Star Trek: Discovery #StarTrekDiscovery @StarTrekNetflix #StarTrekDay @startrekcbs

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I’m a big Star Trek fan. “Bitterly disappointed” by the way Star Trek: Enterprise was given short shrift in marketing and timeslots, and then summarily cancelled after four seasons, is an understatement of how I felt. And that was in 2005; I had barely lost my virginity back then, whereas now I am a married man with thick tufts of chest hair that drip with testosterone. Yes, twelve long years I’d been in purgatory waiting for even a sign of a new Star Trek series — until last year, when the announcement was made. But I couldn’t get my hopes up as it wouldn’t be the first big project to get canned. Yet here it is, at last. Star Trek: Discovery aired last night on Netflix. I can’t wait to watch episodes one and two tonight (right after I finish grooming my manly facial hair). But I’m nervous — will it be a Game of Thrones (=perfection), or a Stargate Universe (=all gear, no idea)?

A new Trek series was sorely needed to fill a particular gap. Not only is it a massive franchise with a hardcore fanbase, but the success of the recent films means there might be a new non-Trek audience primed and ready — although, in all fairness, the enthusiasm for the new films has kind of fizzled out now. But whatever.

The other reason why a new series is needed is that all previous Treks existed in the years BBG. That is, Before Battlestar: Galactica. That show was epoch defining and heralded the dawn of a new era (the 2004-2009 version, not the campy 70s thing). It moved us into a brave new world. Yes, yes, yes, it had all the secks, violence, and swearing (if “frack” counts) that now typify shows like Game of Thrones. But it was the format that set it apart. Gone were the 20+ episodes a season, countless dud eps which basically filled space, and the one-off episodes that didn’t advance the central plot of the series — if there even was a central plot. We were into a new world where quality triumphed over quantity; ten episodes of pure, relentless, story. One story arc for the whole show.

All previous Treks existed in this BBG world. This is outmoded and isn’t how TV works anymore. To make it worse, back then, the budgets were also poor, lending a kind of crummy homemade look to much Sci-Fi; I remember even as a twelve year old cringing at how the solid metal armour of the Jaffa in Stargate: SG1 would betray it’s Styrofoam prop nature and literally bend in a fight. Also, the quality of the acting has gone up: just try to remember TV before the Kiefer Sutherland thrillride 24; big film stars just did not do TV, it was a step down. How times change!

Visually, Star Trek: Discovery looks phenomenal. But we’ll just have to see if it is a matter of style over substance. As a Trek disciple, I hope to goodness the show is great and gets a good long run. Otherwise, by the time they come up with a new Star Trek series, I’ll probably have regrown my virginity, for I’ll be a shrivelled, middle-aged man.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Game of Thrones Series 7 Review and Look Ahead to Series 8 !!!WARNING: SPOILERS!!! #SpoilerSweats #GOTS7 #GOTS8

This post has some spoilers!!!!!

SPOILER-FREE REVIEWS?

I started this season of Game of Thrones intending to write spoiler-free reviews of each and every episode. Seven episodes, rather than the usual ten, means it should have been pretty easy. However, as you can tell, I gave up after episode three; in trying to write my episode four review, I simply found it impossible to not reveal stuff. Even not saying stuff says stuff. After all, if I suddenly stop mentioning a certain character, what conclusion would you draw? (Hmm, Bryan hasn’t mentioned Ned Stark for a bit…)

The lesson is that for season eight I will post full reviews, spoilers and all.

BEST MOMENTS?

Best episode of season seven had to be the final episode. Jaime has finally switched sides, apparently, which looked likely for a while now. Daenerys is still good, but is showing increasing signs of haughty regalitis. And we finally found out what we kind of knew already, ish, but which hadn’t been spelled out: John Snow is in fact a Targaryean, nephew of Daenerys, and the true heir to the Iron Throne. Just as this is officially revealed, we see Dany reveal her bits to John, just before they pump. So that’s going to be awkward over the coffee table in morning. The sight of an undead dragon destroying the wall was also a stand-out moment from the season.

That leads me to what I think was the most iconic, most “oh, nooo” moment of the whole season: Viserion the dragon becoming undead. As soon as we knew the dragons would be heading north, I was like, “Ooh, nooo”; one dying was always on the cards. Great moment, and we know that we are in store for some epic battles come season eight. Some people poo-pooed it by saying, ‘Erm, plothole! How could they get chains that big to drag the dead dragon!?’ To which my only answer is, ‘Erm, dragons you find believable, large metal chains not so much…?’

Other great moments include Leanna smugly telling Jaime that she dunnit. The captive undead spazzing out in front of Cersei. The capture of Ellaria Sand and her subsequent imprisonment by a mentally stable Cersei.

Many complained that this season was full-on with no development. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing; everything has been moved into place, and now we begin the rush to the end.

SEASON EIGHT?

Nothing would surprise me were it to happen in season eight. Including:

  • The white walkers taking over and destroying Westeros / the World.
  • Cersei winning, Jon and Daenerys dying.
  • Dany going schitz on power / refusing to bend the knee to Jon.
  • Ned Stark, or anyone of our other favourite dead characters, coming back in white walker form for an emotional, zombie-esque, ‘I don’t know if I can kill you! I still see the real you in that skelly shell!’ moment of emotional, heart-tugging drama.
  • Sam, in a kind of epilogue to the final episode of season eight, being the only one left alive, sat there Bilbo Baggins style with a pipe, now a very old man, explaining to the young hobbitses the true story of what happened. Y’know, the Song of Ice and Fire, as he will come to call it.
  • An apparently happy ending, with Sansa, Arya, Dany, and Jon co-ruling the seven kingdoms in peace, white walkers ended once and for all, slavery outlawed, feudalism abolished, a healthcare system free at the point of use guaranteed to all people of working age who pay a regular National Insurance contribution, and iPads for everyone — but just then, some crazy mothers from Essos appear in their ships on the horizon, dun dun dun! End of the world as we know it.
  • The Children of the Forest come back, Ewok-style, and fuck everyone’s shit up. After all, they made the white walkers to protect themselves from men! Perhaps they’ll be on the white walkers’ side.
  • The Dothraki go nuts and start raping and pillaging, as they are wont, which turns the layfolk against the Dany-Jon biumvirate, perhaps necessitating Jon or Sansa to backstab.
  • The good guys win a Pyrrhic victory; Westeros is so ruined by everything that there isn’t much of a world to rule over now. And the weakened Pyrrhic victors, Team Stark-Targaryean are left open to attack from foreign marauders.
  • Half the real life cast die in a kind of Munich Air disaster and/or nuclear war with North Korea means that we never get a proper final season eight.

I just hope whatever they do, it isn’t a perfect happy ending. I just think that would not suit the world that’s been built up. Even if things end “well” (= white walkers and Cersei being killed, some good guys staying alive), I can’t see everyone remaining unscathed. One or more of Dany, Jon, Arya, Sansa have to die, and die horribly. And the hard won peace must be on a knife-edge, some new danger suggesting itself.

As much as this series is based on mediaeval English history (War of the Roses and such), I keep thinking Alexander the Conqueror; single-handedly reshaped the world order, and for a brief moment there was the promise of westerners and easterners inter-marrying and becoming a single culture ruled forever by Alexander and his heirs in a sort of Pax Alexanderna — only for it to all fall apart at once and his generals squabble and split the empire up. That’s sort of how I see things moving.

In any case, a whole year or more for season eight! How am I going to cope?? Oh, hang on… 😎

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

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Note: this aims to be a spoiler-free episode review…

Episode 2, “Stormborn”, was exciting stuff! A lot happened. Daenerys showed yet more of the steeliness she flashed in episodes 7.1 and 6.10. She even presumptuously demands that someone else “bend the knee”. Theon, known to his close friends as “Reek”, gets an opportunity to showcase his newfound confidence and courage. Happily, the show gets back to basics: by bringing us some hawt seks. Well, naked bods, boobies and all, and a bit of heavy petting. And we witness everyone’s favourite (read: nobody’s favourite) Samwise Gamgee rip-off, err, Sam, perform a rather disturbing Cronenbergesque operation. There’s also a shocking bit of carnage to finish the episode. In short, everything Game of Thrones fans love and crave.

Also notable was just how slow pre-broadband Westerosi communications technology was. We see different people get news about various developments at vastly different times. It’s something we don’t think about, but was a key factor back then… in the Middle Ages(??)

On the downside, the funny-cum-disgusting camerawork shtick from Episode 7.1, which saw canteen food and sloppy chamber pots quickly intercut, was repeated in a different context in this episode. I hope this isn’t the start of meta, distracting, drawing-attention-to-itself direction. You can have too much of a good thing.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

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Hmm, how to do a Game of Thrones episode review with no spoilers? Well, here we go.

Season 7 of the visual crack that is Game of Thrones kicked off yesterday. Unlike the last six seasons which had ten episodes apiece, this time we’ll get seven. But we’re promised they will be more epic than ever. I’m not disappointed, but actually really respect this decision: none of the old, ‘Well, we have to fill ten episodes, so let’s just stretch it all out a bit’. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are clearly all about quality over quantity.

As for last night’s episode, it was no “Red Wedding”, but it was no “Lord Snow” either: it was solid, entertaining, and oh so tense. And it began with a truly arresting scene which was horrifying, brilliant, and delightful all at once. Let’s just say that revenge is a dish best served cold.

As for the rest of the episode, nothing much happened. But at the same time, a lot happened. Pieces got moved around the board, and the episode felt very much like the calm before the storm. Shit is about to go down, big time, and we were left in no doubt that this was the last moments before it all kicks off.

More than that, many possible future developments were hinted at: new alliances, old alliances fracturing. Very exciting.

On a weird side-note, one man band Ed Sheeran made a jarring cameo as a, erm, musician. And who was that beside him but Thomas “This Is England” Turngoose. I don’t know which was more distracting! Sheeran’s performance itself was actually alright and non-intrusive. But because the Twitterverse melted down beforehand, my attention was drawn to him: I couldn’t help but get tunnel vision and keep repeating in my own head “OMG! That’s ED SHEERAN!!!”. If no one had gone on about it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was him at all. Strangely, though, Sheeran got upset by the reactions to his cameo and has quit Twitter. I find it weird that a ridiculously talented, rich, adored singer would, at this stage, have such thin skin. But no worries: if you’re reading this, Ed, for I know you surely are, then chin up — you were no David “King Arthur” Beckham.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Game of Thrones Season 7 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

check out my film, TV, and Netflix blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com/

As everyone knows, probably even out-of-touch politicians who need to watch The Zeitgeist Tapes, the show that made swords and sorcery mainstream and thereby robbed nerds of our one defining in-group characteristic, Game of Thrones, is back! Season seven kicks off this Sunday.

What can I say about GoT that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot, really, as much has been made of how close to televisual crack it is. I cannot wait, and I’m starting to get the “spoiler sweats”; y’know, the terror that someone will tell me what happens before I get home and watch the latest episode myself. Indeed, GoT has got a little bit stressful the past couple of years; instead of catching up when I can (*damn life commitments!), as I used to, I feel like I have to drop everything and watch each episode ASAP lest it be ruined… which itself ruins it a tad.

Other thoughts?

Even though I loooooooooooooove the show, I’m not as addicted as I was before; I didn’t suffer this past twelve months with no GoT as I have in the past. I also do not see how the ending can possibly top the series itself; I feel like even the best series ender of all time wouldn’t top what has come. Also, I can’t see how they can please everybody when the series winds up with season 8. Why? Because some people want to see a “happy ending”, with Jon and Daenerys getting hitched, crushing the forces of darkness, and ushering in a Summer that never ends. Others, and this includes me, feel that this would be an unsatisfactory ending and totally not in keeping with the rest of the show. I feel that only an end of pure depressiveness would be in keeping with the overall show; perhaps the “good” guys do win, but in their turn get corrupted, perhaps with Daenerys becoming every bit as despotic as her forebears. There is also another risk posed to the finale we all hope for, and it’s what I call the “Pirates of the Carribean Effect”. This is where, in an attempt to become “EPIC!”, films and TV shows get so overbloated, so full of whizz-bangs, that they drown in a sea of their own CGI and pompous self-importance.

Well, whatever the future holds for GoT in seasons seven and eight, I would love to see some spin offs. Indeed, I almost can’t see this not happening. So many tales to delve into.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film RE-view: Crash (2004) [SPOILERS!!!] @KermodeMovie #FilmReview #MovieReview

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This RE-view has spoilers

WHY RE-VIEW?

Crash is about racism in America today and the different forms and faces it takes. Institutional, white-on-black, black-on-white, conscious, unconscious bias, rich, poor, and all between: the film was awarded three Oscars for its in-your-face message. It confronted racial tensions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Various story strands are interwoven in what I can only call a Love Actually ensemble stylee — although the film seems to think itself more Pulp Fiction. Yes, a whiff of self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, and self-congratulation emanate from this flick. And that’s why I gave it 2/5 when it came out. But a friend kept begging me to give it a second look. So finally I did.

THE GOOD

It’s true, there are some great moments. The sweet story of the protective cloak that a father tells his daughter stands out as genuinely touching and believable. The film is well directed and the plot well structured. You can’t fault writer-director Paul Haggis for his mastery over the craft. And despite the large cast, there is good character development, and the film is well paced and zips along nicely. Despite this, some characters are completely extraneous and should have been cut. Particularly, the roles played by Sandra Bullock and her on-screen husband.

THE BAD

The film is also very funny in places. Although I strongly suspect that was unintentional. Either way, it’s certainly odd. The two African American car-jackers provide much of this unintentional comic relief. They drive around procrastinating on race and racism, like a crap Travolta-Jackson Pulp Fiction rip-off duo, whilst their actions confirm the negative stereotypes that they rail against.

This is the worst thing is that nobody reacts normally. Everybody is ready to fly off the handle over the slightest thing. It’s this constant hysteria that jarred so badly thirteen years ago and jars so badly now. And in these sobre days, where 9/11 is now history, we can see this film for what it is. Over-the-top characters and cartoonish racism are par for the course. Everyone constantly make shouty outbursts laced with racial slurs that seem shoe-horned in and never genuine. Example: “So tell me, who gathered these remarkably different cultures together and taught them all to park their cars on their lawns” says a black man whilst hanging out of the back of a Hispanic woman…. Another example: a moronic, obnoxious Iranian shopkeeper — driven to rudeness by post-9/11 hysteria and racism, we are meant to think — does not do what his locksmith told him to, consequently gets robbed, and then does what anyone would: get a gun and go shoot a child… I mean, seriously, we never see him get pushed to that breaking point. By opting for pure melodrama at every turn, the message that racism comes in many forms, not just the obvious KKK lynch ’em kind, is completely undermined.

IN CONCLUSION: OVER-HYPED

I still think the hype and the three Oscars were overboard. Right after watching this again, Midnight Express came on the telly. So I watched that — also, for the first time in ten years or so. Wow, that is what a multiple Oscar winner is all about (despite an equally dubious portrayal of race), not this melodramatic, unrealistic portrayal of racism designed to exorcise middle class white America’s racial and 9/11 demons. Crash was the kind of film America needed in 2004, but that doesn’t mean it lived up to the hype. Crash‘s ideology and surreal histrionic racism are just as jarring as ever. But I have a renewed appreciation for the craft of this film and the moments when it is believable. For that, it earns an improved mark: 3/5.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review: The Blind Side (2009) #100WordReview

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The Blind Side is the true story of a wealthy WASP family, headed by Mater Familias Sandra Bullock, who take in a seventeen year old homeless black kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Battling social prejudice, lavishing him with clothes and an education, this is altruism at its best — or is there an ulterior motive? A prestigious football scholarship is at stake.

This fish-out-of-water tale has plenty of heart. Success is never a foregone conclusion. Tight scripting earnt this flick an Oscar nom for best screenplay, Bullock herself won Best Actress for her subtle, humane, and convincing portrayal.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review: P.S. I Love You (2007) #100WordReview @netflix

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P.S. I Love You is a rom-com based on a quirky and compelling idea. A terminally ill husband arranges ten surprise packages to be delivered to his wife in the months after his death. Think: posthumous and vicarious Bucket List.

Great idea, some genuinely moving sequences — all utterly undermined by the fundamental unbelievability of the acting and set-pieces. The husband’s better-than-Ed-Sheeran serenade is a stand-out moment of absurdity. And the kooky humour’s far less charming and funny than it thinks.

An odd film: I cried, and reached for the zapper. Coulda been great, but unbelievability and misplaced zaniness ruin it.

2/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix RE-view: Fire in the Sky @KermodeMovie #FireInTheSky #TravisWalton #NetflixReview

Fire in the Sky is the 1993 screen depiction of the 1975 alleged alien abduction of lumberjack Travis Walton while out working with his crew. A slowburn, the film is notable for its focus. Rather than gratuitious shots of ETs, the drama revolves around how the disappearance of a local man affects a small town. His crew are villified as murderers, and mob tyranny ruins their lives as the towns tears itself apart.

This film seared itself into my memory as a kid. The petrol station scene (I won’t ruin it) genuinely disturbed me. And the tension throughout builds to that sequence: the single most believable portrayal of an alien abduction I have ever seen. As utterly convincing, visually impressive, and skin-crawlingly disturbing as it was when I saw it some twenty-odd years ago.

But was he abducted? Some have criticised the ambiguity of the film: it never gives us a clear yes-no answer. But I think this is the feature’s strength. The picture’s concern is how people cope with traumatic situations.

Still so fresh. Please give it a watch on Netflix.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Review: Under The Shadow (2016) @UTSFilm @KermodeMovie #UnderTheShadow

under_the_shadow_poster

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Under the Shadow (2016) depicts a mother and daughter struggling to maintain a normal life in war-torn 1980s Tehran. After their father and husband is conscripted, Iraqi bombs start raining down. In a visually striking moment, one bomb lodges in the building’s roof: it doesn’t explode, but it seems to bring a mysterious evil with it that begins to tear the family apart.

This BAFTA award-winning horror has long been on my “must watch” list. Sadly, I’m no longer a freeloading undergraduate with cash and time to spare, so I couldn’t catch it at the cinema. Luckily, Netflix bought it — a surefire sign that the film was gold — and I got to watch it this weekend.

Called an “Iranian Babadook” due to its slow build and psychological horror element, this film holds a 7.0 on IMDB and 98% fresh on RottenTomatoes — rarely heard of scores for a horror. Foreign language? Check. Original setting? Check. Social commentary? Check. Mark Kermode approved? Check. It’s everything that a latte-supping cosmopolitan liberal like myself should love. And how I wanted to love it. But this was the single-handed most disappointing film experience I have had in years.

Where The Babadook was a nerve-shredding slowburn, Under the Shadow was just a patience-shredding slow. 82 minutes never felt so long. The film wasn’t awful: jaunts to the basement bomb shelter were creepy, the sound design was at times deeply unsettling, and the evil presence was original and truly scary. But unlike The Babadook which nigh-on perfectly balanced psychological terror, monster scares, and possible mental breakdown in a is-it-isn’t-it-real stylee, Under the Shadow just felt like a going-nowhere social commentary on the state of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a bit of bump-in-the-night thrown in. Tension wasn’t maintained, the film didn’t feel like it was headed anywhere, and our mother and daughter, strangely, never truly seem imperilled by the menacing presence. The picture juggles several themes, yet never delivers on any of them. Smaller productions often suffer from fewer rewrites, Under the Shadow is no exception: this is a screenplay crying out for another round or two of redrafting. It never fulfills the ample potential it hints at.

However, the acting, direction, clever construction, and originality save the film somewhat. Memorable, note-worthy, but sadly Under the Shadow just doesn’t hang together.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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