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Tag Archive: Game of Thrones


barriers - Great wall of China

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I love when a story starts me guessing like “The Wall of Darkness” by Arthur C. Clarke.  I have so many notions of walls and barriers that once Clarke reveals there’s a mysterious black wall in the dark lands where the planet’s sun doesn’t reach, my mind immediately guesses likely conclusions.

Due to the surge in popularity of all things Game of Thrones, the Wall of Westeros first came to mind.  A structure built of ice and stone to separate the civil from the uncouth and things unimagined.  The dangers were so serious that an elevator is needed to get you to the top of the wall for it is so high. Would the wall of darkness be the same?  What monsters must inhabit the lands devoid of starlight where the wall only becomes accessible at the highest days of summer?  Would they be blind?  Would they be legion, held back by the material of the wall, waiting for a foreign object to infest so as to spread throughout the light?

Wall of Westeros

Then again, the other side of the wall could be something more akin to George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for the Wall – Hadrian’s Wall.  On the other side might be a separate version of the planet’s inhabitants, people that have learned to live without the warmth and light of a star.  They may have fashioned great cities lit by artificial light and have evolved in different ways while exploring cuisines that flourish in the night.  (Think lots and lots of catfish sautéed in mushrooms.)  Maybe this time it’s the Morlocks that are kind and just and they built the wall to keep out the Eloi.  It’s much more romantic than thinking of the Romans and Scotsmen of the very earliest part of the AD centuries separating with a wall due to differences in distance over now adjacent time zones on the same continent.  It’s more romantic to think of Starks and white walkers.  As an earthbound human, our walls are just another case of separating ourselves from those that are “different.”

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

With Burn Notice over and Homeland confined to premium viewing only, basic cable’s best hope for a weekly spy drama fix may be TNT’s new series Legends.  Un-gripping title aside, this new Sean Bean vehicle shows surprising promise.  Although it follows the cliché template for every crime drama of the last ten years (eccentric male expert and his younger female law enforcement handler), the format is elevated by familiar actors and an intriguing added premise.

Based on Robert Littell’s Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation, Legends the series follows Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Patriot Games, National Treasure, GoldenEye, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sharpe series) as undercover FBI agent Martin Odum, the “most naturally gifted undercover operative” in the US arsenal.  Bean himself seems naturally gifted for the role, easing eerily between his “legend,” or cover identity, and his real self, donning accents, hairstyles, and costumes with Mission Impossible-style finesse.  But the ultimate deception may be on Odum himself–according to a shadowy figure with Manchurian Candidate overtones, Odum may not really be Odum.  Martin’s “real” life may be nothing more than just another legend.

Larter in Legends

Bean’s performance is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, including Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), Steve Harris (Awake, Minority Report), and Tina Majorino (True Blood, Veronica Mars, Corinna, Corinna, Waterworld, Andre), although we’re hoping Larter and Majorino aren’t getting typecast–Larter already stripping as she did in Heroes and Majorino as the same tech nerd we’ve seen her play so well and so often.

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Sesame Street at NerdHQ

Nerd HQ offered up a great variety of panels from the best of TV Saturday.  Here are some great panels to check out.  After four years of 45 minute panels offered just yards from San Diego Comic-Con, many of these have become a source for stand-up comedy from the actors.  See for yourself.

First up what may be the best panel idea ever, the voices and muppets themselves, from Sesame Street, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert, and Murray.  And Grover reveals the true identity of Super Grover.  This one can’t be missed.

A Conversation with Sesame Street

Intruders TV Series Panel with John Simm, Mira Sorvino & Glen Morgan

Orphan Black Panel with Tatiana Maslany and Other Cast Members

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Game of Thrones - Season 3 Ygritte Rose Leslie

Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its third season a week from tomorrow.  And HBO has released several previews to give fans something to get psyched for.  If you’re not caught up on the series, Season 1 is available in a five-disc DVD version for $39.99 and a seven-disc Blu-Ray version for $47.99 and Season 2 is available in a five-disc version for $37.99 and a seven-disc Blu-Ray version for $47.99, both from Amazon.com.  You can also stream each episode of Season 1 and Season 2 also at Amazon.com to get caught up on the series at $2.99 per episode.

On Sunday, March 31, 2013, HBO airs the Season 3 opener “Valar Dohaeris.”  “Valar Dohaeris” is an expression in the Game of Thrones language High Valyrian, meaning “all men must serve”. It is a saying in the continent of Essos, and is the answer to the expression “Valar Morghulis” – “all men must die”. Sort of reminds us of the Ancient Roman Latin soldier sayings “Nos morituri te salutamus” meaning “We are about to die salute you” or “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” meaning “It is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland.”

HBO is certainly on top of things when it comes to previews.  It seems like no other series has put out so many.  Here are several that should either catch you up on the series or give you a look at what is coming soon.

Here is an official ten-minute Season 1 and 2 recap:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After the first few episodes of Vikings you will find yourself asking why this is only a nine-episode mini-series.  The History Channel’s first historical fiction mini-series since the acclaimed Hatfields & McCoys, the new series Vikings takes stunning locations, a powerful score, and a good story steeped in Nordic mythology and creates an epic production on par with Braveheart, Rob Roy, 300, and Attila.  And it’s even better than Game of Thrones.

Everyone has their own view of what Vikings should look like.  We know from documentaries and books that these warriors in the late eighth century were plunderers and pillagers.  They lived in a style as you’d find people roaming your local Renaissance Faire, clothing of wools and furs and hide.  Weapons of steel, shields of oak and longboats whose appearance would strike fear in hearts of the enemy.  Whether the History Channel has every historical detail down is beside the point.  Vikings is completely believable and true enough to the ancient sagas of fierce warriors, gods of every stature, and clan intrigue.

Life on a Viking longboat in Vikings series

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When we decided to do a list of the Top Ten Fantasy Movies for each of the borg.com authors, the definition of “fantasy” became very simple – it had to have magic in it.  I thought, no problem. That’s easy – and I was right.  I had more than enough movies to make the list work without including super-hero movies or science fiction.  (Though, there is one movie that could be seen as a super-hero movie.  Technically.)  Then, I came to a realization.

Of all of the movies that I found, there are an overwhelming number of romantic comedies.  When I think fantasy, I think Game of Thrones, the Dragonriders of Pern, Xanth, Tasslehoff Burrfoot and many other series.  It surprised me that love, true love, also has a fantasy aspect to it.  Maybe it’s because finding your true love has turned out to be one of those ultimate myths like unicorns or white wizards.  Maybe it’s because in order to find true love, you need a little supernatural push.  Maybe I’m just being overly analytical and love itself is a kind of magic.  (At this point, I’m sure you could be singing “Magic” by The Cars, “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News or any number of pop love songs and convince yourself that love is magic because the bards say so.)  No matter what the reason, there are more love stories than adventures in my list.  If I read the other author’s lists and see more adventures, well, then I will assume that I’m a hopeless romantic.  If they have romances as well, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and think that my brain is not love sick, just good at finding magic in the everyday where relationships, not dragons, need to be shot out of the sky with large weapons.  Wait…oh, never mind, on to the list.

10.  Hawk the Slayer

This one is pure nostalgia.  I could have put other, better movies that this one on my list like Big Fish, Stardust, Spirited Away, The Prestige, Stranger than Fiction, Ella Enchanted, Last Action Hero, The Fall, Kung Fu Hustle,* Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium on this list**, but I still remember staying up late and watching this movie a few different times with friends while I was in grade school.  I look at the trailer (part of a site which may make a sequel!) and nostalgia makes me want to watch it again, but my mind tells me that I’d rather keep it unsullied in the memories of 10-year-old me.  My favorite moment occurred outside the movie because my friend Russell and I would “play” Hawk the Slayer and fight over who got to be the elf.

*This is the movie that I think blurs the line between “fantasy” and “super-hero” but because it isn’t technically in my top ten list, I’m ok with it.

**Consider that the rough draft of my 11-21 movies, though not necessarily in that order.  Bill and Ted is the nostalgic one in that list.  Mr. Magorium could just be oxygen infused airline viewing and Natalie Portman that made it wonderful.

9.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail

See #10, except this listing is for junior high/high school nostalgia and I still watch it occasionally, especially for the opening credits.  Llamas will never cease to be funny for me.  My favorite moment in the movie is always the anticipation of the first “wik” in the credits.  If you’re looking for a fantasy moment, the whole scene with Tim is pretty darn great.

8.  Midnight in Paris

My favorite movie of 2011, as I’ve posted before, and I think it belongs on this list.  I still remember smiling and filled with such happiness when I walked out of that theater.  My favorite moment happened when Owen Wilson waited for the car to pick him up a second time.  He had found magic and he got lucky.  The fear of that being a one-time shot made that moment exquisite in anticipation.

7.  L.A. Story

Before I moved to L.A., I really liked this movie a lot. (I seem to place it, Last Action Hero, Hudson Hawk and Quick Change into the same place in my mind, probably due to release dates and also because I seemed to like them much more than anyone else.)  The presence of this movie on my list made me look at the rest of the movies and that’s how I came up with my introduction.  My favorite moment is the scene where the showers can change to slow motion.

6.  Shallow Hal

Yes, the message hits you over the head like a +5 mace of creaming.  Still, from both sides of a romance, don’t you want the person you date, you marry, to be able to see all the things that make you who you are, that make you beautiful?  It’s a great concept, taking the parts of us in our heads and hearts and making it visible to everyone as abs or perky breasts or a full head of great hair or legs that go all the way to the ground.  My favorite moment is the first time Hal (Jack Black) goes dancing in a club with his new sight and is just so happy.

5.  Big

Yes, this has a lot of funny parts and there is a sweet kind of romance to this one, but I always have considered it to be one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.  Not because of arc of the Elizabeth Perkins character, but because of Josh Banks not being able to live purely as a child again once he has become big.  There’s no way to make his innocence magically return.  He’ll forever be an adult.  My favorite moment, “I get to be on top.”

4.  Groundhog Day

Andie MacDowell is gorgeous and I think I could see how a man would spend eternity trying to woo her on her looks alone.  Bill Murray is not as pretty and definitely not that cool in his role as weatherman Phil Connors.  By the end of the movie though, Murray is definitely the one that is so obviously a catch as he seems to have so much more depth. However, this could just be my Murray Man Crush*** speaking.  My favorite moment, out of many, is “Don’t drive angry.”

***I think it is a definite diagnosis for men from 20-50 that have seen Caddyshack, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation, etc.

3.  Scrooged

This cements the fact that I have a Bill Murray crush.  If Frank Cross made my favorite character list, then his movie should be a part of my favorite fantasy movies, right?  My favorite moment is my guaranteed Niagara Falls, “You forgot God bless us everyone.”  But, a close second is, “Did you try staples?”

2.  Fellowship of the Ring

Here is the truest of true fantasy adventures.  A call to arms and heroes emerge to pursue the quests that need their help.  (Just writing that last sentence makes me want to read some Joseph Campbell.  The awkward construction was part of my plan to make the reader think of Joseph Campbell.  Failing that, I’m just going to ram the name Joseph Campbell down your eye sockets.)  I think this may be the best adaptation of a book that I have ever seen.  Great visuals, great casting, great writing.  My favorite moments in the movie involve the Nazgul.  I love the dream glimpses of their human forms.  I love the chase of Frodo and Arwen.  Such awesome imagery actually might have beaten the visions I had in my mind from the books.

1.  The Princess Bride

One of my favorite movies of all time, as soon as C.J. mentioned the list, I knew this would be at the top of it, the tough part being how the rest of it would look.  I have two favorite moments amidst a movie filled with quotable moments and great scenes.  “I do not think it means what you think it means,” and the moment Peter Falk turns back toward Fred Savage and says, “As you wish.”  Ok, that settles it.  I am a hopeless romantic.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

“But if the battle looks to be going sour they’ll break, and they’ll break bad.” – Jocelyn Bywater, p. 710 of A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin, Bantam Paperback.

I declare right up front that if you haven’t watched Season 4 of Breaking Bad, read A Game of Thrones or read A Clash of Kings, there will be SPOILERS ahead.  I warn you because part of the joy of these pieces of art is the unknown journey and a spoiler would change your perception.  However, it’s also because part of the journey consists of knowing that no character is truly safe.  I found that out as did viewers of the HBO Game of Thrones series when four-fifths of the way through the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Eddard, the Stark patriarch and one of the narrators, gets his head separated from his body.  Needless to say, he doesn’t return in the second book.  If you know he dies and the others live, part of the experience is gone.  However, once a main character–not only a main character, but one of the narrators–perishes, you know that no one is safe.

Viewers of Breaking Bad saw that with the finale, as the main bad guy for the past two years, Gus Fring, died as well.  I’ve already spoken with at least six people on the magic of that final episode of the season as well as his death scene as everyone excitedly wants to talk about it.  As fanatic, or even casual viewers, that episode makes us giddy.

When real stakes exist, I posit that a show is better for it.  If we know that the two main characters of a romantic comedy will end up by the last act no matter if one likes pizza and the other likes sushi, it’s not near as interesting.  If the only time a TV show takes a chance is during sweeps or a “very special” episode, then we know all of the other car chases, break-ups, boat chases, misunderstandings or motorcycle chases will end up ok.

However, to have real stakes, you have to care about the person.  To care about the person, they have to be real.

For example, I just saw the movie Moneyball last week.  It’s ok.  My favorite part is the footage of Jeremy Brown at the end because I cared about him.  The dialogue leading up to real footage of his time in the minors made him a real person (that and the fact that he is a real person with a cool story detailed in the book.)  I felt an emotional connection to that moment.  Brown diving back into first touched my heart more than any other moment in the movie.

On the other hand, the portrayals of Art Howe and Grady Fuson (probably very similar to the portrayals in the book, but it’s been a bit since I’ve read it, so I can’t say with an absolute certainty) made me shut off my mind.  Let me sum up the characters:

“I’m an old man, I’m set in my ways and I refuse to change. Harumph.”

That’s all the audience is given about these two real life people.  So, when they meet the wrong end of the pink slip, you’re expected to cheer.  Yea!  Stubbornness defeated!  Bad guys lose!  Yea!

It doesn’t have to be that way.

For example, in Breaking Bad, by my count, the main protagonist Walter White has killed eight people directly and put many more in danger.  He cooks meth for a living.  He lies to his family.  He’s arrogant.  He treats Jesse Pinkman, his best friend in the world and his substitute son in his life in the underworld, worse than you’d treat an enemy.  He has poisoned Jesse’s girlfriend’s son.  He has watched as Jesse’s ex-girlfriend died through suffocating on her own vomit.  As I write all of this, I can’t imagine too many former high school teachers that would be worse human beings.

Yet, everyone I talk to about the series cares about him and, dare I say, roots for him to survive.  Why?  Because we know him beyond a simple archetype like “man in a black hat” or “drug dealer” or “bureaucrat” or “stubborn old man.”  We know that he has survived cancer for now.  We know how much he loves his son and his daughter.  We know how he wants to provide for his family.  We know that he lets his pride get in the way of accepting charity.  We know he wants to live.

He didn’t get to murderer in one step.  It took a while.  He struggled with the first step.  Jesse and Walt flipped a coin to determine who would kill the first person that stood in their way of survival.  That he needed to keep breaking bad for his own self-preservation made sense the further and further he plunged down the road to becoming a drug lord.

For another example, take Game of Thrones or Clash of Kings.  At the heart of the story is the Stark family, the sons Robb, Jon, Bran and Rickon, the daughters Anya and Sansa, father Eddard, mother Catelyn and ward Theon.  As different narrators with different perspectives, we follow them as they separate across the Seven Kingdoms.  We see through their eyes how they perceive those around them, their friends and their foes.  For example, we see Catelyn refuse to acknowledge Jon, the bastard son of Eddard through some unknown woman.  We see Catelyn take Tyrion Lannister prisoner to answer for the partial paralysis of her son Bran, though Tyrion was innocent.  Later, we see Catelyn release one of the most notorious prisoners and her son’s best bargaining chip in a war so that she can try to get her daughters back.

In other words, she makes a whole lot of decisions that make the readers think she is a heartless, impulsive idiot.  But, we understand her idiocy.  Catelyn wasn’t supposed to marry Eddard, but rather his older brother who died in a war to usurp the Targaryen king, so as a woman in this time, she’s never really felt safe in her role as his wife.  All she has is her kids and as they are flung to the corners of the kingdom, she is alone and scared.  How do you react when your world is turned upside down?  I don’t know, but Catelyn makes decisions that are very probable.

Conversely, in A Storm of Swords we get narration from another Lannister (Jamie joins his brother Tyrion) and we see more of the viewpoints from the faction opposing the Starks.  We are familiar with their exploits and as we learn more about their father (Lord Tywin) we see how the Lannister “monsters” in the form of Jamie, Cersei and Tyrion came to be.  They also care about their family.  They also care about honor.  They also care about love.  They want to live.

We all do.  But, when someone opposes us, we don’t look at it from their viewpoint, but rather the view that they are blocking our happiness.  Their motivations are the same.  The pursuit of life, liberty, love and happiness are the daily stakes in our lives. We all want the same thing.  Great characters want the same thing.  The pleasure is seeing when an artist knows that and makes the “bad guys” every bit as sympathetic as anyone else.  That’s when a story captivates us.  That’s when we leave the movie theater, when we put down a book or stand up from the couch and smile in happy amazement.  I look for those moments in every piece of art and in the books of A Song of Ice and Fire and Breaking Bad I’ve found them.

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