Thursday, April 17, 2014

(does anyone care) whodunnit?

Contains (show, not book) spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones ...

Medieval fantasy world wedding planners take note. Westeros may not be such a hot idea as your go-to wedding destination. While everyone is still reeling from last season's eventful and bloody Red Wedding, last Sunday night gave viewers the nuptials of twerp-king and all-around bad guy Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and the lovely Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Or as it is better known to fans of the fantasy series, the Purple Wedding.

Head for the hills — it's a wedding in Westeros (Image from The Big Lead)

Apart from Margaery and Joffrey's happy day there were other things going on in "The Lion and the Rose," including check-ins with Bran (good), Ramsay Snow and Theon/Reek (disturbing), and Stannis (still as boring as ever), but who are we kidding? There was a royal wedding in King's Landing, and that's the only place I wanted to be. "The Lion and the Rose" is also the only episode this season written by A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin.

Fans of the series may not have had any cool CGI White Walker zombies this episode, but they certainly got something they had been waiting a long time for - the demise of one of the nastiest characters in the series or on television. Yes, finally, we watched Joffrey die, but not before he either insulted, tormented, or offended everyone in the vicinity.

The episode had fun teasing its audience by throwing in some clues (or red herrings) as to who may have poisoned the brat king. If Hercule Poirot or his Westeros equivalent has been on the scene he would undoubtedly assemble a list of suspects in the Iron Throne Room and grill them all. As it was, the hateful and heartbroken Cersei (Lena Headey) pointed at her despised brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), accused him of murdering his nephew, and ordered the guards to grab him.

Tyrion offers Joffrey his wine cup as Sansa looks on 
But did Tyrion do it? He certainly had ample motive. Seeing Joffrey taunt and disrespect his uncle in "The Lion and the Rose" was just as uncomfortable onscreen as it was to read in the book. Tyrion did handle Joffrey's wine glass, at the king's own mocking insistence, but he did so in full view of all the wedding party and guests. Joffrey, possibly the most widely hated of Game of Thrones characters, invited murder from many angles. Such as:

Sansa (Sophie Turner). A person who may have had more motive than anyone for wanting Joffrey dead, Sansa did handle the wine cup as she handed it to Tyrion. But she has always been a reactive sort, not one to take action. Now if Arya had been there ... Could Sansa be in cahoots with Sir Dontos (Tony Way), once a knight, and now a Fool, who she once stopped Joffrey from having killed? She was wearing the necklace that Sir Dontos gave her at the wedding.

The Tyrells. This ambitious family wants to rule in King's Landing, but they have been very carefully and systematically scoping out just how much of a monster Joffrey is before the wedding. Margaery did feed Joffrey pie - but was the poison in the pie or the wine? As heinous as the prospect of being his bride might be to Margaery, would it really be in her advantage to kill him off before they produce an heir? She is Quenn now, but with Joffrey dead, will she stay that way? Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), her grandmother, who paid for the event, was hovering nearby and could have spiked the wine. She might be doing her granddaughter a small favor by killing off Joffrey before the wedding night, but how will his death affect the family politically in the long term? 
Lady Olenna, trying to console Sansa about her brother Robb's recent death, “War is war, but killing a man at a wedding. Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.” 
Olenna eyes the fateful cup
Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). He has a long-standing grudge against the Lannisters, as he made very clear to Tyrion last week. Plenty of motive, but less likely to have had access to Joffrey's wine or food.

As much as the death of Joffrey was the main event (and shock to those who haven't read A Storm of Swords), there were some other fun things happening at the wedding. Until her beloved first-born monster died in her arms, Cersei was having a great time, trying to thwart Margaery's efforts to feed the poor, making noble Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) beyond-uncomfortable, insulting anyone who crossed her path. Good times.

But now the broken-hearted and vengeful mother has found a way to finally eliminate little brother Tyrion. What will Tywin (Charles Dance) think or do? Will he be broken up about his grandson's death? Where does this leave Margaery and her clan? And who will viewers love to hate as much as the evil Joffrey? I may have to reread A Storm of Swords). I don't know if I can wit until next week to find out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

pharrell takes over the world

In case you missed it, Pharrell Williams got something in his eye when he sat down to talk to Oprah the other day. It is pretty amazing how infectious his song "Happy" is. It is definitely striking a chord with people all over the world.

" ... people are putting up their own videos. It was, like, no longer my song."

And if having such a huge smash song wasn't enough, Pharrell is set to join the music competition show The Voice next year as a judge. Sounds like a reason to tune in again. Keep surfing this wave Pharrell, and making folks happy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

superhero fatigue

I have been known to geek out and watch superhero movies, although I tend to be more interested in sci-fi and fantasy than famous comic book characters. But I have to admit that as cute as Chris Hemsworth is as Thor (and even cuter Tom Hiddleston as Loki) I am experiencing some serious superhero fatigue. I can't tell the difference between Iron Man 1, 2, or 3 and I simply don't care. I'm willing to bet that Robert Downey Jr. would find himself similarly challenged. I'm still not sure what brought us into the theater to see the first Captain America, but I have no intention of seeing #2. The only thing that I took away from seeing The Green Lantern was that Ryan Reynolds looked a little cross-eyed. Did CGI bring that unfortunate detail to light? I'm no fan of the Christian Bale as Batman movies, either.

What might have been ... Nicolas Cage in a costume test as Superman for Tim Burton's Superman Lives

But as much as I am starting to dislike the genre, I sat down and tried to watch Man of Steel the other day. It turned out to be just impossible. It is loud, ugly, incomprehensible, and the worst sin of all, completely boring. No matter how buff Henry Cavill may be, his Superman was just a big "No." Neither a plucky Amy Adams as Lois Lane, nor an earnest Russell Crowe as Superman's dad could save it. I didn't even get far enough into it to check out Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. All Man of Steel did was make me wonder what a Nicolas Cage Superman movie might have been like.

I suppose the Superman/Batman movie (with Ben Affleck as Batman, yikes) coming up will get an audience, but I am starting to wonder why. Lots of dark, murky action and way too-long and too noisy CGI explosion scenes seem to be the blueprint for all of these movies. Are comic books really Hollywood's only source material? Yawn.

Monday, April 14, 2014

grimm: below the surface

Grimm is a television show that has been running on NBC since the 2011 fall season. Part procedural cop show, part fantasy, the series follows Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who is descended from a long line of hunter/protectors known as Grimms. After his Aunt Marie is killed, Nick inherits the family business, from her extensive weapon collection to some super-human abilities. Grimms have the ability to see Wesen, creatures with animal characteristics that live among humans. Many Wesen are dangerous to humans and prey upon them, but as Nick becomes more and more comfortable with his supernatural abilities he learns that there are friendly, even helpful, Wesen too.

Titan Publishing has recently released a companion book and comprehensive guide to the series, Grimm: Below the Surface. Using content compiled from previously published souvenir magazines, Grimm Exclusive Collector's Edition Special #1 and #2, the book covers all aspects of the show, from behind-the scenes props and special effects to the ever-growing and evolving Wesen mythology.


David Giuntoli plays Nick Burkhardt, a newly-minted Grimm

What Adalind Shade really looks like - the Hexenbiest

The 176-page book is nicely designed and is full of great color photos from the series. It covers the first two seasons of the series, and includes synopses of each of the 44 episodes. But what will truly thrill most fans are the many excerpts from "Aunt Marie's Casebook." Nick and the gang must frequently hit the books to determine what monster-of-the-week is plaguing Portland, but Nick's collection of Aunt Marie's notes and extensive illustrations of the Wesen community are usually only glimpsed in brief on the show. Grimm: Below the Surface features many detailed descriptions of some of the series' most popular monsters and otherworldly creatures, complete with useful factoids (physical traits, known enemies, how to kill them) as well as detailed illustrations. Profiles include: Grimms, Blutbad (Big Bad Wolves like Monroe), the bat-like Murciélago, Dämonfeuer, the toad-eating ladykillers called Ziegevolk, the lion-like Löwen and bee-like Mellifer, the zombie/witch Hexenbiest, and one of the creepiest yet most poignant Wesen, the Spinnetod, a sort of Black Widow portrayed by Amy Acker in "Tarantella." ...

You can read my complete review on Cinema Sentries.