulf and his men to the cliff above Grendel’s cave. When the villager is found dead, Beowulf and his men return with a rope and gain entry to Grendel’s secret cave, where one of Beowulf’s men mutilates the mummified head of Grendel’s father. That night, Grendel invades Hrothgar’s great hall, kills the Geat who desecrated his father’s head, and leaps from the second story, but is caught in a trap by Beowulf. Grendel, refusing capture, escapes by severing his captive arm, and dies near the site of his father’s death, where his body is claimed by a mysterious webbed hand. Thereafter Hrothgar admits to Beowulf that he had killed Grendel’s father for stealing a fish but had spared the child Grendel out of pity. Grendel’s severed arm is kept by the Danes as a trophy. In revealing more about Grendel, Selma recounts that Grendel had once clumsily raped her and has protected her since that day; and Beowulf becomes her paramour.Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd in Beowulf & Grendel (2005)The Danes are later attacked by Grendel’s mother, the Sea Hag; and Beowulf slays her with a sword from among her treasure, and then notices that the battle was being observed by child of Grendel and Selma. Later Beowulf, with Grendel’s son watching, buries Grendel with ceremony. Shortly thereafter, Beowulf and his band of Geats leave Denmark by ship, having warned Selma that she must hide her son, lest the Danes destroy him.Gerard Butler in Beowulf & Grendel (2005)This is a very updated version of the Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf,” using contemporary English.This movie still has the mythical, epic qualities of the poem that have inspired readers throughout the ages. In an excellent performance, Gerard Butler effectively captures the conflicted hero Beowulf as he endures the slow erosion of his military code of conduct. Beowulf & Grendel is more than a story of blood and war. Themes of vengeance, loyalty and mercy are powerfully entwined with the beginnings of Christianity in southwest Sweden in 500 AD. Another theme which is explored is human inability to tolerate that which is different. Gerard Butler is extremely effective as Beowulf, but perhaps the best performance in the movie is that delivered by the tempestuous and weirdly beautiful land of Iceland. I think this movie is definitely worth seeing.

REVIEW: SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)

CAST

Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Claire Foy (Going Postal)
Ulrich Thomsen (The Thing)
Stephen Campbell Moore (The Bank Job)
Stephen Graham (This Is England)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Brian F. O’Byrne (Flashforward)
Robert Sheehan (Mortal Engines)

In Villach in the year 1235, three women are accused of witchcraft by a priest. While one claims to be a witch through persuasion from the church, one denies it, another does neither and curses the priest. He orders them hanged and drowned. That done, he urges the guards to pull them back up for a ritual to make sure the so-called witches never come back to life. The guards refuse, claiming they are dead enough. The priest returns late at night to perform the ritual. One of the corpses, one of a hag with a blind eye suffers a seizure but dies, While another corpse, a younger woman takes on a demonic appearance and kills the priest and burns his book with the rites in it.In the 14th century, Teutonic Knights Behmen von Bleibruck (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are engaged on a crusade, taking part in several different battles throughout the 1330’s (1332 Gulf of Edremit, 1334 Siege of Tripoli, 1337 Imbros & 1339 Artah) and eventually in the Smyrniote crusades. After witnessing the massacre of civilians during the 1344 capture of Smyrna, the two knights desert the Order and the crusade and return to Austria.While traveling through Styria, Behmen and Felson encounter the grotesque sight of people infected with the Black Death and discover that the Holy Roman Empire has been swept by the plague. They enter an unnamed town, trying to conceal their identity as deserters, but are revealed as knights by the crest on Behmen’s sword. They are arrested and taken to Cardinal D’Ambroise, who is infected with the plague. The Cardinal asks the knights to escort an alleged witch suspected of causing the plague to a remote monastery, where an elite group of monks reside. These monks can determine if the girl is truly a witch, and if she is found guilty, know a sacred ritual to cancel her powers and stop the plague that is devastating Europe. The two knights agree under the condition she be given a fair trial and that the charges of desertion against them be dropped. The Cardinal agrees and they set out accompanied by a priest, Debelzaq; a young altar boy, Kay von Wollenbarth, who wants to become a knight like his deceased father; a knight, Johann Eckhardt, whose family was killed by the plague; and the well-traveled swindler Hagamar, who will serve as their guide to the monastery in return for a pardon. The witch, a young girl later identified as Anna from Marburg, shows hatred towards Debelzaq and forms a bond with Behmen.Shortly after setting off, the group camp for the night. Johann decides to take first watch. When Debelzaq comes to relieve him of the watch, Johann says how much she remind him of his dead daughter, then goes on to speak of the politics of her trial, and how the Church cannot have her not be guilty. Johann decides to give up the mission and goes to convince the others to do the same, leaving Anna alone with Debelzaq. Anna becomes hysterical at the prospect of being left alone with Debelzaq. She attacks him and grabs his key to the cage, then escapes, fleeing toward a nearby village. The search for her leads the group to a mass grave, where Eckhart has visions of his dead daughter. Chasing the visions, he impales himself on Kay’s sword and dies. When they recapture her, the tearful Anna explains that she only ran away for fear of Debelzaq. However the group gradually becomes less trusting of her. They cross a rickety rope bridge, where Anna saves Kay from falling to his death by grabbing him with one hand, showing unnatural strength. The group enters the dark forest called Wormwood, where Hagamar attempts to kill Anna so that the group can go home, only to be stopped by the others. Anna appears to summon monstrous wolves, which chase the group and kill Hagamar. An enraged Behmen tries to kill Anna, but is stopped by Debelzaq and Felson, who point out that the monastery is in sight.At the monastery, the men find that all the monks have been killed by the plague, but locate the Key of Solomon, an ancient book filled with holy rituals used to defeat evil. The men confront Anna, and Debelzaq begins to perform a ritual used on witches. However, as Anna begins precisely recounting Behmen’s past actions during the Crusades, Debelzaq realizes that she is not a witch, and begins frantically performing an exorcism. However, the demon that is possessing Anna reveals himself and melts the metal of the cage. He fights off the knights effortlessly, but when Debelzaq throws a vial of holy water on him, the demon flies out of sight. As the men search for the demon, they realize he is not trying to escape, but to destroy the book so that nothing can stop his powers. They find a room where the monks were writing copies of the book, where the demon, revealing himself to be Baal, destroys the copies and possesses the dead monks’ bodies to use as weapons. The three men fight the possessed monks while Debelzaq continues the exorcism ritual. During the fight, Baal/Anna breaks Debelzaq’s neck, then kills Felson.Kay picks up the book and continues the ritual, while Behmen continues fighting Baal/Anna. Behmen is mortally wounded during the fight, but Kay is able to finish the ritual and Baal is expelled from Anna’s body, freeing her. Behmen asks Kay to keep Anna safe and then dies of his wounds. Kay and Anna bury their fallen friends. Anna asks Kay to tell her about the men who saved her. They depart from the monastery with the book.

Season of the witch was a far better film than critics and fellow moviegoers lead you to believe. If you want to see a fun yet dark heroic adventure, go see Season of the Witch!

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 6

MAIN CAST

Peter Dinklage (The Boss)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters)
Lena Headey (The Purge)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator: Genisys)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Liam Cunningham (Dog Soldiers)
Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Natalie Dormer (The Forest)
Indira Varma (Human Target)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
Alfie Allen (The Other Boleyn Girl)
John Bradley (Patient Zero)
Tom Wlaschiha (Valkyrie)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Hannah Murray (Dark Shadows)
Jonathan Pryce (Stigmata)
Kristofer Hivju (After Earth)
Deobia Oparei (Santa Clarita Diet)
Michiel Huisman (The Young Victoria)
Michael McElhatton (Blow Dry)
Iwan Rheon (Misfits)
Dean-Charles Chapman (Will)
Isaac Hempstead Wright (The Boxtrolls)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Daniel Portman (Outcast)
Natalia Tena (Harry Potter)
Max Von Sydow (Conan The Barbarian)
Ellie Kendrick (An Education)
Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: DS9)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Keisha Castle-Hughes (Star Wars – Episode III)
Kristian Nairn (Ripper Street)
Gemma Whelan (Gulliver’s Travels)
Joseph Mawle (Abrham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Diana Rigg (The Avengers)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Finn Jones (Iron Fist)
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Owen Teale (King Arthur)
Patrick Malahide (Fortress 2)
Joe Naufahu (Power Rangers RPM)
Ben Crompton (All or Nothing)
Brenock O’Connor (Dickensian)
Charlotte Hope (The Musketeers)
Elizabeth Webster (Cockneys vs Zombies)
Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill)
Bella Ramsey (The Worst Witch 2017)
Michael Condron (High-Rise)
David Bradley (Harry Potter)
Tamer Hassan (Sucker Punch)
James Faulkner  (Underworld: Blood Wars)
Toby Sebastian (The Hollow Crown)
Anton Lesser (Allied)
Clive Russell (The 13th Warrior)

Essie Davies (Mindhorn)
Brian Fortune (The Inside)
Jacob Anderson (Adulthood)
Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist)
Ian Whyte (Prometheus)
Luke Roberts (300: Rise of an Empire)
Murray McArthur (The Last Legion)
Roger Ashton-Griffiths (The Brothers Grimm)
Eugene Simon (Casanova)
Staz Nair (Supergirl)
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Spides)
Hannah Waddingham (Krypton)
Kae Alexander (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil)
Nell Tiger Free (Servant)
Hannah John-Kamen (The Stranger)
Lino Facioli (Get Him To The GReek)
Richard E. Grant (Logan)
Pilou Asbæk (Ghost In The Shell)
Faye Marsay (The White Queen)
Freddie Stroma (Pitch Perfect)
Tobias Menzies (The Crown)
Richard Dormer (Fortitude)
Paul Kaye (Anna and The Apocalypse)

Following their escape from Winterfell, Sansa Stark journeys to the Wall, while Theon Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands. In Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton secures his claim on the North by killing Roose and Walda Bolton and his new-born half-brother. At the Wall, Melisandre resurrects Jon Snow, who is reunited with Sansa; they gather loyalists and a battle ensues. Aided by the Knights of the Vale, the Starks defeat the Bolton forces. Sansa feeds Ramsay to his hounds and Jon is proclaimed the King in the North. At King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister and the Tyrell army attempt to liberate Margaery and Loras, but Margaery capitulates to the High Sparrow and Tommen forges an alliance with the Faith. During Loras and Cersei’s trial, Cersei uses wildfire to burn the Great Sept, killing the High Sparrow, Margarey, Loras, Mace, Kevan, and Lancel, while Tommen kills himself after witnessing the events. Unopposed, Cersei is crowned Queen of Westeros. Ellaria Sand and three of Oberyn Martell’s daughters kill Doran and Trystane Martell and seize control of Dorne, and Olenna meets with Ellaria to discuss an alliance. In Braavos, Arya continues her training with the Faceless Men, and soon regains her eyesight. When she refuses to accomplish a mission, the Waif is ordered to kill Arya, who kills her instead. Arya reasserts her identity as a Stark and returns to Westeros. In the Riverlands, the Hound pursues the Brotherhood Without Banners for massacring the people who saved him. He finds Lord Beric Dondarrion executing his quarry, and is asked to join the Brotherhood traveling north. Jaime Lannister besieges Riverrun and takes the castle, killing the Blackfish after forcing Edmure Tully to order a surrender. Walder Frey celebrates the victory before being killed by Arya. Beyond the Wall, Bran Stark trains with the Three-Eyed Raven but alerts the Night King, who launches an attack of White Walkers. Bran and Meera escape and are rescued by Benjen Stark. Sam Tarly, Gilly, and Little Sam travel to the Citadel at Oldtown, stopping to visit Sam’s family. In Essos, Daenerys Targaryen is captured by Khal Moro who takes her before the khals; she burns them alive and takes command of the Dothraki. Tyrion Lannister brings a short-lived peace to Meereen, which is reinforced when Daenerys returns and flies her dragons into battle against the slavers. Yara and Theon arrive and pledge allegiance to Daenerys after Euron Greyjoy kills their father and usurps leadership of the Iron Islands. Jorah Mormont departs to find a cure for greyscale and Daario is left in command of Meereen, while Daenerys sails for Westeros. Game of thrones is without a doubt the best show on tv ever! Hooked from the very beginning. Season 6 is packed full of beautifully shot battle scenes and exquisite smaller moments, all of which showcase the immense talent of the entire cast and crew.