Tagged Nine Inch Nails

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 5: “Contrapasso”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 5: “Contrapasso”
Directed by Jonny Campbell
Story by Dominic Mitchell & Lisa Joy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Dissonance Theory” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Adversary” – click here
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Another chat between Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and that cowboy, Old Bill (Michael Wincott), one of the oldest in the park, as the doctor tells him about the saddest thing he’d ever seen. A story about a dog and a cat, the latter being torn “to pieces” by the former. It’s really an allegory for humanity, or the pursuit of greatness by those who aren’t sure what they’ll do with it when they find it. They may just grab hold and hang on too hard until there’s nothing left.
Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) gradually moves from the path of her narrative with each passing episode. She finds herself still with William (Jimmi Simpson) and his buddy Logan (Ben Barnes), though her mind wanders. They make it into a nearby town full of all degenerate sorts, apparently. Logan talks about their company and some of the stuff outside Sweetwater. For his part, William doesn’t dig this town: “Whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they dont think very much of people.” Mercenaries arrive, we discover this all a part of a bigger game of war. Hmm. Sinister, or exciting? Or both?
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The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is busy still hauling Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) about, saying he’s on the hunt for the “big bad wolf.” He’s also got Teddy Flood (James Marsden) in tow, having saved him awhile back. Black mentions a friend of his, whomever that could possibly be, always say there’s a path for everybody; remember that, could be significant at some point, maybe. Meanwhile, the young boy who’d been talking to Dr. Ford at one time happens upon the group, being sent to fetch water for them. Because right now Lawrence is getting his throat slit. Not a nice sight for sweet English boys’ eyes. Considering Black drains Lawrence’s blood into his water pouch.
Outside, a couple technicians are checking out Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) again after her recent shootout. They notice her incision, as somebody were looking for something specific. Will they catch on?
All that blood was a makeshift transfusion for Teddy, to bring him back up to speed. Then he talks about how the humanity of the hosts is “cost effective” and laments how things were once upon a time. He mentions Dolores, too. He says a few fellas made off with her, and that gets Teddy on his feet again.
And what of Dolores? She keeps having flashbacks, seeing those corpses littered everywhere around her. William keeps her mind off things, but I keep wondering how much longer until she starts making connections like Maeve. Right now she talks about hoping for her life to change. When he talks of the real world, it doesn’t just roll off Dolores. She notices, and it sort of shakes William a bit. When a Day of the Dead parade comes through town Dolores sees a vision of herself in its crowd. Before passing out. When she’s brought out by Dr. Ford “in a dream,” a.k.a in a lab, they have a short talk. He speaks of Arnold, the one who created her so many years ago. That’s the voice she keeps hearing in her little daydreams, calling to come find him. Turns out Arnold had wanted her to help bring Westworld down. But Ford tries to make sure Dolores’ world is only heroes and villains, a black-and-white dichotomy instead of anything too complex. In the dark though, she still speaks to somebody: is it Arnold?

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One of the technicians who worked on Maeve is doing some kind of experiments with a bird. He wants to be a coder, but his partner tells him he’ll only ever be a “butcher.”
Back with William and Logan they come across a reincarnated Lawrence. Ahh, very interesting! Suddenly, Dolores starts making deals. She helps get Logan and William in with Lawrence on a job with the Confederados to get hold of some explosives. Regarding Lawrence, this doesn’t mean anything re: The Man in Black & William, because the timelines aren’t made positively clear. It’s suggestive, no doubt. Nothing definitive still. Anyways, the gang get their latest adventure kicked off, confronting a wagon. Things start off fine then get incredibly tense, a gunfight erupting with a bunch of hosts getting shot. They make out well, obviously, though William doesn’t seem to take much joy, if any, in killing. Regardless if it’s fake.
Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) is working with a host who’s got more dick than brains. Literally. She happens to see the host that tried killing her being brought for disposal. Elsie ends up catching a technician on camera banging one of the hosts, like a “creepy necro perv,” so she uses that to get in to see her would-be killer host. She takes her findings to Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright): a laser-based satellite uplink. The hosts are being used to smuggle information out of the park.
At a freaky orgy party, Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” plays on strings in the background. People fuck. Some are painted in gold. Logan, of course, loves it. William and Dolores sit on a couch, sort of equally repulsed in their own ways. Logan ends up in William’s face, they get very personal, especially the former. He digs into William, hard. At the same time Dolores wanders through the party, eventually coming upon a fortune teller with her Tarot cards. One of them laid in front of her is “the maze” – and a vision of herself reappears, telling her to follow it. She also grabs hold of a string in her forearm, pulling it bloody, her skin opening like latex. It isn’t real. But it scares her. Out in the street Lawrence is filling dead bodies in their coffins with explosives. He isn’t giving it over to the Confederados. Now, William is becoming wildly disillusioned with the creepiness of the whole game. There’s bigger problems, as the explosives turn out to be not explosive at all. And Logan takes the brunt of the fallout, being left behind by William. Dolores ends up shooting down a few men to save her new man. “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel,” she tells William while they flee and catch a ride on a passing train. Landing right in the lap of Lawrence. This is actually the first time he introduces himself as such, since they’re all acquainted. And once more Dolores sees the mark of the maze on a coffin in the train: “Im coming,” she says. To whom? Arnold? God, I love the suspense.

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Back to the Man in Black – could he be William though? It’s intriguing – and Teddy. The pair drop by a bar. One where they run into Dr. Ford for a drink. This is a huge scene! Ford wonders exactly what Black is seeking. “I always felt like this place was missing a real villain, hence my humble contribution,” he tells the doctor. They talk about the working of the park, Black wonders if there’s anybody fit to stop him. We know for sure he’s headed for whatever happens to lie at the centre of that mysterious maze. What is it exactly? Does it represent a physical space, or could it be a component in the robots themselves? No telling. Yet. Either way, the Man in Black is dead set on finding the purpose, the truth behind it all. We also see that the hosts are quite protective of their maker, as well. So many mysteries in the artificial world of Westworld’s creations. So much to unravel.
Out in the lab the technician working on Maeve goes back to the bird. He calibrates a little then the bird flies around the room, like magic. Maeve, she’s up and about to greet the technician, Felix, and let the bird perch on her fingertip. She also wants to have a little chat with him. I wonder exactly what she’ll tell him. What sort of secrets could spill from her lips, and what is Felix getting himself into?

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An interesting episode, I must say. Lots to think about, as usual. I can’t help but wonder more about those theories surrounding the Man in Black. Next episode is titled “The Adversary” and I’m sure we’ll see more on ole Black himself.

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The Raid 2: Because Somehow It Gets Better

The Raid 2: Berandal. 2014. Directed & Written by Gareth Evans.
Starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Yayan Ruhian, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, and Kazuki Kitamura. Entertainment One Films Canada.
Rated 18A. 150 minutes.
Action/Crime/Thriller

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)

Even the trailer just absolutely melts my face off. I couldn’t wait for this movie to come out. And boy, was I ever not disappointed in the least. In fact, this is one of those few sequels where it surpasses its predecessor joining the ranks of The Godfather Part IIStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStars Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Knight. This addition to what will hopefully be a trilogy is an incredible action film, and most certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen.

The plot of The Raid 2: Berandal begins only a few hours after the previous events of the first film. Now, Rama is forced to go undercover in a ruthless prison to protect his family, as well as infiltrate the criminal organization which stretches even into the police. He must become a mob enforce in order to break through and gain the information needed. This is easier said than done. Once again, Rama has to fight through criminal after criminal to succeed in his objective.
So get ready for an all-out brawl with so much balls you’ll feel the kicks and punches in your gut with every bone smashing scene.

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O
ne of the things I immediately loved about The Raid 2 is that it gives us another chance to engage the character of Rama. In the first film, Evans gave us a look at tough yet nervous rookie, who was navigating a world completely unfamiliar to him. Even more so this time around, Rama is in a dangerous and unpredictable environment. But this time, Rama is also more experienced.
Right off the bat we’re treated to amazing fight choreography just in the first 25 minutes or so. First, we get to see an enclosed space brawl where Rama fights off numerous prisoners, as they kick and punch their way to him. Then, later, Rama must fight for his very life, as a gigantic brawl begins in the prison yard. Arms and legs are broken. Heads are smashed in with fists, rocks, and whatever else these men can grasp their fingers around. Some inmates are kicked to death in the muddy yard by groups of other prisoners. It’s just an absolutely incredible scene.  ‘m not sure how many actual edits are in there, but Evans makes it all look like one long, fierce take just following fight after fight, death after death. It’s one of those powerhouse sequences where it feels unbroken for a nice long time. You see a lot of these types of shots in other films, but action films it’s not exactly commonplace to see these extended takes because that takes a lot of work. Evans, however, pulls out several of these throughout the film.

A really amazing sequence, among many, is the crowded fight in the car. Watching how Evans actually accomplished that entire fight including some very unique and tricky camerawork, it’s just a breath of fresh air in the action world. Not only does Evans care about the fights themselves looking great and natural at the same time, he still pays close attention to the details of the actual camerawork for such fights. I know there are other stylized action films out there. Nevertheless, Evans and his two Raid films really takes the cake on visionary action-thriller filmmakers. Seeing the camera operators passing the camera around through the car, as well as discovering there’s one of them actually dressed as a seat (I never would have guessed that on my own – not in a million years), it is spectacular movie making. There aren’t enough minds like Evans, especially in the action genre.

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Love the role of Uco played by Arifin Putra. He did a great job. It was good to see another strong role in The Raid series aside from the main role of Rama (Uwais). This guy did a nice job with a character who could be typical. In certain respects, he is, quite typical. Yet there’s a savage, brutish nature to the way Putra plays Uco I really enjoyed. I sort of felt bad for him in a way, even though he’s really just a spoiled little psychopath.
Regardless, Putra gave a good performance, which worked well opposite Iko Uwais, who was just as excellent (if not more) in this film as he was in the first. Uwais had more to work with here, as the treacherous waters Rama must wade through become deeper and darker, murkier than before. In particular, there’s a fight later in the film where Rama scalds a man’s face terribly (a man he discovers afterwards is a police officer like himself). Following the fight, Rama is absolutely devastated with what he has become in order to fight criminals – essentially, a criminal himself. Uwais does a terrific job with this role and I felt for his character, which we rightfully should. Then of course his fighting has only gotten better, it seems. Not long after the previous scenes, the aforementioned car fight goes down; it’s one of the more wildly choreographed and executed scenes in the entire movie.

Action films are always better served by good performances (stupid thing to say – any film is served well by a proper performance), so having both Putra and Uwais play their roles with skill only makes things better. When you get good action with fun, interesting characters it isn’t hard to enjoy. The Raid 2 really improved in a lot of ways from the first, as much as it could seeing as how that one was incredible. The main way in which this film is better comes down to the performances. Though there is plenty of action, even more than the first (or at least on a bigger scale than its predecessor), this sequel really gets into the performances more.
There are some really unique characters in here. One in particular sees Yayan Ruhian (who also apparently choreographed bits of this film – not sure exactly how much but that is excellent) back in action; here, he plays a different character than his insane Mad Dog character from The Raid: Redemption.The character he played was weird, which is awesome.  Not only that, he fights a bunch of dudes in the street, while holding a machete, and yet doesn’t actually use it on any of them – not until the final person he fights. This also includes a great blood effect that I cannot get enough of! Evans does a shot of a body sliding down a wall after being ran through with the machete’s blade, except it’s from the rear, and so we get a nice view of the bloody hole from his gut to his back, as it slides down the wall leaving only Ruhian visible through the hole in the wall. Maybe that sounds like a mouthful, but believe me – it is an awesome little, almost throwaway, practical effect. It looks really gnarly, and I totally dug it to the fullest.

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Two other honourable mentions must be noted when it comes to characters: Hammer Girl (seen above in mid-kick assery) & her equally demented sibling Baseball Bat Man. Great additions to the film. Not only was it sort of fun and a kind of homage to less serious/more silly martial arts flicks, it really kicked up the madness of the entire Raid series another notch. In the first movie, we get that real crazy vibe from the machete gang. I was really wondering what Evans would do in this film; if there would be that sort of vibe I got from them.  This is where Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man came in. Their fight with Rama was just absolutely intense. One of those great sequences where you’re actually not sure for a few moments here and there if the hero would come out on top. I like that, when a filmmaker isn’t afraid to tease us a little with the true fear of a character’s death. But of course Rama is the man; I mean, do you really doubt that? This fight is one of the more balls-to-the-wall sequences out of either of the Raid movies, and I couldn’t rewind enough to watch it over and over.
Not to take away too much from the final fight Rama endures – it is a dam fine fight both in the camerawork used and the fight choreography of the actual scene. I just particularly wanted to mention those characters. The last fight, regardless of how much I enjoyed Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, was near perfection. Incredible, the score really amped things up with a sort of John Carpenter feel to it, and it was just really beautiful and brutal all at once. Plus it comes to a bloody conclusion.
Also, it’s worth mentioning the locations Evans chose to shoot were really interesting to look out, so while there’s great fight choreography and bone crunching hits happening, there’s also a beautiful visual style to the whole film overall in the form of interesting locations, as opposed to a ton of set pieces (I’m not positive whether there were specifically built sets used in this film or not – to me most of the locations look natural). Always a plus for an action film.

As a film, The Raid 2: Berandal is easily a 5 star experience. It stands on its own as a really great crime thriller with extraordinary action sequences and fight choreography. In regards to its status as a sequel, this definitely improves on the first for me – there were no characters here I felt weren’t portrayed well. The acting really did it for me here, and took The Raid series to a higher level. The fight choreography stepped it up, too. The prison yard fight alone is enough to raise this up over the first movie. Put all those things together and you’ve got one hell of an action film. There isn’t the same music as the first, but I think the score here really works for the movie, and the fact it doesn’t sound the same is not a drawback. Yet there was a wonderful use of my favourite artist Nine Inch Nails both in the very last moments of the film and over the credits, as well. Really awesome music from Trent’s work on his Ghosts collection of albums. Excellent experience overall, from action to character to plot to sound. You won’t find too many films, particularly action-thrillers, better than this one.

The Blu ray release, again, is a god damn treasure. Getting a look behind the scenes of these Raid films is a treat for me. Like I said before, the fight in the car and watching it broken down kept me busy forever. Not to mention the entire featurette included called “A Violent Ballet”, which is focused solely on the choreography involved in the production of the film. Of course there’s also some director commentary (really worthwhile to listen – a lot of insight from a great filmmaker), and another featurette about shooting a sequel to the first film. These are all really wonderful extras. Highly suggest checking them out if you pick up this release.
Also thrown in is a four and a half minute deleted sequence entitled “Gang War” – this shows a group of thugs getting ready for what promises to be a massive battle, putting guns and grenades and ammo in bags, marching together down the street, and finally they meet another gang. This climaxes in a ridiculously wild and gory shootout between the gangs. I loved every last second of this. There are some great effects in the 4-minute span of this scene. Although, I can understand why Evans opted not to include this sequence in the finished film, it’s really fun to watch. An action packed deleted scene if there ever was one!
The Blu ray release is beyond worth the purchase. 5 out of 5 star ratings times five. I’ve spent hours watching the extras. The picture itself is worth seeing because it’s as close to seeing it in theatre as you can get. Really great experience. The fight sequences look incredible here. Evans’ work as a director shines when you can watch his film in such gorgeous definition. Recommended to the fullest – go pick this up and you will not be let down in the least by either the film or the Blu ray.