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: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING

CAST

Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape)
Jennifer Lopez (Enough)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl)
Anna Kendrick (50/50)
Brooklyn Decker (Battleship)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Dennis Quaid (Movie 43)
Chris Rock (Dogma)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Joe Manganiello (Justice LEague)
Rob Huebel (Transparent)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids)
Megan Mullally (Will & Grace)
Genesis Rodriguez (Tusk)

Set in Atlanta, the film opens with fitness trainer Jules Baxter (Cameron Diaz) and her dance partner Evan Webber (Matthew Morrison) performing on the TV show Celebrity Dance Factor. They are crowned the winners of the show, but Jules vomits in their trophy, discovering that she is pregnant. Jules struggles when trying to balance her pregnancy with her normal active life. She has an ongoing argument with Evan over whether or not to have their son circumcised. During labor, she chooses not to have an epidural. She gives birth to a daughter they name Emerson, ending their debate. After giving birth, Jules and Evan get engaged.Photographer Holly Castillo (Jennifer Lopez) can’t conceive children and decides to adopt from Ethiopia with her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). They decide to buy a new house for the baby. Holly sends Alex to hang out with the “dudes group”, a group of fathers who walk around the park and support one another, which was founded by Vic Mac (Chris Rock). Alex feels even more nervous to become a father. Holly loses her job and becomes hurt when she realizes how much Alex is unprepared for a child. However, they eventually go to Ethiopia and adopt a baby boy named Kaleb.Wendy Cooper (Elizabeth Banks) runs a breast feeding boutique called The Breast Choice, and has been trying to have a baby with her husband Gary (Ben Falcone) for two years. She eventually does conceive and shares the news with Gary after taking five pregnancy tests. Having planned a magical and happy pregnancy, Wendy feels awful throughout it and, during a convention she was chosen to speak at about the miracle of childbirth, she begins to break down and bursts out into a speech about how much the process sucks. Her outburst is filmed and becomes a viral hit on YouTube, after which her boutique is flooded with customers. After many labor-inducing activities, she goes to the hospital only to find out she has to have a cesarean section, which is against her birth plan. She loses a lot of blood, but is okay and delivers a son named Theo.Ramsey Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a famous race car driver and Gary’s father, is married to a younger woman named Skyler (Brooklyn Decker). During a lunch where Wendy and Gary announce her pregnancy, Ramsey and Skyler also announce they are expecting. Unlike Wendy, Skyler cruises through her pregnancy without issues. Wendy envies her and detests her ease; however, soon after Skyler gives birth to twin girls, she and Ramsey are shown struggling with the fussy babies.Rosie Brennan (Anna Kendrick), Skyler’s cousin and food-truck chef, meets an old high school friend, Marco (Chace Crawford), also a food-truck chef, during a turf war between their food trucks. She believes he is a player and initially blows him off, but the reunion leads to an unexpected pregnancy after having sex that night. Worried at first, they eventually adjust to the idea of becoming parents and move in together. However, one night Rosie discovers she is bleeding and they drive to the hospital where they discover she has miscarried. Devastated, Rosie tells Marco to leave, which he does, but he makes several attempts to get back with her. Eventually, they get back together and decide to take things slowly and their story ends with them joining forces to create a food truck together. At different points in the film, certain characters meet others and we discover all the stories are linked. Ramsey is Gary’s father, Gary was on Jules’ weight loss program and is a regular customer of Marco’s food truck, Skyler is Rosie’s cousin, and Holly is Wendy and Skyler’s photographer.It was so funny I was laughing out loud. I think for anyone who has gone through pregnancy, it would probably be even funnier. well worth a watch.

 

REVIEW: REDBELT

CAST

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange)
Tim Allen (Last Man Standing)
Alice Braga (I Am Legend)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Jose Pablo Cantillo (The Walking Dead)
Randy Couture (The Scorpian King 2)
Caroline Correa (Go Big)
Ricky Jay (Mystery Men)
Joe Mantegna (The Rat Pack)
Max Martini (The Town)
Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)
Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing)
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)

While closing his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio one evening, martial arts teacher Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is approached by attorney Laura Black (Emily Mortimer), who is seeking the owner of the vehicle she accidentally sideswiped. Off-duty police officer Joe Collins (Max Martini), who was receiving a private lesson from Mike, sees that Laura is distressed and tries to take her coat. Startled, Laura grabs Joe’s gun and it goes off, shattering the studio’s front window. To avoid having Laura charged with attempted murder, Mike and Joe agree to conceal the event.Mike’s insurance, however, will not cover his act of God claim that the window was broken by a strong wind. Mike’s wife Sondra (Alice Braga), whose fashion business profits are the only thing keeping the struggling studio afloat, requests that Mike ask for a loan from her brother Ricardo (John Machado), a mixed martial arts champion. At Ricardo’s nightclub, Mike meets with Sondra’s other brother, Bruno (Rodrigo Santoro), and learns that Joe quit as the club’s bouncer because Bruno never paid him. Mike confronts Bruno about the situation but is rebuffed. Mike then declines Bruno’s offer to fight on the undercard of an upcoming match between Ricardo and Japanese legend Morisaki (Enson Inoue), which could potentially pay out $50,000. Mike believes competitions with money as the incentive are not honorable and weaken the fighter.Meanwhile, aging Hollywood action star Chet Frank (Tim Allen) enters the nightclub without security and is accosted by a man with a broken bottle. Mike intervenes and subdues three men in the process. The following day, Mike receives an expensive watch and an invitation to dinner from Chet. Mike gives the watch to Joe to pawn in lieu of his unpaid salary at the nightclub. At the dinner party, Chet’s wife Zena (Rebecca Pidgeon) arranges an informal business deal to buy a large amount of dresses from Sondra’s company. Chet, impressed by Mike, invites him to the set of his current film. As Mike and Sondra leave the dinner, Mike explains his unique training method to Chet’s business associate Jerry Weiss (Joe Mantegna). Before a sparring match, each fighter must draw one of three marbles, two white and one black; whoever draws a black marble has to fight with a handicap.Mike uses his military experience to answer a few technical questions for Chet on the film set and is offered the role of co-producer. That evening, Mike faxes the details of his training methods to Jerry so they can be used in the film. Joe arrives at the studio and informs Mike that he was suspended from duty for pawning the watch, which turned out to be stolen. During their dinner that evening, Mike relays the information to Jerry who excuses himself to handle the matter, but never returns. At home, Mike learns that the phone numbers that Zena gave Sondra have been disconnected. Sondra is panicky, having borrowed $30,000 from a loan shark to order the fabric for the dresses. As he meets with the loan shark to discuss an extension, Mike notices Bruno and Marty Brown (Ricky Jay) on television using Mike’s marble-drawing method as a promotional gimmick for the undercard fights of Ricardo’s match.Mike hires Laura to sue, but Marty’s lawyer threatens that if they do not drop the lawsuit, he will give the police an empty shell casing with Laura’s fingerprints, as proof that she attempted to kill an off-duty cop. He also threatens Mike as a witness who covered up the crime by bribing the cop with a stolen watch. When told of the situation, Joe feels responsible and kills himself. Mike feels obligated to help Joe’s financially struggling wife and, in desperate need of money himself, decides to compete as an undercard fighter in the upcoming competition. At the arena, Mike discovers the fights are being fixed via a magician (Cyril Takayama) using sleight of hand to surreptitiously switch the white and black marbles. Disgusted by this revelation, Mike confronts the conspirators: Marty, Jerry and Bruno who confirm that unknown to the competitors, the fights are handicapped by the fight promoters so as to ensure winning bets. They also reveal that Ricardo is intentionally losing the fight to Morisaki so they can make money on the rematch. Jerry tells Mike that Sondra is the one who told them about Laura shooting the window and Bruno justifies her betrayal by explaining that his sister is too smart to stay with someone who cannot provide for her.As Mike is exiting the arena, he meets Laura. Their conversation is not audible, but it ends with Laura slapping Mike. Mike then re-enters the arena. He incapacitates several security guards trying to stop him and is ultimately engaged by Ricardo. The audience and camera crews take notice as Mike and Ricardo face off in the arena’s corridors. Inspired by the Professor (Dan Inosanto), an elderly martial arts master attending the match, Mike manages to slip a difficult choke hold and defeats Ricardo, making it onto the ring to speak to the Professor personally. He is approached by Morisaki, who offers Mike his ivory-studded belt, previously referred to as a Japanese national treasure, as a sign of respect. He is then approached by the Professor himself, who proceeds to award the coveted red belt to an incredulous Mike, and embraces him, acknowledging his dedication to the art.Red Belt doesn’t fail at being an action flick; it just succeeds more so at being an entertaining drama with an MMA theme. This is an easy movie to recommend.

 

 

REVIEW: THERE BE DRAGONS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II)
Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider)
Golshifteh Farahani (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech)
Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus)

A young journalist long ago rejected by his now aged and dying father finds himself investigating one of his father’s former friends, a candidate for canonization. Uncovering the two men’s complicated relationship from childhood through the horrors of the Spanish Civil War unveils a compelling drama filled with passion, betrayal, love and religion. An action packed story set during a murderous time in history that ultimately serves the present by revealing the importance and timeless power of forgiveness.The film explores the senseless nature of war and its consequences, the spiral of hatred that slowly engulfs men, the repentance for terrible mistakes and the struggle to forgive them. Each character follows a path filled with dilemmas and suffering at the end of which they must fight themselves and their dragons. Do not expect an action packed war film. For those who have interest in the roots of Opus Dei, this film will not help you there. It deals with the repercussions of war and strife in people, it does not deal with the grander scale of things. there Be Dragons is a deeply personal and spiritual film. It is very intense and reflects unapologetically the worst side of humanity.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE 33

 

CAST

Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
James Brolin (the Amityville Horror)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns)
Mario Casas (SMS)
Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil TV)
Adriana Barraza (Cake)
Kate del Castillo (No Good Deed)
Juan Pablo Raba (Agents of SHIELD)
Naomi Scott (Power Rangers)

Dozens of people from Copiapó, Chile, work in the San José mine. The owner ignores the warnings of the failing stability of the mine, which collapses a short time later. The only path inside the mine is completely blocked, and the thirty-three miners manage to get to the rescue chamber. They discover that the radio is useless, the medical kit is empty, the ventilation shafts lack the required ladders, and there is very little stored food. Mario Sepúlveda becomes the leader of the miners, dividing the foods rations and stopping the outbursts of violence and despair. The mine company does not attempt any rescue, and the relatives of the miners gather around the gates.The government of Chile decides on active intervention, and orders the use of drills to reach the chamber. The first exploratory boreholes move off-target, but a later one reaches the required destination. The miners attach a note to the drill bit to announce their survival. They receive new food and clothing, and television communication with the surface. A second, bigger, drill system is prepared to retrieve the miners one by one.The 33 is exceptional. Based on the book “Deep Down Dark” by Héctor Tobar, the film version takes few liberties with the facts and fashions a very compelling narrative. The screenplay succinctly, but effectively sets the stage and develops its characters – both above and below ground. We feel the desperation of both the miners and their families. As the miners’ story unfolds, concurrently with that of their families and those attempting to rescue them, Patricia Riggens directs with great pacing (which is helped by nearly perfect editing). She also gets great performances from her cast and blends the talents and experience of well-known and little-known actors wonderfully. Although the movie did drag a little as it neared its dramatic conclusion, this is a film which tells its story with drama, sensitivity and even some humor.

 

REVIEW: 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

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CAST

Sullivan Stapleton (Blind Spot)
Eva Green (Dark Shadows)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Hans Matheson (Sherlock Holmes)
Callan Mulvey (Batman v Superman)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Jack O’Connell (Unborken)
Andrew Tiernan (The Pianist)
Igal Naor (Green Zone)
Andrew Pleavin (Inception)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Luke Roberts (Reign)


After its victory over Leonidas’ 300, the Persian Army under the command of Xerxes marches towards the major Greek city-states. The Democratic city of Athens, first on the path of Xerxes’ army, bases its strength on its fleet, led by admiral Themistocles. Themistocles is forced to an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta whose might lies with its superior infantry troops. But Xerxes still reigns supreme in numbers over sea and land.

7 years of waiting has paid off. 300: Rise of an Empire is thoroughly satisfying. The violence in this film makes you grin with glee from ear to ear despite considering yourself a seasoned veteran of gore films. 300: Rise of an Empire is not just about the sea battle, but masterfully takes us through several flashbacks without jeopardizing the story and turning it into a mess. The film also leaves enough room to create several believable characters, most prominent of all the real historic female naval general Artemisia, wonderfully played by Eva Green. Green plays Artemisia with an authoritative aura that has warrior written all over it. Xerxes takes a back seat this time, but we do get a glimpse into his past and who the man once was.

At the end of the day, if you hadn’t already come to this realization 7 years ago, you need to now: 300 is a work of art, not a historic movie. It is the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels and thus sticks to the literature both in story and in art design. Hence the oversized moon. Hence the ridiculous blood splattering. When viewed in this context, it is almost impossible to find flaws in these two adaptations, as they masterfully bring the graphic novel to vibrant life.

Last but not least, 300: Rise of an Empire offers breathtaking setpieces and backdrops, and is arguably more grand than the original 300 film, although of course we aren’t treated to the plethora of enemies and fantastical creatures as the first film did. Nevertheless, a well done and truly satisfying sequel. My only gripe is that the final duel should have been far more epic, and the soundtrack could have used some of the familiar thematic choirs of 300. Still, a 5, out of 5 stars.

REVIEW: 300

CAST

Gerard Butler (The Ugly Truth)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Dominic West (Punisher Warzone)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Vincent Regan (Lookout)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Tom Wisdom (Dominion)
Andrew Pleavin (Inception)
Andrew Tiernan (The Pianist)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Stephen McHattie (Watchmen)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Michael Sinelnikoff (The Lost World)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)

In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian army in the mountain pass of Thermopylae. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the enemy in one of the most famous last stands of history. Persian King Xerxes lead a Army of well over 100,000 (Persian king Xerxes before war has about 170,000 army) men to Greece and was confronted by 300 Spartans, and several hundred Arcadians. Xerxes waited for 10 days for King Leonidas to surrender or withdraw left with no options he moved. The battle lasted for about 3 days and after which all 300 Spartans were killed. The Spartan defeat was not the one expected, as a local shepherd, named Ephialtes, defected to the Persians and informed Xerxes of a separate path through Thermopylae, which the Persians could use to outflank the Greeks.

300 is basically  just one epic fighting scene after another. Most noticeably is the camera work and the visual effects. Every shot seems like it was intended to be a work of art. The colors, the characters, the costumes, the backgrounds… every little detail has been given so much attention. During the big fights you’ll also instantly notice the unique editing. There are a lot of “time slowdowns” throughout the battles which show what exactly is happening. Fatal wounds that slowly leak blood spatters in the air, decapitated heads traveling in slow-motion across the screen… it’s all there.

The story on the other hand isn’t very complicated, in the sense that the whole movie could probably be described in a sentence or two. The dialog is simple and most often talk about moral values like freedom and honor.

For me the good outweighs the bad by miles. From the second the movie started it grabbed me and didn’t let go. Every battle, every scene of the movie had me at the tip of my chair. Everything from the strong acting to the wondrous visuals to the war-shouts of the soldiers was just so stunning… it was truly a wonderful experience.I did not one single moment felt like the movie lacked anything.