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Posts Tagged ‘Game of Thrones’

  1. Twin Peaks: This could have gone so wrong.  Revisiting a TV show from quarter of a century ago with a combination of the original and a new cast.  The results were amazing, with one mind-bending episode in particular standing out.  Why did I ever doubt David Lynch.Twin Peaks
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale: I read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian satire back in the early 90’s and loved it.  There was a film version in 1990 that wasn’t bad.  Why is this version so good? Is it because it is frighteningly relevant today, because Elisabeth Moss is so good in the lead role, or that its just really well written well made television? Probably all three!The Handmaid's Tale
  3. Mindhunter: You could call it Manhunter/Silence of the Lambs Year 0.  Set in the mid/late 1970’s and telling the story of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit in the early days of criminal psychology and profiling.  It’s a very talky show, so don’t expect lots of action, but if that’s your thing you will love it.Mindhunter
  4. Godless: A seven part mini-series set in the American west in the 1880’s.  While it contains all the archetypes of the genre you would expect, and yet it feels strangely authentic.  A well constructed piece with flashbacks to tell back stories dropped in at just the right moment, it is more like a seven hour movie than a TV show.  The cast are all fantastic.Godless
  5. American Gods: Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name.  The conflict between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of the modern consumer age told from the point of view of a mortal man.  Blending mythology and pop culture in a visually stunning way often trippy to a trippy effect.  You don’t always who what is going on but it kind of all pulls together in the end.American Gods
  6. Alias Grace: The second Margaret Atwood adaptation on the list, this time written for the screen by Sarah Polley.  Based on a fictionalized version of a murder in 19th-century Canada.  The story of female oppression feels sadly relevant today, but also works as a historical drama.Alias Grace
  7. Game of Thrones: The first returning show on the list (unless you count Twin Peaks), the penultimate series gives exactly what you expect of the show to date.  Taken on its own merits it would be higher up the list, as it is, it loses a few places for reasons of familiarity.Game of Thrones
  8. Taboo: A strange and dark tale that seems a little bold for prime time BBC.  What started out looking like a strange otherworldly tale quickly settled into a far darker tale; one of commerce, and a (real life) multinational corporation trying to survive at any cost to the society around it.  Tom Hardy is excellent as ever.Taboo
  9. Peaky Blinders: Steven Knight, also responsible for Taboo, returns with a fourth season of his Birmingham based organised crime/ gang series.  It was hard to see after the last season what there was left to say.  The new storyline is excellent as are the new characters but the standout is still Helen McCrory.Peaky Blinders
  10. Star Trek Discovery: Discovery has done the impossible, it is everything you expect from Star Trek, and nothing live Star Trek as you expect it.  The boldest move is to make a character other then the captain the shows lead character.  Sonequa Martin-Green is excellent in the lead, Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca is the most interesting character.Lethe

Also recommended:

Glow, The Punisher, Stranger Things, Preacher, 13 Reasons Why, Into the Badlands

Shows That have seen recommended to me, but I haven’t seen yet:

Big Little Lies, The Good Place, Legion, Feud, The Deuce

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As I write this, I am watching Centurion on TV, the best of three movies about Rome’s Ninth Legion.  There are two surprising facts, firstly the Radio Times tells me it is the films UK TV (free to air) premier, secondly, director Neil Marshall hasn’t made a feature film since.  He has been busy of TV directing episodes of Black Sails, Game of Thrones, Constantine and Hannibal.  His Game of Thrones episodes Blackwater (the battle for King’s Landing (2012)) and The Watchers on the Wall (the battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings (2014)) stand as some of the best episodes of an outstanding show.  He has also directed a segment of the horror anthology Tales of Halloween (2015).

Marshall’s upcoming projects listed on IMDb are:

  • Skull Island:Blood of the Kong; a return to Skull Island 25 years after the death of Kong.  I can’t see this film happening with the Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures Kong: Skull Island (2017) well into pre production.
  • The Last Voyage of Demeter; the story of the crew of the ship that carried Dracula to England.  This film has been talked about for the last five years and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near going into production.
  • Troll Hunter; an English language remake of the Norwegian B movie classic.
  • Hellfest; of which there is no information.

Below is what I wrote about Centurion and Marshal when the movie was released five years ago:

If there is one director who has never let me down it is Martin Scorsese… Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. The two directors who have never let me down are Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino…. and Christopher Nolan. Three directors who have never let me down are Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan…and Kathryn Bigelow. Amongst the directors who have never let me down are Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Kathryn Bigelow. (apologies to Monty Python). Joking aside none of these filmmakers has made a bad movie, even their lesser attempts that don’t come off (like K19 The Widowmaker or New York, New York) are still worth seeing. But these are A list directors, three of then have won Oscars (two for directing) and the other one would have if the academy members had any balls (that’s a story for another day); but there is another director out there who has never let me down. He isn’t a list, he doesn’t get big budgets to work with, he will probably never win an Oscar and he doesn’t make films, he makes movies. Whist a supremely talented director Tarantino makes homage’s, pastiches or just plain copies of exploitation and genre movies, Neil Marshall really makes those movies.

His first movie Dog Soldiers (2002) was a low budget Werewolf movie, an action horror comedy that isn’t afraid to borrow from other movies such as Aliens and The Evil Dead. Next came Marshalls best movie, The Descent (2005), made for around $3.5million it grossed nearly $60million, it came out around the same time as the similarly themed The Cave that cost around $30 million and only just made its money back. The Descent is about a group of woman go on a caving expedition (for fun! are they mad?) and become trapped underground with a some strange humanoid creatures who want to eat them. Then Came Doomsday, a near future Sci-Fi movie set in Scotland after it has been quarantined from the rest of the UK following a deadly virus. The inhabitants are understandably pissed off and live in a world that is something of a cross between Escape from New York, the second two Mad Max movies and the middle-ages. Doomsday was a mess of a film, but it was a really good fun mess! So what does a director like that do next?

Review: Centurion:

Centurion is the story of the legendary Ninth Legion who may or may not have disappeared around AD 117. The Ninth has been the subject of many other movies and books, most recently The Last Legion starring Colin Firth and Aishwarya Rai, and will also be the basis for The Eagle of the Ninth due out later this year directed by Kevin Macdonald, starring Channing Tatum and Mark Strong. In centurion, the ninth are sent north to Scotland to kill the leader of the Picts and wipe out the tribe, they get more than they bargained for! After walking into a trap most of the legion is wiped-out; a small group of survivors lead by Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) have to find their way south to safety all the time perused by a bloodthirsty group of Picts led by a skilled tracker.

Interestingly the story isn’t really about the Ninth, it’s a behind enemy lines chase movie that could have been set during any conflict. There is a wonderful ambiguity to the two sides, although the story is clearly told from the Roman point of view it is not clear who are the protagonists and who the antagonists are. Depending on your point of view there are heroes on both sides or there are no heroes on either side. There are certainly villains on both sides. The Romans are an invading army and the Picts are a repelling force of natives. When discussing it on the Mark Kermode, Simon Mayo radio show Neil Marshal didn’t appear to want to be drawn into comparisons between the events of the movie and current world conflicts, the most he would say was “The Parallels are there”. Like with most war there are no winners and losers unless you count the winner as the side that lose the least, even they suffer unimaginable losses.

The supporting cast is filled with recognisable faces mainly from British TV and independent cinema, the main star is Michael Fassbender who following two great performances last year (Inglourious Basterds and Fish Tank) is the real rising star of the moment. Strangely the best performance comes from former Bond-Girl Olga Kurylenko whose mute performance as a warrior and tracker with hawk like instincts and senses is visceral and contains more emotion and nuance than Quantum of Solace, Max Payne and Hitman combined.

The movie is well paced and never gets boring with some great set pieces including what appears to be a homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (speaking of homage’s Marshal uses the same Evil Dead references he has used before, it is becoming something of a trademark for him) as well as some bloody, brutal and violent fight and battle scenes. The photography is excellent, both the gratuitous use of helicopter shots of the Scottish Highlands and the up close and personal fight scenes. The movie as a whole has its problems mainly surrounding its predictability and clichéd plot but it does deliver everything you expect it to. Not a great film but a really enjoyable movie.

So whats next for Neil Marshall?  Aaccording to an interview on BBC radio 5 last week a he is working on a film based on the 70’s TV show The Professionals. It has not been cast yet but he expressed a with to work with Michael Fassbender again suggesting he would be perfect as Doyle. He is also working on a movie featuring exploding people in 3D produced by Sam Raimi and called Burst 3D. Possibly the first movie since the renaissance of 3D that could make good use of the gimmick.

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I have been hearing the term Long-form television a lot recently. It is a term I had never heard of a few years ago. There doesn’t appear to be a single definitive definition of the term, for the purposes of this article I will take it to describe a TV show with a story arc that runs across multiple episodes. In some cases this can run over an whole season, or the run of an entire show.

Although most of the shows I grew up with were made up of single plot episodes there were a few that would fall into what we now call long-form. These days every other show seems to be long-form, they aren’t limited to any particular genre. The Wire and the Danish show The Killing, cover crime drama, Homeland is a spy thriller; House of Cards a political drama, Battlestar Galactica, Sci-Fi, The Walking Dead, Horror; Game of Thrones, fantasy.game-of-thrones

I was initially skeptical about talk of television being better than films. However I am beginning to see the benefit of some of the best examples. It would be impossible make a film with the characters and plot strands seen in Game of Thrones, even if it was a Peter Jackson length film. I am not however a total convert, the limitations of length of feature films can promote creativity and result in the true art. There is also something appealing about watching a complete story, and that is what prompted me to write this. I recently watched all eight episodes of True Detective in two sittings. It struck me that not only was I watching it like a film, but this was the best way to watch it. When I thought about it isn’t the first time I have binged on TV shows, I am actually watching Boardwalk Empire as I write this.true detective

It appears I am not alone, listening to the Rotten Tomatoes podcast, they talk of television as cinemas equal and are as interested in the new shows as they are in new film releases. In the latest episode the main topic of conversation was season two of Orange Is the New Black and how they intended to binge watch it. This is possible thanks to Netflix releasing the whole season in one go and not showing it over three months the way it would be on TV.  We are watching TV shows as (long) films, this is interesting as films are becoming more like TV with franchises and book series adaptations.  Orange Is the New Black

Cinema is still my first love, television is not cinema and will never be cinema, it is a very different beast. I am however happy to enjoy televisions renaissance and the quality shows that it is delivering. But more importantly the way the internet has given us a new, easier and more flexible way of enjoying it.  Whatever happens, I am sure people will look back on this time as a time of change in media, hopefully it will continue to be a change for the better.  

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It is relatively easy for a main character in a TV show to be a perfectly cast well drawn and rounded character, but the best shows can claim the same in the supporting roles. There are many of them: Katey Sagal in Sons of Anarchy, Peter Dinklage (one of an ensemble rather than a supporting character) in Game of Thrones and Kelly Macdonald in Boardwalk Empire, but there are two that really stand out for me: Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan in Luther and Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in Justified.Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins

We first met Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) in the first episode of Luther back in 2010. Fresh back from seven month suspension, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) returns to investigate a home invasion/double murder. After interviewing Alice, the victims daughter he soon realises that she killed them but can’t prove it. In any normal show that would be the end of it but Luther is far from a normal show. A genius, sociopath, narcissist and serial killer she should be a detestably character but is strangely alluring for both Luther and viewers of the show.Alice Morgan

The great thing about Boyd Crowder is that he is both ambiguous and morally ambiguous. We first meet him as a white supremacist who doesn’t appear to be a racist (unless there is money in it). He reinvents himself as a preacher but appears to atheist. A reluctant war hero, he is highly intelligent and well read but most likely self taught. Every sentence he utters contains about three times more words than needed and often contains quotes from scripture and literature. On top of this he is a childhood friend of the shows main character U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), it is often mentioned the pair dug coal together as teenagers. Originally appearing as favour to his friend, Timothy Olyphant, Boyd was shot in the first episode “Fire in the Hole”. Rumour has it that the character was supposed to die, however after a positive reception from the test audience became a recurring and main character. A career criminal and reprehensible character you just can’t help liking.boyd-crowder

Perfectly written, but it goes deeper than that the two characters are so perfectly cast, it is quite possible that no other actor could play then half as well Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins. If you aren’t familiar with the two shows, go back and watch them from the start, they are worth seeing on their own merits as well as for these tow great characters.

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I see a lot of movies at the cinema, on average two a week. I know for many people DVD (and now Brue-ray) is their first experience of many movies. With this in mind here are ten recommendations of films set for release in the next few months.

12 March 2012

My Week with Marilyn: The true story of 23-year-old Colin Clark’s experience on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (who also directed the movie). Directed with a light touch reminiscent of the best of Monroe’s movies but the best thing about it is the fantastic acting, Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Olivier, Michelle Williams is even better as Monroe.

19 March 2012

Moneyball: With a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Brad Pitt’s second great performance of last year does for sports movies what The Social Network did for Facebook. A true testament to the quality of the movie is that it is equally as enjoyable regardless of if you are a baseball fan or not.

Take Shelter: As a regular family man starts having apocalyptic visions he prepares for the impending doom and questions his own sanity in equal measure. A haunting movie that will stay with you long after it ends, elevated by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

26 March 2012

The Awakening: An old-fashioned ghost story, if you know my thoughts on horror, you will know that “old-fashioned” is a compliment not an insult. There are a few twists and turns in the plot but nothing spectacular, the real draw is Rebecca Hall who caries the movie virtually on her own proving her star credentials.

50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a young man who is given a 50% chance of surviving his recently diagnosed cancer. A touching and funny movie inspired by a true story and having a perfect blend of genres and styles. The whole cast is great with a special mention for Anna Kendrick who makes every movie she is in a little bit better including the Twilight movies.

2 April 2012

Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is quite possibly his best movie since Casino (1995). The young stars are fantastic and the movie looks amazing.

30 April 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Tom Cruise is back for a fourth impossible mission. The surprising thing, it could possibly be the best movie in the franchise so far. It has been suggested that Jeremy Renner’s character Brandt is intended as a replacement for Ethan Hunt when Tom Cruise retires the character.

7 May 2012

The Artist: The black and white, (largely) silent movie has just picked up five well deserved Oscars including best picture. With two months to go until its video release there is still time to catch it at the cinema, something I highly recommend you do if you haven’t already.

21 May 2012

Shame: Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

28 May 2012

Haywire: Steven Soderbergh’s version of a revenge B thriller stars former cage fighter Gina Carano and is amazingly the second best movie I have seen this year (after The Artist). 

TV

The five disc box set of season one of HBO’s epic Game Of Thrones is set for release tomorrow (5th March). Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels about the seven kingdoms of the mythical land of Westeros and the families who fight for control of them. With the second season set to premier in America next month what better time to catch up on one of the best new shows of recent years.

A note on the selection: I have no knowledge or interest in the special features these discs contain (I usually purchase “vanilla” versions), my recommendations are based purely on the movies.
All dates refer to UK release dates are are correct to the best of my knowledge.

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As soon as the Golden Globe nominations were IMDB declared it “The Road To The Oscars”. I am never very excited by the golden globes for this exact reason, they truly are the starting point and an indicator for the Oscars but really have little or no right to be. For those who don’t know the globes are nominated, voted and presented by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. But who are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? In the words of Ryan McNeil from The Matinee they are “one hundred or so anonymous star-fucker fans”. In the 1960’s it was revealed that the selection of winners was less than fair, suggesting that if the winner wasn’t in attendance at the ceremony, a new winner would be selected.

There have also been more other accusations made against the group, earlier this year in an article in the telegraph Anita Singh picked up on a joke make by Ricky Gervais during this years ceremony “I’d like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes,” she went on to say “The HFPA is currently being sued for $2m by a publicist who claims its members accept lavish gifts in exchange for supporting particular films. The HFPA denies the allegations.” Having said all that I don’t think they have done a bad job this time around. Here are a few awards I think they got right this year:

  • Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: The Artist (2011)
  • Best Actor – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011)
  • Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture: Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010)
  • Best Director – Motion Picture- Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011)
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture: Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture –Ludovic Bource for The Artist (2011):
  • Best Actor – Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: Idris Elba for Luther (2010)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones (2011)

There are three possible reasons for the categories I haven’t mentioned: I haven’t seen the winning film – I don’t agree with the winner – I don’t care who won in that category.

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