Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

beauty and the beast live

A headstrong, well-read French village girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is tired of life in her small village and can’t help but think that life has more to offer than her small town gives her.  She is relentlessly pursued by town hunk and resident harasser, Gaston, (Luke Evans) who she cleverly avoids. Belle is very close to her father, Maurice, (Kevin Kline) who raised her after Belle’s mom passed away.  When she visits Maurice, Belle asks her dad for a rose, and he promises to get her one. On a snowy night, Maurice loses his way and gets captured by a Beast (Dan Stevens) who has been cursed  by an Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) for his superficiality.  Belle hears that his father has been captured and rides off to save him.  She switches places with Maurice, and traps herself with the Beast.

Gaston sees an opportunity to be the hero, and rides off to save Belle with Maurice.  But Maurice refuses to let him marry Belle, and Gaston accuses Maurice of being crazy and wants to send him to an asylum.  In the castle, Belle and the Beast are becoming closer.  Lumiere, (Ewan McGregor) the candelabra Cogsworth ( Ian McKellan) the clock, Mrs. Potts, the teapot, and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) the wardrobe, are doing all they can to make the mood as romantic as possible.  They hope Bellle professes her love for the beast, because that will break the Enchantress’ spell on them too.  Things are going swimmingly until Belle checks on her father in a magic mirror, and sees that he is being taken away.  What does she do?  What happens to the Beast and his enchanted staff?

I was disappointed by Beauty and The Beast.  How could I not like a delightful movie such as this, you ask?  Easy, it was too much like its animated namesake, the live action movie followed the story of the animated movie, line for line shot for shot and scene for scene.  When Disney made a live action Jungle Book movie, they created a whole new story that was in every way better than the animated film.  That made me want to watch The Jungle Book, because I didn’t know what was coming with the next scene.  Since I had seen the animated Beauty before, not only did I know the scenes, I knew the songs, I knew the ending, I knew everything.  The few jokes that were added  for Josh Gad’s character weren’t that funny, and didn’t add much to the film.  Why is almost every actor speaking in a British accent, if the film is set in France?  Why does the Beast have blue eyes, is that important? The writers could have done a flashback and embellished the Beast’s character before the curse, and what made him such a superficial person, in the first place something to make it distinctive, anything.

The acting was good.  Emma Watson does the best she can with quite a limiting role, she is supposed to be an independent woman, headstrong, yet falling in love with a cursed Prince.  There is an inherent  contradiction in the role, but Watson is pleasant enough, and sings well enough to make Belle somewhat interesting.  Dan Stevens is pretty dull as the Beast, he doesn’t really bring much to the role.  Kevin Kline plays his role as comedy relief. Luke Evans is actually very good as Gaston, funny and evil at the same time, he put some real life into his role.  Of the Best’s household staff, only Ewan McGregor s Lumiere stands out, he infuses the role with humor and joy and a little sadness, he is truly a great actor.  Audra McDonald has a great operatic voice, I wish they gave her more songs to sing.

The direction is a mixed bag.  The visuals on some of the exteriors are visually appealing.  One of the opening scenes reminded  me very much of The Sound of Music, it was unintentionally humorous.  While the visuals were intriguing, the pacing is extremely slow, two hours seemed  more like four, and the performances were somewhat mixed.  The songs were great, just like the animated film,  but the CGI was overdone.

Beauty and The Beast:  It didn’t ring my Belle.

Band Wagon (1953) 24

Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is a washed-up Hollywood song and dance man.  He comes to New York by train and is met by the only two remaining members of his fan club, Lester Martin (Oscar Levant) and his wife Lilly. (Nanette Fabray) Lester and Lilly are also screenwriters and Lester has a script for a Broadway play all set for Tony to star in.  Tony’s not sure, but Lester has a meeting set up for Tony with the hottest Broadway producer/director Jeffrey Cordova. (Jack Buchanan)  Jeffrey hears the pitch for the script, and has ideas of his own, he wants to do the play as an adaptation of Faust, the literary character who wants to make a deal with the devil to achieve success. Jeffrey also wants ballerina, Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) to be the leading lady, and after some reverse psychology on Gabrielle’s boyfriend, Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) Jeffrey gets Gabrielle to be the leading lady and Paul to be the play’s chorographer.

But as soon as the cast starts rehearsals for the play, tensions start to mount.  Tony feels like he’s being marginalized by Jeffrey.  Tony also fights with Gabrielle, he feels Gabrielle is arrogant and trying to make things more difficult for him. Even Lilly and Lester, the original writers and members of Tony’s fan club, are not even speaking to one another.  Will this play even make it to previews off Broadway or will internal dissension kill this play before people even see it?

Since I saw La La Land, which was a tribute to Hollywood musicals, I wanted to see a classic Hollywood movie to see if the authentic movie musical was worth the tribute.  The Band Wagon is definitely worth watching and definitely is a classic.  Whereas Singin’ In The Rain is a satire of Hollywood in the silent movie era, the Band Wagon is a satire of Broadway, much like Mel Brooks’ The Producers.  The pompous pretentious producer Jeffrey reminds me of the Horace Hardwick character from Top Hat, pompous, pretentious, and perpetually confused.  Part of this movie reminds me of Damn Yankees, a movie that was really based on Faust, with Gwen Verdon as the temptress, instead of Cyd Charisse The only kink in the armor of The Band Wagon is that they try to push a romantic storyline, where it was really not necessary. But I’m a sucker for Fred Astaire, and even an older version of Astaire has wit, charm, and dance steps to spare.

Fred Astaire plays what he always plays, a song and dance man.  But this time, he’s an aging song and dance man who’s staring the end of his career straight in the face.  Actor Astaire conveys the frustration of being an aging Hollywood star well, in a town that tosses out older stars like most people toss their garbage.  Dancer Astaire proves that he’s still got magic in those feet, doing some of the more masculine styles popularized by Gene Kelly in his movie musicals.  Similarly, Cyd Charisse plays her role with a dual purpose as well.  Actress Charisse plays the role of a shy ballerina, while dancer Charisse plays her role with a smoky seductiveness.  Jack Buchanan plays the haughty producer to perfection, and Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray add even more comedic value to the movie.

The director is Vincente Minelli, father of Broadway star Liza.  Minelli’s film, like many other movies in that golden age of film, pops with bright almost incandescent colors.  This was a visual style aped by Darren Chazier in La La Land.   The musical numbers are expertly staged, and the choreography is excellent.  Minelli also gets very good performances from a talented cast.

The Band Wagon Jump on!

wonder woman

Diana, (Lilly Aspell, Emily Carey, Gal Gadot) is princess of the Amazons, a band of fierce female warriors, who live on an island, with no men.  She wants to train to be a warrior, but her mother Queen Hippolyta  (Connie Nielson) forbids it.  So Diana gets training from General Antiope (Robin Wright) behind her mother’s back.  One day, American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes through the barrier that keeps the island from being visible to others and into the ocean.  Diana saves Steve and learns that Steve is an American spy on a mission to end a secret German chemical weapons program, spearheaded by General  Ludendorf (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru, (Elena Anaya)  and end World War I.  Steve has Dr. Maru’s formula for the mustard gas, and has to deliver the book to British intelligence.  Diana believes that someone on the German side is really the Greek God of War Aries, who is trying to prolong the war and kill as many humans as possible.  Diana’s mission is to find and kill Aries. Does Hippolyta allow Diana to leave the Amazon’s island and travel with Steve to the front?  Does Steve accomplish his mission to stop the chemical weapons from being used?

This could have been a classic movie, but it sends all kinds of mixed messages.  One is a message of a woman imbued with great powers to stop the human race from annihilating itself, which is a wonderful message.  But if Wonder Woman is so powerful, why does she need help from a man?  Then, the writers want to superimpose some kind of messy love story within the superhero genre.  This kind of genre mixing rarely ever works. It’s been tried in Superman with Lois Lane, and Spiderman with Maryjane, with varying degrees of success.  In the context of this movie, the love story actually undercuts the female empowerment story.  There are also silly scenes that overemphasize Diana’s femininity.  Other than the lead character being a woman, this is a pretty generic superhero film, and the ending is pretty generic as well.  And if anyone thinks that being a woman makes Diana a pacifist, you haven’t watched a Hollywood superhero movie lately, this movie is very violent.

There is one redeeming aspect to Wonder Woman, and it is the performance of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince.  Her earnest, sincere, heartfelt, and serious (that’s a compliment) performance make this movie worth watching.  While most superhero actors are looking for a tagline, Gadot conveys the genuine feeling to the audience that Diana only wants to help people.  Her naiveté is refreshing as well.  If this movie stands out, it is because of her.  Chris Pine is not so lucky, he gives the standard hero performance, but he’s supposed to be an American spy who infiltrates the German military not once but twice.  He doesn’t even try a British accent to blend in to British society, and his German accent is weak.  His ham handed performance almost steals the movie from Gadot, Chris Pine, this wasn’t your movie.  He seems to have forgotten that Gadot is the focus of the film.  Robin Wright has a small role as the woman who trains Diana, but the role is too small to make an impression.

A big deal was made that Wonder Woman was directed by a woman.  The fact is Patty Jenkins added very little to this movie that is different from a man directing the same film.  There’s a backstory, an over reliance on special effects, and a long, long running time.  What exactly is the difference between this movie and Captain America’s origin story?  Not much and so why should Patty Jenkins deserve credit for directing a standard issue superhero movie?  She shouldn’t.  The only outstanding performance is by Gadot, and the pacing is slow at times.

Wonder Woman:  Wondering Why It Wasn’t Better.

la la land

An out of work actress named Mia (Emma Stone) keeps bumping into a soon to be out of work jazz pianist named Sebastian. (Ryan Gosling)  The first time they meet they give each other “the bird” in a traffic jam.  The next time they meet is shortly after Sebastian gets fired during Christmas.  The two meet again at a party when Mia requests a cheesy 80’s song and asks Sebastian to play the keyboard portion of it.  They meet again looking for their cars during a lovely sunset.  Later, Sebastian finds out that Mia has never seen Rebel Without A Cause and asks her to come see it, but she’s got a boyfriend, and she hates jazz, and he doesn’t want a girlfriend, especially one who doesn’t like jazz.  And they’ve both got big dreams.  She wants to be an actress, he wants to open a jazz club.  Does she go to the movie?  Or are their meetings just coincidental?

There are many good things about La La Land, but the writing is for most of the film is trite.  It follows all the conventions of every romantic comedy ever made including the man and woman hating each other at first sight.  Why does this always happen in the movies?  Nobody hates someone in real life and then, poof magic.  Nothing works that way.    There is a twist near the end, and the ending itself evolves into somewhat of a mystery, which belies the happy mood of the first hour, but is still better than a conventional Hollywood ending.

Ryan Gosling has made a living playing brooding, taciturn, characters, like in Driver, or Blue Valentine, so it was anyone’s guess how he would handle the lead in a musical romantic comedy.  He handles  the comedic part of the role well, but when the script turns more dramatic, his delivery is surprisingly flat. The same can be said for Emma Stone, she couldn’t really handle the more dramatic scenes, and even the comedic scenes, she would sometimes make a  silly face.  The two didn’t seem to have any chemistry, maybe it was the age difference.  Gosling is 8 years older than Stone, maybe that’s why they didn’t seem to have any sparks.   J.K. Simmons had a small role, I wish it was bigger, he is a heck of an actor.

There is a lot of good in this film, and most of it comes from  the director’s chair.  Damien Chazelle is a very talented director, and he realizes that film is a visual medium. This film pops with color, even the scenes filmed at night are brightly lit and look as if they were painted with a brush.  This is also a love letter to classic film, movie posters are strewn all over Mia’s apartment and the cameras catch all of it.  Even when the colors don’t pop, the camera is shooting from some interesting angle or other.  This is not Top Hat or Singin in The Rain, but that it aspires to be and tries to bring back the movie musical is a laudable aspiration.   The choreography is great, the songs are great, those two elements by  themselves make the movie worth watching. There are  portions of this this movie that are told without a word being spoken, that is an incredible achievement.

La La Land:  Mostly music to my  ears.

 

indignation

In 1951, after a strife filled life in Newark New Jersey, living with his Jewish parents and working in his dad’s butcher shop Marcus Messner  (Logan Lerman) goes away to a Christian college in Ohio.  His parents want him to join a Jewish fraternity, but he steadfastly refuses.  He moves in with two Jewish roommates and works in the college library.  It is there that he meets and falls for Olivia Hutton. (Sarah Gadon)  Soon thereafter, he goes out on a date with her.  Inexplicably, near the end of the date, Olivia pleasures Marcus sexually in the car.  This puts a strain on the relationship, because Marcus isn’t sure why she did what she did.  Olivia writes Marcus a letter, explaining that before she came to Ohio, she was an alcoholic, who tried to commit suicide.   While trying to digest that information, Marcus also finds himself at odds with the school dean, Dean Caudwell, (Tracy Letts) who has a problem with Marcus’ atheism.  After an argument with the dean, Marcus vomits and faints, he has appendicitis.  In the hospital, Olivia visits Marcus again, and starts pleasuring him again in the hospital bed, a nurse sees Olivia, but seemingly does not report her behavior.

As Marcus gets ready to leave the hospital, his mother, Esther (Linda Emond) comes to visit. She has shocking news, she wants a divorce from Marcus’ father Max. (Danny Burstein)  Esther also meets Oliva and implores Marcus to break up with her.  Marcus goes back to college only to find Olivia is gone.  What happened to her?  Does Marcus ever find her?

This is a semi-autobiographical look at author Phillip Roth’s college life.  While sexual repression and religious conformity was commonplace in the 1950’s, I doubt that those issues exist today to the extent that they did in 1951, anti-Semitism will always exist, and this movie doesn’t make a specifically Jewish appeal, it’s more a agnostic’s appeal for freedom from religion.  Marcus in fact is disliked by Jews in the college, and dislikes Jews in the college, what he’s experiencing is not anti-Semitism as much as Christian religious conformity. At a time when atheists probably outnumber Christians in this country, I didn’t find anything in this movie particularly relevant to today’s society.  Actually, Olivia’s storyline was much more interesting than Marcus’ but Marcus was the main character, so he got most of the attention. The movie seems much too overwrought, the confrontations between Marcus and the dean seem stilted and staged, everything is much too serious, and I don’t think Marcus ever loved Olivia, so it wasn’t much of a romance.

Logan Lerman is a good young actor, but the character he plays isn’t very likeable, so it’s a difficult role for him to play.  Similarly, Sarah Godon plays a woman searching for love and acceptance, and replacing that with sexual gratification, but there is no explanation of who or what damaged her psyche, so she remains a one dimensional character.  Tracy Letts plays an unlikeable character in a likeable manner, which added to my confusion about this film.

The director is also the writer, in this case that’s a bad thing, because the director won’t edit his own words, and that makes the pacing drag. The performances didn’t stand out, and there were no visual flourishes to speak of.

Indignation:  I didn’t dig it.

better-off-dead

Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is an average teenager with a lot of issues.  His mother Jenny, (Kim Darby ) can’t cook.  His father Al, (David Ogden Stiers ) has issues with the paperboy.  His brother Badger (Scooter Stevens) is sending for weird books through the mail.  He has Korean brothers, Yee Sook Ree (Yuji Okamoto) and Chen Ree (Brian Imada) trying to drag race him, when all he drives is his parents station wagon, and his classic Camaro sits under a sheet, untouched by human hands.  His neighbor Ricky Smith (Dan Schneider) is spending the summer with a pretty exchange student, named Monique, (Diane Franklin) who can’t speak a word of English.  But at least Lane has a girlfriend named Beth (Amanda Wyss) who he obsesses over.

But then Beth breaks up with Lane, she starts going out with ski champ Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier) needless to say, Lane takes the breakup badly.  He tries to commit suicide, albeit half-heartedly.  Lane’s friend, Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong)  advises Lane to ski the K12, the most challenging ski run in the area and to take up the saxophone, both designed win Beth’s heart back. His father wants Lane to date Joanne Greenwald to help dad’s business prospects.  In a fit of anger, Lane challenges Roy to a race down K12.  Lane is a good skier, but is he ready for K12?  And if he does race, will this impress Beth, or win him the affections of another girl, Joanne Greenwald or Monique perhaps?

When I watched this movie 32 years ago, I thought it was better than it actually was.  Now I watch it, and as much as I wanted to slap a classic tag on it, I couldn’t.  The production values are so cheap, the recurring gags recur so many times, hinting at a lack of material, and the plot is so stunningly obvious from the start, that despite my admiration for John Cusack, I just couldn’t label this movie a classic.  I realize now  my fondness for Better Off Dead occurs more from nostalgia than it being a good movie.  And suicide is never funny, and shouldn’t be treated as a joke.

The actors are very familiar.  John Cusack gives a heartfelt performance as a heartbroken teen, but this is familiar territory for him.  He plays similar roles in Say Anything and The Sure Thing, and I think the best of the three is The Sure Thing, but his performance in this is worth watching for sure.  David Ogden Stiers is from MASH of course, and he plays the clueless father with some of the same timing he had in MASH, Amanda Wyss was in Nightmare on Elm Street, and plays Beth to be as unlikeable as possible. Diane Franklin, who was in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure had great chemistry with Cusack and also made the movie worth watching.  Curtis Armstrong is best known to me as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds and essentially plays the same character, a wise guy, who’s been around the block a few times. E.G. Daily, from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure even sings a few songs. All this 80’s talent should’ve resulted in a better movie.

I think the fault lies in the direction.  “Savage” Steve Holland is the director’s name and he sure savages his movie.  The movie has no continuity, the scenes seem like a bunch of vignetttes, loosely tied together, and as soon the punch line hits, it’s on to the next scene. The recurring gags grow tiresome after repeated use, and the best part of the film, the animation, is used too sparingly.  To his credit, the music is good, and there is at least one good skiing montage, and the last ski race is filmed well.

Better Off Dead:  Worse than I remember.

 

westworld

Episode 1:  The Original

Westworld is a world where android hosts are built to please human customers.  When one of the androids goes awry, senior programmer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is called in to find out what the glitch is.  Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babbet Knudson) wants all the defective androids recalled, but the creator of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford, (Anthony Hopkins) doesn’t want the androids shut down at all.

This is a very interesting episode, the writers are intentionally vague about several things, when this world is built, who the humans are, and if the robots are becoming self-aware.  The last factor is perhaps the most interesting and makes this series worth watching, at least so far.  The writers are Jonathan Nolan and his wife Lisa Joy.  Jonathan Nolan has co-written some of the most interesting sci-fi movies in recent memory, Interstellar, The Dark Knight, and Memento, to name a few.  So. I hope the writing stays this sharp.

Anthony Hopkins is great as the founder, he’s obviously conflicted between making the androids as lifelike as possible, and keeping people safe.  It’s a very subtle performance.  Jeffrey Wright is also very good as the lead programmer, desperately trying to find out what’s going wrong with the androids.  Evan Rachel Wood is interesting as an android just starting to realize that she may not be human.  Sidse Babbet Knudson gives an intense performance as an operations leader, she wants to keep Westworld safe above all.

The cinematography is superb.  There are beautiful exterior shots of mostly Utah, and those shots set the stage for what is essentially a Western drama.

Episode 2:  Chestnut

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) is having private conversations with Bernard, which Bernard doesn’t want anyone to know about.  Bernard’s relationship with Theresa Cullen extends beyond the boardroom.  Two guests arrive at Westworld, Logan (Ben Barnes) has been there before, William (Jimmi Simpson) has not. Maeve (Thandie Newton) is having flashbacks to an earlier adventure.  The Man in Black (Ed Harris) wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes at Westworld.  Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) creates a new storyline for Westworld, does Ford approve?

What I like about this show is that there are about 5 storylines going on, and all five are interesting.  The androids having memories, and the programmer and the android having private conversations are the most interesting.  Great acting by Hopkins, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton keeps the tension in the script high, and it never lets up.  The least interesting of the storylines are the new guests, hope that gets better, but I am hooked, oh yes I am.

 Episode 3: The Stray

Bernard is still talking to Dolores. He gives her a book, Alice in Wonderland. Dolores learns to shoot from Teddy, after recalling a distant memory.  Bernard learns about an old programmer named Arnold from Ford. Teddy gets a new storyline.  William gets a new adventure. Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) go in search of a stray android.  Dolores finds her way to William and passes out.

There are some interesting bits here, the continuing evolution of Dolores, Bernard’s fascination with Dolores.  Maeve’s continuing recall, but I don’t like William and his friend, and don’t like Ashley and Elsie. It’s funny the human characters are less interesting than the android characters.  I don’t know if Luke Hemsworth is any better an actor than his brothers, Chris and Liam.

Episode 4:   Dissonance Theory

Bernard tells Dolores that she can go search for the maze and that will set her fee, instead she gets caught in a bounty hunt with William and Logan. The Man in Black is getting close to finding the maze himself, but isn’t there yet.  Maeve continues to have visions, and turns to outlaw Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) for help.  Theresa has a disturbing conversation with Ford.

It’s interesting that the androids are becoming self-aware, but I think the most interesting aspect of this episode is Ford.  I also found Maeve to be more and more sympathetic of a character.  I have my theories about the world that Ford has created, but I will keep those to myself, because it’s only speculation. William and Logan are not interesting characters, William is supposed to be sympathetic, Logan is a macho know-it-all creep. Dolores is starting to annoy me as a character, too much Hamlet type indecisiveness.  Get on with it, writers.

Episode 5: Contrapasso

Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, another Western town.   Dolores is hearing voices, who are the voices coming from?  The Man in Black finds Ford, what do they talk about?  Elsie finds something odd inside The Woodcutter.  Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) one of the techies, who patch the androids together, is working on building an animatronic hummingbird.  Maeve comes in for more repairs, and then Felix gets quite a surprise.

Westworld is getting really interesting now, Dolores is hearing voices and lying to protect herself and the identity of the voice.  Maeve is getting more self-aware, and her storyline is coming to a head.  I don’t like the William and Logan characters or their involvement in the storyline, or Elsie and the Woodcutter, which sounds like some kind of fractured fairytale.  But I do like Ford’s character because he always keeps me guessing. A great performance by Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton is also superb as Maeve, quick witted, acid tongued, yet vulnerable, it’s a very good performance.

Episode 6:  The Adversary

Maeve begins a regular day and ends up passed out in the lab with Felix. Elsie sends Bernard to find out what made the Woodcutter act strangely, and then she goes out alone to do more digging.  Lee goes on a drunken rage and runs into Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) a new arrival in Westworld.  Teddy and the Man in Black encounter Union soldiers when trying to cross into Mexico.

I really like the Maeve storyline, that’s the best one they’ve got right now. Thandie Newton turns in another great performance in this episode. Elsie’s storyline was a bit creepy in a scary way, but also dumb. Why is Elsie going to these places at night, alone? Where is Ashley Stubbs?  Isn’t he head of security?  Why isn’t he with her?  Not sure what’s going on with Lee and Charlotte, but Lee is a jerk, so I hope it ends badly for him.  Not sure where the Man in Black Teddy storyline is going, but it seems to be going in circles. No Dolores, William or Logan this week, which is fine by me, I was bored with them anyway.

Episode 7:  Trompe L’oeil

Bernard dreams of his dying son. Theresa and Charlotte want a fall guy for the malfunctioning androids, but Ford has other ideas. Elsie is missing, Bernard tries to look for her. William, Dolores and Lawrence encounter a Native American tribe in their quest to find the maze. Maeve has a plan, but will Felix and Sylvester go along?

There is a big reveal in this week’s episode, I can’t say I was shocked by it, I wasn’t.  I don’t like the Dolores William storyline.  William already knows the secret of Westworld and Maeve has already found out, so why have Dolores and the Man in Black trying to find the same thing?  I like the Maeve storyline, her character has grabbed the center of attention in the show, and again, Thandie Newton is very good.  She doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in this episode, but it packs a punch.  Anthony Hopkins is at his creepy best, the viewers will grow to loathe him, but that’s just good acting.

Episode 8:  Trace Decay

Maeve wants new skills to advance her plan, will Felix and Sylvester help her?  Bernard tries to forget what has happened to Theresa.  Dolores and William are still looking for the maze, as are the Man In Black and Teddy.

The Maeve storyline continues to be the best one, the writers tried to integrate the Maeve and Man in Black storyline and did not succeed, on my opinion.  The Bernard storyline is pointless after the reveal.  I do not like the Maze storyline, the writers seem to want to shroud this Maze in mystery, but it is not interesting to me.  The writers leave this episode on a cliffhanger, but not a very interesting one.

Episode 9:  The Well-Tempered Clavier

Bernard and Ford have a long discussion about existence in Westworld.  William and Logan reconcile, or do they?  Dolores meets Arnold, or is she simply losing her mind? The Man in Black is still looking for answers, does he find any?

This is a much too philosophical episode, too existential, too metaphysical. The episode reveals more about Bernard, but the viewer already knows about him, so it doesn’t really help. It reveals more about The Man in Black, but I never really cared about him. The lead up to the finale is muddled and raises more questions than it answers.

 

Episode 10:  The Bicameral Mind

Ford unveils his new narrative.  Maeve sets her plan in motion.  The Man in Black reaches his destination.  Dolores realizes what she’s meant to do.  William learns the art of survival in Westworld.

This episode reveals a lot, but there are more questions raised, some of them frustrating.  The viewer and the blogger (me) will supposedly have to wait until 2018 to find answers to these burning questions.

Overall, the storylines were incredibly well-written.   I wasn’t as enamored with the Western storyline as the others, it seemed to drag on and on, neither William Logan, nor Dolores was very interesting.  Dolores started out interestingly, but they made Dolores too much of an enigma for my liking.  The Maeve storyline was the best storyline, so I was bit disappointed in her character’s finale.  Bernard was an intriguing character for a while, but after his reveal, my interest in him waned.  What the writers did best was blur the lines between android and human.  The show did it right off the bat, and kept viewers guessing who was human and who was android. What I didn’t like was the extremely violent finale, and the never ending bullets.  Nobody ever runs out of bullets in Hollywood.  But whatever shortcomings the series has, it asks big philosophical questions like.  If we create self-aware beings is it right for us to keep them as playthings? Sometimes it gets too philosophical, but mostly it’s a great sci-fi adventure.

The acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins played the role of his life and played it to the hilt.  He has a God complex and he thinks he can control people just like he controls androids.  Hopkins really turns up the creepy factor in this performance. Thandie Newton was amazing as Maeve Millay, this was undoubtedly the best performance of her career.  She mixed excellent comedic timing with a sad irony that showed in her face and her words, just a great performance. Jeffrey Wright was also very good, a very restrained understated performance.  On the other hand I didn’t like Evan Rachel Wood’s performance, it was too much a one note performance, she’s not supposed to be emotional, but she could have been a little more emotional than she was. Jimmi Simpson was just plain dull as William, he had a big role, but he is not very good at playing the complexities he was given. I like James Marsden, but his character was a total non-entity in this season’s episodes, maybe that will change.  I hope so.  I expected more from Ed Harris too, he put in a routine performance as the Man in Black.

The direction was good. Jonathan Nolan directed the pilot and the last episode, and other directors directed the episodes between. The pacing was generally good, the cinematography was excellent, and the performances were mostly good.

Westworld:  It rocked my world!