Westworld (Season 1), (♦♦♦♦♦): Welcome to Westworld, a theme park, populated by A.I. called hosts, which caters to every person's desire. In Westworld the system is rigged, for the hosts always lose, but out of the blue, some irregularities are discovered in some of the hosts' programming... Are the hosts alive and have reached a level of consciousness, or is it internal sabotage?
This HBO production, an adaptation of a movie script by author Michael Crichton, is wonderfully written, directed, and acted by the whole ensemble led by Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Anthony Hopkins.
Westworld is a series unlike any I have seen—Ex-Machina comes to mind when one is trying to define it. The script is smart and cutting edge, the plot unfolds slowly, though one is trapped in this world from the very beginning. Westworld is whimsical, dark, intriguing, addictive, and uniquely imaginative. It imagines a future where A.I. pass for humans with deeply unsettling results.
The Young Pope (♦♦♦♦♦): Forty something year-old Lenny Cardinal Belardo (Jude Law) has been elected Pope in the latest conclave. Some say that his election was an intervention of the Holy Spirit; others more pragmatic attribute it to compromise. Whatever the case, the College of Cardinals chose him without making sure what his religious views were, and boy does he have things to say!
This only season co-production among Sky, Canal+, and HBO, is created and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, with Jude Law as the leading star. The first two or three episodes are irreverent to the point of sacrilege, and outrageously funny, but as the series progresses, the audience experiences the inner journey of a man who is, in many ways, still the boy his hippie parents abandoned at an orphanage when he was nine years old. As Lenny assumes the role of Holy Father, he adopts archaic positions that isolate him from his followers, but due to his setbacks and his daily interactions with his staff and former mentors, he begins to soften his stance.
Initially with tongue in cheek, and subsequently with a healthy dose of pragmatism, the series The Young Pope addresses all the problems facing the contemporary Catholic Church. Jude Law is brilliant in his role, and we love him for it. Never have I seen from him such an acting range. He was born to play this role.
Beauty and the Beast (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Belle (Emma Watson) is a young, orphan beauty who lives with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), in a French village. More at home among books than with fellow villagers, Belle is seen as an oddity. On the way to the country market, Maurice loses his way in the forest and ends up at the doors of an enchanted castle inhabited by a Beast (Dan Stevens), who imprisons him. The family’s horse leads Belle to the castle, where she exchanges her place in a prison cell for her father’s freedom. The Beast is, in actuality, a Prince that has been bewitched, whom reluctantly waits for someone to love him to break his curse and that of the inhabitants of his castle.
This live-action production of the 1991 animated movie is lavish, star-studded, and with beautiful special effects from start to finish. It doesn’t have the same flair of the 2015’s Cinderella, but Belle is a girl that sets a new standard as Disney’s princesses go, because she is smart and can quote Shakespeare with ease. In fact, Belle and the Beast bond over a sumptuous library and its book collection. The Beast is not only good looking, kindhearted, but in his own words, “expensively educated” as well. What else can a smart girl ask for?
Oblivion (♦♦♦): Half a century ago scavengers destroyed our moon, throwing the Earth into wave after wave of earthquakes and tsunamis. Then, they invaded our planet and a war ensued. Nukes were used and humans won the war, but the planet became contaminated and mostly uninhabitable. Survivors left the Earth for a temporary space station and mission control, called 'Tet', before the final evacuation of humanity to Saturn's moon, Titan.
Meanwhile, a skeleton crew was left behind consisting of one tech/pilot—Tech 49, named Jack Harper (Tom Cruise)—and his communication officer, named Vika (Andrea Riseborough). Tech 49 took care of drone repair and maintenance—drones patrolled the wastelands eliminating surviving scavengers who disabled them to steal the fuel cells. Both, Jack and Vika, were in charge of protecting the hydro rigs that converted seawater into fusion energy for the new colony. Ten fuel cells had been stolen in one week with no apparent reason...
I have watched Oblivion several times and it always leaves me speechless; I don't quite know how to feel about it. It took me a viewing with innumerable play and pauses to finally describe what this movie is about. Oblivion is gorgeously shot, and in spite of having a small cast it, one doesn't feel overwhelmed by the overabundance of screen time of either Jack Harper or Vika. They carry most of the movie quite well.
The plot is not overly exciting, but rather complicated and engrossing. It takes two or three big reveals towards the end to tie up all the loose ends, and how surprising they are! In fact, the twists in this production are refreshing and unique in a genre full with clichés and gimmicky plots.