War of the Worlds is directed by Steven Spielberg and is loosely based on the 1898 novel of the same name by H.G. Wells. The film stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, and with Morgan Freeman providing narration.
The science fiction genre really took off in film during the 1950s, with the 1953 Byron Haskin directed feature The War of the Worlds being easily one of the best of that decade. The special effects for that film hold up surprisingly well 60 plus years later, and I have no qualms in stating that The War of the Worlds is far more entertaining than a handful of action and thriller movies to have come out within the past few years. At the same time though, a modern remake of H.G. Wells' sci-fi invasion novel makes all the sense in the world: how exciting would it be to watch this Martian invasion story with today's technology/special effects?
Interestingly enough, Steven Spielberg ended up being the one to spearhead the 2005 remake, with Tom Cruise coming on board because he and Spielberg wanted to work together again after the two collaborated during 2002's Minority Report. While War of the Worlds is not the first time that Spielberg has dealt with extraterrestrial beings (see Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.), it is the first time that he has worked with aliens that actually attack the human race and not provide some sort of benevolent service. I have never thought of Spielberg as an action film director, despite the fact that he has directed several movies that contain extended sequences of violence/mayhem. Considering however, that something like War of the Worlds involves prolonged scenes of aliens killing people and laying waste to entire cities/towns, as well as scenes of the military trying to launch a counterattack against the Martian invaders, I find War of the Worlds to be something of a challenge for Spielberg.
So the story of War of the Worlds is largely the same as it was in H.G Wells' novel and the 1953 film, the only major alteration being the characters and their names. Ray Ferrier (Cruise) works in Brooklyn, New York as a crane operator longshoreman and lives by himself in Bayonne, New Jersey. Ray is divorced from his ex-wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and is estranged from his two children: 10-year old daughter Rachel (Fanning) and teenage son Robbie (Chatwin). Mary-Ann drops Rachel and Robbie off at Ray's house on her way to visit her parents in Boston. Shortly afterwards, strange weather patterns begin to occur: lightning strikes in the same spots multiple times, and an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electricity.
Ray goes to join a crowd at one of the sites of the lightning strikes. A massive tripod-looking machine emerges from the ground and begins to destroy the surrounding area, killing mutliple witnesses in the process. Ray manages to escape and get back home to retrieve Rachel and Robbie. They steal a car and begin to drive to Mary Ann's house up in Boston, with Ray learning that multiple tripod attacks have occurred around the world, and that this attack had been planned for millions of years.
In slightly disappointing fashion, War of the Worlds spoils its ending during the opening credits, and for those who take even the slightest bit of curiosity into why the opening credits look the way they do, it's not too difficult to deduce how this war between worlds is going to conclude. In addition, absolutely nothing said or seen during the movie gives the implication that these aliens are indeed from Mars. They are never referred to as "Martians"; they are only referred to as, "Invaders". We just assume the aliens are from Mars because H.G Wells' novel directly states that during the story, Earth is being invaded by Martians. Spielberg himself has stated that the aliens in his film are not Martians, but instead are extraterrestrial beings that come from some other dark corner of the universe. I am a little dismayed by this claim that the aliens in War of the Worlds are not meant to be seen as Martians. It's too much of a deviation from H.G Wells' intentions with his novel and the reasoning behind why it's called, "War of the Worlds". If Spielberg says these invaders are not Martians, then what's to say that the aliens are now just some generic, extraterrestrial being without any proper context, as opposed to the residents of a planet we all know and can identify? I would argue that War of the Worlds is the definitive book/movie about Earthlings vs. Martians, but if Spielberg wants to strip the invaders of their Martian identity, then what makes them any different from other invading alien species that are highly likely to have similar motivations?
- Spielberg does not miss a beat with the special effects and action, with the early scenes of the tripod attacks being some of the most thrilling action sequences that Spielberg has ever directed. Extended shots of people fleeing from the tripod death beams are always shown at or slightly below eye-level, lacking any sort of panoramic viewpoints that would threaten to take the viewer out of the movie for a split second. The camera is like another person who is also there witnessing the alien invasion, and when you couple that feature with some glorious death beam sound effects and John Williams' always reliable soundtrack, it is a wonderful sight to behold. I love the more up-to-date designs of the alien spacecrafts too: they look like dangerous, bright-eyed squids. Even better, Spielberg restrains the action and limits it to only small dosages throughout the film, making every alien attack scene entirely fresh.
- War of the Worlds never loses track of what Ray is going through emotionally and how this alien invasion is truly challenging his ability to be a father to his children. Some of the better scenes in the movie are those when Ray is arguing with Robbie and when he does things with Rachel like sing a good-night song to her. Watching Ray and his children when the aliens aren't on screen is what adds another dimension to the entire movie; the story never loses track of the human being we are most concerned with on the ground, as this is more than just a story of aliens invading and the Earth fighting back. It's also a story of what goes through peoples minds and how they react when put in a perilous situation.
- I gotta be honest, I was getting ready to come here and start raving non-stop about War of the Worlds, until I took some time to fully process the movie and realize that it does have one major shortcoming: the writing takes the movie in some bizarre directions here and there. For starters, Spielberg once again gives in to his worst habit and gives the movie a purely happy ending as opposed to a bittersweet one. Aside from that, the most bizarre writing choice is Robbie suddenly developing this fascination for joining the military, which ends up taking him out of the movie during the climax. There is nothing early on in the movie that even remotely replies Robbie considering joining the armed forces, so this decision makes you think....wait, what? Tim Robbins is also in the movie playing a man named Harlan Ogilvy, but this ends up being one of Robbins' more thankless roles, as he only serves to slow the movie down and disrupt the pacing, although he is part of a tense basement scene involving the aliens. In short, the strange writing choices made throughout puts a damper on the overall story, the characters, and the action, and if that wasn't the case, then I wouldn't hesitate to declare this movie to be pretty frickin' fantastic.
So Spielberg wishing us to not think of these aliens as Martians is always going to bug me, and you know what? I'm going to go on defying Spielberg's claim and think of the aliens in 2005's War of the Worlds as Martians, 'cause that's how H.G. Wells originally intended it to be in his novel, and the movie works so much better when we have an identity to attach to the invading aliens. Where I will give Spielberg endless praise though is in how well he directs the action and special effects, while not skimping too much on the characters that are at the heart of the story. While the writing leaves more to be desired, War of the Worlds still delivers as an entertaining alien invasion spectacle, as Steven Spielberg once again proves that John Williams doesn't have to be his only buddy while working on a film: Tom Cruise is an actor fully capable of matching up with Spielberg's directing prowess. This isn't as good as the two were together during Minority Report, but for a sci-fi remake that could've ended up as just another silly alien invasion film, things turned out pretty well. Let's not totally forget about the 1953 movie though. That one still holds up well to this day.
Winner by de-fault: San Francisco
San Andreas is directed by Brad Peyton and stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Kylie Monogue, and Paul Giamatti.
San Andreas is one of the few disaster movies in recent memory where you can watch it and think to yourself, "That...might actually happen one day." The San Andreas fault could give out on us at any moment and annihilate almost the entire state of California, so there is an element of realistic fear in play. It's a bit of a shame though; Brad Peyton does not fully capitalize on this beautiful nugget of potential that is laid out right there for him, because Dwayne Johnson is his main star, and God help us if anything bad were to happen to this hulking giant of a man that is seemingly invincible to every movie villain known to man. At least Brad Peyton has the smarts to understand that Dwayne Johnson is not physically capable of squaring off against an earthquake. Unfortunately, that's not going to stop Peyton from flipping over to the other side of the movie invincibility coin: have your main star easily dodge every single obstacle thrown in their direction. Earthquakes? Tidal waves? Dwayne Johnson eats that stuff for breakfast. Now, I do not mean to knock Dwayne and his movie role choices. The guy has infectious charisma that makes him one of the most likable and marketable actors working today. It's just that, in a movie centered on a massive earthquake caused by one of the most geographically discernible areas on the West Coast, you'd like to see a vulnerable man fighting to stay alive during a perilous situation and not see.....well, Dwayne.
In San Andreas, Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter-rescue pilot who is putting the finishing touches on his divorce from his wife Emma (Gugino). Emma has gotten together with the slimy, civil engineering business magnate Daniel Riddick (Gruffudd), and he's agreed to take Ray and Emma's daughter Blake (Daddario) back to school following a meeting in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Caltech seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Giamatti) has been doing work on a new earthquake-predicting model, and, following an earthquake at the Hoover Dam, uses the model to deduce that the entire San Andreas fault is shifting and will cause a series of earthquakes powerful enough to destroy entire cities that lie along the fault line. A massive earthquake soon strikes Los Angeles, where Ray rescues Emma. The earthquakes eventually reaches San Francisco, where Daniel leaves Blake behind. Luckily for Blake, she is rescued by English siblings Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson) Taylor, whom she just happened to strike up a conversation with right before the earthquake struck. Blake is able to communicate with her parents and let them know that she's still alive, and so Ray and Emma head out to San Fran. to rescue Blake and her two new friends.
Again, I am not going to even think about commenting on any and all scientific inaccuracies in a disaster movie. I've stated before that I think there is little to no critical value in calling out a disaster movie for warping the truth a little bit in order to explain how it's large-scale disasters are able to come into existence. It's just one of those gaping holes in the movie that you simply have to accept is there and isn't worth trying to fill up. So while I'm positive that there are scientific inaccuracies aplenty throughout San Andreas, the point being is that, for this movie and any other scientifically inaccurate disaster movie, it's necessary to cast aside trying to become Albert Einstein and instead focus on what other parts of the movie work and don't work.
- What does work in San Andreas is, first and foremost, its earthquake sequences: easily some of the more impressive disaster-based action scenes put on display in recent years. The CGI looks quite good, and shots of buildings splitting in two and falling over are done with the right mixture of wide shots and zoom ins, as if we are going on an aerial tour of this earthquake disaster unfolding before us. This viewpoint is especially effective during the scene when the earthquake strikes Los Angeles, as Dwayne observes the destruction in the air from his helicopter, therefore letting us see the chaos through his own eyes. As an added bonus, Brad Peyton does not let destruction scenes linger for extended amounts of time, so every time an earthquake (or later on, a tidal wave) starts up, the action and mayhem feels fresh.
- San Andreas also benefits from some commendable pacing. In addition to destruction-heavy action scenes not overstaying their welcome, character conversations and other dramatic moments don't ever dilly-dally. The movie is always on-point with what it wants to get out of in each and every scene, not doing too much or too little, helping the plot function properly and stay in a rhythmic motion. No long monologues from Paul Giamatti about protecting the environment, and no saccharine conversations between Ray and Emma about how important it is for them to be there for one another. The movie says what it needs to say, does what it needs to do, and nothing more. The beneficiary for all this is the pacing.
- The main place where San Andreas is at fault (I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.), is in its rather shallow characters, several of which are incredibly one-dimensional. Ray is an invincible superhero, because he's played by Dwayne Johnson. Emma is....the wife, the wife who just follows Ray everywhere and only actually does anything when Ray isn't able to do so himself. Blake is completely stuck being a damsel in distress who needs rescuing over and over again. Seriously, the majority of the film is Blake going to the right location with Ben and Ollie so that they can be rescued. You might as well just pretend that San Francisco is a giant castle being guarded by dragon, a dragon coming in the form of an earthquake, tidal wave combo. Ray and Emma are the parent knights coming to rescue their daughter in distress, while Ben and Ollie are....damn it, they just broke down that entire analogy. They are....village peasants? Yes? No? Maybe?
Then of course there is Daniel: the human villain of this disaster movie that you come to know secretly only cares about himself. I guess being selfish in order to survive is a little different than him trying to walk away with tens of millions of dollars during this natural crisis because he is greedy, but it shouldn't take longer than five seconds the moment Daniel first walks on screen for you to realize that he is bad news and that yeah, he is going to do something pretty dastardly. Sure enough he does: he leaves Blake behind while she's trapped inside a car buried in rubble. I do believe it is entirely possible to make a three-dimensional villain in these kind of movies. Too bad that no screenwriter wants to give the time and effort towards doing so.
In conclusion, San Andreas is pretty shaky with its characters and how one-note may of them are, but on the entertainment Richter scale, it scores in the eight, nine, ten range. The CGI disaster effects are pretty impressive, and the film moves along at a steady pace that is neither too sluggish nor too rushed. Even in the face of an earthquake though, Dwayne Johnson is going to continue to be Dwayne Johnson, which is good or bad depending on your personal opinion towards the guy. I do hope one of these days that someone will find Dwayne Johnson the role: the role that's going to truly put him over the top and have people look back on it and say, "That was Dwayne's best role." Whatever that role is, it's likely to come from a top-notch director: a James Cameron for Arnold Schwarzenegger or a John McTiernan for Bruce Willis. Try as he might, Brad Peyton is just not that director guy for Dwayne. For San Andreas, it's not anything that should be considered all-time great, but from what we do see in the final product, there was potential for San Andreas to at least be something pretty darn great.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, and stars the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, and Liev Schreiber.
In the two and a half years that I have been writing on this blog, I have somehow avoided ever discussing a movie that is centered on Spider-Man. The closest I've ever come to talking about the web-slinging superhero is Tom Holland's Spider-Man in his supporting roles in Captain America: Civil War and in Avengers: Infinity War. So I find it pretty amazing that the first true Spider-Man movie that I get to review is not only one that I am already declaring to be one of my favorite Spider-Man movies ever, but one of the most terrific animated movies that I have experienced in a theater within the past few years. I swear, it should be a crime how much spectacular fun Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is.
The film tells the story of teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who looks up to Spider-Man but struggles to adapt to his new boarding school living arrangements. Unlike Miles, his parents, Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Velez) and Jefferson Davis (Brian tyree Henry), despise Spider-Man and view the superhero as a public menace. Miles looks to his uncle Aaron Davis (Mahershala Ali) for guidance and advice, and Aaron responds by giving Miles the encouragement to pursue his passion for drawing graffiti. Aaron takes Miles down to a subway station where Miles can draw to his heart's content. After finishing his drawing, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops spider-like abilities. Later on, Miles heads back down to the subway station to find exactly what bit him and gave him his new spider powers. Miles not only finds the spider, he also stumbles across a secret laboratory being run by Wilson Fisk a.k.a the Kingpin (Schreiber). Kingpin has built a particle accelerator that is capable of accessing parallel universes, but Spider-Man arrives to disable the accelerator.
The accelerator malfunctions, and Spider-Man, having sensed that he and Miles are alike, gives Miles a USB drive that will shut the accelerator down for good. Kingpin shows up and kills Spider-Man, but Miles escapes. Understanding the task he has been given, Miles attempts to master his new spider skills, but to no avail. Another Peter Parker, a more cynical, out-of-shape Spider-Man from a different dimension, shows up and explains to Miles that the accelerator brought him to Miles' dimension. As it turns out, he's not the only Spider-Man to be brought to Miles' dimension; other Spider-people brought to Miles' dimension include Spider-Woman (Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Cage), Spider-Ham (Mulaney), and Peni Parker (Glenn). Together, these spidey-folks must find a way to stop Kingpin from reactivating the accelerator and get back home to their respective dimensions.
I love and adore this premise, not just because it lends itself to some wacky looking visuals and eccentric storytelling, but because of how it takes various forms of the same superhero and brings them all together to collaborate. Yeah, it was cool to see all of Marvel's heroes join up and work together in the Avengers movies. When was the last time though, that you remember seeing several different Iron Mans or Captain Americas getting together? All of the Spider-people in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse have virtually the same powers, but there's enough of a twist to each of them so that each one feels special in their own unique way. Miles can turn invisible, Spider-Ham brings a Looney-Tune presence to bolster the film's animation tactics, and Spider-Man Noir is voiced by Nicolas Cage. There's something to like about every rendition of Spider-Man on display here, and the film takes the smart approach by not letting the Spider-characters and their quirky personalities overtake the film's storytelling.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has an animation style that is extremely well-suited for a comic book adaptation, sometimes looking as if it has blurred the line between live-action and animation. The movie loves to throw in little comic book intricacies to make certain scenes look like they came right off a comic book panel, such as giant block words like AH-AH-AAAH! and also little text boxes showing the dialogue that the characters are speaking. The characters also move around without any kind of motion blur, which is quite impressive given that the majority of them are web-slinging through the air, sometimes slinging their way past moving vehicles near the ground. In terms of pure visuals, everything looks like a masterful CGI watercolor painting, vastly different from anything that Disney and/or Pixar have been able to do in recent years. Are we sure this is the same Sony Pictures Animation that released those two live action Smurfs films and the crime against humanity, The Emoji Movie? It's like Hayao Miyazaki stopped by to visit for a few days and gave the animators some pointers as to what to try on their upcoming projects.
- I honestly can't think of anything that irritated me about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but I can say that the movie gave me a bit of a splitting headache when I got home. Some visuals like the bright lights generated by Kingpin's accelerator are pretty garish, making some of the scenes a bit of a pain to watch. I would say that's a bit of a critique on the film's bright color designs: you shouldn't have to look away for a few seconds just to let your eyes recover from the luminous assault that they're being subjected to. When a film is as fun and engaging as this one is, you will want to savor every second.
When I saw the trailer(s) for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for the first time during the previews for some other movie that I went to see, I was surprised, because the trailer actually got me excited to go see the movie as soon as it came out. Nowadays, movie previews in a theater are just white noise to me. I am glad to say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was everything that I hoped it would be: stunning animation, memorable storytelling, loads of good, well-timed humor, and above all else, pure fun. Fun is the very first thing that a movie whose premise is, "Spider-heroes from different dimensions all come together to face a common enemy" should be. It's one of the most science-fiction heavy premises for any superhero movie in the past several years, and the way it's presented is a big part of what makes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse stand out from the crowded field that is Spider-Man movies and television series. It will leave you begging for more, and future films in this Spider-Man world is what it looks like Sony will be giving us. It's not every day that we should be requesting for sequels and spin-off, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, however, is one of those rare times. What a way for Sony Animation to redeem itself.
2013: The year Syfy truly lost their shark
Sharknado is directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and stars Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard, and Cassie Scerbo.
I have seen quite a few of the Syfy Channel's cut-rate, made-for-TV movies over the years, far more than a mentally sane person should ever consider. Even after you've seen just one or two of these flicks, whether it's 3-Headed Shark or Stonehenge Apocalypse or any of the other ridiculous names that Syfy has the steely audacity to insert into their TV schedule, it's incredibly easy to spot the common denominator to them all: hapless idiots get eaten/killed in delightfully bloody fashion, while an aroma of comedy permeates through the air. It's tough to seriously knock Syfy for the way they have fully embraced the ridiculous nature of their audio visual products, because entertainment is entertainment, whether it's derived from something amazing versus something horrendous. If we keep laughing and getting a big ol' smile on our faces, why should Syfy ever change?
Whatever movie Syfy had on TV, chances are any memories of the movie were gone by bedtime. That is until July 11, 2013, when the ultimate gem Sharknado first aired and took the world of social media by storm. You could not traverse any part of Twitter that night without running into some tweet or hashtag pertaining to Sharknado. Even celebrities like Patton Oswalt and Mia Farrow(!) contributed to the Twitter chaos. Syfy had done some pretty ridiculous nonsense before the summer of 2013, but Whoa Nelly, if Sharknado was able to blow up Twitter the way it did on the night of its premiere, then this 85 minute feature about sharks inside of tornadoes was truly something special.
Oh, you want a plot summary, do ya? It's a movie about freaking sharks inside freaking tornadoes! What else do you need to know? What's that? Characters? Okay, well, there's a guy named Fin (Ziering) who owns a bar near a beach in Los Angeles. The beach is flooded and overrun with sharks when water spouts begin to form, threatening to flood all of Los Angeles. Fin sets out with his modelesque bar employee Nova (Scerbo), the bar drunkard George (Heard), and his friend Baz (Jaason Simmons) to go and rescue his estranged wide April (Reid) and their teenage daughter Claudia (Aubrey Peeples). It won't be easy though, as nearly every corner of Los Angeles is infested with man-eating sharks.
Oh my gosh. That is probably the lamest plot synopsis I have ever written. Details are non-existent in Sharknado, a movie that exercises criminal levels of stupidity. Now, this is not like an Uwe Boll kind of stupid, where every possible wrong choice is made without a hint of being intentional. This is the kind of stupidity that the director and writers purposefully set out to achieve, a brand of dumbness that contains a special type of satisfaction that can only be found when being purposefully concocted by some sick-minded individuals who care not one bit for anything that may distract from said dumbness. I am unsure if I want to declare both director Anthony C. Ferrante and screenwriter Thunder Levin to be creative geniuses or just lazy money-grubbers. I will give them this though: no cheapskate writer or director that ever walked through Syfy's doors was able to achieve this kind of insanity that launched a franchise spanning six films.
- Sharknado may not be unintentional comedy (the one area where Uwe Boll has this franchise beat), but that doesn't mean the movie is anything short of hilarious. The sharks are completely immune to anything resembling gravity or the laws of physics, showing up to bite off somebody's head whenever they want and however they damn well please. Plus, this is Syfy Channel, so the CGI sharks are going to look like the, "came pre-installed with the software" kind that feature all sorts of haywire movements that certainly do not resemble the way any shark would act if it was placed on dry land. Character deaths meanwhile, are as over-the-top as can be, with no shortage of blood gushing out like water from a broken faucet. Then of course, there is the dialogue, far too many hilariously bad lines to count. From the eye-rolling, "We're gonna need a bigger chopper!" to Fin stupidly telling a shark victim, "Get out of the water!", there are sources of comedy everywhere you look in this movie. Taking this movie seriously is a straight-up impossible task.
- It's totally obvious that everything regarding directing, acting, writing, special effects, and so on are of the lowest quality you will ever find in a movie. Anything that can be labelled as irksome would be the direction and editing, both of which are non-existent. I love how the various shark attacks are inter-cut with moments of Fin, Nova, and others simply staring off into the distance, marveling at what is unfolding right before their very eyes. Anthony C. Ferrante also shows no effort towards blocking scenes and giving direction to background characters, all of whom look like all they know how to do is stand around or run. My personal favorite moment was when Fin announces he is closing the bar because of the storm, but then a few seconds later, everyone in the bar is still standing around, drinking beer, and acting like there's nothing bad happening. It's as if Ferrante literally pulled random people off the streets of L.A. and asked them if they wanted to be in a movie called Sharknado. Because of this, the shark scenes feel all the more incoherent and disorganized, but then again, that might be the whole point. Considering this is a TV movie about freaking sharks inside of freaking tornadoes, you have to accept the B-movie quality of everything at face value and just roll with it. The experience of watching Sharknado is a lot better if you put your anger-inducing cynicism aside and allow yourself to be swept up by this movie's perfect storm of awfulness.
The sad truth is that the actual sharknado doesn't appear until around an hour into the movie, so the majority of the movie is a series of logic-defying shark attacks in which no tornadoes are directly involved. Nonetheless, Sharknado is a movie that truly speaks for itself: absolutely nothing is spared when it comes to achieving one of the most insane levels of stupidity ever displayed by a movie, a TV movie no less. It is a time-waster and a brain-masher unlike any other, deserving respect for the way it not only blew up social media on the night of its premiere, but for how it was able to launch what has become one of the most enjoyably ludicrous franchises in history. There have been and will continue to be people who dismiss Sharknado as hot garbage, and rightfully so. However, if you can find it in your heart to accept sharks and tornadoes as a premise, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will have one wild, shark-filled ride from start to finish. Syfy finally gave us a treasure to love and adore for years to come. What truly outrageous creation will they come up with next time?
If we were being totally serious, this movie of course would get an F
The movie that ties you up in knots
Twister is directed by Jan de Bont and stars Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Is it a law that all disaster movies must emphasize effects over story, character, and acting? For 1996's Twister, the answer is yes. Actually, I think I will make the claim that Twister was the one disaster movie that first enforced such a law, considering how essentially no disaster movie ever made since Twister had even entertained the thought of putting story and acting first and then use terrific special effects to enhance what would have been the life blood of the whole experience. My gosh, have any of these disaster filmmakers seen Terminator 2? That movie came out almost a full five years before Twister, and James Cameron, as effects-driven of a filmmaker as there ever has been one, at least had the decency to give Terminator 2 an interesting story and characters that were three-dimensional. No such treasures in Twister, though I would be lying if I said the movie doesn't at least have spirit, and that salvages a lot of what the movie fails to do.
The story follows a group of storm chasers led by meteorologist Jo Harding (Hunt). While working, Jo reunites with her estranged husband Bill Harding (Paxton), who is getting ready to marry sex therapist Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz). Jo needs to sign some divorce papers so Bill can go through with his new marriage, but she gets sidetracked when her and her team head out to intercept some incoming tornadoes. Jo is trying to get a device called DOROTHY (the Wizard of Oz references are so not clever) inside one of the tornadoes, as all the little sensor balls inside DOROTHY will get sucked up and collect important data about how the tornado operates.Bill joins the team on their tornado chase and, much to the chagrin of Melissa, gets caught up in all the excitement. Also joining the chase is Jonas Miller (Elwes), a corporate-funded meteorologist who Bill views as a rival and who has his own version of DOROTHY.
Twister follows a simple two-step pattern for its entire 113 minute run-time: tornado action, talking, more tornado action, more talking. The characters and their explanations are nothing but placeholders until the next tornado chase, with Jan de Bont giving no discernible effort towards generating any sort of character development, outside of anything that doesn't directly relate to Jo and Bill rekindling their love for each other. Oh, that should not be viewed as ANY sort of surprise; the last thing that screenwriters Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin are going to do is throw you a curve ball at you in regards to how Jo and Bill's marriage is going to end up when all is said and done. Anything that can be done to hint at Jo and Bill getting back together will be done.
- The look of the twisters is definitely something that the movie gets right, serving as one of the better examples of 1990's CGI. The sequences of the tornadoes ripping through the wide-open Oklahoma landscapes feel as realistic as you would want any disaster sequence in a movie to feel. There are even glimpses of disaster film greatness on hand, particularly during a late scene when a tornado makes it way through the town of Wakita, and we see shots of distraught families standing among their destroy homes, while ambulances arrive to tend to those who are injured. This is part of what I meant when I said that Twister has spirit: it applies emotions to its raging tornadoes, finding at least a little bit of both worlds in regards to what we'd like to see, which are tornadoes as exciting spectacles of entertainment and tornadoes as instruments of honest human drama. Twister nails the entertainment part. The human drama part, not as much as we'd like.
- I like Bill Paxton, but this is a performance that had me sometimes cringing in utter disgust. At times, Paxton is just fine and has his acting hover around an area that can be deemed, "passable". Other times though, he acts as if he completely forgot how to look happy, angry, or show any other sort of basic expression. Paxton says some of his lines as if he was simply restating them, with all the joy and charisma of a Speak and Spell computer, and it is a killer. Was Paxton having so much trouble remembering some of his lines that de Bont allowed the camera worker to hold the script right up and allow Paxton to read off it while the camera was rolling? It's harder to care about who is running away from the tornadoes when they sound like a high school freshman's first ever try-out for the fall play.
- Speaking of not caring, Jonas Miller is essentially useless as the film's "villain". I love how the movie portrays Jonas as bad by having him and his crew drive in all black vehicles and telling us that he's backed by corporate funding (Getting major financial support to help him do significant research....how dare he!). Jonas does nothing but act as an annoyance to Bill, Jo, and Jo's team, only showing up when it's convenient to spice up the tornado action and show us how Bill has an instinct for storm chasing and not Jonas. Does there always have to be a person who comes along during a disaster and make things worse for everybody? Next thing you know these disaster movie "villains" will start trying to harness the power of the disasters for themselves...
So when you put it all together, Twister is actually far from the worst natural disaster movie out there. The twisters look great and make for some entertaining moments, but the characters running from said tornadoes and the story getting spun around aren't much of anything to get excited about. Bill Paxton is a letdown in his role, but Helen Hunt is able to pick up the slack for him a little bit so that the two aren't completely unbearable to watch together. In the end, Twister is the epitome of special effects over acting and story, which I guess turned out to be the right call given the film's near $500 million gross at the box office. No wonder that practically every disaster movie ever made afterwards followed the same procedure, even though the lot of them came up short. It's because none of them had spirit, and spirit is what Twister really has going for it.
Recommend? I would only recommend the movie as a nice time-waster when you're bored with nothing else to do on a given night.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnson and stars the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch, all of whom reprise their roles from Wreck-it-Ralph. Newcomers to the voice cast include Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, and Ed O'Neill.
A sequel to 2015's Wreck-it-Ralph is one of the rare time's in Disney's recent history of animated features where I think the world would respond to said sequel the same way they would respond to the news of if Wreck-it-Ralph was never getting a sequel ever: accept it without further questioning. Nothing about Wreck-it-Ralph screamed, "Franchise!" so if Disney had just decided to allow Wreck-it-Ralph to be a one-and-done production and move on to other creative, original works, then no one would bat an eye, and life would proceed as normal. Let us never forget though: Disney generates sequels like no other, and if they can keep milking all those money cows that they have lined up in their production barns, then damn it, they will milk every single one of those cows until they start leaking air out of their utters.
In the case of Ralph Breaks the Internet, the milk is still fresh and there is promise on paper: expanding upon the video game world of Wreck-it-Ralph by adding all the wonderful (but kid-friendly) joys of the Internet. Six years after becoming best pals, Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz are living the dream inside Litwak's Family Fun Center and Arcade. Well, Ralph at least thinks he's living the dream. Vanellope admits to being bored of her game, hoping to one day have something new. Ralph attempts to fulfill Vanellope's wishes by creating a new bonus track in her game, but when Vanellope goes to ride the track free from player control, the steering wheel on the game cabinet breaks, leaving all the Sugar Rush characters homeless. The only replacement for the steering wheel is on eBay, and so Ralph and Vanellope use the arcade's new Wi-Fi router to travel into the Internet, where they must travel to eBay, purchase the steering wheel, pay for it, and get back home before Sugar Rush is closed down for good. Doesn't sound too difficult, right?
- There were no creative limits to how directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston could show off the world of the Internet, and Ralph Breaks the Internet paints a charming, humorous pictures of how things might really work if one were able to "enter" the Internet. A search engine, pop-up ads, and Youtube are all represented in ways that are as colorful as they are believable, my personal favorite sequence being when Vanellope encounters all the famous Disney princesses, in a scene that brilliantly satirizes all the ridiculous technicalities that have befallen almost all of Disney's classic animated features. The Internet world that Ralph Breaks the Internet conceives is exactly the kind of extension that was needed to build upon the arcade world introduced in Wreck-It-Ralph, and if there was to be a Wreck-It-Ralph 3, why I might argue that there could be even more of the digital world that that movie should explore, because it's damn near impossible to cram it all in during a 115 minute feature film. Don't ask me, though, if Disney should even think about parodying the dark corners of the Internet, as well as other realms like the weird part of Youtube (something that, sadly, is left out here).
- The main glitch of Ralph Breaks the Internet is its haphazard screenplay, which almost completely dumps the "get the new steering wheel" story line in favor of a "test Ralph and Vanellope's friendship" story line. The movie struggles to fully make up its mind about what kind of story it wants to tell, and I'm led to believe, considering how everything plays out, that the movie ultimately wants to be a story about how Ralph and Vanellope come to learn that they can still be friends, even if they aren't hanging out together 24/7. It's a meaningful message, sure, but you'd never guess at the start that "friends going their separate ways" was what Ralph Breaks the Internet was going to end up being about. The whole get the steering wheel story leads you to believe that Ralph and Vanellope are going to go through a complicated adventure that requires them to explore as much as the Internet as can be, and if that were the case, the movie could simply pass as a fun cyber adventure. Instead, the movie suddenly becomes a deep exploration of Ralph and Vanellope's friendship, where the movie takes a sharp left turn into a thematically ambiguous territory, and the main message gets lost in a cloud of confusion. I also was not a fan of the film's climax, because it directly rips off King Kong and not in a way that suggests the climax is trying to be any sort of parody. For an animated movie that puts a lot of love into its vast Internet world, the basic storytelling suffers way too much.
All in all, Ralph Breaks the Internet makes for satisfactory animated escapism, taking advantage of the goldmine of material that is the Internet and providing us with 115 minutes worth of good laughs. It's a bummer that the script can't figure out what the story should truly be about, guiding us along with one story until it blindsides us with another one. Regardless, there's still plenty here to take away from, and I think this could have ended up a lot worse if the wrong people got involved. Ralph Breaks the Internet is the kind of sequel that you would be perfectly okay with not ever having, but since it does actually exist, well, that's okay too.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure to see Wreck-It-Ralph first.
Let's toast to Lannisters children: the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: D.B. Weiss
And here we are! The best season in all of Game of Thrones (with the exception of season eight, at the time of this review)! Despite "Mhysa" leaving the slightly pessimistic outlook that season four would be Game of Thrones taking a few steps backward, it actually marks the complete opposite: more rich character drama and even more high-octane thrills. As the number of main characters seems to shrink by the episode, the game becomes more and more suspenseful, with House Lannister taking the helm as the primary source of conflict for this season. Don't worry, Daenerys and her crew won't be safe from danger this time around. The Night's Watch storyline also picks up a ton of fire, as they must prepare for the incoming assault by Mance Rayder and the wildlings. We've got plenty of time to get into all the goods of what goes down in season four, but at least as the season is getting underway, it's quite exciting to think about what lies ahead.
For those of you who are completely anti-House Lannister, this might very well be the worst episode of the entire series. The Lannisters have defeated essentially all their enemies, Joffrey rules proudly as the King, and the entire family is back together in King's Landing. With practically all of Westeros cowering at their feet, it must be all peaches and cream for the Lannister household.
Or not. Jaime has gotten anything but a warm welcome from his father and his sister: Tywin tells Jaime he is to be dismissed from the Kingsguard, Cersei chastises Jaime for taking too long to get back to her. Then to kick a little more sand in his face, Joffrey makes fun of Jaime for losing his sword hand and not accomplishing enough as a member of the Kingsguard. No one appears to accept the fact that Jaime is a changed man, and this is already another blow to House Lannister, creating more cracks on top of the cracks previously generated by Tyrion being a dwarf. If you ask me, you can make the case for House Lannister being the strongest House in all of Martin's fictional fantasy world: the only thing that will ever stop them from getting what they desire is themselves. If you thought Tyrion being in King's Landing provided for enough heated confrontations, well then, a one-handed Jaime is only going to add more fuel to the fire.
The Lannisters aren't the only ones with family issues: Daenerys is having a harder time controlling her dragons, which are growing larger and more vicious by the day. I think this is the season when the dragons cross the size threshold and become integral plot pieces. After all, when fully grown, these are fiery creatures of destruction, and that is not something that Game of Thrones can just whip out whenever convenient for the plot. It's understandable that we don't see too much of the dragons when they were just little babies. But now that they're in their....teenage(?) years and fully capable of burning at least a small village to the ground, we can expect to see a lot more of them as this season and later seasons roll on.
Oh yeah, and Jon Snow, also not getting a warm welcome home. Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt lean towards executing Jon for treason, but Maester Aemon, the nice grandpa figure that he is, intervenes and has Jon sent away with his head still intact. As humble and honorable as Jon seemed to be early on during his first tenure at Castle Black, season three reminded us that he's still a young lad, so of course he's going to makes mistakes. In this case, it was breaking his Night's Watch vows, but Jon admits to his dishonesty, yet feels that he did not return without gaining valuable information. The great thing about Jon's situation is that now is the time for him to truly show where his loyalties; does he put the Night's Watch above all else? Maester Aemon is convinced of Jon's loyalty, but that doesn't mean Jon is out of harm's way. He is going to have a lot more than the wrath of wildlings to worry about.
So a lot of good stuff with the Lannisters, Daenerys, and Jon Snow, but the scene with the Hound and Arya takes the crown for best scene in the entire episode. The Hound and Arya stop by an inn where Polliver, the man that took Needle from Arya, happens to be hanging out. This is the moment where the Hound officially makes his mark as one of the funniest characters in all of Game of Thrones: he has a caustic exchange of words with Polliver, threatening to take every f*cking chicken he can, spawning yet another popular Game of Thrones meme in which the Hound is the Colonel from KFC, or, excuse me, EFC (Every F*cking Chicken). As you can imagine, a fight breaks out, in which the Hound slaughters several of the men at the inn. Arya actually gets in on the action, picking up Needle and killing Polliver. Is it just me, or does almost every bitter conversation between characters in Game of Thrones have to turn into a fight to the death? Whatever, the Hound and Arya are actually a pretty great fighting pair: they both can kill without hesitation, and there's nothing to suggest that neither doesn't enjoy killing someone, given the right circumstances. Arya is kind of sadistic in the way she kills Polliver, repeating his exact words when he first took Needle and using Needle to kill the boy back in season two. We're starting to see flashes of how cold-blooded that Arya can be, all the more proof that her and the Hound are one of the best character combinations in the entire series.
In conclusion, most of "Two Swords" is set-up for what is to come throughout all of season four, but it's some pretty stirring set-up that puts the Lannister domestic war and Jon Snow's return to Castle Black storylines into motion, along with the other important storylines that we don't want to lose track of. Just when you might have thought Game of Thrones was starting to run low on ideas, it comes roaring back with a fresh batch of intrigue, promising that the world of Westeros is swelling with more chaos.
'Cause a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man
The Godfather is directed and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and is based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton.
A review of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather is easily one of the most useless things to be conceived in late 2018. Nothing can challenge the film's status as one of the greatest films in all of cinema, constantly in a tug-of-war match with Citizen Kane and Casablanca for the unofficial title of "Greatest Film Ever Made". Just going with the consensus and lauding the film for all of its film-making achievements and its influence within the crime/gangster genre would make this into a rather hollow review, and yet, that's exactly what I'm going to do anyway because, well, The Godfather is an excellent film from top to bottom, where any and all flaws are rendered useless by what the film does so well.
It's next to near impossible to pinpoint one exact thing that can be said to answer the question, "Why is The Godfather held in such high regard?" The truth is, there isn't one exact thing. As I've mentioned in past Best Picture winner reviews like Gone with the Wind, The Godfather is an example of a great film, the emphasis being on the word 'film' and not 'great'. That's always bothered me a little bit when I hear people say, "that's a great movie!" when talking about an MCU superhero flick or some other fun, entertaining film. Such a statement doesn't necessarily account for everything that is involved with making a film: the directing, acting, writing, editing, music, and so much more. Was said film great because the action was enthralling and it entertained you a lot, or maybe it was because the movie made you laugh a bunch of times? I don't mean to knock anybody's specific preferences in watching films; the statement, "that's a great movie!" just has much more structure and thickness to it when an argument can be made for all of the film's specific film-making components, not just one or two parts. For something like The Godfather, where every film-making component is executed with the utmost of expertise, the statement, "that's a great movie!" is almost an insult. This is film-making that will forever be in the history books, be a major topic of conversation in advanced film studies classrooms, and be influential to the crime and gangster genres for all of time.
Spanning from 1945 to 1955, The Godfather is the story of the Corleone crime family, headed by the Don Vito Corleone (Brando). The film opens with Vito hearing requests on the day of his daughter Connie's (Talia Shire) wedding. Vito's youngest son Michael (Pacino), attends the wedding with his girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), though Michael is reluctant to be any part of his family's business affairs. A series of violent events over the years, however, draws Michael into his family's business, and with Vito nearing the end of his career, Michael begins his journey as a ruthless crime lord.
I know, I know. I left out a lot of the specific plot details, which is something I usually don't do. The thing is, The Godfather's story moves like ocean waves; there is a lot of different events happening at once, but the various plot lines are all going in the same direction, working together to move things forward at a steady pace. For a film that's a shade under three hours, the plot is one of the more energetic ones you'll find for any lengthy film. At its core, The Godfather's plot is about Michael's transformation from family outsider to its new head of operations, with a series of interwoven events serving to propel Michael further along that path. The end of one violent act is the beginning of another, but there's a common denominator to it all: Michael is going down a path that he can never return from.
- It's a bit shocking to me that some people consider Vito Corleone the main character, because there's much more evidence available to suggest that The Godfather is the story of Michael Corleone and not Vito. Pacino gets much more screen time than Brando does, and I don't think there's any question that Michael is by far the more interesting character, being elevated by a stellar Al Pacino performance that is easily one of, if not his best performance ever in a film. At the start, Michael is the innocent and "pure-hearted" member of his family, wishing to go on and live a normal American life that is completely free from his family's business. That all changes when an assassination attempt on Vito practically forces Michael to not just stick his toe in the Mafia waters, but dive in head first altogether. The turning point for Michael is when he goes to an Italian restaurant to have dinner and discuss a truce with the drug lord Virgil Sollozzo and the corrupt police officer Captain Mark McCluskey.
Michael's face, moments right before he kills Sollozzo and McCluskey
Pacino's acting, particularly in this scene, is considerably some of the best ever put to film. He speaks no words as his eyes nervously bounce around the restaurant and his mouth slightly twitches, with the sound of a train rolling along in the background. This is the moment Michael knows that his life will change forever, the moment where he will become a permanent member of the world of crime and embrace the destiny that he so actively spent years avoiding.
- An interesting place where The Godfather deserves special praise is its use of violence, not just in how grisly that several character deaths are, but in how the movie uses violence as a mechanism for its majestic narrative. Every major act of violence that occurs in the film does not happen because the movie is trying to bash it into our heads that these are ruthless crime lords who go about their business with a nihilistic philosophy. Whether its waking up to find a horse head in your bed, to Michael killing Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant, or to getting riddled with bullets at a toll booth, The Godfather perfectly places all of its major acts of violence in a way where every single one of them is essential to the progression of one of the plot lines. A character death always means significant consequences for one or more other characters, even if it is the death of a character that we've gotten to know for only a short while. Any time we see someone who looks as if they're about to pull a gun or a knife, it is a moment of extreme tension, drama, and excitement. There is absolutely nothing about the violence in The Godfather that is senseless or dull, and not even the most blood-filled action of an R-rated movie of the 21st century can come close to matching it.
- Yes, I do have a low point for The Godfather, but that's not going to make me downgrade the movie at all, because everything else is so wonderfully executed. Marlon Brando is a bit disappointing as Vito Corleone, which makes me wonder what exactly did the Academy see when they decided to hand Brando the Best Actor Award. Brando mumbles quite a bit throughout the film, and he lacks the poise that a man like Vito Corleone should be showing at all times. A role like this one should be something like Humphrey Bogart and Gregory Peck at their very best: commanding respect and admiration everywhere he goes, and not needing to say a word to obtain either. Even if he does get nearly shot to death early in the film, the Don of the Corleone Mafia family should not sound like he's impersonating the croaky voice of an elderly man lying on his deathbed. I can only imagine how much better that Vito Corleone would have been had Coppola worked some more with Brando to try and make the character seem more like a dignified antihero and not simply a fatherly boss head.
So then, how to conclude? Should I just go with the usual routine and praise The Godfather as one of world cinema's greatest features along with the likes of Casablanca and Citizen Kane? I could do that. Should I then go on giving endless love for the film's marvelous directing, other-worldly acting, and gruesome acts of violence that deserve immense praise, not criticism, because of how meaningful they are to the film's story? I could also do that. Instead, I'm going to end this review by praising The Godfather in a slightly different way: upon conclusion of watching the film, it's almost impossible to gather the words of what you just witnessed. It is a film that feels as if a divine presence came down and guided the actions of every person involved in the film's production, sort of ironic given the film belongs to the gangster genre. You cannot watch The Godfather in small chunks and think you can still get the same effect if you watch it scene by scene as opposed to setting three hours aside and watching it from start to finish. It is a film that you experience, a film that truly makes the most of the "move" part of what is meant by the word movie. The Godfather reaches a level of cinematic transcendence that only a small quantity of films to ever be conceived have ever been able to reach, and if you think any decent filmmaker of the 21st century can just rub his or her hands together and try to match the film's greatness, you are lying to yourself. The Godfather is the kind of cinematic work that not only transformed all of American cinema, it is living, breathing proof of how film-making is indeed, and always will be, an art form.
Recommend? Everyone should see this film at least once during their lifetime.
People learn to love their chains.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: David Nutter
The season three finale, "Mhysa", is unfortunately the most tame, anti-climactic season finale that Game of Thrones will ever have. When you're the episode coming right after The Red Wedding, it's expected that you're not going to be anywhere near as good. All that "Mhysa" sets out to accomplish is bring closure to some of season three's remaining storylines, while laying the foundation for season four, which I find to be the best season of the entire show (excluding season eight). Considering that at least half of worldwide viewers were still feeling the anguish of how "The Rains of Castamere" ended, D&D figured that "Mhysa" would be best if it eased up on all the killing and betrayal, serving as another reactionary episode like "Fire and Blood", the season one finale.
As you can imagine, the news of The Red Wedding spreads like wildfire throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion goes to a Small Council meeting where, instead of hooting and hollering, there are threats and insults. Tyrion and Tywin anger Joffrey and have him sent to bed. This is then followed with another heated conversation between Tyrion and Tywin, with Tywin expressing his disappointment over Tyrion for not having impregnated Sansa yet. One thing The Red Wedding did not resolve: the internal discord of the Lannister family. At this point, it seems that nothing will ever be able to help Tyrion get on the same page as his father and his sister; now that the war is over, there will be nothing to distract the Lannisters from what has been their greatest problem all this time: themselves.
Oh yeah, by the way, Jaime arrives in King's Landing with Brienne, so the family is all back together again.
At the Twins, the Frey soldiers finish off the remaining Stark bannermen in the moments immediately following Robb's death. The next morning, Walder Frey and Roose Bolton discuss their newly acquired positions: Frey is now the new Lord of Riverrun, while Bolton has been declared Warden of the North. Bolton reveals that the boy who went to capture Theon Greyjoy was his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, and Ramsay being Ramsay has screwed everything up for Bolton's hopes of giving the Ironborn free passage and with his hopes of negotiating with Balon Greyjoy. If the early seasons of Game of Thrones were like any traditional television series, no such scene like the one here between Walder Frey and Roose Bolton would probably ever occur, certainly not after such a traumatic event as The Red Wedding. Unlike "Fire and Blood", the series of reactions seen in this episode are from characters who opposed Robb Stark and his rebellion against the Crown, not from those who knew him and supported him. Once again, the "villainous" characters of the show are painted with a few more shades of grey, especially in King's Landing, where what should be a grand celebration instead is a meeting that only serves to further strain the relationship between Joffrey and the rest of the Small Council. Even in the conversation between Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, Bolton assures us that he has not won anything other than a title. There's still more work to be done.
Speaking of Ramsay, he puts the finishing touches on his torturing of Theon Greyjoy, by slapping Theon until he acknowledge his new name: Reek. This is now Ramsay basically dehumanizing Theon, now turning him into his pet as opposed to continuing to use him as a prisoner. There are no limits to Ramsay's macabre ways of dealing with others, but things will get interesting when Roose Bolton comes by and does some catching up with Ramsay.
And while we're still talking about events in the North, we should talk about how Sam and Gilly run into Bran and his crew, who are still hiding in the abandoned mill. Sam is able to deduce Bran's identity, and Bran requests that Sam take his group north of the Wall. Before the two groups separate, Sam, revealing that he killed a White Walker, gives Bran, Hodor, and the Reed siblings his supply of dragonglass weapons. Sam and Gilly then make it back to Castle Black, where Maester Aemon allows Gilly to stay as a guest, while telling Sam that he must prepare to send messages to everywhere in the Seven Kingdoms, warning that the White Walkers have returned and are coming for everybody. It was the right thing to do to have Sam and Gilly meet up with Bran, because at the moment, these are the two groups with the most knowledge of the White Walkers and just how much of a threat they are.
The news from Castle Black makes its way to Dragonstone, where Ser Davos shares the message with Stannis and Melisandre. This proves to be enough for Stannis to spare Davos' life, as Davos was able to sneak Gendry out and save him from being one of Melisandre's sacrifices to the Lord of Light. This is the birth of one of Game of Thrones' most infamous internet memes: Gendry rowing for what will seem like all of eternity. Yeah, we're not going to see Gendry again for a long time, so it's expected for someone new to the show to start wondering during the middle of season four or five, "Hey, is Gendry still rowing?" Anyway, Stannis learning of the White Walkers really complicates matters on his hands. He technically still has the Iron Throne to win, but Melisandre tells Stannis that only he can save the North. The plot thickens.
"Mhysa" then ends with Daenerys opening the gates of Yunkai, allowing all the slaves to walk free. After Daenerys tells the crowd that only they can take their freedom back, the crowd begins to chant "mhysa", which means "mother" in the Ghiscari language. Daenerys then walks on her own into the crowd, where she is lifted up into the air. The episodes end with a bird's-eye view shot of Daenerys being carried through the crowd, as her dragons fly overhead. This whole sequence gives me mixed signals: I can't tell if I want to praise this scene for ending the season on a happy note, or if I want to bash it for its suggestively religious and colonial undertones. It's all very bizarre, but there could have been far worse ways to close out the season.
Normally, Game of Thrones' season finales are stuffed full of material that needs dissected, but "Mhysa" is a little bit of an exception. You can't really blame D&D for taking their foot off the gas here, though; The Red Wedding was so emotionally draining that "Mhysa" had no choice but to be something of a therapy session. All it sets out to do is put the finishing touches on a season almost chock-full of intense, dramatic moments, while setting the stage for season four, which will have no shortage of gruesome deaths or heated conversations. On its own, "Mhysa" is a perfectly fine episode, but I wouldn't hesitate to call it the worst of all of Game of Thrones' season finales, and yes, that's including the final episode that is coming next year; D&D are NOT going to mess that one up.
The Lannisters send their regards
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: David Nutter
**If you're reading this and have not yet seen "The Rains of Castamere", then I would advise you to close out of whatever tab you have this review open on right now. This episode contains, in my opinion, the biggest spoiler in all of Game of Thrones (save for anything that occurs in season 8), so if you want to get the full effect of this episode, then do not read any further until you have watched the episode in its entirety.
Alright folks, how are we doing? Are we still breathing? Yes? Good. I know it's hard to try and keep yourself together, but I'm here to promise you that we're all going to make it through. The sun will still come up in the morning and life will go on. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through myself when I saw "The Rains of Castamere" for the very first time a few years ago. I fondly remember how much trouble I had falling asleep on that cold Friday night, all alone in my apartment bedroom, not able to fully comprehend what I had put myself through. I had just witnessed an episode of television that rattled me to my core, more than any other episode of television that I can ever remember seeing. I think that "Ozymandias" from Breaking Bad still has me won over as the greatest episode of television that I have ever seen, but "The Rains of Castamere" is way way way way up there. This is more than a plot twist that is stunning to the umpteenth degree; this is a moment in the series that crushes all our remaining hopes that characters resembling honor and respect will make it out of this game alive. Even George R.R. Martin, originally writing the chapter containing The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords back in 2000, had to skip over the chapter and come back to it because of how traumatizing the chapter would be to readers and now to viewers ten plus years later.
I of course am referring to what goes down in the final ten minutes of "The Rains of Castamere", but before I go full steam ahead with The Red Wedding, I want to give a little love to what happens beforehand in the episode, because I think everyone else forgot that Daenerys, Bran, and Jon Snow are also featured in this episode. Daenerys continues to build up her forces in Essos, having now gained the allegiance of Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein) and the Second Sons. She only grows stronger as Daario, Jorah, and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) sneak in to Yunkai and kill several slave soldiers, later returning to tell Daenerys that the city is hers. My main issue with Daenerys' storyline this season has been her lack of setbacks. At least while she was with the Dothraki, she had to learn how to truly love her husband. Then in Qarth, she had to deal with her dragons being stolen. This season? Well...I guess Yunkai didn't go down without a fight. Seasons one and two were great at building up Daenerys and showing us how she was able to overcome the odds, thus making her worthy of the all the support she has been getting from the likes of Jorah and the Dothraki. Season three has not continued that trend, sadly.
Meanwhile, Bran and Jon Snow find themselves together in the same location; Bran and his group take shelter in a windmill, while Jon and the wildlings are right outside, deciding what to do with an old man that they took horses from. Here we get both Jon and Bran revealing part of their true natures: Jon refuses to execute the old man, revealing that his loyalties still lie with the Night's Watch. Bran is able to tap into his warg abilities for the first time, first entering Hodor's mind to stop him from yelling about the thunder, and then entering the mind of his direwolf Summer to assist Jon in the fight with the wildlings. I like the way D&D coupled these two revealing moments together; it's a big step forward for both Jon and Bran's respective character arcs, and it's all the more impactful because Jon has no idea that Bran is in his general vicinity. If Bran had let his presence be known to Jon, it would slow down the pacing and soften the blow of this break-up between Jon and the widlings, as we would get a heated fight scene immediately followed by a heartwarming reunion, and that would be kind of awkward.
And now, the main event: the episode's final scene where Game of Thrones does its worst, stabbing you square in the heart and twisting the knife until it feels as if all blood circulation in your body has stopped altogether. After Edmure Tully and his new bride are dismissed from the celebration, Walder Frey rises to announce to Robb that he has not shown him the hospitality he deserves. That's when Roose Bolton gives Catelyn a suspicious look, and she finds that he is wearing chainmail underneath. The slaughter begins: one of the Frey sons stabs Talisa in the abdomen several times, Robb and Catelyn are struck by crossbows, and the other Stark bannermen are killed one by one. Never has a scene in Game of Thrones escalated so quickly from calm to pure pandemonium until now. This revelation that will forever be known as The Red Wedding is such a shock to the system that it has spawned a series of Youtube reaction videos, capturing the genuine reactions of unknowing viewers. It only gets worse from there: a grief stricken Robb looks over his now deceased wife, as Catelyn tries to convince Walder Frey to let Robb walk free, threatening to slit his wife's throat. Walder refuses, and Roose Bolton walks over, telling Robb what Jaime Lannister said when he left Harrenhal, "The Lannisters send their regards." Bolton stabs Robb with a knife, and Catelyn watches as her son falls over dead. She lets out a final scream and kills Walder Frey's wife, with the camera easing in on her as we watch her will to live seemingly flow out of her. Then to kick us while we're down, one of Walder's sons walks over and slits Catelyn's throat.
The first thing I want to mention: it is a crime that Michelle Fairley did not win an Emmy for this episode, let alone never win an Emmy for her acting in Game of Thrones period. In terms of pure acting skill, Fairley is arguably the very best out of anyone who has ever been a part of the cast, and that's saying a lot cause there a ton of pretty damn great actors that have been in the series at some point. The way that Fairley pleadingly speaks Catelyn's final distraught words and the look on her face right before her throat is cut sound and look so natural, it's almost as if D&D had no need to show Catelyn getting killed. She was already dead as she looked on at the dead bodies of her son and of her new daughter-in-law. The episode could have cut to black as the camera was still easing in on Catelyn's traumatized face, and we would be no better off.
Anyone watching Game of Thrones for the first time most certainly doubted that the show could never top the unpredictable, stunning death of Ned Stark. Even when the reality of Ned's death sunk in, viewers would go through seasons two and three, thinking that perhaps George R.R. Martin envisioned the War of the Five Kings would be a tale of revenge for House Stark. But The Red Wedding destroyed those hopes. In one fell swoop, all our remaining hopes that Ned Stark would be avenged and that the wicked members of House Lannister would be defeated, those hopes were permanently sent to the grave. Evil characters emerging victorious is nothing brand new to film or television. Given the mistakes made by Robb Stark, something like The Red Wedding, in hindsight, felt inevitable. What it means going forward is why The Red Wedding breaks our hearts and psychologically damages us as much as it does. With this one scene, George R.R. Martin makes it certain that his book series, and almost all of Game of Thrones for that matter, will not fall under the usual guise of heroes defeating villains. It is Martin defying all almost usual tropes of not just the fantasy genre, but of story telling all together. The Red Wedding leaves us with no choice but to fully accept the fact that Martin's fantasy world is one where, as Ned Stark's death first taught us, honor and respect don't earn you titles and respect; they get you killed.
Whatever flaws exist in "The Rains of Castamere"' early scenes are pretty much irrelevant. The magnitude of the episode's final 10-15 minutes is something that no one of a fragile psyche should be allowed to watch. That being said, anyone with a fragile psyche should not be allowed to watch Game of Thrones period, because the dramatic blow that "The Rains of Castamere" delivers, primarily with the build-up of the previous 28 episodes, may just be too much to handle. I'm being serious here. This is one of the most trauma-inducing moments to ever air in the history of television, which is what is propelling me to hurry up and continue reading all the A Song of Ice and Fire novels so that I can see how Martin originally contrived the event on paper. D&D have stated in interviews that the chance to create The Red Wedding was one of the main reasons they approached George R.R. Martin so that they could create Game of Thrones, and seeing the way it plays out, you know that they poured their hearts and souls into the sequence, knowing it would go down as the most unforgettable moment in the entire series. D&D could do almost anything with the remaining characters in season 8. I don't think it matters. No plot twist they came up with will be able to outdo what The Red Wedding did, and no other moment in Game of Thrones will hurt us the way The Red Wedding does. It hurts so much, and it's a big part of why I love this show as much as I do.
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: