Category: Reviews

Game of Thrones S7E3 Recap: The Queen’s Justice

Game of Thrones S7E3 Recap: The Queen’s Justice

This synopsis contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 3: The Queen’s Justice. If you haven’t seen it (and don’t want important plot points butchering like Theon Greyjoy), watch it before reading this recap!

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3: The Queen’s Justice Recap

The start of episode three, The Queen’s Justice, offered Game of Thrones fans something they’d been waiting to see since the early days of the show – ice and fire being brought together.

If fans were hoping the two would become friends overnight (or more if you consider Jon’s possible heritage and what you hear about Targaryen dating circles) you were to be disappointed however as relations between the North and Dragonstone got off to a spiky start.

It looked as if Jon would be in for a warm reception as hand of the king, Tyrion, greeted him and began to lead him towards the keep. We soon saw the former-Lord Commander was in for a tough time however as he and his crew were relieved of their weapons, saw their transport taken away and Jon was subjected to Tyrion’s awkward revelation that he had never consummated his marriage to Sansa (didn’t cross my mind until you told me, Tyrion, but thanks for the image).

After Missandei reeled the long list of Daenerys’ titles and Davos responded by introducing Jon like a university coursemate, the pair got to discussing a potential alliance. Unfortunately, the queen’s demand that Jon bend the knee and the King in the North’s stubbornness in talking only about the White Walkers meant talks were less than constructive. They were also brief, as Varys delivered the news on the Ironborn’s terrible loss at sea.

As Theon washed up on a ship of fellow Ironborn, we saw his sister being paraded through Kings Landing as a traitor by Euron Greyjoy. A worse Uncle than one who steals the last green Quality Street at Christmas (you know who you are), the Crow’s Eye revelled in the adulation of the cheering capital crowd as he pulled poor Yara along by a chain along with the Sand Snakes. He was duly rewarded for his victory at sea by being named commander of the Crown’s navy, as well as being given free reign of where his finger goes once the war is won (as long as it’s not near the Quality Street).

Cersei strikes major victory in the Game of Thrones

We were then left to see how Cersei enjoys her “gifts”; the captive Ellaria and Obara Sand. While at first it seemed like the real punishment was having to witness an alarming shade of lipstick, we soon saw it was part of the Queen’s vicious plan to poison Obara with a kiss and force the chained Ellaria to watch as her daughter died in agony before rotting away before her very eyes. It was a emotional scene, particularly thanks to Indira Varma’s powerful turn as the devastated mother, and the fact that such feeling came from what is most likely one of the final Sand Snake scenes shows how much potential was missed in that story arc.

Cersei is soon back in her love den with Jaime – a little too quickly after wearing that lipstick for our liking (we don’t need another Theon) – and seems to have no longer have any qualms flaunting her incest before a meeting with the Iron Bank. Speaking of true love, Sam’s squeamish procedure on Jorah seems to have done the trick as the Archmaester pronounces him cured, and the grizzled Set Friendzoned immediately heads back to his Queen.

Returning to Dragonstone as well, we finally see the beginnings of a relationship between Jon and Dany. After Tyrion practically plays Hangman with Jon about what he should ask for (“DR_G_NGL_SS” – ask for a bloody vowel, Jon!) the Queen of Dragons allows him to mine the island for the weapons as Sam had told him and help turn the tide in the war against the dead.

Sansa, meanwhile, is looking very at home leading Winterfell as she organises provisions and armour for her people before she is distracted by the return of her brother, Bran. No doubt haunted by his journey and his task as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran appears a bit detached from the situation, going as far as reciting Sansa’s horrific wedding night with Ramsey by telling her how pretty she looked. As his creeped-out sister retreated, Bran said he’ll stay a while – as if he has a choice in the matter.

The attack on Casterly Rock

As we enter the final act, Tyrion reveals his master plan to take Casterly Rock by revealing what can only be described as a ‘love sewer’ for Grey Worm and a splinter team to sneak up on the Lannister army and open the front gate. It’s an interesting five-minute scene with the most action in the episode, but we can’t help but wish the taking of such an iconic area had been given more screen time despite the budgetary and time constraints. Grey Worm is successful but realises it is a trap as he finds less resistance as expected while Euron and his ships close in from the outside.

That’s because Jaime has taken his troops to take Highgarden, winning a large reserve of gold and capturing one of this lovers’ enemies, Olenna Tyrell, in one fell swoop.

Olenna Tyrell has the last word

Even as the defeated Olenna drinks the poison Jaime gives her to spare a painful death, the Queen of Thrones gets one last burn in and tells him she killed his son. It’s another heartbreak for Jaime, who seems to be doomed to be hit with tragedy rarely through no wrongdoing of his own throughout the series.

It’s an interesting scene not only for the death of a major player in the Game of Thrones, but as it shows a potential arc on another character who’s development has stalled over the last couple of seasons. Not only did he show humility by learning from his defeat to Robb Stark at the Whispering Wood to prove himself a capable commander, but it may also be the first signs of disillusionment in his toxic relationship to Cersei after years of pining after her like a lost, one-handed puppy.

With all the victories and crush enemies Cersei is savouring at the moment, she may want to keep her eye a little closer to home should she want to stay on the Iron Throne.

Arcade Fire @ Malahide Castle, Dublin: Gig Review

Arcade Fire @ Malahide Castle, Dublin: Gig Review

Arcade Fire Gig Review – Malahide Castle, Dublin

Arcade Fire seem determined to pull out all the stops to make their ‘Everything Now’ tour one to remember.

Rather than the usual offerings of multiple nights in London before a sprinkling of dates around the UK, the Canadian outfit have instead broken the template treated those fans slightly further out to their latest offering first.

From the Bath Halls of Scunthorpe to a park in Belfast, there’s been something a little different about each of the indie-pop’s gigs over the last couple of weeks. The cloudy, atmospheric field amongst the backdrop of the picturesque Malahide Castle in Dublin was no different.

Photos courtesy of Helen Windle.

Despite many undergoing the trek to the castle from Dublin city centre (and possibly further afield), the crowd of tens of thousands were in good spirits on the walk down, with the electric rhythms of the Colombian band Bomba Estéreo keeping the feet moving even as the sun began to set ahead of the main act.

When Arcade Fire came out to a slowed down version of ‘Everything Now’, they received a rapturous applause before settling straight into the title track of their new album.

Initially the crowd was slightly static but they soon got into the groove of the Abba-like tune. The real treats were set to come however as Win Butler and the rest of the talented band launched into the extensive back catalogue of hits.

Fan-favourite ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ gained an electric reception as tens of thousands shouted the “Lies!” reply back during the chorus. It was so catchy and infectious that the singing along didn’t stop as the versatile band members changed instruments; a theme throughout the night that meant there was rarely a lull even with the necessary stoppages.

Any fears of the band over-indulging on unknown new material were unfounded as Régine Chassagne led the rendition of ‘Haiti’ (always a heartfelt moment as a song about her beloved homeland, and one not-too-long-ago struck by tragedy) before launching into an almost greatest hits compilation including ‘No Cars Go’, ‘Neon Bible’, ‘The Suburbs’ and ‘Ready To Start’.

Photos courtesy of Helen Windle.

The peak came in the middle, with old favourite ‘Tunnels’ whetting the appetite for ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Reflektor’ – undoubtedly the two highlights from their last album – with the crowd still swaying as they entered the end of the set.

‘Signs of Life’ from the new album followed and unfortunately didn’t seem to strike the same chord. Perhaps because previously the fans had been able to listen to new songs for a month or two before they came out live (like with Reflektor before the Canadian band headlined Glastonbury in 2014), the crowd seemed more intent to listen to the new material than dance. Latest single ‘Creature Comforts’ was slightly better-received however as the show hit its final stride.

Any concerns this slight dip in excitement would curtail a great set were cast away as the band finished with a crashing rendition of the classic ‘Power Cut’ and the catchy sing-along ‘Sprawl II’, before finishing with their best-known track ‘Wake Up’ for an encore – interestingly only the second time this has ended a gig in this tour.

All in all, it was another strong showing from one of the best live bands on the planet, although one which perhaps would have been improved had the new songs in the middle been a little better-known by the eager crowd.

For further information about Arcade Fire and future events, visit here.

Watch the video for ‘Everything Now’ here:

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 review!

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 review!

April Fool’s day is normally a time for trying to get one over on the general public or cruelly tricking your friends and family before mocking the shell of a person cowering before you.

So imagine the world’s shock (and scepticism) when Adult Swim dropped the first episode of the long-awaited of Rick and Morty season three without any prior announcement.

The 22-minute episode, titled ‘The Richshank Redemption,’ had a lot to live up to after the season two cliffhanger – and it did not disappoint.

Header image created by Joe Bramley. See more awesome designs at @BoredOnPShop!

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This review contains SPOILERS for Rick and Morty season three, episode one. So if you haven’t watched it go and do so. GO NOW.

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 Review

Rick and Morty season three is one of the eagerly awaited shows of 2017 after the ending of season two left things a bit up in the air. For those who missed ‘The Wedding Squanchers’ (which aired nearly 18 months ago!) Rick, Morty and the rest of the family narrowly escape a massacre at Bird Person’s wedding as it is revealed that is fiancée, Tammy – actually an agent of the Galactic Federation posing as a high-school senior – is on the hunt for Rick and his accomplices for crimes of galactic terrorism.

Rick, Morty, Summer, Gerry and Beth end up as fugitives from the government but are struggling to adapt to life on the run; especially when their choices of new home planets are only a few hundred square metres in size, feature a screaming sun for the 42-hour days or have the interesting caveat of everything resembling a corn-on-the-cob.

After overhearing the family arguing over what to do with Rick, the hyper-intelligent scientist decides to turn himself in to allow his family safe passage back to Earth, which is now being treated as a tourist destination for the galaxy’s aliens to ogle at their leisure.

How does Rick and Morty season three kick off?

We start off the episode with Rick and the family sitting in a Shoney’s diner, with Rick boasting about how he skilfully disposed of jail guards and escaped from his galactic prison. This is soon to be revealed to be a trick, as the galactic government are now desperate to gain intelligence from Rick by tricking him into think he is speaking to his family via a simulation as in the ‘M. Night Shaym-Aliens’ episode in season two.

Rick recognises this ploy but agrees to give over the information, and we are treated to what we believe to be an origin story (featuring Beth and Beth’s mother). We soon find out however that Rick has fabricated the story in order to upload a virus and aid his escape. It’s both touching and amusing at the same time and also allows the writer’s to create a tragic back story while subtly mocking the idea, allowing them to have their cake and eat it (most likely topped with the McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan dipping sauce Rick now seems obsessed with).

The show is now about more than just Rick and Morty

Back on Earth, we get to see how the Smith’s are faring under the galactic government. They all seem jaded (apart from Gerry who, in a typically ‘Gerry’ way, is loving his new employment while remaining oblivious to what is happening around him). Beth is understandably heartbroken after being left by her father once more and with Morty seemingly fed up of being caught in the middle of his simultaneous worship and distrust of his grandfather, it is left to Summer to champion his cause.

It is in fact Morty’s older sister – a character who continues to grow from strength-to-strength after being fairly one-dimensional in season one – who hatches a plan to rescue Rick by digging up the corpse from an early episode in a clever (if very dark) callback. Using Rick’s portal gun, both Summer and Morty travel through dimensions to rescue their grandfather and set the real events for season three in motion.

While Rick’s crazy adventures and questionable motives will probably be the centrepiece of the new season, it appears as if characters like Summer and Beth will be taking a greater role in upcoming episodes. Based on this offering, that can only be a good thing.

So how is Rick and Morty season three shaping up?

On the evidence of this episode – very well.

There were questions on how Rick and Morty season three would deal with the cliffhanger ending and kick the series on, with more than a few worries that this is what was causing delays in its production.

Thankfully show creator Dan Harmon and the writers haven’t gone for the easy cop-out and played the ‘it was an alternate dimension’ card as other shows may have done, and have instead provided the best season premiere of the show to date.

Episode one has everything you need from classic Rick and Morty – Rick’s brutal one-liners, clever sci-fi ideas and even a superbly animated cosmic space battle (which could have taken a year to put together alone) – while addressing the season two ending and almost putting things back into place for season three without feeling forced.

There were a few more clever call backs to previous episodes (the last scene before the credits echoes season one but with a darker twist) and has the show feeling familiar while at the same time throwing a major curve ball which is sure to affect each character’s story arc and keep the show feeling fresh.

There aren’t many shows that are able to reset the pieces at the end of each episode and still manage to give their characters depth and development on an almost episode-by-episode basis, yet Rick and Morty seemed to have nailed it.

The only downside is we’ve now had the taste of season three we were waiting for but have to wait until the summer to see what happens. Someone should be thrown into galactic prison for that!

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If you enjoyed this and don’t want to wait until the summer for more, click here for more recaps, blogs and other silly things, follow Barely Working Title on Facebook and my humble self on Twitter for updates (and because I need followers for my self-esteem).

Planet Earth 2: Episode 6 ‘Cities’ Review – Catfished

Planet Earth 2: Episode 6 ‘Cities’ Review – Catfished

Planet Earth 2: Episode Six recap

The final episode of Planet Earth 2, ‘Cities’, featured incredible starling displays, a bird who didn’t know what he was letting himself in for and kleptomaniac monkeys.

As we zoomed out from the huge globe before the screen was emblazoned by the familiar opening credits for the final time, I felt a pang of sadness.

Not just because it meant I’d likely be stuck recapping something like the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special, but also because it signalled the end of one of the best series on television this year.

We have already been treated to the sublime (iguana chases and eagle flights) to the hilarious (dancing bears and flying lizards), but the last episode had a few more tricks up its sleeve.

The visual highlight is undoubtedly the dazzling formations of the starling birds, which gracefully moved across the sky like an aerial lava lamp. The spectacle was breathtaking as millions of flying creatures cascaded around each other over Rome in a sight that must rival the Northern Lights in person.

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Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0861m8b/planet-earth-ii-6-cities

The crew’s determination to get the best shots continued with a night-time scene of a leopard hunting pigs. The audience was treated to a night-vision view as the big cat stalked the porky families and made off with their babies in a scene sure to emotionally scar some viewers.

There was even a little excitement as the pigs incredibly gave chase – if a leopard came at me late at night you can be sure I’d flee the scene and use loved ones nearby as a human shield to aid my escape.

As mentioned above, no episode of this series would be complete without a little comic relief, and we certainly got that with the bowerbird. Animals attracting mates has been a staple of the series so far, and it looked as though Jack Bower had finally cracked it as he decorated his ‘lad-pad’ with shiny objects and attracted what he thought was a mate – until he realised it was another chap who hadn’t yet developed his plumage. Catfished.

We move from figurative to literal catfish as we saw pigeons being dragged under by the water-dwelling beasts (any of those around the Midlands and our ‘chicken’ places may go out go business). There was plenty more entertainment on show, from a raccoon playing crystal maze to get some dinner to crafty Rhesus Macaque monkeys terrorising a local market.

There was another tense struggle of baby animals facing a deadly world for the first time. I watched from between my hands as a turtle hatchling navigated a horror-journey into a city after mistaking the lights for the city. It tugged the heartstrings to see it travel to what it thought was the sea, and the show came full-circle as we saw crabs – the creatures I felt most sorry for in episode one – ruthlessly hunt the baby turtles before they had even arrived at a road full of deadly obstacles.

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The final word from David Attenborough himself was sobering. We’d seen incredible clips of animals and humans living side-by-side, with the latter even feeding monkeys and coyotes in scenes that would seem alien in a number of UK cities. We were shown the way forward in cooperating with out furry, winged or insect friends in some natural-urban cities in Singapore. His message was clear – we need to follow suit and furnish our planet carefully so as not to destroy their homes so we can continue to live together.

It was a sombre but important message to end a superb series on for which the crew deserve full credit. If things carry on as they are however, we will end up losing the stars of the show who have really made Planet Earth 2 so great – the animals themselves.

Feature image taken from Planet Earth II –  Cities available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0861m8b/planet-earth-ii-6-cities.

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If you enjoyed this, you can find all my Planet Earth recaps and more here. Like the Facebook page and follow me on Twitter for more in the future!

 

Movie Review: Arrival

Movie Review: Arrival

Arrival: Movie Review

With a title like Arrival and a trailer full of interior spaceship views, men in camoflauge and unusual floating objects, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to be another alien invasion film.

Even the opening sets it up that way as linguistic professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked to work alongside theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to work out what the aliens want and if Earth is in danger.

As the film unfolds however, you realise this is anything but your standard alien sci-fi flick. For the most part of the 116 minute run-time, you are focused on Banks’ efforts to find out the alien motivation within their spacecraft or the political struggles behind the scenes rather than seeing how the planet is affected – indeed, a couple of phone calls and news reports are all you see from the outside world.

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Image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Picture’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

On paper this sounds like something which could turn people off, but you need not fear. Watching Banks wrestle sleep deprivation, visions of her daughter and pressure from the likeable but stern Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and the slimy Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg) keeps you invested in her character, while the mystery of why the seemingly placid “heptapods” have visited are planet keep you hooked until the film’s mind-blowing finish.

Indeed the strength of the film is that in a number of ways it feels so grounded. Adams’ performance is entirely relatable – ranging from understated at times when the main character is unfamiliar with her surroundings to forceful and strong as events transpire. Her plausible reactions to the strange things happening around her and frustrating bureaucracy often hooks the audience in more than the special effects or set-pieces – like the look of wonderment when she first sees the aliens.

The bickering between nations on how to deal with a potential threat also means tensions are always simmering below the surface rather than thrust in our face, meaning that we are constantly in-tune with the pressure Banks and Donnelly are under rather than it feeling forced. Again, the differing approaches and mentalities of the nations involved feel like they could happen in real life, and leave you wondering whether it is how a scenario like this would unfold were it to happen today.

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Image taken from  ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

The film, which is based on Ted Chiang’s short Story of Your Life, is well-paced and manages to tie the themes of Bank’s troubles, political conflict and the aliens’ aims together in a superb final act that lives up to a slow (although never plodding) burn in the opening hour or so.

In summary, Arrival can almost be seen not only as the alien story for a modern age, but an interesting commentary on how the modern age would deal with an alien story, and it delivers on both scores brilliantly.

Heading image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFMo3UJ4B4g
Planet Earth 2: Episode 5 Review – Grassed Up

Planet Earth 2: Episode 5 Review – Grassed Up

Planet Earth 2: Episode Five recap

This week’s Planet Earth 2 review focuses on the habitats as much as the animals and features an incredible ‘Making of’ section.

Like episode three’s Jungles a couple of weeks ago, the penultimate segment of Planet Earth 2 strays away from focusing on one or two animals battling it out.

Instead it seems more interested in the varied grassland areas found in the far reaches of our planet. From the off we are introduced to animals navigating what appears at first to be almost a giant maze of grass in Northern India with an incredibly varied cast of animals from elephants to tigers.

It is soon clear that this isn’t the case all year round as we are treated to an incredible time lapse showing a storm flooding thousands of miles of grassland in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

In mere seconds of screen time the once jovial and bright vista is transformed into a soggy swampland, where animals plod through in scenes that reminded me of Glastonbury fields. If you listen faintly you can even hear what sounds like Coldplay – no wonder they all looked miserable.

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Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands

Throughout the show we are moved around the world – from Brazil to a frozen landscape in North America – we even make a stop in the UK at one point. It really highlights the time and effort that must go into producing the show, but more on that later.

For those more concerned with the critters themselves there is still a lot to enjoy – whether it is a day in the life of a hurrying harvest mouse hopping around Norfolk and evading a barn owl in a manner befitting You’ve Been Framed, or a caribou only weeks old being chased by an arctic wolf, there are plenty of tense moments on show.

The highlight of the animals may just be a ten-tonne buffalo fearlessly facing off against five hungry lionesses in an incredible scene that resembled a rodeo, although a fox diving headfirst into snow half a dozen times will probably amuse people the most.

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Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands

Arguably the best is saved for last however. In an ending featurette that may even top the incredible wind-suit flight of the first episode we see the lengths the film crew will go to for the perfect shot – and the lengths the animals will go to keep them out.

One of the photographers, Sandesh Kadur (I really hope I got that right) might just be one of the bravest men I have seen on a nature documentary as he waits days in tiger territory protected by about three vines and a dozen leaves for only a few seconds of footage. He might just be my star of the show and he didn’t even need to face-plant the snow (not on camera at least).

In summary, another success where the execution was, incredibly, even more impressive than the cast of animals that have made the series memorable so far.

All images taken from BBC iPlayer – Planer Earth II – 5. Grasslands available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands
Planet Earth 2: Episode 4 Review – Just Deserts

Planet Earth 2: Episode 4 Review – Just Deserts

Planet Earth 2: Episode 4 Recap

This week’s review of Planet Earth II features stallion warfare, an adorable golden mole and ‘Giraffe vs Lion: The Reckoning.’

This week’s edition of Planet Earth II seemed desperate to raise the stakes when it comes to cinematic openings as a barren landscape was engulfed by a giant killer candy floss.

Wait a minute, it was a sandstorm? Oh deserts, not desserts. There goes my other pitch to Syfy.

Unlike my intro however, Deserts got straight to the point. After last week’s episode failed to deliver the standout moment everyone would use for memes on Facebook, Attenborough and co provided us with the perfect GIF for someone to post ‘Me on Black Friday’ as we witnessed a galloping giraffe trample a lion primed for attack.

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Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084ftll/planet-earth-ii-4-deserts

The reason this segment was so interesting wasn’t just in the pursuit (and the surprising speed giraffes apparently reach when it hits the fan), but in the way it subverted the side the viewer usually cheers on.

Prior to this episode I was fully prepared to cheer on a giraffe as it undertook a lion-slaying spree through the desert, but when it was explained the lions had to cover roughly the area of SWITZERLAND to find a meal and had been starving for three days already, I kind of backed them instead. Especially as the kind of guy who gets annoyed at walking half a mile for a 3am McDonalds.

This seemed to be the theme for much of the episode. I found myself backing the bat taking on a deadly scorpion that could have one-shotted him with his stinger and fawning over a fluffy golden mole committing termite genocide. Attenborough was turning me into a serial-killer sympathiser.

Thankfully – for my own sanity – there were some bits I didn’t get on board with. No chance was I on the side of the murderous bird impaling it’s victims on spikes like something out of Game of Thrones (no matter how much chirpy music they put on to make it sound like The Good Life).

Of course, we did have some usual fanfare villains. The horde of locusts was a little unnerving, and there were so many at one point I was on the phone to Currys complaining about my TV’s picture and nearly missed the next part.

There was also the usual incredible scenery and impressive shots we’ve now come to expect from Planet Earth II. My personal highlight was when thousands of different animals filed considerately to drink from a water hole (unlike if it was a London tube), before chaos descended as a hawk attacked dozens of sandgrouse, while the other animals looked on nonchalantly (THAT’S more like a London tube).

In summary, another strong episode with more than one anecdote to talk about at the at work over the week. I haven’t even mentioned the stallion fight, which was the icing on the cake. Oh wait, Deserts. DAMN!

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Harry Potter fanatics will have been incredibly excited to see J.K Rowling’s works brought to life on the big screen again, but ironically this is a film that shines when it distances itself from the boy wizard’s adventures.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set approximately 70 years before Harry, Hermione and Ron’s adventures in Hogwarts and instead follows the story of Newt Scamander – an eccentric, introverted and zoologist for magical creatures.

Most of the movie’s strengths lie exactly where one would expect – the special effects. There are scores of magical creatures who have been superbly realised and look great – particularly in the scenes where we see them in their “natural” habitats – and the American ministry building (MACUSA) is brought to life with its own unique aesthetic.

The acting is as solid as you’d expect. Love him or hate him, Eddie Redmayne makes the role of Scamander his own with some great physical acting. He plays the animal expert in a typically awkward and shuffling manner and would no doubt win another Oscar for ‘Actor who spends most time in hunched position.’

Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler)  is refreshing as a non-magical character who feels natural and contributes to the film from a muggle point of view (or nomaj for Americans), rather than being restricted to some shoehorned physical gags, while Ezra Miller is also brilliantly unnerving as Credence Barebone – an adopted child who seems to be wrestling with his role as a witch hunter of sorts, leading to some of the darker moments in the film.

For me the best acting comes from Colin Farrell as no-nonsense auror Percival Graves. Farrell brings some steel to a type of character we rarely saw in the original films – a powerful ministry wizard, but one who is grey in terms of his morals and motives.

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Farrell is superb – Image taken from ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Final Trailer (HD)’ available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs05011LuGU

As I said in the intro however, Beasts is at its best when it isn’t trying to be anything like the original films. For fans of the books, the hint of Grindelwald at the start is enough to spark excitement while setting the film in muggle New York rather than a magical school leads to interesting themes of anti-wizardry feeling and propaganda that was missing in the originals and, in a lot of ways, mirrors our world today.

My only real gripe was that is sometimes felt this story was unfolding in the background when it should have been at the forefront. Anything with the ‘Second Salem’ witch hunters feels creepy and darker then anything and Graves was in nearly all of the strongest scenes. It would have been nice to have more about them, rather one or two of the animal chase segments.

It’s easy to forget that this is the first of five instalments however and it hopefully hints at a more adult story in later films. Beasts has laid the foundations for a darker wizarding adventure – I just hope it follows it through.

Header image taken from ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Final Trailer (HD)’ available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vso5o11LuGU

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If you liked this, you can find more film and TV reviews here.

Planet Earth 2: Episode 3 – Swiss Army Lizard

Planet Earth 2: Episode 3 – Swiss Army Lizard

Planet Earth 2: Episode Three Recap

In the first two episodes of Planet Earth there has been a runaway winner for ‘Highlight of the show.’

In Islands it was the baby iguana dashing past snakes like someone dodging charity workers on the high street that captured the nation’s hearts.

Last week, in Mountains, it was the dancing bears grinding on tree trunks doing the rounds on social media, with I myself claiming they would be a solid option for a future John Lewis advert.

The third episode, Jungles is a little different in the way there is no clear star, but instead a theme.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the highlight of the episode – something which was easy in the first two – as we were treated to some incredible moments throughout which all fell into a similar category – animals doing amazing things we simply didn’t know they were capable of.

One of these was between a Caiman alligator and a jaguar. The segment started with a monsoon flooding the jungle in around 30 feet of water and we saw giant otters and capybaras playing about in the water like it was Butlins.

Attenborough then introduced the ten-foot alligators in that ominous tone that tells us ‘something furry is going to die’, before the jaguar also came on the scene. In other words: ‘something furry is definitely going to die.’

The capybara doesn’t look as agile as our baby iguanas, and you start to really fear for one as a female jaguar stalks it silently. The female pounces but finds nothing but river water as her prey escapes. No furry deaths? Attenborough’s thrown a curve-ball.

The male has better luck however in an astonishing scene where, instead of stalking a capybara, he leaps upon one of the alligators instead. Unlike other duels in the show – which are tense arduous battles for both parties – this one is over fast. The jaguar quickly sinks it’s jaws into the reptile’s vulnerable area behind the skull and claims victory with a sickening crunch. It’s brutal and leaves you (and the capybara on the opposite shore) with your mouth gaping.

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What’s the capybara equivalent of WTF? (Image taken from http;//www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b083wt7z/planet-earth-ii-jungles)

I personally did not know a jaguar could take down an alligator – particularly on home turf in the water – and was left amazed at what I’d seen. However for me there was another star.

That award went to the Draco lizard. Not to be confused with Harry Potter’s greasy enemy, these lizards can climb trees like other reptiles but have a few tricks up their sleeve.

We’re introduced to one scaling a tree-trunk and helping himself to one or few ants on the way. This immediately endeared me to dear Draco, as if anyone saw what those bastard ants did to the friendly looking crabs in Islands you’ll agree that some lizard-tongue karma was way overdue (Disclaimer: I realise they are almost definitely a different species of ant, before someone on Tumblr accuses me of ant racism.)

We quickly realise however that Draco is in another lizard’s territory and things are about to get stabby. The defending lizard sends a warning in a surprising manner, by opening a bright yellow flag-like appendage on his neck.

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Alas, there was no neck-knife fighting – Taken from www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b083wt7z/planet-earth-ii-3-jungles

While this is apparently used as a warning, it looks more like a knife and I am unashamed to say I shouted ‘NECK-KNIFE FIGHT’ at the television in the hope of someone reptile-jousting. What actually happened was even more incredible however.

Fleeing the fight, Draco leaps from his branch and seems like he will plummet to his death before he unfurling a pair of wings and gliding hundreds of feet to another tree. It’s as unexpected and majestic as it is resourceful – a sort of Swiss-army lizard. I was half expecting it to whip out a John Lewis cheese grater when it landed on the trunk.

As mentioned earlier, animals doing things we didn’t know they were capable of seems to be the theme this week. There were frogs fighting of legions of wasps, creepy-crawlies lit up like the Coca-Cola truck and even what appeared to be bugs with LED-like lights that lit up near the opposite gender. Sort of like beetle Tinder, but with less bots.

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Holidays are coming – Taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b083wt7z/planet-earth-ii-3-jungles

It’s not just the animals that are at it either. At night the rainforest is lit up with glowing fungi while I’m fairly sure at one point there was a forest vaping. Who knew?

So all-in-all, another solid episode that was perhaps more of a sum of its parts than others. If you’re looking for a highlight however, you don’t need to worry. The series trailer shows a giraffe kicking seven shades out of a lion next week.

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If you enjoyed this you can read my recap of episodes one and two, like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @SpeltWithAV

Planet Earth 2: Episode 2 – Dancing Bears for John Lewis Advert 2k17

Planet Earth 2: Episode 2 – Dancing Bears for John Lewis Advert 2k17

Planet Earth 2: Episode Two recap

Bears. Big, dancing, bloody bears.

After Planet Earth  returned with a bang after a decade with Iguanas vs Racer Snakes (if you just added ‘Giant’ to the front of that you’d have a decent film. Are you listening, Syfy?), I didn’t think they’d be able to top the astonishing social media reaction forMountains>but I was wrong. Very wrong.

We’re introduced to the grizzly bears of North America after they awake from hibernation under what must be a few feet of snow. We see an avalanche engulf their mountain and cut a path through the trees and find out this is one of thousands that occur in the Rockies each year. That’s a lot of snow.

The bears emerge looking like someone who has had one too many sambuca shots at Walkabout on a Saturday night, except for instead of looking for that half-eaten subway, they’re leading three cubs to a place where they can find food. Three cubs? Must have been one hell of a night.

The bears carefully traverse the powdery snow on the slops to find the valleys, where all the other bears will also go to find food and warmth. Spring hits these areas first and the change is incredible as the pallette shifts from white and gray to vibrant greens, yellows and browns within the space of a few days.

As beautiful as all of this scenery is however, it is only a backdrop to what appears to be the bears’ true purpose – strutting their stuff as they grind upon tree trunks with some funky dance moves.

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Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08397lq/planet-earth-ii-2-mountains

Sure, David Attenborough tells us it’s to shed their thick winter coats in warmer climates, but you can bet one or two of those bears knew the eyes of the nation were on them and possibly spotted the chance to audition for the 2017 John Lewis Christmas advert (it would beat Buster the Dog).

What starts as one or two bears rubbing themselves against the trunks becomes 30 or so bears letting loose with surprising flexibility – I’m fairly sure I saw a ‘slut-drop’, as the youth now refer to it – and it’s only a matter of time before it’s remixed to a Drake song (the BBC have already cut it with the Pussycat Dolls).

As with the first episode however, there is a lot more to >Mountainsthan its main star. There’s an incredible section with Snow Leopards as a mother defends her cubs from male attackers, and Attenborough even pulls a Walking Dead-style fakeout on us. Cheeky, David.

The visual highlight is definitely the first-person view of a golden eagle as it glides above the slopes searching food before dive-bombing at 200mph. It’s incredible to watch and the ten minutes at the end where they show the making of the scene is well worth watching.

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Image taken from www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08397lq/planet-earth-ii-2-mountains

So to summarize, another great episode. My only gripe is that there seems to be less of Attenborough (I don’t think he appeared on screen) in favour of the cinematic style. While I am a fan of the latter, it seems a shame to phase out such an iconic face from the show and I hope he gets some screentime later in the series.

Still, we got dancing bears. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to put the finishing touches to my John Lewis pitch and find out how hard it is to train a grizzly to moonwalk.

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