Mid-Year Monkey at the Movies

Hello all! As promised in my monthly wrap up, I have some mini movie reviews for you today. There’s a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly here (in that order) so sit tight, cos we’re in for a bumpy ride!

Carrie Pilby– charming, quirky and a lot of fun, this was thoroughly enjoyable. While it had indie vibes, it embraced classic storytelling. The character arcs were beautifully done- showing that even if Carrie is a genius, she doesn’t know everything after all. It also went further, showing how pain can reverberate across the years. All credit to the writers and actors, cos this was a super fun story. I’d happily rewatch it!

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

The Woman in the Window– there are lots of angles through which to view this film: voyeuristically curious about the scandalous background of the author; from the perspective of a reader who read (and maybe even enjoyed) the book (like me); or just as someone who likes watching a good thriller. Yet none of those angles will make this film any more enjoyable. Because this film shows up all the shockingly awful decisions in the book. Without the flashy writing, the story just doesn’t seem to work. It’s convoluted, it’s poorly signposted and it’s all over the place. And none of the fancy camera work changes that. Even with modern technology, you can’t beat the likes of Rear Window (which this poorly tries to imitate). What made for an entertaining read (pre-authorial baggage) made for painful viewing.

Rating: 1/5 bananas

The Dig– eh- this wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either. While the performances are good and the story decent, I found this forgettable. Mostly, because no one has a character arc. NO ONE. Either the protagonists or the people around them should change… but that’s not the case in this film. The protagonists have static arcs. The vague antagonists- who oppose the main archaeologist over class- continue to do so by the end. The only reason I was engaged in this movie was because Sutton Hoo is interesting- yet I don’t see why this couldn’t have been a documentary.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Mary Queen of Scots– boy-oh-boy this takes liberties with history. It goes too far in my book, presenting Mary’s Catholicism as a marginalised belief… when it was the conservative and powerful position. To make matter worse, her faith is also portrayed as tolerant, having her say things like “we all go to the same heaven” and to a male character “you would make a lovely sister”. Even Queen Elizabeth I is oddly sentimental. It’s all in the name of woke feminism- which does not make for a logically coherent historical drama. But who cares about that when you can score brownie points, amiright?! In fairness, the history is *bonkers*. Looking up what actually happened kept me engaged throughout the movie- and damn, if they’d just gone with that, it would have been an excellent film. The problem is, they tried too hard to make Mary a flawless heroine, when she is better suited to the role of a tragic Shakespearean figure, whose fatal flaws are her undoing. BUT NO- the movie has to insist her dismissing every councillor makes her clever. And that it’s somehow everyone else’s fault when they turn against her. Oh and it’s also great to be compassionate (even if it costs lives). It’s funny, because the film is designed to be anti-English, yet to my mind, all it did was show how useless Mary was as a leader (even while carefully glossing over Mary’s plots to take Elizabeth’s throne, somehow trying to make her seem conciliatory). The juxtaposition of her rule with Elizabeth’s doesn’t help to make a case for her reign. This is exemplified in the scene where Mary and Elizabeth meet (which of course is entirely made up). Mary calls Elizabeth her inferior and says “I’m your queen”- to which Elizabeth takes off her wig and says “your gifts are your downfall”. Frankly this makes no sense- 1) because there’s NO WAY Mary could have said that to Elizabeth and lived another 20 years and 2) because the logical response would’ve been “says the woman who’s just lost a kingdom”. She didn’t lose the kingdom because she was pretty FFS- she did so because she didn’t know how to rule. It’s just so ironic that this is the best case they could come up with for Mary Queen of Scots. If they hadn’t been trying so hard to be woke and refusing to acknowledge a female character’s flaws, this could’ve been a damn good drama. Ultimately however, as much as I enjoyed how it was shot, the acting, the history, it was a colossal waste of time. 

Rating: 2.5 bananas

That’s all for now! Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them? Am I being too harsh? Let me know in the comments!

No Shade for the Shadow and Bone Adaptation!

Like everyone and their mother, I’ve been bingeing this series. And like most people, I’ve been absolutely loving it.

It’s the best kind of adaptation. Taking the source material and enhancing it with some big changes, it’s truly a delight for fans (and newbies) to the Grishaverse. I have to confess, I was never a huge fan of the original series, yet really fell for the follow up duology Six of Crows. The prospect of seeing them in later series was what made me so excited about this show. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait so long, as this manages to weave the new characters into the older story (giving us scenes I didn’t know we needed!).

Having the Dregs, absolutely improves upon the narrative. Not only do they add oodles of personality and plenty of great new scenes, but it’s also fabulous to have more of their backstory on screen. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the casting is perfect! I can’t imagine these characters any other way.

In terms of the original characters, my favourite is (*drumroll please*) the Darkling. Yes, that’s right, I’m #teamdarkling now. Not because I want him with Alina, I’m just happy for him to take over the world and cover it in darkness 😉Barnes does a brilliant job, bringing intensity and charisma to the role. And showing the Black Heretic’s backstory made it all the more powerful.

I’m still not keen on Alina. For all the commentary on her being more assertive in the show, I just don’t see her having much agency. She’s always reacting to something or being pushed along by the plot. I don’t care about her enough- even now. Yet I can say that I’ve come round to her with Mal… if only because I find them equally boring.

What I appreciate *far more* was the gorgeous effects. The costumes/sets/cinematography all help to bring the Grishaverse to life. The Fold in particular was done so well. I took a breath with the crew as they went inside. It’s terrifyingly tense.

This is definitely one of the most enjoyable adaptations I’ve seen in a long, long time. I did see this being compared with Game of Thrones… which is frankly bizarre. It’s nothing like GOT- and it’s not trying to be. It’s not grimdark and it’s not adult (and it’s not going to have as disappointing an ending). It is, however, a fantastic YA fantasy show. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m probably going to rewatch it 😉

So, are you a fan of the Grishaverse? Have you watched this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The Noughts and Crosses Adaptation Drew a Blank

*Spoilers for both the show and the book*

Full disclosure: my opinions are entirely biased due to my love for the book. If I didn’t adore the series so much, I might have enjoyed this, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, this was just one of those times where I felt like constantly whining “but the book was soooo much better!” Even if there were parts of the show that were somewhat compelling, I couldn’t get past the changes enough to appreciate it.

I really should’ve predicted that I wouldn’t like this when I got (unreasonably) irritated by the description of the world as “dystopian” (suggesting that the show was tilting away from the alternate history model to make a different kind of social commentary… something that I was soon proved right about). From the opening shots centring on the subject of police brutality, I could tell we were in for a very different story. Already, I could see this was a more modern take on the novels, but I couldn’t quite get my footing as to how different it would be.

You see, initially I was rather taken with the world of the show. While I had the vaguest impression of the setting from the books, the showrunners went to a lot of trouble bringing Albion to life. With its African music and bright visuals, I was immersed in this alternative Britain, seemingly modelled on South Africa during apartheid. While there were some inconsistencies, like a jumble of different accents, I did get a clear sense of place. I can safely say this was a vast improvement on Blackman’s world building… it’s just a shame about everything else.

callumMy first major issue came from Callum. Instead of having the humble ambitions of going to school, he now wishes to join a military academy. Now, I get that they had to adjust aspects of the story to suit the screen, but this was already a leap too far. It immediately takes away his character arc of being a sensitive and intelligent boy, pushed to violence. Of course, even with him in this new role, they can’t fully commit to him being violent from the start. The writers tried very hard to shoehorn him into his original arc, but without any sign of his original personality… which just made me beg the question why make this change at all?

There is much the same issue with Sephy: her personality has been completely neutered. Aside from being a do-gooder and occasional terrorist sympathiser, she doesn’t have a whole lot going for her. Unlike her book counterpart, we don’t get to see what a scrapper she is or any of her interests (beyond Callum). Worse still, with the characters aged up, her naivety isn’t really excusable. In the book, Sephy loves her father, yet slowly realises what he is truly like. Here she comes across as just a bit thick for not seeing through him. Which leads me onto…

noughts and crossesWTF is going on with the rest of the characters?! Jasmine Hadley is not nearly distant enough; Kamal Hadley apparently has mind control powers (cos I’ve no idea how he somehow convinces everyone to do his bidding). And everyone is oddly redeemable- even Jude. There’s no sense of real development, because from the beginning we know Dorne is the real villain and thus all the other character’s evil deeds can (conveniently) get pinned on him. Everything is more black and white in this version, with far fewer shades of grey. Forget the nuance and tragedy of the book- it’s been brushed away for far less satisfying commentary and lacklustre conclusions.

And on that note, the plot is a mess. While I liked some aspects of the romance (because in this case remembering the book made it easier to enjoy) it moves way too fast. The twists about Kamal and Jasmine Hadley are revealed too soon. Vital characters, like Lynette, are written out. Instead we get waste-of-time subplots, like Yarrow Hadley. Then there are another million pointless changes- that only every make the narrative worse. For starters, there was the “blanker” incident, which the Authentic Observer has already done a great video about. Plus, there’s the time when “gentle” Callum fires live rounds at a crowd of noughts, including his brother (?!?!) And the fact that Jude bombs a hospital instead of a shopping centre (??!?!) And for some reason there’s a lot of speeches in the trial explaining said terrorism… which apparently persuade the judge to go easy (?!?!) And to top it all off that Callum doesn’t choose to go after Sephy OR choose to save Sephy until he knows she’s pregnant OR make any significant choices (beyond the supremely dumb one of going off to live in the woods with a pregnant girl… let’s see how long that lasts 😉).

Naturally they also had to change the ending. I could see from the start the showrunners weren’t bold enough to kill off Callum. And clearly they found other aspects of the story too problematic as well- which is disappointing, not because I wanted to be emotionally scarred (as I was with the book), but because the dark elements were something that stood out in that case. Blackman didn’t talk down to teens or give us the longed-for happy ending, just because that’s what’s expected. She had the courage to tell a story that wasn’t easy, that didn’t make us comfortable, that offered only glimmers of hope.

jude noughts and crosses 2Weirdly, the show’s preachy speeches and teary melodrama demand you take the story seriously. And yet, for all that, it’s less powerful. Putting forward the argument that the world is unjust is far less powerful than showing injustices unfolding. Blackman had the courage to put the story and characters first- and the message was more impactful for it. This adaptation put the message first and butchered the heart of the story. Sadly, the only tragedy here is how much this failed to live up to a beautiful book.

I’m really curious- how many of you have read the series or seen the show? What did you think of either of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup! #2

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It’s been a while since I talked about my TV habits– and to be honest that’s cos in the last 6 months, I’ve only watched 4 shows of note… which is why I’ll be recommending them all today. Seems like a good time to kick back and relax 😊 Let’s just jump into it!

Lucifer– I watched the pilot a few years ago, but I wasn’t crazy about it… until I tried it again. Two episodes in and I was hooked! It was more fun than I’ve had in a long time with a TV show- it reminded me of old seasons of Supernatural. I mean, it’s a buddy cop show… with the devil! And if that puts you off, hold on! Because who doesn’t love a good redemption story? And who is a better candidate for that than the one and only Lucifer Morningstar. I absolutely adore the concept and the execution is perfect. The chemistry between Lucifer and Chloe is amazing. The first series was entertaining as hell, the second had a beautiful ending and the third had an incredible plot (though some of the stuff with Pierce was annoying). There was a death I never thought I’d mourn as well- but it really got to me! Plus, there was so much Gaiman, which I loved! Looking forward to catching the last two seasons on Netflix when I get the chance 🙂

Poldark (season 5)– this is the kind of show where I legit cry at every episode. Now, I will admit this was an unusual season, because it wasn’t following the books anymore annnnd it wasn’t perfect. Gonna get a bit spoilery, so be warned. I for one wanted to see the finale tie into the plot that had been going on all season- perhaps have the end link up with the fact the villains had been involved in the slave trade and have their demise be tied into the abolition of slavery. Instead, that whole plotline was kind of irrelevant and it reverted back to the whole fighting France plot- which worked in some ways, it was just a shame it felt a bit old hat at this stage. The pacing wasn’t great either- since George’s madness kept hitting the on-off switch. Still, it was as emotional as ever and there were some real highlights to the season- especially with Caroline and Ennis. So, while I’d say the last season could’ve been better, I’d definitely recommend this series as a whole.

Keeping Faith– I loved this series. Focused on a mysterious disappearance that leaves a loving wife and mother in the lurch… and in increasing danger! It was emotional, moving, entertaining. The story builds and builds, until the dramatic finale. All the acting was amazing- even the children- who are often the weak link yet here shine with some of the best performances. The heroine is *the best*- a nuanced woman, which we rarely see on tv. She’s a mum, she’s accomplished and she’s unapologetically female. The landscape, scenery and atmosphere star as well- really showcasing the beauty of Wales. Many critics were surprised that this seemingly small Welsh thriller ended up being such a huge hit- especially since it was shared pretty much by word of mouth- but I think that’s why it did so well. There’s no frills, no funny business, just good old-fashioned storytelling- and there’s not much more you can ask than that.

His Dark Materials– this. is. the. perfect. adaptation. I’ve waited *forever* to see a good version of one of my all-time favourite fantasy series and THIS WAS IT!!! I am so grateful to finally get to watch this- so you’ll just have to forgive the gush!! I’m not actually someone who is hypercritical of the old adaption- though there were obvious things wrong with it if you’re a fan of the books. As Pullman said, there wasn’t enough room in that movie. Thankfully, the story is given space to breathe here and it’s glorious for it. There is so much to love about the BBC’s His Dark Materials. I adored so much of the casting- McAvoy is an *awesome* Asriel, Lin-Manuel Miranda brings swagger to the role of Lee, Ruth Wilson is chilling as Mrs Coulter and I think the new Lyra is incredible!! Just amazing!! I did like the old cast, but I am *so happy* with this one!! The graphics are beautiful as well! I also love the foreshadowing and crossover with The Subtle Knife– that’s a sharp touch I wouldn’t have thought they’d include. It seemed determined to make me cry every episode as well. I’m just completely buzzing about this!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

I am completely obsessed with You…

youThe book and TV show… why what did you think I meant? 😉 Kepnes infamous story about social media stalking in the modern age certainly grabbed my attention and now I’d like to share it with *you*. So, what can you expect from this book about a New York love affair gone very, very wrong?

Immediately, you will be struck by the unreliable narrator. Combining a biting wit with an exceptional use of second person pov, you will find the execution of this novel is top notch. This unique style allows for stand out characterisation and a story that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Now, you might have seen a fair amount of criticism for the crassness and vulgar language… to which I say: what do you expect? Yes, a stalker and dangerous individual is less than polite and uses violent means to get his way. To me, anything else would be a dishonest representation of reality. Naturally, you will agree that it is unnerving to be this up close and personal to evil- but that is what really works about this book (admittedly the show has a different take… more on that later).

Another criticism you might have is that the characters are all pretentious a-holes. Which is true- but given that they’re viewed through the lens of a psycho stalker, you might be inclined to let them off the hook. Again, you will find this an ingenious way of letting you inside his twisted mind. Every portrayal he shows you will be warped beyond recognition and every barb he directs at others can be thrown back at him.

Either way, you will discover there’s something enigmatic about the distinctive writing. This voicey book gives you more characterisation than a thousand thrillers combined. You will come to see it as more of a character study than a typical story.

Most importantly, you will be compelled to the finish line as if someone is chasing you down a dark alleyway. Truth be told, you may find the plot fairly predictable- but that’s because when you’re trapped in a terrifying place with no way out, there really is only one way it can go down. All the bodies littered throughout make the ending inevitable. So if you are like me and you like *BIG* twist thrillers, you might not end up giving it 5*. But that’s okay, because you know it’s a great book regardless. And you may decide that, while you’re not sure you need a series of books in this vein, you’re still invested enough to check out the Netflix adaptation…

Okay, I’m gonna stop with the second person because you get the idea 😉 Also the voice is used slightly differently in the TV show. In fact, there were a number of distinctions between the book and the show: the timeline, the characters and even the relationship have all shifted. Most importantly, the more lovey dovey romance makes the show more of a deconstruction of rom coms than the danger of Social Media. While still present, the idea of stalking someone online is made light of at times when (for reasons I can’t fathom) Stalker Joe tells her he’s been following her?! Aside from the illogical tint this gives the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this take. I think that the ideas it was presenting, while not entirely in line with the book, were still valid critiques on society. Plus, on the more positive side, this did flesh out some aspects better.

Characters who weren’t given a proper voice in the book (understandably) did finally get their chance to speak for themselves. I liked that while Peaches made more sense as a character, the tv version didn’t remove her shades of grey. I also loved Blythe and Ethan- as different as the latter was to the book counterpart. Most significantly, we actually got her perspective. And it’s good- it’s very good. She gets to be a far more well-rounded character and her life is given importance its so lacking in the book- which makes the impact of the narrative greater still. I liked that they even had her talk to herself in the second person- it was a nice touch.

Having said that, the show’s desire to fill in some aspects meant that the things Joe does make less sense sometimes. There was more of an attempt to make him likeable and misdirect the viewer into thinking he’s not an entirely terrible person. For instance, he genuinely cares about Paco, which felt strangely out of character for me as someone who’d read the book (and was the first major indicator that the book and show were going to be different entities). Again, I wasn’t quite convinced whether I liked that he was more sympathetic. On the one hand, it made him less predatory… but on the other there was more of an unnerving sense that this could really happen to anyone. It didn’t hurt, either, that unlike the book closing off its ending, the show had a chilling end that left me wanting more.

Ultimately, I found the show just a bingeable as the book was a page turner. Sure, they were different, but this didn’t impact the quality. I gave both the book and show:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read or watched this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Avatar the Last Airbender Television Show

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*Wow*- I waited wayyy too long to watch this, didn’t I? Let me back up a second. It’s no secret that after Game of Thrones ended (in the worst possible way imaginable) I was feeling pretty distraught and uninspired by TV. So I settled down to watch a classic… and I was not disappointed.

monkey avatarFrom the opening visuals, I knew this was going to be quite the experience. The artwork is literally stunning and the set up incredibly promising. With these gorgeous images, we’re thrown into a fascinating fantasy world, where people have the power to control the elements. Not to get too in depth about the premise (because a lot of people will know it) but essentially it’s set after the Avatar who can control all the elements disappeared and the Fire Nation took control. And let me be the first to say, that simple sentence could never do the world building justice. This not only has one of the most intricate magic systems imaginable, as the story goes on, it develops a deep mythos for each location it explores. Having watched this now, I can safely say I have no idea why anyone would try to reduce all this down into a (terrible) movie- it was always doomed to be a mess.

But this is all just background- I haven’t even got to the plot yet! While episodic in the most rewarding way imaginable, each season builds upto epic conclusions. In a ride as wild as soaring on a flying bison, we’re lifted off the ground and taken to new lows. There are times when the audience is rewarded for their patience; there are times when expectations are subverted- in the best kind of Empire-Strikes-Back way. The characters win and lose- keeping you on your toes! And I mean really lose- because it often feels like victory comes at great cost (and let me remind you this is a kid’s show!!)

In terms of individual episodes, it’s hilarious at times, devastating at others. Having mentioned all the fantastic finales, you’d think they’d be my favourite episodes- not so! The one that stands out to me the most (and a fan favourite) is the Tales of Ba Sing Se- an intensely character driven episode which will make even the most stone-hearted of earth benders tear eyed. I also thought Ember Island Players was one of the best recap episodes in the history of TV.

zukoAll of this said, I haven’t even mentioned the best part of the show: the characters. From Katara to Toph to Sokka, it has a strong cast of supporting characters. There are amazing villains; there is a hero you can root for- one whose struggle to be the Avatar ties in with the fate of the world. I loved how he had to make sacrifices in order to reach the end of the story and it was never an easy path for him. On the subject of difficult journeys, my favourite character (perhaps predictably) was Zuko- I found him fascinating from the off: his backstory intrigued me, the promise of a potential redemption kept me hooked and every choice the character made had me on the edge of my seat. And I especially liked Azula as his foil. It’s because of characters like him that this show has such a reputation for amazing character development.

I’m also delighted to say this show had a beautiful ending! The justice meted out certainly gave balance to the magic in this universe. I will quickly say that the only thing in the entire show that I had an issue with was how the relationships turned out. At the risk of annoying old fans of the show (who are no doubt still licking their battle wounds from shipping wars of a bygone age) Aang/Katara *at all*. This isn’t just because my ship didn’t sail (le sigh) it was because I thought it came across as forced and I disliked such an awesome female character being reduced to the hero’s reward… But I don’t want to bog down the end of this review with this- though I’ll definitely get into it at a later date- because this wasn’t ultimately detrimental to my enjoyment. There is so much to this show that I loved that I simply can’t cover it all. I wouldn’t feel reasonable giving this masterpiece of television anything less than:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you seen this? What did you think of it? And when did you join this party? Let me know in the comments!

As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup!

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Don’t worry, for all of you who are afraid of more Game of Thrones rants, I’m pressing the big PAUSE button on that! Instead, I wanted to talk about some shows I’ve watched in the last few months that I actually liked. Now, it takes quite a bit for me to finish a series/continue watching a programme these days (I’m a serial TV show quitter) so it’s no surprise that what I did finish got *all the bananas* from me! Starting with…

The Last Kingdom (Series 3)– once again, I am half monkey, half Dane! It’s no secret after my post last year how much I FRICKIN LOVE THIS SHOW! It is an excellent example of an adaptation done well. Still, I managed to forget how much this packs in. The story is both eventful and emotional and just keeps getting better and better! Certain promises from the writer in earlier seasons (though not all) are delivered with fatal blows. *This* is exactly how you give the audience what they want; this is the best example of set up and payoff in TV right now. It was even more twisty and exciting than the first two series- and that’s saying something, given how much I loved those too! Once again, the characters are amazing and worth getting invested in. I especially love that Uhtred doesn’t always do the right thing- he’s smart, but impulsive, and he often pays the price for that. It does wrap things up rather well, implying there wasn’t going to be another series- but luckily for us, it’s been renewed and there is plenty of room to continue. Forgive my boundless enthusiasm, but this is the kind of show that makes me squee every time! The only *frankly appalling* thing about the Last Kingdom is that every season comes to an end and I WANT MORE. No doubt I’ll be renewing my Netflix subscription just in time for season 4 😉

Umbrella Academy (Series 1)– this was one hell of a wacky, fun, bonkers ride- and I loved every minute of it! I don’t even know where to start with this show. The moment I knew I *had to* watch this series was when I saw the dance like no one is watching clip on Youtube. It so aptly sums up what makes this show so bloody marvellous- the humour, the poignant emotion and the characters. My goodness- the characters! They are so fabulously original and I think everyone can find someone to root for here- my favourites were poor old Klaus and dubious Diego. Oh and 5 is awesome!  From the hilarious script, to the brilliant soundtrack and world-ending plot- this is definitely one of Netflix’s best new additions. Definitely worth checking out if you like superheroes/are looking for something a little bit very different.

The Good Place (Series 3)– this is another show I’ve mentioned on my blog before. I discovered it through Kat’s amazing blog and I REGRET NOTHING. I will freely admit it’s not as good as the first season, or even the second, but it is always worth a watch regardless. Super thought-provoking and funny, this is one of those rare shows *everyone* (and I do mean EVERYONE) can get something out of- and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen people of all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together over this philosophical sit com- and that is quite the testament to what a work of genius it is. I’m also incredibly proud of myself because I figured out the twist for this season 😉

Angel (Series 1-2)– this might come as a bit of a *shocker* but I haven’t actually seen this before- despite rewatching Buffy many times. I know, I know, I should’ve given it a chance sooner, but I never cared much for the character of Angel or had much interest in the (seemingly) minor ways it linked up with Buffy. Well, I stand completely corrected. This show is great! It ended up being super emotional, action-packed and with fab characters! All those people you think “eh what do I care about them?” after they leave Sunnydale, suddenly get a new lease of life in LA. I really liked the evil law firm as Big Bad as well (and the minor antagonists along the way totally work!). I’m glad I finally watched this and look forward to sinking my teeth into series three!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

All My Hopes and Dreams for Spring

 

game of thrones season 8 wrap up.png

Okay that title is a little misleading. I genuinely hope and believe that GRRM will do a finer job of telling his own story than I or anyone else ever could. At the same time, we have been forewarned to expect much the same thing as the show. So, while I still think there will be better set up in the books, I don’t think it’s worth holding out too much hope for things being all that different. I’m trying to work very much within the existing framework and exploring slight differences- rather than writing an alternative ending (sorry if you got your hopes up 😉 ). And if you’ve been thrown into this post and are wondering where I’m coming from with this, feel free to check out my posts on the series:

Hot Stuff: Returning to Winterfell

A Knight of Seven Kingdoms on the Edge of a Dark & Scary Night

The Long Night Cometh

The Last of the Starks *DUN DUN DUNNN*

Did the Bells Sound the Death Knell for Game of Thrones?

The Iron Throne Did Not Sit Well with Me

Now that I’ve got my apologies out the way, *spoiler warning*, I’m gonna get into what I actually think…

Honestly, while I would like nothing more than for the White Walkers to be the final villain, with Dany having sacked King’s Landing and going North for a redemption arc- I don’t think that’s how it’s going to go down. A Song of Ice and Fire was never a typical fantasy story. If anything, the showrunners made it too epic by position the Night King as the Big Boss Villain (and then backtracking on that pronto).

army of the dead
“We’re not going anywhere…”

My thoughts are more along the lines that Jon will fight the majority of the White Walkers in Winds of Winter and defeat most of their forces. BUT this won’t be a “Night King dies and army of the dead collapses”- rather he will find out the *real reason* they exist and thus will need a long term strategy to keep them from returning. With this promise of a future threat, Jon is motivated to go South and get more help for the Night’s Watch in case this threat arises again (that or he’ll have a “to hell with you all moment” and just abandon his post 😉). Either way, Jon’s character arc will definitely get darker, especially after having been brought back to life, but he will retain the respect of his men by defeating some of the dead (again #notall – if this is a metaphor for Global Warming, it stands to reason it is both a manmade threat AND an ongoing battle for mankind). Dany, by contrast, will spend most of the book entangled in conflicts with the Dothraki and then crossing the sea to Westeros.

greyscale
Because remember Greyscale? That’s a thing.

Dream of Spring, in my mind, will cover Dany’s descent into “madness” and loss of her remaining forces. This is where SELMY will give her some appalling advice, which results in losing most of her armies. She will be backed into a corner AND have the added displeasure of having to fight someone she views as a fraud… the book’s Aegon Targaryen. Aegon will gain the support from Dorne that rightfully belongs to her. Driven by her anger and perhaps the spread of Greyscale in the city, she will burn King’s Landing to the ground as a last-ditch effort to win her war. People will then label her the Mad Queen and malign her as a monster in stories- somewhat unfairly (the benefit of having multiple povs means it doesn’t have to be black or white and significantly we’ll see it from Dany’s perspective).

Now I’d love to see Jon/Dany storylines elegantly tied up, but I have left this open-ended deliberately. It is possible that they meet and even that Dany becomes pregnant with his child (parts of her story were given to Cersei after all). I would love nothing more than the fulfilment of the Azor Ahai prophecy, where Jon kills his lover before turning to fight the rest of the White Walkers. HOWEVER, it is also possible that Jon hears of the Mad Queen and his heritage and it’s at this point where he turns to King’s Landing to defeat her. Either way, I would very much still expect him to kill Dany when she goes too far AND to turn away from the throne when it is offered to him (the main difference being he still has a mystical purpose in the North and it is HIS CHOICE!) Also, he’ll have Rhaegal, cos I’m not so flippant about killing dragons…

rhaegal dragon.gif
Hey- if the showrunners can do things for fun, so can I! At least it’s not an ice bear 😉

 

Turning to a *more wish fulfilment* part of the post, Bran will be Lord of Winterfell at most. NOT king. Seriously, I hate this twist and I don’t think even GRRM can convince me it will work. Now, this isn’t me side-lining Sansa- I still love her and would like/expect her to end up in Highgarden (bearing in mind where she is in the books is very different to the show). I also think she’ll be instrumental in bringing down Littlefinger AND that she’ll witness the Eyrie falling (because “impregnable” in fantasy is code for “definitely getting impregnated”). Notice the only person I haven’t mentioned is Tyrion- that’s because in the books he has been side-lined and I’m not sure what that’ll mean for his character. I think ultimately he’s probably going to regain Casterly Rock, but I don’t see him as anything more than an advisor to Dany. I don’t see him becoming Hand of the King. In fact, I still think there will be more of a council-type situation when it comes to the way power is balanced out when the books end.

One thing I am certain of is that the same people that died in the show will die in the books. I do think there will be differences in execution- most notably with regards to Jaime and Cersei (Cersei’s end will be closer to what was prophesised). Actually, this seems like a good time to see how accurate I was with previous predictions:

who lives who dies....png
Who lives, who dies…

Not bad. The only main character that died who I didn’t mention was the Hound (not including Varys and Melisandre who we were told would die). I was definitely overcautious putting Jon on the list- especially when I thought he’d survive up until the eve of Season 8 (though given how his story ended I wish he had got it). Thankfully I was very wrong about Arya- I thought she was heading down a darker path. I suppose we should be grateful for the Hound’s wisdom.

Oh boy, thinking of what I got wrong already, this is definitely the kind of post that won’t age well 😉 As I said before, I could easily be wrong on all of this, but it was a little cathartic to get this out of my system. Perhaps my fumbling about can be seen as evidence for what a difficult job the showrunners had bringing it all together. And I’m sympathetic to that, really. I only wish we hadn’t been put through that fiasco of a finale. Also, because my job does not depend on it, I can safely say this is a democracy and I’m very open to suggestions you have here.

How do you think the books will end? Do you think it will be totally different or much the same as the show? Or are you like me- do you think it will probably be the same, but would like to entertain ideas of it being different? Let me know in the comments!

The Iron Throne Did Not Sit Well with Me (RANT)

 

*Disclaimer: this post comes with SALT and SPOILERS*

salt0007

I might have to do a Drogon. Ya know, I’ve just watched the thing I love get stabbed to death, so I’m gonna have me a little meltdown. Cos I. Am. Not. Happy.

Actually, to be fair, Drogon had the most sophisticated character arc in this whole darn series- though they did try with a few of the others. Dany so easily could have had an interesting descent into villainy and they made a compelling argument for her going mad after the fact. They also had a poetic reference back to her vision, where it’s explicitly shown she was the destructive force all along.

That’s nice and all- it’s just a shame they had to butcher Jon’s character in the process. We’re talking about a character that’s always known right from wrong, who has just witnessed someone murdering a million civilians and he still goes “yOu’lL aLWaYs Be My QuEen.” Yeahhh doesn’t stop him killing her- as I’ve long suspected. And to be fair to the cinematographers and everyone involved, it couldn’t have been more visually stunning. There’s even a beautifully poetic callback to “love is the death of duty”:

duty is the death of love

So why am I so unhappy with it? Well, glad you asked (though I’m sure you’re about to be sorry you did). Because after this beautifully shot scene and exquisitely executed moment, we fade to black, skip a few weeks annnnd then the story goes to shit. Because guess who gets to be king?

*Drumroll please* iiiiiit’s… Bran? Ugh. When I said Bran was underused, I DIDN’T MEAN THIS! Although at least I understand why the actor that plays Bran was the most vocal in saying don’t rewrite the ending 😉 (not that I’m signing any petitions). In all seriousness, it couldn’t have been a worse choice. Now, I know I’ve made no secret of my bias against him (I think he’s boring at best) BUT I have *a lot* of reasons beyond this general dislike to explain why this is a terrible idea.

For starters, this is what I feared the most: the writers choosing a patsy puppet ruler for *shock value*. This is clearly evidenced by the fact none of the reasons for doing so were logical- including the “no one is very happy which means it’s a good compromise I suppose” argument- a point always used to justify terrible decisions. To explain why that’s bad, I’ve done a little diagram:

happy or sad ending diagram

(apologies for butchering scatter diagrams to make my point 😉 )

To put it another way- going with No One Saw That Coming ending is wholly unsatisfying. It doesn’t fit with the *years* of Game of Thrones wisdom that someone who is fit to rule must be both clever and noble. It doesn’t exactly go with the underlying moral that awful things happens when some undeserving sod gets too much power. They try to convince us in double-quick-time that he will be a good ruler… because he immediately does a King Robert and abdicates all the dull responsibilities of ruling- YE WOT MATE?! Oh of course, because the fundamental message of the show is “the king can do what he wants” *insert all the sarcasm*.  

And on the topic of abdicating responsibility, you’re seriously telling me that the Lords and Ladies of Westeros will be on board with him for a ruler?! Apart from being the perfect person to sit in a chair (too far? I don’t care!) why would anyone support this useless prick? BRAN HAS NEVER BEEN IN CHARGE OF SO MUCH AS A GRAIN STORE! He doesn’t inspire loyalty- in fact he’s been a pretty diabolical when you think about it…

he's not the messiah

Because the one thing that supposedly qualifies him to rule is that he’s an all-knowing mystical magician figure. Only problem there is HE LITERALLY KNEW DANY WOULD MURDER A BUNCH OF PEOPLE AND HE LET HER DO IT SO HE COULD GET THE THRONE! He is complicit in mass murder!! WTF? If Jon is apparently no longer a valid choice, because he killed the raving lunatic that butchered a city, how in the hell is Bran suitable when he did nothing to stop the destruction of King’s Landing?! The little creep has been playing some effed up 4D chess, where he manipulated Jon into revealing his heritage, and then screwed him over.

making evil plans bran.png

And don’t give me that “he doesn’t want it” crap- the real reason Bran said “I will never be lord of anything” appears to be cos he was thinking “hahaha cos I’m gonna steal the throne from the rightful heir! Suckers!” Oh, what clever foreshadowing! *insert yet more sarcasm*. Again, this foreshadowing is the writers not bothering to actually do some damn character development, just putting a wink and a nod for their dumbass plans.

Also, Bran’s story sucked. No storyteller would think he’s the obvious choice. If you’re trying to find a legitimate ruler, maybe go for the guy who has the most legitimate claim AND put down the last bonkers ruler. Ya know, the guy whose story has come full circle and fulfilled his character arc. Think Henry Tudor coming in from nowhere and winning the war of the Roses cos he’s secretly the heir.

Now I do get some of the reasons to crown Jon. Truth be told, I was expecting him to abdicate in favour of a council and go north anyway. And there are some nice parallels with Jaime (ie not getting credit for doing the right thing) buuuut anyone with eyes will admit the way they concluded his story is insane. They’ve really done the dirty on his character. Let’s break down why:

  1. They removed all his agency by not making it HIS CHOICE.
  2. He didn’t even have an effing trial!! Psycho Bran doesn’t even try to get him off the hook!
  3. All the notes Varys sent out to reveal Jon’s heritage are never brought up. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY! (seriously, I am sick and tired of this technique that “you’ve been paying attention, you know what’s going on, so we’re gonna reward you with… A STORY THAT MAKES NO SENSE!” Thanks for slapping logic in the face I guess.)

I genuinely would’ve preferred the whole democracy ending- even if I thought it was trite and inaccurate for the time period. It literally couldn’t have been worse than this. Sansa had the right idea about getting out of there pronto (and Sophie Turner was right in bracing us all for disappointment). Seriously, she had one of the only ending I was satisfied with, because at least she’s proven a worthy ruler.

Oh, and Ghost finally got his pat on the head (we waited 3 episodes for that!) Which brings us back full circle to the fact that this had so many fantastic elements, so why oh why did it have to end like this? I didn’t want or need a happy ending- I was geared up for bittersweet as promised. If anything, this was too stupidly saccharine for words. Daft in a way that undermines so much of what had come before. So yeah after that criticise the LOTR ending again- I DARE YOU!

Sorry for all my RAGE- I might be over this in a few years (my wounds hopefully salved by GRRM’s book maybe?) but until then I’m going to sink into a depressed stupor take time to cool off. I was planning on doing predictions for the books, but there’s not enough room here and I think I’ve blown all my energy on this post. So, you’ll have to put up with one last GOT related post 😉

Alright, did you love it or hate it? Let me have it in the comments!