“Stories are wild Creatures. When you let them Loose, who Knows what Havoc they Might Wreak?” – A Monster Calls (Film Review)

 

So, the year keeps on ticking over, and the cinematic delights keep coming. We’re entering the crux of awards season and that means some of the year’s top releases vying for their moment in the spotlight. A Monster Calls is a film about fairytales and monster, family and truth, and is one of the best movies of the year.

Connor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is a lonely schoolboy trying to deal with his mother’s, Lizzie (Felicity Jones), terminal illness. While Lizzie is ill Connor is forced to move in with his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), with whom he has a strained relationship, as his father (Toby Kebbell) has moved to America with his new family leaving Connor isolated. Friendless and targeted by school bullies Connor is struggling to deal with his new living situation when one night the old Yew tree near his house (Liam Neeson) comes alive and visits him promising to tell three stories, but in return he wants Connor to share his deepest secret.

Image result for a monster calls

J.A Bayona has built an impressive filmography in a relatively short space of time including The Orphanage and The Impossible, with his next project being the sequel to last year’s highly successful Jurassic World. It makes sense he would be tapped for the high budget project following his masterful direction in A Monster Calls. He captures the scale and physical presence of the Monster, who is fantastically designed by the VFX crew, whilst also allowing the more intimate moments of the film to flow trusting in the strength of Patrick Ness’s script. Lewis MacDougall is a terrific find, already with numerous credits to his name, he carries the emotional weight of the film with authenticity and his inner turmoil, his rage, his barely concealed anger always seems to be bubbling at the surface. The supporting cast of Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell and Sigourney Weaver all deliver exceptional performances as an ensemble. Jones is almost angelic as the wailing Lizzie, whilst the authoritarian Grandmother played by Weaver attempts to maintain order in the face of disaster. Weaver always delivers as an actor, never one to give anything less than exceptional and this performance is no different. Kebbell’s dilemmic display as Connor’s father is a contemplative, humorous and bittersweet role. A chameleonic performer this is one of his more understated performances and is all the better for it. The one actor I haven’t focussed on yet is Liam Neeson, who voices the Monster. A character who needs to be supportive, yet domineering. Enigmatic, yet intimate. An amalgamation of the various qualities of humanity, otherwise his lectures to Connor would not carry the necessary dramatic weight. Neeson is wonderful in his recitation as a storyteller-cum-guardian. A real delight. Whilst the Monster’s stories are brought to life by beautiful animated sequences evocative of the “Story of three brothers” animation from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One.

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I was lucky enough to catch a preview screening of A Monster Calls, with the film not out till the new year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A poignant, touching, charming and endearing tale of grief, sorrow and the unbreakable bond of family. A family drama disguised as a monster movie with a wonderful series of performances, a highly talented director at the helm and a terrific screenplay from the novel’s author Patrick Ness, this is one you should check out.

5/5

Dir: J.A Bayona

Scr: Patrick Ness

Cast: Liam Neeson, Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell

Prd: Belen Atienza, Mitch Horwits, Jonathan King

DOP: Oscar Faura

Music: Fernando Velazquez

Country: USA, Spain, UK

Year: 2016

Run Time: 108 minutes

A Monster Calls will be in UK cinemas from January 1st.

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“I want to be a Wizard” – Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them (Film Review)

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a multi-billion-pound enterprise the Harry Potter franchise returns to the big screen, sans Harry Potter. Following a five-year hiatus of magical misadventures Warner Brothers, like so many of us beforehand, have checked their bank account and had that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach. Woah, is that how much I’ve spent this month? Looks like we need to reboot a franchise. I’m being facetious of course. Following a decade of phenomenally successful Harry Potter films it is natural for WB to want to make more films and the desire is definitely there on the behalf of the audience. Could I honestly say that I don’t want to be wowed and fall in love with new aspects of the magical universe to which I am a fan? No, I want to love this new series as much as the previous, but is it as good?

Newt Scamander (Played by Eddie Redmayne, doing an impression of Doctor Who) is a magical zoologist who has smuggled his case of magical creatures into New York on a conservation mission. During a mix-up with some muggles, or No-Maj as the yanks call them, the case winds up in the hands of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). The fantastic beasts then escape and it’s up to Newt, Jacob and disgraced former auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), to track them down and restore order to the city. This plot would probably be the singular drive of the film if it wasn’t in the interest of starting up a new film franchise. So on top of the magical creatures malarkey there is a separate plot thread in which a group of extremist No-Maj’s led by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), and her put upon adopted son Credence (Ezra Miller), attempt to convince the wider world, including for some reason Jon Voight, of the existence and danger of witches and wizards. Additionally, Credence is in cahoots with auror Percival Graves (Colin Farell), a mysterious man whose motives are unclear.

These two contrasting plot threads struggle to intertwine at any point. They flirt with one another, smiling suggestively across a crowded bar, but come the end of the night the part of the film revolving around recapturing the creatures decides to call it in early and head home. The result is a messy narrative that puts a huge strain on the movie’s structure. Fortunately the cast bring an enthusiasm and energy that saves the film from enveloping into a CG fest of immeasurable nothingness. I was once again being a bit facetious when describing Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt a bit Doctor Who-esque (Though as a quirky Englishman with an item that is bigger on the inside than the out, armed with a sonic screw… I mean wand and a couple of colourful companions it’s hard to avoid pointing out the similarities). However, he captures the introverted nature of Newt with great authenticity and his developing bond with Jacob is given a greater legitimacy because of this. Speaking of which Dan Fogler steals every scene he is in as the incredibly loveable Jacob, a No-Maj whose journey of discovery within the magical world is Fantastic Beast’s greatest strength. Even the romantic subplot involving Tina’s sister Queenie (Allison Sudol) plays, despite not being given any time to develop convincingly, thanks to their wonderful chemistry. Katherine Waterston is hopelessly underutilised, but is great in the scenes in which she is given things to, you know, do. Hopefully these characters will be given more room to expand in the future.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them promised more than it could deliver but thanks to some wonderful SFX work, a hard-working cast and the endlessly enticing world that J.K Rowling created all those years ago it is difficult to dislike. Perhaps it is time for David Yates to step aside from the series, having directed every Harry Potter film since Order of the Phoenix, and allow a new director the chance to put their spin on the franchise. Though I doubt that’s going to happen and I can only hope David Yates can make me retract that previous sentence with the next film in the series, whenever we should see it.

3/5

Dir: David Yates

Scr: J.K Rowling

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Kate Waterston, Dan Fogler, Allison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman

Prd: Steve Kloves, J.K Rowling, David Heyman, Lionel Wigram

DOP: Phillipe Rousselot

Music: James Newton Howard

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2016

Running Time: 133 mins

Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them is out now in UK cinemas.

“Deep in the forest, dragons will be.” – Film Review (Pete’s Dragon)

Continuing Disney’s newest trend of releasing big budget live action remakes of their extensive back catalogue is Pete’s Dragon (though the original Pete’s Dragon was mostly live-action apart from the eponymous dragon). Following Cinderella and The Jungle Book, which were both very well received, and with numerous other projects already in production, including next year’s Beauty and the Beast adaptation, it seems this will be a common occurrence in the decade to come. However with Pete’s Dragon receiving a lot less media attention than the previously released live action remakes and also not being as popular originally is there much to like about this new take on the story.

Short answer, yes there is. Long answer, I was shocked by how enjoyable this turned to be. Cinderella and The Jungle Book were helmed by highly experienced directors in Kenneth Branagh and John Favreau and the stories long standing popularity made them a much less risky venture. Pete’s Dragon director David Lowery has a lot less experience, with his last film; the very well received Ain’t them Bodies Saints, being a romantic-drama with a $4 million budget. So to leap from that to a big budget feature like this under the watchful gaze of one of the largest film studios in the world and deliver such a beautiful, coherent film is quite astounding. The locations used within the movie are breath-taking making use of the scenic New Zealand landscape with cinematographer Bojan Bazelli capturing a soulful backdrop that is just a pleasure to take view of. Elliot the dragon is beautifully designed and animated, a gorgeous advertisement of what wonders CGI can create. In a year where Favreau’s The Jungle Book took digital animating to a new level of detail and execution to see yet another film reach such heady heights with nowhere near the budget is an incredible piece of work. Pete’s Dragon’s budget of just $65 million (I know that’s a lot of money, but in context Jungle Book had a $175 million budget) is put to great effect and in young lead actor Oakes Fegley they have unearthed a highly talented individual whose outstanding performance, especially considering a lot of his scenes are two-handers with a CGI dragon, elevates the film into position as one of the summers most delightful films. Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance is her most nuanced in years and you truly believe in the connection that develops between her character and Pete. There are also great supporting turns from the ensemble including Wes Bentley, Karl Urban and young Oona Laurence and a fantastic display of charisma from Robert Redford who brings an authenticity to the film with his decades of experience. His voice is calm, collected and without a hint of fallacy. Whilst other actors may extempore and gesticulate Redford oozes control and is as delightful a presence on screen as ever.

It would be hard to describe Pete’s Dragon as being thoroughly original and it’s perfectly happy to ride the coattails of the films that came before it. It owes a spiritual debt to E.T, as many films do, and is almost flawless in its execution. As astoundingly beautiful as The Jungle Book, more magical than Spielberg’s BFG and as heartfelt as Finding Dory this story may have the scent of familiarity about it but it is in the execution that Pete’s Dragon excels itself. David Lowery has been announced as the director of a live action remake of Peter Pan, which he will co-write with Toby Halbrooks as he did on Pete’s Dragon. I look forward to what else he can achieve following this very impressive piece of work, a late summer treat that I highly recommend.

4/5

Dir: David Lowery

Scr: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Robert Redford

Prd: James Whitaker

DOP: Bojan Bazelli

Music: Daniel Hart

Country: USA

Running time: 102 minutes

 

Pete’s Dragon is out now in UK cinemas.

 

“Because I Hears your Lonely Heart, in all the Secret Whisperings of the World.” – BFG (Film Review)

So having bombed rather cataclysmically in the USA Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s acclaimed book got its UK release and last weekend I got the chance to go and see whether this live action adaptation could live up to its source material.

And the result is, well, fine. In the hands of such an experienced blockbuster director there was very little threat of the film being a disaster of Pan-esque proportions (There’s no Garrett Hedlund chewing the scenery with an atrocious accent). Spielberg has a gift of creating visual flair in moments where other directors would struggle and his management over certain scenes in the BFG is reminiscent of his previous, better work. However there is undoubtedly a pacing issue in the BFG that grinds the action to a half on numerous occasions and the structure of the original novel has had a somewhat detrimental effect on this adaptation. As pleasing as the sequence that takes place in Buckingham Palace is within the film its timing within the overall narrative creates a feeling of disjointedness when watching the movie. Mark Rylance is atypically wonderful as the eponymous giant capturing his good natured silliness and mastering his peculiar vocal rhythms to great effect. Ruby Barnhill also delivers a terrific performance as the young heroine Sophie, a demanding, fierce, young orphan who witnesses the BFG late one night and is whisked away to giant country. The friendship between the BFG and Sophie is what carries the heart of the film and even though at times it feels like the developing relationship stalls repetitively for the benefit of the plot the eventual thematic pay-off is highly worthwhile and filled with pathos. There are also welcome performances from the ensemble including Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Hall and Jemaine Clement.

Janusz Kaminski does a great job in capturing the scale of the giant’s world and his work with Spielberg often makes the optical illusions truly spellbinding however the film’s reliance on CGI does at times make the artificiality of the landscapes rather underwhelming. Following John Favreau’s terrific Jungle Book adaptation earlier this year the bar for creating detailed virtual plateaus has been raised and Spielberg’s film, though at times beautiful, is undercut by its inability to be truly uniquely striking. John William’s music is suitable for the film without being outstanding and will be something of a footnote in his library of terrific work.

The BFG is a charming, fun frolic and an inoffensive translation of Roald Dahl’s novel. It will neither be remembered as a travesty or a classic, but a film of potential, occasional beauty, terrific performances and a handful of well derived laughs. Perhaps most noteworthy of all is Spielberg’s ability to turn flatulence into a form of terrific comedy in the films funniest sequence without it feeling cheap and immature (Well, too immature). All in all, a fun time for all ages. Just not one I’ll be revisiting anytime soon.

3/5

Dir: Steven Spielberg

Scr: Melissa Mathison

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader 

Prd: Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer

DOP: Janusz Kaminski

Music: John Williams

Country: USA

Year: 2016

Run time: 117 mins

 

BFG is out now in UK cinemas.

Alice Through the Looking Glass – Some thoughts

When making a sequel it’s important to capitalise on the momentum of success. To keep the cycle of productions within a reasonable time of the original film otherwise you risk releasing a sequel no one wants or cares about. Sure, maybe the critics and fans are somewhat turned off by the Transformers films but they are released succinctly to capitalise on the full financial potential. I’m not saying I like either of these film series but it’s also not pleasurable to watch a creative team sink the best part of a year and a couple of hundred million dollars into something that is not only torn to shreds critically but is financially incontinent.

Six years have passed since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland a film which grossed over $1 billion worldwide and at the time of its release was the fifth highest grossing movie of all time (Not adjusted for inflation). It was not a particularly faithful translation of the Lewis Carroll novel and received a mixed response from its audiences. However with the re-popularisation of 3-D, a big name director at the helm and a high profile ensemble cast (Headed by Johnny Depp at his most box-office bankable) it turned over a massive profit and a sequel was almost inevitable. That it would take six years for production to churn out the next film in the Alice series (and almost certainly the last) was a fault that Disney has paid for exponentially.

Alice Through the Looking Glass feels like a film processed by committee, with Tim Burton unwilling to return as director the project was overtaken by James Bobin (Who has had some great successes in the past) but the story is a concoction of several unformed concepts. Alice now appears to be auditioning for a part in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, there is the new character Time played by Sacha Baron Cohen (because when your plot is a complete mess the addition of time travel makes everything much easier to comprehend) and the continuation of the Hatter’s storyline which intertwines with the Red Queen’s storyline which intertwines with the White Queens storyline. All this amongst Alice attempting to be an independent woman in Victorian London having to deal with the sexism enforced on her by the cartoonishly silly Hamish Ascot. What I did enjoy about Alice Through the Looking Glass were the glimmers of potential, the concept of time and mortality being something we should cherish rather than disdain but it’s lost in the void of scenery chomping acting, a confusingly muddled screenplay and naïve series of resolutions.

Perhaps it’s pleasing to look at the tangled mess of a poorly designed sequel being squashed at the box office but it worries me that studios will get the wrong message. That instead of putting money towards more original projects they will double down on more “safe” projects such as further sequels, remakes and reboots. Just because a film is a sequel it isn’t necessarily an ill-conceived project, there are plenty of good sequels, but it’s growing so ludicrously out of hand that there are so few original films produced a year, especially big budget movies. As someone who is more willing than most to overlook the over saturation of sequels/remakes I’m hoping that the failure of lacklustre features such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, and last’s years flops Pan and Fant4stic, will promote a rethink in the repetitious nature of the production of blockbusters. On the plus side the highest grossing films of the year so far have included Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Zootropolis which have all been of a very high standard and hopefully the correlation between higher quality movie production and critical and financial success will prompt a revision of how mainstream films are developed. Here’s hoping.

(Also I would give Alice Through the Looking Glass 2/5. It’s a messy film with an occasional charm, just not occasional enough.)

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 7 “The Broken Man”

**Contains Spoilers for the latest episode of GoT**

Last week’s episode contained a lot of set up towards what we hope will be a massive pay off and somewhat unhappily I have to report that this episode of GoT had a similar sort of aim. A lot of characters positioning themselves for a massive showdown, not to say there was nothing interesting going on with the return of one of my favourite characters, the introduction of a couple of impressive newbies and the hints of what is yet to come.

Jon & Sansa try to build there army. End up meeting the finest ruler in the North.

So this week Jon, Sansa and Davos attempted to rally the smaller Northern houses to their side. Having successfully won over the wildlings with a reminder of their joint cause (and perhaps more helpfully won over Wun Wun the giant) they head south to try and talk more Lords and Lady’s into following the Stark’s banner. I assumed we would be having a few discussions of the Sansa pleading on the lord’s loyalty and they would take up arms for honour and shizz. However it was far more interesting than that, instead we first met Lyanna Mormont, the Great Niece of former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Despite being only ten she possesses a sharp wit and an understanding of Northern politics that puts both Jon and Sansa on the back foot. Luckily Ser Davos engages his empathy overdrive and manages to talk to Lyanna as a Lady of a house rather than as small child. To say the least I am highly impressed with the youngster (Brilliantly played by Bella Ramsey) and despite only being able to pledge 62 men I hope we will see plenty more of the young bear.

Unfortunately Jon and Sansa had less luck appealing with Robett Glover (Played by Tim Mcinnery which is always nice to see) who refuses to follow the Starks banner. The North remembers the good and the bad. It seems the Glover’s lost too much following house Stark and having been aided by the Bolton’s in reclaiming his keep he dismisses the idea of taking up arms against them. This prompts Sansa to write a letter to an unknown party (Probably Littlefinger) to call for aid. Will this give them enough numbers to march on Winterfell? I assume we will find out in episode 9’s “The Battle of the Bastards” in a couple of weeks.

The High Sparrow is now Tommen’s wingman apparently.

Margery is now seemingly a reformed Lady who has embraced the faith of seven. The High Sparrow comes to discuss her not performing her ‘wifely duties’ in the marriage bed. Sadly we didn’t get to see the scene where Tommen comes to the High Sparrow complaining that he isn’t getting enough action. He discusses the importance of Margery conceiving an heir with Tommen in order to secure the alliance of the faith and the crown. Has the high Sparrow tipped his hand? Nevertheless he follows this action with a coded threat against Margery’s Grandmother that unless the Queen of Thorns leaves the city her safety cannot be guaranteed. Margery visits her Grandmother and slips her a folded drawing of a rose revealing to us that her true allegiance still lies with her family. As Olenna Tyrell prepares to leave she is visited by Cersei who attempts to convince Olenna to stay in Kings Landing and to help her defeat the High Sparrow. However the Queen of Thorns concedes that she believes they have already lost and more so blames Cersei for the whole ordeal. This leaves Cersei in Kings Landing seemingly unallied but apparently determined to fight on.

Where’s the worst place in the world to take a man without genitals?

So an Iron born Princess and her genital-less brother go into brothel, sorry do you know this one? Anyway Yara and Theon are in a “pleasure house” in Volantis and Theon isn’t really enjoying the experience. Seeing the shell of what her brother used to be prompts Yara into a ‘tough love’ approach forcing Theon into drinking ale whilst she tells him to either man up or kill himself. I don’t think hallmark cards would make great business in the Iron Islands (“I’m sorry you lost your penis, but just drink some ale and get over it you useless shit”). They have decided to try and reach Daenarys before Euron does in attempt to forge an alliance with the Queen of Dragons.

Arya gets stabbed, or does she?

In the last episode we left Arya sitting in the darkness aware of her impending fight with the deadly faceless men of Braavos. However in this episode Arya is prancing through the streets, meeting with ship Captains in the open and jauntily making her way through the city of Braavos. On her travels an elderly woman approaches her with a big wide innocent smile, only to the surprise of absolutely no one; she turns into the Waif and stabs Arya multiple times in the abdomen. Arya jumps into the river and manages to escape for now. There must be something more to this whole scenario? Surely Arya would be far more careful than to wander in the open whilst being stalked by the world’s most dangerous trained killers. When you’re dealing with something as confusing as characters who can swap faces then surely something could be amiss. That being said the final shot of Arya, wounded, walking through the crowded streets at the surrounding faces unsure if everyone is who they seem was very unnerving.

The return of Bronn and the Blackfish

It’s taken until episode seven but finally Bronn is back alongside best bud Jamie with all the wry quips you would expect from a man seemingly growing tired of hearing all of the Lannister’s favourite one-liners. Jamie and Bronn arrive at Riverrun which is under siege from the Frey’s who are threatening to execute Edmure Tully should the Blackfish not surrender the castle. The Blackfish however is unmoved by the threat towards his nephew and he calls the Frey’s bluff. Seeing the poor state of the siege under the operation of the Frey household Jamie takes command and gives one poor bloke quite the backhand slap with his solid gold hand, quite possibly the finest GoT slap since Tyrion struck Joffrey in season 2. Jamie arranges a meet with the Blackfish and offers to let his men live if they surrender the castle only the Blackfish is uninterested in negotiating and is prepared to hold the castle for as many years as it takes for Jamie to starve him out. It would appear the Blackfish is as staunch as ever, and with Brienne on her way to Riverrun shit appears to be on course with a nearby fan.

The Broken Man

This week’s episode opened with a cold open, a rarity for the show, and showed us guest star Ian McShane in a rare peaceful role leading a group of followers in building a small sept in honour of the faith of Seven. We see a group of four men carrying a log and behind them another log being carried by a single individual with a heavy limp and as the camera pans up to a disfigured face we are reintroduced to a fan favourite in the form of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, my favourite GoT character. The cold open was used to spoil the surprise of seeing Rory Mcann’s name in the opening credits and it is pleasing to see the character survived his ordeal with Brienne in the Riverlands. We discover Ian McShane’s character Ray came across the beaten body of the Hound and nursed him back from the edge of death and brought him into his peace cult thing. Despite being a part of the group Sandor is still ostracised from the rest of the people, apart from Ray, on account of his fearsome presence. He maintains his brash vulgarity and cynical view but there is a hint of something within. He truly appears to have befriended Ray and respects him. During what basically appears to be the Westeros equivalent of an AA meeting Ray confesses the violent sins of his past, the robbery and murders he once committed and reiterates his belief that a person can never be too far gone to become good. Perhaps the Hound can find peace with a man such as Ray to guide him. However this is Westeros and a group of men, appearing to be from the Brotherhood without Banners, approach the encampment and question Ray as to whether they have gold, steel or food to offer. Ray states they have little of the first two but offers the men supper if they wish. They turn the offer down and ride away and Sandor warns Ray they will return with greater numbers. Later the Hound returns from gathering supplies to find the camp destroyed, the entire group slain and Ray himself hanged from the very Sept his followers were erecting. Alone and angered the final shot of the episode shows the Hound picking up an axe and walking away, presumably to seek revenge.

Death Count

Ray – “A pacifist in Westeros, It’s not surprising he didn’t even last one episode. His whole camp went down with him, but only he was blessed enough by the Gods of casting directors to have a name”

Parting Thoughts

  • So, Lyanna Mormont for Queen of the Seven Kingdoms?
  • Davos Seaworth as her hand? That guy is really good at talking to little girls. No, not like that.
  • A pleasant surprise to see Tim McInnerny in the episode as Robett Glover, surely he will be back. Why cast him for one short scene?
  • Sansa has to be writing to Littlefinger, right? If not him, then who.
  • Also it’s just occurred to me what happened to the Sandsnakes? They killed off half of Dorne in the season opener and we haven’t heard a peep since. What’s going on there?
  • So Cersei is apparently alone in her troubles. But is Tommen secretly on her side? Also don’t discount the giant zombie guard at her disposal.
  • I hope Theon recovers from his ailment of low self-esteem. And Yara recovers from her ailment of poorly written character syndrome.
  • So, conspiracy theory time, what’s happening with Arya? Was that Arya being stabbed? If not, then who? There are rumours abound of the Waif’s identity? Even talk of the return of the long dead Syrio Forel. In the past I would of said no, but this appears to be the season of resurrection with Jon Snow, Benjen Stark and the Hound all back in the game then why not the First Sword of Braavos?
  • Also is Richard E. Grant involved? I’m convinced he must be up to more. His character’s had about ten lines in the series so I’m expecting more. You don’t cast Richard E. Grant as window dressing, do you?
  • The Hound’s return is bittersweet. I would of liked for the character to have found peace following his near death experience, on the other hand the Hound + axe x by vengeance = something Alex really wants to see.
  • With Sandor back in the game could we have the opponent the Faith will put forward to challenge the Mountain?
  • Also why is the Brotherhood without Banners attacking the innocent? Are they under new management?

 

Episode Rating 4/5 – More set up for things to come. But the introduction of Lyanna Mormont, the return of the Hound, some snappy dialogue exchanges and a virtuoso turn from Ian McShane have left me as excited as ever for what’s to come from the rest of the series.

 

 

Warcraft

Video game to film adaptations have had a rather chequered past with very few successes. This year has already seen the release of Angry Birds (which was a decent, if not fantastic, effort) with Assassin’s Creed on the horizon and Warcraft now out in cinema is this finally the year video game based movies start to garner critical success?

Warcraft takes place mainly in the fantasy realm of Azeroth, and predominantly in the singular kingdom of Stormwind. A group of orcs led by the sorcerer Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) are led through a portal to Azeroth. Amongst them are Chieftain of the Frostwolf clan Durotan (Toby Kebbell), his wife Draka (Anna Galvin), best friend Orgrim DoomHammer (Robert Kazinsky), Chieftain of the horde Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and half orc/half human Garona (Paula Patton) an enslaved half breed. The horde begins to attack villages in the realm and take prisoners prompting King Llane (Dominic Cooper) to dispatch Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and a young mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) to confront the foes whilst also calling on the help of the Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) to help defend their people.

So there are a lot of characters in Warcraft, I’ve not even introduced all of the supporting characters in the above paragraph, and naturally not all of them are as well characterised as each other. That being said enough of them are imbued with enough depth that you care for the outcome of the majority of their storylines. The orc’s designs are impressive, with the aid of the high performance of the motion capture, and Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is one of the more impressive performers in this film. He is ably supported by Paula Patton’s turn as a half breed unsure of her role in the war to come and the ensemble as a whole play the parts well with Anna Galvin, Travis Fimmel, Ben Foster and Ben Schnetzer worthy of particular praise. Inevitably it’s the work of director Duncan Jones that is perhaps most important with his visual flair in managing to take what is such a CGI heavy film and invigorate it with a heft of weight that other fantasy films (Such as the Hobbit Trilogy) lacked in its action sequences. You feel the force of the hits, the sound of bones breaking which makes these CG battles more entrancing than your average fair. This coincides with Warcraft’s treatment of its characters as more complex beings than your standard blockbuster, though not all fully fledged there is a steady stream of intrigue and surprise within the characterisation that I was pleasantly surprised throughout. With such an epic scope Warcraft does sadly suffer as it attempts to cover all its bases within a two hour runtime fulfilling its ambitious narrative obligations alongside its necessary criteria to be a major studio summer blockbuster. The marriage is one of convenience and compromise than one match made in heaven, so to speak, as some secondary characters are left unexplored and some dramatic moments within the plot would have benefited from more time to be constructed than was allowed. Perhaps a director’s cut of the film will be made available to allay these issues at a later date. It would be wrong of me not to mention the fine contribution of Ramin Djawadi in scoring Warcraft, as a veteran of the fantasy genre (Having created the GoT theme that is so damn catchy) he continues his good work with a boisterous, pounding symphony that compliments the film terrifically.

All in all I was surprised how much I enjoyed Warcraft having heard so much negative criticism before I was able to see the film. Despite containing a lot of characters, locations and fantasy gobbledegook I never felt lost or confused by the narrative which shows Duncan Jones has a great skill for maintaining a coherent plot. With little competition this, for me, now sits as the best video game to film adaptation ever. If you’re a fan of fantasy then it’s definitely worth taking a trip to Azeroth, and if you’re not a fan well maybe give it a try as perhaps, like me, you will be pleasantly surprised by how attached you can get to an orc.

4/5

Review by Alexander Halsall