Snapshots - #20: Westworld, The Young Pope, and more…

TV shows...

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.

The movies...

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.

Comments

  1. My husband and I watched the first episode of The Young Pope and somehow never got back to it. I guess it didn't grab us, but after reading your review, I think I'll turn to HBO Now at some point to watch it. Same with Westworld. I never watched any of it even though I kept hearing such good things about it. Now that it has 22 Emmy nominations, I guess I'll be forced to!

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    1. Here I was thinking that you must have watched them both and would be agreeing with my review. You have missed two of the best series to come to HBO in a while.

      I watched The Young Pope because it was Jude Law in the leading role, but as soon as it started I was hooked. Westworld I have wanted to buy for a while, but the price for the first season is roughly $28 dollars and it's just ten episodes, so I thought that I'd better catch it during a week of free HBO on Comcast, and that happened last week.

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  2. In light of all the religious books coming up in my 1963 reading list, I am curious about The Pope. You make it sound very good. I think you may be the only reviewer with anything good to say about Oblivion. Perhaps the others need to watch it at least two more times-:)

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    1. You should definitely watch The Young Pope; I think you're going to like it. Regarding Oblivion I think it is an acquired taste. I have watched it several times and always leaves me with a sensation that I saw a very unique film but I didn't quite grasp the whole concept. Hence the few viewings.

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    2. I must tell you that I got Oblivion and The Mummy confused. My husband and I both loved Oblivion and it was a deep concept movie. The Mummy is the one critics seemed to dislike so much. Haven't seen that.

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    3. I haven't seen The Mummy either, but thanks for the tip in advance. I'm glad your husband and you loved Oblivion; it is one of those movies that make you think and entertain you at the same time.

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  3. Looks like you have done some great watching! I also thought Westworld was amazing - can't wait for more - and I also thoroughly enjoyed Oblivion too. Sadly, I haven't seen the new live-action Beauty and the Beast but I really want to!

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    1. Indeed I have. Westworld blew my mind. I think you will like Beauty and the Beast; it was lavishly done and with a light touch of comedy, though I preferred the original version.

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  4. I think my husband saw Oblivion and liked it, but I haven't seen it. Sounds quite mysterious. As for The Young Pope -- who would've guessed Jude Law would carry the role so well. I haven't checked it out yet. Westworld looks quite unsettling -- as the A.I. in Ex-Machina creeped me out so I'm sure this one would as well. Nice set of snapshots.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. Yes, Jude Law was amazing as The Young Pope. Westworld is unsettling, but it's also phenomenal in terms of visual achievements and storytelling. It's quite a viewing experience!

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  5. I've only seen the Beauty and Beast out of your reviews - I enjoyed it. I fancy Westworld too.
    Lynn :D

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    1. I think you would enjoy Westworld, Lynn. :-)

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  6. I'm looking forward to seeing the new Beauty and the Beast despite myself. I was pleasantly surprised by the 2015 live-action Cinderella, so it will be interesting to see how this stacks up.

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    1. I loved the live-action Cinderella. This one is very pretty, but doesn't quite reach the bar that Cinderella raised.

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    2. Too bad. I heard they autotuned Emma Watson's voice, which bothered me. I really liked Lily James' voice in Cinderella.

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    3. Hmm...I didn't know that her voice had been tweaked. She just sounded so good that it was borderline uncanny. I told myself: wow, she can sing that well?! She's the whole package, but apparently not! ;-)

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    4. Yeah, I don't think that was all natural.

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