#BingeWatch: WESTWORLD season 2 – An Appreciation

One of the positive things about being quarantined is you’ve got the luxury of time to catch up on some of my favorite shows. I LOVED the first season of WESTWORLD when it premiered in 2018. My hubby and I finally finished season 2 Thursday night and of course I’m still thinking about it. I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares of Halores, ahah. If you’ve seen season 2 you know what that means!

It’s truly one of the most bizarre, inventive, meta, enthralling, and addictive shows I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. It’s perhaps the trippiest show, which is made all the more discombobulating given the non-linear timeline. In fact, one of the most fun things after binging shows like Westworld is consuming ALL of the articles, theories, explanations, etc. because truly, this is the kind of shows you want to pick apart and discuss endlessly with fellow fans.

Thanks to this Insider article, I can make some sense of the timeline of the show, I said some because everything is still trippy AF and you never really know which part is real. I also love how the show keeps us guessing who’s actually human and who’s a host, aka robot.

If you haven’t caught up with season 2 yet, here’s the trailer to wet your appetite… it took me waaay too long to finally catch up with it, but it’s so well worth the wait!!

There are SO many things to appreciate about this show… so consider this an appreciation post.

The Score & Opening Credits

I absolutely love is Ramin Djawadi‘s haunting score and this stunning opening credits! TV shows have really upped their game in creating truly beautiful and memorable opening credits, but I consider Westworld’s music and graphics one of the most innovative. It truly fits the tone and eerie, mystical vibe of the show itself.

 

Genre-crossing brilliance

We’ve seen countless human vs robots movies/shows but I think Westworld still sets itself apart because it can bridge multiple different genres – this season it shows there are other parts of the theme park explored, there’s the Raj as in the British Raj period in the Indian subcontinent, Ghost Nation with the Native American tribe and Shogünworld that’s modeled after Japan’s feudal Edo period.

I was just in Disney World in early March (yup, right before there was any COVID-19 cases reported in Florida!) and it’s eerie to imagine if a theme park like this exist… man, even just thinking about it gives me the chills!

The Production Values

This show has got to be a dream not just for the cast to work with, but the crew! The ultimate sci-fi western mixing gunslinging & futuristic, lifelike androids. In every episode I’m constantly in awe of the production design that sometimes it’s distracting! I love the juxtaposition between the desert landscape of the Old West and the super high-tech, space-age technologies with its cutting edge gadgetry, weaponry… and of course the ‘host’ aka robot-building mechanisms. After all, most of the technologies and concepts explored in the series are not only totally plausible in the near future (check out this Venturebeat article), some like 3D printing, intelligent machines, etc. are already here.

I love the BTS featurettes on how the filmmakers built the stunning world of Westworld, and these two on the sets and how they created those creepy-looking drone hosts (which are actually costumes that actors wear)… fascinating stuff!

Thought-provoking concept

The show-runners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have really upped the ante and took this show to a whole different level from the 1973 movie version, directed by its own writer Michael Crichton. I haven’t seen the movie but I can’t imagine I’d enjoy it after seeing this phenomenal series. But the idea of a futuristic theme park where visitors can live out their wildest fantasies without any consequences is inherently intriguing… of course we all know everything comes with a price, and not all of it is monetary.

The running theme of ‘what is real’ and of course, ‘what it means to be human’ is at the core of every good science fiction… and that’s why I love this conversation between Dolores and Bernard, further blurring the lines between fantasy & reality, constantly flipping the roles between the creator and the creation… these scenarios that could potentially make one question one’s own existence!

What separates humans from robots is our mortality. Most of humans vs droids stories usually focus on the bots wanting to be like humans, to break free from the codes and human control as they’re often created to serve us. But what if there’s a twist? The series explores a grandiose concept that perhaps it’s the humans who want to be like the bots, to be able to live forever.

The Riddle of the Sphinx is an especially eerie one with plenty of philosophical speeches to ponder. Immortality is an often-told concept and seemingly a constant humans’ obsession with trying to cure death. I guess this is a ‘disease’ for the wealthy… I mean, no matter how much money one has, they still only have the same normal life span like the rest of us. Of course that doesn’t stop many companies in reversing the course of aging and offering us ways to ‘cheat death.’ We certainly don’t need any tv show, no matter how brilliant, to tell us it’s futile and playing God has dire consequences.

Great actor Peter Mullan as James Delos

Humans aren’t meant to live forever, let’s drink to that, shall we?

Speaking of living forever… reading this Vulture article where a futurist discuss the plausibility of AI developing consciousness in our world today is pretty eerie. Now, since we are all now living under a global pandemic and self-quarantining to save our lives, I thought about if something like Coronavirus were to happen in Westworld and spreading throughout the vast areas of the park… well, wouldn’t it be the end of humanity as we know it? I mean, as humans would start dropping like flies, the bots would live on as they’re obviously immune to organic viruses. It would be catastrophic not just for the park, but the world beyond.

Westworld Season 2 MVPs

I might do a separate blog just to talk about the cast. Man it’s really tough to pick just one as this show thrives on a talented, eclectic ensemble of phenomenal actors! It’d be too easy to pick

Ok for the sake of an argument, I’ll go with these two.

Thandie Newton – Maeve

It’s always clear from season one that Maeve Millay, a brothel madam in the local Mariposa Saloon, is much more than meets the eye. I knew she’s a special host, but just how special is she? Well, season 2 explores that brilliantly, boasting Thandie’s best performance yet. The kind of host never to trifle with and in the Akane No Mai episode in Shogünworld she proves just how mighty Maeve can be. I’m not going into details for spoiler sake, but when it happened I literally gasped! There’s also a scene where she finally get to humiliate one of her creators for constantly degrading her fellow robots, it’s one of the show’s funniest moments. Let’s just say he finally got his comeuppance.

Zahn McClarnon – Akecheta

While some sites have said the Kiksuya (which means “remember” in Lakota) is the best episode of season 2. That might be debatable, but I’d think it’s the most emotional one, which is quite a feat considering the episode consist almost entirely of expository flashback. Zahn McClarnon delivers an absolutely moving performance as Akecheta, delivering a monologue to a young child (in Lakota language no less), telling his story of his lost love and how he came to figure out just what kind of world he’s been living in. That whole bit of ‘take my heart when you go’ could’ve come out so mawkish and schmaltzy, but his performance holds it together and really made you care. It seems the show, just like the park’s creator Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), is pro-host, and when you have character like Akecheta, it’s easy to see why.


Season 3 – beyond the park

Season 3 has started on HBO, and boy the trailer looks freaking amazing!! I’ve been waiting to see just what would happen if the hosts goes into the real, human world that they’ve been forbidden to enter. I’m salivating but I’d rather wait until all episodes are available as I prefer to binge on shows, I mean I find it torturous to have to wait a whole week to see what’s next!

Right now, I’m actually still reading all kinds of stuff about season 2! So if you have some great articles about it (NO SPOILERS for season 3 please!), please do share!

Have you seen WESTWORLD season 2? Let me know your thoughts!

Music Break: 5 Favorite TV shows’ Opening Credit Themes

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My hubby was listening to Spotify the other day and he was playing some really great music, which turned out to be scores from some TV series. It might have been the Westworld one that made me take notice, and of course it’s by one of my fave composers, Ramin Djawadi. I remember growing up in the 80s, some of my fave shows have memorable opening themes, i.e Dallas, Miami Vice, MacGyver, Mission: Impossible, Knight Rider, A-Team, etc. Boy listening to those for this post definitely took me back, ahah. Well, contemporary themes perhaps aren’t as catchy, they sound much darker, more ominous, but more emotional and indelible. So here are five great TV scores from the past five years. This post also doubles as an opening credits appreciation, because first impression is everything and the best ones are absolutely indelible.

Netflix’s Daredevil

Definitely one of my fave opening titles. Normally I’d fast-forward the opening just to get the show, especially when you’re bingeing 2-3 shows at a time. But I’d always watch this one as it’s just so striking and it gives you a hint that our protagonist is blind in a graceful way. Composer John Paesano said he didn’t want to create something that sound like a typical superhero sound. Well he totally achieved that.

Westworld

This is one of the two Ramin Djawadi‘s work I’m featuring on this shortlist. He’s definitely one of the best composers working today. I’ve highlighted his awesome Pacific Rim score here, but his scores for the two HBO series are definitely much darker and foreboding. This one certainly has a western/sci-fi feel to it that is absolutely perfect for the show. And man, the visuals of the opening credits totally gives me the chills!

Downton Abbey

Elegant, lush, classy and wonderfully evocative. I absolutely adore the theme music by Scottish composer John Lunn. It’s tailor-made for fans of period dramas like yours truly, as it just makes my heart turns to mush every time I hear it. Such a gorgeous melody that puts you in the right mood to watch all the dramas unfolds both upstairs and downstairs of the Crawleys’ household.

Game of Thrones

I actually haven’t seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its music. It conveys the sense of a journey in the vast medieval world chockfull of intrigue, volatility and sheer unpredictability. I’ve started to recognize Ramin Djawadi‘s signature sound, I can’t explain it but it’s there.

Sherlock

As an Anglophile, I LOVE the London scenery of the opening credits, with a score that has a certain wit about it to match the titular hero. The score is by David Arnold and Michael Price. Arnold’s done quite a few Bond soundtrack, including one of my all time favorites Casino Royale. The show isn’t overly dark and I think the music reflects that. It has a hint of mystery and the idea of puzzle solving, but in a rather playful way.

Honorable Mentions:

Stranger Things

Jessica Jones

Black Sails

Well it seems plenty of Netflix’s original series have pretty awesome theme songs! These two are definitely memorable, and the Black Sails one (which I have posted about it here) also has an incredible opening credits visuals to go with its haunting music.


Well, these are just some of my fave TV opening credits’ scores. What are some of YOUR faves?

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Music Break: ‘Pacific Rim’ by Ramin Djawadi

HAPPY FRIDAY!! It’s been a sweltering Summer the past week, so I’m gonna cool off tonight watching … you guessed it, Pacific Rim once again at the IMAX, wahoo! I was gonna do a Music Break in honor of Guillermo del Toro’s movie, but since I’ve been so sporadic with posting my regular series, I thought I’d combine it with Everybody’s Chattin’. I’m sure y’all don’t mind? 😀

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So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

EuropaReportFilm Hipster‘s Chris reviewed one of this sci-fi movies I’ve been curious about: Europa Report. Sounds intriguing and it also stars Sharlto Copley which impressed me greatly in District 9.

Another Chris (aka Terry Malloy Pigeon Coop) makes me feel so guilty that I haven’t seen Metropolis yet. An inspired and fitting choice for his ‘What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen …’ series.

Josh and Eric recently reviewed a couple of films I haven’t even heard of yet but certainly sounds intriguing. Check out Josh’ review of What Richard Did and Eric’s write-up of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul [1974]

Sati is at it again with her Visual Parallels, this time pairing two HBO shows: Game of Thrones and ROME. Brilliant as always.

Both Mark and I appreciate Joaquin Phoenix’ acting chops and his outrageous stunts from a few years ago is perhaps one of his greatest work yet. Check out Mark’s review of I’m Still Here, which I’ve been meaning to see for some time.

Those close to me know I’m not one for horror or war films as I simply don’t have nerves of steel. But Keith‘s latest rave review of Black Hawk Down made me think if I should muster up the courage to give that a shot. Maybe, just maybe.

BallOfFireOn the Classic front, Paula made a tribute to commemorate a screen legend’s 106th birthday by doing an Unscientific Favorite Stanwyck Movie Poll Results. All of them look superb, though I’m most intrigued by Ball of Fire 😉

One of my favorite series from It Rains… You Get Wet is TMT (Theatre… a Movie… and a Time). And this latest one happens to be one of my favorite action franchise (well up to the third movie anyway): Die Hard (1988). Seems like Bruce Willis never stops playing John McClane, even in non Die Hard movies 🙂

A couple of BLOGATHONS are going on right now that are worthy of note: Cinekatz‘ Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap and My Film Views’ The 5 Obstruction – Click each link to find out more and join in on the fun!

Trailer-wise, there are quite a few great ones released this week. I’m most excited to see 12 Years A Slave and The Fifth Estate. It so happens that both films have birthday boy Benedict Cumberbatch in it!

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In The Fifth Estate he plays the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, check out the trailer:

For more trailers, head out to Terrence’s Triple T, that is Trailer Time Thursday!


Now time for some awesome music!

One of my favorite sites The Art of the Title is currently featuring Pacific Rim‘s gorgeous opening and end credits titles, done by Imaginary Forces Creative Studio. Combined with composer Ramin Djawadi‘s rousing score, it just might be one of my favorite credit sequences of all time!

PacRimEndCredits

I love this score so much I’ve been humming it constantly the past couple of weeks. It’s a GREAT soundtrack for working out as well. It gives me an extra boost at the elliptical machine… but no, I’m not trying to walk like a Jaeger, ahah.

A softer version of the theme I like is the Cancelin’ the Apocalypse track:


Well have a great Friday, everyone! What are you gonna see this weekend?

FlixChatter Review: Pacific Rim

PacificRimPoster


I remember back in 2008 when I saw the trailers for Iron Man. My hubby was excited for it but I kept rolling my eyes when it came on and said how silly and vapid it looked, only to be bowled over when I finally got around to seeing it. It’s the same case with this one, only this time my hubby agreed with me that it looked just like another loud popcorn movie, nothing more than another Transformers movie mixed with Independence Day. Well, I guess the lesson I learned once again is ‘don’t judge a movie by its trailer(s)’ 😀

The plot (yes there IS one, in case some of you are wondering) is nothing we’ve never heard before but it’s played out quite efficiently here. The swift exposition at the beginning showed us that a war between humankind and a bunch of humongous sea creatures called Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast) have been going on for some time. The narrator, Raleigh Becket, was only five when the first attack began in San Francisco. He’s a former pilot of this man-made giant robots called Jaeger (German for the hunter) who left the force when his co-pilot brother got killed in battle. We learn that it takes two pilots to control each of those Jaegers, whose minds are locked in a neural bridge called ‘The Drift.’ Apparently, the deeper the bond between them, the better they fight.’

PacRim_KaijuAttackSF

Right away I was pretty absorbed by the story and the characters, and what’s at stake at the seemingly-inevitable apocalypse as these Kaijus have become stronger and more relentless with each attack. Fans of giant monsters movies like Godzilla, etc. would have an especially enjoyable time watching the fight scenes of Kaiju vs. Jaegers. The  I have to admit that though I’m not into monster movies, I too was caught up in the whole spectacle!

The fight scenes are well-staged and though it was certainly loud and bombastic, it didn’t have the dizzying effect like the battle scenes in Man of Steel. Though the battles between the steel vs organic giants are quite relentless, there’s a constant reminder that these aren’t simply mindless robots that are fighting, but there are people inside these steel beasts that get hurt with each punch. The film certainly lives by its motto ‘Go Big or Go Extinct’ as the scale is just massive, but yet it’s not bloated in terms of content. Seems like each scene has a purpose that justifies its 2 hrs 11 min run-time. The meticulous amount of details of the set pieces are also muy impressive. Each of these Jaeger have a name, and the main hero is called Gypsy Danger – the only remaining analog robot, and in one interview, del Toro said it’s meant to resemble a WWII fighter jet calling it “a mixture of deco skyscraper and John Wayne.”

PacRim_GypsyDanger

I give props to Guillermo del Toro for his unbridled passion for his $180 pet project, fusing it with digital artistry and spectacle worth raving about. He said in interviews that Pacific Rim contains all his bucket list rolled into one movie, and it shows! I’m glad that during the fight scenes, the director didn’t resort to quick cuts or blur effect so we’re still able to make out just what the heck is going on. What I appreciate most of all, is how emotionally satisfying it is. THAT ultimately, is what makes a movie so gratifying and memorable.

The last movie I saw that del Toro directed was Pan’s Labyrinth, which was excellent albeit too disturbingly violent for my taste. No doubt this movie is far more accessible and commercial than the 2006 fantasy drama, but del Toro’s deft touch and zeal for the material is palpable. He’s assembled the best of the best in the biz, working with ILM (its chief creative officer John Knoll, is the co-creator of Photoshop) on the SFX, as well as composer Ramin Djawadi on a rousing score that already becomes my personal favorite!

PacificRim_Stills

Acting-wise, I think everyone is pretty well-cast. 33-year-old Brit Charlie Hunnam (of the Sons of Anarchy TV show), is pretty decent as Raleigh, and he’s got a nice narrating voice. He’s also got a nice chemistry with Rinko Kikuchi (THAT girl from Babel), and the martial arts training session is brimming with sexual tension. But to me, the real STAR is the hunky and charismatic Idris Elba. I’ve liked him since I saw him Rocknrolla years ago and he’s always been fun to watch. But man, he’s so incredibly magnetic in this movie! He’s got such a strong screen presence, plus he looks fantastic in that Jaeger pilot suit I barely noticed anyone else in that Shatterdome facility once he shows up! That ‘cancelin’ the apocalypse’ speech rates right up there with Bill Pullman’s speech in ID-4.

IdrisElbaCancelinApocalypse
Yes the speech is corny… but it works!!

The supporting cast deliver some of the funniest parts, most notably Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the oft-bickering scientists, and del Toro’s regular Ron Perlman as a Kaiju black market honcho. I love the creative character names, too: Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, Perlman’s Hannibal Chau, Day’s Newton Geiszler.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is definitely one of the most fun I’ve had this year watching a movie! Despite the predictable plot — the ending echoes other disaster movies like again, ID-4 and Armageddon — this movie still has some fresh concepts to set this one apart. In fact, I think action directors Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay have some things to learn from del Toro, as he’s able to deliver a visual feast without falling into the ‘style over substance’ trap. Plenty of eye candy and thrilling action, but not devoid of emotion either, what’s not to like? When Geiszler shouted ‘That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’ I can’t say he’s exaggerating!

We saw the screening in IMAX 3D at our local theater and the picture quality is the best I’ve seen in a while. My hubby and I plan to see this again in the next couple of weeks, maybe even at the real IMAX. Depending on the box office receipt, I wager that this movie is going to revive the big-monster movie genre… for better or for worse!

P.S. Do stay for a bit after the end credits. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

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What do you think of Pacific Rim and/or monster movies in general?