Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Game of Thrones S06E04 review - Book of the Stranger

This was a mostly slow but deliberate episode with strong plot development and finale that literally blew the doors off.
Episode rating: 8/10

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Our Kind of Traitor (2016, UK)

Exciting and nuanced in parts but ultimately only satisfactory spy film based on a le Carré novel. The film maintains tension to the last and has moments of real drama, with a strong central friendship, but is ultimately let down by a few too many shortcuts and middling plotting.

Eye In The Sky (2016, UK)

“If they kill 80 people, we win the propaganda war. If we kill one child, they do”
An exciting and yet deep film about warfare in the 21st century and the toll it has on those prosecuting it. The best film of 2016 so far.

Monday, 9 May 2016

“The true history of the world is the history of great conversations in elegant rooms”

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Show Me a Hero review + did desegregation improve African-American educational attainment?

HBO mini-series “Show me a hero” meditates on America’s missing black men, housing and desegregation

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy”. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Game of Thrones review - S05E10 - Mother's Mercy (TV SPOILERS)

Mutinies everywhere


“A grand old city choking on violence, corruption and deceit.”

So, like…winter came…and then went. In, like, 3 weeks. The end of the world is working out better for some but not others – we get suckerpunched into the death of another major character and a definitive answer for other players in this Game of Thrones. Cersei gets “slut-shamed”, Westeros-style, Melisandre is exposed and there are several tales of woe this week. In the bloodiest season finale yet, a whole lot of fortunes get turned upside down. Find out what’s got them Game of Thrones folk so excited - dive into the S5 finale!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Game of Thrones S05E09 - The dance of dragons

No choice at all


“...it's all the choosing sides that's made everything horrible

How do you judge a good TV show? Perhaps it’s when, having watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones, you hug your little daughter a bit tighter for a few days, or you punch the air in jubilation at DRAGONS or that you swear ecstatically “Jorah is EFFING BACK!”. Game of Thrones fans, you know what I’m talking about. As usual, episode 9 of every season is chock full of controversy and action and this episode was no different, despite some some ridonkulous and tragic happenings in the North. When Game of Thrones sets up disasters, it takes no prisoners. Here’s my take on it.

We want TV to enthrall and scandalise us, and this hour of TV did both in equal measure. We saw everything from the disgusting (rape and murder of children) to the philosophical ("has anything great ever been achieved without violence?") and then we saw dragons kick butt. For what it is, this was an awesome episode of Game of Thrones and I give it 9/10. If Benioff & Weiss had wrinkled out a few issues with plot and pacing, it could easily have been a 10/10 episode. All in all, this was an action-packed and entertaining episode with awesome set pieces but also some quiet and ruminative scenes, in Dorne and just before the massive set piece in Meereen. Speaking of which, I think Danaerys has really earnt this - she's lost Khal Drogo and Ser Barristan, she had to chain up two of her "children" in a cave and her campaign has become mired in Meereen. So when Drogon came along and saved her, it really felt earnt. This deus ex machina didn't feel phony or contrived. Well, maybe a bit but not enough to spoil the moment. The action was epic, but we'll get to that later.

The "controversy of the week" is the burning of Shireen at the stake - I thought it excessive and unnecessary, not only in a TV-moral sense but also in plot terms. It reminds me of Cersei's statement from last season that “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls"But more on this below. One of this week’s main themes is good intentions – Jon Snow, Danaerys & Stannis all have them, to varying degrees. The Boltons, Meryn Trant and the Lannisters mostly don’t. And yet it’s the Boltons, Trants and Lannisters in charge of this world, for the moment. Those with good intentions usually fall to those with the ruthlessness to survive. As Ser Alliser says to Jon Snow – “you’ve got a good heart, but it’ll kill us all”.

The second theme is choices and how they form our destiny – Stannis posits to his daughter Shireen that he is destined to be on the path he’s currently on. But of course, nobody is destined to be anything – our ends are mostly the product of all our choices. The Baratheons & Targaryens believe they deserve the Iron Throne purely on the basis of lineage, rather than being deserving. Back in S1, Cersei could've chosen to read out her husband's proclamation making Ned Stark as Lord Regent, but he would've revealed that none of Joffrey, Tommen & Myrcella are actually Robert Baratheon's children. 

She was trapped and so she let Ned Stark's death happen (even if Joffrey was directly responsible). Robb Stark could've gone ahead with the marriage he promised the Freys, but his conscience told him to renege and he paid with his life. Tywin was right when he said that his underhanded massacre of the Starks potentially spared hundreds of thousands of lives (not sure it panned out this way ultimately). The choices everyone faces in GoT are genuinely difficult, in contrast to most other shows which don't allow their protagonists to take real risks. Anyway, on with the show...

The Meereen scenes were easily the most satisfying in the episode and possibly even the season, in that they quite beautifully brought together all of the strands of the storyline: the Sons of the Harpy graduating to an audacious murder attempt on the Queen AND her entourage, Ser Jorah coming back into the fold (the whole episode was oddly convenient for him), the death of Hizdahr zo Loraq and of course, the return of Drogon, dragon numero uno. This set piece took its place in the Game of Thrones “episode 9 pantheon”, alongside the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding and Oberyn Martell’s fight against the Mountain. It’s fair to say it’s no Battle of Blackwater but better than the rest.

Build up to the set piece
Hizdahr: “In my experience, larger men triumph over smaller men more often than not”
Tyrion (later): “In my experience, eloquent men are right as often as imbeciles”
Hizdahr to Danaerys: “What great thing has ever been accomplished without killing or cruelty?”
Hizdahr to Daario: “Kings & Queens never bet on games…perhaps you should find go someone who does…”

The first 10mins of this scene basically involve Hizdahr zo Loraq annoying everyone in sight, althpugh in a vaguely interesting way. He challenged those around him as well as infuriated them. Did anyone else think that the show made too much of his absence at the start of this scene? Was he preparing Sons of the Harpy in the crowd somehow? Anyway, his demeanour seems to have changed radically from the greasy, obsequious little lord he used to be to an arrogant wannabe King/Queen’s Consort that he is now. Danaerys & Daario trade plenty of less-than-witty repartee with Hizdahr (with Daario waving a knife in his face), making it even more obvious just how much Danaerys needs the thoughtful and mature Tyrion by her side (“It’s easy to confuse what is and what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favour”). Tyrion has some great lines, paying Hizdahr the ultimate back-handed compliment by saying “My father would’ve liked you”.

The sword-fighting scene was fairly exciting, although I wasn’t sure how to react when Ser Jorah started to take a beating – we’d been conditioned to think of him as invincible. However, here, he nearly died, saved only by an external intervention. Jorah’s insistence on turning up here, there and everywhere seemed like it would do him no favours with Danaerys until the Sons of the Harpy showed their hand, showing up in their hundreds, thus making every man and woman count. Ser Jorah was back.

“Protect your Queen!”
The location
The sons of the Harpy knew they’d never catch Danaerys Targaryen in a back alley and so it would have to be in an official setting, which is why the tournament made sense. In case we didn’t realise how big the budget for Game of Thrones is, the filmography gives us a fantastic sense of space with lots of mid-aerial shots. Of course, taking on Danaerys’s camp in this kind of space also makes it easier for certain dragons to come to the rescue…

The Sons of the Harpy
The hundreds of Sons of the Harpy showed that they had gone from a small, violent group to either a large-scale rebellion OR a highly organised and motivated group bent on toppling Danaerys. Is there a Westerosian hand in all this? Lord Baelish or Cersei somehow? Anyway, Danaerys’s tenuous grip on power was laid bare but Drogon, her largest (and only free) dragon comes through, taking a few arrows in the process.

Danaerys’s entourage
Danaerys’s crew fight valiantly, but as the hundreds of Sons of the Harpy poured in from the front, I think most of us shared the look of disbelief on Daario Naharis’s face. When Game of Thrones sets up disasters, it takes no prisoners. This wasn’t going to end well - Team Targaryen was hopelessly outnumbered. And then, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, Drogon came along to rescue Danaerys (his mother). However, in Game of Thrones, the good guys never get away with anything cleanly, and Drogon appears to have sustained significant injuries. I liked the minor skirmishing that took place when the Sons had Danaerys’s crew encircled, with the movements resembling chess more than war – one move here, one move there, one stabbing here, one beheading there. Testing the waters, not all-out warfare. And then Drogon came along to make it all moot.

Photography + acting
Stylistically, I quite liked the scene – the crowd fight scene was superbly executed. One of the things about Game of Thrones is that even background scenes use well trained actors and there’s hardly ever even a single hair out of place, even with extras far off in the distance. Despite the big budget, however, the bit where Danaerys gets on Drogon looks quite clunky and CGI-laden. I’m not sure all of Emilia Clarke’s performance worked, although to be fair, it’s hard to make it all work: first she had to look playful, then queasy (watching people die in battle), then queasy and surprised (Jorah’s appearance), then shocked and panicked (hundreds of Sons), then proud (Drogon), then proud but still panicked (Drogon stabbed by spears) and finally, serene/queasy (escaping on the back of Drogon). Phew – now that’s hard work.

Tyrion’s face throughout the Drogon moments was definitely worth savouring – I got the sense that the penny really dropped for him. It finally hit him – he was now with the Queen of Dragons.

So, GoT fans, where will Danaerys go after this? Can she just go back to her palace? I assume Tyrion, Jorah, et al make it out in one piece…or do they?

North of Westeros / Stannis Baratheon
“Have the dead horses butchered for meat”

So the most shocking scene of the week was the burning of Shireen Baratheon, Stannis's angelic little girl, at the stake. I think Ser Davos knew something was up and so tried to take Shireen and Selyse with him, but I don't think he imagined just how badly things would go wrong. Given what I know about him, and we do know that he stuck with Stannis despite having his fingers cut off, there is NO WAY he would let Stannis kill Shireen. Obviously, Stannis knew this. Anyway, apart from being brutal, this murder was also senseless, particularly after Stannis's declaration of paternal love a few episodes back. Is this the point of no return for Stannis? Does he lose himself completely after this?

Meanwhile, the fortunes of the soldiers in Game of Thrones tend to undulate like leaves in a stream, and so it was with Stannis's army. His army has ground to a halt despite starting off looking decisive and purposeful, and in this episode, they may have been dealt a fatal blow. Remember Ramsay Snow saying in the last episode that he just needed 20 men to attack Stannis’s army? Well, some granary-burning and horse-killing later, Stannis’s camp is crippled and reliant on Castle Black for back-up (in the shape of wildlings + giant?). In his discombobulation, Stannis turns to Melisandre’s magical musings, which may or may not help.

“It’s all the choosing sides that made everything horrible.”
“If a man knows what he is and remains true to himself…the choice is no choice at all. He must fulfil his destiny...however much he hates it.”

GoT’s flair for storytelling and pyrotechnics makes it easy to overlook the storyline’s many flaws. For instance, how can 20 men can devastate a seasoned campaigner’s army, Northerners or not? Why would Stannis sacrifice his daughter despite telling her just a few episodes ago that there is nothing he wouldn’t do for her? Why has Melisandre not used her magic at all recently? Why could she have Renly killed using magic but not Roose Bolton or Tywin when he was alive, for that matter? The use of Melisandre’s magic smacks of convenience rather than plot. But anyhow, the overwhelming feeling after that episode is one of shock – although GoT has killed children before, none of them were as beloved as Shireen. 

Melisandre, for her part, is either genuinely trying to evoke the Gods’ magic or simply trying to get rid of Stannis’s existing family in order to start a new one. Either way, however, her motivations are impure. One final thought on this – Stannis’s soldiers looked a bit queasy – will they continue to support a childkiller? How can you support a man who’s willing to kill his own daughter for victory? Stannis only really loved one person in the whole world and now that she is dead, what’s the point in winning the Iron Throne? Stannis told Shireen earlier that sometimes choices aren’t really choices because of who we are and the path we’re on, but this amounts to nothing less than sophistry.

Castle Black
The exhausted wildlings and Jon Snow arrived back at Castle Black where they received a quiet, if not quite gracious welcome. Ser Alliser seemed less smug than usual, but it’s surely in Jon Snow’s interest to move the wildlings along as soon as possible. This will surely come in the form of assisting Stannis, although I shudder to think how useless they would be as part of an organised army. One thing is for sure, they now follow Jon Snow.

“I can’t behead you…many in Dorne want warbut I’ve seen war…I don’t want to lead my people into that hell”

The liveliest exchanges took place in Dorne this week, with Ser Doran holding court with a slew of interesting characters: Jaime Lannister, Myrcella Lannister, Trystane Martell and Ellaria Sand, all of whom have their own agendas. Ellaria, lest we forget, was Oberyn Martell’s lover and consort and his brutal death in Kings Landing has left her wracked with fury, her every move tipped with the poison of vengeance. Every exchange involving Ellaria simmers with tension, even when Oberyn’s brother, Doran, is trying to pass himself off as a faithful servant of the Iron Throne (“I can’t disobey my King”). Jaime Lannister just wants his daughter/”niece” back in one piece and says very little throughout.

“Speak to me that way again and you won’t [live a long and happy life]”

I can’t help but think that Doran meant something more than the obvious when he said “yes, we’re breaking bread with the Lannisters”. Nobody can be THAT obsequious without having an ulterior motive - surely the point is that Doran has his eye on the long game – marry into the Lannister clan and put somebody on the Small Council (now wide open with Cersei gone). The later scene between Ellaria and Doran confirms that although Doran is afflicted by gout and not in peak physical condition, he is obviously feared as well as respected. And he could be the new Tywin Lannister.

Oh, and Bronn gets a mouthful.

Arya’s storyline was trundling along until Ser Meryn Trant appeared on the scene, and lest we forget, he’s on her kill list. She does a lot of stalking but no killing. There's some light relief with Mace Tyrell & Tycho Nestoris.

True to his character so far, Meryn Trant’s exploits in Braavos seem to consist of looking mean, whoring and swearing indiscriminately. It was again harrowing to see Game of Thrones thrust children into adult situations but history is replete with these perversions. I hope he dies a terrible death.


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Game of Thrones S05E08 - Hardhome (TV spoilers)

Co-operate or die


“...sometimes a man has to make hard choices, choices that look wrong to others”

In one of the season's best episodes so far, Danaerys & Tyrion discuss strategy, Jon Snow tries to unite the wildlings behind him and Cersei's situation deteriorates markedly. Yet another strong episode with excellent dialogue and action marks a gallop towards a decisive and high-stakes end to the season
Game of Thrones usually reserves its big budget for the penultimate episode of each season, but this appears to have been brought forward to episode 8 as it all kicks off at Hardhome in the far North. The main theme this week is co-operation, with Danaerys & Tyrion co-operating despite being from warring houses and the wildlings and Nights Watch co-operating against a common enemy, despite being distinctly different and pursuing different purposes. The Hardhome scenes were stylistically very different from the rest of the episode and provided a nice change of pace from the slower, deliberate build-up in Meereen and Braavos. The final scene as Jon and his posse float away from the coast is so still that it's artful and magnificently creepy.

Also, I realised this week why Benioff & Weiss changed Jaime Lannister's trajectory from the Song of Ice & Fire books, where Jaime mopes around Kings Landing rather than go to Dorne. However, B&W changed the script to have Jaime leave Kings Landing, which served to make Cersei's isolation even more piquant. The Sparrows would have faced a lot more resistance throwing Cersei in jail with the Kingslayer around. It all fits together, you see?

My favourite exchange this week was the one directly below - Tyrion & Danaerys. If you take the time to properly deconstruct this scene, it's quite a gem for A Song of Ice & Fire fans. It reminded me of all the grey areas in Game of Thrones - Tyrion, hoping to act as a trusted advisor, is a murderer, having killed his father and former lover. Danaerys, despite being a breaker of chains, has had a litany of people killed and is "the kind of terrible...that prevents your people from being more so". Varys, who spied on Danaerys for years may also have been the only thing keeping her alive. In the North, we have the Brothers of the Nights Watch acting as heroes, despite being an assortment of "rapers", "horse-thieves"  (that's "car thief" to you and me) and "ninth-born" sons [www.gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Night's_Watch_man_(Breaker_of_Chains)].

Meereen / Tyrion & Danaerys

Tyrion and Ser Jorah are finally united with Danaerys, with Tyrion's first act as Danaerys's advisor being to have Ser Jorah banished from the city. Tyrion quite typically acts in a humane way but still manages to get revenge on Ser Jorah for "abducting" him.

I've been speculating for a while that Tyrion & Danaerys could team up for mutually beneficial reasons and finally, she has found herself a smart, savvy adviser who actually understands Westeros. As expected, Tyrion provided a ruthlessly clear assessment of the Jorah situation - "he worships you...he's in love with you...but he didn't trust that you'd be wise enough to forgive him". By the way, is it just me or did Danaerys look really uneasy during this scene?

Some very typically gnomic advice as well: “a ruler who kills those devoted to her does not inspire devotion”. No kidding. When asked to leave, Jorah doesn’t protest – he knows he got the best result he could get. In Game of Thrones, nobody really gets to win.

"Have you decided whether to to have me killed yet?"

In Tyrion we finally have somebody with the wit and courage to challenging Danaerys in a way Ser Barristan, Jorah, etc haven't. Tyrion ruthlessly deconstructs Danaerys's chaotic "plan" to take over Westeros, her motivations for ruling a land she's never known and the fact that no house except the wily Tyrells would support her ("what was it like, ruling without the rich?").

Incisive as always. His initial suggestion is "You should try wanting something else". Oh, if only. But this is Danaerys Stormborn Targaryen - “I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel”. Does she mean some sort of Westerosian holocaust where every royal family is killed? Be afraid, be very afraid.

Kings Landing / Cersei

Every now and then grand, sweeping stories turn in on themselves and face up to an inherent irony - this is one of those storylines. In the same way that an angry and grieving Cersei decided to get rid of Tyrion once and for all by rigging his trial, the Sparrows will now railroad her for imagined crimes (fornication, incest, treason?). As Maester Qyburn says, "the Faith does not adhere to the same standards of proof as the Crown".  That may not be a bad thing.

Game of Thrones aphorisms:

Maester Aemon, Castle Black: "Love is the death of duty"
Maester Qyburn: "Belief is so often the death of reason"

It's worth noting at this point that the Lannister family doesn’t look too hot right now, with Jaime embarrassed in Dorne with his daughter/"niece" who has abandoned Kings Landing, Cersei in jail, a dead patriarch (Tywin) and Tyrion in the employ to a rival to the throne. And we thought the Starks had bad luck.

Cersei is completely alone - her son and king is (allegedly) too depressed to leave his bedroom, Jaime is elsewhere, her uncle despises her and her small council has no sympathisers. Tywin knew to keep the underlings happy, while Cersei barely disguises her contempt at everyone around her, leaving her with nobody to fight her corner.  and it's all come home to roost. Does this end in some sort of desperate conversion to religiosity for Cersei?

(That’s it Cersei, don’t let them see you cry. Or desperately lick water from the ground.)

Braavos / Arya
Game of Thrones has such a vendetta against the Starks that even the remaining Starks are forced to accept violence every night (Sansa) and Arya, although physically unharmed, has to sacrifice her identity. She is now "Lana", a young, sunny oyster-seller, one with a secret. Strangely, she gets to learn about life insurance from Jaqen H’ghar, and the stage is set for Arya to make a unique, Many-Faced God brand of justice for poor, marginalised people. Arya's storyline was rumbling along in the background and is now marginally more interesting but still feels tacked onto the main narrative.

Winterfell / Sansa & Theon/Reek

A very major penny drops as Sansa realises that Theon killed two random boys in order to make it look like they were Bran and Rickon. “It was two farm boys. I killed and burned them so nobody would know” Hard to know how to react to this - on the one hand, Theon tried to protect the Stark boys, which is good. On the other hand, he burned two other boys in order to do so, which is very bad. This world is unforgiving, but Theon has sacrificed too much to live in it and seems to deserve big vengeance. Nonetheless, this pathetic creature in front of us looks like he's suffered enough, so I await some exciting developments.

"I don't need an army...I need 20 good men" - Ramsay Bolton is hatching a plot to kill off Stannis's faltering army, rather than waiting for Stannis to attack Winterfell. Is this setting up Ramsay being captured by Stannis and used for bargaining in some way? I doubt Roose would bargain but anyway, an interesting thought.

Beyond the Wall
Pride of place in this episode went to the minor set piece held in Hardhome, the location that inspired the episode's name. Game of Thrones is littered with good intentions half-executed, and Jon Snow just took part in one. There he was, bringing some of the wildlings round to his way of thinking, when the threat of the White Walkers, hitherto treated as a plot device (or MacGuffin, if you will), lay waste to Hardhome and recruited new zombie soldiers in the process. For unknown (probably plot-related) reasons, White Walkers don't swim, which leaves our heroes free to fight another day. In essence, the White Walkers are still not being allowed to encroach upon the wider military/political game, with only glancing references made by Stannis, Cersei, etc.

Nonetheless, this is the second time Messrs. Benioff & Weiss have chosen to hold a set piece with the Nights Watch, so clearly they see some narrative value in it. Indeed, these scenes are emblematic of this season of Games of Thrones - frenetic action, risky alliances (Crows and Wildlings), the bastard who rises to high office (Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton) and wasted effort (Jon travelling all the way to Hardhome to recruit fighters, only to see most of them die).

Not that it matters anymore, but Jon Snow’s proposition has some key weaknesses – wildlings are supposed to believe that after all this internecine warfare, wildlings and the Nights Watch will live and work side by side? That the Northerners will give the wildlings farms? Yeah, nope.

As for Jon Snow, as Tormund pointed out, what kind of reception will Snow get when he reaches the Wall? Is his word really strong enough to maintain a peace when he and his posse reach the Wall? We know that back at the Wall, Ser Alliser has been threatening Samwell Tarly and clearly has designs on power at Castle Black. Jon Snow, despite his valour, progressive ideas and breathtaking bravery, has an uncertain position.

By the way - Tormund's killing of the Man of Bones – now that's what I call true meritocracy! He who kills wins.

Anyway, all in all, a very good episode that continues the season's march towards a conflict in the North (Stannis v Boltons), Castle Black + remaining wildlings v White Walkers (with the wildcard Bran and his abilities?), Sansa discovering Theon's (sort of) innocence and Danaerys newly armed with Tyrion. Stay tuned!


Monday, 25 May 2015

Game of Thrones - S05E07 - The Gift (TV SPOILERS)

Paying for sins past


Sansa - “It can't be any worse." Theon / Reek - "It can - it can always be worse."

In an action-packed episode, kickass Lady Olenna Tyrell squares up to the High Sparrow, Cersei is struck by a pesky double-edged sword, Danaerys finally meets Tyrion and Stannis runs into difficulties. This season has spent a lot of time moving the chess pieces around, and finally we have some payoff. A very heightened and important episode to bring us towards the season's climax.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Game of Thrones S5E02 - The House of Black and White (TV spoilers)

The past is always round the corner


“Cersei. Ser Meryn Trant. Walder Frey. The Mountain."

In the second episode of the season, we catch up with Arya, Bronn loses some prestige, Brienne kicks all kinds of posterior in Riverrun and we get our first glimpse of Dorne. With all this going on, you'd be a fool to not join in the fun. Valar morghulis.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Game of Thrones S5E01 - The Wars To Come

Winter is here


“All the good lords are dead and the rest are monsters”

Yes, winter is finally here. Television's most fearless show is back, and in this episode we're picking up the pieces from the end of season 4. "The Wars to come" talks of ruthless murder, vengeful dragons, fallen tyrants and the mysteries of who is killing the Unsullied and why are they visiting brothels, anyway? Read on. Valar morghulis.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Game of Thrones S4 reminder & S5 preview

Season 4 was a gut-busting and heart-wrenching season, where we lost several major key characters and saw the power equation change in Westeros and Essos. From Stannis's surprise entrance to the North in Westeros, to the demise of Tywin to Daenerys's chaining of her dragons, things are set for fireworks in S5. With Tyrion, Arya and Daenerys all on Essos, there is the potential for interesting tie-ups and serious fireworks. Season 5 looks like it will focus much more on Dorne, which will arguably see the narrative of Westeros & Essos suffer. But let's recap anyway - first, a summary of new characters (credit: HBO) and a bite-sized summary of key events and people lost in S4.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Walking Dead season 5 finale + season review

“They’ll try to find us, use us, kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. We show you how.”

This season posed some pointed themes, chiefly (a) those whose position got stronger due to the apocalypse suddenly find themselves useless again (b) how do people return to normality after war and (c) the perennial question, how can you be good in a ruthless, dangerous world? Walking Dead’s fifth season culminates in a typically epic and resonant manner with no easy resolutions, the re-appearance of an old friend and lots of questions for next season. The Fourth Wall episode rating: 8/10The Fourth Wall season rating: 7/10.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

It Follows (US, 2014)

A truly scary and "knowing" horror that genre fiends will enjoy for years to come. It Follows is chock full of classic thrills and spills, including one particular scene which, in its moist, dead-eyed glory is as disgusting as it is oddly hypnotising (you’ll know which one). For once, I can’t wait for the inevitable sequel.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

White God / “Fehér isten” (Hungary, 2014)

"It's an elephant can't u see?!"

White God is a brilliantly imagined fable about power, the underclass and man’s relationship with animals. The story is told through 13-year old Lili and her dog, Hagen, who upon being abandoned by Lili’s father must navigate a pitiless world of dog controllers and malicious dog fighters. The film shows us a dog’s-eye view of the world and has tremendous visuals. If you look hard enough, there’s even a political message about the underclass and how it can rise up to wreak vengeance on its tormentors. Guaranteed to be one of the best indie films of 2015.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ex Machina (2014, US)

A reclusive tech billionaire builds an artificial intelligence android at his isolated hideout and then invites one of his programmers to apply the Turing test. Hilarity does not ensue.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Homeland S04E07 - Redux

 “You have taught an entire generation to live with one foot in the afterlife.”

After last week’s hi-jinks, Homeland doesn’t let up, delivering an episode with high stakes, more intrigue, mistrust between the Americans and Pakistanis and a reappearance of an old friend. Also, the grown-ups have a meeting. Dive in for a recap and review. Episode rating – 7/10.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Walking Dead, S05E03, "Four Walls and a Roof" (TV spoilers)

It’s a bob-eat-bob world, the world needs bad men and other lessons

Hey folks, looks like I missed the boat on episodes 1-3, but here I am, anyway! Standby for a weekly review of each episode of The Walking Dead.  Last week, it was “Four Walls and a Roof”, which was a rip-roaring, action-heavy, plot-lite offering, with Glenn, Maggie and Daryl continuing to be part of the scenery and Bob, Rick, Sasha and Gabriel taking centre stage. Dive in for a recap and analysis.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Homeland S04E06 - "From A to B and back again"


Episode rating – 8/10

Episode 6 was a cracker, ratcheting up the tension that’s been building all season with a fitting mid-season finale. Despite some weak characterisation, this episode showcases Homeland at its best by focusing sharply on the intrigue and ignoring the Quinn and Carrie “forced love story”. Dive in for a recap and review.

Monday, 3 November 2014