Perhaps we've grown so used to horror we assume there's no other way
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Michael Slovis
Welcome to the new Game of Thrones! It's the same as the old Game of Thrones, except now D&D no longer have George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels to serve as direct guides. Okay, that's not completely true: D&D grab and choose material to adapt from the later novels in Martin's series, but now we're introduced to some new material that isn't found anywhere in the novels. I've never taken a liking to comparing and contrasting book and film/TV adaptations*, and I'm not starting that now. All we know is that the story is not complete, and despite D&D running low on supplies, they still have a vision of where Game of Thrones is going to end up, and they're more than willing to stray from the familiar path some more to ensure we get to that final destination.
For a lot of folks, "The Children" was where the Game of Thrones we know and love came to a bittersweet end: accusations of characters starting to develop plot armor in season five slowly started to creep up, and with a waning tendency to kill off lead characters whenever it damn well feels like it, the belief has become that season five marks Game of Thrones beginning to represent a more traditional television series. It's not D&D's fault that George R.R. Martin is taking forever and a day to write the final two books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, and HBO would certainly not accept putting one of its greatest ratings draws on the shelf until Martin got around to finishing the books. Thus, D&D have to push onward, now with just tiny scraps of already published book material, as well as material about the upcoming books that Martin was willing to reveal to them.
I don't like to think of myself as a Game of Thrones apologist, because I do try to call out the series when it does something very confusing or nonsensical. Five seasons in, however, we are starting to reach the point where violence and bloodshed are going to take over more and more of the politics, especially as various plot lines are now starting to converge. There's an army of ice zombies on the way, so when they finally invade Westeros, do you really think characters are going to spend time talking about who would make the best Hand of the King? We're still a ways away from everyone banding together to face the White Walkers, but for right now, it's a joy to watch characters that we've come to know for so many episodes finally meet and talk about things in the same room. In "The Wars to Come", this is none more true than at the Night's Watch, as Stannis and his army have made themselves at home alongside the Night's Watch. These are the best scenes of the whole episode, particularly the conversation between Jon and Mance Rayder, right before Mance is sent to be burned at the stake. It's such an intriguing clash of ideals that boill down to the difference between survival and freedom. Mance was able to rally all the wildling tribes together and make them feel like one complete whole. If he bends the knee to Stannis Baratheon, they are no longer the free folk they have always been. On the other hand, Jon knows the wildlings have no chance to survive the winter on their own, so to him, what does it matter if they swear loyalty to a new King if it means they get to live on? Despite their disagreements, Jon and Mance live their lives in very similar fashions: they choose to live and die with honor and respect. Mance, even as he is being burned alive, will not bend the knee and betray the people he came to lead. Jon knows this, and that's what contributes to him giving Mance a quick and painless death by shooting him with an arrow as opposed to watching him die a slow and horrible death.
None of the other scenes quite reach how good the Night's Watch scenes are in this episode, but we are introduced to interesting new power struggles in both King's Landing and Meereen. At her father's wake, Cersei learns that her cousin Lancel Lannister has now become a member of a religious group called the Sparrows. In Meereen, a group known as the Sons of the Harpy have started to revolt against Daenerys and her cause. It's quite appropriate actually that these two new story lines start at the same time: Game of Thrones is going in a direction where all of its remaining story lines involve characters fighting one another, and it won't take long for us to see that there will not only be more unrest in King's Landing, but also that Daenerys is going to have a very difficult time trying to contain this new threat that will test her and her army. This is planting the seeds for Game of Thrones giving us more chaotic fights and epic battles that you thought was only possible in cinema.
As we'll have plenty more opportunities to talk about these new story lines and what is happening next with the likes of the Night's Watch and Arya, I don't think it's necessary to dig too deep in this episode. "The Wars to Come" is a well-crafted season opener that is most robust during its Night's Watch scenes, and still works perfectly fine in other places like King's Landing and its scenes in Essos. Despite nearing a complete transition out of the novels, D&D do not falter one bit on the worthwhile character moments and setting the stage for what's yet to come. Some of the distinct plots are finally starting to weave together, and as more familiar faces join up, how can you not be excited for more wild thrills and demolishing heartbreak?
I have always been your son
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alex Graves
Alas, dear readers. We have reached the very end of season four, and in a way, we have reached the very end of the George R.R. Martin-led Game of Thrones. Not that Martin would distance himself completely from the TV series following season four, but we've reached the point where Game of Thrones would no longer be able to rely on its source material, which is the direction the show would be heading for season five and beyond. Knowing this was their goodbye to the source material, D&D and director Alex Graves go all out, putting together what is easily the best season finale of any Game of Thrones season thus far, delivering closure on several story lines while planting the seeds for some new ones,and doing the seemingly impossible dual task of leaving viewers satisfied heading into the between seasons break and leaving you hungry for more.
The season finales are usually jam-packed, and that's no exception here. "The Children" is a super-sized Game of Thrones episode whose themes all revolve around children and how they relate to their parents. Okay, so we meet a new character who belongs to a group that has the words, 'The Children' in its title, but whether its literally or figuratively, children are at the forefront of this episode, and in typical Game of Thrones fashion, no one gets off easy. It's been tough sledding for the Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen children since the days of "Winter is Coming". Even though Game of Thrones is about to liberate itself from Martin's novels entirely, that tough sledding not going to change anytime soon.
When it comes to the more figurative use of the word 'children', this of course being in reference to the next step in Bran's story line, as his group finally reaches the Heart Tree, home to the Three Eyed Raven. There they meet a Child of the Forest, who helps Bran's group escape from an attacking group of undead (except for Jojen who gets killed). At this point in the series, it should be pretty clear who exactly are the most important characters when it comes to the over-arching story that George R.R. Martin and likewise D&D are trying to tell. Despite the fact that he hasn't had any sort of "epic" moments, outside of discovering he is a warg, Bran is slowly but surely establishing himself as one of the most important characters in all of Game of Thrones, a character who will undoubtedly have one of the biggest roles to play in the eventual Great War against the Army of the Dead. Game of Thrones has a recurring habit of making the most mocked and defenseless characters like Samwell Tarly and Bran Stark be the ones who end up making the most pivotal discoveries. We saw Sam uncover the secret to killing the White Walkers back in season three. Now we have Bran Stark, a cripple who has traveled to seemingly the middle of nowhere far up North, and he has come across a being in the Three Eyed Raven that will give him the power to uncover some of the most shocking secrets in all of Westeros. In almost all fan theories about how Game of Thrones will end, Bran is slated as being the Night King. While I sort of enjoy this theory myself, I am a bit disappointed that I am not seeing more speculation in regards to what Bran's new identity as the Three-Eyed Raven may do exactly in order to save all of Westeros from The Long Night.
For right now anyway, it's still Jon Snow and the Night's Watch who are the only ones concerned with prepping for The Long Night, but things get a lot more interesting as Jon's meeting with Mance Rayder is broken up by the sudden arrival of Stannis and his cavalry. I'll admit: I'm a total sucker for when Game of Thrones finally converges several of its story lines, though Stannis coming into contact with Jon, the Night's Watch, and the wildlings was to be expected because of how Ser Davos gave Stannis the letter earlier warning about the re-emergence of the White Walkers. As I've stated before, I would argue that the story line involving the Night's Watch is the most important one in all of Game of Thrones, and with the presence of a significant character like Stannis at Castle Black, this is when the Night's Watch story line really starts to step things up and, at times, overtake the story lines involving King's Landing and Meereen.
The events in King's Landing though are easily the most essential ones for "The Children", which is why I'm going to save them for last. Since this finale is all about children, then that means we get to see a little more of the growing divide between Daenerys and her dragons. Upon learning that the free as a bird Drogon has killed a man's young daughter, Daenerys is left with no choice but to imprison her other two dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, in the catacombs. It's a tough scene to watch, but I say that as someone who is an animal lover and also someone who loves watching the dragons fly around and breathe fire. The dragons are not just Daenerys' children; they have been one of her greatest sources of inspiration ever since they were born. Right now, the dragons are like rebellious teenagers going through adolescence, but Daenerys can't discipline her dragons and get them to behave by yelling and telling them no. She fully understands that her children have grown up and are now angry creatures of destruction, and if she wants to continue to uphold her reputation as Queen, she has to do something to contain them. Viserion and Rhaegal have had hardly any screen time, but their shrieks as Daenerys walks out of the catacomb is as crushing as listening to a loving dog or cat, crying for their owner to return.
This episode isn't all doom and gloom, evident by the brawl that takes place between Brienne and the Hound. Nothing stylish or gimmicky here: this is just a good ol' fashioned slug fest between two steely individuals who couldn't figure out how to get along in the first few minutes they meet. The clanging of swords eventually turns to an exchanging of fists, and it's one of the bloodiest, most savage, and hard-hitting acts of violence that has ever been done in all of Game of Thrones. My gosh, you can feel the hits as Brienne and the Hound go back and forth, taking shots at one another, and that's saying something when we've already seen a ton of sword fights and several fighters get cut to bits. I think it's the explosion that the Arya and the Hound story line has really needed, as at least 85 percent of what the two have done throughout season four has boiled down to travelling on the road and killing people. The Hound is left for dead, and Arya is able to finally head off and take care of herself.
Finally, after having to wait an extra episode after "The Mountain and the Viper", we get to see what Tyrion goes through in his final hours. Cersei has a tense conversation with Tywin, in which she flat out admits to him that the rumors about her incestuous relationship with Jaime are true. Even during her hours of triumph, something always seems to come along to spoil Cersei's mood. Lena Headey and Charles Dance are so good at creating tension out of dialogue that seems like it's incapable of creating tension. This conversation perfectly summarizes the relationship that Cersei and her father have had since the end of "Blackwater": while they get along and have similar goals, they always find something to disagree on.
What Cersei doesn't realize is that it would be the last meaningful conversation she would ever have with her father. In an interesting twist, Jaime appears and releases Tyrion from his cell, informing him that Varys is waiting to take him out of the Capital. The two share a bittersweet farewell, and it's very tough that one of the most trustworthy relationships remaining in Westeros is about to end. With what's about to come next, this will be (perhaps) the last time that Tyrion and Jaime will ever be able to act like true friends. Instead of going to meet Varys right away, Tyrion sneaks up to the Tower of the Hand, where he finds Shae sleeping in his father's bed. A heartbroken Tyrion strangles her to death. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Tyrion grabs the crossbow previously used by Joffrey and finds his father tending to himself in the privy. Although Tywin tries to negotiate, he twice calls Shae a dead whore, and that is the final straw for Tyrion: he shoots his father twice and kills him. Tyrion goes to meet with Varys, and the two board a ship bound for Essos.
Wow. That is a double whopper in such a short time span. While the magnitude of Tywin's death far outweighs that of Shae's, Tyrion's killing of both fuels the meaning of this sequence for Tyrion's character: he is letting go of what he loved, and letting go of the life he has always known. He loved Shae, and he wanted to spend his life with her, but his family tore them apart. Seeing how his father took Shae as his own, and knowing he would never be able to rekindle his relationship with Shae, Tyrion had to permanently wipe the misery of it from his mind. I love the way Tyrion breathes out and says, "I'm sorry" after he knows Shae has died: he is finally liberated from the pain brought on to him by his separation from Shae.
Seeing how his father took the woman he once loved, Tyrion knew he couldn't leave without killing his father. Of all the characters who would kill the most powerful man in Westeros, it would be the Imp: the dwarf that was sentenced to death, prejudiced by others his whole life, and hated by almost his entire family. Tyrion and Tywin have never enjoyed a true father and son relationship, as Tywin had grown more concerned with preserving the Lannister legacy as opposed to doing what was best for his own children. He gave Tyrion gold and titles all his life, but only because his last name was Lannister. When the opportunity finally came for Tywin to sentence his dwarf son to death, he did it without a second thought. Tywin calls Tyrion a Lannister and his son, but seeing how he was sentenced to death and that Tywin took Shae into his bed without any care for what she meant to Tyrion, Tyrion understands what his father truly thinks of him as: a monster unworthy of the Lannister name and a creature unworthy of living in the world. Tywin's attitude towards Tyrion has basically been how almost the entire Lannister family (save for Jaime) has treated Tyrion, and now Tyrion is putting that all behind him. Although he will always bear the last name of Lannister, Tyrion sets off to a new life, one where he hopes to finally be free of the prejudice and pain that his family had always brought him.
It's impossible to put it differently: "The Children" is a masterpiece episode of television. D&D and director Alex Graves save the best episode of the best season for last, bidding adieu to Game of Thrones' ties to George R.R. Martin's source material by putting several story lines at a terrific stopping point, while also leaving the promise that there would be more fantastic television to come. It's is truly remarkable that Game of Thrones can keep up this level of quality, even with now four full seasons under the belt. That's not to say the quality would begin a steep downhill tumble after this; now Game of Thrones is, to a certain extent, free to explore more of its expansive world and to experiment with brand new story lines. For die-hard book fans who watch the show, that might be a bit of a disappointment. But seeing the way D&D were so masterfully able to adapt the material they started with, I think we should be confident that they will know how to keep the story going and get it to where it needs to go. I know that's a bit weird of me to say considering seasons five, six, and seven have aired already, but if I were someone watching this show for the first time ever and knowing the series was about to move past all the books, I don't see how they wouldn't be optimistic.
Godzilla vs. Mothra, also known as Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth is directed by Takao Okawara and stars Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Megumi Odaka, Akiji Kobayashi, and Akira Takarada.
It is a pain in the neck to hear someone say the title, Godzilla vs. Mothra, because Toho, somewhat unintentionally, has made Godzilla facing off against Mothra to mean one of a bajillion different things. Only one other kaiju movie before 1992 had featured only Godzilla and Mothra, that of course being 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla or as it was known in North America: Godzilla vs. The Thing. So while there was only one straight-up Godzilla versus Mothra movie before the Heisei series began, the two monsters had starred together in several other films, enough times that deciphering the whole Godzilla and Mothra relationship ended up being like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle where fitted pieces keep popping out.
But it's okay. Continuing their ambition from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah of bringing back all the classic monsters, Toho got to work getting the beloved Mothra up to date, capitalizing on a screenplay written in 1990 by Akira Murao, in which Mothra fights a dragon named Bagan who tries to destroy humanity for abusing the Earth's resources. A neat idea, but Toho didn't think Mothra had the marketing power to be a hit with audiences overseas, so in came the internationally recognized Godzilla. The story of Mothra vs. Bagan was altered to include Godzilla, but that's not all: Bagan was re-conceptualized as another insect monster named Battra, one that is a dark, evil twin of Mothra.
The story of Godzilla vs. Mothra tells us that long ago, an ancient civilization tried to control the Earth's climate, and in response, Earth created the flying insect monster Battra. However, Battra grew unstable and started to destroy the Earth. Mothra, another monster responsible for protecting the Earth, faced Battra in a great battle and won. In the present day, a meteorite crash lands on Earth and awakens both Godzilla and the long-dormant Battra, the latter of which is still angry over humanity's abuse towards the Earth's natural order. The meteorite also uncovers a giant egg that belongs to Mothra. Three explorers, Takuya Fujito (Tetsuya Bessho), his ex-wife, Masako Tezuka (Satomi Kobayashi), and secretary of the greedy Marutomo company, Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) are sent to explore Infant Island where Mothra's egg is located. While there, they meet the Cosmos, two pint-sized humans who can communicate with Mothra. Kenji informs the Marutomo Compay of the egg's existence and has them come to retrieve it, presumably for protection. The egg eventually hatches to reveal a new Mothra larva, who comes into contact with Godzilla and a Battra larva. Mothra escapes when Godzilla and Battra take their fight underwater, and heads for Tokyo in order to rescue the Cosmos, who have been kidnapped by the head of Marutomo.
Was "Save the Environment!" the message that all movies were going for back in the early-to-mid 1990's? Other pro-environment movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas came out around the same time that Godzilla vs. Mothra did, so I guess how you feel towards movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas will affect how much you may like Godzilla vs. Mothra, even though all three movies are radically different in regards to plot and setting. The strange thing is that this is not the first time that a Godzilla movie has attempted to be proactive in regards to keeping the Earth's climate in tip-top shape, the other being 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, although that movie was more on the nose about minimizing pollution. Thankfully, Godzilla vs. Mothra avoids nauseating preachiness when it comes to its pro-environment attitude, and while the movie is mostly flawed in other areas of its writing, this is still one of the better Godzilla movies of the entire Heisei series.
- I'm glad the days of the cheap stock footage are over, because there is absolutely no shortage of quality now when it comes to the monster action. The fights involving Godzilla are wonderfully entertaining, and Takao Okawara crafts the fights to include more than just Godzilla firing his atomic breath or Mothra flying around and whacking Godzilla on the head. Battra knocks Godzilla over using a ferris wheel, and Mothra and Battra ram into each other a couple times while flying through the air. The green screen is embarrassingly noticeable during some shots of Battra chasing Mothra, but that's the worst it ever gets. All three monsters are given equal opportunity to do something, and the fighting is all the better because of it.
- Godzilla vs. Mothra is completely in love with its Mothra and Battra history, so much so that it throws into question what exactly Godzilla's purpose to the story is. Unlike Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, where we got a valid explanation for why the characters needed to go back in time and prevent Godzilla from ever existing, there's next to nothing in this movie to justify why Mothra and Battra need to confront Godzilla, other than to prevent him from wrecking Japan yet again. The script is missing a clear reasoning for why Godzilla has to be present, and because of this, hardly anything about the plot would change if Godzilla was removed altogether.
The script also includes a lousy family divorce sub-plot between Takuya Fujito and Masako Tezuka, and it's handled without the least bit of care. Almost everything regarding this sub-plot is done through side comments that the characters make while they're either running from the approaching monsters or standing by and watching them fight. I commend the effort towards making something worthwhile out of the human plot of a monster movie, but it just doesn't turn out well.
So despite a highly problematic script, Godzilla vs. Mothra excels with its monster action and benefits from a cool-looking new monster in Battra. A lot of the story elements, like the hatching of a Mothra larva and a greedy corporation trying to use the egg for their own reasons, are borrowed from 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla, but there's enough new material here to make for a fresh update of Mothra and for a perfectly watchable installment to the Heisei series. The film turned out to be a huge hit when it was first released, and this helped keep Toho inspired towards bringing back more of the classic kaiju. After a bumpy start, the Heisei series finally had some sense of direction.
Brothers! A hundred generations have defended this castle! It's never fallen before, she will not fall tonight!
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Neil Marshall
When I said that season four was the best season of Game of Thrones yet, it should have been a very very very indirect way of saying, "We're going to get the biggest battle the show has seen since "Blackwater"." Perhaps it is a bit of a disappointment that the aftermath of Tyrion's trial by combat - let's be honest, that's the main thing we want to see at the moment- is put on hold, but when the substitute is the wildling invasion of Castle Black, it's hard to stay too upset. I say 'wildling invasion' with caution though, because as we learn at the end of the episode, it is only a handful of wildlings that launch the attack, with the King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder being nowhere in sight. As Jon Snow told us before, the wildlings vastly outnumber the Night's Watch, so a battle between the Night's Watch and the entire wildling army wouldn't take up longer than 20 minutes of screen-time. For the small sample size of wildlings that do invade, the battle that ensues still makes for a gripping hour of television that raises the bar for what this show is capable of doing.
Like "Blackwater","The Watchers on the Wall" doesn't run wall-to-wall action without some worthwhile conversations, mainly from Sam. Sam's talk with Jon about interpreting their Night's Watch vows and his reunion with Gilly takes up the majority of the time before the battle gets underway. We all know Sam can't swing a sword, so talking with Jon and finding out Gilly is alive is the best that D&D could do with Sam in this episode. For what it's worth, Sam truly makes his presence felt when it could have been so easy for him to be relegated to background character and have virtually no effect on anything that happens in the episode. I especially loved how Sam was trying to fudge the meaning of his vows, like a disgruntled employee trying to bend the handbook and get away with something because it's not stated literally on any of the pages. If your mind has gone to the gutter, you'd guess correctly that Sam was trying to wiggle his way through the rules so that he could not feel guilty about making love to a woman.
So then, the fighting gets started, and boy is there a lot of different things going on at once: archers fire arrows down from the top of the Wall, a wildling giant uses a woolly mammoth to try and open the front gate, Tormund Giantsbane, Ygritte, and the Thenns make their way into the castle, oil barrels explode, and a freaking scythe is used to kill wildlings that try to climb the Wall. It's busy everywhere you look, but the action is completely comprehensible: well-lit and well-defined in terms of what's going on. My only complaint is that in some shots of the in-castle fighting, it's a bit hard to tell who is a wildling and who is a man of the Night's Watch, as the two sides' outfits don't stand out all that well during the night.
The frustrating thing about this battle and the episode as a whole is that D&D haven't done enough during season four to truly get us excited for something we know is coming. While there have been conversations between Jon Snow and others about the impending wildling attack, it hasn't been quite on the level that "Blackwater" was on: a battle we could get excited about four or five episodes before it actually happene. Maybe it's because "Blackwater" was in King's Landing, and had Stannis won and taken the Iron Throne, it would have changed the entire course of the series. "The Watchers on the Wall", on the other hand, is Mance Rayder testing the Night's Watch to see how much of a resistance they put up against his army, like it's just a small precursor to a much larger war. To put it plainly, "The Watchers on the Wall" doesn't have the aura of a pivotal confrontation that could be a game-changer. "Blackwater" was a potential game-changer, but even though the wildlings end up losing this battle, Mance Rayder isn't any worse off than he was before.
So Ygritte is killed after she finds Jon and the two have a brief staredown. This is, however, far from being one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching deaths in all of Game of Thrones. Jon and Ygritte have been apart since the end of season three, and again, this battle is not the ultimate showdown of wildlings vs. crows. Because of how Jon and Ygritte developed some bad blood after Jon showed his true colors back in "The Rains of Castamere", it's a lot more difficult to get choked up over Jon losing the first woman he has ever loved. Maybe if Jon had killed Ygritte himself, it would be a lot more gut-wrenching, but that's not what we get. Not that George R.R. Martin and D&D did anything terribly wrong with how they handled Jon and Ygritte since they split apart. It's just that the fire between the two had died down to some lukewarm embers, and that's what remained up until this battle.
In the end, "The Watchers on the Wall" is not flawless by any means, but the action and visuals on-hand make for an incredibly entertaining episode of television, one that also doesn't skimp too much on the character interactions and development. The things that are missing that would have made this episode another "Blackwater" are a larger sense of scale and an emotional thumping. Regardless, this is an episode that you can come back to repeatedly and still be highly entertained by. It's the big battle that season four needed to go over the top, and "The Watchers on the Wall" doesn't disappoint when it comes to making sure this season has a little bit of everything.
I was curious. Why was he smashing all those beetles? What did he get out of it?
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alex Graves
Game of Thrones is so many things: Dramatic, action-packed, suspenseful, and heartbreaking, to name a few. Every now and then comes along an episode that focuses purely on being one of these attributes, and the eighth episode of season four, "The Mountain and the Viper", is all for being as heartbreaking as possible. While it doesn't come close to being a Red Wedding kind of heartbreaking, the episode sets out to take your soul and crush it into nothing more than a tiny pile of dust. Usually, this means that several lovable characters are going to get axed off in the most heinous, unfair ways imaginable, and that proves to be the case with one unlucky individual. However, "The Mountain and the Viper" seeks other unexpected ways to kill your spirits, and it all adds up to yet another fantastic entry to season four and to all the Game of Thrones library.
The heartbreak starts off small, as the wildlings invade Mole's Town. The news reaches the Wall where Sam grieves over the idea that Gilly could be dead (she isn't, and Sam finds out not long afterwards). You may or may not notice that Alex Graves relies on an elongated continuous take as we watch the people of Mole's Town eat, drink, and pleasure themselves, while Gilly walks around where she's been hiding out at. At first, I was led to believe that this was going to be a neat little way to show the wildling attack from the villagers' perspective, but Graves abruptly ends the take, and I have no idea why. Did he have a running idea about how to make the scene look better, but had a change of heart in the middle of filming? I was left disappointed that he basically gave up on making a scene that, while not very meaningful in the long run, could have been particularly memorable because of how it would have been presented. It's the only legit negative of the whole episode, and we thankfully get it out of the way early. Wasted potential is some of the worst!
Moving on then: last episode ended with the fairly significant death of Lysa Arryn, so it should be no wonder that the Vale is a pretty heartbroken place at the moment. Petyr Baelish tries to worm his way out of his interrogation for Lysa's death, claiming she committed suicide and fell out the Moon Door on her own. This is when Sansa is summoned to speak further on the matter, and instead of coming clean and admitting the truth, Sansa lies and convinces the Vale council to let Petyr go free. No other character that's lasted this long has had it as tough as Sansa: she has been beaten, insulted, nearly raped, and forced to watch her father be executed. The surprising thing about this scene is not that Sansa lies: she's lied a few times before, particularly about her feelings towards Joffrey. What's surprising is that Sansa is now using lying as a means of escape, and not just to save her own life. This is critical for her character, because she has slowly but surely grown more aware of how this game of thrones works, and that she can't always follow the legacy of her father to get what she wants and go where she wants to go. Sansa is not dishonoring her father and spitting on his grave; she is using what she has learned about how things work in Westeros and doing what must be done so that she can carry on the Stark family legacy. How can she be kind and honorable if she lets someone slit her throat? Petyrdid tell her about how everyone in the Capital is a liar.
By the way, the Hound and Arya arrive outside the Vale, where Arya breaks out into laughter upon hearing that her aunt Lysa is dead. This whole time, Arya has basically been a prisoner to the Hound. They come all this way only for the Hound to find out that now he won't get that ransom award he was hoping for. Heartbreak can be funny sometimes, I guess.
It's not all Westeros where the heartbreak is happening. D&D unleash something that's been running on low heat since season one: Jorah Mormont acting as a spy for the Crown. Ser Barristan Selmy shows Jorah a letter that is signed by Robert Baratheon, giving Jorah a royal pardon for his espionage. However, the letter winds up in the hands of Daenerys, and despite all that Jorah has done, she exiles him for his spying. I get why some people would be upset of how Jorah's spying goes without mention for almost three full seasons. There are a few whispers during season two, but not enough to make you think anything will happen. At this point, Daenerys is well established in Meereen, and there's virtually nothing left for D&D to have her do until season five kicks off, so her learning of Jorah's previously ulterior motives is about all they can do so as to not have Daenerys' story line go missing from the screen for four, five straight episodes. The heartbreak of this scene is purely for Jorah. Trust is an incredibly fragile thing in Game of Thrones, so someone of Daenerys' stature can't go without being even just a little bit cautious of her closest advisers. If there's one establishment of trust that Game of Thrones has done everything to convince us of through nearly four full seasons, it would be that of Daenerys and Jorah. He has given up virtually everything to serve Daenerys and support her as she transformed from an innocent girl to a powerful Queen. Even though it was made known long ago that Jorah had secret connections to the Crown, all of his words and actions were proof that he had changed his ways and was not going to betray Daenerys for any reason. He gave his life to her, and she banishes him. Jorah rides his horse out of Meereen and off into an uncertain future. Even when Game of Thrones doesn't kill its most likable characters, it still searches out every possible way to hurt them.
"The Mountain and the Viper" culminates with Tyrion's trial by combat, but first we're treated to a casual conversation between Tyrion and Jaime in which Tyrion goes on about how he used to watch his simple-minded cousin Orson smash beetles with a rock. This is one of those times where a Game of Thrones episode stagnates the plot (in a good way) in order to endeavor new ways to think about its central themes and ideas, kind of like what Petyr Baelish's "Chaos is a Ladder" monologue tried to do. Tyrion's story about his cousin smashing tiny beetles is applicable to so many facets of history, about how power struggles, both in Game of Thrones and in real history. Joffrey and others in this series love to hurt and kill people they deem lower than themselves, just as many kings, queens, and other historical figures have done throughout history. Tyrion is shedding light on one of the most deplorable things about human beings: the pleasure they derive from inflicting pain and suffering on others. When a person finds someone or something they consider to be less powerful than themselves, they will seek out any method to express dominance over that inferior person/animal, because it makes them feel strong and happy. It's a drug humans want to take over and over again, because the taste and smell never get old. A simple-minded boy feels dominion over a swarm of beetles, so he will smash them because that's what makes him feel superior, what makes him feel truly alive. The same logic applies to the most wicked characters in Game of Thrones: Ruling over people is one thing, but nothing feels as good as destroying your enemies and those you deem weak and inferior. A lot of juice to squeeze out of one measly conversation, but that's what makes George R.R. Martin's (and D&D's, to some extent) writing so rich.
After Jaime leaves, Tyrion goes to watch as Oberyn Martell takes on Ser Gregor. It's a thrilling fight, enhanced by rapid editing, terrific fight choreography, and a series of well-placed facial reactions to give us the full scope of what is happening and how the audience is reacting to what is unfolding. Just when it seems like Oberyn is about to win, he gets too careless with making Ser Gregor confess to killing and raping his sister Elia Martell, allowing Gregor the opening to crush Oberyn's skull and kill him. A dejected Tyrion, looking as if all life has drained out of him, stands in disbelief as Tywin arises and sentences him to death. It is the perfect final shot before cutting to black: Peter Dinklage standing mouth agape while slowly moving his eyes downward.
If grading episodes solely on how much they break your heart, "The Mountain and the Viper" is right behind "The Rains of Castamere" and "Baelor" - not counting anything during season eight- for the best episodes of the entire series. The only botched moment comes in Alex Graves' bizarre decision to scrap his continuous take that would have made the opening scene in Mole's Town stand out more. Aside from that, we've got a great learning moment from Sansa, a crushing separation of Daenerys and Jorah, and a tense finale between The Mountain and The Viper. It's one of those spectacular times where Game of Thrones limits the bloodshed, and yet finds various ways to make you realize watching this show is the equivalent of being in an abusive relationship.
The Glass if Half Full
Glass is written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars James McAvoy, Bruce, Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson. Willis and Jackson return to reprise their roles from Unbreakable, along with Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard. McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return to reprise their roles from Split. Sarah Paulson, Adam David Thompson, and Luke Kirby also star.
The first 20 minutes of Glass features the Unbreakable protagonist David Dunn confronting the Split protagonist (antagonist?) Kevin Wendell Crumb. During those 20 minutes, I was almost dead convinced that M. Night Shyamalan had put together the incredible finale I was hoping for and that all those scathing critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were a bunch of hogwash. Then the movie slowed down, and considering what came next, it eventually dawned on me that Glass was not the terrific conclusion I was hoping to see.
With the release of Unbreakable in 2000 and the release of Split in 2017- the latter ending by revealing a connection to the former- Glass is a film nineteen years in the making, taking on the additional responsibility of turning Shyamalan back into a writer-director darling, following the parade through hell that was Shyamalan's career between Unbreakable and Split. I thought Split had marked Shyamalan's return to his former ways, but with that movie promising a sequel that would combine the characters from both Unbreakable and Split, Shyamalan set himself up to prove that Split was no one time fluke. Unfortunately, Glass turns out to be the worst film in the Eastrail 177 trilogy (as it's now being described), making Shyamalan's future appear cloudier than ever. Should we forever roll our eyes and groan whenever we see, "a film by M. Night Shyamalan", or should we still cling to optimism that the good M. Night Shyamalan will come back? Anyway, despite being the worst film in the Eastrail 177 trilogy and the tone I've let on so far, Glass is still a perfectly satisfying superhero thriller, and it ends in a way that I think is highly appropriate for its characters, especially given the news that Shyamalan doesn't want to explore this superhero universe of his any further.
So yes, it is essential for you to see both Unbreakable and Split before you see Glass, otherwise you will be confused out of your mind about who is who and what is so special about the characters of David Dunn, Kevin Wendell Crumb, and Elijah Price. The story of Glass takes place three weeks after the events of Split. David Dunn (Willis), now running a security company with his grown-up son Joseph (Clark), continues to use his superhuman abilities to catch criminals, now going by the alias "The Overseer". David discovers that Kevin Wendell Crumb, controlled by his 23 other personalities known as "The Horde", is keeping a group of cheerleaders hostage inside a warehouse. David locates the cheerleaders and sets them free, leading to a fight between David and Kevin's animal-like personality, "The Beast". When the two fall out of the warehouse and spill into the streets, they are captured by the Philadelphia police. Under the orders of Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson), David and Kevin are taken to a mental institution, the same one that is holding David's former rival, Elijah Price (Jackson). Dr. Staple reveals herself to be the head doctor of the institution, specializing in individuals who claim themselves to be superheroes. Staple tries to convince David, Kevin, and Elijah that they do not have superhuman abilities and are simply suffering from mental illnesses. Meanwhile, Elijah begins to plan an escape from the institution, intending to use David, Kevin, and himself to show the world that superheroes do exist.
The consensus is that the middle of the film inside the mental institution is where Glass grinds to a shrieking halt, changing from a classic hero versus villain story into a talky, superhero psychoanalysis in which Dr. Staple tries to prove that every superhuman act that David and Kevin performed had special circumstances attached to them. I am a firm believer that this could have been the best section of the film, the section where Shyamalan gives us more of the meditative attitude he gave us in Unbreakable, only this time Shyamalan would address how good cannot exist without evil, and how that translates to the relationship between superheroes and supervillains. After all, this is the film that's bringing it all together in regards to a comic book's three-part structure, and we knew Shyamalan wasn't going to turn Glass into an action-packed superhero spectacle where David Dunn and Kevin Wendell Crumb are fighting non-stop for two hours. There's already enough action-heavy superhero movies out in the world, so no need to start 2019 with another one. What's strange is that Shyamalan throws a bit of a curve ball at us with this middle part of the film: we learn that Glass is a movie that focuses more on how we as human beings relate to superheroes, as opposed to how superheroes and supervillains are pure reflections of good and evil, respectively. Not that Shyamalan's thematic intent is misguided or anything like that. It's just that Glass might have been better suited had it been more about the relationship between good and bad superhumans and how comic books reflect this relationship.
- So what are the high points of Glass? For starters, James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson are excellent in their roles, especially McAvoy, who looks like he's having the time of his life playing "The Horde". McAvoy knows how to be funny, how to be dignified, and how to be fierce, going back and forth from one emotional state to another without missing a beat. Jackson takes a little while before he says his first dialogue, but once he starts talking, he is suave, calculating, and always one step ahead. A role like Elijah Price is a golden opportunity to see the kind of acting Jackson is capable of when he's not required to crack one liners and show us the kind of histrionics we're used to seeing from the guy who at times seems to be in every movie ever. Jackson is great with his facial expressions and masterfully uses his vocal range to make the most out his lines. I wish Bruce Willis was as committed as McAvoy and Jackson. Willis is just going with the flow and doesn't seem to be giving it his all.
- Shyamalan is no action director, but the fight scenes that happen at the beginning and at the end of Glass are actually pretty spectacular. This is largely because David and "The Beast" are, well, fighting, and I mean fighting like how two normal human beings would actually fight if they got mad at each other. There are absolutely no wacky karate moves nor any blazing fast editing. It's mostly David and Kevin ramming into each other and exchanging body blows. As simple as that sounds, it turns out to be pretty thrilling superhero violence and a breath of fresh air from all the times we watch superheroes take down a swarm of hapless bad-guy henchmen.
- One of Shyamalan's biggest flaws as a writer is his ability to write natural-sounding dialogue, and that flaw is prevalent in Glass, where characters frequently speak strings of words that do not sound like anything that would be said in a normal, everyday conversation. Poor Sarah Paulson is the main victim of this: she has to explain Dr. Staple's theories and ideas in ways that sound like she's directly telling us the messages we're supposed to learn as opposed to leaving them for the audience to figure out on their own. I also did not enjoy how "The Beast" acknowledges how his victims haven't suffered and thus aren't "pure". This idea about the importance of suffering was the main thing I took away from Split, and in that movie, Shyamalan did a wonderful job of leaving enough hints for us to understand that that was the message without having to tell us outright. Here though, Shyamalan states the suffering message outright, as if he was assuming audiences weren't coming in to Glass aware of how this idea of suffering equaling purity was integral to Kevin's character. The end result is a series of awkward conversations that slightly diminishes the magic of both Unbreakable and Split.
- For some reason, there is an excessive amount of close-up shots throughout the film, in which a character's head takes up virtually the entire frame. I can't tell if this is Shyamalan trying to be artistic for the sake of being artistic, or if he thinks we can feel a deeper connection to the characters and their emotions if we spend a good chunk of time right up in their faces. If we only had a few of these close-ups scattered throughout the film, I might not have given it a second thought, but there's a ton of them everywhere, and they grow old quick.
So how to wrap things up? Glass is one of those movies that has a lot to love and a lot to hate, and already looks to be one of the most polarizing films of 2019. I might even be willing to go as far to say that this may be the most polarizing wide release since Batman v Superman in 2016. What to love: the excellent performances from both James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as the entertaining fights that occur at the beginning and end of the movie. What to hate: the sometimes clumsy dialogue and the excessive use of close-ups. For others, the writing all-around would be another reason to despise Glass, and for that, I am unwilling to develop a counter-argument. This is a conclusion that could have gone in a multitude of directions, so if I'm going to be any sort of Shyamalan apologist, I'm going to say that Shyamalan had a very difficult task on his hands with how to bring closure to this superhero universe, and I think he did a fine job with the direction he chose. The ending is not a plot twist for the ages, but like Unbreakable's twist ending, it makes sense when you take everything into account. I have a small hunch that Glass could be one of those movies that gets a significant re-evaluation down the road, but if it doesn't, I doubt it will fade from our memories any time soon. In this day and age of effects-driven superhero films, Shyamalan has given us a unique trilogy that puts the microscope on superheroes and analyzes why we gravitate towards them so much. Hopefully we can stop referring to Shyamalan (if we haven't already) as, "The Sixth Sense guy".
Recommend? If you loved both Unbreakable and Split, then yes. If not, I would pass on it.
I have only loved one woman, only one, my entire life
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alik Sakharov
Season four had been really going strong with "First of His Name" and then "The Laws of Gods and Men", which is why it's a bit disappointing, albeit expected, that the season takes a step back with "Mockingbird", an episode featuring a series of borderline pointless decisions that sees Game of Thrones falling prey to some of its worst habits. As usual, there's more good than bad here, but this episode doesn't feel as polished and on point as previous episodes have been this season.
The fallout of Tyrion's trial turns out to be not as explosive as you might have first imagined. What transpires in King's Landing is a series of conversations in Tyrion's dungeon (three to be exact). First, Jaime comes to berate Tyrion for his outburst and going against the plan that Jaime had tried to make with his father: to have Tyrion plead guilty and be exiled to the Night's Watch. After Jaime declines Tyrion's request to be his champion for the trial by combat, Bronn comes by and also declines, saying farewell to Tyrion as he assumes the two will never work together again. Finally, Oberyn Martell drops in and agrees to be Tyrion's champion, as Cersei has chosen Ser Gregor Clegane to be her champion in the trial, and Oberyn seeks revenge on Ser Gregor for the death of his sister. What I most enjoyed about these conversations is that they all serve to be a sort of last hurrah for Tyrion, as he may not have much longer to live. Through the first three seasons, only two characters have proven themselves worthy of Tyrion's trust: Jaime and Bronn. Why else would Tyrion have a private conversation with these two as opposed to some other higher-up in the King's Landing political structure? The conversations that Tyrion has with Jaime and Bronn are treated completely as if they were goodbyes, because with Joffrey's murder and Tyrion being put on trial for the crime, it doesn't matter what the result of the trial by combat will be: nothing will ever be the same between Tyrion and those he's closest to in King's Landing. There is no going back to how things were before.
Sadly, not all the conversations in this episode are as intriguing, and this is when I go to one of the first problems in "Mockingbird". Arya and the Hound have a lengthy and somewhat pointless conversation with a wounded man (Barry McGovern), sitting and waiting to die. The man acknowledges that he wants to be put out of his misery, but it takes far too long until the Hound finally kills him out of mercy. Why here and now does Game of Thrones feel the urge to have a scene about when you should fight onward versus knowing when it's time to hang it up? We have never seen this man before and have no sort of connection to him, so his monologuing has little to no value. McGovern mumbles his dialogue quite a bit, so good luck trying to discern everything he's saying. Anyway, the conversation rambles on far longer than it has any right to, and Arya nor the Hound reflect later on anything the man said. Oh wait, I know why: it's because this man's death is immediately followed by the Hound being attacked by two men named Biter (Gerard Jordan) and Rorge (Andy Beckwith). Come on, D&D: you two are better than this.
So boring conversations are one bad habit in "Mockngbird". Another is using sex and nudity to desperately hold your attention, happening during a scene between Melisandre and Stannis' wife Queen Selyse Baratheon (Tara Fitzgerald). The two talk about leaving Dragonstone, and I should mention that Melisandre is lying naked in a bathtub while this conversation is happening, although it would change literally nothing about the conversation had Melisandre just been staring into a flame instead. Melisandre then gets out of the bathtub and walks over to where she is keeping all her magical drinks/formulas (whatever you're supposed to call them in Westeros). There is one shot during this moment that irritated me: as Melisandre stands looking over her drinks/formulas, the camera slowly pans down to her bare buttocks and stays there for a few good seconds. Why? What's the point of this? This isn't the first time we've seen Melisandre naked, but unlike before when she was using her body to take advantage of Stannis and Gendry, there is absolutely no reason for the cameras to be ogling all over Carice Van Houten's (or her body double's) naked body. It's pure objectification, and it serves no clear purpose to the story line.
While I'm on the subject of sex and nudity, how about Daenerys giving in to the advances of Daario, who tells Daenerys that his only talents are in war and women? Okay, I get that Daenerys probably misses having a loving companion (even though she has done basically nothing to imply that she misses having a significant other), but...Daario? He's certainly made attempts to woo Daenerys and win her heart, but this just comes out of nowhere. Not one thing throughout season four has given us the impression that Daenerys was working her way towards a romance with Daario; all we could go off of was that Daario had affection for her and would serve the Mother of Dragons, because he swore his sword to her cause. It's a bizarre scene and further complicates matters, not in a good way.
That's a lot of complaining I just did. Thankfully, "Mockingbird" gives us some satisfying moments to close on. Sansa is trying to be comfortable living in the Vale, but those hopes are slightly dashed when she sees how much of an immature brat that Robin is. Sansa slaps him after he throws a temper tantrum and destroys her Winterfell replica. Oh, but it turns out angry outbursts are genetic in the Arryn family, as Lysa threatens to push Sansa through the Moon Door after seeing her get smooched by Petyr Baelish. Baelish arrives to diffuse the situation, and just when it looks like he's about to win back Lysa's heart, he admits to only loving her sister Catelyn, and pushes her through the Moon Door to her death. I adore this scene mostly because it marks the death of another psychopathic character, but as soon as Baelish arrives, it becomes obvious that someone is going to get pushed through the door. Why did Lysa not step away from the Moon Door after letting Sansa go? I get that she had complete trust in Petyr and would never imagine that he would push her through the door, but don't even run the risk of tripping over backwards to your untimely death. Ah well, that's nit-picking at an overall delightful sequence. For the first time ever, Baelish performs treachery to kill a character we kind of hate, reassuring the idea that he's not a "villain", but simply a deceptive individual who seeks to come out on top and leave everyone else to suffer and die.
I've made it sound like "Mockingbird" is the first legitimately bad episode of Game of Thrones, with no real satisfaction coming out of it. However, when you look at things from top to bottom, "Mockingbird" is a decent episode that offers a little more good than bad. The conversations involving Tyrion in King's Landing are great. Jon Snow's tension-filled request to Ser Alliser Thorne is also great. On the flip side, you've got D&D showcasing more of the things that people tend to dislike about Game of Thrones: dull monologues and conversations, and sex and nudity for the sole purpose of keeping your attention. It's a bit of a disappointment, given that the ending is one of the most satisfying endings to any episode this season. It's to always be expected that an episode following a masterpiece or near masterpiece is not going to be as great. The unfortunate thing about "Mockingbird" is that it takes a few more steps back than anticipated.
Nasty, big, pointy teeth
The Meg is directed by Jon Turteltaub and stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis. It is loosely based on the 1997 novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten.
Only two things were necessary to make a movie like The Meg and release it in theaters worldwide: have a super-sized shark and have an actor capable of fighting said super-sized shark. Dwayne Johnson was busy tending to an albino gorilla and fighting other giant monsters in 2018, so Jason Statham was the obvious second choice. Big shocker: the shark and Jason Statham are the best things in a movie that offers nothing else worthy of praise, but that's not the most disappointing thing about The Meg. No, The Meg is a movie that takes itself way way way too seriously, being stuck in some awkward middle ground where it neither embraces its potential of being total sci-fi cheese, nor makes a good enough effort to be one of the better shark movies in recent memory. At least Rampage was exactly what I thought it would be going in. How awesome would that have been had we gotten not one, but two awesomely dumb sci-fi monster movies in 2018? These things don't just come out on the fly, y'know.
The story of The Meg concerns the discovery of a 75-foot-long megalodon shark, thought to have been extinct. The underwater research facility Mana One sends a crew out on a mission to explore what is thought to be a deeper section of the Mariana trench. The mission proves successful, but while exploring the deeper part of the trench, the crew is attacked by an unseen creature and lose contact with Mana One. A crew member at the station recommends bringing in former rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham), who claims to have been attacked by an unknown creature during a rescue mission on a nuclear submarine five years ago. Taylor is brought in, being accompanied down into the trench by oceanographer Suyin Zhang (Bingbing). They encounter a massive shark during the rescue, but are able to escape after one of the crew members sacrifices himself by drawing the shark away and driving it into a thermal vent. However, it is discovered that the thermal vent sent the shark out of the hidden part of the trench and up to where it can attack the Mana One and all the other sea creatures swimming nearby. Realizing that the shark is a Megalodon, Taylor and the rest of the Mana One must work to stop the shark before it reaches any populated areas.
- Although it takes a little while for the shark to make his presence felt, the movie takes off once he escapes the trench and begins chomping on the Mana One crew. The Megalodon looks pretty good effects-wise, with fluid movements that represent the way any shark would move in open water. The physical features of the shark like his gills and sand paper-like skin are also shown in fairly prominent detail, looking very much like a shark that's been sleeping for hundreds of years and not some adolescent shark that went through a time machine from the BC area to the present day. As for the action: also pretty good. Turteltaub and cinematographer Tom Stern throw in a wide shot after a string of close-ups when the shark is attacking one of the subs and when Statham finds himself in direct contact with the shark. Scenes of the shark attacking beach-goers are also pretty amusing, even though similarities to Jaws can't be ignored (can we please stop with those shark POV shots?), and it takes the swimmers far too long to notice the massive grey figure moving right underneath their feet. All in all, there is enough entertainment value to make The Meg pass for a fairly decent shark movie, but again, this is not the kind of movie that should try to be decent with its greatest assets.
- The decision by Turteltaub to let The Meg be overly-serious is a fatal one. The surviving characters treat the ongoing encounter with the megalodon like they're in the middle of a natural disaster, with nearly every character death being presented like a soul-crushing game-changer that causes everyone to lose hope. One of the crew members that goes down in the trench writes a goodbye letter to his wife, in case he doesn't make it out alive. There's also a scene where Rainn Wilson's character goes on about how instead of celebrating with the crew, he's mourning with them. All of these scenes feel like forced melancholy, because Turteltaub and the producers seem to believe that attacks from a megalodon are serious business, even though it's a movie starring freaking Jason Statham, who is a death warrant for anything potentially sad in a film. If emotion is really what Turteltaub was wanting to go for, he should have told screenwriters Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber to write better characters that we could actually care about.
- The screenplay has several other faults aside from allowing the movie to be more serious than it has any right to be. Jason Statham being straight-up invincible is one fault. It's another that he has to play the hero rescuer during every single scene when the shark attacks. Like, is no other character capable of protecting themselves at least a little bit against the shark? The movie builds up Suyin Zhang like she could be Statham's sidekick (more so his love interest, but side kick works too), only to constantly turn her into a damsel in distress that is incapable of saving herself, such as the scene when she goes down in a shark cage and Statham has to go set her free when the shark traps her inside. There's no suspense whatsoever when Statham is around, making the movie much less enthralling.
I'd also like to comment on how picky an eater the megalodon is. I lost count as to how many times he gives up chasing one tasty meal to go after another meal that would be as equally tasty. Whatever happened to the idea that a shark is a mindless, eating machine that will attack and devour without logic? Being a mindless eating machine is part of what makes a shark so terrifying. The decisions to have the megalodon pick and choose what he wants to eat ruins the idea that this is an animal swimming free in his natural habitat, killing off more potential for suspense and destroying any hope The Meg might have had for being a horror movie.
What annoys me the most about The Meg is not its subpar screenplay nor its way-too-serious tone. The thing that truly irritated me about The Meg was that the movie was decent. Decent is not okay for a movie starring Jason Statham and centering on stopping a giant, prehistoric shark. This is a movie that should either be so bad it's good, or do what has not been done in any shark movie since Jaws: be pretty darn good. The Meg is neither so bad it's good nor pretty darn good; it's a middle of the road shark movie that is the film equivalent of a lazy beach read, providing only enough entertainment value to get you through a rainy afternoon and be completely forgotten by bedtime that same day. It's a Syfy Shark Movie of the Week, only with better actors and better production value. I don't want that, and neither should you. Next time, bring in the twisters so we can get a Megalodonado.
Recommend? It will pass for something to watch during a boring afternoon/evening. I wouldn't recommend it outside of that.
I'm guilty of being a dwarf.
Written by: Bryan Cogman
Directed by: Alik Sakharov
Peter Dinklage is a damn good actor. If you're not convinced of that after, "The Laws of Gods and Men", then I pray you never try to pursue acting as a career. Absent during all of "First of His Name", Tyrion comes roaring back with one of his best scenes in not just season four, but all of Game of Thrones, period. All his anger and all his disgust for those who look down on him for being a dwarf is finally unleashed during the highly anticipated trial scene, where witnesses alter the truth in ways to make Joffrey appear innocent and Tyrion look entirely guilty. As Petyr Baelish said: everyone in the Capital is a liar, and that continues to be very much true, even during a time when people swear to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth. Anger and disgust turn out to encompass a lot of what happens throughout "The Laws of Gods and Men", and the result is an excellent episode of television that sets up what will be the most dramatic and heartbreaking four episode stretch through Game of Thrones' first four seasons.
We start off with Stannis and Davos arriving in Braavos, where they meet with representatives of the Iron Bank, in hopes of acquiring additional funding. The main representative, Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss), denies Stannis' request, citing he does not have a large enough army nor enough food to sustain them. This is when Davos steps in and makes his own argument for why Stannis deserves financial aid, and it's able to make Tycho change his mind and grant Stannis the money he needs. Remember when Tyrion was acting as Hand of the King and proving that he would be an excellent politician in Westeros? Ser Davos Seaworth proves time and time again that he would make an excellent politician, this being one of several times where Davos makes a perfectly valid argument in hopes of getting someone to change their mind. Some of the best dialogue in an episode featuring Davos always seems to go to him, and this episode is no exception. Bryan Cogman puts together some excellent dialogue here for Davos, avoiding extravagant talk about how Stannis is the rightful king and pointing out all the right facts to how Stannis has gotten as far as he has.
So if "The Laws of Gods and Men" features a lot of anger and disgust, then that sounds like a good enough reason to get a sighting from one of Daenerys' dragons. Up until now, I don't believe the show has stated the official names of the dragons. We have her biggest dragon, Drogon, named after Khal Drogo. Then we have Rhaegal, named after her brother Rhaegar. Finally, there is Viserion, named after her brother Viserys. Drogon appears and attacks a goat herd, and when the farmer shows the charred goat remains to Daenerys, she agrees to pay him three times their worth. Daenerys has a ton of requests to hear, the next one being from a man named Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry), who tells Daenerys that his father was one of the slave masters who was crucified under Daenerys' order of justice. He asks for his father's body to be taken down so that is can be properly buried. Right away, Daenerys is learning the hard parts of ruling: other people being disgusted by her actions and calling her out on them. Game of Thrones is showing us that Daenerys' lack of true political experience is one thing that is holding her back. To this point, she has accomplished everything through kindness, mercy, and unleashing some fire and blood. Now as the Queen of Meereen, she is getting exposed for not fully understanding how the game works and that there's more to being a good ruler than just freeing slaves and crushing oppressive slave masters. It doesn't mean she's starting to become more poorly written. Quite the opposite actually. The writing is starting to flesh out Daenerys' greatest flaws and throw them right in her face. The first few seasons took the time to make Daenerys come out of her shell and evolve into a fierce, awe-inspiring leader. Now she has to settle in and play politics. So far, it's a bit of a rough start.
Say, you know another character who's feeling pretty angry right now? Yara Greyjoy. She leads a group of Ironborn Soldiers to the Dreadfort, in hopes of rescuing Theon. They find him locked in a kennel with the dogs, but Theon proves how low he has sunk: refusing to go with Yara while yelling that his name is Reek. Ramsay and his men arrive, and here we get the most crowded fight scene in all of Game of Thrones. The action is quite good for taking place in a tiny room, although it's a bit hard to tell who is an Ironborn and who is a Bolton soldier. The lighting is dim and the costumes are pretty similar, though the Ironborn have shields that vividly show us the Greyjoy squid logo. The fight ends as quickly as it begins, and Yara has to flee when Ramsay unleashes the hounds on her and the surviving Ironborn. The entire sequence is a scene that gets your hopes up something good will happen, only for Game of Thrones to swiftly remind you we can have no nice things, leaving us cursing and demanding for someone to go back and try to rescue Theon again.
Ah, but all three of those scenes are mere appetizers before the main course: Tyrion's trial which I already dug into a little bit at the start of this review. I love how the trial is structured to allow Tyrion to show off the full range of emotions we're used to seeing from him up until now. Tyrion doesn't look like he's taking the trial seriously at first, keeping his head down, slouching over, and firing off witty remarks when appropriate. This all changes when a special witness comes to testify: Shae. In perhaps the most heartbreaking moment since The Red Wedding, Shae falsely testifies against Tyrion, and this sets him off in a way Tyrion has not been set off in all the time we've seen him. This is an outburst that I think George R.R. Martin, and D&D, have been building up to since it was made known that Tyrion was a subject of endless prejudice by people all across the Seven Kingdoms. All the anger, all the hatred that Tyrion has kept hidden away inside him all these years has finally been unleashed. If you keep pushing and pushing a man without end, there will come a point where he will put his foot down and shout, "No!", and that is what happened to Tyrion here. Peter Dinklage is breath-taking in his line deliveries, some of which I am almost certain were inspired by the prejudice that Dinklage most likely received himself throughout his life. Dinklage treats this moment as an opportunity to speak to all those who insulted him and cast him down during his life, to finally tell all those people to shove it. There aren't too many moments in Game of Thrones where one person's acting completely takes over the scene, but this moment here with Peter Dinklage is absolutely one of those times, and it's one of the greatest moments of the entire series.
It might be strange to say "The Laws of Gods and Men" is one of the most intense episodes in recent memory, especially because all the actual fighting (and there's hardly any of it) happens in a cramped room, but with so much anger and disgust on display from its characters, this is an episode that will leave you gasping for air. Tyrion steals the show in one of the most dramatic and bone-chilling moments of the entire series, finally firing back at everyone who looked down on him because of his dwarfism. It is fantastic television at nearly every turn, and part of what elevates season four to be the best season of Game of Thrones yet.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Unbreakable is directed, written, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan and stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright (Robin Wright Penn at the time of the film's original release), Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard.
I consider the year 2000 to be one of the most important years in the history of the superhero genre. It was the year that The Superhero Renaissance - if you want to call it that- took off and made it known to the world that, now with all these technological advancements in the film and television industries, superhero movies were capable of being gargantuan money-making machines. While 2000's X-Men gets the most attention in regards to which superhero film was responsible for kicking off the Renaissance, M. Night Shyamalan's superhero thriller Unbreakable sneaked its way into theaters in late November of 2000, making a healthy profit of nearly $250 million worldwide, although not receiving the almost overwhelming praise that Shyamalan earned with The Sixth Sense. Nonetheless, Unbreakable would go on to develop a cult following, and now with Shyamalan's new movie Glass hitting theaters soon, it's as good of a time as ever to jump back in the time machine and look back on the movie that has secretly been one of the most meditative superhero films released so far this century.
Shyamalan doesn't care one iota for eye-popping visual effects nor end-of-the-world stakes that the hero must foil. The rough draft of Unbreakable was meant to be like the three key pieces of a comic book: the birth of the hero, the struggle against evil, and the final showdown against the hero's archenemy. Shyamalan goes all in for the first piece with Unbreakable, and we can argue that he has now completed the other two pieces with Split and Glass. As for Unbreakable, its ambition is to explore what motivates its hero, what his powers and weaknesses are, and what he's like in normal, everyday life when he's not finding and stopping bad guys.
That hero being David Dunn (Willis), a security guard who gave up a potential football career in college and is looking for a true purpose in life. On his way home from a job interview in New York City, David's train, the Eastrail 177, crashes, killing all the passengers except for David. Not only does David survive the crash, he walks away with no injuries. After the crash victim's memorial service, David finds a card on his car's windshield, containing a message asking if he has ever taken ill. David finds out the card was sent by Elijah Price (Jackson), a man with a rare disease that causes his bones to break easily and who runs a comic book art gallery. Elijah suspects that David is representative of a comic book superhero and begins to obsessively try to learn if David has ever been injured or gotten sick. David, insistent he is no superhero, tries to keep Elijah out of his life. At the same time, David struggles to save his fragile marriage to his wife Audrey (Wright), which is causing distress for their son Joseph (Treat Clark).
Seeing the abundance of superhero films that have come out since the year 2000, I can't help but wonder how differently Unbreakable would have been received had Shyamalan decided to release it in the year, oh, let's say 2010 or 2011, and not 2000, when no one could have imagined how superhero movies would go on to dominate the box office year in and year out. I'm inclined to believe that the film would have achieved universal acclaim, given that Unbreakable has achieved cult status and has been re-evaluated by some as a superhero masterpiece. The focus on a superhero's identity and what it is that makes them a superhero would have not only been a refreshing site among all the other, special effects-driven superhero movies, it would have given people the opportunity to step back and further evaluate exactly what was it that kept drawing them back to theaters to see the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, etc. time and time again. Was it simply because all those superheroes were able to deliver a fun time at the theater and provide simple escapism from the busy mundanes of life? Or perhaps was it that something else about these superheroes, originating from comic books, struck a cord in people such that they could come back repeatedly without suffering any form of fatigue? I know this is all speculation, but seeing what has come about in movies since the turn of the century, Unbreakable now has this fascinating mystery behind it, albeit one we will never be able to solve.
- M. Night Shyamalan had Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in mind when he first wrote the David Dunn and Elijah Price characters. Both Willis and Jackson are phenomenal in their respective roles. Willis carries a lot of his experience from The Sixth Sense over into this film, displaying a quiet demeanor in nearly every scene that he's in, yet never coming off as mopey nor apathetic.. Samuel L. Jackson is similar in his demeanor as Elijah Price, knowing how to portray Elijah's obsession with calm, calculating precision. Actually, now that I think about it, it's not exactly correct to say Elijah has an obsession with David. Because of the more meditative attitude of the film, Elijah's interest in David is more of a curiosity and not like the behavior of a stalker. Not once does Elijah ever imply that he wants to kill David or even hurt him; he wants to fully realize a theory he's had ever since his childhood: that there is someone in the world who is the exact opposite of himself. No motivational speeches or bloody fist fights. Elijah tries to play mind games with David, and the exchanges between Willis and Jackson are nothing short of extraordinary. The two are fully invested in their roles and make every moment count.
- Unbreakable shows a lot of neat comic book references, particularly in the visuals, character aliases, and the way Shyamalan goes about some of the camera work. David and Elijah have their respective colors, which are seen on their clothes, personal items, and even on the wallpaper in their respective homes. David wears green and identifies with "Security", while Elijah wears purple and identifies himself as, "Mr. Glass". The movie as a whole utilizes a cool, murky color scheme in order to match the solemn, reflective mood of the film, which is part of why the "bad guys" in the film have brighter colors like red and orange associated with them: those brighter colors are a violation of what is considered good in the film. Several scenes are shot to look as if it was jumping from picture to picture in a comic book, particularly in the opening scene on the train and the scene where Joseph almost shoots David to prove he can't be hurt. The camera moves likes a person moving their head back and forth, and Shyamalan expertly blocks the scenes to ensure that this camera effect works. In short, the colors and various techniques used to make Unbreakable be more closely associated with the aesthetics of a comic book are wonderfully executed, something I wish other superheroes would attempt to do more often.
- I wasn't bothered by the lack of blood/violence in Unbreakable. Heck, I think Shyamalan made the right decision minimizing the amount of superhero "fighting" in the film, as it wouldn't completely match up with the film's tone. What I will say bothered me a little in Unbreakable is the film's third act structure, where David goes to confront a deranged man who invades a family home. Of all the kinds of criminals that David could go up against in the third act, why pit him against a random stranger whom we don't see or hear of at any point in the movie, up until David discovers what this man has done? I'm glad the movie didn't lead to some final showdown with Elijah, but I think the third act could have been better handled had it been David facing off against some other shady character that the movie would allude to several times throughout. Maybe it could have been some famous criminal that David hears about on a news broadcast? If something like that had been the case, I think we could have had a more satisfying conclusion to David embracing his powers and using them to fight crime.
As for the film's twist ending, it's nowhere near as shocking as the ending to The Sixth Sense, but it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Putting it all together, Unbreakable is one of the few superhero movies to be released during The Superhero Renaissance to cut down on the action and special effects and fully explore the origins of a superhero and how they'd react, knowing that they have a special power inside of them. On top of the film's meditative tone, Shyamalan relies on several different visual techniques like camera movement and color motifs to keep his film faithful to comic books and how they're presented. Maybe Unbreakable was a film that came out too early; it enjoys a cult following as opposed to universal acclaim, because superheroes weren't the bee's knees in movies and television in the year 2000. But now that superheroes are box office giants and get social media buzz better than any other movie genre nowadays, it's necessary to look at a film like Unbreakable, because it gives us the chance to not just further appreciate how much we love superheroes, but better understand how we're inspired by them and why we keep coming back to them, time and time again.
Recommend? Yes. I'd say this movie is almost a necessity for superhero movie lovers.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: