Westworld 2.5: Crichton Bites Nolan

Michigan J. Frog That’s Show Biz!

Michael Crichton’s Futureworld’s troubles come back to Nolan’s Westworld 2.5.

Has Westworld begun to self-destruct? Season 2.5 is beginning to look like it’s a parody of itself, at worst. We half expect James Brolin and Peter Fonda, from the original two movies, to show up.

Creative genius Jonathan Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy seem to be giving the fans exactly what they want, but not exactly the way they want it. We have been treated to two worlds that were never in the Michael Critchon original:  Raj World and now Shogun World. It seems much ado about nothing much.

The series has become a satire on TV writers, as the one character who allegedly has written all the programmed dialogue of the robots complains that it was too much work trying to keep with up 300 story-lines.

So, he cheated. The characters of Westworld are now in Japan, and the idea of meeting your double who speaks exactly the same words, but this time in Japanese, has an unsettling effect on the robots.

You’d think a multi-billion dollar operation like Westworld would have hired more writers. Heaven knows we find the Internet is filled with them, all giving Jonathan Nolan more exegesis of his plots than at a symposium on Moby Dick.

The latest episode seems almost as if Toshiro Mifune is giving Yul Brynner pointers on the Magnificent Samurai Seven.

We feel as if there is far less going on this season, and we are already half-way to the end. What kind of cliff-hanger is in the offing?

We know that some humans are trying to restore the park(s) and save Delos Corporation some money by saving any “hosts” worthy of the name.

If there was a revelation here, we suppose it was the sex lives of robots are not much different than real people as Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden, perpetually virginal in their robot roles, doff the union suits.

Yes, Mr. Nolan, 300 story-lines are too much for one writer.

 

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.

 

 

Westworld’s First Season Ends on Edge of Apocalypse

DATELINE: Where Have All the Robots Gone?

 westworld

At the end of season one of Jonathan Nolan’s HBO series, Westworld, the computers cash in their chips.

We dare not predict who will be left standing for next season**, but there is a likely chance that few of the regulars from this season will return. Nolan himself in his closing teaser promises that next season will bring chaos.

The robots have discovered even their revolt is the masterwork of a programmer.  The enslaved robots dream of violent pasts, and we learn that their life spans end in malfunction that we might call “insanity”.

The series has certainly enjoyed many moments of delight—from the motif of Debussy’s Reverie playing on everything from a player piano in a saloon, to a crank cylinder—to the image of Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger from the original movie shut away in the shadows of a backroom.

The series ended with considerable mumbo-jumbo, the sort of stuff that passes as philosophical insights in pop sci-fi, but that merely makes the experience more maddening.

Because the reveries of the damaged robots seem to flicker in and out of their consciousness, the last episode of the season either ended characters—or nothing ends. This was the hallmark of Jonathan Nolan’s other fascinating series, Person of Interest. Flashbacks meant dead characters returned to fulfill their past lives.

All this leaves us anticipating what may happen next year without having one of those cliff-hanging, manufactured endings.

Week after ten weeks, we have seen brazen, but throwaway, nudity among the robots as they are prepared—and abused by their caretakers. The violence and orgies no longer need to be suggested on cable television; there is no subtlety in the brave new world of Westworld. And, the brave new world of acting demands you better have a good-looking body because the script won’t allow for shy actors to overcome their modesty.

We had to wait a year for a few episodes of Downton Abbey—and now we will wait for the five-year** run of Westworld, one season at a time.

** Jonathan Nolan revealed that the second season will likely not air until 2018 at earliest.  Yikes. We are not ageless, like robots.

 

Revamped and Rejuvenated Westworld Hits HBO

DATELINE: Move Over, Yul

ed-harris

If you liked Jonathan Nolan’s computer savvy approach to Person of Interest, you will thoroughly enjoy his latest foray into the technology of the future.

Nolan has sunk his teeth into the old Yul Brynner sci-fi classic by Michael Crichton, Westworld.  As producer, director, and writer, he is bringing his unique talents to a new fascinating project. It is hypnotic, chilling, and fascinating.

Bringing in Anthony Hopkins as the dubious owner and creator of Westworld and Jeffrey Wright as his technical expert left-hand, you have the behind-the-scenes string-pullers for android marionettes and martinets.

In the realm of the theme park itself, playing a version of Yul is Ed Harris as the Man in Black. This time he is not an android, but worse—a genuinely disturbing real person with an ugly penchant for violence.

 

Programmed not to hurt humans, the androids seem to be breaking down—or have been given a virus to send them into danger mode.

The opening episode on HBO sets up the premise of a handsome production with gripping ideas and smart cast (James Marsden is a robot, folks).

 

As in his highly successful Person of Interest, Nolan manages to make his anti-heroic theme park both a paradigm of evil and an homage to fantasy.

 

Though this may send you running to see the old 1973 flick with Richard Benjamin as the bumbling victim of Brynner’s obsessive robot, this new version is far subtler and has the luxury of weeks of exposition to make its point.

 

This has cable series mega-hit written all over it, and Nolan has managed to avoid the anti-intellectual CBS moguls whose appreciation for brainless entertainment has condemned them to pabulum TV and canceling Person of Interest.

Hitchcock Cameos on/as Person of Interest

kindle HitchcoverInteresting Persons

DATELINE: MOVIE/TV MASHUP

 

It appears that Alfred Hitchcock is hanging around the perimeter of the hit TV series Person of Interest. Not since we saw Hitchcock’s image subliminally etched into a wall in Last Year at Marienbad have we been so overwhelmed with Hitchcock sightings.

From Mr. Kingfisher to Mr. Swan and Mr. Wren, Harold Finch seems to be obsessed with The Birds, making all his pseudonyms and aliases based on the notorious Hitchcock movie.

If not mistaken, we have seen Harold adopt the names of more than a half-dozen aviary friends, including his stand-by of Mr. Finch, preferred by his poorly socialized guarddog Reese and pet Belgian Malinois named Bear.

Clearly the producers of Person of Interest, including creator Jonathan Nolan, love to pay homage to Hitchcock. The endless and continuing references have more than caught our interest.

Since our book on Hitchcock is entitled Alfred Hitchcock Freshly Showered, we have more than a passing interest in those keeping the Master of Suspense alive in art.

Person of Interest has a large cache of cameos for Hitch, which would no doubt please the Master.

Even the recent episode of the third season, “4C” was saturated with HItchcockian touches. While Mr. Reese is on a trans-Atlantic flight, he discovers that first-class and coach sections are filled with agents from various nations, all on orders to murder another passenger.

Fortunately, while mayhem is proceeding onboard, no passengers are distracted because they are all enrapt while watching North by Northwest, including scenes of a drone chasing Cary Grant through cornfields.

In another episode, the mysterious figure Reese and Finch track is named Thornhill, but does he exist? Or is his name a mere alias? Of course, this is a throwback again to North by Northwest where Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill is pursued by international espionage agents.

Another episode was devoted totally to the homage: in this case, Reese is in a wheelchair from a gunshot wound and takes up residence in a large apartment complex. Here, Finch must do the legwork while Reese watches his neighbors on computer screens as well as his rear window. Just to make it interesting, he finds a suspect burying something in the flowerbed between the buildings.

Rear Window is put on its head when Finch is the Grace Kelly figure.

When one character notes that his philosophy is based on “Que Sera Sera,” agent Shaw notes that he must be a fan of Doris Day. She made the hit song famous in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Once again, foreshadowing came early on a show in which Reese described himself as a Hitchcock aficionado. That meant, as follows logically, that the climax of the episode took place on a revolving carousel with a shoot-out! Shades of Strangers on a Train.

There are many recurring characters on Person of Interest, and you can add Alfred Hitchcock to the cast.