Game Of Thrones Season 5, American tv series (2015)

At the moment there are two big juggernauts in television series, that everyone is talking about. One of those is the Walking Dead, the other one is Game of Thrones. Now even if you are not a fan of either of those shows, I think that nobody can deny the massive succes these two tv series are having. I myself am a Walking Dead fan first, and a Game of Thrones fan second. The problem I sometimes have with Game of Thrones that there are episodes of incredible brilliance, that are then alternated with episodes of incredible boredom. And nowhere is this more apparent in season 5 of this show.

In season 5 almost all of the main characters are scattered to the winds, and in different parts of the country. Tyrion is on the run after the crimes he committed in the previous season. The dragonqueen Daenerys is having troubles of her own in the country she recently liberated and in danger of losing her life. Cersei also finds that though she is the queen, forces are conspiring against her, and she will face a challenge such as she has never faced before. Arya Stark is also challenged, but in a very different sort of way. But the biggest threat is coming from the North where Jon Snow is going to have to face the fact that winter is coming, and with it maybe the end for everyone….

As I said Game of Thrones sometimes has some very dull episodes, but season 5 really has too much of those. For the first five to six episodes almost nothing really happens. Yes there is the occasional skirmish, and some interesting conversations, but not much of anything of interest occurs to be honest. Things are finally starting to pick up at episode 7, and the following episode, has got to be one of the best episodes ever made of Game of Thrones. With the last episode a lot of storylines are closed, but also end on some very big cliffhangers. Most noteworthy of these is ofcourse the shock ending of one of the most beloved characters. All in all though this has been the weakest season of Game of Thrones to date. The locations and production values are ofcourse as beautiful as ever, the acting is superb, and yes, as in previous seasons some events that happen are truly shocking. But the season just takes to long to get going, and because of this, did not hold my interest as much as previous seasons.

I give season 5 of Game of Thrones a 7 out of 10 score.

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Stranger Things, American tv series (2016)

Ah the 80’s. The time where we had saturday morning cartoons, such as He-man and Transformers, cool rock music, and best of all some fantastic movies. Who doesn’t remember titles such as E.T., the Goonies, The Thing, Back to the Future, the list goes on and on. I sometimes wish I would be able to travel back in time, and live my life again back in those days. Ofcourse that is wishful thinking on my part, but the Netflix Original series Stranger Things, does the next best thing. It revisits those times and brings it back in such a fantastic way that I am completely in awe of this little gem of television.

In Stranger Things we start with four young friends who are enjoying a game of Dungeons and Dragons in a basement. At the end of the session everyone heads home towards their respective houses. However one of them, the young boy Will, never makes it back home, as becomes clear the next day. The three remaining friends soon set off in search of Will, despite the warnings of the local sheriff not to get involved. When searching in the woods, they all of a sudden meet a strange girl with a shaved head. Who is she, and what is she doing alone in the woods? It becomes clear that the girl is no ordinary girl, and the three friends stand on the verge of entering a nightmare from which they might never return. However they will not give up the search for Will, and are determined to find him no matter what the cost.

To tell more of the story, would be to deprive you of the fun and scares this fantastic series has to offer. Now I watch a lot of tv shows, but this has truly been one of the best shows I have ever seen. I am almost struggling to find the right words in order to describe how much I enjoyed this show. Let’s begin with the atmosphere this series brings. By having the series take place in the 80’s you are literally getting the same feel you had when watching all those fantastic movies in those days. The show is a fantastic blend of all the best things of those times together, with elements of Stephen King and John Carpenter. The acting in the show is superb. It is great to see Winona Ryder back on the screen in a great role, as the desperate mother of Will. The young children are also very good, especially Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the role of the mysterious girl. Finally the music of the show completes it, and sounds as though you are watching a John Carpenter movie.

Are there any bad things? Just one: the series runs for only eight episodes. I truly hope with all my heart this show is going to get a second season. Stranger Things is scary, funny, emotional, exciting and is one of the best rollercoaster rides of this year. Once you have seen the first episode you are hooked, and it will be nigh impossible to turn it off before you have seen the final episode. Anyone who want’s to feel like he or she is back in the 80’s, or who loves good quality television, watch this show.

I give Stranger Things a 10 out of 10 score.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, Japanese movie (2014)

Finishing a movie trilogy is very tricky stuff. Everyone has seen the first two installments, and expectations for the end of the story are usually very high. There are of course a lot of examples in movie history where the third movie was a complete let down. And let us be honest, usually a third movie in a franchise is normally not as good as previous movies. With Rurouni Kenshin: the Legend Ends, the spectacular action movie trilogy is brought to a conclusion. The question is: is it any good?

With the second movie ending on a cliffhanger, the third movie pretty much picks up where the last movie ended. Shishio has arrived at the coast of Tokyo with his black Battleship, preparing to bring hell down on his enemies. Kenshin meanwhile is recuperating from his injuries at the house of his former master, Hiko. In order to face and defeat Shishio, Kenshin wants his master to teach him a very difficult sword technique. With this he hopes he can finally bring an end to the reign of tyranny of Shishio.The fate of Kaoru is however still uncertain….Will Kenshin be able to bring about the end of Shishio and find out what happened to Kaoru? The odds of this happening become very slim, as Shishio in a very nefarious plan, manages to enlist the help of the police to bring Kenshin down. And so the lines are drawn for the final confrontation……

What an end to a fantastic trilogy. This third movie starts off a bit slower than the previous one. As the second movie was so full of action, I think it is a good thing that they decided on building things up a bit slower. However not to worry, as the second part of the movie contains some incredible swordfights, about the best I have ever seen in any picture whatsoever. This trilogy is brought to a close in a very satisfying way, and does not disappoint. Looking back on all the three films, I think that this has been the best action movie trilogy that i have ever seen, apart from maybe Die Hard. With a whopping six hours and fortyfive minutes of run time there has not been a single moment that was boring to me. Even if you are not a lover of manga or anime, this movietrilogy is one you will enjoy if you like actionmovies with big epic swordfights. The acting is very good, the setpieces are amazing, and the action without the enhancement of any computer effects is at times breathtaking. For all you action junkies out there: go and see it, you will definitely not be disappointed.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Bloodline, a Star Wars novel by Claudia Gray (2016)

Before the Force Awakens continued the beloved Star Wars saga after the events of the Return of the Jedi, there was the Expanded Universe. The Expanded Universe explored Star Wars with a whole range of books and comics mostly concerning itself with the events that happened after the sixth movie. Some of these novels were extremely good, and introduced a couple of new characters that were almost as interesting as for instance Han or Leia. However ever since Disney took over the franchise, everything that happened in the Expanded Universe was declared non-canon. Those books and novels are now being published under the new name Legends. Some of the Star Wars fans, myself included, were none too happy with this decision. I can understand why Disney decided on this. But on the other hand some of the old books were so incredibly good, most notably the Thrawn trilogy, that i can’t help but wonder if it would not have been possible to somehow incorporate some events in the new timeline.

Alas, it was not to be, and now Disney has been producing a new range of novels and comics, that are considered to be canon. What is interesting about it, is that all these books and comics are connected and tied into the new Star Wars timeline. So far the range of novels has not been as good as the Expanded Universe in my personal opinion. I did really enjoy Lords of the Sith, and Dark Disciple, but these also did not reach the same level as the books of old. A couple of weeks ago a very special Grey Jedi (you know who you are), told me about the novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray, and how good it was. I decided to take her word for it, and boy am I glad I did.

Bloodline is the first of the new Star Wars novels that for me has brought back that good old Star Wars feeling. It tells a story of events happening before The Force Awakens, and even has some cameo experiences by some lesser known The Force Awakens characters. But the central focus is on Leia, and if you love the rebellious side of her, you are in for a treat. Bloodline deals with the political side of things, but of course in a Star Wars way. The new characters that Claudia introduces, most notably Greer, Casterfo and Joph are so good, that I wish they had been in the new movie. The story deals with Leia uncovering a sinister plot against the New Republic. The plot uncovers inch by inch, and keeps you guessing right up to the end. It has many surprises in store, and really to tell more about it, would only diminish your reading pleasure.

All I can say is, if you are a Star Wars fan, this is the novel you have been waiting for. It gives me a new hope (pun intended) for the upcoming novels of the new canon books. I truly hope we will get more novels by Claudia Gray in this range, as for me she is so far the best of the new writers of the new range of novels. To end with a cliche: the Force is strong with this one.

I give this book a 9 out of 10 score.

Rurouni Kenshin:Kyoto Inferno, Japanese movie (2014)

Kyoto Inferno is the second part of the Rurouni Kenshin movie trilogy. After the enormous succes of the first movie, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. But instead of one sequel an ambitious two movies were being filmed back to back. After a gruelling six month shoot, the first of the sequels was released, and the question is ofcourse: is it every bit as good as the first one?

Kyoto Inferno opens with a very impressive action sequence, introducing the new villain. The new menace that has appeared is a man called Shishio. This bad guy is another person bound to Kenshins past. Betrayed by the Empire he once served, Shishio was left behind for dead and horribly burned. Miraculously he survived and is now planning his revenge. He has raised an army with like minded souls, and his first plan is to burn the city of Kyoto to the ground and all the people living in it. When the police seeks out the help of Kenshin to defeat Shishio, he at first wants nothing to do with it. Reluctantly though he eventually accepts and travels to Kyoto. What awaits him there will be a battle that may not see him survive….and the vow he took of never taking a life again will be tested to it’s limits….Especially when the life of the one he loves is threatened.

Kyoto Inferno is every bit as impressive as the first movie, if not more so. The swordfights that were already very spectacular in part one, are even more fantastic in this second movie. Kenshin, again played by Takeru Sato, at times takes on entire armies by himself. That no computers were used, and all the actors did their own stunts, definitely shines through. It was a delight to see all the main actors from the first movie return in their respective roles, and the new characters that are introduced only add even more fun to the mix. There is an incredible amount of action in this movie, more than in part one, and this is the only quarrel I have with this second part. At times you would like a little bit more breathing room for some character development. But this a minor issue in what is otherwise a well made action period piece. I am definitely looking forward to the final part, as the movie ends on a cliffhanger. If you were a fan of the first movie, there is absolutely nothing standing in your way to watch this one.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Rurouni Kenshin, Japanese movie (2012)

Japanese manga are very popular, and as such there are a lot of those that are being adapted for the big screen. Even Hollywood is trying it’s hand at these, as filming is currently underway on Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson. Some of these are very good adaptations, but there also a couple that truly are not worth your time, and are an obvious attempt to lure fans of the original sourcematerial to the cinema. Luckily Rurouni Kenshin is a very enjoyable movie, but having not yet read the manga I don’t know if it truly manages to capture the spirit of the graphic novel.

Rurouni Kenshin takes place in 18th century Japan. The assassin known only as “Battousai” leaves a trail of bodies behind, in service of the Imperial side, during the Bakumatsu war. At the end of the war, he comes to his senses and vows to never kill again.  The swordsman leaves behind his former life, and travels through Japan as the wandering samurai Kenshin. Ten years later he has to confront his past, as someone using his former assassin name, is killing people in Tokyo. Kenshin uncovers a diabolical plot conceived by the druglord Kanryuu Takeda, who wants to distribute a new type of opium across Japan. Haunted by his past, and bound by his oath to never kill again, Kenshin will need all his skills to protect the innocent. But will the sins of his past catch up to him?

This movie is the first installment of a trilogy of movies around the lone samurai Kenshin Himura. It is obviously a big budget movie, judging by the big set pieces and fantastic costumes. The swordfights in this movie are absolutely breathtaking, and especially if you like samurai movies, you will not be disappointed by these. The actors portray the characters in a believable way, and most of the dialogue is very enjoyable. Big action sequences are alternated by a few quiet scenes, but even though the movie is over 2 hours long, I was not bored by it for even one second. All in all this was a very enjoyable samurai/fantasy movie that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical or fantasy type movies.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Runaway Train, American Movie (1985)

Almost everyone probably has a list of his or her favorite all time movies. Movies that are so good, that no matter how many times you watch them, they still grip you by the throat each time that you see them. Runaway Train is one of those movies that appears in my list of favorite movies of all time. I think that I have lost count the number of times that I have now watched this fantastic movie.

The movie starts in the Stonehaven prison in Alaska. A convict that has been found so dangerous that the sadistic warden of the prison has welded his celldoors shut for three years, is finally let out of his cell,(but not out of prison) after his appeal comes through. The criminal known as “Manny” Manheim immediately begins to plan his escape. Another criminal, who is convicted of statutory rape, called Buck decides to help Manny escape and eventually joins him in his struggle for freedom. Both men end up in the icy cold Alaskan wilderness, and begin a cold trek to a train station. When they arrive at their destination, they board a train to take them further from the prison. Thinking they are finally safe, the men begin to relax. However, unbeknownst to them, the driver of the train has suffered a heart attack, and the train is slowly beginning to pick up speed. Meanwhile the warden of the prison, the cruel man known as Ranken, sets off in pursuit of the two escaped men. Out of control the train thunders on, with an ever increasingly chance of certain disaster…

This movie is an underrated masterpiece. There are so many things in this movie that are just absolutely incredible, it is hard to name everything. The performances in this movie are fantastic, and both Jon Voight (playing Manny) and Eric Roberts (playing Buck) got an Oscar nomination for their roles. Voight plays one of the best roles of his career as the tough and brutal criminal Manny, who is hellbent on gaining his freedom. The cinematography is also stunning, as the icy cold Alaskan landscape brings forth an ever present sense of doom. And that brings me to the music of Trevor Jones, who composed a score that is in equal parts sad and beautiful, and which also plays a very important part in setting the tone of this movie. Even though this movie is now 31 years old, it is not outdated in any way. I can go on about this gem for hours, but i am not going to do that. All I can say is if you have a chance to see this movie, than grab it. You are definitely in for one hell of a ride, and one that will stick with you for a very long time.

I give this movie a 10 out of 10 score.

Rocky Balboa, American Movie (2006)

Sylvester Stallone has starred in an incredible amount of action movies. There are two characters for which he will always be known however: One of those is Rambo, the other is ofcourse Rocky. He reprised his iconic role in 2015 in the well received spin-off movie Creed, which also gave him an Oscar nomination. Sadly he did not win this, which in my mind was definitely something that he should have won, since it was such a well played part. Before Creed, the last time he played Rocky was in 2006, in the movie Rocky Balboa. The story of the movie is kind of a metaphor for what people at the time were thinking when first hearing about a sixth installment in the franchise. Everyone thought that it would be a very bad movie, and that Stallone was simply to old to play the part. He proved them all wrong though.

In this sixth movie we follow Rocky after the love of his life, Adrian, has died. Rocky tries to relive his past by visiting old places he used to frequent, along with his old friend Paulie. His son meanwhile, blames him for casting too big of a shadow, and because of that can’t live the live he truly wants. In the world of boxing, the undefeated champion, Mason “the Line” Dixon has no real challenger. Because of that, the people in general dislike him, thinking he has no right to the title champion. When Rocky expresses his desire to return to the boxing arena, an exhibition fight is organised between the old and the new champion. Everyone doesn’t give a dime for Rocky’s chances. But Rocky will try to prove to everyone that it ain’t over ’til it’s over…..

Rocky has always been about the underdog story. And that is why people probably love these movies. Sylvester Stallone is Rocky, and  again he proves he can definitely act with the portrayal of this beloved character. The big fight in this movie is shot perfectly, and you can’t help having respect for the actor, who at the time of shooting this movie was 60 years of age.  Most people would not have even made an attempt to play a role like this at that age, but not only does Stallone pull it off, he does it convincingly. Ofcourse this movie isn’t perfect, but you can’t help but root for Rocky during his big fight with Dixon. The story tries to convince everyone that no matter how old you are, if you believe in yourself, you can succeed at anything. And you know what? That is true in every sense of the word.

I give this movie a 8 out 10 score.

 

Falling Skies Season 4, American/Canadian tv series (2014)

Falling Skies has sometimes been described as the Walking Dead, only instead of zombies there are aliens. I can understand the comparisons. Both shows feature an Earth where humanity is facing extinction, and society has fallen apart. However I do think that it is not entirely fair to just call it a Walking Dead clone. Falling Skies is also a show about family, and where young children have to fight in a war out of necessity. It has always been the human element that makes this series shine, and season 4 is no different in that respect.

In season 4 the Mason family and most of the main cast become seperated from each other after a devestating new Espheni attack. Tom Mason will have to rely on all his skills to figure out a way to reunite the 2nd Mass and take the fight back to the aliens. The person who is also going to be playing a big role in the war is his own daughter Lexi, but the question on everyone’s mind is: can she be trusted? With the 2nd Mass scattered to the four winds, the war rages on and the stakes have never been higher.

I have heard it said that this fourth season of the show is where Falling Skies is beginning to drag out the story line. I do have to say that in comparison to the three other seasons, this one certainly does feel a little weaker. Some of the episodes are just a little bit less exiting, and the action that was always prominently featured on this show, at times is not as spectacular. However to say that because of that this was a bad season, I have to disagree with that notion. There were still enough good episodes that made it worthwhile. Noah Wyle was especially good this season, and in his role as Tom Mason he had to make a few very tough choices, ones that not everyone might agree with.

The season finale was definitely one of the best episodes of Falling Skies to date, and because of that episode alone, I am glad I stuck around for the ride. Ofcourse it ends with a cliffhanger, and with only one more season to go I am truly wondering how all of the storylines are going to be wrapped up. All in all though I still enjoyed this season enough to be looking forward to the fifth and final season of Falling Skies.

I give the fourth season of Falling Skies an 8 out of 10 score.

Red Machine, American/Canadian movie (2015)

Nearly everybody loves a good monster movie. Ever since Jaws graced the movie theatres way back in the 70’s, there have been numerous movies featuring people being hunted by animals. We have had movies about Orca’s, Crocodiles, Alligators, Snakes, Spiders and Bears. The movie that most springs to mind featuring the latter animal is The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins. It was a good thriller with a very well trained animal in the form of Bart the Bear. His namesake, ( but not related to the original), Bart the Bear 2 , is featured in the movie i am about to review: Red Machine. (Also known as Into the Grizzly Maze).

It tells the story about the young man Rowan, who returns to his hometown, after he has received a call to find an old friend who has been lost for a while. Arriving in town he is soon reunited with his estranged brother Beckett. Setting out in the neighbouring woods to find his friend, Rowan becomes the target of a rogue grizzly bear. Also in the woods at the time, is Becketts deaf wife, Michelle. When more people become the target of the bear, a local hunters help is called in. A battle and fight for survival begins in the dark forests….

This movie was definitely not bad. It features a pretty impressive cast in the form of James Marsden, Glenn Jones, Thomas Jane, Piper Perabo and Billy Bob Thornton. As such the acting is definitely above par, and this truly elevates the movie to above average. The story ofcourse isn’t the next contender for best script at the next Oscar race, but that is not the reason you watch a movie like this anyway. There are a couple of pretty tense and exiting scenes featuring the bear, and all credit has to go to the animal trainers. Some of the scenes are so realistic that you have to wonder how in the world they did that with a real live animal.

All in all this was a pretty nice little creature feature. It starts of a bit slow, but once it picks up the pace, there really is enough to enjoy to definitely make it worth it. If you like monster movies, chances are good that you will enjoy this one.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10 score.