Tag Archives: Charles Dance

Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray

Game of Thrones Season 3

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, Season 3 of ‘Game of Thrones’ contains a shocking plot twist its executive producers call ‘a watershed moment.’

Fans of HBO’s fantasy blockbuster Game of Thrones learned a long time ago to expect the unexpected, but if you didn’t catch Season 3 of the series – which was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week – brace yourself. Among these 10 episodes lies a plot twist that redefines the tem “game-changer.”
Even if by some miracle you managed to avoid spoilers as to the nature of this shocker, chances are good you know something major happened, because HBO Home Entertainment has been liberally using footage in its TV commercials that purports to show Game of Thrones fans jumping out of their skins when they saw the original broadcast in 2013.
Season 3 contains several very important story lines and plot developments. In Kings Landing, insane and inbred King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) finds his petulant power curtailed somewhat by the return of one of the few men who doesn’t fear the nasty little twerp: Joffrey’s grandpa, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who also makes life even more difficult for his put-upon son, Tyrion (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage). What Joffrey also fails to realize, however, is that a secondary threat has entered his court in the person of Lady Margaery Tyrrell (Natalie Dormer), whose own grandmother (the great Diana Rigg) is a masterful politician in her own right.
Much farther to the north, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his widowed mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), make peace over their recent differences and set upon devising a scheme to shore up the family’s dwindling army of allies in the face of renewed threat from the Lannisters.
Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) blossoms into a true queen as she assembles a formidable army of her own with a little help from her dragons.
The bombshell (don’t worry, no spoilers follow) arrives in the penultimate episode of the season, entitled “The Rains of Castamere,” named after a song associated with the Lannister clan. The new Blu-ray set includes an insightful 46-minute featurette called “The Rains of Castamere Unveiled,” in which executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, as well as principal cast members and various members of the crew, offer fascinating insights into how this crucial episode – and what Weiss calls “a watershed moment” – was structured and executed.
“Everything changes after this point,” Benioff says in his commentary. “Ned’s (Sean Bean) death was so pivotal at the end of Season 1. Even though there have been many big moments since then, there’s nothing that compares to (this).”
HBO’s 5-disc Blu-ray set, which contains copious other special features and background material, is, as usual, state of the art in technical terms. With Season 4 of Game of Thrones set to premiere on April 6, this release offers a welcome opportunity for fans to refresh their memories as to details in the labyrinthine plot even if they caught Season 3 during its original run last spring.
'The Rains of Castamere'

A scene from the Season 3 episode ‘The Rains of Castamere.’

New on Blu-ray: ‘Strike Back: Cinemax Season Two’

Philip Winchester, Rhona Mitra, Sullivan Stapleton (from left)
Just last week, I wrote about the new Blu-ray release of the first season of Banshee, but it was Strike Back that earlier established an original action series beachhead on Cinemax. The latter, which follows the exploits of a covert British terrorism unit called Section 20, isn’t quite as fascinatingly quirky as Banshee, but it’s tightly written, directed and edited enough to please any fan of the genre.
When I say “written,” I do so in a limited sense, because virtually every episode is divided into three parts: prepping for a potentially deadly confrontation, trying to survive the deadly confrontation and taking stock after the deadly confrontation. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development, but then, action movie fans generally don’t tune in to watch the adversaries talk about their feelings.
As in season one, the main focus is on two special agents. The first, Sgt. Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), left the unit at the end of last season to repair his damaged marriage, so he is training recruits at a military base as the season opens. Unfortunately, that seemingly innocuous routine results in an accident that, in turn, leads to an incident that shatters Stonebridge’s life.
Meanwhile, former CIA hit man Sgt. Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) has been dispatched on what is supposed to be a standard security mission that takes a terrifying turn when this season’s MacGuffin – a box of four nuclear triggers – falls into the wrong hands. When he hears that Scott is in deadly peril, Stonebridge drops everything and rushes to help save him, with their joint mission eventually coming under the command of Section 20’s new boss, Maj. Rachel Dalton (Rhona Mitra, not one of my favorite actresses, but your mileage may vary).
As the unit embarks on a frantic pursuit of those triggers, they fall into the hands of Karl Matlock (Vincent Regan), a decorated war hero turned soldier of fortune looking for a major score to finance his retirement from combat. Matlock sells the triggers to English billionaire Conrad Knox (Charles Dance), whose public image as a South African philanthropist is the perfect cover for a far more sinister scheme.
The banter-filled bromance between Scott and Stockbridge is a bonus for any viewers who may not be carnage-centric, but the acting is surprisingly good across the board. Due to the aforementioned upheaval in his own storyline, Winchester’s Stonebridge spends much of the season in a state of modified shock, but Stapleton continues to impress with all the wisecracker-y of a young Bruce Willis.
It’s the villains this season who are most compelling, though. Dance has been playing dapper heavies for a couple of decades now, and he does so again very effectively here. Regan, however, walks away with the season as the reluctant bad-guy Matlock, who has cracked under years of service left so unrewarded by the people in command. Special mention also goes to series regular Liam Garrigan as Sgt. Liam Baxter, the kind of loyal colleague any special agent with his life on the line wants as his point of contact back at command central.
Technically, this set is up to the usual lofty HBO Home Entertainment standard, but apart from audio tracks and subtitles in multiple languages, extras as somewhat sparse: just four commentary tracks, and be advised in advance they can get kind of confusing, since Stapleton, who plays the American Scott, is actually Australian, while Winchester, who plays the British Stockbridge, is American.
strike back cover

‘Game of Thrones’: It’s not just about the dragons

Peter Dinklage, Jerome Flynn and Daniel Portman star in Season Three of Game of Thrones, premiering tonight on HBO.
HBO is using a dramatic silhouette of a dragon in flight on its teaser posters for season three of Game of Thrones, which premieres tonight on the premium cable network. That’s not surprising, since the three “children” of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who are now the size of large canines, are key players in one of the most electrifying scenes of the Emmy-winning series this season.
Yet this epic adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire never has been only about the big moments. As with previous seasons, there is magic and bedazzlement to spare in these new episodes, but Martin and adaptors David Benioff & D.B. Weiss never lose the human scale of the story they are telling. The characters we meet in Game of Thrones are, by and large, recognizable mortals caught up in extraordinary situations.
Over the two previous seasons, those situations have sent so many of these characters in different directions on personal quests that viewers should prepare themselves for a fairly leisurely pace in the first couple of these new episodes, simply because it takes that long to check in with the various characters and their current status. (Note: What follows doesn’t include any major spoilers, but if you prefer to enter the new season entirely cold, stop reading right now).
As you may remember, season two ended with Jon Snow (Kit Harington), separated from the rest of the Night Watch, a captive of the wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her companions, a dire situation he tries to turn to his advantage by infiltrating the army of Mance Rayder (new series regular Ciaran Hinds), the King Beyond the Wall. He’ll face some interesting challenges this season, such as discovering that Rayder isn’t the lunatic he imagined. More pressing, his covert presence in this army is largely contingent on maintaining a credible relationship with Ygritte, and doesn’t his Night Watch vow call for him to be, you know, celibate?
Far away, Dany has emerged from the brutal crucible she underwent in season two looking every inch a queen. Unfortunately, she still lacks an army, but as she and the loyal Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) pursue that goal, joined by new ally Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), she’ll blow a hole in the sexist notion that women don’t know how to negotiate (and how!).
Elsewhere, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) still looks like the smart horse to bet on in the fight for the Iron Throne, but he remains distracted by how his younger siblings are scattered to the wind, apart from sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), who continues her perilous life in King’s Landing at the pleasure of her insane ex-fiance, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
Speaking of that royal jerk, his newly betrothed – Renley Barantheon’s widow, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer, The Tudors), whom we met at the end of last season – quickly emerges as one of the most fascinating characters of the new season. Her public demeanor is self-effacing and benign (think Princess Diana of the Seven Kingdoms), yet she has been schooled by her very cunning grandmother, Lady Oleanna (the magnificent Diana Rigg), so she may be far more formidable than she appears (I’m not being coy here. I’ve seen four episodes of season three and I can’t tell for sure where that story line is going).
As for the rest of Team Lannister, with golden boy Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) still in captivity and getting some harrowing life lessons, siblings Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei (Lena Headey) compete like squabbling teenagers for the approval of their martinet father, Tyrwin (Charles Dance).
Amazingly, despite its vast canvas, the storytelling remains a model of clarity. I worry that at some point this ginormous chronicle may spin out of control, but in its third season, Game of Thrones remains one of the most gripping weekly hours on television. Don’t miss it.