GAME OF THRONES 7×03 – ‘The Queen’s Justice’

“She’s a monster. And she will be the end of you.”

A great many prophetic words cast their way through ‘The Queen’s Justice’, the third episode of Game of Thrones’ truncated Season 7, spoken both by seers, machiavelli’s and plain old noble lords and ladies coming to understand the swift revolution surging its way through Westeros as the ‘great war’ for the Seven Kingdoms truly begins. Olenna Tyrell’s final proclamation may turn out to be the most pointed, as on the face of it the Queen’s primary justice is no justice at all.

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The Big Sick (2017)

Kumail Nanjiani is a comedian and writer much better known in the United States than in the UK, but he was familiar to me due to his association with my favourite TV series, The X-Files. Nanjiani famously hosted a successful podcast on the subject, The X-Files Files, which partly led him to gaining a guest starring role on a recent episode of the show’s revival. Nanjiani’s love of The X-Files is lightly referenced in The Big Sick, his debut feature as star and co-writer, in which he plays an extension of himself.

To an extent, Nanjiani playing Kumail is akin to Larry David’s extreme persona in Curb Your Enthusiasm or even Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s extensions in The Trip and its sequels, but the difference with The Big Sick is the tone. It’s one of the funniest comedies of the year, without question, but it’s also much sweeter, filled with charm and touching on a multitude of themes about relationships, societal barriers, religion and loss. How it manages to balance these disparate elements is the most impressive factor.

A major reason why perhaps comes down to the naturalism employed by Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter. The production stable of Judd Apatow lies behind the script which Nanjiani wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon, and the story is theirs. Kumail and Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the movie are the narrative version of the story of Nanjiani and the real-life Emily, which allows for a deeper sense of autobiographical honesty, fused with the kind of laid-back Americana comedy Apatow (when on form) does so well with his movies. The Big Sick, even before making you laugh, makes you feel.

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What Does God Need With Star Trek: Discovery?

Or more aptly, perhaps the question should be reversed – what does Star Trek: Discovery need with God? The question has been raised by a recent article which reported how, on set for the brand new CBS All Access (or Netflix if you’re international) show reviving the 50 year franchise on the small screen, Jason Isaacs—playing Discovery’s Captain Lorca—was stopped mid-performance for improving a mention of ‘God’ in his dialogue. God, of course, does not exist in the Star Trek 23rd century.

Except for the fact, y’know, he (or she) kinda does.

Even if the story is tabloid fodder or turns out to be apocryphal, that one of the series writers Kirsten Beyer actually made the effort to correct Isaacs for saying the very natural human phrase “oh my God”, it raises an interesting question as Star Trek makes its long overdue return to television – what place does religion have on a TV series which on the face of it has always shied away from depicting a future where worship is prevalent, but in truth has long had a fascinating, complex relationship with religion and the future?

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James Bond Will Return – Should Continuity Come With Him?

After quite some time in the shadows, the James Bond rumour mill has kicked into overdrive with the announcement this week that the 25th film in cinema’s longest running franchise will be arriving in November 2019 (or very late October if you’re in the UK). That’s a whole year later than most Bond fans were expecting, given the usual three-year cycle most of us have come to expect. An interesting debate has arisen around the usual questions, however, and it concerns continuity.

Before we get to that, here’s the current state of play. MGM have announced the release date, as studios are often wont to do with major franchises (look at how Marvel let us know what they’re up to years in advance), but since the release of Spectre in 2015 the producers of the franchise, EON, have been locked in a difficult financial back and forth over distribution. Last year, Sony’s distribution rights expired and it seems Bond stewards Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson have struggled to find a replacement. This no doubt accounts in no small part for why 2019 and not 2018 is when 007 is returning.

There is also the unresolved issue of Bond himself, Daniel Craig. A lot of misreporting has circled around the actor, especially since his clearly flippant comments about not wanting to play the role anymore were taken seriously by many, and while almost certainly Craig has made his choice by now, the MGM announcement wasn’t accompanied by confirmation Craig is coming back in the role that made him a household name. This could indicate negotiations are still ongoing, that maybe Craig wants extra time to finish other projects, or indeed that he’s not coming back at all. Right now, it’s uncertain.

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Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk and his Cinematic Ideology

Across the last week, since the release of his latest movie Dunkirk, much has been written about Christopher Nolan, as always happens whenever he puts a picture out. Nolan may be the most divisive mainstream, heavyweight filmmaker working in cinema today. Some believe he’s a genius. Some believe he’s Stanley Kubrick reborn. Some even believe he’s a rampant Conservative and his films are nothing more than ‘Tory Porn’.

You would do well, incidentally, to read the writing of my friend and super-talented pop culture writer Darren Mooney on Nolan recently, as its insightful, filled with wisdom and there’s every chance he’s not done on the subject yet, simply because the gaggle of voices weighing in on Nolan once again has reached fever pitch. Is Dunkirk a masterpiece? Or is it yet another piece of super-overrated cinema from a filmmaker who can’t see past his own delusions of grandeur? For me, it’s the former, but this is coming from someone who has always considered Nolan to be, if not the greatest living cinematic auteur, then at least among the top five.

What interests me is the accusation he is a Conservative filmmaker when a titanic weight of evidence suggests quite the opposite. Do read the above linked article with the accusation, much as partly I’m loathe to link to it – despite having been written by someone very pleased with their prose, someone with visible disdain for modern film criticism and a level of bitterness toward politics in general, it nonetheless outlines an argument with a level of brevity. Frankly it’s not a piece worth dwelling on and picking apart because some of the arguments are lunacy, but what it does is raise an interesting question: just where does Nolan, and his films, stand on the political spectrum?

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Some Nerve: Social Media and Modern Cinematic Voyeurism

Social media has taken control of the world. Almost all of us have a smartphone and we’re wired into either Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc… or all of them. The open communication of the internet has made us desperate for ultimate, constant connectivity. It’s an idea that across this decade, as social media has fully taken hold over Western society, the movies have begun exploring.

Inevitably, and perhaps appropriately, cinema has largely taken social media to be a new and dangerous playground. Much as the technology is used by people of all ages (yes, even some of the elderly), apps, games and innovations remain primarily the province of the young and impressionable. Social media is attractive, not just for the fact you can build a virtual profile that presents a picture of who you would like the world to *believe* you are, but it provides a gateway to thrills and social taboos. Hence why adults are consistently reminded, and parents are scaremongered, into believing social media is a corrupting evil that will warp and destroy the minds of our children.

Filmmakers on the whole don’t quite see it that way. Many seem to consider social media to be one enormous, conceptual cautionary tale, sometimes fused a with futuristic morality play. An entire sub-genre now exists of pictures often starring, and certainly aimed at, the young, but to classify them specifically as horror films—as some have—does them a slight disservice. Those directors and writers who are interested in the pervasive effect social media has on our lives seem more keen to portray the internet, and all its myriad labryinthian contexts, as something that will only destroy us if we misuse it or refuse to pay it enough respect.

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GAME OF THRONES 7×02 – ‘Stormborn’

“You’re not a sheep. You’re a dragon.”

If you’ve been following the pre-release trailers of Game of Thrones from HBO, chances are you’ll already have pieced together much of ‘Stormborn’. Decoding the series has now become a regular task of detection for fans across the globe and it’s pretty clear that the first three episodes of Season 7’s seven constitute most of what we’ve seen in advance thus far. The very fact Game of Thrones is now in a position to construct multiple, packed trailers from less than half its season shows the depth and breadth of what lies in its arsenal.

‘Stormborn’ in many senses is an example of how Game of Thrones now exists firmly inside the final act of its storytelling. Devoted ‘watchers on the wall’ aka long-term fans and Westerosi obsessives are probably in a position to guess the majority of the narrative beats Bryan Cogman’s script delivers, not simply because of the aforementioned trailers but because the series is now immediately starting to pay off long-term foreshadowing and structural establishment. The fact it’s doing more in two episodes than it may well have done in previous seasons in five or six is a testament to how David Benioff & D.B. Weiss’ show is in the home stretch. There is no time to waste.

That does mean, to the initiated, there’s a level of predictability to ‘Stormborn’. It doesn’t detract from some solid and rewarding storytelling in the process but at the same time it lacks the element of shock and surprise. Pieces aren’t just moving on the chess board now, they’re literally kicking over the pieces and upending the construct, but they are chess pieces which logically make sense to be moving in the direction you may have already prefigured. A lot of ‘Stormborn’ consists of nodding along to characters decisions and choices, given a wonderful sweep of pragmatism has found its way into Westeros as intelligent, sensible rulers start making logical decisions.

There is one exception to that rule, however, and his name is Theon Greyjoy.

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