Game of Thrones: The Battle Lines Drawn Between the Old and the New in “Book of the Stranger”


The battle lines are being drawn in Game of Thrones, not between the Starks and the Lannisters, or between the good guys and the bad guys, but rather between the old and the new. The side of history, of tradition, of the way things have always been, stands poised against the onslaught of the novel and disruptive ideas that threaten to “break the wheel” and introduce a new order. “Book of the Stranger” sets up these conflicts between the past and the future as it darts across Westeros and beyond.

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How Sexism Ruins Ghostbusters for Everyone, Even the People Who Don’t Care


I’m not especially interested in the new Ghostbusters reboot. Comedy remakes and sequels are a dicey proposition at best. The trailer left me underwhelmed. And despite the fact that I think Kate McKinnon is amazing, the rest of the cast doesn’t really do it for me.

And yet I feel a strong impulse to not only see the film, but also to defend it in the face of the ridiculous backlash it’s received. It had the most “disliked” trailer ever on YouTube. It’s been the recipient of a terribly misogynistic response to the fact that the new film gender-flipped its predecessor. It’s been decried with the usual “destroying my childhood!” rhetoric for daring to remake a classic film with an extra X chromosome or two.

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Captain America: Civil War Brings the Superheroic Back Down to Earth


CAUTION: This review contains major spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.

Before Anthony and Joe Russo were directing superhero movies, they worked on a little show called Community about a group of misfits at a community college. The series, oddly enough, had a surprising amount in common with The Avengers. Both were about seven people from different backgrounds who bounced off one another in interesting ways, carried their own unique psychological baggage, and who would still, now and then, come together and do amazing things.

One of the most remarkable things about Community was its mastery of tone. The series was pitched as a comedy, and true to that billing, it was a funny, creative, and occasionally off-the-wall show. And yet it could just as easily shift into something quiet and personal, something unremittingly dark, or even something difficult and complex that lacked the sorts of easy answers seemingly required of all network sitcoms. The Russo brothers brought the same incredible ability to mesh different tones and characters to Captain America: Civil War and translated it onto a much bigger stage without missing a beat.

Because Civil War is hilarious, action-packed, and all kinds of fun. It’s has tons of inventive sequences and fights big and small that are filled with humor and imagination. But at the same time, Civil War is, in its own way, a very dark film about fear, regret, anger, a deep divide and a personal loss. It touches on big ideas like moral responsibility, individual guilt for broader actions, and the dangers of power without boundaries. The film, however, grounds these ideas in its well-developed characters, intimate individual moments, and personal relationships. It’s a smorgasbord of different scenes and settings and moods that can make you laugh, gasp, and feel the tragedy of a given moment, without letting these varying tones clash. And that is one hell of an achievement.

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Game of Thrones: The Futility of the Struggle in “Oathbreaker”


“I fought. I lost. Now I rest…You’ll be fighting their battles forever.” Alliser Thorne’s last words hang over “Oathbreaker.” The grand stories we tell both eschew and crave finality. A good journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but when we’re truly invested in it, we don’t want the ride to stop. We crave the spills, chills, and surprises. So heroes come back from the dead, siblings thought long lost reappear, and like the white walkers headed toward the gate, the story marches on.

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Game of Thrones: The Power of Giants, Little Men, and Nobodies in “Home”


Be kind to your dragons. Be kind to your giants. Be kind to your enforcers and lieutenants and underlings. Be kind to the nobodies, to the downtrodden, and to the “little people” who, unbeknownst to you, can loom quite large. Because these individuals have power–power that you may not recognize, power that you may take for granted–but power that may be turned against you or that, at some difficult moment, you may even sorely need.

No one is kinder, if still cautious, on this front than Tyrion. His quiet scene with Dany’s two remaining dragons was the highlight of an eventful, action-packed episode because of its simplicity and tension in the moment. Perhaps Tyrion is uniquely suited for dragon taming, particularly attuned to earning the trust of superior beasts. He is, after all, someone who has had to get by on disarming the powerful with his wits and charms rather than with his sword (though he’s occasionally used his pocketbook instead). And as Tyrion noted when we first met him, he has a particular appreciation for the unique and broken things across Westeros.

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Ranking: Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Hero and Villain

Ahead of the release of Captain America: Civil War, Andrew Bloom and Allison Shoemaker rank every Marvel Cinematic Universe hero and villain–both in film and on T.V.–and decide who would win in a hypothetical fight between each good guy and bad guy.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hive, Daisy, and the Show Itself Are Beautiful Accidents in “Failed Experiments”


Once they’ve been on the air long enough, most television shows start to become a little more reflective, a little more aware of their own histories, a little more apt to try to look back and tie everything together. With the release of Captain America: Civil War around the corner, and the increased viewership Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is likely to attract because of it, the folks behind the show are more inclined to try to make a statement, pull out all the stops, and demonstrate that their work stands equal with its cinematic brethren. So “Failed Experiments” presents the audience with a referendum on its protagonist, a referendum on S.H.I.E.L.D., and in some ways, a referendum on the series itself.

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Game of Thrones: The Grand, if Scattershot Reintroduction of “The Red Woman”


Game of Thrones
might be too familiar, too expansive, to have the same force it once did. When a show’s been on the air for five years, it’s harder for it to surprise you. The characters are well-established; you know most of the series’s tricks, and you also know a great deal about what the show’s good and bad at. Game of Thrones is good at a lot of things–humorous asides, daring rescues, and moving character moments–so that even when it’s simply chugging along, it’s still a very enjoyable show. But for a season premiere, “The Red Woman” was a bit underwhelming.

It wasn’t bad, mind you. There were plenty of exciting moments, surprising twists, and interesting developments. But there was little to make you sit up and take notice of a series at the height of its powers moving toward its end game, save for perhaps one scene.

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Fiddler on the Roof and the Movie Behind the Myth


I’ve written about The Citizen Kane Effect — the idea that sometimes a work hailed as a classic can do something so innovative and so essential within the medium, that its techniques become woven into the fabric of how later works present themselves. As a result, modern audiences may consume the original work and walk away unimpressed because the great strides of the past have become commonplace in the present day.

But there’s another, similar phenomenon that can prove challenging to the appreciation of great art. Works within any medium or genre can become such classics that they ascend almost into myth, becoming iconic to the point that even critics and devoted fans forget about the real, warts-and-all work that once earned the lavish praise and became the fodder for that myth-making.

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Batman v. Superman Is a Well-Intentioned, But Deeply-Flawed Mess of a Film


CAUTION: This review contains major spoilers for Batman v. Superman
.

There are some good ideas and good intentions behind Batman v. Superman. If you want to make a superhero film, there are worse comic books to crib from than Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and the Doomsday arc. If you’re trying to create a film that owns its four-color roots while also aiming to make some kind of grand statement, there are worse ideas than trying to examine the social and political repercussions of god-like aliens coming to Earth. If you want to add your own bit of shading to a set of time-honored icons, there are worse ways to do it than showing each of them struggling with the legacies of their parents.

But trying to do this all at once requires a deft hand. Trying to do it all with the added requirements of the expected big-budget action sequences, the need to launch a new cinematic universe, and an effort to correct for the perceived missteps of a prior film, would take a miracle-worker. If the balance of all of these disparate elements isn’t just right, instead of the intended depth and complexity, you get a well-meaning, but ultimately incoherent muddle. That’s what the cumbersomely titled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice amounts to — a boldly ambitious, hopelessly flawed, overextended mess of a film.

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