June 24, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum is the latest sequel from the surprise hit from back in 2014 starring Keanu Reeves.  This is the kind of  movie where either you like the format, or don’t and there is very little in between.   In many ways I liken this to the Kill Bill movies with Uma Thurman.  Both have extreme violence, in quality and quantity, with increased complexity, moves, variations and number of bad guys.   In both movies the main character is human, seeking revenge, and does sustain significant (and one would think) paralyzing injuries but manages to venture (and fight) on!   John Wick likes the ensure his foes are actually dead by instituting the double head shot.    I wish I had a dollar for every head shot that I saw within this movie.   For me, that becomes the challenge.   Eventually I am de-sensitized from it all.   It’s too much, and more of the same.   There are a couple striking and remarkable sequences, notably the one where there are numerous display cases filled with various historical knives and other such sharp weapons.    Wick is attacked by I can’t remember how many people and it is an intense battle, where more than once I audibly cried out (like “Oooooh!” or “Owwwwww!”).   I laugh at the graphic nature of it all, but it is uncomfortable.

All this action over three movies takes place because in the first movie his dog was killed.   The ongoing joke is repeated here as well.   But it is the truth.   The movies are taking place almost in real time where one ends, then the next begins.   Basically, because of what John Wick did in the second film, then he becomes a high priced target for all other assassins.   There is a good supporting cast, now adding Halle Berry, to already strong Laurence Fishburne,  and Ian McShane.   A new intriguing character here is the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) who eventually you just want to see get punched in the face.   That might be the aim, and clearly there will be more John Wick movies to come, but I am not sure if it is a really good thing to have that feeling.    In this day and age, where one thinks that a gathering spot (like the NBA Championship Parade in the streets of Toronto) can be a dangerous place since terrorists and other freaks can see a million people in one place and salivate, perhaps we should be thinking about other means of issue resolution.   I know some may say, “but Robbie, this is just entertainment, so just relax on that”, and I am sympathetic with the concept.   Hell I have been a purveyor of the concept for years, especially in the context of 60s era cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and Road Runner, where I argued kids today should be able to see these cartoons which were very violent (Daffy Duck’s bill rotated around his head when he was shot numerous times) but we as kids were able to distinguish between cartoon and real life.   Or entertainment versus reality.   I may have become desensitized to the violence when I was in grade school by seeing Elmer Fudd end the Rabbit Season/Duck Season debate with a shotgun shell — but I still get squeamish and uncomfortable of seeing endless, senseless, graphic violence and kills because of one dog.

Back in 1976, Sylvester Stallone put on screen an unlikely hit about an over-the-hill down and out boxer who gets his shot for the heavyweight championship of the world, by a Champion (Apollo Creed) who wants to put on a bicentennial show in Philadelphia.   He likes the poetry of having an Italian Stallion fighting against him in what is a showcase, charity match.    Rocky went on to win Best Picture, as well as a Directing and Film Editing Oscar.   Notably the film beat out Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, which most would argue is the film that should have won that year (incidentally Peter Finch won for Network and NOT Robert De Niro too).   But I digress.    This film has spawned 6 Rocky films and then now tangentially Creed, and the latest Creed II.    Rocky was greatly helped by fine supporting performances by Burgess Meredith (nominated for a Supporting Actor Award), Clarence Weathers as Creed,  Burt Young as drunken friend Paulie and Talia Shire as Adrian.   Meredith as Mickey was 71 years old back in 1976 and he looked every year of it, with his grey hair (what he had left of it) and his overall appearance.    He looked frail, although he had a fiery spirit.   Fast forward to 2019 and Creed II, where the son of Apollo Creed who just won the Heavyweight title himself is challenged by unknown Russian fighter Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago who killed Apollo Creed in the ring in Rocky III.   Michael B Jordan (Black Panther) plays Adonis Johnson, Creed’s son who is getting his life together.   He has the title, a girlfriend and his life is moving forward when the challenge comes through.   Rocky is his trainer.   He doesn’t believe that taking on a fighter with nothing to lose is a good match.   All of this is reminiscent of what Apollo’s team said to him in the original Rocky.   Rocky now is 73yo, and yet is still all buff, and has the hair weave going to still show how virile he is.   Damn if he doesn’t look ready to throw a punch at Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago when they meet up.   How trainers have changed and how trainers will look in their 70s!!   I wonder if Stallon himself sees the irony in all of this?   He actually has his former wife Brigitte Nielson show up as Drago’s former wife in the film to watch her son fight in Russia.   In the end the question becomes, does the film work?   And it does.   The theme of fathers and sons is a strong one.  From Stallone and Rocky acting as a father figure to Adonis, to Drago pushing his son ever forward to reclaim his own glory and status through him, to Rocky being estranged from his own son and grandson now that Adrian has since passed.   It’s emotional.   Rocky has always been that way.   The ring provides a backdrop for what happens to these characters around them.   Like Rocky, one cheers for Adonis, and wants him to do well (and not get killed).   Michael B Jordan was the villian in Black Panther and you cheered to see him overthrown.    He plays the hero now, and is good at making you sympathize with him and encourage him to get up when he gets knocked down by the much larger man Viktor Drago, who is a beast.   I liked this better than I thought I would. Although the formula has remained much the same for all Rocky related pictures, this one is measured again in the characters and how well you care about them.   They have motivations, and backstories and they are not just good and evil.    So this is a story that is more uplifting than a John Wick as sequels go.

Finally on Crave I watched a film version of the Shakespearian play As You Like It, from back in 2006.  It is directed by Kenneth Branaugh, and has an impressive list of stars including Alfred Molina, Kevin Kline, David Oyelowo, and Bryce Dallas Howard.   Howard is likely one of the weaker elements to it.   The UK cast members are seasoned and solid including Brian Blessed.   I don’t recall the play being staged in Japan during trading times, but this is set there.   I have always been drawn to Shakespeare and I wanted to seek out a more of those I have not seen.   It was decent.   It follows a familiar trail with an Uncle taking over a throne (or a family dynasty) and then there is a mixture of people not acting and behaving as themselves (women dressing and acting as men – however unbelievable it seems on screen) and various characters falling for one another.   I had always thought that this was more of a comedy, but it really wasn’t all that funny.   In the end, I am glad that I saw it, but I wouldn’t suggest that it needs to be sought out.    I like other plays better from Shakespeare.


June 17, 2019

Back in 1990, Handmaid’s Tale was a movie with a good cast, including the late Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall.   It was 1:48 long and unseen by me.  It was a film adaptation from the Canadian Margaret Atwood’s book (also unread by me).   Then Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men fame came along and she decided to produce a new version of this book, in a mini series format.   Season 3 has just been released, and I have only finished watching Season 1 this past week.   Now while I am not sure about why an initial less than 2 hour movie had to become 10 episodes (Season 1), 13 episodes (Seasons 2 and now 3).   In total, 36 episodes and close to 36 hours of viewing.   Oh my goodness!   This is a long time to spend in an otherwise dreary dystopian future where women have their right’s stripped away and become incubaters for the rich and wealthy with generally barren wives.   Apparently the Future has a problem with fertility, and the solution in the greater Boston area (but really Cambridge Ontario and other areas around Southwestern Ontario) is to take women’s money and displace them from their jobs and imprison them to be raped and carry the children of the privileged.  In short, that is the story and we follow Moss, and those like her, in this disturbing place.   Margaret Atwood points out that nothing portrayed in her Future is something new that hasn’t been done before in human history.   It is well acted.  Moss is good.  Her fellows actors are also good.   Do I like it?   Not sure.  Not really sure that I am supposed to like it.   It should be disturbing to see anyone’s rights taken away without recourse, and have them subjected to abhorrent treatment and in this case all in the name of The Lord!   Yikes!   Funny how The Lord’s will and judgement can be interpreted so directly by those who wish to justify their (very human) actions.   Canada also comes out smelling like a rose as the country to the North who offers asylum, food, clothes, money and freedom to make choices to women who were slaves.   In the end this is another series that I cannot put on the same level as Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones or Mad Men.  I suppose I should really do a review for worthwhile, binge-worthy series and mini-series that can be viewed on various streaming services.   I’ll think about it.   Suffice it to say that if you look for something new to view and spend a good amount of time on, you can try here.   Just know that you won’t come out of it with a smile on your face or feeling any better about the human condition (now or in The Future).

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was out last summer.  It isn’t a remake of the original campy board game starring Robin Williams as a game comes to life, and puts a family in danger in 1995.   But rather more of a reboot, where a video game (console looks like an old Atari vintage game) creates a new world that pops players into it.   It also transforms them into characters in the game, which has the one ongoing joke of a female live character turning into a Jack Black character in the game.   Oh, I was trying to control my laughter on that one!   Not really.   The Rock is a game character channeling a real life character who isn’t that way in real life.   And then Karen Gillian of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, have to admit I needed to look that one up since she is not recognizable as the robot-sister of the Zoe Saldana character at all, but she does fill out a tank top and shorts well enough to keep it interesting.   And that really is where the positiveness ends.   And that really isn’t very much.   In short what was the board game, became Breakfast Club meets weird version of Tropic Thunder.   Four kids on detention come across this ancient video game console and take a journey into this game where they have three lives, and spawn by falling from the sky.    Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart and I don’t need to talk further about him.   So buyer beware, this wasn’t for me, and I cannot recommend.

Finally, from one bad film film re-make to another completely bad film looking to profit off a mildly successful original product.   Let me say, I am a sucker for shark movies, and most anything to deal with sharks.   I think they are fascinating.   I alos think that their slaughter for soup makes zero sense and is a punch to the balance on the planet.   Jaws remains one of my favourite movies of all time.   So movies like The Meg, or even The Shallows capture my attention.   It even happened back in 1999 with Deep Blue Sea with a decent cast in Samuel L Jackson, Stellen Skarsgard and LL Cool J as a group trying to survive in an ocean lab looking to build brain size by in sharks so that it the brain fluid can be harvested to cure Alzheimer’s disease for humans.   The challenge of course is altering sharks by adding more brains and they becoming the apex predator on the planet (well at least the oceans, so 2/3 of the planet).   Obviously all goes wrong, and the humans have to find ways to survive.   The CGI was decent, but really it is still very obvious that it is CGI.   Deep Blue Sea 2 takes it a notch lower, and uses bull sharks and poor CGI to tell a story.   No reference is made to the original film, and the actors are not in any way A-listers.   Nor are the sets and production value.   So the story is weak, focusing on a somewhat deranged scientist thinking he can boost the human brain by making smart sharks and that he will “just kill them” later on once he has shown the power of the human mind.  You see, he is worried about A.I. (computers) taking over the world and eliminating the humans.  He wants to avoid Skynet and the end of the world by making people smarter, instead of going all Sarah Connor on the computers and blowing them up before they get a chance to wipe us out.   Utilizing sharks, and inviting a busty shark preservationist for really no reason out to his little lab just sets the stage for a movie that doesn’t cut it on any level.   It borrows cliches and stereotypes and overall doesn’t add anything to our knowledge of sharks or the world.   I cannot recommend this either.    I feel pained at the lack of decent films in the theatre but my son suggested Booksmart and also John Wick 3 and so I should get out at some point.

June 10th, 2019

This past week I finished watching the gripping and educational 5-part drama Chernobyl, based upon the book by Svetlana Alexievich titled “Voices from Chernobyl”.   It stars Jared Harris, who was previously in Mad Men and also played King George VI in The Crown as Elizabeth’s chain-smoking and stuttering father (of The King’s Speech fame played memorably by Colin Firth).  It also stars Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson.   Harris plays real-life person and nuclear physicist Valery Legasov, who along with many others was part of the clean up project that became the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in April 1986.   In a few ways I see parallels with the story of Kursk, the Russian nuclear sub that had an accident and the seamen were put in a perilous position with their lives at stake due to no fault of their own.   It poses the question, what would you do if your government denies the level of severity of an accident to keep up appearances, while putting others as risk while looking to fix the problem.   The Kursk had the challenge of a sub being down, and the mini-sub that could connect to it to remove the trapped sailors being old and incapable of docking and locking onto it.   The UK offered to help but was denied.   In Chernobyl, there was highly radioactive materials sitting strewn about on the plant rooftop, and no capping measures of the radioactive steam could take place without that material being moved back into the core.    Robots from Germany that were ordered to remove it were sent incorrect specs on the level of radiation that the robots would be exposed to, and they subsequently (and inevitably) failed.   What results is part of the most heartbraking and painful aspects of watching what unfolds; the human toll of ordinary people who are doing their duty.  Sometimes these real life heroes knew what they were doing and went in with eyes wide open.   Others, sadly did not and they were told nothing.  They were mostly young men, doing their mandatory military service and they ended up getting the short end of the stick as far as perilous duty.    Little did they know about the risks that they were facing, that their superiors who made decisions did.    Could this happen in the West?   Absolutely.    Pride is not limited to the Russians.    Nor is human error and other everyday failings (like wanting to get a promotion and looking to push ahead with a procedure that might be called risky).   It’s disturbing moreso because it has all-to-familiar human failings, and can’t be dismissed as just a Russian problem.

The series jumps around in timeline somewhat from later in the story initially and then back to the evening itself when the accident occurred.   My heart goes out to every one of those first responders who did their duty (fire fighters, medical staff, those brave souls working inside the power plant).   Then there is the aftermath shortly thereafter with some individual stories, and others that are longer.   The political side kicks in as this issue goes up to Gorbachev and his leaders in the Kremlin.   The global impact can be felt shortly thereafter as neighbouring countries begin to notice higher than normal levels of radiation.    All the while one thinks about the people on site, doing clean up, and the impacts that are being done across the board (people, animals, environment etc).    The final episode pulls it all together as you see what was driving the humans in charge of the test.   You see the chain of events which scientifically lead to the result.   And the results are devastating as you see an area surrounding the city that is cordoned off, and uninhabitable.   The area covers 2600 square kilometres.  People were told their leaving would be a “temporary measure”, which was 33 years ago. The official Soviet death toll of the event, unchanged to this day, is 31.   In the end this series does what television and movies can do best; teach, inform, and open up communication on how things can change and be different.   It also gives a glimpse into the lives of people and places you wouldn’t have been exposed to before.   There are villains, there are many heroes and plenty of people that we can identify with.   A show worth finding and catching if you can.

June 3rd, 2019

The Front Runner was a TIFF movie starring Hugh Jackman as the 1984 and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee, Colorado resident Gary Hart.  Early on Hart was the front runner as the State primaries were beginning.  The film is directed by Canadian Jason Reitman, who also directed Up in the Air, Juno and Thank You for Smoking.   Gary Hart was to be the first successful Democratic nominee to win the Presidency from a western State.   Think about who was before him.   Hart was a smart, policy-focused candidate who believed in the “three Es – Economy, Education and Environment”.   He gained wide support as a surprise upcoming nominee in 1984, when Walter Mondale won the nomination (and defeated soundly by Ronald Reagan) and then became the favourite fours years later.   His campaign, and how it ended in scandal, became a turning point in Presidential politics.   Hart was involved in an affair with Donna Rice, a pretty blonde and infamously was on a yacht called “Monkey Business” where pictures of them circulated.    The press hid out after being challenged by Hart to follow him, and found him in a flat in Washington with Rice.

Before this candidacy, the press and the American public seemed to be not all that concerned with the personal lives of their candidates.   The seedy underside of background was not as important as the policies and charisma of the leader.   America looked the other way on Kennedy’s indiscretions, and pasts of others, but not always as we saw with Chappaquiddik.    Hart was a married man, but the relationship was a complicated one.   Married since 1958 to Lee (played by Vera Farmiga) and also in Up in the Air, they were separated in 1988 at the time of the apparent indiscretion.

Hart took the high road as the scandal broke focusing on his platform.  He felt that it was “not relevant” nor anyone’s business and revealed little about his ability to be the President.    His staff felt that the known newspapers (like the NY Times or Washington Post) would avoid the gossip and report on the issues.   But we see Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward in the offices of the Washington Post (who broke Watergate in the early 1970s) debating this story, and how they didn’t want to be accused of sitting on the sidelines when the story broke.   So what began as two guys from The Florida Herald lurking in the bushes became covered broadly.    And even though Americans on news TV felt that Hart didn’t do anything wrong, it still took him down.    But how far have we come?   From losing a nomination and the support of constituents because of this relationship, to becoming President despite paying off porn stars after having sex with them or talking about grabbing women in the [soft areas] during sponsored beauty pageants.   Hart’s position was that this type of reporting kept the potential quality candidates from coming forward because of the intense scrutiny it takes on every aspect of their personal lives.   You are no longer a private citizen.   You become public property, and with the endless debate of the talking heads on 24 hour TV.

The movie is an interesting one, and doesn’t touch upon the life of Donna Rice after her name becomes public.   Her life, as she knew it, was over.   She has later talked about her sympathy for Monica Lewinsky.   Both women have become leaders in the women’s rights movements and bringing forth the horrors of what happens to people thrown into the spotlight by dealing with powerful political men.

Meanwhile Gary Hart and his wife are still married.  They are out of the public eye for the most part.   He talks periodically about issues as they arise.   But this was the turning point in following candidates and shows the flaws in a system where not every quality leader (or candidate) can be able to survive the public scrutiny and holier-than-thou attitudes of those digging.    And paradoxically we have a sitting President seemingly impervious to real life flaws (three times married and endlessly philandering it seems).   So this movie reflects the times then, and shows the differences of where we are today.   There is part of me that thinks that the Trump years will be long forgotten and looked upon bleakly by those 100 years from now, in the same way that Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) or Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).    At least one can always hope.

May 27th, 2019 – Bonus

I checked out Girl in the Spider’s Web last night.  This is the fifth iteration of a Lisbeth Salander story with the third actress playing her.   Initially it was Noomi Rapace who played her in the original European trilogy, based upon the Stieg Larsson books.   He died in 2004 of a heart attack, before they became printed and published novels as well as later the movies.   Later the US remake had Rooney Mara ably take up the Lisbeth role, combined with Daniel Craig as writer Nyqvist, in a remake of the initial Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film.   Finally there is Claire Foy of The Crown fame reprising the role in a new story made from the original trilogy.

A whole article could be written about the various Lisbeths but I have reviewed the other movies before and I won’t do so again.   If you want, do a search on them.  In short I preferred the European versions.   I really like Claire Foy, and I think she was an excellent Young Queen Elizabeth.  She has an expressive face and says a lot with saying anything at all.   Her eyes and facial expressions shows her inner turmoil and tension so well.   Lisbeth Salander is a challenging role for anyone, as the character is an introvert and goth, with special abilities.   She is a technology guru as well as accomplished motorcycle rider.   Foy has the least amount of nudity with the three portrayals for those who count.

This story starts with a dramatic scene which is shown on the trailer with a man apologizing to his Wife, laying crumpled on the shiny dining room floor after clearly another savage beating.  Lisbeth appears with the wings of an angel statue behind her as she exacts retribution on this deserving soul.    She knows how to get payback, and she is the protector and vigilante for those women who don’t get justice from the System.

After this sequence, she is invited to help reclaim a technological item which has been taken by the owner.   I hadn’t ever thought of her as a gun for hire, or someone who could be approached by some unknown third party.   It is out of character.  She delivers, but then has things happen which complicates her life.   She reaches back out to Nyqvist, who has very little to do.   They acted more as collaborators or partners previously but this is more of a solo effort, with a sidekick.   There are some family issues at play and some thugs that seem to always show up.   In the end, there are characteristics which I think are meant to soften Lisbeth, but it doesn’t really work.   It seems out of place.    There is a moment or two where the level of disbelief has to go off the scale, and it fails for me.   Case in point where after being in a scuffle she manages to take some readily available prescription medicine which couldn’t have been obvious what it was to assist her.   Ah…….no.

So in summary I know that this didn’t have a great box office run.   I can understand why.   The edgy Lisbeth is mellowed a bit, and the story doesn’t really flow well with what transpired from the past episodes.    So I wouldn’t be recommending this film, however much I do like Claire Foy and look for her in more films (like First Man) but where she can be more at the forefront.

May 27th, 2019 – Game of Thrones Season 8 and Discussion (Spoiler Alert!!)

(Spoilers Included – Fair Warning!)

So having had a few days to digest what has happened with Game of Thrones and its conclusion, I was left with contemplating why it was I was feeling so dissatisfied with the outcome of it all.   I haven’t signed any petitions for the re-filming and re-writing of the entire season, but there are parts of me that think that this would be more satisfying than how it was left.

So why exactly was Season 8 of GOT so damn disappointing and I think I have a few answers.  Doing an exercise like this somewhat feels like looking upon the mess that Star Wars has become.  There are just so many things that you can bring forward, that by definition identifying a few will always leave out many, many more.   But still, some thoughts on the topic would be worthy of a debate anyway.


First and foremost I think the treatment of the two principal characters (well at least since Seasons 4 or 5, being Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen or “Danny”) is most disturbing and disappointing.  I preface this discussion with the fact that my disappointment has nothing to do with me losing a bet after episode 3 of this season on whether Jon would be doing what he did at the conclusion of episode 8.  Not at all!  But I digress.     Danny was a reason to watch this show and Emilia Clarke played her so well, from this mild and meek young woman, being sold off to a savage (Dothraki leader) to appease her sniveling and annoying brother’s desire to take back the throne of his father who was assassinated by the Kingslayer and being given to Robert Baratheon, with Cersei Lannister as his wife to then becoming a powerful leader with the greatest army ever seen (followed by those of many persuasions who believed in her and her vision for the world).   Danny from early on became a woman of greater and greater power by being firm but fair.  She eliminated the bad people (like slave owners) and sided with the layperson.   The poor and the average who didn’t have a voice.   She hated injustice and was quick to punish the privileged.    She readily acknowledged that her Mad King father was a bad person and did wicked things.   She was going to end that circle of destruction.    Danny also made allies and forged alliances with promises that she kept and vows that she made.   She was able to deliver.    She was to be feared as the Mother of Dragons, but also her ability to vanquish her enemies, like the Dothraki leaders who wanted to marginalize her and keep their brutish and male-dominated ways.   That is background.    Then this season comes along and there are cracks starting to form.   Those close to Jon see Danny as a threat.   Sam has a moment of surprise when he hears from Danny directly that his father and brother were executed by Drogon on the battle field.    He shockingly is all upset about this for a father who disowned him, and threatened to kill him in a “hunting accident” if he didn’t take the Black and leave forever (never to marry, never to have offspring, and forever he at the Wall).   Nice life.  He also later disowned Sam once again for bringing a wildling (Gilly) into his home.   I would think Sam would thank Danny for killing the prick.   Instead he got all emotional and spoke harshly about Danny.    What?!   Danny loses her closest advisors, and those that love her, and starts feeling “all alone” in Westeros – even forgetting her Starbucks cup of the table at the party in celebration of defeating the White Walkers and the Night King.    She is feeling more and more alone.   But all of this doesn’t add up to the genocide that she instigates in King’s Landing.

Let’s unpack the attack in a little bit more detail.   Danny has her forces ready to invade and attack King’s Landing by force.   She has decimated the fleet in the nearby sea, and further wiped out quickly the large crossbows meant to take down her dragon (and have effectively killed her other dragon).   So she has air superiority and her forces have used her dragon attack to gain access inside the castle walls.    Tyrion meanwhile has been trying to work a peace, and have the bells ring when Kings Landing and her troops will surrender to Danny.   The bells start to ring and King’s Landing forces lay down their arms.   Danny then loses her shit and decides on a scorched earth policy.   But her beef really is with Cersei moreso than the people of Kings Landing.   Cersei may be using her subjects as human shields, since after all she hates them, and they hate her, but the distance to travel to the main castle (the Red Keep) isn’t far at all for a dragon.    And what about this wanton destruction of this city?   Didn’t Cersei herself wipe out thousands and a good chunk of her city when she eliminated the Sparrows and leadership with the green matter?     Surely the people of King’s Landing remember this, as well as I am sure haven’t repaired the massive damage that was sustained.   So why doesn’t Danny focus her rage on Cersei?   Ride her dragon to the Red Keep and attack Cersei head on?    Why all this collateral damage which does nothing for her except give her more to repair in her own future home as New Queen?   She kills and destroys the innocents that have always been her focus to win the hearts and minds.   She ignores the advice of Tyrion to not lay waste to the city she wants to rule.    It is all so out of character that we have no frame of reference for it.   She was the hero.   She was the one you cheer for.   And then this character lineage argument comes around that lazily argues that you must follow in the path of your father (family name).   Why must Danny become a Mad Queen and tyrant?   Unhinged and incapable of reason.   Why does she make her plea and victory speech before the remaining Unsullied and Dothraki that their wars and battles have just begun??!   Wasn’t this the end game?  Why is it all so reminiscent of the Nazi speeches in WWII and the First Order Speech in Force Awakens.    We are left with a result that puzzles and is frustrating.   It is lazy writing in my mind, and a conclusion without a proper build up.

Jon Snow

So what of the other hero in all of this, Jon Snow?   The bastard child of Ned Stark initially, who turns out to be much more.   He was Head of the Black, even killed by them and brought back to life.   He was King of the North and brought back Winterfell to its rightful family owners from the hateful Ramsey Bolton (truly one of the best bad guys ever written for a series).   He is a rightful heir to the throne and offered a possibility to the share in the leadership by Danny herself.   He has been loyal and a true friend, one who keeps his word, telling the truth even when it causes him trouble throughout the series.    He is loving and protective of those he cares about.   He is the hero that again viewers followed and cheered as he made his way through all the trials and challenges that he faced.   Jon makes up his own mind and does things that he feels are right, and will take them on himself (like volunteering for the lame mission to gather up a single White Walker to prove to Cersei that there really is a threat from the North).   But what happens to this brave warrior?   After seeing all the senseless destruction as outlined above, he is convinced by Tyrion in a jail cell that he must do what must be done.   He must protect his sisters from Danny, for when in future they likely show they have no interest in bending the knee to the New Queen.   Query whether Danny would ignore what she acknowledged was a great heroic feat made by Arya in the Battle with the Night King, whether she would have any harsh intentions to the saviour of the known world?   I doubt it, especially if Arya takes on her next set of missions as she sees them from the ending here.    If I were Danny, I would give her all boats and men and provisions that she would ever want.   So really it would be saving Sansa, and quite frankly she would get whatever she deserved as an ungrateful and privileged wanna-be Queen.   Any person who would pine over Joffrey Lannister isn’t worthy of praise nor protection.   But I disgress.   So Jon does what he does and is banished, yet again, to the Black!!  WHAT?!   But with the Wall destroyed and open for all to pass, and the Wildlings as friends, there is nothing to do there.   He abandons his post, again something he wouldn’t do, and heads north, where there is literally nothing.   So Jon kills those he loves, he is disloyal and doesn’t follow through on promises which he made throughout the series.   Some may argue he is keeping a promise to protect the realm generally from an unhinged tyrant, but that presupposes that he couldn’t have impact upon her.    She even offers to rule together.   So another unsatisfying aspect of the ending, that was hastily put together without the proper build up, and not enough time for the viewer to catch up.

Cersei Lannister

The ending of Cersei Lannister and her reign has to be one of those most disappointing in recent memory.  In a series where especially wicked and dastardly people meet fitting ends (think Ramsey Bolton or Joffrey or Lord Varys – scheming and plotting to the very end) this ending is especially unsatisfying.   Cersei had ordered the death of her own brothers, including her lover and father of her children.   She had blown up thousands.   She will, in short, do anything and kill anyone to keep her position.   She is the focal point of the hatred with Danny, and she has backed out on her word countless times, including failing to send troops to fight the White Walkers in the North.    Wouldn’t it have been better served to have Danny fly in on Drogon to the top of the Red Keep and blow fire and cause destruction there.    Hell, even Arya and The Hound could be there to attack and finish off The Mountain, before reaching and addressing Cersei.   Perhaps the Hound can kill The Mountain while he is threatening Arya, to protect her and sacrifice himself to be more human and more like the father-figure that Arya had lost to the executioner’s sword as ordered by Joffrey.    A beaten and bested Cersei could then be brought before her own people to be tried for genocide herself and the betrayal of the New Queen.   Cersei is defeated and shamed and left to live her life out in pain and obscurity.   The New Queen might use her to set an example of others and strip her of her name and titles.   Cersei may choose to take her own life, but it would be in misery and alone.   Defeat at being remembered as a villain and ultimately forgotten by the people.   Instead, she is re-joined by her brother Jamie, who seems to forgive that he has been ordered killed by her.    He accepts that he is wicked, and deserving to die (or at least accept banishment) and goes to her side.    Ultimately the walls literally come crumbling down and the Keep becomes a tomb, but even one where in episode 5, I am not altogether certain that she is even dead.    It takes until Episode 6, where miraculously and incredibly she and Jamie are found in the rubble by Tyrion that she is confirmed dead.   There is no head on a spike, or parading her around for all to see.   It is anti-climactic.    All the force and emotion of finally defeating a strong and difficult opponent is lost.    Even think to Arya killing House Frey en masse and you get a sense of how powerful a fitting ending can be, in retribution for The Red Wedding (one of the most shocking and remarkable sequences in recent series history) and you know this series knows how to do this right.   Instead for the most important defeat, the repayment of the execution of Ned Stark, they fumble the ball.

I could go on and talk about the ultimate head-scratching resolution for the new ruler of Westeros, and the choice of Hand.   I could question how the Dothraki could ever accept such a choice.    Or wonder about a people like the Unsullied who are incapable, by definition, of replenishing their troops and how they can ever be satisfied about finding a track of land to settle in.   Or speak to strange new parties showing up in the final meeting as presumably leaders of Westeros.  Or how they present a book called A Song of Ice and Fire which mirrors the name of the actual books that George R.R. Martin wrote for this story.   All of it was cheesey and a bit ridiculous.   There was so much right about GOT in getting to Season 8, that the resolution feels hollow and not worthy of the episodes and road travelled to get here.   What was really a character based drama of intrigue and betrayal became in the end action sequences that left the characters behind.   Weak storylines like the Brann story as cripple who can become the three-eyed raven (yea, okay…but so what?) become a greater focus while more developed and emotionally satisfying lines were moved to the sidelines.   Other storylines that were so important, like Arya and her ability to be No One and take on any face, is sidelined in moments (like the killing of Cersei) when it could have been very effective.   No one really got to see the powers that she had mastered, and how those could be used.    The whole Lord of Light story and the followers of that entity are ignored.   Melisandre was not the only one.  How does Sam become a Grand Maester so young?   But suffice it to say that this was time well spent.   I thoroughly enjoyed the series.   Making this 8 Seasons and 73 episodes was way better than had it become a three hour movie (like Hollywood wanted to do).   George R.R. Martin did right by making this come to life this way.   It also became a new benchmark for fantasy series and quality in writing and production value.   No one can say that they scrimped in this production and that the CGI was sub-par.   Far from it.     They eventually had the money to put quality together (especially the cast) and to put good scenes around them.   I wish the books had finished off what was started, but you can’t make an old writer write.   So we close off another chapter in quality TV like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and others.    The fact that so much debate can arise from a series shows that it has captured the imagination of the people.   No one wants to debate something they just can’t stand.   Winter has come and gone.   On to Summer!

May 20th, 2019 (Victoria Day)

This past long weekend I didn’t really watch anything too interesting but for re-watching Dan Brown’s Inferno.   I have already talked about it before as another installment of the Robert Langdon series.   It’s okay.

I also watched before the weekend the Julia Roberts’ film Ben is Back.  It also star the young and up and coming male star Lucas Hedges.   He has done some memorable roles already including Boy Erased with Russell Crowe and the family trying to use conversion therapy on their son to remove his inclination towards other boys (see Nov 26 2018 review).   This film is a lot closer to the other TIFF released from last year Beautiful Boy with Timothee Chalamet (also a very popular and in demand young actor) where Steve Carrell as father tries to understand and help his addicted son.   This was reviewed by me on October 29th in the Halloween edition.    There is a similar arc to both stories with Roberts and Carrell playing the loving (maybe too enabling parent) who wants to help a son who has lost his way.   Or at least he has found a path that the parents disagree with and they view it as self-destructive.   As addicts the boys are both convincing.   They have done terrible things and disappear for stretches of time.   Hedges’ character Ben is coming back early from a stint in Rehab it seems.   Only he seems to think that his returning to his home (with Mom, Step-Dad, younger sister and step-siblings) is a good idea.    He sponsor does not.    The plot is simple with his surprise visit and then as he wanders this small town which may be Vermont (but the mall seems a great deal like Woodbine Centre in Toronto) he gets noticed and recognized by others in the town.   There are some interesting moments, like Mom Julia in the mall which is unexpected.   There are others where Ben seems to have a dark cloud around him and bad things just seem to happen.   His step-father is not impressed.   His Mom tries to smooth things over and make them right.   I thought I knew where this was going and then it changed direction, mildly anyway.   Is it more satisfying than Beautiful Boy?   Not sure.   It’s different but keeps a theme going.   Is the Hedges performance better than Chalamet?   I can’t say that.   He has a couple moments where he needs to show some depth and he addresses them admirably.    What I can say about seeing both of these is that I am glad, so far, that my children haven’t been caught up in this world.   It’s a scary prospect that one who you have cared so closely for takes a U-turn and heads in a direction you can’t understand or relate to in any way.   I guess life is a lottery in many ways and children have to make their own choices.    Julia Roberts has some palpable moments of frustration and I think she attacks the problem for her directly with a moving seen with her son, just the two of them.  You’ll know it when you see it, and it was a moment where I sat and watched and just said “wow”.