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Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 21:13 by Spindles

Any episode of Game of Thrones that starts out with a quiet conversation between two characters is obviously trying to lull us into a false sense of security. So, I'm immediately on my guard as a subdued scene between Grey Worm and Missandei takes place. It segues quickly into the overthrowing of yet another city at the hands of Daenerys and her army. Despite urging for mercy from Barristan, Daenerys proceeds to decorate her new pathways with the recently deposed Masters as justice for all the child road markings a couple of episodes ago.

Back in King's Landing Jaime and Bron are continuing with sword lessons. Jaime seems to be doing well right up until Bron literally pulls of his arm and starts beating him to death with the wet end. Well... Something like that anyway. There's a brief back and forth as Bronn fills him in on how he fought for Tyrion in the Eyrie when Tyrion discovered that he couldn't have Jaime as a champion. Bronn then asks if he'll fight for him now.

For the second time this season we get a nice scene between Tyrion and Jaime, only mired slightly by the fact that Tyrion is in chains this time. Despite the setting and the situation, the dialogue seems remarkably good natured with both brothers testing their faith in each other and eventually clearing the air. Looks like Tyrion won't be getting ran through today.

Well bless my barnacles if it isn't the Dread Pirate Littlefinger and his merry men, yarrrrr. Baelish seems to be continuing his inexplicable metamorphosis into a scurvy sea dog while also appearing to be sidelining in regicide as he explains whodunnit to a slightly bewildered Sansa. She asks the question we're all wondering: Why did he do it? The answer... Well... Something to do with sleight of hand, mystery etc, but I can't help feeling that is was just for a laugh.

Then the whodunnit continues over in King's Landing as we see Lady Olenna telling Margaery that she was the one who poisoned he husband. To be honest she seems stunned by the revelation for about a microsecond before she turns her attentions towards seducing Tommen. I'm really not entirely sure why she is due to marry Tommen. Perhaps I missed that bit, or there was a subclause in Tywin's Kingship 101 stating that if your brother gets poisoned then you not only get his crown, but his wife as well. If I didn't already know whodunnit I would be suspecting Tommen at this point as it seems to be a pretty sweet deal from his perspective.

We interrupt this program to bring you a newsflash: It's grim oop north. That's right, we're back in fun-packed Castle Black as Jon Snow and The Night's Watch prepare to take on Ygritte and The Wildlings in the next thrilling round of The Pissed Off Ex-Factor. It appears that Jon's not safe even there as people start plotting to send him off on missions in the hope he gets bumped off to stop him getting any more popular with the fans, or something like that.

Cersei and Jaime set aside the unpleasantness of last week's corpse-side encounter and embark on a fresh new bout of bickering as Cersei accuses him of failing to protect Joffrey and being in league with the Starks before kicking him out. There's a lot more faff in King's Landing with Margaery making a move on Tommen, Jaime whining that no one writes about him any more and then giving Brienne his sword, Podrick and his mission to save Sansa.

Owen from Torchwood appears and swears... A lot... Must be years of repression spilling out there from the godawful scripts of Torchwood Season 1. He swears a bit more and then leaves a baby outside for the White Walkers to munch. Bran, Hodor and the gang turn up to save the baby and instead get captured by Owen. We want to stomp on Owen's face a bit as his men torture poor Hodor. Owen uncovers Bran's identity and he seems to be plotting a ransom. Although, at this point, I'm not sure if there are any Starks out there who could pay to get them back.

Then we have a nice little outro that I'm reliably informed was most definitely not in the books. We see The White Walkers in what passes for their front room, converting the baby into one of them with an icy finger. Scary stuff.

Quote of the week
Hodor
Hodor! (Translation: I want to stomp your face a little bit Mr Owen from Torchwood)

Rating:
8
Topics:
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 19:02 by Spindles

This week's episode dispenses with a Previously... in favour of picking up where the last episode left us: staring at the bloodied corpse of the winner of this year's "Much More Likeable Now He's Dead" award, King Joffrey the Purple. Tyrion is arrested as Sansa is led off by Joffrey's fool, narrowly avoiding being arrested herself. She is whisked away on a boat where she falls into the awaiting arms of... Littlefinger! So that's where he's been hiding so far this season. Dontos recieves his payment in crossbow bolts and we are left wondering what Little Finger's motivation is as he basically tells Sansa that she's been framed, by him. It's worth noting that Littlefinger has obviously been spending far too much time at sea as his accent has become inexplicably piratey. Yarrrr.

Margaery Tyrell/Lannister decides she must be cursed, we can't help but agree.

Tommen attends his first Regal 101 lecture with Tywin over the still cooling corpse of his brother. This feels slightly less appropriate that what Jaime and Cersei get up to a couple of minutes later after Cersei tries to persuade Jaime to murder poor old Tyrion through the medium of shagging him over Joffrey's body. Seriously guys, the dry humping comments last week were just a joke okay.

We're back with The Hound and Arya next and we start to see a slightly softer side to The Hound as they are taken in by a father and daughter and given shelter and food. We're reminded how much of a cad Walder Frey was when as he broke the hospitality clause by killing his guests at the Red Wedding and The Hound agrees to help the farmer deal with some bandits for a fair wage. Aww... That's so sweet... No wait... He's still an absolute bastard as he robs them blind and wanders off into the sunrise.

Castle Black gets a new intake of thieves, murderers and rapists for the Night's Watch and we can't help but root for the Wildlings at this point. Our only hope is that Sam and his girlfriend get out before the killing starts.

Stannis and Davos catch up with the King's Landing current events and Davos hatches a cunning plan. Something to do with The Iron Bank which seems to be getting mentioned a lot of late, perhaps they are planning to take down the empire through the small claims court?

Prince Oberyn and Tywin get together over a glass of wine and some naked bodies to discuss Joffrey's murder and Oberyn is offered a position as third judge on the murder trial.

We finally get to catch up with Tyrion as Podrick gets visitation rights. It appears that pretty much anyone who could have spoken up for Tyrion has either been offered a bribe, gone missing or been denied due to being cut-throats so things are not looking particularly good for Tyrion at this point. I really don't think that they'll have the same trial by combat clause in King's Landing so, barring a miracle, I doubt this is going to end well.

Ygritte and The Wildlings (a punk band if ever there was one) partake in a bit of recreational slaughter on their way to Castle Black as Jon Snow and The Night's Watch (80's New Romantic covers band?) realise that they are about to be trampled by the horde from the north.

We end on this week's Daenerys update which consists of a literal pissing contest and a promise that she will free the slaves of the city.

All in all, a predictably downbeat episode after last week's offering. Again, we can see the cogs grinding towards a lot of unpleasantness occurring in the back half of the season as the pieces on the board re-shuffle in the wake of Joffrey's demise.

Quote of the Week:
The Hound
How many Starks they got to behead before you figure things out?

Rating:
6
Topics:
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 00:09 by Spindles

Judging by this week's Previously... it would appear that all the things I thought were notable by their absence last week are due to be addressed this episode.

From the off, we get to catch up on what's happening with poor old Theon Greyjoy, or Reek as he now appears to be called. Obviously we, the audience, need to be reminded how much of a bastard Iwan Rheon's character is (pun most definitely intended) so we're treated a scene of him hunting some girl through the woods and watch on as he releases the hounds to chew upon this poor unfortunate's face. Then we get an inkling that the director of this particular episode obviously has a wicked sense of humour as we cut from a shot of a rather forlorn looking Theon to a plate full of massive sausages. Nice.

We then get to see a rare scene with Tyrion and Jaime, both characters have come quite a long way since we last saw them drinking together way back in Season 1 so it's nice to see the two of them relaxing for a change with Tyrion even offering to help Jaime get back his fighting mojo. Now, I'm reliably informed that Bronn should not be the one training Jaime, but I'm glad he is, more screen time for Bronn = more chuckling from me.

There then follows a scene with many Boltons, the culmination of which I believe is that if The Bastard of Bolton can kick the shit out of Moat Cailin then he'll be elevated to Lord High Bastard or some such title.

And we're back in King's Landing as the preparations for Joffrey's wedding continue we find that Varys is unwilling to cover up Tyrion's relationship with Shae and it's starting to look fairly likely that she's not going to survive the episode as Cersei rats her out to Tywin. Joffrey partakes in a little of what appears to be his favourite passtime in this episode, that of Tyrion baiting by chopping his present up into little bits with one of them there re-forged Valyrian Steel swords. We, the audience wish it was Joffrey being minced.

Tyrion pulls out his complete bastard card in an attempt to get rid of Shae before she gets strung up and her odds of survival increase slightly as she is escorted off camera by Bronn.

We're then given an opportunity to catch up with a bunch of characters that I'd almost forgotten about: Stannis, Mother of Smoke Baby and the Onion Knight amongst others. To be perfectly honest I really have no idea what these characters are up to, but I'm sure I'll have recieved a potted history on them by next week's show.

All of a sudden we're chewing on a deer. This can only mean we're back with Bran and (YAY) Hodor. A brief bit of warging and tree hugging later, Bran now apparently knows where he has to go and what he has to do. I, on the other hand, still have no bogging clue.

So to the main event. The Purple Wedding. Surely after the Red Wedding this one will go swimmingly well.

The wedding itself seems to go off with only the intended hitch and then there's the after party. We're treated to a marvellous spectacle of musicians, fools, a dwarven re-enactment society and more. It seems at this stage that Shae has managed to escape a grisly fate at Tywin's hands and has been packed off on a boat by Bronn, but I'm not convinced. There are so many wonderful exchanges during this scene that they are impossible to list but mainly consist of people being overly sarcastic and threatening to each other. If the tensions continue to rise like this it's entirely likely that we're going to be several characters lighter by the end of this episode.

As Joffrey's Tyrion baiting approaches epic proportions I begin to wonder if any other child character has ever been so universally hated as Joffrey. It occurs to me that even if Draco Malfoy had skinned Dobby the House Elf and wore his flesh as a meat suit onesie whilst dry humping the cooling corpses of our favourite fallen Gryffindors he would still come in a distant second behind this insufferable little prick. Just as I think Tyrion is about to start tearing Joffrey a new arsehole it appears our beloved king has a bit of a frog in his throat. A few seconds escalation later and I suddenly understand why this is called the Purple Wedding as we are treated to a spectacular scene of Joffrey failing his saving throw versus poison.

Sansa is whisked off by the fool and Tyrion is carried off accused of poisoning the king. Seriously, this guy really never gets a break.

All in all, a wonderful episode and a fitting end to Joffrey's reign. The one thing I take from this week's episode is: Never invite George R.R. Martin to a wedding.

Quote of the week:
Joffrey:
(Gargles on his own blood)

Rating:
9
Topics:
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 23:34 by Spindles

And with a 'Dun Dun, Da Da Dun Dun, Da Da Dun Dun, Da Da Dun Dun' we're back.

A rather long 'Previously...' this time round, going all the way back to poor old Ned Stark's rather extreme migraine treatment back at the tail end of season 1. The reason for taking us back this far seems to be so we can make sense of why Charles Dance is melting down a big sword in order to make two new ones. A brief bit of dialogue between the now clean-shaven Jamie Lanister and his dear old dad reveals it's some kind of awesome steel, the name of which escapes me, but will probably prove to be a plot point later. It seems this season we're going to be seeing a bit more of Jamie's character now he's back home in King's Landing, but not as much of him as was exposed in season 1 since his sister seems to have lost interest in him now he's lost his more dextrous hand.

Daenerys seems to have forgotten that she's supposed to be coming for the Iron Throne and is content sitting playing with her dragons in the desert and flirting with Daario Naharis who seems to have not so subtly morphed from a blonde elf into a bearded brunette ranger bloke without anyone batting an eyelid.

We see the Wildlings hanging out waiting for re-enforcements while Jon Snow attempts to persuade the NIght's Watch that they are about to get their ass handed to them by the army from beyond the wall.

There's still a lot of fallout from the Red Wedding in this episode as we variously see Sansa, Jon, Arya and others dealing with the loss of their loved ones. Tyrion once again shows his gentler side in dealing with Sansa and her grief, which unfortunately leads to him getting a bollocking from his girlfriend. Arya begins to come out of her shell somewhat in this episode, which is good to see, I can't wait to see how she develops as a character over this season.

So, a lot of the requisite elements are present and correct for a season opener of GoT: beheadings, boobs, people choking to death on their own blood, Bron being hilarious, Joffrey being an insufferable prick, The Hound being awesome and more. Things that seem notable by their absence were Bran and the other remaining Stark child, Hodor, seeing what bits are left of Theon and the dastardly double act of Lord Varys and Little Finger. 

The episode felt a bit thin as we attempt to catch up with a whole slew of characters in a very short space of time. I can see the groundwork they are laying for this season, but I think I would have preferred a double episode with a bit more substance to get me back into it properly. However, that said, I'm hooked for the next nine episodes and can't wait to see what epic unpleasantness they pull on us in episode nine this year.

Quote of the week: 
The Hound: Of course you named your sword.
Arya: Lots of people name their swords.
The Hound: Lots of cunts.

Rating:
7
Topics:
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 23:09 by Spindles

After the almost pitch perfect performances of the preceding movies of Marvel's phase two, surely it's about time for a mis-step? Given that Captain America: The First Avenger was, in my humble opinion, one of the weaker phase one movies. I must admit that I went in to this movie prepared to be severely disappointed. However, I am pleased to report that this was very much not the case.

Given the frenetic pace of the action in the opening sequence, my first impression was that it was going to be a two hour all-out slugfest of a film which, while looking fabulous, would ultimately end up unsatisfying in terms of plot and character development. Imagine my surprise then as the pace of the film suddenly flips to addressing themes such as post traumatic stress, political intrigue and the morality of protection through surveillance. The balance of action versus acting is perfect with the shifts between them being sometimes comedic, shocking or a welcome break from the build up of tension. A particularly impressive example is the standoff between former allies in the final act before all hell breaks loose.

Chris Evans once again plays the confident, devoted hero who we see is still struggling to find his place in the modern world especially after The Battle of New York. Scarlett Johansson truly shines as Black Widow in this film, she is given some much needed room to breathe and develops into a sympathetic lead character rather than just being ass-kicking window dressing. Although it is a crying shame that Sebastian Stan left a fabulous role as The Hatter in Once Upon A Time, it's fantastic to see him turn Bucky into the distinctly more intriguing Winter Soldier. Samuel L Jackson IS Nick Fury and we get to see him occupying a bit more screen time in this one rather than his usual background role. Also of note is the excellent cameo from Coby Smulders which raised a massive cheer from my daughter having just watched the last ever HIMYM.

Speaking of cameos, keep an eye out for the Pulp Fiction reference, name dropping not only Tony Stark but the Sorceror Supreme himself, Stephen Strange, and of course the ever present Stan Lee. One big question this film does raise is that of the fate of Agents of SHIELD especially given the major crossovers between this and episode 16. I guess time will tell on that one.

In summary, Marvel's cinematic universe just keeps going from strength to strength. If they continue putting out films of this caliber in the run up to Avengers 2 then I shall be a very happy nerd indeed. Roll on Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Rating:
8
Topics:
Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 23:15 by Spindles

Okay... Before you all hunt me down through my IP address and stab me, please know that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I also love pretty much everything that Pegg/Frost/Wright have ever even sneezed on. So, please don't take the things I'm about to say as meaning that I think they are shit/should die/will never watch anything from them again. Because that is just not the case.

That being said, I humbly present my thoughts on The World's End:

I enjoyed it. There... I got that out of the way. Being who I am, I came out feeling that I really knew where the film was coming from, that they were making a valid point about getting older and that we don't have as much impact on people's lives as we would like to think. Until I thought about it a bit more... Then some bits started to unravel for me.

From this point onwards please do not read if you have not seen the film as I'm going to start from the epilogue and work backwards.

The finale of the film shows us the demise of the small town and the apparent triumph of our beleaguered and drunken heroes over an alien invasion. We feel good that, in the face of adversity, humanity with all its flaws has won the day. Then we cut to Nick Frost telling the rest of the story over a camp fire and it begins to sound less like a lone hero saved the earth and more like a drunken loser unwittingly caused the genocide of not only the human race but the Blanks themselves, who now seem like they are a downtrodden servitor race.

The way it is described is that, because the invading force couldn't outwit a burnt out goth who seemed to have attracted a British Breakfast Club as an entourage, they decided to detonate the planet. To make matters worse, in the aftermath of this event, Pegg's character seems to have taken it upon himself to pick fights with the remnants of human civilization in the very drinking establishments that he was so driven on visiting in order to validate his own humanity. The patrons of the pub may have seemed as thuggish as possible, but I can't get over the fact that he walked in there with a bunch of replicants and started killing the last remaining actual humans on the planet.

After that realisation I started backtracking on a lot of stuff that happened throughout the film. The fact that no-one seemed even slightly bothered by the deaths of two of their companions. The realisation that they were ground up for fertilizer was glossed over at best. This left a foul taste in my mouth that none of the major characters particularly cared about each other in the first place.

This brings me to what I think is my major problem with this film when compared to its predecessors: It doesn't have the same heart. In Shaun of the Dead we cared about the relationship between Ed and Shaun. We cared about Shaun's mum and we even cared about Philip. This film seemed to go out of its way to make sure that we didn't form an emotional attachment with anyone.

It all left me a bit cold at the end. But, don't get me wrong, I loved the performances. Standouts for me were Paddy Considine, who turned in a wonderfully multi-layered character and Martin Freeman who did a marvellous job of becoming a creepy Blank version of his likeable character. Pegg and Frost are again amazing, I love that they've cast Frost as the strong one in the duo this time round, it gives him a whole new range.

The action is well realised as well, with loads of jumping and rolling and fighting. Although, in saying that, it did seem that the main characters suddenly turned into Ninja Warriors without much notice.

All of my mis-givings with the film aside, it is a fantastic watch and a good ending to the Cornetto Trilogy. I just can't help feeling that they either did too much with the script, or not enough. Sorry gents.

Rating:
6
Topics:
Monday, March 4, 2013 - 23:06 by Spindles

After a whole day in bed variously sleeping and hacking up chunks of lung, I'm almost feeling human enough to give a brief account of our weekend away at the Sci-Fi Weekender 4.

For those of you who have never heard of, or experienced it, the SFW takes over a holiday camp in North Wales for a weekend, fills it with around 4000 rabid sci-fi fans and puts on a show of authors, actors, musicians, comedians and much more for their entertainment. We had our first experience of it last year when a couple of our friends won tickets and invited us along. Despite the run-down Pontin's apartments, poisonous canteen and the 10 hour journey home due to our car breaking down in the Apocalyptic Blizzard of January 2012, we decided to go along again this year and take our daughter along with us.

The journey there was a trek through the mountains of Middle Earth complete with frozen waterfalls, free range sheep and small hamlets with greasy spoon internet cafe's serving massive all day breakfasts with vats of tea, sausages with so high a bread content they could be served next to the crumpets on the bread aisle and menus that are presented in both Common and the ancient language of Mordor. After more than six hours on the road we arrived at Hafan Y Mor and went through the relatively painless check-in procedure before settling in to our frankly awesome accommodation. Yes it was arse-bitingly cold, but we eventually worked out that the heating that had less of an operating process and more of a treasure hunt for the relevant isolator switch, followed by a search of the room for the convection heater hidden in a dark recess in order to turn on the switch on the front of that unit before blessed heat issued forth.

Wandering over to the Mash and Barrel on the first night we settled in with a few drinks and a meet up with loads of lovely people who I only previously knew by their twitter handles. We were formally inducted as members of Team Sailor Jerry and had a preliminary wander around the Spaceport Trader zone where I foresaw the spending of far too much money on the cool stuff there.

Friday morning took us into the Main Void for the opening ceremony and then on to a packed programme of panels, signings and screenings. Of the day's panels there were several stand-outs, Manu Intiraymi was incredibly funny, Chase Masterson was utterly charming, and my daughter got up at the very well attended Steampunk panel with Robert Rankin, Jonathan Green, Raven Dane and Sam Stone to ask her first ever question to a panel, which was very well received by all. Followed by a trip to the author zone where we bought a load of books and Megan met all the aforementioned authors and asked more questions that she couldn't fit in at the panel.

The Friday night Imaginarium, while being (imho) better than the previous year with more acts and less scantily clad gyrations still felt a little stale with acts performing the same routine verbatim from the previous year. Highlights of the show being Mental Dave, The Theremin Hero and the intro to the V for Vendetta stage production.

Once the child had gone to sleep we went down to the Mash and Barrel again with the intention of having a drink and watching the late night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, however ended up chatting with Jonathan Green and Herr Döktor about Doctor Who, Steampunk flavours and (after many beers) the answers to Life, The Universe and Everything (including MacGuyver). As a result, we completely missed the screening, ah well... There's always another time for Rocky Horror, but never enough time for geeky chats.

Saturday we got into our lovingly (mostly) handcrafted cosplay outfits as The Potter-Hasts. Meg was Hermione, I was Snape and Emma put together a wonderful last minute Bellatrix inspired Random Dark Witch outfit. We had another packed day of panels and signings and saw some absolutely amazing outfits throughout the day. High points of the day were the Doctor Who panel with David Howe, Peter Davison and Frazer Hines, and, of course, the inimitable Brian Blessed being interviewed by Robert Rankin. The one down point for me on Saturday afternoon was the sound issues that made the V for Vendetta stage play virtually unwatchable. I really feel for those guys at it looked amazing and they were absolutely professional carrying on in the face of all the technical problems.

Saturday night was a wonderful mash up of entertainment in the main void with the absolutely amazing Professor Elemental, and a quiz between Dez Skinn and Robert Rankin to discover the master of the re-universe through the medium of charades, multiple choice questions and audience participation. Megan, oddly spent more time on the stage than in the audience, first finding new monkey butlers for herself from the audience, then helping out the Rankinsiders quiz team in its quest for re-universe domination and finally for the Harlem Shake filming. The Cosplay finals were followed up with a marvellous set from Phil Hutchinson from The Geek Show and Craig Charles' funk and soul set. And our evening was finished off to perfection  with a couple of beers and a chat with Mr Rankin and the Lovely Lady RayGun.

All together it was an exciting, exhausting, exhilarating weekend. We've already signed up for the next one and *fingers crossed* we may even be getting involved in the weekend with our podcasting. So... A massive thank you to all involved, it was lovely to meet you all and I look forward to seeing you all back in the Shire.

Photos are up on facebook for your visual pleasure.

Rating:
8
Topics:

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