Game of Thrones Season 2 Thronedown: Episode 5 – The Ghost in Harrenhal
May 2012 01

So, here we are, episode 5 at last. It appears that the writers planned all along to start ramping things up at this point, and now we have proof that the story is going somewhere. Buildup is only as good as the payoff, so the jury’s still out, but I thought a strong episode heralds the second half of the series nicely. With the death of Renly, and the continued desperation of Theon to please his father at the expense of the Starks, there were at least two things that happened in this episode that I didn’t like. Bad things happening is where good drama comes from though, and the death of Renly is a timely reminder that, as Arya said herself “anyone can be killed”.

Alas Renly, we hardly knew ye

In amongst all the foreplay finally giving way to intercourse, it was the first time in a while that I’ve felt genuinely concerned for the Starks. Jon is on dangerous (and icy) ground, Catelyn is alone but for Brienne, Arya is (literally) in the Lions’ den, and Bran is on the verge of drowning in the desire of Theon to win his father’s love. The first family of Game of Thrones (in the audience’s eyes at least) is under threat, and it has brought a welcome spike in the stakes of this show.

The untimely death of Renly was sad. He is portrayed as being charismatic in the books, and Gethin Anthony brings that to the screen to great effect. Weiss and Benioff clearly know that it’s good to leave the audience wanting more, and Renly is the latest in a long line of Game of Thrones characters to die seemingly before their time. Speaking of Baratheons, Renly’s death demonstrated heretofore unseen aspects of Stannis’ personality, and showed that dude’s playing for keeps. His one-note gruffness at first gave him the appearance of being a lesser power, but as each episode goes by, layers are added to his personality, and his ruthless streak is coming to the fore. Less flamboyant than Robert and Renly, his questionable devotion to this mysterious faith makes him hard to figure out, but his implacable removal of his brother shows him as a force to be reckoned with.

Stannis: emerging from the shadows

Qarth seems suitable exotic and decadent, and it’s good to see Daenarys somewhere other than the desert. Pyat Pree the Warlock was genuinely disturbing, and Xaro Daxos showed that nothing in life comes for free, and where Daenarys’ route to Westeros might come from. Ser Jorah’s speech to Daenarys was well-acted and heartfelt, and it’s true that she has a good heart, however whether she can stay that way in such a dark world remains to be seen.

One thought on the dragon: it was well realised and believable (as mythical creatures that have never existed go), and is a welcome reminder that this story has a long way to go, and many twists and turns yet.

TA

Expendables 2 Trailer
May 2012 03

When I was 12 I think I would have literally exploded at the thought of this film!

 

May 2012 08

I liked his last directing effort ‘The Town’ and I have to say from this trailer this looks like it could be even better!

May 2012 08

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Posted In Movies

I wasn’t sure this was going to be very good considering the change of Director and lead actor, this trailer has given me a little more faith about the future of the franchise.  We have to remember Spiderman is a big business, the first in the Rami/Maguire trilogy had the highest grossing opening weekend in history.  I’m sure there is a lot of pressure on the new film to deliver similar figures on its opening weekend.  This should be achievable with the record breaking success of the summers other big Marvel picture ‘The Avengers’.  Only time will tell how well the Web slingers new outing will fair at the box office, but it sure looks a lot of fun.

May 2012 10

Not sure how this one slipped by me, but it did.  I love gangster films and this is one hell of a cast list.  Lets hope it lives up to expectations.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Thronedown: Episode 6 – The Old Gods and The New and Episode 7 – A Man Without Honour
May 2012 15

Sorry about the lack of an update last week, I was so shocked at the depths of Theon’s betrayal that I was rendered speechless for a week. Not that Episode 7 will have done anything to return my powers of verbal communication, that final shot will live long in the memory… if all is as it seems.

There’s a popular internet meme on Game of Thrones (unfortunately, I can’t find it to link to) that essentially says: “you know that character you like from Game of Thrones? Well, now he’s dead!”. Depicting in 3 panels the emotional roller coaster the viewer repeatedly goes on throughout the TV series. Bad things happen to good people, as anyone who saw last week’s episode knows only too well, and this week’s episode continues that trend. These last few episodes have moved the story at a rate of knots hitherto unseen this series, and in particular, the last three episodes have ramped up the tension.

We had more evidence that Bran appears to have an ability to see the future, with his dream of episode 5 proving all too prophetic. If anyone doubts that Bran is psychic, I’d like to show them the BIG BLOODY HAMMER that they have used to bang their point home. Problem is, if he and Rickon have been killed, it seems like a waste of a well-fleshed out and popular character.

 

Jon and Ygritte’s banter kept up unabated, with much teasing and poorly-hidden lust. It became obvious that there was something between them instantly, which I put down to the skill of Kit Harington and Rose Leslie, as the script doesn’t make it obvious until later. It’s times like this, that I have a brief flicker of hope that maybe George R. R. Martin isn’t creating the darkest fantasy world ever, and that there might be a positive end to all these dark deeds.

Tywin Lannister, played by Charles Dance, is undeniably sinister and irredeemable, but yet… but yet he does have a charisma to him. The scenes with him and Arya (clearly some kind of surrogate daughter figure) illustrate this very well, and Arya shows a valuable talent for making friends, whether she means to or not. One thing that continually marks this series out is the complexity of the characters, with only Joffrey displaying outright, unfiltered, uncorrupted, evil. Tywin is ambitious and cruel, but suggests a kinder side in this episode, hinting that he may have got on well with Ned Stark, were they not two sides of completely different political coins. Jaime Lannister, another ‘boo hiss’ character, seems more psychotic than evil in his slow dance with death, his good looks and skill with a sword the only things that salve his tortured soul.

While we’re on the subject of complex characters and Jaime Lannister, how about Catelyn Stark? Yes, she has been a great, strong mother throughout the series, and yes, also a loyal wife to Ned, but nowhere is this commitment to strong characters more evident in her obvious hatred for Jon Snow, something Jaime couldn’t wait to remind her about. Jon is clearly a good man, but as Jaime so gleefully pointed out, is living proof of her beloved husband’s infidelity, and her harshness towards him indicates a (perhaps understandably) flawed character .

This series has a different form of pacing to the first, probably necessitated by the endless procession of characters and story set-up. This is illustrated best by the fact that this series has had more episodes in which some characters have not appeared at all, compared to the first series. The first series also had a strong through-line of tension to it, something that gave urgency to the political manoeuvring and hooked the audience. This series has lacked that, perhaps intentionally at first, but appears to be saving some kind of climactic event for the final episodes (fingers crossed for a big old sword fight!). In the meantime, Throners, we wait with bated breath.

TA

TV meets EPG 2.0
May 2012 15

Linear TV maybe viewed as dead or dying, the next generation of customers want content when they want it and not when broadcasters say they should have it. It will still govern the supply and content of VOD (Video on Demand) for the foreseeable, but VOD first could be an idea if ratings continue to push higher in PVR & VOD. People tend to no longer base their lives around TV but rather fit TV in around their lives. This change to viewing habits has led to a drop in ratings in linear TV thus a drop in advertising revenue which means there is less money to make high end programming and we end up with cheap looking easy to reproduce “trash” TV like “Come Dine with me” or “Harry Hill`s TV Burp” although you might enjoy these shows they are cheap and easy to mass produce and fill time. They draw a steady audience and a minimal sponsor and ad revenue. Is this the grave yard of programming?

On the upper floor of TV, VOD is taking off, massive ratings are being reported with growth in all aspects, 1 broadcaster declared its having 2 billion requests from end users a year for content another with a much, much smaller possible audience is reporting over a billion requests.

 

We are in a time where the handheld device is the final platform not the TV. Bandwidth for these devices will grow to speeds of basic cable packages as 4G gets up and running and the old TV Analogue system turns off freeing up frequencies for new options. 30mbs to a Smartphone or Tablet will be epic and open a whole new world of content availability to the end user. But will content availability be enough, If the last few years have shown us anything with the rise of the social networking monster, it’s that interactivity will be the key to not only reaching our audience but growing the potential audience, thus increasing brand awareness and market position and ultimately revenue.

 

 

In “normal” TV transmission you will have seen little graphics bars pop up at the bottom or top of the screen during a program telling you what’s on next or on a sister channel or perhaps directing you to a website, either way adding to the interactivity of that brand and trying to tow you along and stop you from leaving that channel/brand at the end of the show. This generally works but we are becoming numb to its charms. This is where social networking will, and in some cases has already, step in, building up on linear TV and connecting with VOD. Forcing broadcasters to look at how the popularity, or trend if you will, of a programme sweeps across the internet via twitter or Facebook. This biggest weapon for this right now is Zeebox, not only does it take on the role of an excellent live EPG, but it also connects to all your social network sites so your friends can see what you are watching and you them. Trending the popularity of a show so much that audience viewings grow or fail as social groups fall in line, whether to create a discussion point or whether to just feel part of a group. Another great trick of zeebox is it uses wifi to connect to your “Connected TV” or “Virgin TiVo” meaning it will change channel for you or open up that VOD  content (Virgin TiVo only as I understand for VOD)  but still a brilliant perk to a free app!

The import thing here is the trend setting power of this type of tool, depending on the mood of the current online social group it has the power to force a swing in ratings, one well-placed tweet and ratings spike and drop dramatically. What will this mean for revenue and programming?

One thing for sure is programming will have to become better again to fight for ratings as well as maintain them, with luck pushing the elimination of the cheap shows as their ratings trend reflect massive fails or “walk outs”

All this change caused by the humble EPG catching on with the social network bug. So what next? What would you like in your EPG? Console interaction? VOD schedules? Would be nice to have a search function on a smart EPG that searched all your subscribed VOD services and found your wanted program for you and could this be a step towards slowing piracy, I know it will never rid us of piracy, nothing ever will no matter how smart DRM, ISPs or Studios think they are, but it may reduce it?

 

Ben

Zero Punctuation
May 2012 17

With halo 4 on the pre-order list of antisocial excuses, it had me remembering the funny review style and animation of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. A Games reviewer for the online magazine ‘The Escapist’, Check out his pages at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation
and try to keep up!

Ben

Creator Dan Harmon Leaves ‘Community’, Blogs About it
May 2012 20

The blogosphere has been set alight.

Picture the scene: outraged bloggers are typing ALL IN CAPS, the sirens and smoke of a cyber-riot are swirling, and the ‘Occupy NBC’ movement has had a surge in membership… all of this because Dan Harmon, the creator of a TV show called ‘Community‘, has been forced to leave the show by NBC.

“Whoa, whoa, what is Community?” I hear you say.

Well, that’s a good question. ‘Community’ is a sitcom set in an American Community College. Featuring the usual motley crew of misfits:

Jeff, the protagonist, is a disgraced former lawyer trying to pass the bar after being found to have faked his certificate whilst practicing.

Troy, a former high school quarterback, struggling to let go of his former glories.

Annie, an ex-classmate of Troy’s, used to be a legal pill-addict due to her inability to deal with the pressure to achieve.

Britta is a principled burnout who has run out of excuses to carry on travelling.

Shirley, struggling to avoid stereotypes as a middle-aged single mum trying to launch an online business.

Pierce is a retired millionaire dilettante whose antisocial ways have left him lonely.

Abed (my favourite) brings the fun: a Palestinian-Polish-American who has a form of autism that causes him to see life as a TV show, spoilers and all.

Note how they resemble an ‘unconventional, dysfunctional, modern family’

“So far, so standard sitcom”

Well, yes, but in practice, Dan Harmon and his cohorts have created a likeable and unusual comedy that contains numerous idiosyncratic references to films, music, TV, internet memes and other forms of pop culture. All whilst exploring themes of friendship and identity (and all that other ‘blah’ stuff). Whole episodes are satires, or tributes to, films (such as the episode that parodies ‘Goodfellas’), computer games, and mediums (an episode done in stop-motion animation). All of this, and Ken Jeong as Senor Chang gives the show some truly original comic moments. Dan Harmon has consistently been unafraid to insert these references, (often unexplained) into the scripts, and is a big reason for the show’s madcap appeal.

This kind of eclectic sight is not uncommon in ‘Community’

“I’m beginning to see why this has come so close to being cancelled”

Now you’re getting it! As a TV show that sets itself up to be an endless parade of in-jokes and unconventional humour, it’s perhaps not surprising it has struggled in much the same way as ‘Arrested Development‘ did before it. ‘Community’ has flirted outrageously with cancellation throughout its run, and it’s something of a miracle that, in the cut-throat world of American TV, it has taken this long for something like this to happen.

“Ratings don’t lie though, something must have been wrong”

I can see where you’re going with that, but in reality Nielsen ratings have long been considered flawed, and ‘Community’ has such an esoteric, oddball appeal, that it may even be a victim of its own success. A large part of ‘Community’s fan-base are the kind of people who will be able to laugh at an episode framed as a parody of ‘My Dinner with Andre’ and also know when ‘Call of Duty’ is being ribbed. People with that kind of eclectic and broad cultural knowledge aren’t as widespread as the legion of designer handbag-toting fans of ‘Sex and the City’ but there are enough out there to keep a show afloat.

Problem is, with standard TV watching receding in America, other methods of consuming media are coming to the fore: downloading, Sky+-like services, streaming, DVD rental and, let’s face it, torrents are all ways that young, tech-savvy people enjoy TV. The target market for ‘Community’ may not be watching in such a way that contributes to the ratings, thus meaning that their own targeted demographics are harming their brand in a world where an archaic and flawed measuring system is the industry standard.

“This is all very depressing, however, I do want to check ‘Community’ out now”

Yes, yes it is. However, we do some reasons for optimism:

1. ‘Arrested Development’, ‘Futurama’, ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ are all recent examples of shows that have defied the “chew you up and spit you out” mentality of the American TV industry. With its loyal fans, perhaps ‘Community could be the latest phoenix from the ashes fan success story?

2. The show hasn’t actually been cancelled, there might be a possibility of it being as good as it was before. It can’t have all been Dan Harmon. Writers, actors and directors will have all contributed in some way.

3. Ken Jeong will still be involved:

It’s sad, it’s depressing, it’s the reality of the world we live in, but it’s always hard to take when interesting creators are prevented from doing what they do best by the economics of the situation. While we live in a world where the uneasy marriage of big business and creativity perseveres for the sake of the kids, this will happen again, and again, and again.

Let’s just hope that each time it happens, there are a few more laughs along the way. The link to Dan Harmon’s incandescent-rage-inducing blog post, is here. Drop a comment below.

TA

May 2012 21
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