Hold the Dark, Pass the Baloney

DATELINE: Not a Howl to be Had!

Wright is wrong

Wright is wrong.

When this movie starts with an unlikely quote from poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, we know we have gone to where over-education lives. We just didn’t know that was in the Alaskan wilderness.

Hold the Dark is a 2018 production that wants to be Stanley Kubrick’s ponderous return to the screen. Unfortunately, Kubrick is dead and this weird paranormal, abnormal plot tosses a bone to the wild wolves who’d be at home at the Overlook Hotel or Nosferatu’s Castle.

Yup, paranormal wolves are taking children in the woods, like some kind of bad fairy tale of yore. So, the mother of one victim calls in Jeffrey Wright as an expert on wolves out of their element (fresh out of Westworld) to help her post-traumatic soldier/husband Alexander Skarsgaard (fresh out of True Blood).

The monsters here aren’t exactly werewolves, but there is some inexplicable and illogical secret about the people living up in Alaska. No one is called Palin. It never is revealed what is happening, but it’s hardly worth the effort to figure it out.

Good luck with this colossal waste of time.

Everything is extreme in the movie, including pointless tedium: especially shining Nature and the weather, whether it’s Iraqi desert storms or Alaskan blizzards. We are not where metaphor blows mildly.

There is a police massacre that defies any purpose, except blood-letting by a minor character who holds them at bay. It is ridiculous, hardly mysterious. It’s offensive to make vets mass murderers.

That’s not to say Hold the Dark is a bad movie. It’s simply pointless. We just wonder why anyone gave this a green-light. Who exactly is the audience? We mean, besides the film production company’s relatives and creditors.

If you are willing to stick with this movie for its two hours and a couple of minutes, you will know the filmmakers loved it. They dote on every image as if the calling up the spirit of David Lynch’s cutting room floor sweepings.

Set-ups and simile details are not exactly a marvel, more like a tad overwrought, but atmosphere is art for its own sake. Hold on. The dark is always with us, and we are left in it.

 

 

The Invasion Continues with More Pod People

DATELINE: Sequel 25 Years Later (Again)

Kidman & Craig

Twenty-odd years after the second Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a sequel to a sequel shows up. This one is The Invasion and features Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (young and James Bondy but strictly a bauble here, highly decorative).

We enjoy the notion that every generation presents its own paranoid outburst: invaders from space take over human bodies by replication. Whether another sequel will appear in twenty-five years is doubtful, or at least we won’t know about it.

As in the 1979 film, Kevin McCarthy of the first, original film made an appearance to tie it to the previous. This time, Veronica Cartwright makes an appearance to claim the man she is married to is not her husband (a common complaint in these films).

We love that connection. Here, however, the paranoia is less threatening. The looks from by-passers is not quite as disturbing and malevolence is not around every corner.

Make no mistake, though: The Invasion is cut from the same outer space spore. Alas, this one seems to have a ‘happy’ ending. Paranoia is dispatched.

The horror builds slowly, methodically, as we already know what’s going on, now set in Washington, D.C., where the federal government is as inept as ever. Indeed, high-ranking officials are clearly pod people.

The film from 2008 also features Jeffrey Wright (of Westworld) as an assistant to Craig in his laboratory. Suspense veteran Josef Sommer also appears as some kind of Washington bigwig.

Kids are not immune in this film, and Kidman’s kid is central to her energy to fight the spores that want to turn us all into automatons without emotion. It seems that it is a good turn to save the human race from its own violent rages. You may turn into a pod person by means of projectile vomit, which is certainly cinematic.

Fortunately for us, no good deed by space monsters goes unpunished.

 

 

 

Westworld 2.6 Goes to Hell

DATELINE:  Westworld 2.6

  who's Arnold? Who’s real?

You have now entered Robot Hell in Westworld’s Season 2.

The dirty little coward Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has shot the Jesse James Western story into a moldering grave. You can’t tell the guests from the hosts without a scorecard, and staff may be just as confused as the audience.

We may be wondering after 2.6 just who the true villains are. Those who were rotten for the entire series show too much heart as we come to a climax. And, those Dopplegangers from Shogun World are gone, thank heavens. However, we are seeing William (Ed Harris), head honcho of the Westworld operation having a change of heart.

Since no one ever really dies in a Jonathan Nolan series, we know everyone will return in some shape or form. You can probably expect that there are host versions of everyone, and you can’t tell them apart without one of those fancy tablets Elsie (Shannon Woodward) plays like a Chopin nocturne.

If there is a theme here, it is that pursuing a dream is the stuff tragedy is made of. Bernard, or is that Arnold, dreams of returning to the past, or is it the present?

The more the storylines change, the more they remain the same. We know that guests and hosts are converging on the Pearly Gates of the grande finale of season 2.  What we don’t know is how hell-bent they are to have a Last Supper.

In this episode we see one robot “crucified” with spikes by uncaring humans in an effort to learn what is truth. Good centurion Luke Helmsworth stands by in growing horror, as Nolan unravels his gospel according to a Person of Interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld 2.4: Resurrection Postponed

DATELINE:  Lost in Delos-world

Jimmi Jimmay Jimmi as William aka Black Death!

We couldn’t spoil this episode if we gave you a plot synopsis.

With most of the cast absent without leave, we faced the prospect of William’s dubious mission. Yes, Ed Harris and his younger doppleganger, Jimmi Simpson, carry the action in the fourth episode of the second season.

Now if you want to know what it all means, you may find there is no such thing as a spoiler when you are lost in a maze. For the life of us, we realize that there is some issue around immortality being examined.

We learn that the palsy that afflicts Bernard and a bunch of other hosts is some kind of cognitive deterioration because they lack brain stem fluids, or are driven mad by being a human in a robot body.

Yes, the automaton robots have a problem with immortality, or a weak script .

They learn the truth and cannot handle it.

We are more convinced that, in this Delos World, there is no such thing as Death. You can always return in a past incarnation, or in a reboot. Actors love this kind of role.

You can only speculate about what’s really going on because creator Jonathan Nolan, like the Grand Creator of the Universe, is flying by the seat of his pants.

Bernard (as limned by Jeffrey Wright) could be something more like a brain transplant into a robot body. The head man of Delos is apparently a grand experiment. It leaves us wondering why they didn’t bring back Ford (Anthony Hopkins) in the same fashion.

Indeed, we might speculate that his resurrection could be the stuff of the series climax in season two. Don’t hold us to any firm prediction while we wait for the regular cast members to return from their hiatus week.

 

 

Westworld 2.3: Lost in a Tortured Storyline

DATELINE:  Where Have All the Plots Gone?What's My Line?

Playing What’s My Line, on Westworld 2.3.

If you tuned in a little late to the latest episode of Westworld, you might have to double-check your channel listings. It seemed as if you had stumbled into one of those old BBC TV series about India and the Raj.

Such is the nature of the tortured storyline presented by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. You may not recognize the characters, surroundings, or goings-on. We supposed that was meant to be part of the show’s confusing allure.

New, old, past, present, familiar, unfamiliar, are all fair game for the Worlds Beyond Westworld. We go from the Raj to the world of Kurosawa over the course of the hour. Welcome to the ever-new, ever-dangerous Samuraiworld.

We are reunited with cast members thought lost, dead, or reprogrammed along the way of the latest series entry. There is some relief to discover the actors still have jobs a few weeks into the second season.

Indeed, the Brit writer in the series, not of the series, played by Simon Quartermain, can even mimic the words the android hosts will utter before they utter them. Well, that’s the power of the writer, which is not saying much or saying too much.

In the case of Nolan and Joy, creative forces behind the tortured storylines, they had a lot of ‘splaining to do on this night and threw the Bengal tiger storyline out of the jungle and into the Raj for a viewer hunting for an irrational story.

We also learned the fate of the woman with the Snake Tattoo, now back with Thandie Newton’s tech workers as her prisoners.

At this rate the new season of episodes will end before we have established where last season’s minor characters have gone.

Perhaps, unwittingly, we and HBO have just signed on for the long haul of five or six seasons. Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood) finds her old robot father and that his memories are not really erased after all, but have gone into some wild Westworld cloud, to be recovered by a tech wizard (android Bernard, Arnold, or whoever, Jeffrey Wright).

Yes, we are still here, but are finding the high altitude of Internet clouds are too convenient for lost souls of Westworld 2.3.

Westworld 2.2, Better Off Dead?

DATELINE:  Reunion, or Bring Yourself Back Online

Barnes & Simpson

Ben Barnes and Jimmi Simpson

The second episode should have been first. Westworld 2 was better the second time around.

If jumping across timeframes becomes easier with practice, we should have seen this coming first. Flashbacks highlight the episode to before the start of “Westworld” as a land of fantasy for rich players in which the prototype robots party in Contemporary World, our time.

We even see Ben Barnes again, killed by evil William at the end of the first season.

Everyone dead from last season is alive again through the miracle of backstory. We even see the young Anthony Hopkins flash by and hear his voice, warning the real Bernard/Arnold about his creations.

Ed Harris and his young self, Jimmi Simpson, seem far more explanatory this season and especially in this episode. We are even given the multiple level chess game of seeing flashbacks within flashbacks. It’s as if Joe Mankiewicz at his greatest Hollywood style had been reincarnated in android version Jonathan Nolan.

Yes, Westworld returned to the thrilling days of tantalizing its core viewers, as the ultimate tease mystery.

To see Dolores in modern times, given insights by her creators, lends understanding to the revolution of robots in Westworld.

A few stories even briefly cross before future episodes will give fans more insights: Thandie Newton and her beau automaton Rodrigo Sandoro meet the strong-willed Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden.

Will they meet again? Don’t know where, don’t know when.

Jeffrey Wright’s real person (not his later robotic self) figures only in the opening. His future scenes of the previous episode remain inexplicable at this point.

Story arc of the first episode, less interesting, was completely missing this week—and the meat of the sadistic monster hosts dominated the proceedings. We may not fully understand where this is heading, or who will return again, but Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy have produced an intriguing series, season two

Brave New Westworld 2

DATELINE: Westworld Returns to TV

brave, new westworld? Re-programming Required on all Models!

Now for something completely borrowed.  It appears, as the second season of Westworld dawns, producer and creator Jonathan Nolan is returning to the roots of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the Westworld.

The robot revolt has resulted in more guest deaths than we could have suspected if they had assembled the entire cast from season one. Dead bodies, mostly rotting, are clearly human.  The recovery team traipsing around the park finds Robert Ford, shot by the show’s cowgirl, Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood), with a gaping hole in his head. That likely ends the theory that dirty coward Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was a robot.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), a closet robot, now must hide his identity lest the humans simply shoot him in a fashion reminiscent of concentration camp purges by the human controllers. He needs an oil job before he terminates.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) has saved Westworld’s script writer who is a human most unpleasant as she seeks a fictional child to whom she has some maternal robot feelings (told these are not genuine has no effect). She also locates her hot, lanky boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro).

The Man in Black, a major stockholder in Westworld, and last season’s young man (Jimmi Simpson) in a parallel storyline, returns as mean as ever. Ed Harris even removes the Robert Ford boyhood model to show his true spirit.

No one comes across here as remotely controlled for sympathy.

Between the bloodbath scenes of innocent humans being shot by sociopath monster robots, we are somehow meant to feel human compassion for a slave revolt.

Shades of Spartacus.

We have met the human Roman Nazis—and according to Jonathan Nolan’s cryptic script, they are us. Whereas Nolan’s Person of Interest production people populate the cast and crew, we are left without that show’s sense of dry wit.

Last season’s smartest show on TV has become dumb-witted.

Confusion and horror are not the best honey to attract the busy bees of cable sci-fi fans who have come to expect intrigue and humor. It’s a disappointing start to the second season.