Tag Archives: Series

Recap – Game of Thrones S7E4: “The Spoils of War”

More like “The Spoiled of War”, am I right? Eh?

Oh, god. I’m so sorry.

Putting aside the fact that HBO’s international distribution partners are leakier than the Titanic, the title does seem fitting; this fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season opens up with Jamie Lannister handing Bronn – sorry, Ser Bronn – a bag full of gold. The Lannisters always pay their debts, of course, which is why the Kingslayer is hiking across the continent with all the pilfered spoils of Highgarden. If the Iron Bank is going to fund Cersei’s world-conquering revenge campaign, they need to be placated. That was the plan all along, it seems, although I guess Jamie didn’t quite anticipate Lady Olenna dropping that bombshell about Jeffrey’s welcome demise. Bronn put it better than I could: “Did the Queen of Thorns give you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?”

Yes, quite.

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Recap – Game of Thrones S7E3: “The Queen’s Justice”

This season of Game of Thrones will have seven episodes; the next will have only six. This, I reckon, is why the show has suddenly abandoned any sense of realistic proportion. Time is fluid now. Distance is irrelevant. Towards the end of last week’s episode, “Stormborn”, Jon Snow announced he would accept an invitation to Dragonstone. At the start of last night’s episode, “The Queen’s Justice”, there he is on the beach; that’s a week-long journey, maybe more, with scarcely a scene in between. We’ve been waiting seven seasons for these two characters to meet, and now things are moving so fast that you have to wonder if they’ll get any time together before they each start teleporting across Westeros.

Not that I care about realism in a fantasy series, obviously. I watch Game of Thrones to see people get naked, have sex, and swordfight to death. The logistics don’t concern me. But this newfound disregard for details does speak to what I’ve been saying in these recaps, about how much freer the show feels now. There are only ten episodes left to tie up about a dozen different ongoing conflicts, and in a show that has frequently had to stretch itself to breaking point in order to fill time and tick boxes, the rapidity of this new season feels liberating. The reason I drifted away from George Martin’s books is that they were mostly full of complete bullshit. What’s best about this season, so far, at least, is that it has no room for any bullshit at all.

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Review – Gears of War 4

What’s this?

I don’t want to alarm you, but despite quite clearly having the numeral “4” on the end of the title, Gears of War 4 is actually the fifth game in the respectable Gears of War franchise. And when I say “respectable” I’m not even being my usual, sarcastic, devilishly-handsome self. The first game was critically beloved, a commercial success by every possible metric, exceedingly well-designed, and became a rubric for cover-based third-person shooting to such an extent that the industry’s continued – and continuing – milking of the series’ saggy teats has led most people to retroactively taint the Gears games themselves. A shame, really, because they’re all pretty great. Except this one, as it happens. This one is merely fine, just in quite a tired, predictable, faintly desperate way.

Oh, no. We’re not doing the Halo thing, are we?

Not quite, although the business parallels are undeniably similar. Epic Games didn’t want to make Gears of War games anymore, much like how Bungie didn’t want to make Halo games anymore, and so in both instances Microsoft invented a developer with the specific mandate of making more games in those respective franchises. In Halo’s case, the property was handed over to 343 Industries, a phenomenally inept pack of corporate stooges who bastardized Halo’s core gameplay, plot and characters, and slapped them back together in a Call of Duty clone wearing Master Chief’s helmet.

Gears of War 4 has, admittedly, fared slightly better. Its developers, The Coalition, at least had the good sense to leave the fundamentals of a Gears experience largely unchanged. The problem is that they left them so unchanged that the whole thing feels like a knockoff, second-hand Gears experience without any of the creative verve that gave the original trilogy its unique appeal.

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Review – Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

What’s this?

It’s – blimey – the eleventh DC Animated Original, and the second after the mediocre Batman: Gotham Knight to feature an anthology format. Don’t panic, though – Emerald Knights ­isn’t as artsy-fartsy as that movie; it retains a uniform visual style (which is more or less identical to what was used in Green Lantern: First Flight, although this otherwise has no connection), and each individual tale is linked together by an overarching narrative.

And that narrative is?

The home planet of the Green Lantern Corps is on the precipice of a galactic-scale battle with an ancient enemy, and in preparation for the coming conflict Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) regales new recruit Arisia Rrab (Elizabeth Moss) with tales of the first Green Lantern and several of his current comrades. And that’s it, really. We get stories that explore the formation of the Corps; the trial-by-fire that led to Kilowog (Henry Rollins) becoming a certified ass-kicking space-swine; Bolphunga’s (Roddy Piper) meeting of an “antisocial” Green Lantern known as Mogo (Steve Blum); some familial drama as Laira (Kelly Hu) investigates her vaguely Nipponese home world; and a team-up between Abin Sur (Arnold Vooslo) and Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) as they take on the villain Atrocitus (Bruce Thomas) while waxing philosophical about the nature of destiny and free will.

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Recap – Game of Thrones S7E1: “Dragonstone”

Winter is here. With spoilers, obviously.

There’s always some detective work to be done when you return to a complex series, even one that is, pretty inarguably at this point, the most popular and feverishly-discussed in the history of television. You spend some time rifling through the last season’s Wikipedia page, reorganising events in your mind, trying to remember who died, and what whoever lived was last up to. The seventh season of Game of Thrones premiered in the early hours of Monday morning, and its first episode, “Dragonstone”, has you covered. In it, Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and of Plot Exposition, has drawn a map. Well, had a map drawn for her; she’s a queen, after all. The map is of Westeros, painted onto the floor, and as Cersei stands atop it, she points at each place she references, which are all helpfully labelled and illustrated. Her brother, Jamie, narrates. “Invaders to the east, pretenders to the north, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” I’m paraphrasing. But it wouldn’t be unlike Game of Thrones to break into song at this point. Ed Sheeran does show up for a fireside cameo. Then again, this has always been a show that put snaggle-toothed ginger northerners at something of a premium.

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Review – War for the Planet of the Apes 

What’s this?

A grand finale for the Planet of the Apes reboot series. This time it is the War for the Planet of the Apes and the clue is in the title.

What’s it about?

Soon after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, an army of humans hopes to find Ceasar, which results in suffering unimaginable losses for the lead character. Ceaser shows a darker side as he aims to avenge his losses and puts himself up against the Colonel, the leader of the human army they were hiding from. This also means that the fate of both species is in their hands, really upping the stakes, which are way higher than the previous films. The entire movie feels like an ending to a trilogy but it is delivered masterfully from start to finish in ways that I was not expecting. War for the Planet of the Apes is not only a fantastic movie but it sets a benchmark in how to deliver a memorable trilogy.

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Review – Archer: Dreamland

What’s this?

The eighth season of Adam Reed’s anarchic, sneakily genius spy-spoof animated series – and a bit of a gamble, this time around. Sure, the FXX cartoon has upended its central premise several times, and mostly just for fun. The fifth season was a Miami Vice pastiche in which the cast became hapless drug traffickers; the seventh moved the show (which had always been New York-based) to Los Angeles. But Archer: Dreamland is the most thorough reimagining the series has been treated to. Set in the late 40s, it’s an outright noir, which sees the familiar characters we know and love recast as genre archetypes with roughly the same sense of humour.

Didn’t the last season end on a cliffhanger?

It did, and this one opens with half a resolution to it – Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), the devilishly-handsome alcoholic spy, is alive after being shot several times at the end of season 7 and left face-down in a swimming pool. But he’s currently comatose, which allows Reed a whole season’s time to think about how he’s going to write his way out of this particular corner. Dreamland disappears straight into Archer’s unconscious brain, and doesn’t leave for the remainder of the season.

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