Charles Dance (#110 of 12)

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive Alien³ at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

20th Century Fox

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

David Fincher’s Alien³ may be the only film ever made to peak with its logo. As the 20th Century Fox fanfare crescendos over the studio’s familiar logo, the music holds on the minor chord before the usual last note, replacing jubilant bombast with a dissonant groan of strings. The alteration produces an immediate sense of discomfort and unease, setting the tone for something ominous and fearsome. It’s an ingenious shot across the bow from Fincher, ushering in a feature career dotted with immaculately ordered, carefully scored works of blockbuster entertainment that veered from audience-pleasing major keys to their grim underbellies.

The perversion of the Fox theme epitomizes a succinct grasp of horror that only occasionally surfaces in the film proper. Too often, Alien³ shows its seams, whether in its thematic arc or the design of the xenomorph, and at not even two hours it still feels weighed down by unnecessary exposition and padded suspense scenes. But blame for much of this cannot fall at one person’s feet, as the film was notoriously the product of years of production hell that saw the studio soliciting wildly different drafts from writers including (but not limited to) cyberpunk author William Gibson, writer-director Vincent Ward, and producer/filmmaker Walter Hill. Eventually, ideas from each version found their way into a Frankenstein monster of a shooting script, one further plagued by endless on-set rewrites that left Fincher so exasperated that even Fox’s officially released behind-the-scenes footage shows the director railing against the pressures of the studio’s poorly planned project.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 1, "The Wars to Come"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Wars to Come”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Wars to Come”

The fifth season of Game of Thrones begins like a fairy tale: Once upon a time, two girls walk through a forest, muddying up their fancy clothes in search of a fortune-telling witch. One of the two is terrified, and halting, but the other is confident and brave, leading her friend by the hand, and facing down the hag. However, the interesting thing about fairy tales, like history, is that so much weight hangs on the perspective of those hearing the tale, and so as we realize that this bold little girl will one day grow up to be Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), we notice that she didn't lead her friend through the woods so much as pull and coerce her. She's not Snow White in this story, but rather the Wicked Witch, the one who's told “You'll be queen, for a time. Then comes another. Younger, more beautiful.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 10, "The Children"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

Contrary to the structure of most serial television, Game of Thrones tends to peak with its penultimate episode, leaving finales open to operate as a form of self-summary. They take stock of the dead, consider the implications of arc climaxes, and anticipate how characters will move forward in the subsequent season. This structure fits with the mission statement of George R. R. Martin's books: to dispel the orthodox narratives and tone of fantasy to consider how magic and dragons might impact something closer to medieval history and anthropology.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 7, "Mockingbird"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

“Brilliant speech,” Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) says with fatalistic sarcasm amid berating Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) for the show-stopping speech he gave at the end of the previous episode. Doubly mad at his brother for spurning the deal he brokered with their father, Tywin (Charles Dance), for Tyrion's life, and himself for not realizing that the deal is what Tywin wanted all along, Jaime can only begrudgingly accept Tyrion's line of thinking while throwing up his hands at the hopelessness of any action. As an introduction, it stands out as bleak even for a season that now occurs almost entirely in shadow.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 6, "The Laws of God and Men"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “The Laws of God and Men”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “The Laws of God and Men”

If every episode of this season of Game of Thrones so far has revolved around a focusing idea, the unifying element of “The Laws of God and Men” may be the profound silence of the show's architecture. It begins with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) visiting the Iron Bank in Braavos, meeting a collection of bankers in a vast hall that adds a degree of severity to the talk before anyone speaks. A shot of the wannabe king's ship sailing into Braavos establishes the city as a temperate lagoon, but the bank's room feels as cold as the dilapidated chambers of Castle Black, too large to retain its warmth.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 5, "First of His Name"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “First of His Name”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “First of His Name”

Last week's episode of Game of Thrones made an unfortunate case against the show's writers straying too far from the source material. Deviations acknowledge that an adaptation in a different medium must address the context of that medium before strict faithfulness to the text, and the episode's additions admirably attempted to give focus to George R. R. Martin's weaker plotlines. Most obvious, and nominally welcome, of these alterations is Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) getting to interact with other characters instead of endlessly wandering the forest with his usual, bland companions, the most interesting of whom is a giant who can only repeat his name ad infinitum. In execution, however, none of the changes seemed to do anything but pad out an hour of television, and a week later, only Michelle MacLaren's brilliantly composed coda with the White Walkers sticks in the memory.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 3, "Breaker of Chains"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains”

Joffrey's death last week on Game of Thrones stood out from the show's many past fatalities in that it marked the first time a major character's demise prompted celebration rather than simply shock. So rapturously received was Joffrey's demise that some even took to finger-wagging over the glee, casting aspersions on those who would revel in the death of a minor, even a fictional one who made a number of Russian tsars look well-balanced in comparison. But as “Breaker of Chains” demonstrates within its first 10 minutes, even Joffrey's own family cannot muster much bereavement for the departed king. Standing over the boy's posed corpse in a private chamber, Tywin (Charles Dance) tells the next in line for the throne, Joffrey's younger brother, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), that Joffrey was not a wise or good king, and that his unfitness for rule contributed to his present state. For his part, Tommen appears far more nervous at being quizzed by his grandfather than he does standing over his brother's prepared body.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 1, "Two Swords"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Two Swords”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Two Swords”

Game of Thrones has always had a fractured structure, be it the result of having to jump great geographical distances to follow all of its characters, or of cataclysmic, splintering events like the execution of Ned Stark just as he emerged as the show's seeming focus. Judging from the torpor of “Two Swords,” the fourth-season premiere, the residents of Westeros still haven't put themselves back together in the wake of the Red Wedding. In a series that regularly undermines the tenets of fantasy, replacing a world of chivalry and duty with one of ceaseless rape and murder, the concept of guest rights may be the last shred of honor to which anyone held, and even those who benefit from Robb Stark's demise seem to worry over its implications.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 5, "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

With “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss try too hard to introduce an elemental aspect to Game of Thrones's focus on the nature of power. A veiled, unidentified woman tells Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) the reason Qarth's residents lust after Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) dragons is because “dragons are fire made flesh. And fire is power.” Fire is thus associated with strength in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and water represents powerlessness.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 3, "What Is Dead May Never Die"

Comments Comments (...)

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

With tonight's episode, the writers of Game of Thrones continue the trend of organizing each episode of season two around a different theme. Every episode seems to revolve around a Lebowski rug quote (i.e., one that holds an entire episode together like the Dude's rug held his room together). Last week, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) delivered such a line about midway through “The Night Lands” when he declared that “sometimes those with the most power have the least grace.” In “What Is Dead May Never Die,” a title that paraphrases a famous incantatory line from the seminal H.P. Lovecraft short story The Call of Cthulhu, Varys (Conleth Hill) authoritatively suggests that “power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very long shadow” after Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) puts on a great display of power by ferreting out one of Queen Cersei Lannister's (Lena Headey) spies.