Westworld: Season 1 Episode 4 (Television Review) – Lore, Motivations and Awareness

Westworld is a slow television show. Anyone who is watching this show knows this and while this may be frustrating for some, I find it to be necessary. This is due to the fact that the lore of Westworld is so deep, layered and embedded into the storytelling that it would be foolish to rush a show like this.

As I have said before, we are slowly building to an exciting climax (I hope anyway!) which means that the show, for now, must rely on aspects such as the quality of its visuals, the acting prowess of its main characters and character development and these were abundant in this episode.

Clementine Pennyfeather shot in Westworld Season 1 Episode 4 Dissonance Theory

Certainly, the cinematography is fantastic in this episode as it has been in every episode so far. You can tell that a lot of time was spent to make sure that each shot looks as good as it can be and it is a great tool which can be used to tell the story. Still, the visuals are a luxury in this aspect. There is really no necessity for this to occur considering that the acting is as good as it is, especially from Anthony Hopkins.

Hopkins is the Star of Westworld

Without a doubt, Hopkins is my favourite part of Westworld. He is extremely captivating and his monologue in this episode was delivered with such calculated class that it is impossible not to be enthralled by him. He elevates the standard of this show to such a degree that it is easy to forget that the cast around him is just as impressive.

Moreover, the overriding message I got from this episode was that the motivations of these characters are becoming more apparent and that, for me personally, the characters played by Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris want the same things.

Man in Black in Westworld Season 1 Episode 4 Dissonance Theory

The Hosts Are Developing

The other thing I took away from this episode is that the A.I in the park, i.e. the hosts, are dangerously becoming much more self-aware about their reality which builds upon the themes which were established in the previous episodes such as free will. I do not think it will be long until we see the hosts progress to a stage where they start to openly rebel and cause utter chaos, though something tells me that the humans in this show will further exacerbate the issue.

Overall, this episode built upon the foundations of the first three episodes while still being able to deliver the high level of quality in its visuals, acting, world-building and patient storytelling.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episodes 1-6 (Television Review) – A Strong Start That Expands Star Wars Lore

Star Wars Rebels is a show which has become progressively better. While this should be the normal expectation for every show, it is much easier to say than it is to pull off in practice which is a credit to the talented people behind Star Wars Rebels. The show has gradually improved in terms of its animation, its storytelling and, most importantly, its consistency.

Season 1 was a very mixed season with some episodes being great while others were just filler. Season 2 was a much improved effort with better story-lines, character arcs and world-building and Season 3 has continued this upward trend.

My Thoughts on Season 3 Episodes 1-6 of Star Wars Rebels

Certainly, the start of Season 3 is, for me personally, the strongest we have had to date in Star Wars Rebels, especially in terms of world-building. The episodes released so far have added to the mythology of Star Wars by, for the most part, strongly focusing on the main story-lines that the show has set up.

These story-lines include the relationship between Kanan and Ezra, Ezra’s flirtations with the Dark Side and the overriding focus of the show which is the birth of the Rebel Alliance. Indeed, so far in Season 3 we have found out how the Rebel Alliance were able to gain Y-Wings (which would be used for the assault on the First Death Star) and how Wedge Antilles (the unsung hero of the Original Trilogy) was recruited into the Rebel Alliance.

Ezra in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 1 and 2 Steps Into Shadow

Thrawn

Nevertheless, the strongest elements of Season 3 have been seen when we focus on arcs involving the main antagonists such as Grand Admiral Thrawn. For those who don’t know, Thrawn was one of, if not THE most beloved character in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe. The old-EU was re-branded as Legends in 2014 and, as a result, it was no longer canon which therefore meant that Thrawn was no longer canon.

However, the beauty of this was that Lucasfilm, if they wanted, could cherry-pick from this wide range of material and add particular elements of the old-EU into new-canon story-lines told in books, comics, video games or TV shows such as Rebels. They made the great decision to cherry-pick Thrawn and make him a part of Rebels. While he now exists in a new period of time, this popular character is now canon to the delight of many who adored him in the old-EU.

Hera Syndulla and Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 5 Hera's Heroes

Personally, I had never delved too deep into the old-EU (partly because it was so convoluted and confusing) so I never had an affinity with Thrawn like other Star Wars fans did….until now!!! Undoubtedly, he has been my favourite part of Season 3.

The character of Thrawn is cunning, calculated, articulate and a very layered villain which I believe has been lacking from Star Wars Rebels, at least on a consistent basis. Sure, we had the Inquisitor in Season 1 and Darth Vader in a few episodes in Season 2 but we have not had a long-standing villainous presence in Rebels.

Maul

However, now we have Thrawn who I think (and hope!) will be a big part of this show for the foreseeable future. In addition to Thrawn, we have Maul (formerly Darth) who will also play the role of antagonist in Season 3, although probably to a much lesser extent than Thrawn.

Nevertheless, Maul was in my favourite episode of Season 3 so far (‘The Holocrons of Fate’) and the way that episode played out expanded the lore of Star Wars and sets up some really exciting things for the future. When we put all of these things together, Season 3 has been great so far.

Still, it is not without fault but, for me personally, this is confined to the most recent episode (‘The Last Battle‘). The purpose of this episode was to bring closure to The Clone Wars and, in essence, the Prequels (REJOICE!!!!!!!). Still, why this thought gives me great feelings of joy, it did mean that this episode was a distraction from the main story arcs in this show which we discussed above.

Maul in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 3 The Holocrons of Fate

However, despite this and the amount of Prequel influences in this episode, it was enjoyable. In particular, the humour was very good in the fact that this episode poked fun at the battle droids (the roger roger’s) and their stupidity both in the way they act and they’re creation by George Lucas in the first place. At least that’s how I saw it. Additionally, Ezra’s thoughts about the meaning of The Clone Wars along with the themes of PTSD and letting go of the past gave the episode depth and a mature, poignant message.

Therefore, even with this episode, it was still able to add something to the Star Wars universe. Overall, Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels has started in a very strong way by, on the whole, pushing the main story arcs within the show forward while still being able to add to the lore of Star Wars. Moreover, the addition of Thrawn and the use of Maul in these early episodes give me hope that this consistency in quality will continue throughout the season.

American Honey (Film Review) – Weird, Rewarding At Times But A Bit Of A Muddled Slog

American Honey is a drama directed by Andrea Arnold which stars Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf in leading roles. Lane plays the character of Star, an impoverished teenager who joins a group of misfits travelling across the United States selling magazines by any means necessary in order to survive and live. LaBeouf plays Jake, who is Lane’s eccentric, cocky mentor and love interest.

My Knowledge and Expectation of American Honey

This was a film which had gained quite a bit of buzz coming out of Cannes and Toronto Film Festival. Indeed, it won Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize, with particular praise going towards Sasha Lane’s performance in the film. Moreover, film critics/pundits whose views I highly respect and admire found American Honey to be a very pleasant experience. As such, I was keen on seeing this film.

Sasha and Shia in American Honey on top of a Van

My Thoughts on American Honey

On the whole, I found the film to be weird but enjoyable in parts. Certainly, Lane and LaBeouf are very charismatic and captivating in the film. Remarkably, this is Lane’s debut in a film although you would never suspect that while you’re watching American Honey as her performance is that impressive and believable. If she can keep up this standard of acting then she has a very promising career in front of her. Her relationship with LaBeouf was one of the most engrossing in the film.

Still, where American Honey really shines is with its use of music which is an intrinsic part of the story-telling. The soundtrack has songs from a great variety of genres and this gives the film character, especially when it is used when the group is together.  In fact, one scene in American Honey strongly reminded me of the scene in Almost Famous where the band Stillwater sing along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’. It was my favourite scene of that film and the way it was echoed in American Honey is fantastic, especially as it showed the camaraderie within the group.

Indeed, the best parts of American Honey where when the whole crew were together and sharing stories and experiences with each other. It helped us form a bond with them and I just wish that the film focused more on the crew rather than constantly shifting to other elements of the film which, for me, held it back from reaching its full potential.

Teenagers in American Honey

The Flaws of American Honey

Truthfully, American Honey has a very loose flow which works for a while but this leads the film to become confused in tone.  Ultimately, this meant that the film took risks with its story and not all of them paid off. There were some unnecessary parts in American Honey which could have been cut out to make the story tighter and keep the tone consistent. Moreover, it would have reduced the running time which, for a film like this, is too long and expects a lot of patience from its audience.

Because of this, some will find this film to be a bit boring and plodding. However, there are enough enjoyable elements and ideas within the film to make this experience worthwhile. American Honey is not for everyone but you can find elements in the film that will keep you engaged. Whether it be the music, the performances, the interactions between the group or perhaps the harsh look at American life for the underprivileged, you can find a lot of good things within American Honey which ultimately means that the viewing experience will be rewarding at its best and muddled at its worst.

Westworld: Season 1 Episodes 1-3 (Television Review) – An Impressive Start Which Has Me Excited Yet Nervous

Westworld has been one of the most anticipated shows of the year which, in normal circumstances, would be a remarkable achievement. Certainly, you would never expect a TV show based of a sci-fi film which was released in 1973 to garner the amount of anticipation it had prior to its release on HBO. However, the cast, the people behind the shows inception along with the fantastic trailers which have been released have got fellow nerds like myself super excited to see what Westworld has to offer.

Dolores and Teddy in Westworld Episode 1 The Original

Indeed, when you have a show created by Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher, executive produced by J. J. Abrams and Jerry Weintraub which stars Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris, it deserves attention. Moreover, it also gives the show a very high level of expectation which has to be delivered upon, especially as HBO probably hopes that Westworld will have enough quality to lessen the blow which will eventually come once Game of Thrones ends.

My Thoughts on Episodes 1-3 of Westworld

I have to say, from the three episodes released so far, the signs are very promising. Westworld has captivated me from the very beginning. Visually, the show is stunning and the acting is absolutely superb, especially from Hopkins and Wright who are brilliant in their roles. The characters in this show are wonderfully introduced in the pilot and, in the following episodes, we delve deeper into their back-stories (even though some never existed in the first place!) and their motives. Yet we still don’t know the whole picture which is fantastic as it hooks us in and builds anticipation for future episodes.

The main reason why the cast give such commanding performances is because the way this show is written gives us an indication that these characters and world have depth. While the pacing will be slow for some, the themes present in Westworld are interwoven in such a way that, for me personally, I never find myself to be bored or not invested in the story and the characters. Indeed, Westworld is an immersive, layered show which draws inspiration from a variety of genres and it touches on very important themes.

William in Westworld Episode 2 Chestnut

These themes range from free will, control, technological progress, the nature of humanity and artificial intelligence. There is so much in play at this stage of the show and it leaves me excited for more. Nevertheless, the one thing which leads to be cautious is that another show, similar in nature to Westworld, left the same impression on me at the start but, in the end, it left me bitterly disappointed.

What was this show?

That show was Battlestar Galactica. This was a show that touched on many of the same themes as Westworld does and, like Westworld, it started brilliantly. Undoubtedly, the mini-series which kicked off Battlestar Galactica and the first episode of its first season was some of the best and most captivating television I had ever seen. However, it never recaptured that level of brilliance, at least on a consistent basis. For me personally, the direction Battlestar Galactica went in became scattered, confused and it ended on so many loose ends that I couldn’t help but feel it was a show which was wasted potential.

Robert Ford in Westworld Episode 3 The Stray

I hope Westworld does not go down the same path. There is so much potential which they can build upon as the series progresses. I hope it maintains the standard set by these first three episodes and becomes HBO’s next flagship show for years to come. For now, the show has started off on a very strong note and I highly recommend that you check it out.