Archive | June 2013

The Week in Old Entertainment: June 28th, 2013

Phonograph

 

Although I really wanted to do a full review about the hilarious This is the End I find I am unable to really categorize that as Old Entertainment as of yet. However, the consumption of Milky Way bars in this household has shot up by about 386%.

The past week of Old Entertainment brings me to one movie I patiently waited to see and a trilogy of movies I know too well and wish I didn’t: Hitchcock & the Mummy movies.

Hitchcock, unlike Hancock of a few weeks ago, is a movie I tried to see when it was new and had some difficulty finding a convenient theater showing it. At the time, I thought that was odd, especially in the light of Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the well-known director and the film’s clear motivation to get into the Academy Award nominations. At long last, the Netflix DVD arrived and watch this movie I did.

What a delight! My better half admitted during the movie that she wished she knew Hitchcock’s movies a little better, but the film does a fantastic job of laying on a certain amount of deliberate “Hitch-schtick” that mimicked his style quite nicely. Interestingly, the movie has much to do about director Alfred Hitchcock’s making of the film Psycho, but much more to do with the relationship between he and his wife, Alma, portrayed by the brilliantly reserved Helen Mirren. Hopkins and Mirren trade withering sarcasm, genius wit, and passive-aggressive flares in two very sharply written parts that was a pleasure to watch. They were a perfect couple, too, in that when one wasn’t filling the screen with acerbic banter, the other stepped in to do the job.

This movie hit every nail on the head, for me, it was exactly what I wanted it to be! So why no box-office or award love? The Hitchcock makeup on Hopkins didn’t really make him look all that much like Alfred H., but he certainly had the correct profile and figure. There’s not a true and dynamic threat in plot of this movie, which might be being overly critical since it is a biopic, but the cute and quick-thinking dialogue of the film more than made up for any lack of dramatic weight. Come to think of it, the shooting of the famous Psycho shower scene with Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson is a thrilling moment…  I have no clue as to the lack of this film’s success. I highly recommend it.

Hitchcock gets a score of 9 birds (and a chipmunk) sitting outside your window. Looking in. Right at this moment.

I’m going to give the Mummy series with Brendan Fraser a little credit: the 1999 “loose” remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff classic is a fun movie. It’s not Pirates of the Caribbean, but the two movie trilogies deserve a strong comparison as to where the three movies fit with one another. Just to have something on in the background while I work, or while playing, I put movies I know really well on in the background, so I recently put The Mummy in the player and gave it a half-view. Some minor plot-points aside, The Mummy holds up rather well. I’m not sure why, but Arnold Vosloo is a fun guy to watch in that little cloth diaper as he stalks about ancient ruins and crowded Cairo streets. Brendan Fraser does his thing, and I am accepting of that, only because Rachel Weisz strikes gold as the befuddled, yet still librarian-sexy Evelynn, and we also get the mysterious and likable Oded Fehr playing the guy trying to protect the secret of the mummy’s tomb (I could tell you his character is named Ardeth Bay, but who remembers that? I just want him to play the Red Viper in Game of Thrones, Season 4!).  If only movie studios had the restraint to leave a good thing be. To let it rest and retire like a cowboy riding off into the sunset.

Alas, The Mummy Returns was made two short years later with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hyped up in the billing. The Rock is in The Mummy Returns for about 6 and a half minutes, I think. I had to re-watch the beginning of this movie a number of times just to see his line deliveries in made-up ancient Egyptian. Did you ever have to make film projects for foreign language classes in high school? Delivering your lines with little or no inflection or modulation whatsoever? That’s the Rock before he became comfortable on screen as Dwayne Johnson.

The Mummy Returns is the kind of movie described in Hitchcock as “stillborn.” It’s almost insulting, like someone specifically made this movie only to provide wasted1930’s chase scenes to life. There’s the mummy/double-decker bus chase scene in London, the atrocious CG of Imhotep’s face as a tidal wave chasing a blimp through a narrow canyon, the awful plot montage of Fraser & Weisz’s son leaving sand-clues as they go from one iconic Egyptian structure to the next. Most of the so-called plot is thrown aside anyway in favor of poor CG-monsters like Anubis’ jackal-headed army of death, pygmy skeleton warriors, and the triumphant center-piece of this pu-pu-platter: a hybrid man-scorpion demon with the Rock’s head superimposed on the top. Best part about re-watching The Mummy Returns? Realizing that the female antagonist character is played by the same woman who portrayed Arrested Development’s Marta – Patricia Velasquez. I don’t know if one role yielded the other for that actress, but one phrase for her must have been familiar: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Then, for no sane reason, they made The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I think someone noticed in 2008 that neither Jet Li and Brendan Fraser were doing anything in particular or maybe these two got drunk at a club down on Sunset Blvd? Regardless, this movie was made, without Rachel Weisz and without the Egyptian setting. The movie succeeds in a few areas, namely any scene that had Michelle Yeoh in it, Jet Li turning into a dragon or shooting firebolts out of his eyes, and all the scenes acted by the hard-working and woefully underpaid CG-Yetis. This movie was won, and the plot, too, on the backs of CG-Yetis.

OK, the first offering is good and then the movie studios tried to wrench blood from a turnip with sequels – this is the story of both The Mummy and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. What I never understood about The Mummy Returns and Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is how the script tried justifying Brendan Fraser’s ridiculous character. He’s portrayed in the first sequel as a man unable to retire (at his golden age of what – 38?) and in the second sequel as a man unable to connect to his son, who’s also a wooden actor unable to correctly portray an emotional range (oh, cruel irony). I would have dispensed with the justifications and seen Fraser do his funny-faced shouts and gun show.

As a whole, I would give the Mummy movies score of 4 tombs plundered. The first in the series was grand, but the series presented as a whole is dreck.

Although I’m not ready to review them as yet, I have been re-reading both my Sandman Chronicles, by Neil Gaiman, and the subsequent spin-off Lucifer, by Mike Carey. Sandman is past iconic, it’s a building block of modern comics and a key piece of meta-physical fantasy and as such I cannot review them. They are past review.

Lucifer is different. Few I speak to know of it, but those who do really love it. The premise alone is worth the ticket price: the angel Lucifer abdicates the throne of Hell and opens a classy piano bar in Los Angeles. From there the series explores themes of divinity, control, destiny, fate, free will, and the end of the world. It will get its own review as I continue to re-read, but one should know already that I love it and you should give it a shot.

Lucifer

The Week in Old Entertainment: James Gandolfini Tribute

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It’s a sad day for all of us who treasure the Sopranos.

At only 51 years of age, James Gandolfini has passed away, leaving behind a titan’s footprint in the sand. It’s odd to say, but even at the $1 million dollar per episode contract, James Gandolfini was undervalued. Could this independent and premium cable entertainment company, HBO, have the same stranglehold on top programming that it does today without the Sopranos? Would there be Game of Thrones on HBO? True Blood? Boardwalk Empire? Would Netflix have dipped its toes into premium content a la House of Cards without Sopranos? The entire HBO empire was built on his massive shoulders.

Take a look at the programming on HBO in the early to mid 90’s. You can see that the quality of programs on there was steadily rising with Oz starting in 1997 and Sex in the City in 1998, but nothing before those as truly groundbreaking or momentous. Did anyone really watch much of Arli$$ ? After the Sopranos, you start seeing major mini-series like Band of Brothers and Angels in America, and also true classic series like The Wire, Deadwood, Extras, and even things like Da Ali G Show. There’s a original series boom after the success of the Sopranos and I say it’s all because of James Gandolfini.

The extraordinary thing of it all is that James Gandolfini wasn’t even a likely television star. He was large, soft around the middle, and balding, but he had character. Sure, you could have done the show with someone more traditionally handsome for a leading man, but that product would not have been the Sopranos.

I was born in New Jersey. I tell people I am from there even though I spent the more formative years of my childhood in Indiana because there was no sense of identity to Indiana. It was milquetoast bland, plain denim with a white tee, points of light dotting a very flat and sparse country. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the US. It’s old. Much of the state is tied into NYC, the greatest city in the world. It has bustle. It’s okay to say this: New Jersey is where people who can’t afford to live in New York go to live and raise families. And it has an identity tied into all of that: a crowded place living in New York’s shadow. James Gandolfini was a Jersey guy. He had “the vowel” as they say, denoting his Italian heritage. He was regularly seen at Rutgers and NY Giant football games. He was big with a big smile – “brutish yet charming” is the description in his IMDB profile.

His breakout in the Sopranos came from nowhere, yet set an unprecedented standard at the same time. Look at the amazing range he was able to display: mafia boss, charming serial-cheater, man in panic, cheering dad, violent thug, Machiavellian politico, doting husband (at times), someone who was ruthless, savvy, and full of bullshit all at the same time. Tony Soprano reached all audiences because he was hard not to like. That charm brought out a strange Mafioso romanticism, but he was also the same guy who enjoyed an overstuffed bowl of ice cream while sitting on the couch watching his sports. Blue & white collared at the same time, plus a criminal!

The emotion of the television show seemed to be very real. Gandolfini once told Vanity Fair  after the show had ended, “I’m still in love with Edie [Falco]. Of course, I love my wife, but I’m in love with Edie. I don’t know if I’m in love with Carmela or Edie or both. I’m in love with her.” Steve Schirippa shared that after Gandolfini’s contract holdout was resolved after season 4, James came back to the show and gave each regular cast member $33,000 and a thanks for sticking by him. He lived and breathed that character.

I probably go back and watch the series once every two years. It’s so good. It is a part of the television canon. Without the Sopranos, entertainment would be missing a very important chapter. And without Jim Gandolfini, there would be no Sopranos.

5 Things I Liked and 1 Thing I Didn’t about Man of Steel

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I should begin with saying that I am a Marvel man through and through, which bears some weight, I think. In my opinion, DC Comics only ever had one chance to grab my attention as a kid growing up in the 90’s and that was with the Death of Superman event. The actual event and comic worked, but the events afterwards with the 4 different “Supermen” wasn’t captivating. Marvel did nearly everything right with the Saturday morning cartoon version of the X-Men and that bought my patronage from there.

The comic book Superman works for me as interesting dual personas, but less as a superhero because I feel he has too few weaknesses. Movie Superman is a little different. When we get Movie Superman, he’s usually dealing with being accepted as an outsider rather than being the pinnacle of  heroism. He achieves that pinnacle by the end of the movie – it’s a part of being a re-launch, but I like how that plays as opposed to the established Superman fighting the new threat.

So, it is as a Marvel fan that I went to go see Man of Steel recently. As the title suggests, I found 5 things that i liked about the movie and one over-arching thing I did not like:

1. Henry Cavill

The Superman in this movie is Henry Cavill, whom I did not know very well. There’s a scene about 10-20 minutes into the movie where you see Superman sneaking through a town looking for new clothes to replace the tattered ones he’s wearing. The scene serves as eye-candy, but Henry Cavill is HUGE. He’s not in the camp with the 80’s beef like Stallone and Arnold, but Henry Cavill is right there with Hugh Jackman as the new apex of screen muscle. He made Chris Hemsworth(Thor) look small.

OK, so he’s muscle-y. So what? You get that scene early on, but then the rest of the movie he’s able to hide in street clothes and look pretty normal. He looks like a ripped Don Draper the whole movie, in fact, and played a sensitive and tiny-bit shy Clark Kent. Looking at IMDB, I found that Henry Cavill’s other headlining role is in Immortals, a movie I turned off after 15 minutes. He impressed me with his dynamic range in this movie, while looking and acting the part of the true hero. He did a better Christopher Reeve than Christopher Reeve, at times. He proved himself worthy of the high mantle in a small amount of screen time in the movie. You’ll probably see him every summer for the the next decade.

2 The plot as told by flashback

The story in Man of Steel does a lot of showing, rather than telling, and it does so in a great number of flashbacks. In the first 30 minutes of the movie, it is hard to tell if this is a story that’s going to be told chronologically or not, but is done in such a way that this isn’t a concern by the viewer. You go back to see Russell Crowe on Krypton, travel to see Clark kent as a child learning some hard life lessons, see him learn from his adopted father, and him trying to learn his true identity. Each flashback was clear, the lessons learned were essential and relevant, and no one was left confused as to where the story had gone with each change.

Consider the flashbacks of Mystic River, Inception, and Shutter Island – those are movies that play with the timeline of the story by showing out of order scenes. At points I was left with  the feeling of, “Hey, are we going back to that?” or “Are we sure that person is really thinking of that incident from 10 years ago right now?” Man of Steel shows restraint and patience, while being clear and concise with its story-telling. As a movie-goer, I really appreciate that.

3 Restraint with “the kiss” and humor

From the minute you see that there’s a Lois Lane in this movie, you get the feeling there will be a kiss between her and Superman. Why wouldn’t there be, right? Those two characters are put together in some dangerous and intimate situations many times in the movie, but there’s a realistic and sensible restraint on the screenwriter’s part (and Lois, too) to hold back a kiss between them until the end of the movie. It’s a great point and a great scene and there’s only one! I really liked the simplicity of that.

There’s also a sense of restraint in the movie to not go after some of the cheap or easy laughs. The Avengers movie, for example, goes for some easy and sometimes creative humor throughout the movie, but it does so often enough to make you stop to think, “C’mon, the Black Widow is a serious woman” or “Nick Fury does not joke around.” Man of Steel isn’t necessarily a serious movie, but it presents itself well as an identity story as well as being an action/comic book movie. Again, good simplicity.

4 Emphasis on the alien

Superman is an alien and that is heavily emphasized. It’s funny that this isn’t a regularly perceived notion, but the movie establishes and then repeats the fact that Superman is an alien that is hiding amongst the people of Earth. Nevermind that he is a superhero, the movie goes from the premise that this is a pseudo-E.T. hiding from the moment of his crash-landing.

I think the movie producers might have been influenced a bit by the Thor movie and the reaction that the other Marvel movies had to Thor’s arrival, but it makes perfect sense to making a big deal about Superman and his arrival.

5 The Fathers

Of course, no one goes into the creation of a movie with the premise of, ” Let’s honor fathers with this movie and release it on Father’s Day weekend!” However, if there was a perfect Father’s Day movie, it is Man of Steel. Superman has two fathers – and that’s in a way that even Fox News can get behind!

Russell Crowe makes for a fantastic Jor-El in the beginning of this movie. The first ten minutes are completely his – the prologue of the movie is almost a seperate movie by itself. He starts with the serious-faced Crowe that made him great about ten years ago, then gets to stay in the movie as a hologram version with sensitive compassion. He was very likeable – a graduated version of the Gladiator/Master & Commander-Crowe as opposed to tired and broken Russell Crowe seen in Robin Hood and Les Misérables.

Kevin Costner was also great! There’s something about serious Costner that I like – maybe it’s the graduation he’s finally made into playing the older gentleman, but he fits the bill as Jonathan Kent. Maybe it’s blue-collar Costner that I like, but gone is his miserable snark and in its place is an earthy and sympathetic man. He’s a teacher, a farmer, a dad, and the great sacrificial example that Superman is built on top of – much in the same vein as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben. I mean, all Superhero stories run along the lines of “with great power comes great responsability,” but the moral backbone that the two fathers show off in Man of Steel was a pleasure to watch.

OK, so I liked all of those things, here’s the one I did not like about Man of Steel:

1 – The indiscriminate and overwhelming destruction

Everything gets destroyed in this movie. One could say that the amount of destruction wreaked upon Smallville and Metropolis as Superman and the other superhumans fight is a realistic portrayal of what might happen. However, it was highly violent and destructive! It looked like a Michael Bay movie at times with the sheer amount of particles and shredded building flying through the air.

I’m almost 30, my high school and college years were immediately post-9/11, and I was kinda disturbed by the visualization of the MANY falling buildings in the movie. And I’m not even a New Yorker! I have a problem with how that was handled and I think the repetitive destruction in the movie was overdone and inappropriate. I think the movie collapsed three buildings from a pedestrian’s point of view. There’s a line between portraying the wreckage of this movie’s climax and then there’s excessive bad form. It crossed that line.

I also had an issue with the amount of destruction and Superman’s either inability or unwillingness to stop it. The Superman I know protects the public, the weak, the innocent, and there looked to be too much collateral damage for his sense of morals. I wanted him to stop the bad guys from hurting others, even at his expense, and this movie gave me the impression that wasn’t a Superman agenda, yet. Not until the movie’s climax, at least.

Somewhere along the lines, someone decided it was time for Hollywood to push the envelope of what was OK to portray in terms of 9/11-like destruction. They deliberately chose images and scenes that looked very similar to the falling World Trade Center and I think someone should have stopped them from doing that, especially in a Superman movie. Let Michael Bay do that in Transformers 7 – Superman has an ethical standard to uphold and the 20 minutes of crumbling buildings in Man of Steel violated that. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, but I was left with a bone to pick about all of that destruction.

As a final grade, Man of Steel gets 7 Father’s Day ties.

The Week in Old Entertainment: June 13th, 2013

Phonograph

In rather interesting developments (I got Dani to play a video game!!), I have a mix of mediums for this week’s review of old entertainment: The Witches and Hancock on the film side of things, and the Playstation 2 game Final Fantasy X!

The Witches is a fun Jim Henson production from 1990 based on a Roald Dahl book and starring Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, and Rowan Atkinson. It gets things started properly by having a little spooky bedtime story about how witches are evil, hairless, soulless creatures that want to kill little children because they smell dog droppings when in their presence. Our protagonist, the tiny child Luke, loses his parents and nearly loses his grandmother all in the first 15 minutes of the film – and even has a really creepy encounter with a witch. When I learned about this movie, I did not know of its Jim Henson connection, but even without the creatures this film does a fantastic job of being eerie through superb make-up and casting (where do they get all those people with eyes so far apart in England?). Straight off the bat, I knew if I has seen this film as a child, I might have had nightmares about it and that, today, gives this one thumb up already.

To give the plot away, the boy and his grandmother inadvertently stay at a hotel where a coven of witches is having a summit where they plan to kill every child in the UK. the boy gets caught and turned into a mouse – things get the royal Jim Henson treatment from there. The movie is fun, childish, and follows all of those Roald Dahl orphan stories to a unique solution. My favorite things about the movie were Rowan Atkinson’s normal oafishness and the initial idea that these outcasts from society are having a meeting at a nice sea-side hotel and the one person who should not be around them (a child) is there to witness the proceedings. I knew this setup from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, where a young girl and her travelling companion end up at a Georgi motel playing host to a convention of serial killers. It’s a delicious trick and one that should be seen more often.

My girlfriend Dani had seen this back in her childhood and explained before viewing that, beside the creepy witch parts, this is the sort of tale that sets up other movies later on for fantasy success. Could Hocus Pocus, Addams Family or even Harry Potter have had as much success without The Witches preceding them?

It was good. Some of the creature effects don’t hold up as well since this is a mixed fantasy with reality movie, as opposed to something like Dark Crystal that has no human actors, but still worth the view. I’d give the Witches a score of 8 rat-transmogrifying hexes.

I don’t know if it was because of the release of Arrested Development’s fourth season, but the Netflix queue was starting to look Jason Bateman-heavy. The pairing of him with Will Smith for the 2008 super anti-hero flick Hancock looked decent enough when I saw previews, but this movie didn’t quite grab me enough to pay for a ticket back then. I didn’t even know this movie had Charlize Theron in it, so her involvement in the major elements of the plot was both surprising and enjoyable. How could they not let people know that Charlize Theron is in this movie? She’s the Oscar winner in the bunch! Plus, she and Bateman were brilliant together in Arrested Development’s third season. Hancock under-sold itself by relying on just Will Smith to bring people to the movies.

Hancock has some bizarre twists. Will Smith is Hancock, the perpetually drunk superhero with Superman-like ability. He can fly, is strong enough to rip open cars and stop moving trains, and impervious to bullets. The first bizarre twist involves Hancock taking an admiring groupie home to his trailer and some nasty ejaculatory humor. Yeah…    Then we introduce all of the other players – Jason Bateman as a PR guy that gets saved by an act of “heroism” by Hancock and Charlize Theron as his wife. Immediately there’s strange looks between Theron and Smith that threw me. Was she disgusted my Hancock? Turned on? A mix? The look said bedroom eyes, but the characterization in the plot/story said disgust. I wuz confuzzed.

SPOILER – SKIP TO THE SCORE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW – the twist of the movie is that Charlize Theron and Will Smith are both superhumans. They’d been husband and wife for thousands of years, but a bout of amnesia for Hancock allowed her to escape the immortal lifestyle and embrace one as a mortal. Did anyone else expect this sort of Grecian god aspect to the movie? It kind of threw me and I’m not sure why. The explanation for the how and why this hero has his powers took a much larger role in the movie than the parts I liked, which was mostly Hancock trying to rehabilitate his reputation as an upstanding superhero and not a drunken asshole. Maybe this was more of a twist than I was expecting, but the last half to third of the movie felt disjointed from the idea of the movie that the first half presented. I don’t think they even needed to go into why and how this superhero got his powers, I liked the movie that was trying to dry Hancock out. The actors did a great job, the problems in this movie are script-based.

I’ll give Hancock a score of 5 bottles of bourbon, which is definitely less than the number of whiskey bottles broken in the movie.

The interesting twist to the last week was about a two hour stretch of Saturday night where I got Dani to play Final Fantasy X on the Playstation 2. My gf does not play video games on her own, but we do play silly, simple games together on the Wii like Dr. Mario, Tetris Party, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Wii Sports. Somehow, I convinced her to play 2001’s Final fantasy X for 45 minutes. In fact, we had to negotiate the time she would play beforehand, but humored me as her adventure wore on.

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Yeah, this is one of the sappier openings in the series…

Listening to her play was hilarious. She’s familiar with the Final Fantasy series from my own enthusiasm for the games, and from watching college boys play FFX – you know, back when it was a relevant game. She mocks and mimics the whiny main character, Tidus. She ad-libs new reactions and criticisms of the plot in the manner of a Mystery Science Theater critic. She even confuses gameplay with the many cut-scenes that begin this adventure. “I have no idea how I’m doing this,” was her favorite phrase as the game showed off cut scene after cut scene.I think her actual enjoyment of the game only started after the first hour – when she was finally deposited 1000 years into the future and marooned with a gang of Al-Bhed forcing her to do work. She got to a decent stopping place after getting to Beseid and meeting Wakka, he of the awesome faux-Jamaican accent and red-plume coxcomb hair. It was a great first step for her.

I’ve played Final Fantasy I thru XIII. I admit that I’ve only finished half of those, but I’m a huge fan of the series. Final Fantasy X deserves some praise for the leap it made from Playstation 1 to 2, and for being one of the most solid plots of a fantastic story series. It’s also the first to have voice acting, but like the next installment on the PS2, FFXII, that voice acting has its moments. Tidus is whiny, edging on sappy and nauseating, especially with that high pitch. Dani didn’t get to Yuna yet, but I find her to be vapid and uninteresting. The surrounding characters are more interesting, especially when you get to their individual twists. Despite twelve years of technology, the colors and textures of the realm of Final fantasy X hold up to similar games of today. Sure, it’s not both gritty and clean like a Modern Warfare, but the 3-D world still looks good.

I’m not sure if it grabbed Dani enough for her to put in the 50 or so hours to finish the game, but I’ll see what I can do to make that happen. That time frame is based on if she doesn’t play any Blitzball. And she might play some Blitzball…

Final Fantasy X, as a game to be played in 2013 and beyond, gets a solid 7 and a half cut scenes to be endured. The other cut scenes you want to see.

Who knows what old thing I’ll review next week? One sneak peek: the Hitchcock biopic with Anthony Hopkins is slated next on the queue. 🙂

Game of Thrones, Season 3 – Really??!?

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Another season of Game of Thrones has passed, another year of tragedy and dashed hope.

The show has absorbed George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and is presenting it to us as truly and entertainingly as it can. Sure, while HBO is the one place where this show can exist because of certain subject matters (medieval debauchery, royal incest, epic armies, and magical creatures), Game of Thrones is unquestionably successful. Each episode costs something in the range of 5 million to produce – a cost at which HBO laughs at all the way to the bank – and the production of which is relatively quick. Season 4 is already slated for a release in 2014.

So how was season 3?

I’m having some difficulty articulating my feelings about the show. I enjoy it immensely, I have a Sunday ritual of seeing it on a big screen at a friend’s place of business (more on this later), and the show led me to the books, which I devoured ravenously. On the other hand, I have some serious questions about the adaptation of the story that is going on here, especially in the wake of the season 3 finale.

BY THE BY – SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN ALL OF SEASON 3 FROM HERE ON IN

I walked away from the season 3 finale feeling yucky and despondent. I was starting to think that the show had taken a nasty turn towards The Walking Dead (sucking, in other words), but  I couldn’t articulate the thing I wanted changed. In each season that came before, the really shocking or dynamic moments happened in episode 9 and then the whole story gets a bit of a wrap on episode 10. Well, you can’t get much more shocking or dynamic than the Red Wedding, so the next episode should have some calming effects on its audience, right? Bleh. I needed to figure out my frustrations and turned to many sources. I messaged my friend Craven in the UK, waiting for him to see the episode and get his feedback. Here’s how that conversation went…

Craven: All done, seen it, sound off!

Me:  Didn’t like the end. It really feels like half a season. And they gave nothing, NOTHING, to the poor fools who put everything in on the Stark side and lost it last week. Too much of the Greyjoys and I don’t care for them a lick. I think I might know too much to appreciate the storycraft that this season provided, but I’m of the opinion that next season better be rip-roaring and filled to the gills with deaths and fights and Oberyn Martells. I really needed a cliff-hanger or a tease at the end of this and was really disappointed with dim-witted happy fest in Yunkai.

Craven: I was waiting on something big and juicy. I half expected a teaser of Coldhands if nothing else. But, I’m not surprised that the Bran element was a damp squib. He has been the worst part of the season. Jon/Ygritte was totally different, I hate the way they are playing Shae this season, and what the hell is Jamie doing back before Joffrey’s wedding?

Me: 

Yes, yes, and yes, and I have no idea. Dani had a good point while trying to talk me down – no one likes the first half of things. This season was a necessary evil if we’re to get all the goodies of the next part. 

But most of it just feels like it was scenery chewing – Dany, Melisandre, Theon, most of the Rob Stark bits – lots of the show dragged this season

 
Craven: She is right. Amie liked the end, but she is a massive Dany fan. Amie hasn’t read any of the books and this season has started to lose her interest a little bit. She doesn’t get why Bran is so desperate to get beyond the wall for a start, lots of things have been glossed over. She has said that without me as a running encyclopedia she wouldn’t have got most of it. Made me realise how little people just relying on the show are given. I was cussing the screen at Roose Bolton, then in discussing with Amie it occurred to me that there has been no real explanation about who he is really. She thought he was an adviser to Robb. The show hasn’t fleshed out who Roose is at all. That’s a shame
 
Me: Yes. And I saw that starting to not unfold in season 2 and he kind of got some screen time in this season, but not like enough to really get the betrayal and cunning evil that is the Roose. My biggest fear is what happened to my friend who doesn’t read and relies on just the show. He was CRUSHED after the Red Wedding – a broken man. And he turned to dark forces: wikipedia. He ruined the rest of the series for himself.

 
 
Craven: Hopefully next time we will have a tighter focus. And oh god, I hope the Red Viper is done justice. Bringing Dorne into it is going to rock the people just watching the show. For me the best parts of the season have been any scene involving Charles Dance.
 
Me: Or the Queen of Thornes. Old Emma Peel is a godsend!
Craven: Yeah, she has been incredible. It always comes back to the same core actors in my book: Varys, Littlefinger, Tyrion, Cersei, and Tywin. They rarely drop the ball and if they do it’s never acting ability that lets them down.

I forget… when does Euron Crow’s Eye show up?

 

 

Me: Next book. But the Greyjoys are messed up anyway. They can show off the Iron Islands for a whole season getting that malarky figured – that’s such a farce.
 
Craven: It was quite stirring stuff on screen but yeah, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Theon was lambasted for taking Winterfell with 13 odd men. Yet, “Yara” goes off to take the Dreadfort with 50. Good luck with that. Casting Euron and Victarion will need to be handled really well.
 
Me: The casting is amazing – I actually have no qualms about anyone and trust them completely (Daario being the exception that proves the rule). Everyone added in season 3 was picture perfect: the Blackfish, Thoros, Beric, Qyborn, the frog twins, Mance, and my favorite – Tormund Giantsbane.
 
Craven: I consider you my contemporary on all things Game of Thrones, we should unite on a season wrap up or something.

Me: We have an accord then.

 

We had some of the same issues – and I deleted the book spoilers of that conversation – but I think it all boiled down to this: every season before had a cliff-hanger, some tease to cling on to for more, but this season’s ending was dull. The show put their all eggs in the Red Wedding basket and didn’t do enough to bring its viewers out of that hole. Too many people believe that the bad guys are going to win – which leads to my friend who spoiled the rest of the story for himself. There’s a significant cause and effect there that disturbs me about the story-telling in the series. My friend, who is a significant dork and not new to harsh fantasy realities, could not take the shock of Robb and Catelyn’s deaths and almost vowed from seeing the show ever again. (There’s a ton of attention to this phenomenon on Twitter – go look up @RedWeddingTears)

 

Yes, the Red Wedding is a shock that many book readers were waiting for, but the next episode should do something to rescue those viewers from their pitiful tears! I don’t feel like this was addressed at all, there was some commentary from Bran about the gods punishing those that betray the oath of safety, but it’s pretty weak borscht in the face of such slaughter. I could have done without the scenery chewing of Cersei talking to Tyrion about Joffrey as a child, Varys talking to Shae about leaving the city, or Davos talking to Gendry over their origins. What is all of that character development doing in the last episode? Give me more resolution! Show me more of the wedding plans! Have Cersei say ANYTHING to Jaime now that he’s back (unexpected timing on that) or have Brienne say something! Can we at least get some resolution on who’s higher in the Khaleesi’s eye, Ser Jorah Mormont or N.K.O.T.B. Daario Nahaaris?  There’s a lot of spoilers I want to say, too, but I’m choosing to leave them out. Just to say, there’s about 5 different things that the show could have used as the ending of this season as opposed to some happiness in Yunkai.
 
 
I mean, CMON! Even Theon knows how hokey that ending was.
 
 
 
 
There’s a long road to go and the best parts of A Storm of Swords will be in Season 4, which is , I suppose, why I’m upset. The new character castings will be announced probably in the mid-summer and shooting soon thereafter. As a very wise woman just told me, when you’re breaking something in half like this, the first half is just a necessary evil. It’s the last half that everyone wants to see.
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