Dark Phoenix Review: Not a Complete Dumpster Fire but still a Fire.

two stars
I was not anticipating Dark Phoenix. 
With the lackluster trailers, which spoil the film, and the numerous stories about production problems and reshoots, it seemed that the second attempt to adapt the X-Men’s Phoenix Saga was not going to work.
Sadly, this did prove to be the case because Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg, is definitely one of the weakest X-Men films.
However, I will say that the movie is not as terrible as I thought it was going to be.
There are some redeeming qualities about it.
For starters, all of the actors do a good job with what they are given, especially Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.
I believe she could have done a fantastic job if the story had been good.

Jean Grey.jpg
Sophie Turner does a good job as the corrupted Jean Grey, and could have been fantastic had the script made her more than a pawn. 

Then there is the action, which serves as some mindless entertainment.
Even though the final action sequence does have some atrocious CGI, it is still enjoyable to watch.
Dark Phoenix also starts out pretty promising.
For the first twenty minutes I was actually liking it.
Sure, it was not amazing or anything, but I felt like it would not be that bad.
And then the aliens showed up.
Lead by Jessica Chastain’s Vuk, these discount Skrulls should not have been in the movie.
Not only are they boring and uninteresting but the main threat of this story should have been Jean.
One of the big reasons many people find the Phoenix storyline so engaging is because the X-Men are forced to fight one of their own.
Yet, somehow, both this film, and The Last Stand, have Jean simply being a pawn for a bigger villain.

Jessica Chastain.jpg
The aliens should not have been in Dark Phoenix. People want to see the Phoenix Force being the main threat, not it being manipulated… again. 

I wish I could say these aliens are the only bad things about Dark Phoenix but they are not.
While I did like the opening twenty minutes, there is one thing I absolutely hated there that persisted for most of the film.
This being the absolute character assassination of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy).
He acts nothing like the Xavier from the previous films, coming across as a complete narcissist, even after one of his close friends dies.
I get this was a part of his character arc but it does not work at all, considering how unlikable he is during the first hour and a half.

Charles Xavier resident asshole.jpg
Did a Skrull take over Charles Xavier? Well, one might as well have because this is not the Xavier we saw in the other films. 

It is also obvious that there were reshoots done because sections the film feels different from the rest of it, creating a jumbled experience.
The cinematography is also just bland, with no interesting shots to speak of.
Dark Phoenix is a mess.
It has some redeeming qualities like the performances, a few decent action sequences, and the first twenty minutes.
Other than these features though, the film falls flat on its face.
There have been two attempts at adapting this story and both have failed.
Hopefully, the third time will be the charm if Marvel decides to reboot the X-Men franchise.
In any case Dark Phoenix is a forgettable film that ends the X-Men series on a less than memorable note.

Game of Thrones, Series Finale, The Iron Throne Review: A Disappointing End.

two-and-a-half-stars
A few weeks before the series finale of Game of Thrones, “The Iron Throne”, aired, I learned that the ending of the show had been leaked.
I did not listen to these spoilers but I heard that those who had were disappointed with the ending, some even outright hating it.
This left me concerned, especially given that I was already disliking where the series was heading, having seen the incredibly underwhelming third episode, “The Long Night.”
So, coming into the final episode of Game of Thrones, I had my fingers crossed that the leaks were wrong and “The Iron Throne”, directed by David Benioff and D. B Weiss, would end the series right.
And you know what?
I thought the first half of this episode was pretty good.
It is not spectacular or anything, but I did like most of the things that happened here.
“The Iron Throne” picks up after Dany (Emilia Clarke) burned down King’s Landing, killing thousands of innocent civilians, including children.
We get to see a lot of characters dealing with the reality that Dany is not the benign ruler they all thought she was.
The best reaction of all of them, though, came from Tyrion who discovered Jamie and Cersei’s bodies in the crypts.
In the best case of acting in the episode, Tyrion completely breaks down in a very moving performance from Peter Dinklage.
I was very scared for Tyrion this episode, especially when he confronted Dany because I thought she might burn him then and there.
Thankfully, she just has him arrested, which leads to Jon (Kit Harrington) visiting him where they discuss the morality of what Dany has done in another great scene.
Conflicted, Jon goes to see her in the big moment of the finale.
As Dany touches the Iron Throne, Jon interrupts her and asks how she can justify her actions and what she plans to do next.
It is clear from Dany’s response that she is too far gone and, with no other choice, Jon stabs her after sharing a passionate kiss.
And so the mad queen falls, in a tragic end to her journey of reclaiming her family’s crown.

Jon kills Dany.jpg
Dany’s death is tragic… too bad they undercut it with jokes not ten minutes later.

However, it is not over yet because Drogon arrives and, in a heartbreaking moment, tries to awaken Dany, before burning the Iron Throne to the ground.
He then grabs Dany’s body and flies off into the unknown.
This first half of the episode is very well done in my opinion.
Is it perfect?
No, there are quite a few writing problems.
For example, Jon tells Tyrion he will not try to justify what Dany did only for him to attempt to justify it not a minute later.
But, overall, this first half is satisfying.
The second half, however, takes a trip to crazy land with all of its bad writing.
Everything goes downhill as soon as this second half starts.
In what has to be the worst scene of the entire episode, Tyrion is brought before the lords and ladies of Westeroes to decide what is to be done with Jon and who should be King now.
And who does Tyrion choose?
Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright).
That’s right, the guy who did literally nothing this season wins the game of thrones and becomes king.
It is not that this scene was not built up because there have been numerous scenes of Tyrion with Bran, as I pointed out in earlier reviews.
However, as I said, Bran has done nothing to earn becoming king.
What is more, it makes absolutely no sense that everyone agrees to crown him.
Half the people there do not even know him, or about his ability to see into the future.
And that is another thing, why did Bran not warn anyone that Dany was going to go crazy and burn down King’s Landing?
It makes him seem more like a villain than someone you would choose to be king.

Bran the broken.jpg
Bran becoming king could have worked if he actually did something instead of just sitting around acting more important than he is.

Sadly, these are not the only plot holes this scene presents because there is so much more.
Why did Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) not kill Jon after learning he murdered Dany?
Why does he allow Tyrion to speak?
Why does everyone listen to Tyrion when he is a prisoner, and only a few people like him?
The list goes on.
Even worse, there are water bottles just sitting around.
They seriously left their beverages out for people to see twice, and nobody noticed?
And then they have the nerve to try and add comedy here.
Not only do these jokes fall flat, but they completely undermine the tragic death of Dany we saw earlier.
Imagine if after the Red Wedding someone made a joke about the reception being bland.
That would have killed all of the emotion that came with the shocking moment.
Sadly, this “comedy” continues throughout the episode, with each joke being worse than the last.
Thankfully, we do get one good scene with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) where she writes down all of Jamie’s good deeds in the book he wanted to fill.
I am not sure she is qualified to do this but it at least gave me some closure surrounding Jamie’s badly written death.
A lot of the other character endings had potential too.
Jon is banished to the Night’s Watch but goes to live with the Wildlings, Arya (Maisie Williams) leaves Westeroes to explore the world, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) becomes Queen in the North.
Even Bran ending up as king had the potential to be good.
All of these endings are in character.
I can honestly see George R. R. Martin having these be where his characters end up at the end of his books, if he ever completes them that is.
The problem with all of these endings, though, is that they are either badly written or too rushed.
As I said, Bran did nothing the entire season, Jon being Aegon Targaryen meant literally nothing, Arya did nothing after the King’s Landing massacre, which makes her being there seem pointless, and Sansa declaring the North’s independence makes me wonder why the rest of the six kingdoms did not just do that?

Jonny boy
Jon living with the Wildlings is a fitting ending for him but what was the point of making him Aegon Targaryen? He could have just been Ned Stark’s bastard and nothing would have changed.

This all goes to show how rushed and badly written the final season is.
In this one episode alone there are dozens of plot holes, some of which I have not even talked about.
Again, the acting, cinematography and music are all fantastic but that does not mean much if there is not good writing to accompany them.
The second half of “The Iron Throne” did not just end the episode disappointingly, but the entire  Game of Thrones series as well.
Honestly, the last two seasons have really dragged down my opinion of the show.
Seasons 1-4 are still master pieces, and seasons 5-6 have some writing issues but are still great overall.
However, seasons 7-8 completely dropped the ball.
The ending could have worked but the writing just kills it.
I hope that if Martin ever finishes his books that the writing will be good enough to bring a satisfying conclusion that we are missing from the show.

Game of Thrones Season Eight, Episode Four, The Last of the Starks Review: The Beginning of the Mad Queen.

3 and a half stars
After the disappointing episode of “The Long Night”, the final season of Game of Thrones follows it up with a decent episode in “The Last of the Starks”, which is hopefully a sign that the show can present two fantastic final episodes.
I do have my doubts, but hopefully the writers can pull it off.
In any case, “The Last of the Starks”, like the first two episodes of the season, is mostly build-up for an inevitable battle between Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei (Lena Headey).
Before all of this though, we are given the aftermath of the battle with the Night King where we see all of those who were lost given a funeral.
Sam lights Edd’s pyre, Jon lights Lyanna’s, Arya lights Beric’s, Sansa lights Theon’s, and Dany lights Jorah.
The loss of these characters is palpable with all of the cast doing a great job at showing their grief, especially Dany who is the highlight of the episode with the series seeming to begin her transition into the Mad Queen.

Dany is pissed.jpg
Dany’s journey towards becoming more ruthless is great in “The Last of the Starks” with Emilia Clarke doing a great job.

This transition is featured throughout the episode, from how we see her interact with others at the feast, to her argument with Jon (Kit Harrington), and, finally,  the grief of her losing another dragon, Rhaegal, along with her close friend Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel).
However, one of these deaths is better than the other.
While Missandei’s death at the end of the episode is tragic, Rhaegal’s feels forced and once again reliant on the tropes George R. R. Martin tries to avoid.
He is shot out of the sky by Euron (Pilou Asbaek) in what feels like a complete shock value moment.
Not only this, but the scene has a ton of plot holes.
Where did Euron and his ships come from, how did Dany not see them, why did Euron not aim for Dany first and end the entire war?
Not only this, but a dragon being killed by one of series’ worst characters is hardly flattering.
Coming back to Missandei though, her death is handled well for the most part.
Sure, there are pacing and structural issues with her capture, but her death scene is incredibly strong, with her going out on the memorable line of “Dracarys!”
The performances of Emilia Clarke and Jacob Anderson, who plays Grey Worm, at this moment also help greatly to deliver an emotional gutpunch.
Both do a magnificent job, with it being clear through the final shot of Dany’s face that she is going to go on a rampage next episode.
Missandei’s death is very shocking and feels like a return to the old, unpredictable plot of Game of Thrones.

Missandei.png
Missandei’s death was very surprising to me because I thought Grey Worm would die before her.

Another scene that continues this feeling of a return to form is the conversation between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), which is my favourite scene of the episode.
The two discuss Dany’s recent volatile actions, leading Varys suggesting they overthrow her in favor of Jon.
This felt like a return to the gripping political drama of the first few seasons and, while Tyrion is still dumbed down compared to how he was in those seasons, it really like the old Varys has returned.
It will be interesting to see how Varys attempts to put Jon into power, as information about his true lineage is quickly spreading.

Varys and Tyrion
The conversation between Varys and Tyrion about what to do with Dany was very intriguing. I cannot wait to learn what Varys has planned.

Yes, Jon told Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) this episode about his true parentage which, as Dany said, may have not been the right call because, once it gets out, it is going to create a storm.
One minor gripe I did have with the scene where Jon tells Arya and Sansa is that it does not actually show him telling them.
Yeah, I get they did not want to repeat the explanation about his parentage again, but I would have liked to see Arya and Sansa’s reactions.
Speaking of Arya though, it looks like she and the Hound (Rory McCann) are on a suicide mission to kill Cersei and the Mountain.
While I think is likely that the Hound will die, it will be interesting to see what happens to Arya.
She has a very nice conclusion for her relationship with Gendry (Jon Dempsie) this episode, where she refuses his proposal of marriage because it is not who she is, which is in character.
Whatever happens to her though, Jamie will most likely get involved as well, with him leaving to either help or kill Cersei, abandoning Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), who he gets together with in the episode.
I felt this is a nice coupling, and the scene where Jamie (Nickolaj Conster-Waldau) explains to Brienne why he is leaving has a very tragic feel to it.
And, with Brienne, Sam, Gilly, little Sam, Tormund and Ghost all left behind at Winterfell, I think it is very likely all six of these characters are going to survive the series.
The final battle will be in King’s Landing and these characters are far away from it.
I just hope the series can end on a high note in its final two episodes.
Overall, “The Last of the Starks was a good episodes with a few flaws that held it back.
Still, it is better than “The Long Night” so that is something.