TV Chatter – Musings about Netflix’s ALTERED CARBON

Hello everyone! It’s been ages since I actually blogged about a TV series, but recently my hubby and I just binged on this Netflix Original Series ALTERED CARBON. As we’re waiting for Westworld Season 2 to wrap (as we prefer to binge on a series than following it week by week), we’re in the mood for a mind-bending sci-fi.

Now, the first time we watched Altered Carbon, we weren’t wowed by it. In fact, we thought it was meh. Honestly, I’m not too keen on Joel Kinnaman as the lead. He seems like a generic tall, blond hunk that’s lacking any kind of charisma while the far-more-magnetic Will Yun Lee (who’s essentially playing the same character) is relegated to a small role in flashback scenes. So it’s not until about a week later that my hubby and I decided to give this show another shot (largely because I like James Purefoy!), and by the end of episode 2, we were hooked!

ALTERED CARBON is set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored in cortical stacks implanted in the spine, allowing humans to survive physical death by having their memories and consciousness “re-sleeved” into new bodies. The story follows specially trained “Envoy” soldier Takeshi Kovacs, who is downloaded from an off-world prison and into a combat-ready sleeve at the behest of Laurens Bancroft, a highly influential aristocrat. Bancroft was killed, and the last automatic backup of his stack was made hours before his death, leaving him with no memory of who killed him and why. While police ruled it a suicide, Bancroft is convinced he was murdered and wants Kovacs to find out the truth.

If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this show is well worth a watch. The series is based on a novel by British science fiction and fantasy author Richard K. Morgan released in 2002. In 2003, the U.S. edition received the Philip K. Dick Award (so I wonder if ppl with a middle name starting w/ a ‘K’ might be good at writing sci-fi?). The film rights for the book sold for a reported figure of $1,000,000 to film producer Joel Silver (per Wikipedia). The Netflix series’ creator Laeta Kalogridis, is one of the executive producers of many sci-fi films Avatar and Terminator Genysis, as well as TV shows (Birds of Prey and Bionic Woman).

In Wiki, there’s a quote from Morgan that I found particularly interesting… “Society is, always has been and always will be a structure for the exploitation and oppression of the majority through systems of political force dictated by an élite, enforced by thugs, uniformed or not, and upheld by a willful ignorance and stupidity on the part of the majority whom the system oppresses.”

That’s essentially is the world of Altered Carbon… set 300 years from now, in the 25th Century. It’s a rather bleak vision of our future, as well as our humanity. But my favorite sci-fi films are those that really made me think about what it really means to be human. Such as the sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner which I actually just re-watched 8 years ago and prompted me to write this post. Speaking of that film, when I first saw the pilot episode, I thought Altered Carbon is basically a rip-off of Blade Runner. But upon a second look, the story is actually very different, but just as thought provoking in that it also made you ponder what it truly means to be human.

I’m not going into details in this ‘review’ of sort, so I won’t be commenting on each episode but more about the series as a whole. Basically, I just want to talk about three aspects of the series… and what I think of the ending [obviously SPOILER territory).

The Premise 

I’m often intrigued to check out a brand new show because of the filmmaker or cast. But in the case of Altered Carbon, where there’s really no major stars in it, I was drawn by its premise. As I already mentioned above, I LOVE sci-fi films that analyze and explore our humanity in a creative way. I mentioned Blade Runner above which is about engineered droids that look and behave like humans that it’s tough to tell them apart. Altered Carbon deals with something just as eerie (if not more so), that is, digitizing the soul.

The show also has a procedural element that actually is a more typical whodunnit story, but it’s this mind-bending scifi concept that kept my interest. According to IMDb, this was originally going to be adapted as a film, but the original book’s 26th century universe was too dense to be contained into two hours. I think the story that’s wise as there are indeed SO many interesting to explore from the book that would get oversimplified (read: dumbed down) in a 2-hour film.

I find the very idea of storing one’s consciousness into a chip (stack) that can be placed into another body is extremely fascinating, unsettling and terrifying all at the same time. Does it mean one’s soul, one’s memories, basically everything about who we are as a human being, is no longer attached to our physical bodies? Many Christians have asked this question… when those who believe in Heaven die and enter God’s Kingdom, will they have a spirit body or a physical body? But in this futuristic world, there are two kinds of deaths… the sleeve death (when the fatal blow only affects the body but not the mind, so the stack still intact) and real death (when the body and stack is destroyed).

This is one of those shows where you need a cheat sheet to understand. I didn’t read it until after I finished season 1, but still helpful to read it after. Y’know the expression ‘walk a mile in her shoes’? Well, this goes many steps further that one can essentially live one’s life in an entirely different form. You could be an elderly white man in a body of a black female teen, or in the case of this show, a Hispanic grandma in a body of a big, bald, heavily-tattooed white man. It sounds cool of course, as how many of us haven’t dreamed of looking like someone else for a day? But on the show, if one is re-sleeved too many times, that person will go insane (the mind rebels, the personality gets fragmented). And that’s why the ultra rich (the Meths as they’re called on the show) would clone themselves many times so they can basically be immortal as their sleeve remains a certain age forever.

The Visuals

The reality in Altered Carbon universe is reminiscent of Blade Runner, even more so in the sequel, BR 2049. In the 25th century, supposedly there are pulsating 3D ads, prostitute holograms and super sleek flying cop cars. Heck even the police station looks state of the art, so obviously they get their funding from the Meths!

The visuals are quite stunning. Set in what’s formerly San Francisco, it’s all pops of neon lights and gritty streets, though they still look too ‘clean’ to me that it’s obviously a set. Shot in Vancouver, by cinematographer Neville Kidd, it looks properly futuristic noir.

It’s no surprise that Kidd was the cinematographer behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s gorgeous Sherlock as well as Outlander for Starz. I think he ups the ante in this scifi dystopia world and scifi geeks like me constantly gawk at the cool set pieces. I mean Bancroft’s mansion is magnificently opulent and the state-of-the-art Raven Hotel (with its hidden weaponry) is practically a character in itself.

In season 7 though, it’s nice to get a bit of respite from all that neon city to a lush forest where we get the backstory of Kovacs’ life with his Envoy group. There’s also a super cool looking interrogation room in that episode.

So yeah, this show is visually ambitious and one reviewer even said every shot seems to have been tailored for the One Perfect Shot Twitter account, ha!

The Characters

I LOVE reading articles about the show that breaks down the terminology in Altered Carbon universe. My hubby sent me this one from Thrillist explores some of the questions posed by the show. I found this interview with a neuroscientist about consciousness, memory, and what makes us who we are. This comprehensive article clearly spells out who’s who on the show. Really fascinating stuff!

I also like how diverse the show is. Though it’s improved over the years, it’s still quite rare to see Asian actors in US shows these days. So I’m thrilled to see Korean-American actors Will Yun Lee in a prominent role, as well as Hong Kong-American actor Byron Mann whom I’ve seen in a bunch of shows. Nice to see a Latina actress playing a prominent part as well which celebrates her heritage. Given the nature of the ‘sleeves’ the color of one’s skin doesn’t really matter in this universe, which gives an opportunity for diverse casting and interracial relationships.

I have to say that despite how I initially feel about Joel Kinnaman, his character Takeshi Kovacs is captivating. I was thinking perhaps if we have someone like say, Tom Hardy, the show be a heck of a lot more watchable. But hey, Joel kinda grew on me the more I watched it and the concept of the character itself was enough to hook me. Having seen Joel in RoboCop and Suicide Squad, the Swedish actor seems to have been typecast of sort in sci-fi projects. He looked ultra ripped on this show, he’s basically shirtless 80% of the time here even when he’s not doing the sex scenes! I wish he had more range though, he’s basically just all morose and sulky though I have to admit he can be pretty tender in the romantic scenes.

Speaking of ripped, I really wish they had given more screen time to Will Yun Lee who not only looked amazing physically, but he’s also got this quiet grace and soulful charisma. I’m glad he’s basically the lead in episode 7 as it plays out in flashbacks of his life as an elite soldier (called the Envoy). I like the relationship between Kovacs and the fierce Envoy leader Quell Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry), which is supposed to be the heart and soul of the show but it left me wanting more. Also, it’d have been cool to see the two ‘lives’ of the protagonist and contrast the two. [SPOILER: highlight to read] Given its trippy nature, why not have the two Kovacs (the original AND the new sleeve) intersect more somehow or maybe have Joel and Will meet and even fight each other?? That’d have been so trippy cool!

James Purefoy is nicely cast as Laurens Bancroft, perhaps the wealthiest of the Meths, who are so powerful they can afford endless backups and self cloning to live forever. The character is a reference to Methuselah, a biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism and Christianity who’ve lived the longest of everyone in the Hebrew Bible at the age of 969.

The whole Bancroft storyline and their relationship with Kovacs held some interest at first, but after a while it gets less and less intriguing. I didn’t care for the affair between Kovacs and Bancroft’s seductive wife (Kristin Lehman). Even the gratuitous sex scene was ho-hum, and the father/son bit in this dysfunctional ‘family’ (they had 21 children!!) is meh as well. Laurens is an intriguing character on paper, and there’s a particular scene with a big crowd that utilizes Purefoy’s acting talent, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near his best role. He’s much more captivating in HBO’s ROME and fans of Mr. Purefoy would be happy to see he sort of um, re-enacted his famous nude scene from that show 😉

I have to say that one of my favorite character is Poe! A centuries ­old, highly ­evolved AI who is currently inhabiting the psyche of Edgar Allan Poe and runs the luxury, well-equipped hotel The Raven (natch!) which Kovacs often hangs out at. I was certain the actor who played him is a Brit (I usually have a good hunch about this) but Chris Conner is actually from New Mexico! I enjoy all the scenes with Poe in it, he’s kind of like Q in Bond movies but with a more biting wit and distinguished sense of style.

Like Kinnaman, it took me a while to warm up to Martha Higareda who played Detective Kristin Ortega. She seems to overact a bit in the pilot in the way she abhorred Kovacs. But I love that the show explored her Mexican heritage in her character, there’s even an extensive scene of her celebrating Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with her very-Catholic family. Her mother is especially devout and opposes the re-sleeving after the original sleeve/body dies. I thought that the whole discussion around the dinner table reveals the core message of the show’s concept and discusses what it means to ‘play God’ and messing with the nature of humanity. As the show progresses, Ortega’s character trajectory gets more interesting and we find out just why she despises Kovacs. It’s kind of predictable but there’s one particular scene between them that tugs my heart strings.

The last character that’s worth talking about is Reileen Kawahara (Dichen Lachman). I can’t talk about it without going into SPOILER territory however… so highlight to read: I was quite flabbergasted to learn Reileen is Kovacs’ sister but I guess the show has sort of hinted at it with the scenes of the two Asian siblings. At first I thought it was brilliant but it quickly descend into sentimental melodrama mixed with absolutely preposterous and hyper violent fight scenes! 

I had seen Dichen in the indie drama Too Late a few years ago and the Australian actress sure is talented. Hope she gets her own show one day, maybe together with Will Yun Lee? 😉

I have to mention briefly about Ortega’s mentor Samir Abboud (Waleed Zuaiter) who didn’t have much screen time but still memorable.

The rest of the characters aren’t all that memorable. I think my least favorite character is Lizzie Elliot, whose subplot is the most boring and has least consequence to the whole story. I was amused by her mom Ava, a Black woman sleeved in a pale, redhead white male.

How about that ending?

While the show already suffered too many plots in a single season, the finale is even more egregious in trying to solve too many puzzles in a single episode! I really think the formulaic whodunnit of ‘who killed Bancroft’ plot could’ve been resolved in the episode before that, so we could focus more on Kovacs’ story and his relationships. They’re treating it like the ‘who killed JR?’ in Dallas when in fact it’s lacking any emotional resonance. Honestly, I don’t really care who killed him as he’s not that sympathetic, nor interesting, character.  SPOILER – highlight to read: I honestly couldn’t care less about the father/daughter story of Vernon and Lizzie. It’s just boring and even silly at times, which makes Lizzie’s appearance as the ‘unlikely hero’ in the end even more pointless and irritating.

I don’t know what the budget of the show is but I bet a lot of it goes to the Head in the Cloud (aka flying brothel) set. But again, the ending veers into too much melodrama even with the intense fight scenes. SPOILER – highlight to read: The slo-mo of the entire floating house crashing down is so operatic but lacking any emotional gravitas. At this point I was also worn out by the brother & sister love/hate relationship. I feel like the show doesn’t know what to make of Reileen, the Puppet Master. Yes she seems to truly love her brother and she desperately wants to find him. But at what cost? One take away I get from Takeshi and Rei is that some people just don’t know how to love.

The parting of Kovacs and Ortega could’ve a more emotional depth, but it felt too abrupt to me. I do like the final shot of the original Kovacs with the love of his life Quell, which again, is the heart of the film for me.

A more focused plot with less balls in the air would’ve made a more arresting finale.

In Summary

It’s also one of the most violent and sexually explicit show I’ve seen. Yes granted I haven’t seen Game of Thrones yet, but a colleague who’s seen both actually said Altered Carbon is often more violent and sexually vulgar than that show! I mentioned how Joel Kinnaman is practically shirtless 80% of the time but the women had it worse. I also have issues with how much violence are directed at women here which is disappointing since it’s show-runner is a woman. In fact, this could’ve been the most expensive show done by a female creator, perhaps even more than Westworld which has a woman as its co-creator.

At times the nudity becomes almost cartoonish and all out ludicrous. From violent aerial fight-to-the-death, MMA style, Kung Fu, to nude sword fights, there’s every kind of intense fight scenes under the sun on this show. The fight scenes are well-choreographed but definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. I had to look away during most of the fight scenes, but especially the torture scenes in episode 4. It’s virtual torture but still tough to watch.

Overall though, I’m glad I gave this cyberpunk series another shot and it’s one I actually still think about, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with this extensive post! But the series’ biggest weakness is the everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach, cramming way too many plots in a single season. After every episode, I feel dizzy with information overload as the plot gets more and more unnecessarily convoluted. Some of the subplots are less interesting than others, in fact, some are quite irritating as they don’t seem to tie in well with the storyline we actually care about.

Will there be Season 2? I haven’t heard news about that yet but I’m only tentatively interested. Maybe if Will Yun Lee is back then I’ll be more enthused. We shall see, but I’m not clamoring for it at this point.


Well, have you seen Altered Carbon? I’d love to hear what YOU think!

Spotlight on BBC One’s miniseries SS-GB + Interview with actor Maximilian Dirr

ssgb_bbcone

This past Sunday, BBC One finally aired one of my most anticipated series (well it’s a 5-part miniseries) starring my fave Yorkshireman Sam Riley. I’ve mentioned the project several times, including here and here.

Naturally it’ll make you think of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle but set in London. Based on the 1978 novel by Len Deighton, SS-GB is a dystopian thriller set in an alternative 1940s London, where the Germans have won the Battle of Britain, and the capital is under Nazi occupation. Sam Riley stars as Douglas Archer, a Scotland Yard detective who’s torn between co-operating with the SS or joining the resistance. He becomes embroiled in a sinister underworld while investigating what appears to be a simple black-market murder.

SSGB_BBCminiseries

Joining Riley is Kate Bosworth, as American journalist Barbara Barga, who finds herself linked to the case Archer is working on. SS-GB is written by James Bond movie writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and other cast members include Jason Flemyng, James Cosmo, Aneurin Barnard, Maeve Dermody.


FCInterviewBanner

Well, recently I got to chat with one of SS-GB’s supporting cast member Maximilian Dirr, a Munich-born actor who spent his childhood in both Germany and Italy, speaking both languages fluently. Check out my interview with the talented International actor on his work on SS-GB, as well as his next project in The Crown season 2.

maximiliandirr

Q: It seems that you have a stage background following your studies at National Theatre Academy, but you’ve been doing various TV and film work. Which medium do you prefer and most comfortable with?

I’ve started working on the stage very early so I’m more comfortable with it but in the last years I made many experiences also on TV and movies. The languages are very different and I think both can learn from each other. At the moment I’m working more on film and I must admit that I really love it.

Q: What’s your first film role and how did you get cast in that project?

My first film role and experience was a short film in Genua. I was studying at the National Theater Academy and a casting director came to cast this short film. I had a lot of fun during the audition and they chose me for an northern Italian guy. From there on I definitely knew that I wanted to do more film projects.

Q: What was your role in The Best Offer and how was it working with Geoffrey Rush?

In The Best Offer (directed by Cinema Paradiso‘s Giuseppe Tornatore) I played an assistant of Geoffrey Rush and it was wonderful working with him. Even only from watching him you can learn so many things. It was also one of my first roles in a feature film.

Q: Now, as for SS-GB, could you tell us a bit about your role in that BBC miniseries? You said you had a scene with Sam Riley, can you tell us a bit about how your filming day went and your experience working with him?

In SS-GB I´m a Patrol Commander. I have a very nice scene with Sam Riley where I threatened him because he is with a girl who doesn’t have a passport with her. We had a lot of fun playing this scene also because at one point he also had to speak german and he wondered how much you can hear his accent. Sam has a very nice British accent when he speaks German.

ssgb_maximiliandirr
Maximilian in a still from SS-GB

Q: It’s such a bummer that The Vatican pilot didn’t get picked up as I’m a big fan of that cast and it looks like an intriguing series. How was it working with Ridley Scott and/or any of the cast members?

Yes, it’s a bummer that the series didn’t get picked up. I had a lovely part in it and played a swiss guard who was very close to the Pope played by Bruno Ganz. My part would have been very big in the series as I was the right hand of the antagonist. But sometimes when one door closes another one opens. So who knows what´s up next. Working with Ridley was awesome. He trusts his actors very much and respects them. It was my most amazing experience until now. I met great actors and lovely people.

Q: How difficult is it to work with German/ Italy/ English productions? There must be quite a different process for each country as well as the inherent cultural distinctions. How do you manage to overcome some of the challenges?

I love to work on the international market so it’s a pleasure for me coming to shoot in London or wherever. Having said that, of course the process in every country is very different. To be honest with you I prefer the English/American Film market and also the German Films. I have the impression that they risk more. I’m based in Berlin and Rome, and travel a lot for work. Nowadays you make many self-tapes so it’s not so important where you stay. You have to be flexible.

Q: What’s next for you? Feel free to elaborate about your future projects.

Last Summer I completed a feature film called Maria Mafiosi directed by Jule Ronstedt. It’s a German comedy about the Italian mafia and I have a very funny role. I also just finished shooting for The Crown season 2, directed by Stephen Daldry. I’ve a nice small part in one episode. Recently I’ve also finished an international feature film called Sobibor directed by Russian filmmaker Andrey Malyukov where I’m in the main cast. We shot in Lithuania and the film is about the escape from the Camp Sobibor. A true story.

sobiborfilm

Next week I’ll start shooting in a leading role for an episode of Non Uccidere for Rai/Netflix. Also many different films will be released soon so we’ll see what’s next.

THANK YOU Maximilian for chatting with me!


Christmas Weekend Recap: Scrooged + binging on Westworld

Happy last Tuesday of the year folks! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Mine is relatively mellow on Christmas day, though we did go up North to Duluth Friday and spent the night there to see the Bentleyville Tour of Lights (I’ve shared the pics here).

We came back in time for Christmas Eve church service, which was wonderful. For the next couple of days, we pretty much hibernated indoors as the weather is quite frightful outside. But hey, it gave us a chance to finally watch a Christmas classic we’ve missed all these years…

SCROOGED

scrooged

Thanks to Courtney’s post on her favorite things about Scrooged, I thought it’s about time I checked it out. My hubby and I loved Bill Murray and the movie is directed by Richard Donner, who I’ll love forever for giving us Superman: The Movie. Well, the updated Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple and it’s easy to see why. Murray is perfect as a selfish, heartless TV exec, he’s just effortlessly funny and the slapstick stuff was hysterical. Nice to see Karen Allen here too though she’s barely given anything to do. The movie itself isn’t exactly perfect but still it was a lot of fun and has that rousing ending with great music. Glad I finally saw this movie, a Christmas must-see movie I can now cross off my list.

WESTWORLD

westworld

If you were to ask me to sum up what I did on Christmas weekend… it’d be bingeing on Westworld! My hubby and I couldn’t wait to finally have time to devote to this series, and I much prefer to binge on tv shows these days, and having a free subscription to HBO on the first month certainly helps! It took us two days to get through halfway of the first season, with just five more episodes to go.

Well, first impression is… we LOVE it!! It’s definitely the kind of sci-fi shows we like… bold, visually-stunning, thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted… it pretty much ticks all the boxes of what a binge-worthy show should be. It reminds us a bit of another sci-fi we used to binge-watch, Battlestar Galactica, an ensemble-cast series which also deals with the interactions of humans and robots but I think Westworld is even bolder and sharper in scope. I love that the show is not melodramatic or bogged down by unnecessary romantic plots, but man does it give you a ton of stuff to think about. It’s what people call a mindf*ck in the best possible way! The cast are simply astounding and most of them bring their A-game to the series. If I had to list my four favorite characters, it’d have to be these:


Anthony Hopkins effortlessly adds gravitas as the park creator, whilst Ed Harris is wonderfully menacing and cool as hell as Man in Black. He’s such a terrific actor, and he adds SO much to his role. I can see why Margaret goes ga ga over him now 😉 I haven’t seen Evan Rachel Wood in hardly anything, but she’s no doubt the heart of the show and her acting is phenomenal!! I sure hope this show will give a boost to her career as she’s clearly very talented. As for Thandie Newton, this is perhaps the strongest performance I’ve seen her in, though she was memorable in Crash and Rocknrolla.


I’m also impressed with James Marsden who I think is an underrated actor who people might not take seriously because of his good looks. Well he’s still a sight to behold here as the cowboy Teddy, but at least he gets to show his acting chops too. I’m most intrigued by Jeffrey Wright‘s Bernard, as he seems to have a hidden agenda that’s been hinted out since episode 1. But please guys, NO SPOILERS in the comment as I’ve only got to episode 5. My hubby and I couldn’t help watching fan theories on youtube after each episode, there’s really SO MUCH to ponder and analyze, that’s why we’re limiting ourselves to a couple of episodes a day even though we can’t get enough!

The Nolans sure have the brains for storytelling. Jonathan Nolan‘s written a ton of my fave films with his brother Christopher (esp. The Dark Knight). Here he teamed up with his wife Lisa Joy who’s a talented TV writer in her own right. Executive producer JJ Abrams sure has a midas touch too, is there anything that guy can’t do?? I might also check out Michael Crichton‘s 1973 film Westworld in which the series’s concept is based on. I had no idea Crichton was also a film director on top of being a best-selling author.

Well, I’ll do another summary post again once I’m done w/ the season. So far I think Westworld does live up to the hype!


So what did you watch this Christmas weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Westworld too!

Everybody’s Chattin + TV News Update: HBO’s Westworld & George RR Martin’s Wild Cards

EverybodysChattinAug

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are y’all watching the Olympics? I missed the opening ceremony so I only caught up w/ some clips on Flipboard. I did watch the Men’s 100m backstroke as Minnesotan David Plummer, a swim coach who’s perhaps one of the oldest at 30, won Bronze.  Woo hoo!

Well I’m super excited to see Anthropoid tomorrow. I’ve posted the trailer here and yesterday I read this awesome NY Mag article that the film shows how women helped defeat the Nazis.

Ok how about those links!

A couple of Suicide Squad-related posts: Margaret lamented on the lack of Jared Leto’s Joker’s scenes, among others, whilst Jordan actually had some praises for the movie.

Jia posted a Blindspot review on one of my favorite modern noir thrillers, L.A. Confidential

Jay reviewed a movie I missed at the theaters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can’t wait to rent as soon as it’s available.

I hadn’t reviewed Spielberg’s The BFG yet, but it seems Mark liked the movie more than I did, whilst Zöe pretty much agreed with me in regards to Jason Bourne.

I enjoy reading ranking lists! Keith just ranked the Marvel movies from worst to first ( I LOVE his #1 pick!)

This is a movie which trailer intrigued me… Dan reviewed Indignation

Last but not least, Cindy shared some great book recommendations.


Ok, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait yet for this upcoming series, but man, everything about this upcoming series looks really good!

WestworldHBO

A series inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.

Now, I’ve never seen the original series with Yul Brynner, but the idea of a western sci-fi instantly intrigues me. Ok now it doesn’t always work, as in the case of Cowboys & Aliens, but we’ve got quite a pedigree in terms of its creator.

I love that it’s a husband/wife team behind this series remake: Jonathan Nolan and fellow screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan. Oh, and JJ Abrams also serves as executive producer along with the Nolans. Check out the trailer:

Here’s just a sampling of the impressive ensemble cast:

  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Ed Harris
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • James Marsden
  • Thandie Newton
  • Jeffrey Wright
  • Tessa Thompson
  • Shannon Woodward
  • Ben Barnes

The 10-episode season 1 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m. I can hardly wait!
///


As Game of Thrones‘ fans are waiting for season 7 with bated breath, its author George R.R. Martin has long set his sights elsewhere. He just may have another sprawling fantasy world on television, according to Variety.

GeorgeRRMartin_WildCards

Universal Cable (same studio behind Mr. Robot that I’m currently watching) has purchased the rights for Martin’s work. The first volume in the book series was published in 1986, with 22 volumes released to date.

Here’s the premise:

“…the shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same.”

I quite like the sound of this, so I’ll keep an eye on this project. Surely plenty of actors are salivating to be cast in this.

 


What are your thoughts about these TV projects?

Everybody’s Chattin + Musings on The White Queen’s Richard III

EverybodysChattinTWQ

Hello folks, happy almost Friday! I’m going to see Steven Spielberg’s BFG later this evening, though I have to admit I wasn’t really all that excited about it. I sure hope it’s entertaining and not as melodramatic as War Horse.

EU-referendum-vote-to-stay-says-Greencore-boss_medium_vgaToday marks an important day for the UK as voting is under way in a historic referendum on whether the UK should leave or remain a member of the EU. I’ve been reading a ton about it and I’m really curious to see the outcome as the result of this Brexit ballot will certainly reach beyond Europe. It’s kind of a coincidence (or not?) that I’ve been obsessed lately with a British monarch, more on that at the end of the post.

Ok, let’s get to those links!

Jay talks about child actors, which ones make it and which don’t

Make sure you make a mental note for Cindy‘s July’s Film Club on movies based on books. Glad to see Michael as the special guest next month!

Brittani reviewed Locke, that one-man-show starring the awesome Tom Hardy

One of the Flick Chicks duo Allie reviewed The Hateful Eight which she really, really liked

Father’s Day was just last Sunday, and Alex did a great Movie Fathers Quiz to commemorate it

Paul, the loyal admirer of Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan wrote a post about One Fine Day & Addicted to Love

Zöe did a fine character tribute on Walter Bishop from Fringe series

Nostra confirmed my dread about Independence Day: Resurgence. I was supposed to go to an AM screening on Friday but decided not to bother.

Last but not least, check out Mickey‘s interview with the DOP of Finding Dory, Ian Megibben



Here we go again… I have such an obsessive streak in me and I never know when something struck me. I finally finished The White Queen last Sunday, and for the past three days I’ve been consumed by much-maligned king Richard III. The last time I was obsessing over a deceased real-life character was Ian Curtis after seeing Sam Riley‘s portrayal in Control.

Like most of you, the image I have of the last Plantagenet King is that he’s an evil hunchback, thanks to the villainous Shakespeare portrayal which is more of the Tudors’ propaganda. He’s also often been portrayed as an old man when he actually died at the age of 32. Philippa Gregory‘s The White Queen paints a far more sympathetic portrayal of him, which seems to line up more with the recent discovery of the monarch’s remains back in 2012 at a parking lot of all places. Out of the three York brothers, Richard’s story certainly is the most compelling and he’s become my fave male character in the series.

yorkbrothers-twq

It doesn’t hurt that in the series, Richard’s played by this terrific Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard with his dramatic eyes and tortured-soul temperament. For once he’s actually closer to the age of the real king when he reigned, give or take a couple of years as Aneurin was about 26 when he filmed TWQ. It’s funny but the first time he appeared on screen I gasped a little as he resembles my dahling Sam a bit with his intense, penetrating gaze. So yeah, I’m crushing a bit on him, but I’ve also become seriously obsessed with the historical character Richard III.

I think I’ve watched pretty much every video I could find on the long-dead monarch on youtube and Netflix, both the historical biographies on him and all the videos about the recent discovery in Leicester, led by another woman named Philippa. Suffice to say, like Philippa Langley, I’ve become a Ricardian now and I’m dying to see a proper Richard III film that is more historically-accurate, though I’d imagine his death scene in the Battle of Bosworth Field would likely be extremely gory to film!


In any case, here’s a preview of the brutal final episode of season 1 that ended the War of the Roses:

And here’s a clip of Richard talking to Elizabeth Woodville (the wonderful Rebecca Ferguson) about the Princes in the Tower, the ultimate cold case that remains unsolved to this day. It made me wish there’s a spin-off series of Richard III with the same cast!

I’m pretty sure Ricardians everywhere are very pleased with Aneurin’s portrayal of Richard III. He’s definitely NOT the physically and mentally crooked monster we’ve been subjected for decades. Apparently back in 2013, Langley wanted actor Richard Armitage (who’s apparently named after the king himself) to portray Richard III (per Scotland’s Herald). I’ve talked about it extensively here three years ago. Now at 44 he’s become too old (and at 6’2″ too tall as well) to play him, but I think it might still work. Heck he’d still look far younger than Lawrence Olivier or Ian McKellen who’s played the character in the past.

I for one would prefer Aneurin reprising the role in the film version. I mean if you look at the facial reconstruction created from the skull remains, he even resembles king Richard a bit.

tumblr_nilj99cVK41rsmarto4_r1_500

Aneurin_richardIII

Source: tumblr

As the series progressed, I also found myself more drawn to his relationship with the kingmaker’s daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). To say it’s a complicated marriage is putting it mildly. I mean the lines between enemies and friends are often blurred during the War of the Roses, but there’s something so romantic yet tragic in how this particular union is depicted.

Anne_TWQRichard_TWQ

It’s funny how a movie/series can get you all excited about learning history, but I’ve always been a fan of the underdogs and there’s not a monarch out there more unfairly portrayed/judged like Richard III. So I’m ordering a few Richard III books and I can’t wait to devour them!


Have you seen ‘The White Queen’? I’m also curious if there’s any screen character(s) you’re currently obsessing over.

Weekend Roundup: Thoughts on STARZ series ‘The White Queen’ (2013)

It’s been quite a weekend, it’s so sad to hear what happened on Saturday night in Orlando, FL. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected in this horrific act.

The cast of Broadway darling Hamilton, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda paid tribute to the victims in a powerful gesture:


On a positive note, it’s wonderful to see many performers of color win Tonys this year, with Hamilton and The Color Purple with its diverse cast swept the awards.

Wish I had been able to see Hamilton whilst I was in NYC before Miranda left. Ah well, I’d love to see it one day!


As for my weekend, I spent most of my time outside as my good friend is in town. So I didn’t see a single movie but on Sunday night, I did watch three episodes of a 2013 series I’ve been wanting to see for some time.

WhiteQueen

I’m such a sucker for period dramas as you already know, and British royal families are ripe for an engrossing drama filled with royal lust, love, seduction, deception betrayal and murder. I love that the series is female-centered. Told through the perspective of  three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.
WhiteQueen_warringwomen
Hale, Ferguson & Marsay

Rebecca Ferguson plays the beautiful Lancastrian commoner Elizabeth, and Janet McTeer played her strong-willed mother Jacquetta. Apparently Tom Cruise chose Ferguson to be his co-star in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation after he saw her in this mini-series. She certainly is versatile, as she seems as fitting in 15th Century England as she does in a modern spy thriller. I’m not too fond of Amanda Hale‘s acting style as Margaret, but Faye Marsay as Anne is quite intriguing. So far though, my faves are Ferguson and McTeer. Those two actresses are the main draw for me to see this series and they certainly outshine the boys.

In the first episode, Elizabeth won the heart of the House of York ‘s young King, Edward IV (Max Irons, yep Jeremy’s hunky son). There’s a bit of a Romeo & Juliet factor here the fact that The House of York and The House of Lancaster are bitter enemies. Edward owed his throne to his cousin, master manipulator Lord Warwick (James Frain) who resented Edward’s choice as it spoiled his own plan for power. It’s a wonderfully-tragic tale of England’s earliest civil war.

The quality of this Starz production is top notch. Beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted, it’s not as violent as the European series BORGIA, but still pretty gritty. Based on British historical novelist Philippa Gregory‘s novel, it’s definitely a must-see for fans of period dramas!


Out of all the men, Frain is the only one who made an impression to me as the scheming ‘Kingmaker.’ He’s a terrific character actor who’s been in so many different films/tv work. Irons is pretty good but he doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his dad, but perhaps that’s unfair to expect that. David Oakes and Aneurin Barnard played Edward’s brothers George and Richard, respectively, both are easy on the eyes as well, and Barnard resembles my crush Sam Riley so much it’s uncanny!

I’ve only seen three episodes and boy am I hooked! Thankfully there’s only one season so far which I can’t wait to finish it. The sequel, The White Princess, has been green-lit by Starz and is currently in production (per Deadline).


So that’s my weekend recap folks. How about you? Seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup: Musings on the first half of Daredevil season 2

DaredevilSeason2

My hubby and I usually would spend 15-20 minutes just browsing iTunes and Netflix and agonize over what to watch. So we’re sure glad Daredevil Season 2 dropped on Netflix last Friday, as we know what we’ll be bingeing on all weekend. But our extent of ‘binging’ is actually just 3 episodes a day, so we’re only about halfway through season 2 with 7 episodes in, but that’s not bad considering it took us nearly 3 months to finish Jessica Jones!

I don’t usually blog about Netflix stuff but that seems to be the case the past couple of weeks. It’s a coincidence really, but hey, they do churn out quality stuff and this season of Daredevil sure is another winner in my book. As I mentioned in my Jessica Jones‘ post that it took a while for me to warm up to the character and the show. Well, not so w/ Daredevil as the same with season 1, I was immediately hooked. Once one episode ended, we couldn’t wait for another one!

Since I haven’t finished the entire season yet, I’ll just briefly list some of my favorite things about what I’ve seen so far, without revealing any spoiler (if I do, I’ll be sure to warn you).

What I’m liking so far:

The Punisher. Boy, Jon Bernthal‘s casting is just brilliant. There’s a lot of hype about his character but he did NOT disappoint. He fit the character like a glove and he’s the quintessential antihero, someone I sympathize with despite his obvious flaws. I have to say I don’t miss Wilson Fisk at all this season, and in terms of both having a rather tragic past, I think Punisher is far more compelling. At least so far anyways.

Daredevil2_Punisher

I can’t wait to see more of his backstory revealed, which only makes me want to see an entire season on him. That’s saying something given that I’ve never been all that interested in this character before and have skipped all of the cinematic adaptations so far. I’d even watch a movie of The Punisher w/ Jon Bernthal in the role!

Daredevil2_PunisherXray

I’ve always liked Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) since season 1 but I love her even more this time around. She’s acting like a investigative journalist here, as she gets dragged deeper into about Frank’s story. This girl’s got some chutzpah! I mean she has no superpower but she’d readily walk into things that’d likely get her in trouble. I absolutely admire her and I’m glad to see Karen gets more screen time this season.

Daredevil2_Karen

The key member of Nelson & Murdock, as well as Matt’s indispensable BFF, is the extremely affable Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). He’s rather underused in first season so I’m thrilled he’s also got more screen time and Henson got a few chances to shine in the role. I love how much he genuinely cares for his BFF and he’s not afraid to get in his face if he thinks Matt’s in over his head (which is quite often). I also love the fact that they utilized his legal training, as well as an admirable oratory skills, to good use. I’m not going to mention which scene, but when you see it, you’d want to stand and clap. Well done Foggy!!

Daredevil2_Foggy

Now, I haven’t decided how I feel about Elodie Young as Elektra Natchios yet at this point. So far her character arc is a rich, spoiled brat who’s pretty persuasive to get men (including Matt) to do her bidding. Well, the French actress certainly fits the femme fatale role well, though at times she seems to try to be too sexy that it’s irritating. I do like the playfulness of her banter with Matt, it actually gives a nice contrast to the unrelentingly-dark storyline of the Punisher.

Daredevil2_Elektra

Of course, Charlie Cox himself is still awesome as the title character. He’s even more comfortable in the role and it’s great to see his character grow and evolve. His concern for Hell’s Kitchen is unmistakable, but he’s a bit more world-weary (naturally so) and still ravaged by guilt. He’s also more careful about getting involved romantically, for fear that he’d mess things up.

And for a show called Daredevil, we expect some awesome fight scenes. The fight scenes between Daredevil and The Punisher sure is a highlight. The rooftop scene between the two are fantastically-done because it isn’t just fight, fight, fight but there’s plenty of conversations between them. I LOVE that Netflix doesn’t skimp on character development. (spoiler alert!) As you would see on ep. 4, Bernthal has one long emotional monologue at the cemetery that’s wonderful to watch.

Daredevil2_Matt_Frank

But Daredevil also got plenty of opportunities beating up goons and hooligans from one episode to the next. The hallway fight scene below is pretty darn cool! I wonder if the director(s) got some inspiration from The Raid movies for this scene in particular.

daredevil-ep2-hallwayfight
Thanks hypeable.com for this awesome gif

But as cool as those fight scenes are, without a truly compelling story, I wouldn’t be inclined to keep watching. The morality tale of Daredevil is well-written and the inner conflict of the masked hero is what makes him intriguing to watch. With the arrival of Punisher who’s got his own brand of justice, that moral dilemma is even more palpable. Like Batman, Daredevil is a vigilante who doesn’t believe he has the right to take a life, no matter how bad the crime the villain has committed. The difference is that Daredevil is depicted as being a devout Catholic. Season 2 doesn’t shy away from the faith aspect and whether you agree or not with his views, it’s certainly make for a thought-provoking discussion.

Daredevil_Catholicism

As I’ve just finished episode 7 within an hour I posted this, I think season 2 is just as strong as the first one. At least based on what I’ve seen so far. Interesting that based on Rotten Tomatoes score, season 2 is a step down, and the critics consensus said ‘… the additions of Punisher and Elektra can’t quite fill the void left by Wilson Fisk’ Huh? Ok so maybe so about Elektra, but I definitely LOVE the Punisher character more than Fisk. Heh, that goes to show why I don’t always trust the professional critics.

Anyhoo, can’t wait to catch up w/ the rest of the season. Hopefully I’ll be done by next weekend!


So what did you watch this weekend? If you also binged on Daredevil season 2, I’d love to hear what YOU think!