Game of Thrones – “Mother’s Mercy”

June 15, 2015

Season Five, Episode Ten

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Grade: A

Pardon my language, but at the conclusion of the season five finale, the only words that I could put together to make some kind of sentence was: What the fucking fuck?

Okay, I think it’s out of my system for now. Let me start with the conclusion of the season five finale. Jon Snow has just been stabbed six times by his fellow crows, and he falls on his back as the blood pours out of his body, turning the white snow into a dark red mess. I just kept waiting and waiting for there to be a sign of hope that maybe this was all a dream. Or maybe he wasn’t about to take his last breath. But it didn’t seem like there was anything or anyone who could save him from those final moments. As the viewer, I really thought this would never happen. Sure, GoT has time and time again kicked me in the ass for expecting a major character to live a long and eventful life, but come on! This is Jon Snow! He’s been the voice of reason, the underdog among competitors, the sad misfit who’s been kicked around by everyone, and somehow throughout all of these seasons he has faced adversity and continued to conquer every obstacle thrown his way. So it’s no exaggeration that the entire GoT fan-base was in awe.

I haven’t read a single line from any of the books, but I understand from friends who have that this was where the latest book ended. So now the show and the novels are (somewhat) caught up with each other. In my opinion, that’s very exciting for the TV-viewers but disappointing for the novel-readers. But at least we can all band together and admit that this is a crucial loss, unless it isn’t! I’m sorry, but I still cannot accept that Jon Snow is gone forever. Maybe he does die, but there are elements of the show that suggests GoT has the capability to turn to magic. It took a while, but Frankenstein Mountain is alive and kicking again. And I doubt it’s coincidence that Melisandre roams into the crow camp right before he dies. While I’ve never been a fan of the Lord of Light story, it’s clear there is some real magic there. And it’s obvious that Stannis was the wrong leader to follow. Will the Lord of Light have anything to do with Snow’s possible resurrection?

As for Stannis, season five really dealt a lot with him, just to have him killed off at the end of a failed attempt to take Winterfell. I was really rooting him on up to the point where he chose to burn his daughter alive (oh how those screams still keep me up at night). But what happens here is slightly vague. Brienne steps out at the end of the battle and swings her sword at Stannis, but it’s never shown that he dies. That could mean she didn’t kill him after all, but I do honestly believe he’s dead. The last time I wanted to believe someone wasn’t dead because GoT didn’t show it immediately was Ned Stark.

So Stannis is done. Jon Snow is very likely dead. That means the Boltons have defended Winterfell and Ramsay will continue being the jackass he is. But as expected, Theon assists Sansa to try and escape. Unfortunately, this involves the bright idea to jump off the freaking wall. Are we supposed to assume that Sansa is going to survive that fall?! That would require a huge leap of faith, one that I don’t even think Sansa had when she decided to jump. But once again, we don’t see her land so we don’t know what happens. It’s just that this cannot be the last we see of Sansa. And if it is, this is definitely a weak way to go out.

Now let’s go over that extremely difficult-to-watch scene with Cersei walking through the streets to the Red Keep. If this doesn’t land Lena Headey any awards buzz then I don’t know what will. She displays such great control and ability during the scene, portraying a wide arrange of emotions until she’s finally able to let it all go when she reaches home. Cersei has never been a character who was liked, and even through this walk of shame I couldn’t feel bad for her. She has simply done too much to ever receive sympathy from me. But this is classic GoT here, taking a much-hated character and springing life into their story. It happens with Jaime Lannister, Theon, Stannis, etc. But I don’t believe one bit that Cersei has changed from all of this. She just did what she had to do to start planning how to destroy the Faith Militant.

Speaking of not able to let go, Arya finally finishes the deed of killing Meryn Trant. By doing so, she goes against everything that Jaqen H’ghar has been teaching her at the House of Black and White. And just as it seems he has killed himself, it’s all trickery. I don’t have much to really say about this story-line because there is too much unknown about the Faceless Men. I have no clue how it works and what is happening to Arya as she’s going blind, but all I know is that it has become one of the best plots in the fifth season. I’m excited to revisit Arya in the next season.

And then there is Daenerys, stranded in a far away place where Drogon is too lazy to bring her back home. I’m not sure where she thinks she was going, or how she could possibly be surprised by hundreds of Dothraki riders surrounding her in an open field, but her fate is left up in the air as well. One thing I am looking forward to for next season is the ruling of Meereen by the misfit team of Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei. If there was a Big Brother After Dark series of them living together, I’d watch every second of that. Also we have our new odd-couple, road trip tandem with Jorah and Daario.

After all is said and done, we still have to return to Jon Snow. I love how GoT has felt so real at times in such a fantasy world, but that is definitely one of its strengths. But recently the role of magic is becoming greater than I anticipated. From the murdering shadow to the wildfire used at the Battle of the Blackwater; the Frankenstein Mountain to the powerful dragons; Bran’s ability as a Warg to Beric’s resurrection. There has been so much magic within GoT and I believe the sixth season will be the most magical yet. Hopefully Bran does come back so we can have answers about his prophecies, and hopefully Snow is able to come back through some kind of resurrection. I’m probably way off with this, but I really hope I’m somewhat right.

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Game of Thrones – “Hardhome”

June 2, 2015

Season Five, Episode Eight

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Grade: A

By this point, we’ve become aware of how GoT likes to progress. Its penultimate episode every season contains such memorable moments that as a viewer, the slow-burn throughout the first half of the season is tolerated with anticipation for the ending. And even though this wasn’t that far off from the penultimate episode, I’m sure we were as surprised as Jon Snow was when the white walkers stormed the wildlings camp. But let’s back up a little bit.

Leading up to this epic battle, Jon Snow along with Tormund entered Hardhome to try and convince them it’s in everyone’s best interest to team up against the walkers. It was going to be a tough sell, but as Tormund discovered himself, Snow is a very good leader and everything he says makes a lot of sense. But the wildlings are a stubborn group of people, led by the Lord of Bones who stops them in their tracks only a few meters from the dock. If there was any question that Tormund would back-stab Snow, it was squashed the moment he beat the Lord of Bones to death (this was a great, dark comic relief to get on with more important and urgent matters).

When Snow and Torumund meet with the elders to discuss the proposal, you can feel the tension building inside of the tent. The wildlings and crows have been sworn enemies for decades, and now Snow is asking for the two to fight side-by-side with each other. No one trusts each other and no one can forget the pain both have imposed, but when asked Tormund tells the wildlings that he is behind Snow on this matter. This divides the wildlings as only part of them board their ships and rafts to travel to the Wall while the rest stay behind. And this is when the fun begins.

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Unlike the last few huge battle sequences (Blackwater and at the Wall), this comes out of nowhere. GoT wasn’t leading up to this epic event like it was with Stannis storming King’s Landing and the wildlings sprinting towards the Wall. This was a surprise assault on the wildlings by the white walker army, and boy was it intense! I don’t know if I can compare the battle of Hardhome to the others quite yet, but for starters it helped that this battle mainly centered on two characters: Snow and Tormund. It made the chaotic sequences a lot more focused, but gave me a feeling that neither of them would die. Nonetheless, the showdown between Snow and the white walker was great in all fronts. The action was great, plus we learn something new: Snow’s Valyrian steel sword not only withstood the walker’s strike, but it cut through the walker and shattered him into pieces. Go Snow!

All of this happens during the last 20 or so minutes of the episode, and while this was the most heart-pounding event all season long, that didn’t mean nothing else occured during “Hardhome.” For starters, we continue where last week left off with Jorah and Tyrion in front of Daenerys. The dialogue between Tyrion and Daenerys is everything I was hoping for. She boats her thick skin and cold stare at the Lannister, whom her family has always hated. Tyrion continues with his mildly sarcastic tone, but rich with logic and advice. He soon realizes that Varys was right, there is something about Daenerys that is worth staying alive for and even helping out. Those two are going to make one hell of a team.

The central theme throughout “Hardhome” was forgetting the past and moving forward with what’s best. The Targaryens and Lannisters have never been friendly, but these two main characters figured out that they’re a lot stronger with each other than they are by themselves. The same goes for the wildlings and the crows. It’s imperative they team up with one another to stand a fighting chance against the white walkers.

Continuing one with the theme, Arya attempts to forget her identity and take on a new one, Lana, an orphan who sells oysters to learn everything she can about a gambler from Braavos. It’s always exciting to see Arya’s journey with Jaqen H’ghar and that smile on her face as she learns her mission explains everything she’s feeling.

And then back at Winterfell there’s Sansa, screaming at Theon for betraying her yet again. We get a glimmer of good from Theon, who likely does feel he’s doing the best for Sansa by not helping her escape. Like he says, Theon tried to escape but Ramsay caught him and made him pay the price. He would do the same to her. But the real moment here is when Theon admits to Sansa that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon. Right there, you see a flickering hope in Sansa’s eyes for the first time in a long while. Maybe there is something worth fighting for now that she knows she has family out there, somewhere.

Finally, there’s Cersei, unwilling to confess her sins to the Fath Militant and finds herself rotting in prison, sucking up every last drop of water from her own prison floor. She’s someone who simply cannot escape her own past and move forward. She knows what she has done and has made plenty of poor decisions up to now. She has made enemies, but none that she hasn’t faced the consequences for. With the sparrows marching around, her plan to keep her status at King’s Landing backfired tremendously. She keeps trying to hard to maintain everything that she has lost throughout the years, but like “Hardhome” has shown, her inability to leave the past behind her has forced her inside a dark pit with no hope of getting out. While everyone else are making changes and adapting to their situation, Cersie kept on plotting for her own gain.

With only two episodes left this season, I wonder if there will be anything close to as exciting “Hardhome” was, or did GoT use up all of its budget for that one sequence. That being said, there are still plenty of things that must be addressed. Will Stannis march onto Winterfell and will the Boltons be able to fend them off? Will Jaime Lannister be able to retrieve his daughter? Can Brienne rescue Sansa? What is Ramsay’s plan where he only needs twenty men? Let’s see what kind of surprises GoT will throw our way during these final episodes of season five.

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Game of Thrones – “The House of Black and White”

April 20, 2015

Season Five, Episode Two

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Grade: B+

Power. It’s what everyone wants in Game of Thrones, but only one person can rule at a time. At this very moment, it seems like Daenerys is the most powerful in Mereen with the Unsullied (though without her dragons she loses a lot of points). Her power is why we’ve been spending so much time with her in the early going of the fifth season. It’s also the reason why Varys and Tyrion feel it’s important to travel to her. Does she really have what it takes to rule? We get a glimpse of that in this episode.

As ruler, one must always make difficult decisions that can be crucial to keeping order. There is no doubt that Daenerys is good at heart and wants the best for the world and the people who live in it, but when she has to be tough she can often let her emotions get in the way of her judgement. By all means, her decision to execute Mossador makes sense to continue the law and justice she’s trying to enforce, but he murdered the man who killed an Unsullied. Mossador has always been one of Daenerys biggest supporters, but she’s trying her best to unify the former slaves and the masters. I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible, but that’s not going to stop her from trying.

Meanwhile, Stannis rules with the way of fear. He’s tough. He knows that he’s tough and everyone else around him knows it too. It’s his fearlessness that forces people to follow him and have his way. Once you appear weak, the people will no longer respect and follow you. It’s a similar approach to how Tywin ran things, but we all saw where that got him. At the Wall, Stannis wants to promote Jon Snow away from Castle Black and as his adviser of the North as Jon Stark. He never intends to accept the offer, but is surprised when the Night’s Watch nominates him as the new Lord Commander. It was a great scene that turned Snow’s misfortunes into fortune very quickly.

As for Cersei, she’s doing her best to act the role of ruler at King’s Landing, but without much success. We all know her son isn’t fit to rule anything anytime soon, but she’ll also never have the respect of the council nor the people despite her royal name. That doesn’t leave her with much options, but for now she is most definitely the acting ruler. As for Jaime, he’s off with Bronn to Dorne to try and bring Myrcella back. Personally, I cannot wait to see more of their adventure together.

Finally, Arya gets invited into The House of Black and White with Jaqen H’gar, which should be the start to a very exciting future. What’s in store for her in Braavos? I honestly have no idea, but it’s good to know she still remembers the people she wants to kill. Oh, and that she got her coin back.

Last but not least:

– Poor Brienne. No one wants her on their side. Sexist pigs! But no, it’s the Starks who don’t trust her, which is that much more frustrating. At least she saved Podrick so we can follow them following Sansa.

– I’m still surprise how Petyr Baelish is still around and relevant. But what’s his endgame with Sansa?

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Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

December 23, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
144 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen

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Grade: B

The third installment of The Hobbit franchise picks up right where The Desolation of Smaug ends, which is Smaug flying towards Lake-town to burn everything to the ground. The dwarves and Bilbo can only watch from the mountain as Smaug ignites the island city. You can see the looks on their guilty faces, except for Thorin (Richard Armitage), who falls prey to “dragon sickness.”

During the attack, Bard the Bowman escapes from his prison cell and slays the dragon. He’s a hero and now the leader of the remaining from Lake-town. As a character, Bard is certainly one we root for without knowing much about. We see his family and young children run for their lives. We see Bard save hundreds and make allies with the Elves, but at the other end is Thorin and the mountain of treasure. He’s unwilling to pay back his dept for Bard’s help and he’s definitely not giving the Elvish one coin. This means war.

While The Battle of Five Armies offers a lot of action (seriously, there is a crap-load of action in the finale), it feels awfully hollow at the end. Aside from Bilbo (thanks to Martin Freeman), there wasn’t another character that we really could stand behind during the thrilling moments in the battlefield. Like I said earlier, Bard was a hero but was a one-dimensional character. And because this is a prequel, we already knew that Gandolf, Saruman, and Legalos weren’t in any danger. This isn’t the fault of the film, but just the struggle of creating prequels.

Probably my favorite scene of the film involved Gandalf, Saruman, and Galdriel as they fend off the evil forces of Sauron, the Dark Lord. It’s one that reminds us how well Peter Jackson can bring you into a scene full of incredible imagery and magic. As the good guys battle the ghosts/shadows, this scene by far trumps over the thousands that are fighting for the mountain. And even though we already know the outcome because of its direct connection to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still a great sequence of violence with dire circumstances.

With all the battles and the violence and the CGI littering the majority of the film, the center of it all is Bilbo, who through this journey has befriended Thorin and takes it among himself to bring him back from his dragon sickness. And once again, we learn that even though hobbits are little people, they have great big hearts. But Freeman’s Bilbo couldn’t entirely save this film, mainly because of the uninteresting other characters that we were clearly supposed to care deeply about.

The Hobbit trilogy cannot be discussed on the same level as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that was an almost impossible challenge to begin with. For what it was, The Hobbit trilogy offered us to drive into the fantasy world again where good meets evil and where greed and arrogance are challenged by the purest of creatures that no one expected to make a difference.


Flickchart Battle: War of the Worlds (2005) vs. The Fountain (2006)

May 9, 2014

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In the first corner, we have an alien-invasion science fiction film starring Tom Cruise. In the other corner, we have an epic love story spanning approximately 1,000 years with a heavy fantasy and science fiction influence. Both films stirred a lot of conversation, but neither were universally acclaimed. Which film will win this battle?

First and foremost, War of the Worlds was a huge blockbuster in 2005. With a reported budget of $130 million, the film grossed over $234 million ($591 million worldwide). There have been plenty of disaster movies, but unfortunately no one considers War of the Worlds very good, because it’s not. It’s flashy at times, but there are plenty of scenes when you wonder where all the money went to, because the special effects aren’t that spectacular. Tom Cruise demands a big paycheck, and to his credit he (and director Steve Spielberg) delivered. But with a flimsy family-story and barely enough urgency (especially when aliens are killing everything in its path!), War of the Worlds is a whirlwind of chaos.

At its best, War of the Worlds shows the confusion of such a bizarre, catastrophic event. Where did they come from? What do they want? How are they functioning? How can we defeat them? But with a weak ending and a strange encounter with Tim Robbins, War of the Worlds is hardly memorable. The only thing that has stayed in my mind since watching it in theaters are the images of humans being evaporated by the aliens’ lasers. It’s very powerful when you see hundreds of clothes floating through the air. But then again, the aliens are defeated at the end and somehow the family remained safe. I just don’t buy it.

Meanwhile, The Fountain is a very ambitious film by Darren Aronofsky, who has provided us with films such as Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan. It’s safe to say that The Fountain is a misstep in Aronofsky’s career, but there is still a lot of great things happening. For one, while The Fountain isn’t an easy movie to understand, it’s one that would definitely spark up a conversation. Which story-lines were real? Which story-lines were a part of the book? What’s the meaning of the ending? You can count on Aronofsky to deliver some head-scratching scenes in most of his movies.

But just because The Fountain is thought-provoking, is it good? From his resume of films, it’s definitely on the bottom of his works, but then again it’s not a bad film, it’s just a lot more challenging than his others. The acting is very good in The Fountain, led by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. At the end, you’re left with a number of different feelings from the bizarre conclusion, which stem from the simple story about a man who loves a woman who dies. It’s not treated like a regular Hollywood film that bombards you with tear-jerking scenes until you’re out of tissues. It shows the passion and the distance that Tom Creo takes to try and save his wife, and the limits he breaks to try and keep her with him.

So who wins? It’s a challenging match-up because I don’t love either film, but I also don’t hate either. While War of the Worlds was a more entertaining film from a classic story, The Fountain is incredibly original. And shouldn’t filmmakers who take risks be rewarded? I think they should, and that’s why I’m picking The Fountain as the winner of this Flickchart Battle!

Winner: The Fountain


Game of Thrones – “Two Swords”

April 7, 2014

Season Four, Episode One

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Grade: B+

After watching some episodes from the marathon on HBO2, the season four premiere felt very scattered, like a montage of all the characters and where they are now. “Two Swords” takes place not too far after when the season three finale ended. The Lannisters are still in power and enjoying a hiatus in the war, though Jaime warns them that the war never ends. While there isn’t any direct battles that involve the Lannisters, they’re far from feeling safe and happy.

While Jaime was one of the most hated characters in the early-going of the series, he’s worked his way into our hearts especially since he’s been cut down to size without his right hand. Sympathy was something I thought I’d never feel for Jaime, but after his time on the road with Brienne, he’s a character that I don’t completely hate anymore. So when he has his conversation with Cersei, I felt the cold breeze from her words as they stung Jaime right in the heart.

Also at King’s Landing, Tyrion and Sansa are still trying to figure out their marriage, but how could she when all she can think about is the brutal murder of her family from the Red Wedding. Tyrion does his best to try and be sympathetic, but to no avail. Also, Tyrion seems to be losing Shae in more than one way. Let’s see how Cersei takes the news that Tyrion and Shae are in love with each other.

Meanwhile, we get snippets of our other main characters. Daenerys marches on with her army; Jon Snow is back at the Wall and warns his superiors of the danger that is coming its way; Ygritte’s people are joined by the Thenns who roast a human arm; and Arya and the Hound search for food. The final scene involving Arya, the Hound and a handful of the King’s men was full of tension with a happy outcome when Arya seeks revenge and finally gets Needle back. For a moment watching the scene, I wasn’t sure if Arya was going to jump in and help the Hound, or if she was going to cower in the corner. But I’m sure glad she did spring into action!

Like every season, it’ll be fun to track how the chess pieces move around the board before the show hits us with another huge battle or another stunner. We’ll have the big wedding to look forward to, along with the defense of the Wall and the journey of the Hound and Arya. And for those who hate the Lannisters, let’s just hope that this is the beginning to the end of their ruling.


Revolution – “Come Blow Your Horn”

November 18, 2013

Season Two, Episode Eight

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Grade: B+

Truman tells the residents of Willoughby (I keep thinking to type Woodbury from The Walking Dead) that Miles is the one responsible for the bomb that went off inside the walls and that he, along with Aaron, Rachel, and Charlie, are terrorists. So what does the gang decide to do? Make them eat their words by cooking up a bomb to eliminate Dr. Horn and anyone else hiding in the headquarters.

This part of the episode was full of the most tension because of the elephant in the room that Rachel and Charlie eventually discuss: what to do with Gene Porter? Charlie knows she can’t forgive her grandfather but she can forget his betrayal, while Rachel has more rage than forgiveness inside of her heart. What ends up happening is what we all expected, while Rachel sneaks to the roof of the building, Gene walks in to visit with Dr. Horn. Does Rachel drop the chemicals? Charlie certainly doesn’t want her to, but Miles calmly mutters that it’s Rachel’s decision. That all changes when a few Patriot officers bring in Aaron and Cynthia. The problem is Rachel doesn’t see this and Miles and Charlie have no way to tell her. Can this be the end of a handful of major characters?!

Of course not, but I must admit that this was one of the more suspenseful moments on Revolution this season. The way Rachel quietly climbs the steps to the roof while a dozen guards litter the yard. Seeing Gene walk into the headquarters just added to the decision of leaving the building in flames, but then when Aaron is seen your heart just drops! But ninja Miles swoops in and prevents Rachel from dropping the chemicals (which has me thinking, why didn’t Miles just climb to the roof instead of Rachel?).

This is when we just have to say, Poor Aaron. Since the beginning he’s been the one who’s arguably the most useless out of the group. He even knows it, but he’s that underdog character that it’s hard to root against. But since he’s been resurrected from the dead and has super-human powers, he’s target number one on Dr. Horn’s list. Why? Because he has a tumor growing in his brain and believes the nanotech that brought Aaron back to life can cure his tumor. Whoa. Oh, and Dr. Horn will do anything for this to happen, which includes torturing Aaron, watching his body heal itself like Wolverine, and eventually has an officer stab Cynthia to draw out an emotional response. That Dr. Horn is an evil man!

Meanwhile, Neville talks with Allenford’s husband, Roger, and makes a deal with him to hand over his traitor wife so the camp can see his loyalty to the Patriots. Roger has a change of heart nearing the site his wife’s being held, but Neville’s no fool. “I thought something like this might happen,” he said with a small smile. You simply don’t mess with Neville. Period. In the end, Roger shoots Secretary Allenford and Neville’s plan to climb the Patriot ranks is still moving flawlessly. It’s uncertain what’s going to be Neville’s next play, but that’s what keeps this part of the story-line so interesting. Unlike Miles and company trying to escape Willoughby (and for a while now), we really don’t know what’s in store for Neville as he continues to travel from camp to camp.

In the end, a lot of characters are facing imminent danger: Aaron spreads flames in the dungeon, Gene stares down the gun pointed at his head from Truman, Cynthia’s stab wound to the stomach, and Miles and company still wanted as terrorists. Last week I pointed out how the urgency level should be raised… well we finally got it. Now I’m concerned whether or not Revolution will keep their foot on the gas pedal, or will they slow down the action and draw out all the situations?

Last but not least:

  • Monroe leaves Aaron because if he’s captured, he’s dead. Smart, and also shows how Monroe wouldn’t sacrifice himself for others.
  • Miles has a nasty infection spreading down his arm. Still, with one arm he’s still a kick-ass killing machine.
  • Charlie was border-line annoying, preaching to her mom about keeping Gene alive.
  • We see a lot of Dr. Horn flashbacks and learn he’s not a religious man, but he’s still a creepy old hellraiser!

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