REVIEW: WESTWORLD – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)
Luke Hemsworth (Neighbours)
Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen)
Simon Quarterman (the Scorpion King 2)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Shannon Woodward (Raising Hope)
Ed Harris (The Abyss)
Jimmi Simpson (Date Night)
Angela Sarafyan (The Promise)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of Tue Lambs)
Ben Barnes (Dorian Gray)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Louis Herthum (Longmire)
Leonardo Nam (He’s Just Not That Into You)
Talulah Riley (St. Trinians)
Oliver Bell (Salem)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Steven Ogg (The Escort)
Michael Wincott (The Doors)
Eddie Rouse (I’m Still Here)
Brian Howe (Catch Me If You Can)
Demetrius Grosse (Saving Mr. Banks)
Kyle Bornheimer (The D Train)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Bojana Novakovic (Drag Me To Hell)
Eddie Shin (That 80s Show)
Ptolemy Slocum  (Hitch)

As many sci-fi fans will know, the show ‘Westworld’ is based on the 1973 feature film of the same name (written and directed by the late, great Michael Crichton), and the premise is basically the same as it was then: In a future where technological possibilities are seemingly endless, a highly sophisticated theme park offers rich clients the chance to visit the long gone era of the Old West .

The show does a great job pulling the viewer immediately into Westworld. Within 10 minutes of the first episode, the basic rules of the theme park are established: paying guests called “newcomers” get to interact with androids called “hosts” (which to the naked eye are indiscernible from the guests) in a world dressed up like the Old West – and in this world, the guest truly is king. The rules are brutally simple: the visitors get to do whatever they like with – or to – the androids. They can have a friendly chat with them, flirt with them or embark on a spontaneous (or scripted) adventure with them – but they can also shoot them, rape them, torture them and kill them at will.

The androids, on the other hand, are constructed and programmed in a way that is supposed to inhibit them from physically harming “living” creatures. At the beginning of the show – thanks to an interesting choice of storytelling – we get to experience Westworld from the perspective of the androids, which reveals a cruel detail about their nature: they apparently experience emotions. Artificial or not, they do feel pain and fear – as well as affection and anger, and they have no idea that they don’t count as “real” people (at least not to those who call themselves real people). And while that detail certainly makes the “game” even more thrilling and more realistic for the visitors, it means that the shocking abuse some of the androids have to suffer is harrowingly real to them.

The way the show is constructed  it immediately confronts the viewer with very uncomfortable questions. How do we as humans behave towards creatures we consider non-human? How excessive do we become and how thin does our layer of morality turn out to be if we’re allowed to live out all our fantasies without having to fear any consequences for our actions? And at what point should a creature have rights similar to those we demand for ourselves? How do we define “sentient”? How do we define “human”? And how well do we actually understand – and how well are we able to control – the amazing technology our species seems to have acquired so suddenly?

As an avid film fan, I found ‘Westworld’ immediately intriguing; not only because it dares to challenge the viewer with fascinating philosophical questions and scientific concepts, but also because its premise offers the chance to explore a wide range of film genres: sci- fi, western, drama, horror – to name but a few.As for the non plot related aspects of the show: production design, music and effects are fantastic – as we’ve come to expect from HBO’s high concept productions  and with the impressive ensemble of high caliber actors do a great job at bringing their respective characters to life (artificial and otherwise).

A special mention needs to go to Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins: their charismatic screen presence is once more just impossible to ignore and they simply own every scene they’re in.  Given the amount of talent involved, anything else actually would have been surprising. Produced by J.J. Abrams, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan based on a concept by the late – great – Michael Crichton; directed by Neil Marshall and Vincenzo Natali (among others), and with a cast most shows would kill for, the stars really seem to have aligned for ‘Westworld’.

My overall verdict so far: ‘Westworld’ is intelligent science fiction for adults (some scenes are very graphic) which offers more than just eye candy and is full of mysteries for the patient viewer to uncover. It provides a powerful metaphor for oppression and exploitation of other beings – and it shows how quickly we tend to lose our “humanity” when given ultimate power over those we somehow consider less “human”.  With a great cliffhanger season keeps you salivating for the second season which wont air till 2018.

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REVIEW: HANSEL & GRETAL: WITCH HUNTERS

CAST

Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Gemma Arterton (The Voices)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Pihla Viitala (August)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th)
Robin Atkins Downes (Babylon 5)
Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street)
Zoe Bell (Raze)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)

Abandoned by their father deep in a forest, young Hansel and Gretel enter a gingerbread house and are captured by a cannibalistic witch. The witch forces Hansel to continuously eat candy to fatten him up, and enslaves Gretel, ordering her to prepare the oven, but the siblings outsmart her and incinerate her in the fire of the oven. In the fifteen years that follow, Hansel and Gretel become famed witch hunters, slaying hundreds of witches. The pair find that they are somehow immune to spells and curses, but the incident in the gingerbread house has left Hansel diabetic. He needs a shot of insulin every few hours or he will get sick and die.

Hansel and Gretel arrive in the town of Augsburg and immediately prevent Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman named Mina for witchcraft. Mayor Englemann tells the crowd that he has hired the siblings to rescue several children presumed abducted by witches. Berringer hires trackers for the same mission in the hopes of disgracing the mayor and cementing his power. All but one of the sheriff’s party are killed that night by the powerful grand witch Muriel, who sends one man back to the town tavern as a warning to the locals. Hansel and Gretel, along with the Mayor’s deputy Jackson, capture one of Muriel’s witches and interrogate her. They discover that the witches are preparing for the coming Blood Moon, where they plan to sacrifice twelve children in order to gain an immunity to fire. Muriel, accompanied by her witches and a troll named Edward, attack the town and abduct the final child. Muriel kills Jackson and launches Gretel out a window, rendering her unconscious. Gretel is rescued by Ben, a local teenager who is a fan of theirs and plans to be a witch hunter himself. Hansel grabs onto a fleeing witch by her broomstick, but falls and is lost in the forest.

The next morning, Hansel is found hanging from a tree by Mina. She takes him to a nearby spring where she heals his wounds and makes love to him. Gretel searches for Hansel in the forest but is attacked by Sheriff Berringer and his posse. The men capture and beat Gretel before being stopped by Edward, who kills the sheriff and his men. Edward tends Gretel’s wounds and tells her that he helped her because trolls serve witches. Hansel and Gretel reunite at an abandoned cabin, which they discover is both a witch’s lair and their childhood home. Muriel appears in front of them, telling them the truth of their past. She reveals that Hansel and Gretel’s mother was a grand white witch named Adrianna who married a farmer. On the night of the last Blood Moon, Muriel planned to use the heart of the white witch to complete her potion. She found Adrianna too powerful and decided to use Gretel’s heart instead. To get rid of Adrianna, Muriel revealed to the townspeople that Adrianna was a witch. The townspeople burned her alive and hung Hansel and Gretel’s father. Following this revelation, the siblings battle Muriel before she stabs Hansel and abducts Gretel for the ceremony.

Hansel wakes up with Mina, who reveals herself to be a white witch. She heals his wounds again and uses a grimoire to bless Hansel’s arsenal of weapons. Hansel, Mina, and Ben head out to disrupt the Blood Moon Sabbath. Mina begins slaughtering dark witches with a Gatling gun, while Hansel squares off against Muriel’s witches and frees the children. Edward defies Muriel’s orders and releases Gretel before Muriel throws him off the cliff. Muriel flees on a broomstick, but Ben manages to shoot her and forces her to crash. Hansel goes after Muriel while Gretel stops to revive Edward. Hansel, Ben, and Mina follow Muriel’s trail to the original gingerbread house. Muriel wounds Ben and kills Mina before Hansel shoots her several times, knocking her into the house. Gretel arrives and the pair engage Muriel in a brutal fight that ends with Muriel being beheaded with a shovel. They burn Muriel’s body on a pyre and collect their reward for rescuing the children. They head out on their next witch hunt accompanied by Ben and Edward.

A very enjoyable fantasy horror film.  Good fun if not taken seriously this is a tongue in cheek very gory and over the top film. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton somehow play it completely straight as Hansel and Gretel while everybody else including Famke Jensson as a witch the pair are after and Peter Stormare as the sherriff of a small town ham it up completely. With impressive special effects and good action scenes and the ending seems to set up a sequel. A great fun film.

REVIEW: HERCULES (2014)

CAST

Dwayne Johnson (Get Smart)
Ian McShane (Deadwood)
John Hurt (Hellboy)
Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist)
Aksel Hennie (The Martian)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters)
Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones)
Joseph Fiennes (Flashforward)
Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible 5)
Joe Anderson (Hannibal TV)
Ian Whyte (Prometheus)

Hercules is the leader of a band of mercenaries composed of the spear-wielding prophet Amphiaraus of Argos, the knife-throwing thief Autolycus of Sparta, the feral warrior Tydeus of Thebes, the Amazon archer Atalanta of Scythia and his nephew storyteller Iolaus of Athens. Hercules is said to be the demigod son of Zeus, who completed the legendary Twelve Labors, only to be betrayed by Hera who drove him insane and caused him to murder his wife Megara and their children during a visit to King Eurystheus. Throughout the film, it is not clearly established that Hercules is truly the son of Zeus, and many are skeptical of the claim as well as of the stories of Hercules’ famous Twelve Labors. Despite this, Hercules displays unusual strength and nigh-unmatched skill in combat. Hercules is frequently haunted by the memory of the deaths of his wife and children by his hand, as well as visions of Cerberus.
After finishing a recent mission and saving his nephew on the Macedonian Coast in Northern Greece in 358 BC, Hercules and his team are celebrating and drinking at a tavern when they are approached by Ergenia on behalf of her father Lord Cotys who wants Hercules to train the armies of Thrace to defend the kingdom from bloodthirsty warlord Rhesus. Hercules accepts after he and his men are offered his weight in gold, and the band is welcomed to Thrace by King Cotys and General Sitacles, leader of the Thracian army. However, Rhesus has reached the Bessi tribe in Central Thrace and Cotys insists that Hercules lead the army into battle to defend the Bessi, despite their lack of training. However, they are too late as Rhesus’ sorcery has turned the Bessi against the Thracians.
After the Bessi are defeated, Hercules properly trains the army, then Hercules and Sitacles confront Rhesus and his soldiers on the battlefield before Mount Asticus. The Thracians force Rhesus’ army to retreat, but Rhesus himself rides out to confront Hercules and is defeated by him. Rhesus is taken back to Thrace as a prisoner, where he is tortured and humiliated. Hercules takes pity and stops the townfolk from throwing more objects at him, then Hercules mentions Rhesus’ actions of burning down villages, Rhesus tells him it was not him or his army, and tells Hercules that he has been fighting on the wrong side. Later in the hall of the palace, Rhesus has been chained up and left on display. Noticing that Ergenia has taken pity to him, Hercules confronts her and finds out Rhesus was telling the truth in that he was merely retaliating against Lord Cotys’s aggressive attempts to expand his kingdom. Although Ergenia doesn’t agree with Lord Cotys’s methods, she goes along with them for the sake of her son Arius, Lord Cotys’s successor to the throne, who is being threatened by Cotys.
After receiving their reward, the mercenaries are ready to leave, but Hercules decides to stay behind to stop Cotys, and all but Autolycus choose to follow him. However, they are overpowered and captured by Sitacles and his men. While chained, Hercules is confronted by King Eurystheus, who is in league with Lord Cotys. Eurystheus reveals that he drugged Hercules the night his family died, viewing him as a threat to his power. Hercules’s family was in fact killed by three vicious wolves sent by Eurystheus, resulting in Hercules’s constant hallucinations of Cerberus. When Lord Cotys orders Ergenia to be executed for her betrayal, Hercules is encouraged by Amphiaraus to believe in himself just as everyone believes in him. In a show of superhuman strength, Hercules breaks free of his chains, saving Ergenia and slaying the wolves with his bare hands. Hercules releases the prisoners, including Rhesus, and then confronts King Eurystheus, impaling him with his own dagger. He is attacked by Sitacles, who is then stabbed by Iolaus.
Outside, Hercules and his forces battle Lord Cotys and his army. Arius is taken hostage, but then rescued by Autolycus, who has decided to return to help his friends. In the ensuing battle, Tydeus is mortally wounded while protecting Arius, but fights on slaughtering numerous Thracian soldiers. Hercules again uses inhuman strength and pushes a massive statue of Hera from its foundations and uses it to crush Lord Cotys and many of his soldiers. The remaining soldiers see Hercules as lightning flashes in the background. The surviving soldiers bow to Hercules, and Arius takes the throne, with Ergenia at his side, while Hercules and his men depart in search of other adventures.
As the credits roll, an animated retelling of the Twelve Labors shows how Hercules accomplished these feats with the help of his companions.The running length is long enough to feel satisfied and not so long that it overstays its welcome. The plot twists you see coming a mile away but at least it tries to do them. Other than one characters actions near the end which was so obvious it was stupid to include.  In conclusion, its worth watching. It takes it times to grab you, but once it does it doesn’t let go.