October 17, 2022

House of the Dragon: Episode 9 of this 10 episode first season was released last night for this series. I am struggling with the pace of it, and how dark it has all been. If I had wanted to watch a retelling of the Henry VIII story with Elizabeth and all those characters and scheming then I could watch that series. In fact I have watched that series, Becoming Elizabeth, not that long ago. Or one can watch Elizabeth and its sequels, with marvelous Cate Blanchett. Instead, we have many years, and a surprising number of actor replacements in this first season. It trudges along slowly as the dithering King ambles through life while trying to “just get along” with everyone. Meanwhile he fires and rehires inexplicably a Hand who has obvious ideas on how to manipulate him. Why there isn’t someone, anyone, better and more loyal to the King leaves one scratching their hand. Mercifully, and not to spoil it too badly, the King who looks more and more like a White Walker with each episode passes away. But before he does so, he does something with his dying breath with leaves his wife, the Queen with thoughts about succession. Let the scheming begin.

The battle for the Crown begins

For me, the principal difference in this series versus Game of Thrones continues to be that we are focusing on one family really, as opposed to a number of powerful families with competing interests, along with The Wall (manned by The Black), the White Walkers and the dragons. In this instance, of course we have dragons, but none of the others. The happenings over these last eight episodes could have been covered in half an hour, rather than over eight! I was also thinking last night that it is likely coincidence that the troublesome family in Harry Potter, the Malfoys, and the Targaryens both have long flowing white hair and pale skin. It difficult to cheer for any of them, as opposed to GOT where there were clear lines of those to cheer for like the Starks, Jon Snow, and Danny. Each of them had obstacles to overcome, and there were supporting secondary characters who each had their place with compelling stories like Brianne of Tarth or Jaqen H’ghar of the Faceless Men of Braavos or even The Hound. None of that is happening here in this series. Instead there is the well known story of succession and plotting to take the crown, with a plot device which seems forced at best. With all the hype, anticipation and money spent on this venture, I think that HBO must feel a little cheated with the promises of continued glory in Westeros. Sure there are more dragons, although we aren’t really seeing them, but story isn’t as vibrant, with nowhere near the same turnover in characters that the audience begins to like before they are eliminated with prejudice! There is one more episode to go, and Season 2 has already been green lit, but one hopes that this setting the table for more compelling TV to come can occur. So far, it all has been very much of a letdown.

Speed: One the interesting aspects of posting weekly is the need to actually watch more content each and every week. I need to remind myself at times when Alison and I started working together and writing the reviews down. Because before that time, there won’t have been such a review. I saw on Crave this past weekend that Speed from 1994 (!!) was on with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It quite simply is a lot of fun! This is what movies can be, with a heart pumping exhilaration ride through the streets of LA. Written by Canadian Graham Yost, whose father was Elwy Yost who was the host of public TV’s Saturday Night at the Movies, this movie grabs one by the lapels from the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the very end. Much like Indiana Jones, one goes from one tense scene to another, with very little space in between to take a breather. The story is about a bomber seeking money as his due for his years of public service through ransom demands in scenarios. Played brilliantly by Dennis Hopper, he begins in an elevator in a high rise building threatening passengers in an elevator unless they give him $3M. Enter LAPD officer Jack Traven, played by Reeves who’s replaying Johnny Utah basically from Point Break and his partner Harry, played by Jeff Daniels. They have other ideas on how to foil the plans of the Mad Man. Without spoiling too much, the crux of the story has Jack dealing with a crosstown City Bus that has a bomb which gets armed when the bus hits 50 mph, and it will explode if thereafter the bus goes below that 50mph threshold. In LA traffic, how does one actually do that?

Jack and Annie driving through LA traffic

The plot continues with various attempts to deal creatively with the issue. On the bus, there is Annie, played by Sandra Bullock in her breakout role, as a passenger who had too many speeding tickets and caught this daily commute bus for her at the last second. Of course there are sensational things that happen where one has to suspend disbelief, but it is fun to just go with it. You care about the characters. You are intrigued to see how they possibly can extricate themselves from the predicament. The Bomber is “crazy, not stupid” and seems to always be one step ahead of the police. This movie was made for $30M at the time and made over $350M. It is still compelling today. There isn’t a lot of CGI, if any, and one is engaged from beginning to end. Reeves at this, or any for that matter, isn’t all that versatile as an actor however he is very good at playing this action role. As the young, cocky, ambitious police officer who is just doing his duty to stop the bad guys, and “not get dead” he has plenty of ideas on how to address a problem, often thinking outside the box. Daniels’ Harry is a good partner for him, as he can be more of the brains while Jack acts out the stunts. This is definitely worth your time if you can find it somewhere. If it was in a theatre it would be even better!