Posts Tagged 'hbo'

My 10 Favorite Game of Thrones Characters

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WHICH GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER ARE YOU?!?! Just kidding. You’ll have to go to Facebook to find that out. Spoiler alert, though: you are none of them.

With season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones ended and withdrawal setting in, I’ve decided to hop onboard the GoT thought piece/clickbait bandwagon. I’ve delved through the show’s long, long list of characters, old and new, to figure out who I like and relate to most and least. Some of my choices may surprise you, but one of the best aspects of George R.R. Martin‘s world is that its characters are far grayer than in other filmed fiction, and I find things to like about even some of the sleaziest of the bad guys. Game of Thrones has some of the richest, most complex characters you’ll come across in modern fantasy (or fiction of any genre, really), and that made putting this list together a lot of fun.

I realize this post would work much better as a 15-minute YouTube video, but I don’t have the time nor the energy nor the editing software to put that kind of video together. Sorry. You’ll just have to read instead. This post will contain spoilers for the show, but if you haven’t already seen all 67 episodes, you’re probably not reading this anyway. Enjoy!

Note: My rankings are based on the TV show only. As always, click on any photo to see the full-size version.

10. Lyanna Mormont (played by Bella Ramsey)

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She’s only appeared in a few brief scenes in only a handful of episodes, but Lyanna Mormont has proven she’s got the wisdom and judgment of people thrice her age. She owns every scene she’s in. Bella Ramsey, just 13 this year, is going to have one hell of a career. I’m not in a place right now in life where I want kids, but if Bella’s parents decide to randomly disown her and leave her out on a street corner somewhere, I’d adopt her in a minute. Let it be known I’d gleefully watch a Lyanna Mormont GoT spinoff to see where adulthood takes her.

This speech brings a tear to me eye:

9. Davos Seaworth (played by Liam Cunningham)

Liam Cunningham

Just a handy guy to have around. In a world full of untrustworthy people, here’s a man you could have at your side and know he was actually on your side and not planning his own ascension to power. That’s pretty much the rarest type of person in this world. I love his self-deprecating humor and I’m glad that in Jon Snow he may have finally found the right man to back. The Onion Knight deserves to be on the winning team.

8. Joffrey Baratheon (played by Jack Gleeson)

Jack Gleeson and pug
I mean…how can you hate him now?

I didn’t like Joffrey as a character. How could you? He’s a dragon-sized monster in a skinny blonde boy’s body. But I always appreciated the quality of what I was seeing, in the actor’s performance and in the writing. He was the definition of a character you loved to hate. I dreaded what horrors he would commit each week, but damned if it wasn’t thrilling to watch each time. I was glad when Joffrey died, but immediately sad because I realized there was no way any future villain in the show would ever compare. (Then Ramsay Bolton came to the fore and made it a close race.) Gleeson’s performance as King Joffrey is quite simply one of the best villainous turns in the history of filmed entertainment, movies or TV. I’m talking Heath Ledger‘s Joker great. He played the role from ages 19-23 (but was credible because he does look a lot younger than he is) and then immediately retired from acting once his GoT duties were finished to go to school and study philosophy and theology. It’s one of the greatest career mic drops you’ll ever see.

I do hope he changes his mind one day after he’s finished with school. From the interviews I’ve read and watched with him, his issue is that he really hates celebrity culture and the idea of being famous. Maybe he just needs some space from it all. Perhaps after Game of Thrones has ended and people all over the world aren’t talking about it ad nausea week after week anymore, he’ll return to the craft. We can hope.

Admit it. You miss this, too:

7. Maester Luwin (played by Donald Sumpter)

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If I had been alive in medieval times, I’d have wanted this guy to be my grandfather. The kindest, gentlest, wisest man you could imagine. The Starks were lucky to have him, and the show was lucky to have Donald Sumpter play him. His death scene was heartbreaking and beautifully done, as Ramin Djawadi‘s Winterfell theme swept over his final moments. He also has one of the most epic “NOOOOO!!!!” yells you’ll ever hear when he believed the Stark boys had been killed and burned by Theon‘s men in season 2.

6. Bronn (played by Jerome Flynn)

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It’s hard to find a person who is loyal (for a price) while simultaneously looking out for themselves at all turns. Bronn’s humor, charm, and skill with a sword make him one of the most interesting characters on the show. He’s the ultimate Bad Boy, so I’m sure he’s as appealing to the ladies watching the show in real life as much as he is to the women of Westeros. His relationship with Tyrion is one of the better long-term pairings the show has had. Like Tyrion, he can usually talk his way out of any situation he can’t fight out of, which I think we’d all like to be able to do. He’s not a particularly good person per se, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans of the show who dislike the guy.

5. Jaime Lannister (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

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It’s strange. I hadn’t considered how much I truly liked Ser Jaime until the season 7 finale, when he was willing to leave Cersei rather than betray his foes against their common enemy. It’s one of the toughest decisions any character on this show has had to make. The character starts off as an arrogant, entitled bastard, but as the show has gone on and he’s suffered, he’s become a better person, not taking on the obsessions of status and power that made his father such a prick at times and makes his sister a prick 100% of the time. I love his loyalty and defense of his brother Tyrion (he kept the Imp alive on multiple occasions in opposition to his sister and father’s wishes). I loved his relationship with Brienne in season 2. When all is said and done, I hope Cersei gets a suitable death and Jaime winds up as the unquestioned head of the Lannisters. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he ends up having to kill his sister?

4. Olenna Tyrell (played by Dianna Riggs)

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The baddest bitch in Westeros, hands down. She steals every scene she’s in and was frequently given the best dialogue of any character. Much like Tywin Lannister, she spent most of her scenes dominating the other characters in her presence. Where Tywin would simply impose his will, Lady Olenna often made her opponents look stupid, but never in a way that made you feel pity for them. I think Tywin is the only character to truly get the better of her in a scene, and they had several noteworthy exchanges. Diana Riggs is further proof that there is almost no greater pleasure as a viewer of movies or television than watching an older British actor performing meaty material. The fact that she wins her death scene is just the icing on the cake and a perfect way for her go out. Very rarely in modern fiction do you see a character win so thoroughly in defeat. Even George R.R. Martin, who isn’t directly involved with the show anymore, had to be jealous of how well that was handled.

3. Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage)

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Clearly the most fun character on the show to portray, Peter Dinklage (winner of a Golden Globe and two Emmys for his work) has created an icon. Other than Jon Snow, Tyrion is probably the character who’s seen and experienced the most fucked up shit. And if we’re being honest, when it’s all over with Tyrion is probably the most deserving person in this world to win the so-called game of thrones. I love his self-awareness and that he uses the skills he does possess (his mind) better than probably anyone else. You could make a list of the 100 best one-liners in Game of Thrones and he’d probably have 75 of them. I would pay money to see an Aaron Sorkin-written GoT episode focused entirely on The Imp. I don’t know what Tyrion’s fate will be come the end of season 8, but of all the remaining characters who have been there since the beginning, his is the journey I’m most interested in finding out how it concludes. He certainly looked none too pleased at the consummation of the Snow-Dany relationship.

Dinklage’s performance during his trial over the murder of King Joffrey is his shining moment in this series:

2. Tywin Lannister (played by Charles Dance)

Charles Dance

Probably the most powerful man in Westeros, and he never needed to be king to accomplish the feat. Watching this guy operate and crush the powerful people around him was always a joy, and all credit goes to Charles Dance, one of our finest living actors. I understood why he had to die, but I was never sadder to see someone go then when Tywin met his end in the privy by his son’s hand. Tywin above anyone else shows how someone close to the king (or president or whomever else) can actually wield more influence than the king himself, something that’s frequently said of some of the people around our leaders today. It’s something we see a lot of in Netflix’s House of Cards, and it’s a big reason you could argue that House of Cards is closest thing we have to a Game of Thrones set in modern times. It was also interesting to see a character so singularly focused on one thing; the defense, preservation and continuance of his family’s name and stature. You were never confused about this man’s motives, that’s for sure.

How Tywin Lannister commands respect:

1. Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams)

I love the way she starts out in season 1 and I love what she’s now become 6 years later. You could understandably make the argument that it’s sad what’s happened to that adorable little girl we met back in 2011. I say it’s fucking awesome, because she’s overcome every obstacle, survived every foe, escaped every trap and come out stronger for it. She may now be the last person in this world you’d want to face 1v1 in a fight, which I think is exactly what she’s always wanted. There are few things more satisfying to watch onscreen than revenge, and Arya has become the show’s vengeful angel of death for sins committed against “good guy” characters in the past. Hers has been an incredible journey, and I’ve been smiling at her victories since the very beginning. All credit goes to now 20-year old Maisie Williams. Game of Thrones was her first acting job in film or television. It’s not often an actor creates their most memorable work on their very first attempt. That can be a curse to some people, but I suspect she’ll find plenty of worthy roles in the future.

A girl loves her sword.

My two favorite characters only appeared in a few scenes together, but this one is among my favorite clips in the entire series. We see a lighter, friendlier side of Tywin and Arya trying her best to figure out this formidable opponent:

Honorable Mentions:

Lord Varys (played by Conleth Hill) – Where Littlefinger is a conspirator with self-serving goals, Varys seems to do what he does because he genuinely wants the betterment of the realm. Or so he’s said on multiple occasions. I tend to believe him based on his actions, and I like the scene this season he and Tyrion share where they question with hope whether they’ve backed the right leader in Daenerys. Regardless, few people play the game better than he has over the years.

Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Balish (played by Aiden Gillen) – You have to admire the man. He actually believed if he could concoct enough schemes and betray enough people, he’d sit on the Iron Throne one day. He was probably the most ambitious character on the show, which is saying a lot. Even though he was a snake, it was always fun to watch him slither about and usually wind up getting the best of his opponents one long con after another. Even though he was completely self-serving, he was one of wisest characters on the show. He was also one of the best-written characters. I like that he got his comeuppance, but I’m still not sure I liked how we got there with the fake Sansa-Arya rivalry. Finally, as an admirer of acting without speaking, you have to love Aiden Gillen‘s complete mastery of reaction shots, from his devilish smirks to his “oh shit I’m about to be found out” moments.

Varys & Littlefinger’s best scene together, “Chaos is a Ladder”:

Hodor – Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor? Hodor Hodor! Amirite?

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The Night King – Mainly because like any cool supervillain, I just want to know more about him. And can we give the dude just one line of dialogue before the show ends? Please? I mean, he’s a gold medal javelin throwing dragon slayer/resurrecter now.

Night King next javelinNight King looks

& Podrick Payne (played by Daniel Portman) because he’s the man.

My 5 Least Favorite Characters

1. The High Sparrow (played by Jonathan Pryce)

One of the things I hate most in the real world is religious fanaticism, and this guy represents what that would look like in Westeros. I can’t tolerate people whose entire life is dominated by what they believe their god(s) would demand, and that’s what the High Sparrow and his minions did with their every appearance, to frightening effect in seasons 5 & 6. The fuckers even made me feel some sympathy for Cersei Lannister. Not an easy feat. I wanted to punch this guy in the throat every time he rambled on about the “justice of the gods”. You’re not even wearing shoes, bro. You don’t get to decide what justice is.

2. Viserys Targaryen (played by Harry Lloyd)

Viserys face
In case you missed having this guy’s face annoy you.

A sniveling, entitled twat of the highest order. I wanted the show to be rid him after his first appearance in episode 1. Thankfully, he didn’t last long, never got anything he wanted, and suffered one of the grisliest deaths of any GoT character.

3. Grand Maester Pycelle (played by Julian Glover)

Pycelle workout

This guy always rubbed me the wrong way and I was happy to see him go bye bye at the end of season 6. Of all the show’s great schemers, at least Varys & Littlefinger are interesting people who are fun to watch operate. Pycelle was merely an annoying sycophant desperate to stay in the good graces of those in power; another type of person I can’t abide in the real world. Remember in season 1 when we learn he’s only pretending to be feeble and hunched over? I wish that had led to something later on. It was a funny little moment but they never used it again. Why?

4. Ramsay Bolton (played by Iwan Rheon)

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Ramsay may have been was even more sadistic than Joffrey, and the way he broke down Theon Greyjoy was difficult to watch, even if it came at a time when Theon was a hateable character (this was immediately after he sacked Winterfell and tried to be a tough guy to prove his worth to his papa). Ramsay’s death (particularly the way it was carried out) was incredibly satisfying, coming at the end of one of the show’s top 5 episodes (“Battle of the Bastards”). Like Joffrey, even though you may hate the character, you have to respect how brilliantly he was portrayed. Credit to Iwan Rheon for a wonderful performance. Ramsey was the show’s last great hate magnet.

Ramsay meme

5. Euron Greyjoy (played by Pilou Asbæk)

I find him to be sort of a one-note scumbag, and this show has had much more compelling scumbags. But he does have a cool ship. I’ll give him that. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to him in the final season. I suspect Theon may find some bravery and exact his revenge, which would be fun to see.

3 Characters I Wish Were Still Alive

1. Robb Stark – I like to imagine a Westeros at peace where Robb is still King in the North, married to Talisa and not focused on vengeance and fighting his rivals in the south.

Here’s a very interesting video on why the honorable, noble Starks always get betrayed:

2. Maester Luwin – So he could’ve seen Sansa, Arya and Bran return to Winterfell and seen the castle come back under control of the good guys following The Battle of the Bastards.

3. Tywin Lannister – Because I miss him, dammit. With him and Olenna Tyrell gone, there are no cunning, powerful elder statesmen left in Westeros. And let’s face it, that makes the world just a little more boring than it ought to be.

We’ve got 6 episodes of season 8 left in Game of Thrones, so here’s hoping showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, along with their talented cast and crew bring it home late next year (or in 2019 if the show is delayed that long). The episode count is sad, but the rumors have been that each episode will be almost movie length, which is awesome. This should allow the final season to be more cohesive than previous seasons, with fewer subplots to follow and more major characters in each scene. But they’ve still got a lot of story to wrap up. Until then, may our collective Game of Thrones Withdrawal Syndrome worsen by the day…

P.S. We got some excellent news recently when the directors of season 8 were announced. We’ve learned that Benioff & Weiss, who have each directed one episode thus far, will team up to direct the series finale together. I like that. Returning to split the remaining 5 episodes are David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik. Nutter has directed 6 previous episodes, including “The Rains of Castamere” from season 3 (aka the Red Wedding episode) as well as the season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy”, which featured Cersie’s infamous walk of atonement (“Shame. Shame. Shame.”). Sapochnik’s return is very exciting, as he directed some of the show’s most epic events, including “The Battle of the Bastards” (often voted one of the best episodes of the series), the excellent season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” as well as season 5’s “Hardhome”, which features some of the best White Walker action we’ve seen thus far. I’d been waiting to hear about this, and I’m not disappointed. I miss some of the other amazing directors the show has used (Alex Graves, Alan Taylor, Michelle MacLaren, Neil Marshall), but with only a handful of episodes to go, you can’t have everybody come back.

Arya Ned

Arya food 1Arya food 2Arya food 3

Jora friendzone

More than a little awesome:

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I can never have enough Night King memes:

Night King olympian

Night King meme 1
This confused me, too. The Night King is clearly a hardo.

Night King Brady

Night King Olympian twitter

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The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)

The 28th Annual Biggie Awards

for the love of movies.

Celebrating achievements in film for the year 2016

So 2016 has come and gone. A year I had big hopes for about 15 months ago turned out to be quite a dud in the grand scheme of things. It was even worse than 2015. For the second year in a row, I rated no theatrical release a ‘9’ on IMDb. There were no masterpieces, no all-time greats. There were some really good movies, and I put almost 20 more films on my “Movies I Love” list, but in terms of quality and the ability to stand the test of time, even the second or third-best movies of most past years would have easily won my Best Picture award over this lot.

Lobster Farrell bury
Me waiting for 2016 to be over.

2016 also broke a pretty long streak of spectacular even-numbered years. It was such a mediocre year that it even gave us a Steven Spielberg movie I couldn’t bring myself to watch (The BFG). General cinematic malaise aside, there were, as always, some highlights…

Continue reading ‘The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)’

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Review: HBO’s GAME CHANGE

HBO debuted its newest original film this past weekend to much hype in the political realm. Game Change is based on journalists John Heilemann & Mark Halperin‘s 2010 book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, which, as you can guess, chronicled the behind-the-scenes action of the 2008 presidential election. The film was directed by Jay Roach and adapted by Danny Strong, both of whom were the primary creative forces behind HBO’s 2008 film Recount, about the 2000 election and its aftermath. Part of the reason I was so excited to see Game Change was because I thought Recount was absolutely fantastic, and perhaps most importantly, I found that movie to be very fair to both Bush and Gore‘s sides of that very polarizing story. Sarah Palin is an equally divisive figure, and telling the story of her rise to prominence honestly but accurately was to be a tricky road to navigate.

Continue reading ‘Review: HBO’s GAME CHANGE’

REVIEW: Entourage Series Finale (and addressing the haters)

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Because this was the finale to one of my favorite shows EVAR, I’ll do this review in the same style I do my full-length movie reviews.

Entourage struck me immediately when it debuted in 2004, because I love shows and movies that give you a peek behind-the-scenes at an industry or field I’m interested in, and Entourage, though slightly exaggerated because it’s primarily a comedy, is widely regarded and respected as the most accurate reflection of what modern Hollywood and “life at the top” in Los Angeles is actually like today. As someone who wants to work in this industry, it’s something that gripped my interest right away. Not only have I enjoyed these stories and these characters, but I’ve actually learned a lot of useful information about ‘the biz’.

Continue reading ‘REVIEW: Entourage Series Finale (and addressing the haters)’

Review-a-palooza: COWBOYS & ALIENS & CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.


I loved this friggin movie. Loved it. It had gotten pretty solid reviews, but I don’t believe any of that stuff this year until I see it with my own eyes. Well, Crazy, Stupid, Love. delivers the goods. And guys, don’t dismiss it because of the title. I’ve already recommended the film to a few male co-workers and been quickly rebuked because of the title. Stop it. Grow up. It is well-written, funny, authentic, superbly shot and directed, and features a solid soundtrack. However, that all pales in comparison to the film’s best asset, and that’s its sublime [but whitewashed] cast. I should’ve realized with a cast this good that the script had to have been at least somewhat legit. I’m looking through Steve Carell‘s filmography, and yup, this is easily his best role since The 40-Year Old Virgin, which came out in 2005. It’s tougher than it looks to pull off the range this character demands. There’s real drama, real sadness, and real comedy. The guy comes across as an actual human being, as opposed to the live-action cartoon characters Carell usually plays. He’s funny without being goofy or over-the-top. And he’s subdued. Carell’s comedy is typically very loud and in your face. It’s the complete opposite here. You believe him as a loser, you believe him as a broken man, you believe him as a father, and you are even made to believe him as a ladies man after his character gets a serious style and personality makeover. Amazing work, I thought. I’m sure he won’t make it into the top 5 when it’s all said and done, but I put him on my ‘to be considered’ list for Best Actor. That’s how good he is, folks.


Next up is the impeccable Julianne Moore as Carell’s wife, whose admitted affair with the Kevin Bacon character kick starts their marital strife. Julianne Moore can do anything, it’s as simple as that. Between this, her brilliant work last year in The Kids Are All Right, and her work in the underrated Chloe, Moore is on quite a hot streak. Her character commits the ultimate marital sin, and yet because of the script, her performance, and the obvious mutual breakdown in the love between her and Carell, you don’t hate her. Again, not an easy acting task. The scenes between her and Carell are each spectacular in their own way. Bacon plays a supporting role, but does so with great skill and gets a few really good moments despite his minimal screen time. This is also yet another excellent link in the chain if you’re playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


The last person I’ll shine the spotlight on is the phenomenal Ryan Gosling, who I seriously need to consider putting on my top 10 list of best working actors. He doesn’t always choose parts that would let you call him one, but the dude is a movie star, no doubt about it. The guy is spewing charisma in this movie. The scenes where he is changing Carell’s appearance and showing him how to talk to women are magical. This character is a model example of the old adage “Men want to be him and women want to be with him.” I love the nuance of his performance, just the looks and gestures he makes that take a really good performance and make it great. His bromance/mentor chemistry with Steve Carell is just as convincing as his romantic chemistry with Emma Stone. Gosling just has that It thing, that presence that the best movie stars always have. He can do any genre, play any part. Frankly, I wish he would get some of the roles that are offered by default to Leonardo DiCaprio, because as good as he is in all these smaller movies (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson), he’s just as good in mainstream studio films (The Notebook, Fracture). I’m actually shocked he hasn’t worked with more A-list directors. Actually, now that I look, he hasn’t really worked with any. What gives? Mr. Scorsese, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Coen & Mr. Coen, etc., get with the fuckin program.


A bedroom scene that doesn’t make you want to vomit.

Every supporting role is similarly well cast. I loved veteran character actors John Carroll Lynch & Beth Littleford as the parents of the 17-year old babysitter who has a crush on Carell. Marisa Tomei is the only one whose character seems a bit unrealistic, but she’s so good and so funny that you can look past it. Even Josh Groban, of all people, comes out of nowhere and delivers a solid little performance in his big screen acting debut. The performances of the kids are also fantastic. There’s Joey King as Carell & Moore’s young daughter, Jonah Bobo (great name!!) as their love-struck 13-year old son, and Analeigh Tipton as the kids’ babysitter. There was a lot for almost everyone to do, which is incredibly rare. It’s a true ensemble, which I always prefer to star vehicles. The only problem with the cast is that with one exception (Liza Lapira as Emma Stone’s wise-cracking Asian friend), it’s entirely white people, and I promised to point that out, and I’ll do so now, even for a movie I admire. I’m not sure any of the individual performances will hang around to earn Biggie nominations at the end of the year, but if I don’t end up giving this film a Best Ensemble nomination, this will have turned out to be a spectacular year for that category.

Aside from the cast, the thing I liked most about the film was the script, and how that script was unafraid to confront certain situations, both amongst adults and teenagers, and the fact that it does so with a PG-13 rating is nothing short of astonishing. It takes an honest look at adultery, how a separated couple handles their kids, and it even deals with teenage sexting/nudity in a way that is at once unsettling but also undoubtedly true to life in today’s twisted world. I appreciate and respect that. Most movies choose to play it safe and pander as opposed to challenging the audience in any way to form their own opinions. There’s even a pretty big plot twist, rare indeed for a romance. There’s a confrontation scene near the end of the movie that is borderline classic, because of the near-perfect execution by the actors and filmmakers. This movie will have you smiling throughout, whether you want to or not, both from the humor and because you’ll like these characters so much.


I don’t want to wrap up without mentioning who the filmmakers I keep complimenting are. The film was written by Dan Fogelman, who is known mostly for working on kids movies (Cars, Fred Claus and last year’s Tangled). It was directed by the duo of Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, whose most popular credit may be that they wrote Bad Santa, but they most recently wrote and directed last year’s semi-controversial Jim CarreyEwan McGregor flick, I Love You Philip Morris. I look forward to seeing more from all of these guys down the road.

The only semi-major issue I had with the movie is that it never quite settles on a tone. It is at parts straight comedy, at parts straight drama, at parts melodrama, and it ends with some sap (though still funny and somewhat daring) that’s normally reserved for soul-draining romantic comedies. That said, there’s almost no sentimentality but for a few moments at the end. Other than that, it probably came across like this is now one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s not quite that, but I do genuinely love it, and because it’s only the 7th movie this year I can strongly recommend (you didn’t ask, but the others so far are Hanna, The Lincoln Lawyer, Win Win, Fast Five, X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter 7-b), I got a little extra enthusiastic. Forgive me. It’s been a bad year, but this would be a damn fine movie in any year. Go see it. Pretty please. And by pretty please I mean NOW! It’s an excellent date movie, or just go with whoever you’d go see any other comedy with. Again, gentlemen, don’t be afraid because of the title. Don’t be ignant. Girls, just drag the motherfucker out if you have to. You’ll love it, and he’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 minutes)

8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars


I enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens more than I thought I would (the advance buzz and reviews were decidedly mediocre-to-negative), but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough, but there isn’t much great about it, and there’s also nothing innovative about it other than the concept of aliens in the old west. As it stands, it’s a typical PG-13 summer alien invasion movie. The visual effects are above average, the stunts are really good, and the alien creature effects are pretty cool. It’s a very good looking movie and it flows well, but it does lack the heart & soul that takes a movie from “like” to “love”. That criticism is valid. The movie doesn’t do anything new with the western genre or the alien invasion formula. That said, I love westerns and I love alien invasions (though they’ve officially been played out), so with those two genres combined and the pedigree involved, there was no chance I wasn’t giving this movie a chance in theaters.

This project took about 14 years to develop from concept to graphic novel to a movie finally being released. I won’t bore you with the details (which you can find here), but such a long development period usually doesn’t bode well for the final product, though I think this turned out surprisingly well for a project that had so many hands in the kitchen. There are no fewer than 6 credited writers, which explains why the movie is pretty safe and doesn’t feel like anyone’s singular vision. It also seems like there are as many producers as cast members. IMDb lists 16 different producers, executive producers and co-producers. I’m fairly certain there was only one director (Jon Favreau), although 2 other directors (Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard) are credited as producers. Have you gone cross-eyed yet? Favreau is a capable enough director, and seems to be one of the cooler people in Hollywood, but I still think he’d be better off doing smaller movies and comedies as opposed to huge summer blockbusters. I for one am happy he’s not returning to direct Iron Man 3 (he’s off that franchise primarily because Marvel and Paramount forced him to turn Iron Man 2 in an extended Avengers trailer rather than an Iron Man story).

The cast is full of good names, and the performances are solid, but the script doesn’t give anyone the material to really stand out. That’s par for the course now on most summer movies, where the aliens, monsters and other computer-generated creations get most of the focus. We already knew Daniel Craig was a solid leading man (Bond 23 next year!), but I’m much more interested to see what he does in Dragon Tattoo in December than I was in anything he did here. Harrison Ford was pretty good, too, and it’s always good to see him, even if he has De Niro/Pacino Syndrome and isn’t really trying anymore. Here he did give a bit of an effort. I certainly enjoyed watching him more in this movie than I did in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Holy Shit What a Waste of Time. Wait a minute…how often does Harrison Ford work? Around the mothafuckin clock, son! Anywho, there are a bunch of other actors I really like in the movie (Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, and Adam Beach), and it’s always nice to look at Olivia Wilde, even if she is fast becoming the most overexposed actress in Hollywood. And the dog! The dog gives a wonderful performance, too. Don’t forget the dog.


OH HAI THAR!

The one member of the crew I’ll single out for praise is Matthew Libatique for his damned fine cinematography. Libatique shot both Iron Man movies for Favreau and was Oscar-nominated for his work last year on Black Swan. There a lot of gorgeous, classic-looking western vistas (the film was shot in New Mexico), but he did a particularly great job in the nighttime and darkened interiors, which are very hard to shoot on film without massive, conspicuous studio lights. The scene in the center of town when the aliens first attack is especially great from a lighting standpoint (though admittedly, it seems as though they shot that on a soundstage, where you can more easily control the lighting). They managed to shoot their low light scenes without assistance from big lighting rigs, which I was extremely happy to see. One of my biggest peeves in movies are exterior night scenes where you can clearly tell there’s a HUGE studio light just off camera (it’s usually hidden behind a tree) shining a glaring white light onto a darkened street or forest or whatever. I HATE that. It’s so friggin unnatural, but audiences have been trained to accept them. I have never accepted them. To me, they’re as obtrusive and inappropriate as a boom mic showing on screen. So that’s my “dark exterior/studio light” rant.

But yeah, the movie looks great. As an aside, kudos to Jon Favreau for supposedly resisting studio pressure to shoot the movie in 3D. He reportedly insisted they shoot the movie on film (shooting in 3D usually requires using digital cameras) and not converting to 3D in postproduction (a process that is becoming increasingly ridiculed). Bravo, sir.

As far as the aliens go, I thought they were pretty cool. They don’t have a revolutionary design, but they are a bit different from some recent aliens, and they did look cool in closeup. Kudos again to Favreau, who made sure they used prosthetics whenever possible, instead of relying on CGI 100% of the time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the alien ships or their technology (really, they came to earth to mine gold?), but the creatures themselves were pretty good. My only big problem is that in the final battle sequence, it’s unclear what can and can’t kill them. Sometimes several bullets and arrows can’t kill or even slow down one alien, but a single knife stab to the chest from a child kills another. Other times, one spear can kill them, other times multiple gunshot wounds in quick succession kill them. A little consistency would have been nice.

The film has its issues, but I’ll say that it is worth seeing in theaters. If you don’t have a big TV and surround sound, you’ll be missing out if the first time you see it is at home.

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13, 118 minutes)
7/10 (IMDb), 3/5 stars


Nice bracelet, brah.

-Before we go, I need to make a TV recommendation. HBO Documentaries recently debuted a fantastic new film called There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. I saw the title on my cable guide and was intrigued, so I looked at the description (“Diane Schuler and seven other people die after the woman drives in the wrong direction on a parkway.”) and my interest was piqued. First off, 8 people dying in one car accident? That’s fucked up. You usually don’t hear that unless a bus was involved. And what would make this accident so interesting as to merit a documentary about it? After that brief description alone, I immediately thought those two things, so I decided to watch the first few minutes. That “first few minutes” ended up being the entire 105-minute film. I couldn’t turn it off. It is a riveting piece of human drama.

Basically, this otherwise stable woman went off the grid while driving her two kids (son, 5 and daughter, 2) and her brother’s 3 kids (all daughters, 8, 7 and 5) home from a campground. Something goes wrong during that trip, and she ends up obliviously driving full speed the wrong way on a highway, eventually causing a massive 3-car collision that killed all the children but her son, as well as 3 men (ages 81, 49, 74) in another vehicle. The film shows as many details as are available about the crash, but the mystery is in the fact that investigators can’t confirm with certainty what actually caused Schuler to become intoxicated or otherwise lose control of her faculties, despite most of the evidence pointing in one direction (the autopsy revealed her blood alcohol level was almost 3 times the legal limit, and she had traces of marijuana in her system).

The controversy in the case derives from the fact that after the accident, her husband Daniel and sister-in-law Barbara have been very public in fighting the autopsy results and have insisted that Diane would not drive drunk. They did interviews on many major news outlets (clips of which are shown in the doc), hired their own investigators, and are even fighting a legal battle to exhume Diane’s body to do a second autopsy. Both Oprah and Dr. Phil each did an entire show on the case. I guess Law & Order also did a “ripped from the headlines” episode using pretty much the exact set of circumstances. What’s most fascinating about the piece is watching this husband and sister-in-law fight every piece of evidence showing Diane was probably drunk or high, or both. I’m no psychologist, and even I have no hesitation saying that I’ve never seen two human beings in such denial. It really is stunning to observe. The husband insists she somehow had a stroke or other “medical issue” (a term they both repeat over and over again), which caused her to lose focus. The documentary also shows the families of the other victims, and how some of them are offended by the continued public denials of Schuler’s family.

On top of the spellbinding human interest angles, the film is superbly crafted by director/producer Liz Garbus. Actually, now that I think about it, pound-for-pound this is probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2011. If you have HBO and DVR (or HBO GO), I beg you to seek this out and watch it now while it’s still in heavy rotation.

Apparently, this accident was a huge news story when it occurred in July 2009, but I can’t recall hearing or reading about it, or maybe I did and dismissed it as another car accident story. The accident has its own extensive Wikipedia page (which is a fascinating read itself) and inspired a documentary, so I clearly wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s a quick trailer:


And HERE is the official page for the film on HBO.com.

BONUS: Warner Bros. just released the first image from the upcoming Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-producer Superman reboot Man of Steel, featuring your new British Superman, Henry Cavill. I think he looks pretty damn good in costume. This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2012, but it was recently pushed back to June of 2013, which is sad, but it gives them almost another full year to work on it, which is good. Check out the flippin sweet full-size image HERE.

BONUS BONUS: Warner Bros. also released the first official picture of Anne Hathaway in costume as Catwoman. Find a good full-sized look HERE. Note that they went for practicality over sexiness, which is exactly what we should’ve expected from Nolan’s Batmovies. I like it, but now there are rumors that there might also be a sexy time costume as well. If there is, it’d be the first time Chris Nolan went down that road, so we’ll see. What I’m most curious about when I look at that photo is why she’s riding Batman’s bike. Is she not a villain in the movie? I dunno. I’m actually surprised by how many set pictures and spy video has come out from the Dark Knight Rises set. In my view, there’s been too much. It seems like every exterior scene they’ve shot in Pittsburgh has been photographed or captured in detail on video, including what look to be a couple of pivotal action scenes. I won’t even link to the set pics or video, and I’m probably gonna stop looking at it myself going forward. If you want to be spoiled, you can seek it out yourself.

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY #2

Forgive the lack of postings in the last couple weeks, but my brand new laptop decided to have hard drive issues, and I’ve had to get it fixed. I didn’t lose any information, but I do get to re-install all my programs! Yeehaw! I have a couple of ideas for posts, but for now we’ll just do some quick random Sundaystuff.

-Thank you, Red Sox, for realizing that the season has started! As of today, they’ve won 4 in a row and 7 of 8. Josh Beckett looks vintage, Lester is Lester again, and we just had 2 consecutive superb starts from Dice-K (who managed to last 8 innings last night!). This recent trend proves that no matter how great your offense looks on paper, the starting pitching has to be there or it’s all for not. But to show just how deep a hole they’ve dug, the Sox are still 2 games under .500 going into today’s game. Yikes.

 More of this: 8 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 9 K.

-As nervous as I am about Dark of the Moon, Shockwave does look pretty awesome in this newly released character banner:


Check out the full-size version HERE.

-I’m much more excited than I should be for Fast Five to open this Friday. I may even venture out to the midnight show Thursday night, even though that will bring out the worst kind of movie crowd imaginable; sold out, low-brow and obnoxious. I guess I’m just desperate to see a fun movie and get “movie summer” (which starts a month and a half before actual summer) started. I’m hearing good advance buzz, and a lot of people are saying it’s the best of the series. Like I’ve been saying, it looks really good, so I’m hopeful it delivers. I love one of the review quotes on Rotten Tomatoes, from one Allan Hunter of The Daily Express (a UK paper), who says:

Fast Five maintains the winning formula and underlines the sad fact that stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker still have nothing better to do.

2011 has been so bad overall that at this point I simply want to have some fun at the movies. If something really good comes out, great, but I’m no longer expecting it. Do I really have to wait 7 more months for 2012 (which I’m expecting to be the best moviegoing year since 2000) to start? The only bad thing about Fast Five potentially being good is that it will encourage Universal to make a sixth one. I’d like to see director Justin Lin (who has done the last 3 Fast/Furious flicks) get a chance to do something else. Can you believe this franchise began 10 years ago now? Sheeee-it.

-I was very pleased with the series premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones last week. The first episode was mostly introductory stuff (there was a LOT to introduce), but the plot did get moving toward the end and I’m very interested to see how these characters interweave going forward. With Entourage ending this summer, and Boardwalk Empire not returning until the fall, I need HBO to give me something good on Sunday nights. Obviously, the fantasy elements of Thrones are especially appealing to me, and the fact that it’s on HBO means R-rated fantasy, which is almost impossible to get on the big screen (as no studio will finance R-rated fantasy films at the budgets they require). Right at the beginning of that first episode, we get this incredible wide shot of that huge snow/ice wall. One of the coolest visuals I’ve seen in a long time, in a movie or on TV. The whole episode is shot beautifully. Also, the show has introduced us to the impossibly beautiful Emilia Clarke. Oh, HAI, Emilia Clarke…

-I love Boston. I love Massachusetts. It will always be “home.” But every now and again I’m reminded that my home is ruled over by the disgusting political forces of the left, and when stories like THIS come to light, it almost makes me happy I don’t live there. What a disgraceful turn of events. I wonder, Massachusetts, how can the possession of marijuana be both illegal and decriminalized? Only in today’s politically correct, pussified society is that distinction possible. When someone gets killed by a stoned driver, but that driver was only found to have a small amount of weed in his car, will that give the victim’s family comfort? I suspect not. Will it make YOU feel better for voting for that stupid statute? Carrying ANY amount of weed in your car should just as illegal as carrying open containers of alcohol. This court ruling is absurd. Either make marijuana 100% legal or 100% illegal.

-Finally, can I just say how happy this makes me?

Coming Soon: As we enter playoff season in the NHL and NBA, my next big post will be called “The Five Worst Sports Losses of My Life”. I’m sure most of you know exactly where that list is headed. My willingness to inflict emotional pain on myself knows no bounds.


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