With the writers teasing the Battle for Castle Black all season, and the reveal that it would be the focus of a full hour of the show, fans were expecting "The Watchers on the Wall" to be a major, show-stopping episode. What they got was... well, fine.
That's not to say that it wasn't impressive — it was, with dramatic action moments, an excellent tracking shot through the carnage of the battle, and a CGI woolly mammoth. "The Watchers on the Wall" is reportedly the most expensive episode in Game of Thrones' history, and the high production values show in the stunning (if gruesome) visuals and the myriad creative ways in which people meet their ends. But while the episode succeeds on a visual level, it falls flat on an emotional one, downplaying or even ignoring some of its more significant moments and cutting out on an ending that doesn't seem to resolve anything.
Centering an entire episode of Jon Snow is always going to be a gamble for a show that thrives on conniving and snark. Though I personally feel both he and Kit Harington have grown more compelling over the past few seasons, he's never going to light up the screen the way Peter Dinklage or Lena Headey does, which is why it's so frustrating that the emotional beats of his story don't seem to have any resonance or depth. The episode is clearly setting up Jon's ascension to Lord Commander, based on the way he takes control of the Wall before running into the fray at the last moment to save the day, and yet the show doesn't give his decision to take the helm any real weight.
Jon's arc this week has three main points: his conflict with Ser Allisair, his relationship with Ygritte and stepping into an authoritative role. The first is resolved in a conversation between the two atop the Wall, as they gaze out at the thousands of Wildlings preparing to attack. Ser Allisair finally admits that he should have listened when Jon warned them about the impending raid, explaining that leadership means listening to everyone criticising your decisions, but never second-guessing them yourself - a life lesson that seems designed to cover up the fact that Ser Allisar just doesn't like Jon. The parallels between the two characters are obvious, with both of them heading down to the gates at different points in the battle, but it's all undercut somewhat by Allisair simply being dragged offscreen after taking a swipe to the side.
Then there's Ygritte. From the outset of the episode, it's clear that this battle is just as much about their relationship as it is the Wildling's and the Night's Watch. These two characters were at their best together — whatever Harington lacks in charisma, Rose Leslie has in spades, while he gives her more to do than just sharpen arrows and threaten other Wildlings — and their quiet standoff in the middle of the battle is where the episode has the most tension. But her death, due to a well-timed arrow by Ollie, doesn't have the impact it should have. However, the aftermath of her death does allow Harington to give one of his best performances, as his permanent grimace gives way to defeated weariness while he helps the Brothers capture the last of the Wildings. That exhaustion is clear in his last few scenes with Sam, as he stares fixedly ahead and marches into the snow, determined to keep fighting for the Wall, no matter the cost.
If Jon's arc is about maturing into an authoritative role, Sam's is about maturing into a protector, someone who can look after Gilly and the other Brothers. His frantic plan to lock Gilly away is a direct contrast to the experienced sarcasm he shares with Pyp as they attempt to take out some Wildings from the gates. He might not be a man when it comes to his relationships with women, but he's got enough steel to guide a nervous Pyp through his first real battle. Though he connects Jon's story to the Brothers down below, the ones who haven't faced down Mance Rayder and White Walkers, he doesn't get much to do, and his triumphant return to Gilly never earns its feeling of victory.
And yet the sight of Sam returning to the storeroom, blood on his clothes and exhaustion in his face, to find Janos Slint cowering behind the door does feel like a small triumph for the "coward" of the Night's Watch. Though he spent much of his first few scenes talking about how scared he was about dying so soon, once the battle started, Sam instantly snapped into soldier mode, proving that he's already on his way into becoming the man he's always wanted to be. Watching him coach a shaking, terrified Pyp into taking out a Wildling is what makes the former's untimely death heart-rending. Not enough time has been dedicated to Pyp as a character to give his death the same kind of weight as Ygritte's, but the show does manage to drive home the horrors of war (and Westeros) by sending an arrow through his throat right after he gazes at Sam with boyish pride. Not every boy in Westeros will live to become a man.
Still, any point that "The Watchers on the Wall" attempts to make about maturity and masculinity and war interrupting both of those journeys pales in comparison to the real star of the episode: the effects. Director Neil Marshall does a great job with the action, cutting between large-scale fights and smaller attacks. He even manages to add some humor to some of the more gruesome killings, showing cocky, taunting Wildlings being immediately struck down by arrows, driving home the size and power of the giants by catapulting a Brother into the air, only to have him land clear on the other side of the Wall, and showcasing the effectiveness of the scythe with a close-up of a lone, detached arm. He uses a lot of the same visual tricks that he used on the show's last full-hour battle episode, "Blackwater," lighting everything with flames and showcasing the epic scale of the fight before pulling in to focus on the individuals fighting.
But where "Blackwater" managed to combine the violent spectacle with character beats that would have a long-term effect on the show, "The Watchers on the Wall" feels like all flash and no substance. The battle ends for the night, and Jon warns that there's more fighting left to come, which seems to lessen the impact any of the deaths would have had. While it makes a nice point about war having a clear or easy victor, the lack of resolution leaves me feeling like the Battle for Castle Black didn't need an entire episode to itself. There's a great deal about this particular battle in the books that would have easily fit into this hour, and would have helped the writers tie several elements of the show together nicely. As it is, sending Jon back into the fray leaves us with an ending to a drawn-out story that simply lacks any payoff.
Grade: C+, Or One Terrified Pyp and One Brave Grenn. With you gone, there will be nobody left to add some much-needed sass to the dour Castle Black.
This Post Contains Spoilers for Season 4 of Game of Thrones.
It's always difficult when your favorite character gets killed on a television show. You've spent weeks getting to know them, growing to care about them, and watching them go on adventures, and so when the Grim Reaper finally comes for them, it's a bit like losing a family member. Nobody knows that pain nearly as well as those who watch Game of Thrones, which seems to kill off a beloved character every other week. Luckily, we have some good news for fans of Pedro Pascal's Oberyn Martell: you will get to see him again.
Technically, you'll only be seeing Pascal, who has been cast in the upcoming Netflix series Narcos, according to Deadline. The drama will follow the legendary drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), and the efforts of the US government to take him down. Pascal will play Javier Pena, a DEA agent who is sent on a mission to capture and kill Escobar - as long as he doesn't get too distracted plotting his revenge. However, the Red Viper isn't the only person killed this season who will be popping up somewhere new, so in order to help you through the grieving process, we've rounded up all of the major characters who died this year on Game of Thrones, and where you can catch them next.
Pedro Pascal Who He Played: Oberyn Martell, Prince of Dorne, trader of barbs, seeker or revenge and bedder of anything with a pulse. How He Died: His head was smashed in by Ser Gregor Clegane during Tyrion Lannister’s trial by combat. What He’s Doing Next: Playing Javier Pena, a Mexican DEA agent on the upcoming Netflix drama Narcos, which is slated for a 2015 premiere. He’s also starring in the TV movie Exposed, about an investigative photojournalist, and the vampire film Bloodsucking Bastards.
Kate DickieWho She Played: Lysa Arryn, Lady of the Vale, widow of former Hand of the King Jon Arryn, new wife of Petyr Baelish, and overly attached helicopter parent of Robin Arryn. How She Died: She was shoved through the Moon Door by Petyr Baelish. Her death was ruled a suicide. What She’s Doing Next: Starring opposite James McAvoy in Filth, which is currently in theaters, as well as The Silent Storm with Homeland’s Damian Lewis, and the indies Take It Back and Start It All Over and A Northern Soul.
Burn Gorman Who He Played: Karl Tanner, one of the most disgusting, reviled people in the Seven Kingdoms... and considering the characters on this show, that’s quite an achievement. How He Died: Jon Snow ran him through with a sword during a raid on Craster’s Keep, which Karl had taken over. What He’s Doing Next: Currently starring on the AMC series Turn as the British commanding officer Major Hewlitt. He’s also playing Mr. Bran in the upcoming Disney film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and is reuniting with his Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro for the upcoming vampire film Crimson Peak.
Jack Gleeson Who He Played: Joffrey Baratheon, the worst, most insufferable child king who ever lived. How He Died: He was poisoned at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell, in a plot by her grandmother, Lady Olenna and Petyr Baratheon. His uncle Tyrion has just been found guilty for his murder. What He’s Doing Next: Gleeson has retired from acting in order to focus on his studies – he’s currently enrolled at Trinity College in Dublin, where he’s studying Philosophy and Theology – and to pursue some more philanthropic ventures. Basically, the real King Joffrey is a wonderful human being.
Noah TaylorWho He Played: Locke, a hired hand who works for House Bolton, and the guy who cut off Jaime Lannister’s hand. How He Died: After he infiltrated the Night’s Watch and accompanied them on the raid to Craster’s Keep, his neck was snapped by Hodor after he attempted to kidnap Bran. Well, technically, he was killed by Bran, who was currently using his Warg abilities to inhabit Hodor’s mind. What He’s Doing Next: In addition to a playing a supporting role in Edge of Tomorrow, which is currently in theaters, Taylor will appear in the Ethan Hawke time-travel film Predestination and Welcome to Karastan opposite Matthew McFayden. He’s also doing voice work in the upcoming Maya the Bee Movie, alongside Jacki Weaver and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Andy Kellegher Who He Played: Polliver, a Lannister man-at-arms who stabbed Arya’s friend Lommy and stole her sword. How He Died: Arya stabs him through the throat after re-enacting the way that he killed Lommy. What He’s Doing Next: Appearing in two Irish films: A Nightingale Falling, which takes place during the Irish War for Independence, and The Hit Producer, which follows a down on his luck music producer as he journeys into the underworld of modern-day Dublin.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Nobody in Hollywood embodies the "hit or miss" phenomenon to a greater degree than Tom Cruise does. Some love his energy, some think he's a wacko. With some of the most iconic movies of the past few decades and some of the most infamous clunkers to boot, Cruise is a master of keeping us guessing. After a string of lesser performances, his latest film Edge of Tomorrow reminds us of the sort of talent Cruise can embody when he's got the right role. It's the latest "great" in a long line, interwoven with an equally long line of "terribles." Here's a quick rundown of the lion's share of Cruise's roles, assessing which side of the coin he ends up on with each:
The Outsiders Great: Steve Randle isn't the biggest or most iconic character in the film, but it's hard to imagine the ensemble working so well together without him. Stay gold, Cruise.
Risky Business Great: Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact moment that someone becomes a star. For Cruise, it was that first tighty-whitey clad sock-slide through his living room.
Top Gun Terrible: Yeah, it might be his most iconic role of all time, but what do you really remember from this movie: Cruise’s empty smile or their planes doing barrel rolls? That’s what we thought.
Rain Man Great: Dustin Hoffman might have the more memorable role, but it would be nothing without Cruise’s quietly excellent performance.
Born on the Fourth of July Great: Cruise deservedly earned his first Oscar nomination for his intense, transformative performance as a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how well the guy can act.
Days of ThunderGreat: Sure, it's basically Top Gun with cars, but at least Cruise has some personality in this one.
A Few Good Men Great: It takes a lot of talent to hold your own opposite Jack Nicholson, but Cruise managed to do that, and then some.
Interview with the VampireTerrible: The most memorable thing about Cruise's take on the legendary vampire Lestat was the frizzy, straw-like wig that the production team plopped on his head.
Mission: Impossible I - IVGreat: No action hero brings out the best in Tom Cruise quite like Ethan Hunt.
Jerry MaguireGreat: It might be hard to believe in these post-couch jump days, but once upon a time Cruise was the most charming heartthrob in Hollywood, and this is the performance that scored him that title.
Eyes Wide ShutGreat: Before Keith and Nicole and before TomKat, Cruise and Kidman were Hollywood's hottest power couple, and Eyes Wide Shut is a showcase of both stars' big screen prowess.
MagnoliaGreat: Whenever Cruise steps away from the heroic leading men he normally plays, something magical happens, and his performance in Magnolia is the best example of that law in action.
Vanilla SkyTerrible: What Vanilla Sky needed was a strong, complex, layered performance to anchor the film. What it got was an overly smarmy, obnoxious, befuddled Cruise.
Minority Report Great: Carrying a blockbuster film is tough. Carrying a blockbuster film that's also an iconic sci-fi epic with time travel, crime, plot twists, murder, and intrigue? That requires Tom Cruise.
The Last Samurai Terrible: We can only imagine that Cruise's "Keanu Reeves in a Samurai film" impression is what eventually inspired Universal to make 47 Ronin.
CollateralGreat: Cruise was a long way into his career before he finally played the villain in a film, but he seemed to be a natural at it. Maybe it's that manic grin that makes him so convincing.
War of the Worlds Terrible: It’s not really his fault. Everything about this movie was terrible, but Cruise’s flat, blank-stared hero definitely didn’t help matters.
Tropic Thunder Great: Nobody expected Cruise to be the breakout star of this movie, but it proved that it’s not heroic action movies where he truly shines – it’s in a fat suit and a comb-over.
Valkyrie Terrible: You know what? The less we say about this one, the better.
Rock of AgesTerrible: Because when you think "sexy, legendary, bad-boy rock star," you think of the guy who played Jerry Maguire, right?
Jack ReacherTerrible: It only took one shot of Cruise failing to look intimidating while surrounded by thugs in the trailer for audiences to realize that the lead was gravely miscast. It was like watching a kindergartener take on the fifth graders.
Oblivion Terrible: This movie is solidly mediocre, but a charmless Cruise sinks it to subterranean levels.
Edge of TomorrowGreat: As it turns out, all Cruise needs to get back whatever career mojo he's lost is an interesting concept, a giant robot suit and the freedom to be a complete and total jackass.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Warning: Spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars to follow!
Even if you know nothing else about The Fault in Our Stars, you’re probably aware of the fact that it is going to make you cry. The book will make you cry, the film — which opens June 6 — will make you cry, the music videos for the soundtrack will make you cry, and if you’re a particularly dedicated fan, even the word “Okay” can make you shed a tear or two. But lest you think that The Fault in Our Stars contains nothing but moments perfectly calibrated to leave you a sobbing mess on a movie theater floor, there are several moments in the film that won’t make you misty-eyed.
Seven of them, to be exact. And it is precisely those small reprieves from the two-hour roller coaster of devastation that will help you make it through The Fault in Our Stars in one piece. Just when you think you can't physically cry any more, these tiny segments of happiness will come along and bolster your spirits before, giving you the strength you need to make it to the end of Hazel and Gus' love story. Because we want you to be able to savor those fleeting moments of joy when they come around, we've rounded them all up so that you'll be able to recognize the perfect time to blow your nose and wipe your eyes when it comes along.
The Opening Scenes, with Hazel Moping Around the House Wait, stay with us! It sounds like it would be terribly depressing to watch a teenage girl with cancer lie on the couch and watch television, but it is actually one of the few non-life ruining scenes in the film. In fact, Laura Dern’s relentlessly up-beat demeanor actually makes it pretty funny.
Anything with Mike Birbiglia Any time you see Mike Birbiglia, a.k.a. Patrick, the obliviously uncool support group leader onscreen, you should savor those moments. He only gets three scenes (and an acoustic ditty about Jesus), but they’re the most traditionally comedic moments in the whole movie. So, enjoy the laughs while they’re coming, because the second Hazel and Gus make eye contact, it’s all over.
Hazel Waiting for Gus to Call After the initial meet-cute, but before they fall completely in love, there’s a small sequence in which Hazel waits impatiently for Gus to text her. Cherish these moments, and the quiet, hopeful look on Shailene Woodley’s face. Cherish the way she lights up when he finally does text. Cherish the way your heart is warmed, but your eyes remain clear – this is the last time this will happen.
Isaac Handling His Breakup by Breaking Things Sure, you’re going to want to focus on Hazel and Gus flirting in the foreground of this scene, but you should really be focusing on Isaac (Nat Wolff) smashing trophies behind them. Revel in the hilarity that the juxtaposition of these two scenes causes and remember the awkwardness of helping your friend though a breakup. Isaac and Monica are the only relationship in this movie that won’t shatter your heart, so appreciate that.
Gus Gets a Reply from Pete Van Houten Depending on how emotional you are or how well you know the book, this might make you tear up a little bit, but hold strong. This is a happy scene, a moment of triumph and celebration. From here it’s nothing but heartbreak and bawling into a bucket of popcorn the size of your head. Choose this moment to save your tears.
Hazel, Gus, and Isaac Egg Monica’s House This is it: the last moment of joy left in this film. By now, you’ve probably experienced the first wave of tears, so really take a moment to revel in the happiness that three teenagers throwing eggs at a car can bring you. Feel the thrill of watching Isaac avenge his broken heart. Every single scene after this will leave you devastated, so allow this fleeting scene of exhilaration to bolster you through the last act of this movie. Trust us, when it’s all done, you’ll look back on this moment fondly, and then you’ll probably cry with nostalgia.
See, it's not all completely gut-wrenching and heartbreaking!
Walt Disney Pictures via Everett Collection
With Frozen still raking in cash months after it first hit theaters and Maleficent dominating last week’s box office, it seems like Disney princesses are once again an unstoppable force. The studio is hoping to extend its current hot streak by bringing Beauty and the Beast, one of their most beloved properties back to the big screen in a live action movie. Variety reports that Dreamgirls director Bill Condon has been tapped to helm the feature film, which is just one of several live-action adaptations that Disney has in production.
Thus far, no details have been released about what direction they’re planning for the film, although hiring Condon does seem to imply that they might be interesting in making a full-scale musical. However, Condon has a handful of non-musical blockbusters on his resume – including the final installments of the Twilight Saga – so there are plenty of creative options open. In the interest of helping Disney and Condon narrow things down a bit, we’ve outlined the things we think Disney and Condon should keep in mind while putting together their live-action Beauty and the Beast. Although if we're honest, as long as there's an adorable talking teacup involved, we'll be fine.
DO: Throw in a Few of the Old Musical Numbers We’re not saying that Condon has to turn this film into a gigantic, musical spectacular, but if you went to see a Disney interpretation of Beauty and the Beast and didn’t hear even a few notes of that classic theme song, wouldn’t you feel disappointed? Throw a few songs in there, make the silverware dance around a little bit, either way, this film needs a little musical magic – although, feel free to drop “Something There” if there’s no room for it. It won’t be missed.
DON'T: Give It a Modern Setting Look, we like a modern re-working of a classic tale as much as anybody, but Disney should stick to what it does best: ball gowns, castles, and long, sweeping shots of stunning vistas. If people are looking for a metaphorical, city-set version of the tale, they can watch the CW. We prefer our Disney movies to feel like a fairy tale from a storybook.
DO: Add More Fairy Tale Magic For an animated film about a fairy tale princess, Beauty and the Beast featured surprisingly little magic. There was the dancing silverware, of course, and the dramatic transformation from Beast back into the prince at the end, but the film could have used a bit more pixie dust. For the live-action version, we’re hoping Condon pulls out all of the CGI tricks he learned on the Twilight films and sprinkles a little magic on this story. After all, it seems a shame to kick off a film with a drastic, dark transformation and then never show any actual witchcraft.
DON’T: Downplay the Beast’s Beastliness Giving your hero a few scars on his face has got to be cheaper and easier than turning him into a full-scale beast, but that doesn’t make it feel like any less of a cop-out. The films and shows that use tattoos and a “beastly attitude” instead of movie magic have had a good run, but we’re hoping Condon will ensure that this time around, our cursed prince gets a full-scale transformation this time around. Besides, everyone knows that Disney’s Beast looked better before he turned back into a prince.
DO: Work in Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts The best part of the animated Beauty and the Beast isn’t the love story between Belle and the Beast or the elaborate, catchy musical numbers. It’s the hilarious banter between the permanently-at-odds Lumiere and Cogsworth and the sensible, motherly Mrs. Potts, which is why we don’t understand why these characters – or their modern-day equivalents – are constantly left out of adaptations of this story. Every fairy tale needs a wise-cracking sidekick or three, Disney. Don’t deny Belle and the Beast theirs.
DON’T... FORGET: Gaston Every fairy tale needs a villain, and nobody’s better, meaner, scarier or more ruthless than Gaston. There’s a whole song about it, if you don’t believe us.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Picking a title for a movie is hard. That one small phrase needs to be broad enough to encapsulate everything that the movie deals with but narrow enough to let the audience know what it's about, while also being catchy enough to stick in people's heads, but not so specific that it dissuades people from coming to see it. And on top of all of that, it needs to look good on a movie poster. So when it came time for the producer of Tom Cruise's latest film to name their blockbuster, they must have cracked under the pressure, and settled on the completely generic Edge of Tomorrow.
As a title, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't reveal anything about the movie. It doesn't clarify whether it's an action film or a coming-of-age story, it doesn't hint at the alien apocalypse at the center of the story, it isn't catchy enough to stay with you long after you watch the trailer, and it doesn't even look that great on billboards. Without Cruise, it would be almost impossible to identify Edge of Tomorrow... it could be any film, about any topic. Don't believe us? We've rounded up the plots of nine films with the most boring, uninspired titles in Hollywood. Can you pick match the film to its incredibly generic name?
1. While settling his recently deceased father's estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices. A. Life as We Know It B. People Like Us C. A Fine Mess D. Let Me In
2. A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle as he tries to renovate the estate to be sold. A. A Good Year B. Begin Again C. Life as We Know It D. Edge of Tomorrow
3. An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race, and must use the new skills he acquires each time to help defeat the enemy. A. Tomorrow Never Dies B. Live and Let Die C. Edge of Tomorrow D. Begin Again
4. Two single adults become caregivers to an orphaned girl when their mutual best friends die in an accident. A. An Unfinished Life B. A Fine Mess C. Life or Something Like It D. Life As We Know It
5. A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian. A. Live and Let Die B. People Like Us C. Life or Something Like It D. Let Me In
6. Two friends discover a plot to fix a horse race and try to get in on it, but their actions send a group of mobsters after them. A. Life as We Know It B. People Like Us C. A Fine Mess D. Once
7. A dejected music business executive forms a bond with a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan. A. Let Me In B. Once C. A Good Year D. Begin Again
8. A reporter interviews a psychic, who tells her that she's going to die and her life is meaningless. A. Life or Something Like It B. Life Itself C. Life Is Beautiful D. Life as We Know It
9. A busker and an immigrant spend a week together, writing songs, playing gigs and falling in love. A. Once B. Begin Again C. Let Me In D. A Fine Mess
Answers: 1) B; 2) A; 3) C; 4) C; 5) D; 6) C; 7) D; 8) B; 9) A
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Here’s the thing about The Fault in Our Stars: you are most likely going to cry. Regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy the movie, or how invested you become in the star-crossed love story at its core, or even how stoic and cold-hearted you think you might be, you're probably going to end up like everyone else in the theater, bawling over the traumas of first love and the unfair tragedy of cancer. It's best to just accept that up front.
Based on John Green's best-selling novel, this tear-jerker centers on Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old with a dark sense of humor about the disease that requires her to tote around an oxygen tank at all times. At the request of her parents, she attends a cancer survivor support group led by an overly religious, desperate-to-be-hip survivor (a hilarious Mike Birbiglia, who could have used a few more scenes) in a church basement. There, she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a handsome, charming boy who lost his leg to cancer. The two bond over some common interests – she shares her favorite novel An Imperial Affliction, he stays on the phone with her all night – and their steadfast refusal to allow anyone to treat them or their disease with kid gloves. And of course, they fall in love.
Like the film, they approach the disease with a twisted sense of humor, poking fun at everything from the group leader’s constant references to the “literal heart of Jesus,” their medication intake, and the most appropriate things to waste your wishes on. Despite being a movie about cancer, The Fault in Our Stars is surprisingly funny, with most of the laughs coming from their friend Isaac (an also underused Nat Wolff). It’s actually Isaac who feels the most like a real teenager, cycling rapidly through the stages of grief after his girlfriend dumps him right before a major surgery. The weight of the film, however, rests squarely on Woodley’s shoulders, and she does an excellent job as Hazel, balancing her sharp wit and sheer determination with the right amount of frailty and fear. Though she has enough magnetism and charm to make even the most pretentious, literary speeches sound somewhat natural, it’s the smaller moments where she really shines.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Like his co-star, Elgort’s natural charm is an asset to the film, even if Augustus isn’t nearly as deeply realized as Hazel is. He’s a teenage dream of a boy – handsome, smart, and funny, with a tragic past, and the ability to win over everyone he encounters – and Elgort’s charisma and easy smile helps make some of his more pretentious quirks feel slightly more natural. His chemistry with Woodley is the strongest thing The Fault in Our Stars has on its side, and it’s hard to watch the way they light up in their scenes together and not root for Hazel and Gus’ love to triumph over all.
Fans of the novel will be thrilled that the film sticks so closely to the source material, although it does smooth over a lot of the issues present in the text. Though the most iconic lines and speeches are in tact, the streamlined narration cuts down on some of the more profound declarations that the characters make, allowing them to speak more like real people. Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber's determination to play up the characters' dark sense of humor also helps greatly, punctuating some of the more maudlin scenes with a much needed laugh. Still, it doesn’t all work. Hazel and Gus’ visit to the Anne Frank House gets a cloying voice-over, and it remains the worst possible place for the couple to share their first kiss. Interspersing the new dialogue with Green’s monologues can be clunky at times, and Gus’ metaphor probably works much better as a literary conceit than as something a real human being would do. And when the third act of the film pulls out all of the stops to ensure there isn’t a dry eye in the theater, the film lays on the sap a bit too thick in its treatment of its big tragedy.
But by that point in the film, after having bawled your way through half a bucket of popcorn and several tissues, it probably won't matter. Because that beautifully lit, perfectly soundtracked heartbreak is the selling point of Hazel and Gus' doomed love story, and precisely the appeal of any good cancer movie – and if the ruined mascara and muffled sobs are any indication, The Fault in Our Stars is a good one.
Fox Searchlight via Everett Collection
Ever since the rumors started swirling several months ago, the Internet has been waiting impatiently for a Star Wars VII casting announcement that included Oscar winner and instant style icon Lupita Nyong'o. They finally got that wish on Monday morning, when StarWars.com revealed that she would be joining the cast along with Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie. The pair join an impressive cast for the latest installment of the franchise, with acclaimed actors like Oscar Isaac, Max Von Sydow and John Boyega all playing significant roles. However, when it comes to buzz, they all pale in comparison to Nyong'o, who has won over both critics and fans since her breakout performance last year in 12 Years a Slave.
Casting an Academy Award winner is a big deal for a major blockbuster like Episode VII, but Nyong'o is far from the first winner to journey to a galaxy far, far away. Since the first film was released in 1977, the Star Wars franchise has featured several Oscar winners and nominees on both sides of the camera, and seen several of its alum take home the award later on. In honor of Nyong'o's casting, we've rounded up all of the actors, writers, directors and editors who fall in the middle of the Venn Diagram of "Oscar winners and nominees" and "involved in the Star Wars universe."
Academy Award Wins
PRE-STAR WARS: -Nyong'o, who won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 12 Years a Slave at this year's awards, is the third actor who has taken home an Oscar before starring in one of the Star Wars films, and the fifth team member to hold the distinction. -Alec Guinness won Best Actor in 1957 for his work in The Bridge on the River Kwai, before he played everyone's favorite Jedi Master and mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi. He later earned an Oscar nomination for the part. -Composer John Williams, who has been nominated for a total of 49 Oscars, won his first for Best Scoring Adaptation and Original Score Song in 1971 for Fiddler on the Roof. Since then, he's won four more, including Best Original Score in 1977 for Star Wars. -Ben Burtt had established himself as a talented editor with two Best Sound Editing Oscars in 1982 and 1989 before he edited The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
POST-STAR WARS: -James Earl Jones, who provided the iconic voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films received an Honorary Oscar in 2011.-Natalie Portman won Best Actress for playing Nina Sayers in Black Swan in 2010, five years after her final installment of the trilogy was released. -Director Sofia Coppola played one of Queen Amidala's handmaidens in The Phantom Menace, and then went on to win Best Original Screenplay in 2003 for her film Lost in Translation. She was also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture that year.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Academy Award Nominations
PRE-STAR WARS: -Before he created the franchise that eventually became Star Wars, George Lucas made American Graffitti, and was nominated for Best Director and Best original Screenplay in 1972 for his hard work. Five years later, he was nominated in those same categories for the first installment in the series. -Terence Stamp was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1962 for his work in the film Billy Budd, 30 years before he played Supreme Chancellor Valorum in The Phantom Menace. -His co-star in that film, Samuel L. Jackson, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1994 for his performances as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, a first of many iconic characters. -Marcia Lucas received an Oscar nomination in 1974 for Best Editing alongside Verna Fields for American Graffiti, before winning the same award three years later for Star Wars, with Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch. -Liam Neeson was nominated for Best Actor in 1993 for his heartbreaking performance in Schindler's List before stepping into the role of Obi Wan's mentor, Qui Gon Jinn in 1999.
POST-STAR WARS: -After he played Han Solo, Harrison Ford was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the 1985 film Witness. -Keira Knightley, who played one of Amidala's handmaidens in one of her first film roles, was nominated for Best Actress in 2005 for her turn as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. -Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with Lucas, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1984 and 1992 for The Big Chill and Grand Canyon, respectively, and Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture in 1989 for The Accidental Tourist.
Other Awards Of Note
-Three of the key supporting characters in Attack of the Clones were played by actors who were nominated or have won AFI and AACTA awards, the Australian equivalent of the Oscars and the BAFTAs. They are: Rose Byrne, Joel Edgerton, and Jack Thompson. -Ford has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and C3PO, R2D2, and Darth Vader have their "footprints" outside of the TCL Chinese Theater. -Christopher Lee, who played Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith has never been nominated for an Oscar, but he has been knighted, made a Commander of Order of the British Empire and a Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John, been awarded both the BAFTA and BFI Fellowships, and is a French Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. He was also a war hero, serving as part of the RAF Intelligence and Special Forces during World War II, and was attached to the SAS for a time during his service. He also once climbed Mt. Vesuvius right before it erupted and fronts several heavy metal bands, because he's cooler than the rest of us could ever hope to be.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Since Edgar Wright stepped down as director of the upcoming Ant-Man movie, speculation about who Marvel would pick to replace him has been steadily growing. Currently, the two frontrunners are We’re The Millers director Rawson Thurber and Ruben Fleischer, the latter of whom is best known for his work on Zombieland and Gangster Squad. However, according to The Wrap, Ant-Man isn’t the only blockbuster franchise hoping to convince Fleischer to step behind the camera, as he is reportedly being considered to take the helm of Ghostbusters 3.
Like Ant-Man, Ghostbusters 3 has been in the works for a long time, and has weathered everything from the death of Harold Ramis to the difficulties of finding a replacement for Ivan Reitman to Bill Murray’s refusal to reunite with his former co-stars. Having Fleischer on board would be a major step in the right direction for the project, mostly because it would allow them to actually make that tentative 2015 start date. If the rumors are true, it puts Fleischer in the difficult position of having to decide between two major blockbuster films. To make things a little easier on him, we've broken each film down to see whether the rewards outweigh the risks and whether ants or ghosts are better suited to his sensibilities.
Ant-Man Tentative Start Date: Mid 2014 with July 17, 2015 as the planned release date. That doesn’t give Fleischer a lot of time to prep for the film, or to squeeze in or finish up any other projects beforehand. How Well He Fits the Project: His previous films have shown that he’s talented at handling both comedy and action in a way that would be useful for handling Harold Pym's adventures and super powers. Ant-Man isn't a particularly serious character, and so having someone on board who knows how to inject some humor into the proceedings while still keeping the fight sequences intense and impressive would be a major asset for the film. Creative Control: Marvel has all of their properties under strict control, as everything needs to work well in the overarching Cinematic Universe, both in terms of plot and tone. Though he’ll be able to add his own flare to the character, everything still needs to be approved by Marvel first, which limits just how inventive he’ll be able to get. Pressure From Fans: High. Comic book fans tend to be very particular about the way their favorite characters are adapted, and they won’t hesitate to make their displeasure known if Fleischer messes something up. After all, people are still making fun of Ben Affleck for Daredevil, and Tobey Maguire’s career hasn’t been able to rebound from Spider Man 3. Wright also had a lot of good will amongst that community as well, so they might be a bit more hesitant to accept Fleisher’s version of the film. Risks: Making an Ant-Man film in the first place is something of a risk, considering he’s a lesser known superhero with a weird set of powers, but both fans and critics have come to expect a certain level of quality from marvel’s films, and won’t be willing to cut Fleischer very much slack if the film isn’t good. Plus, Ant-Man is meant to kick off the next round of the Universe and will most likely impact every film that comes out afterwards, including future Avengers projects, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone directing their first superhero film. Rewards: Marvel’s films almost always do well, and so even this far in advance, it seems likely that Ant-Man will be at least a modest hit. Fleischer is coming off of two critical and financial flops – 30 Minutes or Less and Gangster Squad – so directing a major, successful blockbuster could go a long way in helping him out of his slump. It also puts him in the running for a lot of other, varied projects, which would help him break away from the comedy-with-a-touch-of-action comfort zone he’s been stuck in. A successful Marvel film would have a major impact on his career, and could even help him establish his name in Hollywood.
Ghostbusters 3 Tentative Start Date: Early 2015, and since The Playlist reports that Fleischer is a new father, the time off could play a significant role in convincing him to take the job. How Well He Fits the Project: Though he’s got plenty of experience with action, Fleischer’s forte is clearly comedy, which makes him a solid fit for Ghostbusters 3. The film needs someone who understands the goofy, irreverent tone of the original, without turning it into a parody of itself, and Zombieland proved that he can do just that. Plus, he’s already got a relationship with Bill Murray, so even if he can’t convince him to step back into the jumpsuit, at least he understands the style of comedy that a Ghostbusters film needs. Creative Control: Though Reitman and Dan Aykroyd will be heavily involved in the film, Fleischer will have a lot more creative freedom with Ghostbusters 3 than he would on a Marvel property. Fleischer would need to come with an inventive way to revisit the characters in order to keep the film from feeling stale, and comedy naturally allows for more creativity than a rigidly structured superhero universe does, so it could truly be Fleischer’s version of a Ghostbusters film. Pressure From Fans: Low. Very few people actually have faith in Ghostbusters 3, and since people are already expecting it to be a trainwreck, Fleischer doesn’t really have any pressure on his shoulders. Whatever he does has got to be better than what people are expecting him to turn out. Risks: There aren’t a ton of risks with this one: Fleischer has already proven that he can handle a supernatural comedy well, and expectations are already pretty low. However, Fleischer really needs a his next film to be a success – either critically or commercially – in order to help him out of the rut he’s currently in, and Ghostbusters 3 has a lot going against it. If the film bombs terribly, it would be very hard for his career to recover. Rewards: Because the risks are lower, so are the rewards. However, if Ghostbusters 3 is a hit, it not only helps Fleischer recover from his recent flops, but it also helps open up opportunities for other big comedy films. He might still have trouble breaking out of his comedy niche, but at least he would be in the running for plenty more major comedy blockbusters.
Just when it looks like things might start to look up for Tyrion, Gregor Clegane crushes someone's skull with his bare hands.
Oberyn Martell is dead, lying on the ground with blood pouring out of his skull and his eyes completely gouged out, leaving Jaime and Ellaria Sand in shock and Tyrion's life hanging in the balance. It's a depressingly fitting ending to a fight in which Oberyn's flipping and twirling seemed to have the leg up on Gregor's brute strength, but just when his victory and Tyrion's justice seemed to be in reach, everything came crashing down in one swift, violent motion. After all, this is Westeros, and power is what guarantees you a victory, no matter how much passion and skill you have on your side.
The outcome of the trial by combat is tragic for several reasons: in addition to losing one of the season's most entertaining characters and sentencing Tyrion to death, it also means that Oberyn has failed at avenging the death of his sister, the reason he came to King's Landing in the first place. Like Inigo Montoya on steroids, he twirled his spear around his head, taunting the Mountain into admitting his guilt and revealing that Tywin Lannister gave the orders to have Elia killed. His unfailing loyalty to his sister was Oberyn's defining and most interesting characteristic — it made him a wild card in King's Landing — but it was also his undoing. He became so caught up in justice for Elia, in forcing Gregor to confess to what he did and forcing Tywin to own up to her death that he lets his guard down for one terrible second.
Game of Thrones is a show about power and loyalty, and the consequences that come with them. For all that the show preaches the importance of honoring your promises and remaining loyal to the people you have sworn fealty to, it's been just as quick to point out the dangers of blind loyalty and trusting people without question. As the fight goes on and Oberyn's chanting becomes more and more impassioned, it seems as if he will take down the Mountain and Elia will finally be avenged, but it is precisely that all-consuming passion that distracted him long enough to allow Gregor to get back up. To have Oberyn defeated by a character who has no loyalty whatsoever, who is willing to fight for anyone who can pay him is an extra harsh blow, as the series' most devoted character destroyed by brute strength that has been sold to the highest bidder.
As if that weren't enough, the fight also effectively sends Tyrion to the gallows for a murder he didn't commit. A character who has only ever been loyal to himself, Tyrion has now been brought to his knees by putting his faith in other people. First, his love of Shae and attempts to protect her got him a trial by combat in the first place, and then, Oberyn's desire for revenge — the very thing that made him such an appealing champion in the first place, as he both understood Tyrion and wouldn't give up against the Mountain — sentences him to death.
But King's Landing isn't the only place getting a crash course in fidelty. Over in the Vale, Sansa decides to ally herself with Petyr Baelish, testifying on his behalf in front of the council and showcasing everything she's learned she first set off for the Capitol all those years ago. Petyr maintains that Lysa Arryn's death was a suicide, playing up her mental instability and using her erratic behavior to his advantage. However, he still needs Sansa to carry out the plan effectively, and she does exactly what he needs, but in such a way that it will protect her in the long run.
After admitting to the council that she's not Alayne Stone, but Sansa Stark, and thus winning favor from those who were loyal to her father and Winterfell, she peppers her lies with just enough truth so as to make them believable, a strategy that she previously used on Lysa herself. As Sansa's tearful testimony is intercut with shots of Petyr watching his ward put his advice into action, the drastic change that has just taken place is just as obvious her as it is when she swans down the stairs later in the episode. More than anyone else, Sansa's story exemplifies the message of Game of Thrones, and she's learned to play the game as well as people who have spent years manipulating and scheming their way through Westeros. If she needs to protect herself by siding with one of the least trustworthy people in the Seven Kingdoms, she'll do it, and if she needs to cry and manipulate the Small council in order to avoid the possibility of being in a dangerous situation, she'll do that too.
Meanwhile, Reek continues to prove his unfailing loyalty to Ramsay Snow, who has officially been recognized as a member of the Bolton family, and can rule the North under his father's name. His return to Moat Cailin pits him between his family and House Greyjoy, to whom he was previously faithful, and his new master. It's a difficult moment for Reek, who must pretend to be Theon but not let any of his old self creep back in, and his new identity is spotted almost immediately by his old soldiers. Alfie Allen is one of the show's unsung heroes, and his performance here is fantastic, with his confidence instantly dissolving, and the steady Theon Greyjoy gives way to shivering, snivelling Reek. And while it works out for him this time, thanks to a well-timed axe to the head, the constant push and pull between Theon and Reek seems poised to give way sometime soon, and we can't imagine it will work out well for him.
Over in Mereen, Daenerys and Ser Barristan discover that Jorah has not always been the loyal companion that he is, as a royal pardon arrives, signed by Robert Baratheon in exchange for Jorah's services. It doesn't matter to Dany how many times Jorah has protected her or the fact that he stopped spying after the crown sent assassins to kill her. He sold her secrets, and revealed that she was carrying Khal Drogo's child, and that is an offense that is unforgivable to her. The show's been holding onto his past treachery for some time now, waiting for the precise moment to let the other shoe drop, and it comes just after Jorah begins to suspect that Darrio might be replacing him in Dany's affections. If he thought he would be able to win her back before, that hope is gone now, and he rides off into the sunset alone, putting another character with shifting loyalties into play.
"The Mountain and the Viper" also manages to insert a few smaller moments about devotion and its consequences, with Sam's desire to protect Gilly coming back to bit him after the Night's Watch learns about the Wildling Raid on Mole's Town, and Sandor Clegane declaring Arya to be his "travelling companion" rather than his captive. Of course, that moment of friendship is punctuated by the news of Lysa's death, and Arya sums up all of the insanity, death and sadism of Westeros with peals of hysterical laughter.
Like every big episode this season, "The Mountain and the Viper" spends much of the episode catching us up on several different storylines before shifting all of its attention to one big moment. In this case, it works, as the Vale and King's Landing deservedly get the bulk of screentime, and the smaller changes and betrayals of the episode culminate in the big fight. Since next week's episode seems to be focusing primarily on the Wildlings' raid on the Wall, the episode leaves things in an interesting position, with the writers rushing forward some plots, leaving them with no more material from the books to draw on, and drawing out several others in order to build suspense. It's a risky choice, as it makes things a little more complicated for the writers next season, but we'll have to wait another two weeks to see if it's one that pays off.
In the meantime, though, we'll have to settle for the knowledge that even people in Westeros can quote The Princess Bride. Hopefully Hodor gets to do his Andre the Giant impression sometime soon.
Episode Grade: B,or Two Cousin Orsons Crushing Beetles in the Garden