Whats the hype about Game of Thrones?

Game of Thrones Books: the phenomenon

Political metaphors don’t come much more pointed than the Iron Throne, the seat of the kings of Westeros in George R R Martin’s sprawling fantasy sequence in game of thrones book 1 A Song of Ice and Fire. Forged from a thousand captured daggers and swords, the vast metal chair is designed to prick and goad its calmest occupants and slice the unwary to ribbons. One aspirant gloomily remarks on “the barbs along the back, the ribbons of twisted steel, the jagged ends of swords and knives all tangled up and melted. It is not a seat where a man can rest at ease.”

HBO’s televisation of Game of Thrones

The US television company HBO knows a good thing when it sees it, so it’s perhaps no surprise that its marketing team seized on the Iron Throne as a marketing tool for A Game of Thrones, its recent series (shown here on Sky Atlantic) dramatising the first novel in Martin’s sequence. Replicas of the dismal edifice, bristling with weaponry like militarised porcupines, did the rounds of America’s major cities. Some were mounted on bicycle rickshaws in New York. Another model recently embarked on a tour of Spain.

The Throne did its job, even if the uninitiated were more likely to mistake it for something from the cover of a Slayer album. After just one episode of the series, HBO was pleased enough with the series’ audience figures to commission another run. Readers of Martin’s source novels, though, may well have been chilled to see this grim symbol of hubris and the corruption of power paraded through the centres of American power and the streets of austerity Europe – or they may just have taken it as confirmation that these books are an epic for our times.

Written by the son of a New Jersey longshoreman who became frustrated with “always knowing the end” of novels set in real historical periods, A Song of Ice and Fire is not on the surface an obvious candidate for the breakout success it has enjoyed. It takes place in a barbarous medieval world, full of people whose names (Eddard, Robb, Marq) look like accidents with a spellchecker. It draws inspiration from the savage political infighting of the Wars of the Roses, and it incorporates several elements that have become de rigueur in fantasy novels: swords with names, mythical beasts, daring deeds of arms and acres of heaving naked flesh.

But the books also have a cynic’s heart, a brutally modern take on human nature and a highly contemporary interest in relative morality, hierarchical injustice and bad faith – not to mention some effortless large-scale storytelling and a cliffhanger at the end of every other chapter. Assuming the groaning pile of superlatives already heaped on the series can bear another, they are fantasy fiction’s equivalent to The Wire.

Game of Thrones Books, series and games

Is James Bond Spectre set to beat Skyfall ratings?

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE

SPECTRE review: ‘a swaggering show of confidence’

This is pure flamboyance from Sam Mendes as the 24th movie of the James Bond franchise combines hold-your-breath action and ghosts of 007 past, says Robbie Collin.

What do we do now?” wonders Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), around halfway through the new James Bond film SPECTRE, shortly after our hero (Daniel Craig) has done away with a villain in creatively gruesome style during a railway journey across the Sahara.

Of course, everyone in the cinema knows the answer – as, you suspect, does Madeleine, who, less than 24 hours after meeting cinema’s premier secret agent at a snow-swathed clinic in the Austrian Alps, has jumped continents to Morocco, boarded the Tangier to Marrakesh sleeper, slipped into an ivory cocktail gown, repaired to the dining car for a Martini (neither shaken nor stirred, but dirty, FYI) and shot a couple of bad guys in the head for good measure. A Bond film’s rules might be predictable, but once its mechanisms start whirring, you can’t help but fall in step. An impossibly glamorous love scene isn’t just a good idea; it’s virtually mandated by the cosmos.

Daniel Craig: ‘My family hate me’

Rome looks like a $300-million-dollar Tiramisu 

If James Bond Skyfall, the 23rd film in the Bond franchise, was about making sense of the Bond character in the modern world, finally resetting the clock with that delicious closing scene – Bond, M and Moneypenny restored to the wood-panelled office of old – SPECTRE, the 24th, is the film that Skyfall made possible. The four-word epigraph that begins the film – “The dead are alive” – reminds you that no film series has been better at raiding its own mausoleum, and throughout SPECTRE, ghosts of Bond films past come gliding through the film, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake.

It starts in Mexico City, however, with something completely new: a hold-your-breath tracking shot, perhaps five minutes in length, that follows Bond through a surging street parade, into a hotel, up three floors, into a suite, out of the window, and much further, without a single observable cut – an instant all-time greatest moment in the franchise.

It’s a swaggering show of confidence from returning director Sam Mendes and his brilliant cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema, who shot SPECTRE on luxurious 35mm film – a marked change of texture from Skyfall’s gleaming digital froideur. The film’s colour palette is so full of mouth-watering chocolates, coffees and creams that when the story moves to Rome, the city looks like a $300-million-dollar, fascist tiramisu.

It’s a feat of pure cinematic necromancy 

Bond has gone to Mexico on the advice of M – not the Ralph Fiennes model, but the Judi Dench version, who in a posthumous message that has surfaced since Skyfall, asks him to do away with a contract killer, Sciarra, “and don’t miss his funeral”.

  • SPECTRE: how many classic Bond references did you spot?

Sciarra – or rather, his widow, Lucia, sleekly played by Monica Bellucci – turns out to be the frayed stitch in a conspiracy that loosely knots together the events of the previous Craig-led films. (Or Casino Royale and Skyfall, at least: Quantum of Solace is tactfully ushered off-stage for the most part.) The trail leads Bond to a creaking cabin on the shore of Lake Altaussee in Austria, then on to the mountaintop clinic and Madeleine, whose name’s Proustian resonance – surely the most highbrow Bond Girl pun to date – does, as promised, spirit 007 to an encounter with his past.

Much speculation has swirled around the film’s main villain, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), and the particulars of his agenda won’t be mentioned here, but suffice it to say: despite the globe-encircling master plan, this time, it’s truly personal. Waltz occasionally dices with camp, but mostly underplays what’s essentially a ridiculous role, deploying a blank serenity that’s truly chilling in key scenes, including his first appearance in the SPECTRE boardroom, silhouetted against a column of golden light. Craig, meanwhile, captains Bond into a majestically craggy middle age, bringing a mature, clenched physicality to the chase and combat scenes, and even allowing himself the odd crumpled smirk after a deadpan quip.

There is an elegantly subtle moment in M’s office towards the start of the film in which both Bond and his boss both look their age: they’re having to contend with younger, nimbler threats from within as well as without. To that end, the British government is developing an international surveillance scheme called Nine Eyes with a view to rendering the (dated, unaccountable) double-0 programme redundant. It’s being masterminded by Denbigh (Andrew Scott, known to many as Sherlock’s arch-nemesis Moriarty), a Whitehall mandarin whose code name is C: we never find out what this stands for, but given his conduct, it’s easy enough to guess.

We’re also spared the details of exactly what the scheme will entail, though Denbigh talks about capturing “the world’s digital ghost”, and boasts of being able to scan through CCTV footage from any member nation at will. But a couple of junior MI6 members aren’t sold on it: they are, naturally, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), both of whom develop their Skyfall roles with charm and wit (and, in Q’s case, some excellent knitwear).

Meet the man who makes Bond go bang

Up against this flinty modernity, though, writers John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth rub sly references to the Bond canon, and craft moments of pure flamboyance that belong there: a secret base inside a crater, a spot-lit meteor as an interior design feature, a wrestling match in a pilotless helicopter, two leonine sports cars roaring through the Roman night. There is also a torture scene for the ages, peppered with dark laughs, but tense and shiveringly sadistic – which probably tests the film’s 12A certificate to its limit. But Spectre pulls it off in the grand old Fleming style. It’s an act of pure cinematic necromancy.

Find out the latest on James Bond Spectre premier London by clicking here

Spectacular movie and story line

Review on Jurassic World Movie

The film doesn’t skimp on special effects, but the story and dialogue are wooden

Owen (Chris Pratt) trains dinosaurs in "Jurassic World."

The dialogue in “Jurassic World” is nothing to write home about — surprise, surprise — but it is telling.

“No one’s impressed with a dinosaur anymore,” one character says near the beginning of the film. She’s talking about visitors to Jurassic World, the theme park built from the ashes of Jurassic Park Review. But that’s the obstacle the filmmakers face, too, right?

When Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” debuted in 1993, seeing a velociraptor whiz by or a T-Rex open his jaws and roar was stunning. Truly, there hadn’t been anything like it before, that kind of realism with such fantastic subject matter, and there couldn’t have been a better director than Spielberg to bring it to life.

But it’s 22 years later, both in real life and in the time frame of the film, and director Colin Trevorrow and the team of screenwriters acknowledge with that line the challenge they face, both in the movie and out. A generation of audiences has seen it all before.

Or as they say in the movie, “Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth.”

At least on that front, “Jurassic World” gives the people what they want.

Although customers still flock to the theme park, where they can see more and bigger dinosaurs — kids ride some in one attraction — growth isn’t meeting projections. We learn this from Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the ice-queen manager who is evidently lacking in any form of human emotion.

This gets at another telling line in the film: “Nothing in Jurassic World is natural.”

This includes character development.

To boost attendance, the park’s resident scientific genius, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, the lone holdover from the first film), has come up with a new dinosaur or something like it: Indominus Rex, a genetically engineered creature whose origins are kept a secret. But what’s clear is that it is designed to be bigger and badder than anything that’s ever come before.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

Stylish, compact and sophisticated

The latest car for 2015 is the Fiat expanding 500 range, the 500X is a compact crossover aimed at the Citroen C4 Cactus, Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke.

What is the Fiat 500X?

Fiat 500XFiat 500X takes the styling of the 500 city car and turns it up to 11

The 500X has a supermini-sized footprint and plenty of off-road attitude. Prices at the time of writing range from £14,595 up to nearly £26,000.

Most buyers will opt for a front-wheel-drive 500X in either Pop, Popstar or Lounge spec. However, if you want more rugged styling, the Cross version has bumper skid-plates and a traction-aiding front differential. And, if you really need four-wheel drive, the Cross Plus borrows its 4WD system from the closely-related Jeep Renegade.

The 500X seats five and has a 350-litre boot – bigger than a VW Golf but smaller than most crossover rivals. Its colourful interior features plenty of retro styling cues, including metal-look door handles and body-coloured plastic on the dashboard. All models apart from the basic Pop get a 6.5in touchscreen media system.

Which engines will the Fiat 500X use?

The engine line-up at launch starts with a 109bhp 1.6 petrol. There’s also a 138bhp 1.4 turbo petrol, plus two diesels: a 118bhp 1.6 and a 138bhp 2.0. Only the bigger diesel is available with four-wheel drive at first, although more powerful petrol and diesel models with 4WD will follow soon.

The entry-level 1.6 petrol comes with a five-speed manual gearbox. Most other models get a six-speed manual, but the 2.0 diesel has Fiat’s new nine-speed automatic. Yes, you read that right, nine gears in a small family car…

Why should I buy a Fiat 500X?

Fiat 500XCross Plus versions of the Fiat 500X have four-wheel drive

Fashionable and funky, small crossovers are the must-have cars of the moment. The Nissan Juke has proved that bold, in-your-face styling is no barrier to success, and the ‘500 on steroids’ look of the 500X will tick plenty of buyers’ boxes, too.

You may also appreciate the Fiat’s elevated driving position (somewhere between a car and an SUV) and added versatility of its raised ground clearance. Whether you’re crossing a muddy field or simply negotiating a multi-storey car park, those extra inches can make a big difference.

Lastly, the 500X offers generous interior space, along with practical touches like big door bins and a split-level boot floor.

When is the Fiat 500X on sale?

The 500X hits showrooms in Spring 2015!!

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