It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
So the bad news is, Game of Thrones is officially on hiatus until next spring. The other really bad news is that you probably won't sleep until then, because the episode's final sequence, which finally revealed the gathering numbers of White Walker zombies descending upon Westeros, was absolutely petrifying. Kudos to showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for ending the season on yet another visually haunting high note that will keep people talking for months, and kudos to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) for just showing up. But more on that later.
Tonight's finale did a great job of setting the stage for a sure to be dynamic season three, without relying on cheap cliffhangers or sex and death just for the sake of sex and death. We know where most of our characters will be headed when the action resumes, and in Thrones' case, that's even better than wondering what the hell happened to so-and-so when he got into that fight with what's-his-face. In other words, the episode did a great job of wrapping up the season's plethora of plot lines, while simultaneously opening up newer, deadlier paths to explore. God, I'm excited. Let's break it down by character so we don't get a headache.
Theon's end was interesting, as it diverted so far from A Clash of Kings that I really have no idea where it could possibly be going. Also, his final scene with Maester Luwin revealed a level of tragic self-awareness that we've never seen from book-Theon, making his pathetic "defeat" almost sympathetic. All in all — I liked it!
As promised, Robb Stark's men arrived at Winterfell, where they patiently waited outside for the usurper to surrender — if "patiently waiting" means blowing a horn repeatedly to annoy Theon half to death until he met them outside. Unfortunately he never got there, because his own men knocked him out cold after he made his best attempt at a motivational battle speech in Winterfell's yard. They dragged him away to God-knows-where, but the most important thing I took from Theon's scenes was this: TV Theon is fully aware of the fact that he messed up — that he is now the bad guy. He explained to Luwin that having to hear how lucky you are for being a kindly-treated lifelong prisoner is maddening, and it's even worse when you finally return home to your true family and they ridicule and practically disown you. He knew he had done the wrong thing by deserting Robb, but he also knew that it was too late to hope for any redemption. "I've come too far to pretend to be anything else," he said. Theon's next chapter is a mystery even for readers at this point, and I'm very excited to see what sort of man emerges in season three.
We didn't have to wait very long to find out who gave Tyrion that nasty face-cut during the battle at Blackwater: It was Ser Mandon Moore, a now-deceased knight who was most definitely in Cersei's employ. Tyrion woke up to find a much different King's Landing than the one he fell asleep in: Order seemed to be restored, but he was no longer a part of it. Grand Maester Pycelle — the one that Tyrion put in jail earlier this season — gleefully informed Tyrion that Tywin had won the battle, and was now officially the Hand of the King. Bronn had been fired from the city watch, and the rest of Tyrion's allies had been promptly dispersed — even Varys couldn't risk their friendship anymore. Shae suggested an escape to Pentos where they could "eat, drink, f**k, live," but Tyrion insisted that his place was in King's Landing, where all of the devious action was.
This recent shift in power was bad for Tyrion, but probably even worse for Sansa: Because Tywin had won the battle with the help of his new allegiance with the powerful Tyrell family, Joffrey would now wed Margaery instead of Sansa. At first, Sansa seemed to be elated by this news. Who wouldn't be? But then Petyr Baelish, the man responsible for brokering the Tyrell deal, hit her with an unfortunate truth bomb. "He'll still enjoy beating you," he said. "And now that you're a woman, he'll be able to enjoy you in other ways as well. Joffrey is not the sort of boy who gives away his toys." Ay yi yi! Things are never good for Sansa. Baelish said that he would help Sansa escape to honor his lifelong love for her mother, but Sansa insisted that her home was in King's Landing. Smart.
Elsewhere, Varys approached the eternally suffering whore Ros with a proposition that we didn't actually get to hear. All we got was this: "Littlefinger looks at you and sees a collection of profitable holes. I see a potential partner." Varys was seething when Littlefinger was offered Harrenhal as a gift for brokering the Tyrell deal, so I would safely bet that Varys has a nasty plan up his sleeve for next season. Don't doubt the spider.
These two didn't get very far on their journey to King's Landing, but we did get to see some impressed looks on the Kingslayer's face when Brienne took out three Stark men who had viciously murdered then displayed three tavern wenches who had "serviced" their Lannister opponents. "I don't serve the Starks," Brienne explained. "I serve Lady Catelyn." Jaime had been taunting-slash-jokingly threatening to rape Brienne before this deadly interaction, but it's becoming more and more clear that Jaime Lannister has never met a person like Brienne of Tarth in his entire cray-cray life. Let's look forward to more of them next spring.
Against Catelyn's wishes, Robb and Talisa are now mawwwied — and that's pretty much all that happened in Camp Stark tonight. It was a small ceremony (seriously, I didn't see anyone there), and the couple seemed to be very much in love. Catelyn again warned Robb that the Frey family wouldn't take kindly to this massive diss, but young love is usually pretty stupid. Good luck, you crazy kids!
Speaking of hot and heavy couples, Stannis won the Matthew Fox award for violence against women in this week's episode. He safely made it back to Dragonstone after his crushing defeat at Blackwater (no word on Davos), but he was pretty miffed at Melisandre and her Lord of Light for leading him astray. He finally expressed some remorse for murdering Renly, but Melisandre insisted that they both carried that load, and that it would all be well worth it in the end. He started to strangle her to see if her Lord of Light would come through and save her, but let go when it seemed that her death was the far more likely outcome. Melisandre is terrible, but still — not cool, Stannis.
After her near-death experience, Melisandre had Stannis look into the flames so that he could clearly see his eventual victory. Apparently he did, and order was quickly restored over in crazy-town.
Jaqen H'ghar made good on his promise: When we met up with Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie, they had already escaped Harrenhal and were making their way through the forrest. Jaqen found them right away, and told Arya that the rest of the names on her death list — Cersei, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, The Hound, Bran, that one kid that was mean to her that one time, Talisa who she hadn't even met — could be scratched off if she went with him to Braavos to learn to be a "Faceless Man". I don't think that I was the only one screaming, "GO, ARYA!" But, alas, it was not yet meant to be: Arya still wanted to find the remaining members of her family. Jaqen gave her a coin, and told her to say the following words to any man from the city of Braavos if she wanted to find him again: "Valar Morghulis." They said their goodbyes, then Jaqen magically changed his face into one that was much less attractive. Pity. Well, at least we know how he got away with all of those murders.
With Winterfell burnt to the ground by Theon's men, the little Starks needed a plan, stat. Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and their direwolves ran into a dying Maester Luwin (Who was stabbed defending Theon! Of all things!) near the wreckage, and he brought up a very good point: Everything south of Winterfell was a war-torn mess, so they should probably go north to the Wall to crash with Jon. The boys walked away, and Osha put Luwin out of his misery at his own request. Sad.
If Bran and co. were aware of Jon's current predicament, they might not be so eager to head up north to join him. If you recall, the famed ranger Qhorin Halfhand told Snow that one ranger in a wildling camp was worth 1,000 fighting against them, so Jon's latest assignment was to act as a turncloak. Qhorin made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Jon's success — as they approached the "King Beyond the Wall" Mance Rayder's camp, Qhorin made a feigned attempt on Jon's life to further convince the silly-looking Lord of Bones that the bastard was on their side. When Qhorin hit Jon where it hurt — he insulted his family — the angered Snow had no choice but to fight back and kill him. (Aside: This, much like Theon's departure, also went much differently in the books. Qhorin asked Jon to kill him, leading to an agonizing decision that aged the bastard ten years in five minutes. That version was tougher, but this one saved a lot of time on the production schedule.) Bones promptly let his former prisoner walk free, but not before announcing that they would have to burn Qhorin so his corpse wouldn't come running after them. "You can tell Mance that's the man who killed Qhorin Halfhand," Ygritte said proudly. She cannot WAIT to have sex with Jon next year. Jon and his new friends looked down from the top of a cliff, where thousands upon thousands of wildlings had gathered with Mance.
Finally it was time to enter the House of the Undying, where the manorexic warlock Pyat Pree had been keeping Dany's dragons. She came upon a number of doors, the first of which revealed a snowy, post-apocalyptic version of King's Landing's throne room. She looked but didn't touch, then entered the next room, which contained the giant gate in the middle of the Wall. This must have been even more confusing for Dany than it was for us, as she has still physically never been to any of these places. Anyway, beyond the Wall there was a tent, and inside that tent there was... Khal freakin' Drogo!
Drogo held his and Dany's roughly one-year-old son in this vision — a vision that Dany knew was a trick from Pree, but it was still great to see her get some closure out of that horrible situation. "If this is a dream I will kill the man who tries to wake me," dream-Drogo said. Sigh. It would have been nice to see these two raise the stallion that would mount the world, but that was never going to be Dany's journey. She turned away from the romantic vision, then came to the room that housed Pree and her dragons. Pree explained that the rebirth of the dragons had led to the rebirth of his power, then chained Dany to the middle of the room. She gave one single command — "dracarys" — and her dragons spit-fired Pree into a pile of nothing. Yikes. My fellow readers must have been similarly shocked, as the dragons' powers are unleashed much, much later in the books. That particular sequence is shocking, horrifying, and ultimately very earned. Admittedly, I was worried about Dany's scenes this season — her journey is pretty boring until book five. I get that the producers needed to amp up her storyline, but I really hope that the thing I'm talking about still happens. Just trust me on this one.
When all was said and done, Dany, Jorah and co. returned to Xaro's house to find him in bed with her former trusted slave, Doreah. They locked the traitors in Xaro's vault, which just-so-happened to be completely empty. All of that drivel about combining forces to take over Westeros was just a big, fat lie. Dany thanked Xaro for teaching her a valuable lesson — don't trust rich people — then robbed him so she could buy a boat to get the hell out of there.
Okay, this is where things went from regular insane to absolutely batsh*t crazy. None of this happened in the books, so I was just as shocked and horrified as the rest of you. Sam and his brothers heard the Night's Watch horn blown three times: One blow is for a ranger returning, two is for wildlings, and three is for White Walkers, or, in other words, three is for "Get the f**k out of there." The rest of the men dispersed, but Sam was too fat to keep up. He hid as best he could, as an army of walking dead that was ten times scarier than any army from the show The Walking Dead marched by, seemingly oblivious to his presence. One of them stared straight into Sam's eyes/the camera, and very possibly my soul. It was petrifying. He was riding a zombie horse.
So, there you have it. For two years in a row, Game of Thrones ended with a haunting CGI image that will captivate and torture viewers just enough to make the wait for another season incredibly painful. It's been a pleasure.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: HBO]
Game of Thrones Season Finale
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.