GAME OF THRONES S04E02

"The Lion and the Rose"

Yes, I know: all anyone really wants to do after viewing "The Lion and the Rose" is celebrate the fact that—for just about the first time since Game of Thrones went on the air—someone we didn't like actually died. I mean, there have been a few other reprehensible characters who have met ugly ends along the way, but those were mostly minor-league sadists: soldiers and slaveholders and torturers and the like. (I'd argue that the last time a major character got what was coming to him was in Season One's "A Golden Crown," and even there Viserys had a pathetic humanity that made his murder rather more tragic than triumphant.) For nearly thirty-two episodes, we've seen the good suffer, and we've seen the bad prosper, and we've seen very little evidence of anything resembling justice. Continue reading

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OCULUS (2014)

Movie Review

To say that Oculus is a better-than-average scary movie is to acknowledge the tragically lowered expectations of the genre itself. Oculus is reasonably well acted, it manages some creepy moments, and writer/director Mike Flanagan generates some real energy by finding fairly original things to do with the film's structure. Shouldn't that be enough to recommend it? What more could we possibly ask of a haunted house movie?

Well, of course, there is a lot more we might ask, and that something more is the difference between an enjoyable-but-disposable experience and an actual movie. Oculus shows some promise, but ultimately it's satisfied with being simply competent. You can almost feel the creators saying, "It's just a scary movie." Continue reading

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GAME OF THRONES S04E01

"Two Swords"

GAME OF THRONES 4x01 - Two Swords

It may seem a strange thing to say about a massively successful TV show with three full seasons already under its belt, but this season will be make-it-or-break-it time for HBO's Game of Thrones. Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have said that when they originally envisioned building a TV series around George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the event that called to them most strongly was the Red Wedding. ("When we read the books, we knew we just wanted to get to this scene, and do this 'holy shit' moment justice," Weiss has said.) In the penultimate episode of Season Three, "The Rains of Castamere," Benioff and Weiss finally got to do that moment justice, and bring the main storyline that had begun back in Episode One to a shattering, irreversible climax.  Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

Movie Review

CAPTAIN AMERICA - THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

Captain America's first film—the underrated Captain America: The First Avenger—took place almost entirely during the WWII era that spawned the character, and had a refreshingly idealistic, gee-whiz feel that was entirely appropriate. Now, Captain America: The Winter Soldier—directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, and loosely based on a popular comic run written by Ed Brubaker—finds the revived Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) navigating the murkier waters of what America has become in the 21st century.

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NOAH (2014)

The Book of Darren, Chapters 1-34

1 And so it came to pass, in the two thousandth and fourteenth year, that Darren Aronofksy turned his eyes towards the Powers That Be.

2 Powers, spake he, Give to me monies totaling twenty-five and one hundred thousand thousands, and I shall deliver unto You the story of Noah. Continue reading

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DIVERGENT (2014)

Movie Review

DIVERGENT (2014)

About halfway through the new dystopian science fiction film Divergent, the heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), is given a test in which she must face her greatest fears through a series of induced hallucinations. The problem is, Tris is special, and so—unlike the others taking the test—she breezes through the challenges because she knows they're not real. Like a lucid dreamer, the nightmares have no power over her, and she is able to dismiss them with a casual, contemptuous ease. (Faced with drowning in a tank of water, for example, she is able to simply tap lightly on the glass and shatter—literally and metaphorically—the fourth wall.) If Tris wants to pass the test and avoid attention, she is advised, she must at least pretend she finds these ridiculous situations believable, and react accordingly. Continue reading

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VERONICA MARS (2014)

Movie Review

VERONICA MARS (2014)

My first reaction to Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas's big-screen sequel to his 2004-2007 TV series, is simply to be glad that it exists. I was a fan of the Veronica Mars TV show: much as its older cousin Buffy the Vampire Slayer had interpreted the hells of the teen-age years through horror tropes, Veronica Mars saw them through the lens of film noir, making its eponymous heroine a tougher, sassier, more cynical Nancy Drew for the 21st century. If Veronica Mars never quite navigated the halls of its high school setting with quite the emotional resonance of better shows like Buffy and Freaks and Geeks, it was still a witty, addictively entertaining program, anchored reliably by a star-making performance from Kristen Bell.

Alas, critical adoration and the devotion of a ferocious fan base never quite translated into actual ratings, and Veronica Mars was cancelled after its third season. Now, thanks to an unprecedentedly successful Kickstarter campaign, the bitch is back, nearly 10 years after she first appeared. Veronica Mars, the movie, is currently playing in select theaters, and via same-day video-on-demand release. Continue reading

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