REVIEW: LOST IN SPACE (2018) – SEASON 2

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)

MAIN CAST

Molly Parker (Pure)
Toby Stephens (The Machine)
Taylor Russell (The Maze)
Ignacio Serricchio (Bones)
Maxwell Jenkins (A Family Man)
Mina Sundwall (#Horror)
Parker Posey (Superman Returns)
Brian Steele (Terminator Salvation)
Sibongile Mlambo (Teen Wolf)

Parker Posey, Ignacio Serricchio, Maxwell Jenkins, Mina Sundwall, and Taylor Russell in Lost in Space (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Raza Jaffrey (Homeland)
Amelia Burstyn (Defiance)
Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards)
Selma Blair (Hellboy)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5)
Shaun Parkes (The Mummy Returns)
Tattiawna Jones (Flashpoint)
Aaron Pearl (Man of Steel)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Bradley Stryker (Izombie)
Ajay Friese (Riverdale)
Angela Cartwright (The Sound of Music)

Molly Parker and Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)Cosmic crusaders The Robinsons (plus Don West, Dr. Smith, and Robot) are back for the holidays, and this time the calamity-magnet clan is banding together to battle against hostile alien droids, creepy and corrupt mission officials, and general galactic chaos.
Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot, once again, delivers a solid, satisfying run filled with dazzling effects and stunning heart. It tops Season 1 in terms of adventure and stakes, and, for a streaming series, it shows grand restraint by only being 10 episodes – with episode lengths actually varying (anywhere from 39 minutes to 54 minutes). That might sound like tacky praise, digging into the structure of the show, but it means that the story’s being told in the amount of time the creators felt it needed, and not filling up pre-ordained space – a welcome change from most streaming series.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Ignacio Serricchio, and Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)The cast is phenomenal, from Toby Stephens and Molly Parker’s John and Maureen to their kids, played exceptionally by Maxwell Jenkins, Mina Sundwall, and Taylor Russell. It’s crucial that these roles land well because our belief in the family, in this particular brood, is the crux of the entire series. If you don’t buy into “The Robinsons vs The Universe,” the show doesn’t work. And though they might bicker and banter, this family is the driving force of the saga. If their dynamic drags things down, the entire narrative fizzles.Mina Sundwall in Lost in Space (2018)Fortunately, The Robinsons are sensational as a family, either united or divided, and their interplay always works. From John and Judy’s emotional bond (which plays out beautifully in Episode 5, “Run”) to Penny’s strained relationship with Maureen as the middle child with no discernible exceptional abilities, the cracks in the Robinson’s foundations, both big and small, make for great viewing. And Ignacio Serricchio’s gruff-but-genial Don West is there keep them all together while Parker Posey’s “Dr. Smith” is there to tug at the threads in an attempt to rip the seams.Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, and Taylor Russell in Lost in Space (2018)Posey’s Smith, as the show’s wild card, has an awesome showing this season as the Robinsons, who start the season marooned on a planet in the galaxy they were pushed into at the end of Season 1, eventually rejoin their Alpha Centauri-seeking society and the good (fake) doctor is forced to think on her feet in order to avoid being caught and punished for her many crimes. And all the while, she’s got a powerful push/pull relationship with the universe’s First Family where she’s both their foil and their adversary. The Robinsons can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to love and support so it’s nice to have a self-centered “survivor” in the mix, even if her heart occasionally softens towards others.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, Mina Sundwall, and Taylor Russell in Lost in Space (2018)Will and Robot’s relationship, the one that began in Season 1 and allowed Will to become more confident and driven, continues to grow and change this year, with more layers added to the mystery of Robot’s origins, species, and how it ties into humanity’s ability to traverse space. JJ Feild (Captain America: The First Avenger) arrives this season as Dr. Ben Adler, the mission’s head of artificial intelligence studies. At first, it seems like Ben’s an easy-to-predict character. He arrives just in time to, perhaps, woo Maureen, bond with Will, while also possibly being a stealth “big bad.” But his arc surprises, and, like most elements of this series, it defies the usual cliches.Brian Steele in Lost in Space (2018)Of course, Lost in Space also has a (non-fatal) flaw in its blueprint. Nothing can ever go right. It’s in the story’s DNA. What this means is that when dangers and threats aren’t being presented by other characters — like Dr. Smith, aliens, or Rolo Haynes’ (Black Mirror) Hastings — there has to be some type of unforeseen space peril. Whether it’s severe storms, poisonous algae, or (LOL) water that somehow disintegrates all metals, this series can be pretty unrelenting. Granted, the writing usually weaves everything nicely into the characters’ specific emotional journeys, but the non-stop menaces can be a grind often run the risk of feeling farcical.Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)Netflix’s short-lived (and not great) Another Life featured a very similar “let’s throw every disaster we can think of at our heroes” edict, but the show had no alternate identity to support that design – that’s all the plot was. Fortunately, Lost in Space – which features, over the course of only 10 episodes, four different situations of important characters being stuck/trapped somewhere that requires a “Hail Mary” solution – has larger themes to focus on and a core cast that’s worth spending time with.
Brian Steele in Lost in Space (2018)Lost in Space feels less land-locked in Season 2 as more crazy challenges continued to befall the formidable Robinson family and Robot’s eerie origins are explored further. The unrelenting disasters can drag but the performances are so good, and the family-first credo is so vital, that the drama never dips.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SEVERANCE

CAST
Danny Dyer (Straightheads)
Laura Harris (Dead Like Me)
Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill)
Toby Stephens (The Machine)
Claudie Blakeley (Gosford Park)
Andy Nyman (Black Death)
The film opens with George (David Gilliam) and two women (Juli Drajkó and Judit Viktor) running through the woods. The women fall into a large pit trap while George is caught by a snare. As he hangs helplessly, a masked man approaches and disembowels him with a knife.
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What is later revealed as some days prior to this, the European Sales division of Palisade Defence military arms corporation are on a bus to a team-building weekend at a “luxury lodge” in the Mátra Mountains of Hungary. When a fallen tree blocking the road halts the bus’s progress, the driver (Sándor Boros) refuses to take a dirt road through the woods and, after an argument, drives off leaving the group to walk the remaining distance to the lodge. Eventually the group reaches the lodge, which is old and in serious disrepair, but the manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) convinces the wary but tired group to enter. Inside, Harris (Toby Stephens) discovers a file cabinet full of cryptic Palisade documents, written in Russian. The group discusses the documents, leading Harris to relate a story he’d heard about the lodge: the lodge was previously a mental institution, and in the early 20th century a Palisade-made nerve gas was used to clear it out after the inmates took over. Jill (Claudie Blakley) responds with the story she’d heard: the lodge was a “reeducation center” for Russian war criminals, and after an escape a Palisade-made nerve gas was used to clear escapees out of nearby buildings. Both mention a lone survivor who swore revenge on Palisade. Steve (Danny Dyer) starts to tell his own story about the lodge’s past as a clinic staffed by busty nurses when he finds a human tooth in the meat pie the group is eating for dinner. Chastising Gordon (Andy Nyman) for serving a pie he just found in the kitchen, everyone goes to bed.
 That night Jill sees someone looking into the lodge from the trees. Though nobody is found outside, everyone but Richard agrees that they should leave the lodge. The next morning Richard grudgingly sends Harris and Jill to the top of the hill to call the bus driver back, on the condition that the rest participate in a team-building game of paintball. Reaching the hill, Harris and Jill find the bus abandoned and the bus driver dead in a nearby creek. Back at the lodge, the game of paintball has just finished when Gordon steps into a bear trap. After several failed attempts by Steve and Billy (Babou Ceesayu) to pry the trap open, Gordon’s left leg is cut through completely under the knee. Harris and Jill arrive in the bus, load everyone in and head back for town. On the way, a spike strip is thrown in front of the bus, which causes it to crash. Harris is thrown clear of the bus in the crash, and is decapitated by a masked killer with a machete. Jill is captured and tied to a tree, then gagged, doused with gasoline and burned alive. The rest discover Harris’s body, prompting them to head for the lodge to hide for the night.
 While Steve and Maggie (Laura Harris) smoke, a masked figure (Levente Törköly) “quietly” grabs Gordon and carries him into the basement. Discovering Gordon’s absence and a newly opened door, the four head into the basement which leads to an underground prison. Through one door Billy and Maggie find the now-dead Gordon who has had the Palisade logo carved into his torso and a now-unmasked killer who fires a shotgun at them. The two hide in a nearby cell, where Billy dies from a chest wound. Steve hides on the second floor while Richard escapes out the back into the woods. While the killer searches for Steve, Maggie sneaks up on him with a large knife she took from the prison in the basement, but she falls through the rickety floor. The killer turns round and takes aim at Maggie, but, at the last second, Steve saves her by impaling the killer through the back. The killer falls down and becomes lodged in the main level floor, and Maggie takes his shotgun and shoots the killer in the head.
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 Maggie and Steve exit the lodge believing they are safe, but discover that a group of several more armed, Russian-speaking killers are awaiting them outside. Maggie shoots one before he can fire on them, and the two run into the woods. They come across Richard, who has stepped on a Palisade-made land mine and cannot move without detonating it. Richard guides Maggie and Steve through the minefield. The killers know that the area is a minefield and do not enter; they use a fallen branch to pass over the minefield close to Richard and torment him with insults and stones as they pass overhead. Accepting his situation Richard does his best to save the others and steps off the mine, blowing up himself along with two of the killers. Steve and Maggie come to another lodge, the real Palisade lodge. Inside they find their boss George, who is partying with two escorts Steve ordered via the Internet earlier. George brings out a prototype missile launcher and fires it at the approaching killers, but the missile locks on to a passing commercial jet instead, destroying it. The five run into the woods, leading to the events shown in the beginning of the film. Maggie is snared, then about to be molested by a killer, but manages to smash his head with a rock. Steve encounters two attackers and gets beaten and stabbed, but eventually kills them both with a knife and a submachine gun. Maggie is chased by a flamethrower-wielding killer into an abandoned prison camp, filled with crates bearing the Palisade logo. There, Maggie breaks her leg, but is saved when one of the escorts, rescued by Steve, arrives and shoots the man. Steve, Maggie and the escorts make it to a rowboat on the shore of the nearby lake, and as they paddle off to safety Steve jokingly quips, “Foursome?”.
Good performances all round, a good script and overall good pacing make this film never boring. It may be a tad predictable in the ‘whos gonna die next’ kinda way and the romantic subplot, but the fun is in seeing how it unravels.

REVIEW: LOST IN SPACE (2018) – SEASON 1

 

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)

MAIN CAST

Molly Parker (Pure)
Toby Stephens (The Machine)
Taylor Russell (The Maze)
Ignacio Serricchio (Bones)
Maxwell Jenkins (A Family Man)
Mina Sundwall (#Horror)
Parker Posey (Superman Returns)
Brian Steele (Terminator Salvation)

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Raza Jaffrey (Homeland)
Ajay Friese (Riot Girls)
Veenu Sandhu (Ambrosia)
Sibongile Mlambo (Teen Wolf)
Kiki Sukezane (Heroes Reborn)
Amelia Burstyn (Defiance)
Yukari Komatsu (Godzilla)
Adam Greydon Reid (Izombie)
Iain Belcher (Ungodly Acts)
Rowan Schlosberg (The Crossing)
Selma Blair (Hellboy)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (47 Ronin)
Shaun Parkes (The Mummy Returns)
Amelia Burstyn (Defiance)

Lost in Space (2018)After a large mysterious object called the Christmas Star collides with Earth, humanity is forced to look for a new habitable world to call home. When their mothership, The Resolute, runs into a spacetime disruption, all of the Jupiter ships, including the Robinsons’, are forced to evacuate, which results in their ship crash-landing on an uncharted planet. This is where the Robinsons encounter their greatest enemy…No, not Dr. Smith…We’ll get to her later. Their biggest stumbling block is themselves. Especially when it comes to working together. The writers’ effective use of flashbacks throughout the season offers vital information, which helps the viewer better understand what makes the Robinsons tick.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Ignacio Serricchio, Maxwell Jenkins, Mina Sundwall, and Taylor Russell in Lost in Space (2018)For instance, John Robinson, played by Black Sails alum Toby Stephens, struggles to be the father his children need him to be in times of crisis. We learn early on that he’s a Marine and rarely sees his children because he’s out on secret missions most of the time. When his son Will (Maxwell Jenkins) can’t find the courage to complete a difficult task, instead of being a comforting parent, John treats Will like a soldier, barking orders and telling him to follow protocol. Stephens deftly portrays John as a man who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how. It’s a dilemma that only gets worse once the robot shows up.“Danger Will Robinson” is back with a reimagined version of the hulking arm-flapping robot. The robot’s origin story is a bit different and more unique than its predecessors, but we won’t spoil the reasons why. In place of a distant father, Will’s relationship with the Robot becomes pivotal to the entire season, as John both loathes and respects the robot for looking after his son. Something John failed to do back on Earth. The Robinson women are equally fantastic. Maureen, the mom, is the leader of the group. Even John cowers in her wake. Actress Molly Parker (Deadwood) gives a fierce performance as the Robinson matriarch, who like John, finds it difficult to know when to trust that her kids will make the right decisions.Molly Parker in Lost in Space (2018)There’s also Penny (Mina Sundwall), the middle child, and Judy (Taylor Russell), the oldest. Of all the kids, Judy goes through the biggest transformation this season. At 18, she’s already a trained surgeon who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders whenever someone is badly injured. After going through her own traumatic event shortly after their crash, Judy experiences bouts of PTSD that impede her ability to do her job. Russell handles her character’s fragile emotional state well.Let’s talk about Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey. In a series that has effectively resurfaced as a dynamic 21st-century drama, Posey’s Smith feels like she’s stuck back in 1965. Her version of Smith is always up to no good and it’s hard to understand why the Robinsons keep giving her chances instead of throwing her out of the airlock. Dr. Smith is just so obviously evil, with no complexity to her character. Even when the writers try to develop her backstory, it falls short. None of her motivations, except for survival, make sense. If you took Smith out of the picture, no one would miss her. Lost in Space is a stellar sci-fi adventure series that the whole family can enjoy. The Robinsons are a fascinating bunch that are fighting for their own survival as well as that of the human race. Over the course of its 10 episodes, you will be introduced to some other colorful characters like the roguish Don Smith, played by a charismatic Ignacio Serricchio and Victor Dhar, the political-type you just love to hate. If you take Smith out of the equation, the series is worth getting lost in.

REVIEW: THE MACHINE

CAST

Toby Stephens (Severance)
Caity Lotz (Legends of Tomorrow)
Denis Lawson (Star Wars)
Sam Hazeldine (The Huntsman)
Pooneh Hajimohammadi (Words and Gods)
John-Paul Macleod (Calander Girls)
Siwan Morris (Dark Signal)

In the not-too-distant-future, Britain is embroiled in a cold war with China. Scientist Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) is in charge of giving cybernetic implants to brain-damaged soldiers; while they seem to become mute soon after, they regain all their physical and mental faculties. He hopes that he can use this technology on his daughter, who suffers from a debilitating neurological disorder. Then he meets Ava (Caity Lotz), a brilliant young scientist who has created an A.I. which is almost human. With her help, Vincent begins work on a sentient android by scanning her brain into a quantum computer… and after she’s unexpectedly murdered, Vincent uses her likeness and brain scan for The Machine (also played by Caity Lotz), a gynoid who is almost indistinguishable from a human.In fact, she’s a little TOO human — she feels emotions like fear, love and remorse, and has a sense of morality that Vincent encourages. She also is capable of communicating with the cyborgs. Since the sleazy government/corporate boss Thomson (Denis Lawson) wants a mindless killing machine, he’s not too pleased by this. So he demands that Vincent lobotomize away Machine’s humanity.The plot of “The Machine” is one we’ve seen before — someone builds a robot who turns out to be more human than expected — but Caradog W. James does an excellent job without being too preachy. It certainly helps that he includes some very realistic aspects to the story, such as conflicts with China and medical advances that are actually plausible (such as prosthetic limbs connected to the nervous system). And James uses that bedrock to build a very simple yet emotionally complicated story, which slinks along in moody, tense scenes that click together by the end. The movie is rather slow at times, focusing mostly on Vincent discovering how human Machine is while Thomson tries to corrupt her. After so many quiet scenes, the gruesome and chaotic climax comes as a bit of a shock.MV5BMjEzMjU0MjUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk1OTc0MTE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_The movie was made for less than a million pounds, and at times it shows — almost the entire story takes place in a military base, with some generic hallways and a big leaky airline hangar. However, the special effects are beautifully done, and James cloaks the bleak sets in shadows and bright lights, puddles of glimmering water and red, foggy alert lights. This is also a movie that heavily relies on its actors, and both Stephens and Lotz are absolutely sublime here. Stephens plays Vincent as a prickly, worn-out man whose only enthusiasm seems to be for saving his daughter, until he encounters the pure humanity of Machine. Lotz is also quite excellent — she plays Machine with a wide-eyed, childlike wonder at the world, which she maintains even after coming face-to-face with its horrors.MV5BMTgzOTM0MDY5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQwNjIwMg@@._V1_There’s also a good supporting role for Pooneh Hajimohammadi, who gives an effectively silent performance as the leader of the cyborgs. And Lawson also deserves some praise for being a very plausibly despicable villain — like the real-life military, he doesn’t care about wounded veterans or innocent people. He just wants obedient super-soldiers and new ways to kill. It’s all too realistic. While the concept is not new, “The Machine” is a slow, powerful little sci-fi movie that sets itself in a chillingly plausible future world. If nothing else, watch it for Stephens and Lotz’s excellent performances.