Archive for Game of Thrones

WoT first three impressions

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2021 by xi'an

As I was pessimistic about the adaptation of the behemoth (14 volumes) Wheel of Time adaptation as an Amazon TV series, I was not particularly disappointed after watching the first three episodes! Regarding the following comments, I do realise that having started reading these books in 1990 and having completed reading the 15 volumes puts me in a tiny minority and that anyone unfamiliar with Jordan’s universe would take the story as it comes rather than checking for discrepancies from the gospel.

Good stuff:

  • Egwene and Nynaeve are delivering strong personalities to their respective character, kudos!, in a sense improving upon their book counterparts!
  • Moraine Sedai is reasonably well rendered, although she could have appeared as more ambiguous though (and why did they add this injury in the Bel Tine scene to the original story?)
  • this includes her telling of the story of Manethren
  • the way Trollocs and Fades are rendered is great
  • the scenery is mostly fabulous, esp. the entrance to Shadar Logoth
  • meeting the Tuatha’an was great, except for the fake scare at the beginning, and the arguing about their non-violent commitment is pretty convincing
  • the idea making the first Darkfriend we meet  more humane and ambivalent than in the book is hopefully going to be seen again

Bad lines:

  • the choice of having the Dragon being one of the five friends, incl. Egwene and Nynaeve, clashes with the structure of Jordan’s world, as well as Moraine’s early infodump
  • Matt, Perrin, and Rand appear incredibly naïve, but maybe this was already the case in the book
  • Matt is decidedly downright unpleasant from the start (i.e., even before Shadar Logoth)
  • the notion to have Perrin already married and the ensuing trauma are terrible novelties, the more because he doesn’t look so traumatized by the ending
  • the special treatment of Nynaeve by one trolloc is missing from the book and unclear as to its contribution to the plot (and why would Moraine leave without her?)
  • costumes are terrible, almost uniformly!, and too modern, looking like they were bought from second hand stores (and more globally there is a feeling of cheapness in the set designs, from Shadar Logoth to Tar Valon)
  • Moraine’s and Lan’s fight in the Two Rivers is rather unconvincing and messy (why did she need to turn this nice inn building into missiles?!)
  • why would Rand and Tam miss the village Bel Tine celebration to return to their farm?
  • The Guardian got highly negative about the show and even about the books (which the first reviewer had never read) maybe seeing too much in the (admittedly terribly heavy) writing style of Robert Jordan and maybe trying too had to draw a comparison with Game of Thrones (just like so many critics). So did the New York Times
  • making the only Darkfriend so far coming out of the open and a sword expert
  • Lan not commenting on Rand’s father’s heron sword, while zooming on said heron several times
  • the sooo slooow walk of Egwene and Perrin in the third episode once they get on track(s), thanks to the wolves
  • the Whitecloacks being depicted as just too evil from the start, with no ambivalence whatsoever (this was also true in the book, which [spoiler alert!] makes Galad joining them later—sorry for the spoiler—difficult to fathom)
  • similarly, the first Red Sister we meet (Liandrin) is similarly too one-sided to give a balanced picture of the different Ajahs in the White Tower

a journal of the plague year [post-december reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2021 by xi'an

Read a (French) novel by Fred Vargas, Sous les Vents de Neptune, after finding it in the book depository near my office. And enjoyed it very much, partly because it was partly taking place near Ottawa [which I visited many times while my wife was completing her EE Master there] and partly because of the author’s ability to make us doubt the main character and to keep the suspense tight enough for most of the book. There are a trip to Montréal to attend a concert and a journey to Detroit and back to find a lost relation, both reminding me of drives on these roads more than 30 years ago. What annoyed me though was the caricaturesque depiction of the locals, with a Québecois French that sounded overdone. Checking for a local perspective on that aspect, I found a book review in Le Devoir of 2004 sharing the reservation on that aspect, if with humour.  (I would also have rather done without the super-hacker character à la Lisbeth Salander.)

Watched Still Life (三峡好人) a 2006 film by Jia Zhangke, as it was proposed in the list of my local cinema (which I support during the endless lockdown of cinemas and theatres in France). This is an amazing film, which at the same time feels incredibly remote or alien… It follows two characters arriving by boat on the at the Three Gorges Dam under construction in search of a runaway spouse. The search for their respective spouse takes place among the demolition of the old Fengjie, soon to be drowned under 150 meters of dam water. This demolition makes for a unique soundtrack, workers hammering in cadence as blurred black shades against the sky. The dialogues are full of long silences, except for the background hammering, and it often feels theatrical. But the characters maintain a strong dignity throughout the film and the depiction of the last days of Fengjie is gripping. The film received the 2006 Venezia Golden Lion.

Cooked a few Venetian dishes from a Venetian cookbook that was my Xmas gift. And finished that way past-the-date polenta boxes. Managed to escape unscathed from both the bûche and galette weeks! And found that cooking spelt bread with spelt yeast was unbelievably easy, taking less time to work on the dough than to reach the closest bakery!

Could not manage to achieve a coherent discussion with some anti-vaxxer relatives over the Xmas break. And gave up, still hoping they would change their mind.

Watched the first episodes of The Expanse, which started as a collection of eight novels and eight shorter works, before turning into a TV series which won the 2020 Hugo Award. Enjoyable if a rather conventional setting, with the usual disregard for space physics! Reminded me very much of the Takeshi Kovacs novels.  To quote from Wikipedia, “Ty Franck began developing the world of The Expanse initially as the setting for a MMORPG and, after a number of years, for a tabletop roleplaying game.” Some of the actors are terrific (even though Steven Strait’s Holden painfully reminds me of Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow, to the point I wondered for a while if they were the same actor…)

the witcher

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2020 by xi'an

As I read (some of) Andrzej Sapkowski‘s books, and then watched my son play the derived video game, I took the opportunity of the break to watch the eponymous Netflix series. Which I found quite decent and entertaining, given that the books were not unforgettable masterpieces but enjoyable and well-constructed. The New York Times was quite dismissive in its review of the show, seeing as a cheap copycat of Game of Thrones when the books were written earlier than Martin’s unfinished no-end-logy. The Blaviken battle scene in the first episode is certainly on a par with GoT most fighting moments, while lasting a few seconds. And the actor playing Geralt manages to convey much more in a few grunts than, say, Kit Harington’s permanent cocker spaniel sad face!!! The budget here is clearly not the same as HBO’s investment, with some exterior scenes looking a wee bit bare (just as in the BBC’s rendering of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel). But, again, nothing there to dim the appeal of the series (although they could have cut on the definitely gratuitous softporn moments!) and a plot gradually rising from the fragmented time line and the apparently unrelated subplots, which is also a feature of the books, made of short-stories vaguely glued together. I am hence looking for the second season, hoping the GoT curse does not extend to this series. (Tor.com also published a highly critical review of the show. And of the books, which are incidentally not published by Tor!)

end of the game

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by xi'an

While I have not watched a large part of the Game of Thrones episodes (apart from the first season I had time to follow while in the hospital), I decided to subscribe for one [free] month to OCS to get the last and final season [unlike a NYT critic who watches the entire eight seasons in five weeks!]. And witness how far it has diverged from the books, at least those already published. The first two episodes were unbearably slow and anti-climactic, the [mentionable] worst part being the endless discussion by a chimney fire of half a dozen of the main characters who would all be better sleeping. And the antagonism between Sansa and Daenerys sounding almost childish…The last battle in Winterfel was both fantastic and disappointing, fantastic in its scale and furia and impetus, a cinematographic feat!, possibly the best in the whole series, disappointing for the terrible military choices made by the best fighters in the seven kingdoms and beyond, for the disproportionate imbalance between the living and the dead, for the whole thing depending on the two seconds it took for the Ice King to shatter  [no longer a spoiler!], and for the absurd and lengthy scene of the zombies in the castle library. I just don’t like zombie movies as I find them a easy lazy plot element, especially when they can be resuscitated over and over… They have not yet appeared (on that scale) in the books and I hope they remain dead still! Some scenes are furthermore too reminiscent of video games, which cuts even deeper into the realism (!) of the battle. The scenario of the fourth episode is definitely botched and hurried, for the sudden and radical reversal of fortune being once again so much against basic military concepts (and basic physics as well!). Contrary to most reviews I read, maybe because I had little expectation about the characters in the show, I found the fifth episode quite impressive, in its vivid description of the sack of a city, the instantaneous switch from victorious to rapist and murderer, and the helplessness of those very few who wanted to stop the slaughter of the inhabitants. (By contrast, I found most of the individual scenes appalling, except for Arya’s which remains consistent with her parabola in the plot. So far. But we could have been spared the white horse in the end!) And then the last and final episode…! Which I definitely enjoyed, primarily for the bittersweet feeling this was the last hour spent with the (surviving) characters, even for the unrealistic developments and predictable conclusions, and the feeling that some scenes were made up in someone’s grand-father’s backyard, by the same someone’s teenage nephews… Although I was hoping for a glorious ending in line with the one of Monty Python and the Holy Grail… Alas, no police van, no delegation of bankers or lawyers showed up at the eleventh hour!

[Uninteresting coincidence: in this NYT pre-finale analysis, I read the very same sentence “Power resides where people believe it resides” pronounced by Mikhail Gorbachov in the daunting Chernobyl series which I watched a few hours earlier.]

ODOF, not Hodor [statlearn 2017]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2017 by xi'an

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