Tuesday’s Reviews – X-Men: Apocalypse

Tuesday’s Reviews – X-Men: Apocalypse

Anyone who has been following this blog for long enough knows that I’ve had a long and tortured relationship with the X-Men film franchise. I’ve been a fan of your friendly neighbourhood mutants ever since the amazing 90s cartoon and X-Men Evolution back in early 2000. Then, of course, Bryan Singer brought the gang to the big screen in 2000 with X-Men and its superb sequel. Still, the films that followed never quite managed to achieve the original greatness so I wasn’t exactly loving the prospect of X-Men: Apocalypse. Especially when each of the trailers were such utter shit. Still, a guy at work saw the film when it first came out and insisted that it was worthwhile. He pretty much loves anything he watches so I wasn’t exactly convinced so it took a while to get round to it. So, will Apocalypse fall into the same traps that we saw The Last Stand did?

Before all of the action kicks off in X-Men: Apocalypse a group of teenage mutants sneak out of Professor Xavier’s mansion to watch Return of the Jedi. Upon exiting the film, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) utters the immortal phrase “everyone knows that the third movie is always the worst”. It’s a funny enough line considering the franchise’s history but the question remains about any potential self-awareness hidden underneath the humour. Were Bryan Singer and co. really calling out Brett Ratner for the disastrous The Last Stand (something they erased from the canon thanks the events of Days of Future Past) or were they preparing for the inevitable criticism of the end of their new trilogy?

I mean whatever your interpretation, it doesn’t bode well that the script is already preparing you for a shitty ending. Especially when the opening scene sets you up pretty well. The scene lifts off where the post credits scene of the last film left off. We are in Ancient Egypt and Apocalypse/En Sabah Nur is in the process of transferring his consciousness into the body of Oscar Issac. Unfortunately, before he can bring about the end of the world, the first ever mutant is betrayed by his people and ends up buried under the remains of his own pyramid.

Of course, we all know that’s not where he’ll stay and, thanks to some interference from Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrn), Apocalypse is risen from the dead and takes an instant dislike to the modern world. As the myths dictate he goes about rounding up his four horsemen to aid in his task. Storm (Alexandra Ship), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and, our old friend, Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Of course, Erik’s return to the world of evil causes concern for his ex-ally Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and he and his mutant students quickly find themselves embroiled in the disaster.

However, there is a lot more to the story than the above summary suggests. The action takes place 10 years after the climax of the last film so there are several old faces to reintroduce alongside all the newbies. The first hour basically consists of little vignettes detailing each character’s new storyline and it takes fucking ages. We see Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) acting as a vigilante in Berlin, Erik settling into a human life complete with wife and daughter in Poland, Alex Summers (Lucas Till) helping his younger brother Scott (Tye Sheridan) come to terms with his powers, and Jean Grey having nightmares about a coming evil. And, really, that’s not even scratching the surface. The film reintroduces us to Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult); reminds us, as if we could forget, that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still exists; and introduces Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Pyslocke, Angel and Jubilee (Lana Condor).

There are a lot of players in this latest instalment and, because everyone has their own share of baggage, the whole things feels stuffed to bursting. It inevitably means that character plays a secondary role here and most people get little, if any, development. Scott and Jean get some chance to make a connection with the audience but they still don’t get what they deserve considering their history with the audience. Charles, Hank and Moira really get little to do and the rest of the new cast are pretty much just set dressing. I mean what is the point of introducing a villain like Apocalypse and making him so fucking undefined? Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to overload the film so much that there is no real sense of characterisation here?

Instead, the studio have focused on the characters that they believe are most bankable people. That’s why it is Eirk and Mystique who once again have to battle with their inner demons just as they have been doing for the past two films. The Last Stand failed because it was so wildly different to the preceeding films. Apocalypse fails because it’s so fucking similar. We’ve had two films of Erik killing people because his family are killed and Charles trying to convince him of his hidden goodness. We didn’t need another. He’s murdered so many people by this point you’d probably just give up. Then you have Mystique who has gone so far into Katniss territory that it’s embarrassing. I get that J Law can do no wrong but that doesn’t mean I need a 2.5 hour film of her making trite, inspirational speeches. It’s another Hollywood cliche at this point.

The film makers have got Apocalypse all wrong. X-Men hasn’t succeeded on spectacle or grandeur. It works well when there is depth and emotion. It works because we get to know the characters and appreciate their struggles. This film has more in common with Zack fucking Snyder that it does with its own franchise. At its climax the film just descends into the same wanton destruction that has become such a staple of the modern superhero film. Thanks to a kickstart to his powers, Magneto finds that he can manipulate the metal deep in the Earth and pretty much destroy everything in existence. He tears down buildings and ships thousands of miles away. Masses of unnamed people must be killed in this epic finale but its all so low-key. There are no consequences, no drama, It’s all just action.

I have to admit that I didn’t hate this film as much as I thought and I think there is great potential within the new cast for some future movies. However, I think this went too far. There was so much going on that there was no room to develop the main story. The film isn’t that long when compared to many recent releases but it felt neverending. It’s difficult having to compete with films like The Avengers where so many familiar faces are pushed together and make millions in the box office. Fox clearly just pushed things too far and the film-makers couldn’t handle it. The story isn’t all that interesting when you get down to it and the villains are just pathetic. We don’t even know anything about Apocalypse. What are his powers? What motivates him? Why does he pick the mutant he does? We don’t fucking know because there was no time.

Fans applauded Singer when he retrospectively altered the timeline and got rid of everything that happened in The Last Stand. He wiped the slate clean and did what fans have been doing ever since 2006: forgetting it ever existed. It’s just a shame, then, that he went and fucked it up by doing another shit third film. It’s by no means as bad as Ratner’s contribution but there is so much that needed to be defined and tweaked by this film. There are too many dinner party guests and not enough chairs or plates. Unfortunately, it’s also the audience that is going hungry.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Was going to write this earlier but was so tired when I got home from work that I had a quick nap. I’m so pathetically tired at the moment that I need to do something about it. Nothing much to report on the book front of late. I’m still buying more than I need and reading less than I should. It’s just that every time I sit down to read I fall asleep. Still, I’m at least getting back into Instagram after a brief pause for my feed. Sometimes I feel as though I’m turning a corner with my photos then I take an absolutely shocking selection that I just can’t make work. I guess I just don’t have a natural eye for composition. It’s all about wildly trying something until it works. Maybe one day it’ll all make sense.
Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I’m going to be honest with you all, I’ve been shitty at reading this week. For some reason, I’ve been fucking exhausted since I got back from London. I blame the increase in carbs and a decrease in exercise. Still, I’m resolved to turn things around and I’m at least getting back on the fitness train. I’m sure the eating and reading thing will follow.  

Recently Purchased
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Saw this beauty in a charity shop one lunchtime and couldn’t resist. The Penguins Decades cover is lovely and I honestly couldn’t bear to leave it behind. I mainly know Ackroyd as a historian and have never looked into his fiction. So what better excuse than a gorgeous and cheap book? Also, a pretty dark and tense story. In the eighteenth century, Nicholas Dyer is hiding secrets in the Churches he has been commissioned to build. Hundreds of years later a series of gruesome murders take place at these Churches. Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating these crimes. We’ll see how this goes. 

  • Capital by John Lancaster

Another charity shop find that I instantly fell in love with. This beautiful hardback edition got me hooked without even looking at what the story was about. Although the story, revolving around the financial crisis and the residents of a road in London. It’s probably going to be a bit of fun.  
  • End of Watch by Stephen King
A late entry in the list of recently purchased as I bought it on a whim on my way home today. I’ve still not read Finder’s Keepers, the second in the Bill Hodges trilogy, but W H Smith’s were selling their gorgeous hardback at half price. I didn’t hate the first one that much but nor was I wowed by it. I find myself constantly disappointed with King of late but I always go back. I think I might start on these two if I ever manage to finish George RR. I’ll need something lighter at that point. 

Recently Watched
  • Dramaworld
Absent-mindedly browsing Netflix and I come across this series. There are only 10 episodes and they’re all really sort so I gave it a go. I’m not sure I enjoyed it per se but it was a good enough watch. Mindless fun. When Claire, a huge fan of Korean drama, gets sucked into the fake world of her favourite show she finds out she is the one needed to bring about a happy ending. It’s silly and not that complicated to follow. It’s nothing overly clever or surprising but I’d probably watch a second series. 


TBT – Jaws (1974)

TBT – Jaws (1974)

Jaws has a great legacy in Hollywood for still being one of the greatest films ever made. This is partly down to director Steven Spielberg’s deft handling but, perhaps mostly, down to the many issues that arose during production. It was a completely troubled shoot that overran its given 55 day schedule by more than 100 days. By the time it was finished the film had cost double it’s estimated $3.5 million budget and had cause Spielberg no end of stress. There were problems with props, and filming at sea proved incredibly tricky. There was great tension between the main cast and the watery setting constantly caused them to become seasick. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with filming did but it didn’t stop the film. Despite all the stress, Jaws became a tremendous success and was released to positive reviews. It has remained a on Best Film lists since its release and has one of the most iconic scores in film history. It’s a great achievement considering how difficult it was and given the fact that the book it’s based on hasn’t fared so well.

Peter Benchley, the author of the novel Jaws, had a hand in the screenplay and offered Spielberg several drafts to build on. When he agreed to do the film, the director had decided he wanted to stay faithful to the final part of the book but change the first two thirds, It was the shark attack that really interested him whilst the subplots surrounding Amity were less of a concern. The characters were changed to more sympathetic versions of their book counterparts and the unnecessary adultery, mafia and class tensions were deleted. Martin Brody remained the protagonist but the film feels much more the story of the hunt for a shark than Benchley’s book.

The film opens with the scene of a young girl skinny dipping at night before being dragged around the water by an unknown assailant. When he hand is washed up on the shore the Chief of Police (Roy Scheider) declares is a shark attack and begins proceedings to shut the beaches. Thanks to pressure from the town, Brody covers up the attack and the beaches remain open. Unfortunately, other deaths occur and panic sets in around the town. This kick starts desperate search for the killer whilst Brody must keep people out of the water.

Brody is joined by oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and together they try to track down the huge shark. When more people wind up dead and his children are put in danger, Brody has no other choice but to turn to gruff shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). The trio set out on Quint’s boat, the Orca, and manage to come face-to-face with the foe that has been haunting their town. The group become locked into a battle with the beast where they find there is more to the shark than they first thought.

Jaws has succeeded as a film because of Spielberg’s vision and approach. This has not been despite the problems that arose during filming but partially because of them. One of the major production issues was that the mechanical sharks that were built kept failing when they were placed in water. This meant Spielberg couldn’t rely on visuals of the shark and had to create tension in other ways. Using the camera to give the perspective of the shark and adding in John Williams’ score meant Spielberg could create enough danger without ever having to show the killer.

It is something that worked so well and, when you finally see the shark, it’s pretty clear the film would have been less terrifying had everything gone to plan. Instead of a generic B movie about a shark, Jaws became a thriller that has more in common with Alfred Hitchcock than Sharknado. Like the book, it is the scenes concerning the shark attacks that are the most memorable and engrossing because of how well Spielberg overcame his difficulties. The attacks themselves, whilst not technically perfect, are exactly what they needed to be. Although, I have to say, it is not something that necessarily transfers to a modern audience who is used to much greater gore and bloodshed than a 70s audience were.

Again, like the book, the action on shore is less interesting and feels stilted in comparison to the film’s final, water-based section. The characters, whilst more sympathetic than their literary counterparts, are still not exactly people you care about. Of the main three, it is only really Quint who gets any real development meaning he is the stand-out performance. Brody, the main character, just flits through his scenes never really giving the audience much to go on. The opening scene in which Brody is at home with hi family is so laughably bad that it would feel out-of-place in a terrible soap opera.

Still, this film has shown the test of time which says a lot for it’s creation. It is not the best story ever told and it suffers from a certain amount of awkward bumbling before it gets to where it really wants to be. The film is always building towards its great finale which, in my opinion, isn’t as clever as the book’s but is certainly much more dramatic. Jaws has the feel and heart of a classic B movie but Spielberg’s deft touch manages to elevate it something much grander. It’s fun and terrifying but it is clever and calculating. It’s a classic piece of cinema that, no matter how outdated it may seem, will always have people afraid to go in the water.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Jaws by Peter Benchley

Tuesday’s Reviews – Jaws by Peter Benchley

Everyone knows the story of Jaws right? Well, I thought I did. Of course, not being too up-to-date with popular fiction of the 1970s, was only really aware of the story thanks to the film. I knew that Steven Spielberg changed much of Peter Benchley’s book but had never thought to read it. Until I found a copy with the most amazing cover I’d ever seen. No matter how many times I get burned by ignoring the well-known idiom, I always judge a book by its cover. Still, I at least knew that Benchley’s book was a much trashier affair than Spielberg’s film so it seemed like perfect reading during the recent run of good weather. Even ex-literature students love a bit of trash every now and then. Maybe one day I’ll tell you all about The Second Lady by Irving Wallace. Now that’s some fucking great trash. So it was with a piqued interest that I sat down to read the book that became a surprise best-seller after its release in 1974. 

Peter Benchley’s novel has the same basic premise of the Steven Spielberg adaptation that was released a year after the book first came out. A small seaside town is terrorised by an underwater beast and comes close to financial ruin when the tourists they rely on stay away. That’s kind of where the helpful comparisons come to an end. Benchley padded out his narrative with subplots of adultery, political corruption, mobsters and class divides. The characters that litter his novel are almost unrecognisable to those we are so used to seeing on screen. In stark contrast to the titular fish, they are all terrible and immoral people. It’s difficult to read the novel and not want the shark to win in the end. 
It’s difficult when discussing Benchley’s novel because, in so many ways, it can never compete with the superior work. The two recently celebrated their 40th anniversaries and, whilst the film was obviously lauded for its greatness, the books birthday passed in a much quieter manner. After reading it I can see why the novel hasn’t remained the huge success it was in the mid 70s. In fact, it is kind of shocking that it remained on the best-sellers list for as long as it did. It was Benchley’s first novel and it is hardly the greatest example of writing the world had ever seen. The story is massively cliched, the dialogue is stilted and the subplots are fairly bland and pointless. 
There are moments of greatness within the novel but Benchley just throws too much at it. It’s like the kind of Christmas trees you decorated as a child: there’s a solid base there but you’ve just chucked too many shiny things on top of it. The sections of the novel that really stand out are the ones with the shark. Taken from its point of view, we see the attacks on the human victims through the eyes of a predator and it’s weirdly captivating. Benchley’s writing is factual and solemn in these sections and they’re just brilliant. From these few sections you can see why people considered it an exciting thriller. The scenes with the shark have a level of intensity that the rest of the book just can’t match. The fault within the novel doesn’t lie with our fishy protagonists but with the human ones. 
One of the main criticisms of the novel, and one taken up by Spielberg himself, is that the human characters are just too unlikeable. I can see where they’re coming from but I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. In fact, Ellen Brody, despite being an offensively written and whiny housewife, has way more depth than she ever did on screen. I don’t necessarily find the awful nature of the human characters to be a problem but I do object to it being done for no real reason. Martin Brody, for example, has a massive chip on his shoulder but it never goes anywhere beyond his petty jealousy of Matt Hooper. The human sections within the shark tale are just about entertainment and adds nothing from a literary point. 
Although, you could argue, the real focus is and should be on the shark. This is a murder mystery set under the sea and the fish should be what you remember. However, Benchley also takes this a bit too far with his allusions to Moby Dick. Quint is much the same as you remember from the film but his relationship with the shark goes much deeper into Captain Ahab territory. The final battle sequence is. I guess, quite exhilarating but it pushes the whole plot to a new level of insanity and revenge. As soon as Quint enters the scene we leave reality and enter a much more fantastical world. A weird thing to say considering Benchley’s ending is much more sedate and sombre than the film. No massive explosion here just a beast that can’t stop fighting anymore. It may not be the Hollywood spectacle that Spielberg wanted but the timid ending of this novel is, in it’s own way, incredibly meaningful in regards to natural order. Maybe it does hold up to its visual brother after all. 
SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Posting this much later than usual because, as you’ll know if you follow my Instagram, I’ve been in London this week visiting my friend for her birthday. I got back super late and, because I hate writing too much on my phone, I left it until now to start this. The weekend has been great and I’ve indulged in a lot of book talk. My friend’s a fellow literature graduate so most of our conversations eventually come back round to books. Plus, she works in publishing so often has free treats for me to take away with me.  I also took way too many with me because I managed to overestimate just how much I can read on a train journey. Still, I hunkered down and got a fair bit done.
Just Finished
  • Jaws by Peter Benchley
As I’ve yet to watch anything new to review this week and because I think it’d be a good topic I’m going to talk about this on Tuesday. It also gives me the chance to watch Jaws for my TBT review, which is never a bad thing. I will just say that this book had one of the best designed covers I’ve seen in a while. With its mix of photograph and hand-drawn design it really is something of a relic these days. I love it though. A reason why it featured so heavily in my Instagram this weekend. 

Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I contemplated taking this with my on my trip so I could read it after I finished Jaws but I decided it was too big and took a book I was in no mood to read. I decided to start this upon arriving home. It mainly comes down the intense jealousy I felt at sitting across from a guy reading A Dance with Dragons part 2 on the way down to London. It’s been ages since I’ve read good George RR so I’m using this to prepare for the coming of Book 6 (hopefully by the end of this year). 

Recently Purchased
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
I’ve wanted to read this way since way before it won the Man Booker International Prize. When it did win it sort of put my off reading it because I feel like the pressure to finish and enjoy it has gone way up. I guess I just worry more that I won’t appreciate it enough and then I’ll feel like I was missing something. I’d rather start something with a blank slate and then get my own feel for it. However, when waiting for my train to arrive on Friday I found this too tempting to resist. 

Recently Watched
  • How to Get Away With Murder
Not sure why I never watched this show before but it has become my new obsession. It’s absolutely amazing. I love Viola Davis so much and am captivated by everything that happens. I can even forgive it for the stupid flashback/time lapses that it uses so much. I just want more. 

Recently Visited
One of the main reasons for the birthday visit this weekend was because my friend had tickets to the Rolling Stones exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery. It was an absolutely amazing experience and there were so many great things I never knew about the band. Of course, it means now all I want to listen to is their music but that’s really no bad thing. I’ve always liked the band but seeing this made me appreciate them in a completely different way. Astounding. 

TBT – Zombieland (2009)

TBT – Zombieland (2009)

On Sunday the new series of Top Gear started and, without getting into my feelings on the new format, I was glad to see Jesse Eisenberg as the star guest. Despite how awful his interviews inevitably are, I love Eisenberg and thought he was super funny when faced with Chris Evans and Gordon Ramsay. Eisenberg has made a career out of playing the awkward, geeky loner and it is something that filters out into his personal appearances. Something that has made him seem stand-offish and rude. Still, I count Eisenberg as one of my favourite actors and am convinced that, when I eventually see it, he’ll be my favourite thing about Batman vs Superman. Although, I’m still not ready to see just how bad that film is yet so I decided to revisit classic Eisenberg.

Zombieland picks up the thread laid down by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead: taking a comic approach to Zombie apocalypses. Hollywood had become so saturated with Zombie films that people needed to take a different approach. Zombieland is less of a Zombie-horror film than it is a romantic-comedy that happens to contain the walking dead. It doesn’t proclaim to be scary or chilling but it does have an unashamedly jolly good time. Something I think allows it to trump the earlier British work. I know I know. It’s unpatriotic or something but Shaun of the Dead gets so bogged down in parody that it never lets itself go quite as much as this film.

This is all about the four actors having fun with guns, zombies and theme parks. In fact, Zombieland has more in common with another Eisenberg film, Adventureland, than it does with Night of the Living Dead. Eisenberg plays an unnamed man who, by strictly adhering to his own set of rules, survives alone in a world riddled with zombies. After a chance encounter with a fellow unnamed survivor (Woody Harrelson), the pair join up and make their way across the country to find some sort of life.

The two men are set up by two sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) and lose their car, guns and supplies. Thankfully, there are plenty of abandoned cars around and the boys are quickly pursuing the sisters. After a few ups and downs, the group join together and make their way to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in Los Angeles. The four begin to bond with each other and find that being alone in an undead world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Zombieland doesn’t really make much of the whole zombie thing which, for someone who has grown so tired of the z-word, I’m thankful for. This isn’t about watching scared people running from weird looking dead people. This is about four people having fun whilst also fighting for their lives. There are way more jokes here than there are frights but it is something that it gets so right. The script is strong and the jokes are on point. It’s a wacky film that gets away with some absurd ideas but they all work. Much has been made of Billy fucking Murray’s cameo and it is certainly one of the films greatest moments featuring some great work by Murray and Woody Harrelson.

In fact, Harrelson’s role is the stand-out of the entire thing. His crazed zombie killer is deadly, skilled and, when he wants to be, emotional. His one-man assault against a mass of zombies during the films final act is just mesmerising. Compared to Harrelson’s brash character, the rest of the cast do, sort of, fade into the backgroud. Not that the cast don’t do a good job but they have more traditional roles than Harrelson. Eisenberg and Stone are once again cast in their traditional roles of geeky loner and the independent, strong woman respectively. They do it well but we’ve been here time and time again. Their frosty relationship will quickly thaw and the pair will be locking lips well before the credits roll.

Zombieland doesn’t succeed by being completely original or new. It works because everything it does is done with enough humour. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as Shaun of the Dead did and is even more willing than its predecessor to drop some pop culture knowledge whenever it can. Zombieland is fun and that’s what counts. It breaths life into a long dead genre and, thanks to a cast that gels really well, manages to feel fresh.

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top 10 most heartbreaking deaths on Game of Thrones

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top 10 most heartbreaking deaths on Game of Thrones

I had such plans for this post after seeing Civil War. I  had every intention to use this post to discuss my favourite Marvel movies. I mean it’s something we all need to think about at some time. I mean we all really hate Iron Man 2 but which comes next? There’s the tricky Incredible Hulk question to consider and it’s hard not to see Captain America in a new light after the trilogy ended so well. Plus, I realise I’m in a minority of people who really love Thor so I’m always slightly away from the trends. So, as you can see, I’d given the whole thing a lot of thought. I was ready. Until I saw Game of Thrones episode 5 and my whole life got turned upside down. We all knew George RR Martin had a tendency to kill the people we love but I had to believe Hodor was safe. He was the best of us. So I decided to pay my respects to the gentle giant and remember the 10 most heartbreaking deaths in Game of Thrones.


10. Jeor Mormont – Season 3 Episode 4
I know this death wouldn’t make it onto many people’s top 10 because it wasn’t exactly Earth shattering. Jeor had been the wise old mentor for Jon Snow up until his death and hadn’t really had a great deal of screen time. Also, the show didn’t make much of his family connection with Jorah meaning they have less reason to care. Still, as a self-proclaimed resident of Bear Island I felt awful when the Old Bear died. Watching as his men turned on him in Crastor’s Keep was just dreadful.
9. Syrio Forel – Season 1 Episode 8
Syrio was a great man who laid down his life to save Ayra Stark from Lannister men. Even in the short time we knew Syrio it was easy to love him. His attitude to life and his work with Arya was fantastic. The worst thing about this death though? He was a great swordsman. If he’d picked up a real fucking sword and not a wooden one he’d probably have done a decent job of defending himself.

8. Barristan Selmy – Season 5 Episode 4
Barristan Selmy had a lot of heartbreaking moments in the show and his death was an undeserved one. Selmy is still alive in the books so the decision to kill him in the TV show was clearly one of convenience or timing. This death was heartbreaking because of how it came about and how brave he was. It also didn’t help that, after the episode aired, an interview with actor revealed how shocked and upset he was to find out he was dying. Imagine feeling as though you safe because you knew the books and then finding out it was all a lie.
7. Shireen Baratheon – Season 5 Episode 9 
I have spent a lot of time defending Stannis Baratheon to people and explaining why I wanted him on the throne. It was easy because he was the best man for the job. Until he burnt his fucking daughter to death of course. Shireen was a lovely and quiet child whose friendship with Ser Davos was a beautiful thing to behold. Watching her teach him how to read was delightful and she was certainly another character who only possessed goodness. Her death was just a barbaric and senseless act that is made all the more pointless for how little good it did everyone. Whatever Stannis had done in the past, his love for his daughter always counted for him. She was the one thing that humanised him. He didn’t have to destroy her.

6. Khal Drogo – Season 1 Episode 10
It took a lot of time but I eventually grew to love this creepy little marriage between Dany and her Kahl. Drogo genuinely loved Dany and she loved him back. Yes, it started rapey but it ended with so much real affection. To have him die in such a horrible way was just devastating. When Drogo was injured in battle and started to succumb to infection we all feared the worse but Dany, the fucking idiot, had to go and make it a million times worse by turning to blood magic. Drogo essentially died twice here and, considering it was Dany who finally finished him off, it destroyed the happy memories of their relationship in my eyes. As if I needed any more reasons to hate her.
5. Robb Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
The Red Wedding could easily put a girl off marriage for life. Robb Stark, on is was to honour his late father and kill the Lannister scum, was waylaid at The Twins. Thinking with his dick and not his head, Robb had married a random girl instead of the Frey he was promised to. Clearly you’d expect some kind of retribution. Not Robb Stark though, the fucking idiot. Seeing the only real hope the Stark’s had of getting any kind of vengeance be killed by his own banner man was just the worst. He was King of the fucking North and the North remembers. We’ll always remember.
4. Catelyn Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
Following from her son Robb’s death, Catelyn’s murder is made more heartbreaking because she only died because her son was super randy. She made a deal with the Frey’s but he went and fucked it all up. Catelyn sensed a trap but let her son take the lead. She knew better and she sensed the danger before it arose. She found out about Roose Bolton’s double dealings but it was too late. Catelyn Stark was a strong woman and a loving mother. She didn’t deserve to die in that way and she certainly shouldn’t have had to watch her son die before her.
3. Oberyn Martell – Season 4 Episode 8
Not since Ned Stark had the Game of Thrones audience rallied around a character like Oberyn Martell. He was handsome, witty and easy going. He came to King’s Landing to fuck shit up and he did exactly that. The moment he announced he would represent Tyrion Lannister during his trial by combat actually gave us hope that everything would turn out okay. How wrong we were. Attempting to get justice for his sister, Oberyn taunted Gregor Clegane during the fight. Despite having the upper hand on multiple occasions Oberyn never finished the job and won the battle. This death wasn’t just heartbreaking because we loved Oberyn. It was upsetting because he needn’t have let it happen. I read this in the books and immediately threw the thing across the room. Why didn’t he just chop the Mountain’s fucking head off when he had the chance?

2. Ned Stark – Season 1 Episode 9
Ned Stark was one of the only really decent people in this show, which also made him the easiest target. He trusted everyone and underestimated the game he was trying to play. The game he didn’t even want to play. His death was so stupid because, had he followed his own instincts, he shouldn’t even have been in King’s Landing. Everything about this scene is just awful. Sansa makes a desperate plea for her father’s life whilst Arya watches in the crowd as her father confesses to a crime he didn’t commit. Then the deal Ned made with Joffrey to join the Night’s Watch is thrown back in his face and his own sword is used against him. This death was both shocking and despicable. It was our first real glimpse at how heartless George RR Martin really is.
1. Hodor – Season 6 Episode 5
Not only did this death finally explain the mystery of why Hodor was the way he was but it also showed us that Hodor’s whole life was leading up to helping Bran. It brings a whole new light to their relationship and also shows us how much of a dick Bran really is. Hodor’s death was heroic, heartbreaking and honourable. He didn’t deserve to die but we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting exit for him. If only it hadn’t been quite so senselessly brutal.
Tuesday’s Reviews – The Boss (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Boss (2016)

You know what I’m getting bored of? Watching Melissa McCarthy movies and cringing. As a huge Gilmore Girls fan I’ve loved her from way before Bridesmaids propelled her into the big time. She’s an adorable, funny, intelligent and beautiful performer. It’s just a shame she never gets the chance/gives herself the chance to show it. To be fair, she has surprised me with the likes of The Heat, which I found funnier than I thought I would. However, for every jewel in the crown there are at least 3 stones with massive flaws. Unlike most of the internet, I’m still hopeful about Ghostbusters and have faith that McCarthy will one day get the roles she deserves. Until then I’m stuck watching shit like The Boss.

Although, there is obviously a demand for films in which McCarthy demonstrates her now standard practice of shouting, punching people, pratfalling and swearing. It’s what she’s been doing ever since she left Stars Hollow behind her and is clearly a tactic that she isn’t willing to drop any time soon. I’m not saying it isn’t something that she doesn’t do well but I do think she’s pushing herself into a hole she soon won’t be able to crawl out of. I the right hands, mainly those of Paul Fieg, she can and has done remarkably funny things. Left to her own and, in this case, her husband’s devices McCarthy never quite manages to reach perfection.

In the boss, much like in the dismal Identity Thief, McCarthy plays a lonely sociopath who has great skills in one area but is otherwise shit at life. Her character here, Michelle Darnell, is a tycoon of the business world and attempts to teach people to go out and get what they want. She heads massive seminars that look more like stadium tours and makes massive business deals between helicopter rides. When she is caught doing some dodgy deals by her rival Reanult (Peter Dinklage), Darnell is sent to prison for four months.

When she gets out of the clink, Michelle embarks on a scheme to regain her wealth with the help of her ex-assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel. Inspired by a girl scouts-esque group selling thousands of dollars worth of cookies, Michelle starts her own troupe selling Claire’s delicious homemade brownies. Obviously, things don’t run smoothly and the gang encounter turf warfare, backstabbing and dirty play. All the while being careful to prevent Renault destroying her once more.

There is nothing unsurprising about The Boss and the plot meanders along as you would guess. I say meanders because it seems to take a fucking age to get there. This is a pretty short film but everything seems to take way longer than it should. I don’t really understand how scenes can drag whilst the end result still feels so full of holes. To be fair to the script, the plot is focused and sticks to what it wants to achieve. Unfortunately, it never seems sure of what that is. The tone flip flops depending on where the comedy is coming from and Michelle’s character goes from an utter imbecile to a calculating genius in the blink of an eye. The Boss is never sure if she’s a cold, cut-off figure or an emotional and caring agony aunt.

Basically, this is a film that was written to allow Melissa McCarthy to be as vile as humanly possible to a group of teenage girls. The characters or the concepts don’t really come into play. The script just manufactures situations in which she can call young girls lesbians as an insult and threaten their mothers. When the sheer volume of violence and swearing fails to draw a laugh then we fall back onto the old faithful physical comedy. If there’s a dip in the action then god knows Melissa is willing to fall down a fucking flight of stairs. What a trooper.

None of the this really makes sense and nobody’s motivations are ever really clear. Michelle wants to make money yet she’s more than willing to give most of the money raised to other people. She is a ruthless tycoon who hates family but she readily bonds with Claire’s daughter without any trouble. Then there is Peter Dinklage’s Renault who hates Michelle and plots her downfall. Although, there is never really enough justification for the level of super evil to which he aspires. I say aspires because Renault is the shittest villain imaginable and even more of an embarrassing role for Dinklage than the one he played in fucking Pixels.

That’s the thing about The Boss. Every one who played a part in it could and should have done better. Nobody comes out of this looking good. McCarthy gives it her all but with the lousy script and terrible premise, she never gets the material to really shine. You can’t fault her energy or passion but it’s not enough. Under the direction of her husband, Ben Falcone, she just flounders. It made me uncomfortable to watch this film and it had nothing to do with the vulgarity. I’m tired of seeing actors I love and respect doing such utter shit. It has to stop.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Before I get on with my latest rundown I have a bit of an announcement. As of tomorrow, I’ll be forgoing my usual Monday post for about a month. Now before you all start bemoaning the loss of such a popular, well written and thought provoking segment (cough cough), this isn’t down to laziness. In order to kick start my future career I am about to start an online course in digital marketing. In order to get the most out of the course and attend the lectures I want to take a bit of pressure of in regards to the blog. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back soon with more petty annoyances and crazy rants soon. Now, on with out scheduled broadcast.

I nearly made it through the week without buying any books but bloody Penguin had to go and do it again. On May 26th PRH released their new Pocket Penguins and they’re fucking gorgeous. I could easily have bought them all but I resisted and only purchased 2 so far. No doubt I’ll get the set but I’ll hopefully have the self-control to be able to stop myself doing it all in one go. Seriously though, these things are bloody beautiful. The colours and the embrace of the traditional design are just amazing and the size is ideal. Penguin have a history of creating books that looked good and, most importantly, were great to read. I’ve always loved the publishers and why so many of their books line my shelves. Probably unread. They’re so striking and good to look at. I doubt I’ll ever be able to resist a Penguin.A fact that is hell on my bank balance.

Currently Reading
  • Jaws by Peter Benchley
Still plodding on with this. This book is much longer than it needs to be but I’m still embracing the trash. The crazy flirting scene between Brody’s wife and Hooper is both magical and super creepy. I’m enjoying this more than I know I should because it is trashy. I guess I understand why it was such a bestseller but it really doesn’t deserve to be. I admire Benchley’s knowledge of sharks but his novel doesn’t half go on a bit. 
Recently Purchased
  • The Betrothed (Pocket Penguins) by Alessandro Manzoni
A Gothic tale set in Italy in the 1600s. I may have graduated from my Postgraduate degree nearly 5 years ago but I still fondly remember my research in the Gothic. It may be a little dodgy these days but I adore classic gothic literature. With it’s fainting women, Wandering Jews, secret love, and horny aristocrats. This sounds ideal and it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package too. 
  • The Master And Margarita (Pocket Penguins) by Mikhail Bulgakov
One of the greatest Russian novels of the twentieth century, I’ve always wanted to read this but never got round to it. The devil turns up in Moscow and causes havoc. Only the Master and his lover Margarita can resist the Him. Bulgakov’s novel is a satirical look at Stalinist Russia and I’m looking forward to finally tackling it. I don’t have a great history with Russian literature beyond Nabakov so we’ll see how this goes.

Recently Watched
  • The Boss
I don’t understand why Melissa McCarthy keeps pulling a Simon Pegg and making these kind of films. Want to hear me work out my issues some more? Come back Tuesday. 

  • Robocop (2014)
To be honest, I didn’t finish this one but I felt it warranted a mention because, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I saw Gary Oldman in a film and wasn’t instantly attracted to him. If that’s not a good enough reason not to continue watching a film then I really don’t know what is.
  • Game of Thrones
I’m still in fucking mourning after the last episode of GOT. So many emotions: Hodor, Summer, Jorah. I’m in such a fragile state. As much as I love George RR Martin I sort of want to slap him for breaking my fucking heart every time. I’m loving the show now it’s so removed from the books but I still can’t wait for The Winds of Winter. It’s tipped for the second half of the year but I swear we’ve been fed this line for the past couple of years now. I know he doesn’t want to rush and I respect that. However, it’s hard not to let my fan feelings come out and those feelings aren’t as patient. 
TBT – The Princess Bride (1987)

TBT – The Princess Bride (1987)

This week I bought something that I have wanted to own for a fucking age but didn’t let myself get. In finally embraced my love of The Princess Bride and bought my very own “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” t-shirt. I don’t even have it yet but it’s already one of the greatest things I’ve ever owned. I think I was inspired by the title of my Tuesday review because it’s the only thing that comes into my head whenever I see those bloody “Hello, my name is” stickers. Consequently, I’ve also spent the last few days starting imaginary duels with anyone who crossed my this week. “You ate the last biscuit, prepare to die.” “You’re walking too slowly, prepare to die.” “You cut in front of my in a queue, prepare to die.” That kind of thing. So I absolutely had to watch Rob Reiner’s film adaptation to try and get over my current obsession. Plus, my impression of Inigo could do with some work.

The Princess Bride wasn’t terribly successful on first release but found cult status once it was released on VHS. It’s exactly the kind of film you want to curl up and watch when you’re stuck in bed with flu. Probably because the story begins with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his sick grandson a bedtime story. It is the love story of Buttercup (Robin Wright) and farm boy Westley (Carey Elwes) but, don’t worry, it’s not one of those kissing stories.

The Princess Bride takes the conventional fairy tale romance and has some fun with it. Much in the same way he did for This Is Spinal Tap, Reiner really embraces the genre before amping things up as much as he can. It’s a clever and very successful approach that will have children and adults alike entertained. It features swashbuckling strangers, a Spaniard out for revenge, a 6-fingered man, a friendly giant and inconceivable situations. The Princess Bride is exciting, funny and self-aware enough to know what it’s doing.

When Westley goes off to make his fortune his ship is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts and he is presumed dead. Years later, Buttercup is set to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) until she is kidnapped by a trio of rogues. Their leader, the Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) is being paid to start a war between the Prince’s nation and their neighbouring kingdom. He is aided by Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and gentle giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Unfortunately, they are being pursued by the Man in Black who appears to be after Buttercup for his own reasons.

Rob Reiner directs with his tongue constantly in his cheek and William Goldman’s script satirises the world of fairly tales and storytelling. It takes every silly conceit of the stories you were told in your youth and turns it up to 11. It is a world full of silly names, silly dialogue and silly people. However, underneath that runs some decidedly unfunny themes: namely true love, family, honour, suffering and friendship. It always manages to find the perfect mix between serious and comedy and carries it all off with a huge dose of charm and heart.

The Princess Bride is much cleverer than it appears and has fun making itself appear to be a lesser film. The cast play their parts beautifully and manage to be both playful and take the whole thing seriously. The story, littered with gags a-plenty, is played fairly straight but the film fights against realism. The sets are all dodgy, the stunt doubles all obvious, and the continuity is all over the place. It looks like a shoddily made film but it doesn’t matter. The film is fantasy that you are willing to follow. The Princess Bride may not be the greatest film you’ll ever see but it’s inconceivable that you won’t enjoy it. If anyone asks you if you want to watch it you need only answer “As you wish”.