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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Summer Reviews Round-Up #1: July 2015

Image Source: Screenrant
Brace yourselves for a plethora of verdicts on this Summer's hottest blockbuster titles, from Jurassic World to Batman Arkham Knight...
Eagle-eyed On-Screen devotees may well have taken note of and / or bemoaned the lack of reviews and related opinion-centric articles on the blog of late. That being the case, trust us when we proclaim that we've taken just as much notice of our own inadvertent negligence, and as such wanted to start making amends by bringing our oh-so-loyal readership a wealth of succinct, definitive comments on the most discussed (and indeed least discussed) entertainment releases of this particularly jam-packed Summer.

Recapping the countless new titles which have hit the market in recent weeks will take time, of course, hence our inclusion of '#1' in this very article's title, but rest assured that we'll do our utmost in the coming weeks to cover each and every release of note in similarly concise and informative fashion. For now, though, we're kicking off proceedings with a thorough evaluation of cinematic behemoths like Jurassic World and Ted 2, long-awaited licensed video games like Batman Arkham Knight and even the odd TV show in the form of Channel 4's potent new drama, Humans. Read on, then, for all of the uninfluenced, unrelenting and therefore unmissable verdicts that we know you've secretly been craving of late:

  • Whiplash - If ever an Academy Award victor truly deserved their relevant gong, it's J.K. Simmons, whose performance as an unforgiving yet ultimately well-meaning orchestral coach in this spellbinding musical drama represents a true turn for the ages. Regardless of whether his exemplary portrayals in the likes of Spider-Man and Portal 2 directly foreshadowed his enviable success here, few will likely deny the raw strength and conviction of the man's contribution to Whiplash, nor the piece's sure-fire candidacy for our Film of the Year 2015 title as a result. Throw in understated yet surprisingly compelling portrayals from both Divergent's Miles Teller and Supergirl's Melissa Benoist, visually assured direction from Damien Chazelle, a screenplay which never loses its sense of thematic direction or indeed rigorous pacing, plus one of the most captivating big-screen scores in recent memory, and we're left with a tour de force of 21st Century storytelling which simply can't be skipped under any circumstances. 5/5
  • Foxcatcher - Whereas Whiplash thrives thanks to its immovable focus on making its way through its effortlessly engaging narrative in as concise yet compelling a fashion as humanly possible, for all its merits, Foxcatcher - a largely compelling biopic centred around the increasingly fragile relationship between a wrestler, his sibling and his hauntingly eccentric benefactor - loses sight of its endpoint as early as its halfway point, leading the picture as a whole to stumble in terms of its momentum to an almost crippling extent. Such is the nature of the biographical genre that screenwriters must almost inevitably find themselves limited by the constraints of their factual source material, a shortcoming that manifests itself all too clearly here as central protagonist Mark Schultz becomes needlessly sidelined to such an extent that viewers may justifiably wonder exactly in which central constructs they're meant to be invested. Admittedly, those who claimed earlier this year that Steve Carrell's work here in the role of the aforementioned financial benefactor, John du Pont, more than warranted an Oscar nod of some kind weren't wrong in the slightest, nor those who lauded Channing Tatum's admirably multi-faceted performance as Schultz. If only those who put pen to paper in the project's pre-production stages had dared to take their narrative beyond the realms of biographical fact and into the far more appealing realms of open-ended fiction, however, so as to keep Tatum's character centre-stage and thus create a dramatically sound narrative, then in a year where the likes of Birdman easily (and rightly, we might add) flourished from a critical perspective, Foxcatcher might well have been remembered as more of a Best Picture contender than a mere pretender. 4/5
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service - Between Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, Matthew Vaughn has already proved his capabilities as an accomplished director of subversive blockbusters in recent years, but my oh my, his latest work takes the biscuit in this regard. At once both a star-studded rollercoaster ride and a hilarious parody of the antiquated spy motion picture which brings to mind Edgar Wright's infamous Cornetto trilogy thanks to the ease with which its narrative tears apart just about every generic convention known to the industry, Kingsman: The Secret Service caught this reviewer off-guard to a greater extent than he could ever possibly have anticipated. In spite of its streeturchin-turned-secret agent protagonist acquiring his weapons skill-set rather abruptly come the third act, Kingsman packs an extremely intelligent screenplay which never lets up in terms of momentum nor misses an opportunity to call out the moments where tropes such as world-ending countdowns or maniacal monologues come into play, meaning that the brilliantly utilised cast ensemble (each of whom - Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson and Mark Hamill amongst them - doubtless receive moments aplenty to shine and certainly don't disappoint in those instances either) are merely the icing on a stunning masterpiece of a (metaphorical but no less scrumptious) cake. 5/5
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - Considering the colossal, near-unparalleled hype which surrounded the Marvel Cinematic Universe's eleventh instalment in the run-up to its highly anticipated big-screen première, the experience of consuming Avengers: Age of Ultron was - for us - nothing short of a bitter disappointment. Yes, James Spader's voice-work as the piece's titular wit-fuelled antagonist comes close to matching Tom Hiddleston's exemplary contribution to Avengers Assemble as Loki, yet the character's tendency to crack jokes rather than justify his humanity-threatening vendetta soon grates, especially once we're forced to sit through yet another confrontation between the Earth's Mightiest Heroes and an infinite army of semi-faceless adversaries, the latter of whom show no signs of moral ambiguity, therefore presenting the viewer with no reasons whatsoever to become invested in the conflict save for the odd gasp-warranting moment or brief comedic skit. Indeed, Age's alarming emphasis on humour could justifiably be argued as one of its greatest faults, since in prioritising laughs over pure comprehension, director and screenwriter Joss Whedon seems to have forgotten that having Thor suddenly explore an overly fantastical cave in search of the secrets of his next solo film only to then come back to his allies bearing confounding knowledge of why their new artificial comrade, the Vision, can be of service mightn't render the picture's overall storyline as particularly accessible for anyone except the most dedicated Marvelites. It's not all bad news, of course: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) both bring intriguing new super-powers to the table for future use, plus Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)'s extended role in proceedings works wonders in terms of cementing the need for the character's presence in the Avengers series, yet even with these slim merits taken into account, there's no avoiding the crushing fact that Age of Ultron ranks - in our humble view, at least - as the MCU's weakest entry since Captain America: The First Avenger and (shudders uncontrollably) Thor: The Dark World. 2/5  
  • Pitch Perfect 2 - Never has there been a more predictable follow-up to a surprise cinematic hit than Pitch Perfect 2. That's not to say this unexpected sequel will fail to please its sure-to-be devoted fan-base, but rather there's little to see here which wasn't displayed in the original cult classic in some form; once again, an up-and-coming university student brings some controversial new ideas to the Barden Bellas a-cappella group, only to find those notions quashed until such a time when the Bellas have need of them in the international finale. Obviously there are further sub-plots thrown into the mix such as the hilariously outspoken Fat Amy (once again brought to life with perfect comedic timing by the equally gut-wrenchingly funny Rebel Wilson)'s attempts to woo her new-found crush Bumper (keep an eye out for their inspired dual rendition of Pat Benatar's "We Belong", if nothing else) as well as series protagonist Becca's own exploits over in the realms of disc-jockeying, yet such tangential narrative strands ultimately play second fiddle to director Elizabeth Banks (aka The Hunger Games' Effie, for those who hadn't already recognised the name)'s unashamed efforts to ape the storyline of the film's immediate predecessor so as to reap the same commercial and critical rewards. Thanks to a immensely satisfying set-list which somehow incorporates tunes as disparate as "Girls (Run the World)", "Flashlight" (a surprisingly competent original work from The Voice UK's Jessie J) and "A Thousand Miles" in a completely seamless manner, however, despite its obvious tonal and structural familiarity, Pitch Perfect 2 remains a thoroughly engaging secondary outing for the hit franchise that, it would seem fair to say, no-one could possibly have seen coming. 3/5
  • Mad Max: Fury Road - Fact: finding a more visually outrageous, not to mention aurally overwhelming, piece of cinema than Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015 will most likely prove all but impossible for even the most knowledgeable of film fans. Such sensual audacity does not an accomplished motion picture guarantee, though, and indeed, in spite of the frankly astounding performances offered up by Tom Hardy (who brings the core facets of the titular anti-hero's gruff, soul-searching yet ultimately courageous being to life with such ease that watching previous Mad Max instalments now seems downright unnecessary), Charlize Theron (who mercifully wipes all memories of her forgettable work in Prometheus out of the viewer's justifiably hesitant mind from the get-go in the role of a battered rebel whose mission to free captive female breeders takes both her and Max to the very edges of the visually spectacular dystopian realm that they inhabit) and Nicholas Hoult (whose unhinged psychopath Nux somehow provides some much-needed heart and soul in a narrative that would otherwise place too much emphasis on adrenaline-fuelled thrills to delve into the liberating realms of raw emotion or heartfelt comedy), helmer George Miller's profound focus on fulfilling the basic cinematic goal of escapism robs Fury Road of memorable antagonists, layered dramatic sequences (though the appeal of its wholeheartedly visual storytelling can't possibly be understated either) and therefore specific sequences about which to instantly write home. Don't mistake our prolonged outlining of such gripes as being representative of our overall take on Miller's bombastic showcase of all things unhinged, though; quite to the contrary, whilst the notion of a significantly layered storyline's realisation is swiftly thrown off the table from the outset, it's a testament to the unique nature of the manner in which Miller depicts his action sequences, utilising colour in an unexpectedly memorable manner despite the post-apocalyptic trappings of his chosen setting (just wait for the chases that take place inside a wasteland composed wholly of tornadoes and the like to see precisely what we mean), that only the most apathetic of onlookers will even be able to contemplate taking their eyes off of the on-screen action for more than a few milliseconds (at most). Adjectives such as 'captivating' are often thrown in the direction of modern-day blockbusters - not least by this reviewer, he'll gladly admit - but rarely have they been more befitting than in the case of this dramatically weightless yet deliciously thrill-laden example of gloriously escapist cinematic art. 4/5
  • Jurassic World - Remember how Jurassic Park essentially revolutionised the mainstream action-adventure genre in the 1990s with its surprisingly multi-dimensional narrative, stunning special effects and compelling cast ensemble? Those were the days. Sure, Jurassic World retains the capacity to catch its onlookers off-guard with remarkably realistic renditions of prehistoric creatures, but this reviewer would happily trade such visual gusto in for constructs who come anywhere close to being afforded the same level of nuanced characterisation as their beloved predecessors (not least Jeff Goldblum's semi-iconic Ian Malcolm). Barring Chris Pratt's predictably charming raptor trainer Owen Grady, though, virtually each and every major character who's presented to us this time around lacks the emotional and comedic depth which made the leading ensemble of the original Park such a downright joy to watch. As if that fault wasn't disheartening enough, whilst no-one's necessarily anticipating an Academy Award nominee with regards to a Jurassic instalment of this ilk's narrative, the number of clichéd tropes on display in this case is absolutely astounding: from the unbelievably lousy security team to the inherently corrupt military expert (how Vincent D'Onofrio went from his incredibly layered role as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil to this one-dimensional loon is quite honestly beyond yours truly), they're all here and they're all absolutely unforgivable in this increasingly progressive day and age. At least thanks to Pratt and the digitally-powered beasties who inevitably get loose within minutes of the opening credits (all of whom play a huge part in ensuring that World's denouement captures the viewer's interest to a greater extent than any of the piece's other underwhelming action sequences), Jurassic World remains harmless fun throughout its running time, but even so, mainstream and cultured fans of the arts alike deserve far more intelligent works of cinema than this sub-par effort. 3/5
  • Mr. Holmes - Contrary to popular belief, it's apparently still wholly possible for modern film-makers to put a fresh spin on the World's Greatest Detective (well, aside from Batman, of course), at least if Bill Condon's unspectacular but still compelling drama Mr. Holmes is any indication. At the piece's heart lies Sir Ian McKellen, an increasingly beloved British great who once again thrives whilst adopting the mantle of an elderly, semi-amnesiac incarnation of 221B Baker Street's most famous occupant, the primary goal of whom is to recall the resolution of a mysterious case which drove him away from detective work in London and into the realms of bee-keeping somewhere in Devonshire. It's notable that without the man who gave us The Lord of the Rings' Gandalf and X-Men's original Magneto, however, this rarely ambitious BBC Films production would probably have fared far less favourably from a critical perspective, in no small part due to the subdued and relatively unaspiring nature of its central narrative, which holds back enough in the way of intriguing secrets to sustain its audience's attention, only to struggle with the challenge of filling its own 100-minute running time with emotional developments that haven't played out in countless period dramas prior to Holmes' launch before lumping us with an extremely underwhelming denouement that blatantly aims to appease the more intellectual viewer only to come off as outright clichéd and thus uncharacteristically overambitious in the process. As such, whilst Conan Doyle fanatics can by all means give Mr. Holmes if they're interested in discovering a previously unprecedented interpretation of one of this nation's most iconic literary constructs, not to mention a surprisingly quintessentially British turn from young up-and-comer Milo Parker, for better or for worse, anyone who's dabbled with the realms of period drama or similar genres before may well find little to genuinely surprise them or indeed justify the loss of around ten hard-earned pounds here. 3/5
  • Ted 2 - Considering how remarkably average a work of film-making Ted turned out to be back in 2012, its follow-up's unrelenting capacity to hit the mark with just about every one of its myriad hilarious gags could well render it as the surprise hit of the Summer for many cinema-goers, not least this very reviewer. Indeed, whereas the original failed to successfully tow the line between semi-emotive drama and rip-roaring sketch compilation, Ted 2 relishes its re-alignment into the realms of the latter genre by throwing as many outrageously unhinged moments in its audience's direction as possible, the only major fault with this particular approach being that its screenwriters feel the need to re-integrate countless elements from the first film for the sake of reprising some of its best-loved gags, for instance the psychotic father who attempted to steal Ted for his similarly mentally unstable offspring, only to now find himself working as the world's most ambitious janitor at Hasbro HQ (don't ask how the fellow in question possibly found work after committing acts of both attempted theft and murder last time around). On the bright side, no-one could possibly deny that bringing back both Mark Wahlberg and of course Seth Macfarlane - both of whom hit the targets laid out by the comedically-empowered script with ease - into the equation ensures countless hearty laughs. while Les Miserables and Mamma Mia's Amanda Seyfried somehow manages to subvert expectations the world over by adding a degree of levity with her conviction-filled turn as a wannabe barrister, especially when compared to Morgan Freeman's uncannily familiar performance (seriously, can Freeman's portrayals possibly aspire to evoke any emotion aside from that of deja vu these days?). Against all of the odds, then, overall Ted 2 bests its prequel with such wholehearted gusto that, we'd wager, even suspicious film fans who despised the original might just end up surprised at how entertaining a time they'll have in Macfarlane's company three Summers later, particularly after the dreadful travesty that was 2014's A Million Ways to Die in the West (the less syllables uttered about which the better, eh?). 4/5
  • Minions - If there's a single word which can be used to perfectly summarise Minions as a whole, it's probably "uninspired". For all of its forays into ancient history via slapstick-filled flashbacks, callbacks to the Despicable Me series with glimpses of Gru and Dr. Nefario, and attempts to strengthen the mythology of its titular army of goggled followers by shifting three specific Minions - Kevin, Bob and Stuart - into the proverbial limelight, this third instalment in the best-selling series of animated flicks virtually never dares to depart the comfort zone which its two commercially high-flying precursors forged in 2010 and 2013 respectively. As the likes of Fast & Furious 7 and Jurassic World have already proven this Summer by rapidly entering the much-coveted Top 10 Highest Grossing Films of All-Time list, sticking to convention often proves financially fruitful for long-running sagas of this kind, yet at the same time, those series which aspire to reap similarly potent critical results often have to cast aside thoughts of substantial commercial gain, a course of action that for the time being Illumination Entertainment unfortunately seem unwilling to even consider, let alone implement. Nevertheless, even if Minions recycles the same farcical visual gags as its Gru-led predecessors and affords acclaimed thespians like Sandra Bullock (who takes on the role of a maniacal villainess yet receives no opportunities to achieve the same level of impact as the classic Disney antagonists of old such as Maleficent or indeed Angelina Jolie's recent accomplished take on that same sorcerer) little in the way of meaningful or stirring content to tackle, that it rolls out its comedic set-pieces - a chase through the streets of London wherein Bob strives to steal Queen Elizabeth II's prized crown serves as a particularly entertaining midway highlight - with such enviable aplomb (expect laughs aplenty throughout, especially thanks to the Minions' attempts to mimic human speech on regular occasions, with one even going so far as to ape Shakespeare while wooing none other than a completely inanimate fire hydrant as previously depicted in its marketing campaign) three instalments into a franchise which could've quite easily flagged after but a single sequel speaks wonders for the potential for the Despicable Me series to continually prosper with its youthful target audience in spite of its near-insulting lack of genuine innovation. 3/5
  • Inside Out - Much as we're huge fans of all things Pixar, it's difficult to refute the claim that critics increasingly seem to want to give Disney's most esteemed collaborator (Marvel aside, of course) a free pass nowadays regardless of the actual strength of their latest works. Remember, for every masterpiece like Toy Story and A Bug's Life, there's been a potent yet ultimately far from fulfilling counterpart along the lines of Ratatouille or Cars, to name but a couple of the long-running animation team's numerous missteps. With all that being said, though, Inside Out just might mark a much-needed (particularly now that Walt Disney Animation Studios have upped their game in such monumental fashion with Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6) turning point for everyone involved, even if it's not quite the genre-shifting game-changer that some of the previously mentioned overly generous reviewers out there might hope to have the more gullible members of the internet's readership instantaneously believe, The initial premise of its narrative - which centres on a group of living, embodied emotions who apparently control every action of a teenage girl, the hilarious effects of which become obvious as events spiral out of their hands and force warring feelings Joy and Sadness to embark on a quest to prevent the child's mind from erasing all of its warmest core memories, only for them to realise their foe's vital importance within the context of human life - might seem disconcertingly uninspired in light of the wealth of other works of art (Meet Dave and Doctor Who's "Let's Kill Hitler" amongst the most recent candidates) that have already depicted such a scenario, but as ever, it's to Pixar's immense credit that they work to constantly subvert our expectations of such a storyline, injecting no shortage of heart and humour into what might otherwise have been a dull semi-fantastical affair, with the former largely factoring in through the screenwriters' realisation of the family dynamic and their ultimate message regarding the manner in which familial pain has just as much of a hand in the unit's beneficial growth as familial moments of pure happiness. However, just as we've come to expect such heart-warming sequences from the minds who turned a balloon-bound voyage into the air into a touching means by which an elderly man could put the cancer-inflicted passing of his spouse behind him, their latest work also brings to mind once again some of the gripes we've had with their recent output, not least the rather predictable quest structure of the piece. More than anything else, that this is such a well-trodden style of narrative unsurprisingly means viewers won't find much to genuinely shock them here - obstacles are placed in the multi-coloured protagonists' paths at hopelessly convenient points so as to pad out the running time, Joy and Sadness obviously learn plenty about their own and each other's purposes in life as they progress through their child's psyche, and for better or for worse, the aforementioned message is as crystal clear and thus disappointingly unsubtle as a fire alarm. Even so, though, the accomplished voice-work (most of which comes from a number of talented up-and-coming comedians such as Amy Poehler), compelling (if predictable) storyline, touching humour and pitch-perfect moments of pathos littered throughout Inside Out should certainly ensure that the vast majority of cinema-goers leave the auditorium satisfied, although God knows, we'd love to be able to state that they'll leave that same auditorium enriched next time around - keep working at it, Pixar! 4/5
  • LEGO Jurassic World - Against all of the odds, Traveller's Tales have done the impossible in the midst of forging their latest foray into the realms of the primary coloured brick. You (possibly) guessed it - for the first time in forever (Frozen pun fully intended, albeit for no real reason), the frankly dreadful second and third instalments in the Jurassic Park saga have somehow been transformed in such a way that both actually warrant a revisit. That's not to say that their respective narratives have been rendered as any less contrived than before, but thanks to the LEGO series' now-trademark sense of slapstick-orientated humour, blasting through the ten levels which comprise the Lost World and Jurassic Park III sections of LEGO Jurassic World is every ounce as entertaining as the experience of reliving the first and recently-launched fourth films in video game form, especially given that players receive the opportunity to take control not only of Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, Owen Grady and the rest of the homo sapien gang in roaming Isla Nubla and beyond, but also the prehistoric creatures who give the much-loved franchise of action-adventure movies its recently-altered name. As expected, we're still very much completing the same old platforming- and physics-centric puzzles which have dominated TT's work ever since LEGO Star Wars brought everyone's favourite construction toy back to the forefront of our attention ten short years ago, and as an all-too-foreseeable result, barring a couple of nifty new mechanics such as taming these aforementioned beasties and using their abilities to scale previously insurmountable obstacles (all still largely reliant on one's utilisation of the same trial-and-error approach that has served as the main means by which for players to progress ever since Day One), each of the twenty levels available at launch present scarce few innovations or hugely memorable escapades. A single play-through will therefore probably suffice for just about everyone who doesn't intend to take advantage of World's co-op component or indeed to go for a 100% completion rate either (ironically in a similar vein to Jurassic World itself, a film that certainly doesn't necessitate more than a single viewing), but that niggle aside, what is a welcome surprise is our ability to be able to confirm that whilst this latest LEGO chapter doesn't revolutionise the series' status quo in any way, shape or form, the fundamental game-play systems, quirky humour and the like powering the franchise as a whole have never produced a more refined overall experience than the captivating product which we've been discussing here and now. 4/5
  • Batman Arkham Knight - "He's a silent guardian (when he's not busy careening through the streets in his motor, anyway), a watchful protector (provided that he's not preoccupied with tearing up the roads, of course)...a Dark Knight (with one hell of a flashy ride)." For those readers who've somehow managed to miss the swell of uproar surrounding the introduction of the Batmobile as (in essence) a secondary playable character into Rocksteady's third and seemingly final Batman: Arkham adventure, Batman Arkham Knight, let's just summarise the situation by saying that the aforementioned tank-esque vehicle's inclusion into proceedings has split fans to a greater extent than any development in the Caped Crusader's screen history (save for Batman & Robin's doom-laden release in cinemas towards the 20th Century's end, perhaps). Are the consequences of said inclusion, which entails a sizeable handful of sequences involving the World's Greatest Detective going head-to-head with robotic, unmanned drones on the streets of Gotham City, as mechanically crippling as some critics would have the world at large wilfully believe? It's certainly not likely to go down as one of the development team's finest moments, that's for sure, since only the biggest Batmobile aficionados would likely claim that such mindless combat sequences don't become grating (to put it rather generously) come the main campaign's latter half. Thank goodness, then, that the rest of the Arkham formula remains intact and (arguably) in its strongest form yet: from the still-captivating on-foot freeflow combat mechanics to the impressively refined stealth sequences, from the largely gripping narrative (which only falters on those occasions where Batman becomes needlessly distracted by yet another vehicular objective or where Scarecrow, better known as Knight's supposed central antagonist, retreats wholly into the background, leading a far less compelling substitute in the form of the titular Arkham Knight to take centre stage for a time, not to mention towards the denouement as players are forced to strive for 100% in order to witness the 'proper' ending in a cheap ploy on Rocksteady's part) to the emotionally rigorous homages to iconic Batman comic-book arcs like Death in the Family, virtually no contributory element - save for the one notable outlier mentioned above - falls short of the incredibly high benchmark established by Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. True, Knight could reasonably be considered the Dark Knight Rises of its own trilogy (though of course we might justifiably brand the oft-forgotten Arkham Origins as the series' most disappointing moment by far) thanks to its similarly overambitious narrative and superfluous vehicular mechanics, but that these minor shortcomings hold the product as a whole back slightly still doesn't diminish the scale of Rocksteady's achievements; quite to the contrary, this trio of exemplary licensed works will doubtless be perceived as the benchmark for future video game adaptations, a truly enviable accolade to be sure, and one which we sincerely doubt any other development team (British - as in the case of Arkham's technical masterminds - or otherwise) will match for a fair while yet. 4/5
  • Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season - Easy as it might seem in the case of some reviewers to proclaim "Oh, how the mighty have fallen" in light of the myriad controversies surrounding HBO's latest string of one-hour adaptations of George R.R. Martin's similarly divisive A Song of Ice and Fire saga, doing so would hardly give the full picture with regards to the quality of Game of Thrones Season Five. Instead, although some character arcs such as that of Jaime Lannister (a character whose previous tendency to gather dramatic momentum with each passing episode comes to a dissatisfying halt here as he's dispatched to a realm which serves little purpose other than to keep him occupied while his sister-turned-lover's attempts at ruling King's Landing in her son's place play out with simply disastrous consequences) and to a large extent Sansa Stark (the signs of whose path towards vengeance last season were clearly deceiving given that she spends the entirety of her time this year essentially waiting for a saviour, much to the recent ire of the particularly pro-feminist members of the show's fanbase) progress absolutely nowhere compared to the series' rightly acclaimed 2014 run, that notable developments occur over in Meereen (where Tyrion Lannister and Danaerys' destinies suddenly appeared to become intertwined, provoking tears of joy from long-term Thrones devotees the world over) and on the Wall (thanks to "Hardhome", the series' stand-out instalment that drives Jon Snow into a memorable confrontation with one of Westeros' most ancient, not to mention most intriguing, menaces) which could well finally begin to shape the final instalments of this immensely staggered fantasy narrative and that the clunky, near-endless plot threads of both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons (many of which simply seemed to pad out the already lengthy running time of those two considerably beefy literary tomes) have somehow been condensed into ten episodes of (almost always) compelling televised drama by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss absolutely represents an admirable achievement in which everyone involved with this year's production should undoubtedly take no shortage of pride. Don't expect to see the strength of Thrones' equally renowned on-screen performances falter anytime soon, either: Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Emilia Clarke (Danaerys, though the up-and-coming Brit thespian can moreover be seen in Terminator Genisys at all good cinematic venues at this very moment!) and the rest of the programme's merry (not to mention remarkably diverse) ensemble each receive moments aplenty to shine and, better yet, utilise such opportunities perfectly so as to guarantee their suitability as the gentlemen and ladies best equipped to venture into pastures unknown next year as Thrones begins adapting storylines which Martin has yet to publish himself. Much as the future may seem incredibly uncertain for HBO's ever-strengthening behemoth in light of its impending unenviable task, however, that there's still so many highlights worth discussing (of which we've only just scratched the surface here: as ever, the accomplished band of directors recruited to bring the scripts to life perform masterfully, as does the ever-stellar work of the seemingly ceaselessly talented visual effects team) half a decade on from its début says a lot about the TV franchise's potential to continually thrive even in its fast-approaching dying days. 4/5 
With any luck the above array of verdicts will more than suffice your insatiable appetites for the time being, but in the event that you're looking for further up-to-date, comprehensive coverage of the latest and greatest (or indeed weakest, as the case may very well be) entertainment releases, from reviews to previews, from opinions to objective reports of breaking news, then there's only one place to find all of that and more: right here at the all-inclusive, all-incredible hub of universally-acclaimed (well, relatively speaking) goodness that is On-Screen. See you around, folks!

COMING SOON - Keep both eyes peeled on this very blog for more mammoth Reviews Round-Ups in the coming weeks and months, since they'll feature our unmissable evaluative commentaries on much-anticipated upcoming entertainment titles including Terminator Genisys, Ant-Man, Go Set a Watchman, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Pixels, Doctor Who: The Nest Cottage Chronicles, The Fantastic Four, Humans, Hitman: Agent 47, Doctor Who Season Nine, LEGO Dimensions, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Star Wars: Battlefront, Pan, Spectre, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Victor Frankenstein, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight and much more...

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