Humans: First Impressions

Gemma Chan as conscious synth Anita/Mia in the sci-fi series, Humans.

We’ve explored the benefits and dangers that machines present in such Hollywood films as Bicentennial Man and The Terminator Franchise, but after watching the series premiere of Humans Tuesday night, I feel that this series will do so much more – it will bridge the benefit/danger element and delve into the debate of not only what it means to be human, but the giving of rights to things we do not necessarily deem human. Deep, I know.

Based on the Swedish series Real Humans, Humans is framed around the five-strong Hawkins family and their varying relationships with synth, Anita. Of course, it’s not as simple as this, with the shady government (and its equally shady characters) hunting down four sentient or conscious ‘synths’ deemed to be a threat to the future of humankind, of which Anita is one.

In a society where you can buy a synth with a 30 day return policy, programme it to act (or should I say serve?) in any way you see fit as a primary or secondary user, it is nice to see that there are conscious synths who are human in almost every way – they can think and feel – and were built by a Dr. David Elster (Stephen Boxer).

It is also nice to see that synths have developed relationships with humans. William Hurt’s character Dr. George Millican comes to mind with his caregiver synth Odi. Outdated junk that needs to be recycled according to the health service lady, Millican is not prepared to give Odi up and has embraced him glitches and all. But I wonder how he’ll get on when the NHS rocks up with his new six-years-overdue “D series model”.

The same goes for The Adventures of Merlin‘s Colin Morgan, who plays Leo Elster, the son of Dr David Elster, who built the conscious synths. He’s looking out for the conscious synths and by the looks of it seemed to have a bit of a thing going with Anita.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the conscious synths will fair throughout the series, so stay tuned, I’ll be back with a final review in seven weeks!

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Indian Summers: A Review

I was prepared to throw in the towel with Indian Summers when it first premiered, but I’m glad I stuck around for the explosive series finale.

Things didn’t look promising for the British drama series in my first impressions, where it appeared the only thing that would keep me watching were Ralph Whelan’s (Henry Lloyd-Hughes)secrets. They did, but my interest in the series ended up being greater than that. It was the superb writing by Paul Rutman and his fantastic array of colourful characters.

I had my suspicions as to Ralph Whelan’s character from the start, but the hour-and-a-half long finale Sunday left me in no doubt – he’s a nasty, albeit good-looking, piece of work looking out for number one. Whelan will say and do anything on his way to the top, even letting Ramu Sood (Alyy Khan), an innocent man, hang for Jaya’s murder, whilst enjoying a game of cricket! The gall of the man!

Sure, I’ll admit I felt sorry for him at times thanks to Julie Walters’ Cynthia and her games, but too much of her conniving rubbed off on him, clearly. Such was my satisfaction when she was knocked off her perch by none other her boy Whelan. He really was rakshas, thanks to Rutman’s writing and Henry Lloyd-Hughes acting.

The love story that developed between Aafrin (Nikesh Patel) and Alice (Jemima West), albeit a little tortured, added a depth to the series that belied the racial discrimination put forth by what seemed to be the remainder of British socialites in Simla. It was nice to see Alice finally happy and Aafrin overcoming a few, not all, of his inner demons. However, I feel the future will only entail a bit of history repeating itself, if and when Whelan finds out about the pair.

It was a shame that Leena (Amber Rose Reeva) and Dougie’s (Craig Parkinson) relationship didn’t move more than just past being teacher and missionary at the mission school, despite Dougie’s heroic outcry to protect Leena during Ramu Sood’s trial. Against all odds, it would have been nice to see the pair together, especially after the departure of Dougie’s wife Sarah (Fiona Glascott) in the series finale (thank God!). I’m keeping my fingers-crossed that they’ll become an item in series two 😛

Both Ian McLeod’s bond with Ramu Sood and Aafrin’s relationship with Alice symbolise a ray of hope for Simla and India’s independence, at least to me anyway. It was great to see Britain’s colonialist ways at the forefront of the series, cast in a almost balanced light by Rutman – not entirely persecuting the British history and not pandering to it either by omitting India’s history and characters.

Writer Paul Rutman has said he intends Indian Summers to be a five series arc, so I’m hoping that this becomes a reality.

A superb series with an even more superb cast of characters, I’m looking forward to series two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Odyssey: First Impressions

Anna Friel as U.S. Army Sergeant Odelle Ballard in the NBC thriller American Odyssey.

I saw the trailer for the NBC thriller American Odyssey on YouTube a while back and took note to watch it when it eventually made its way to New Zealand shores.

Well, four months behind its premiere in the U.S., American Odyssey premiered here in New Zealand last night.

And what a premiere it was, getting straight into the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) and her journey to stay alive after her team is murdered whilst on a secret mission in Mali, following their discovery that major U.S. company, SOC, has been funding Islamist terror groups.

The premiere unveiled a web of lies and corruption high up in the U.S. Army and business world that is sure to unravel as the series continues. The ‘good guys’ were separated from the ‘bad guys’ almost from the word go, and it’s clear that Ballard and her allies back home – former U.S. State Attorney Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) and G8 protest organiser Harrison Walters, played by Jake Robinson, are in for a conspiracy-filled ride.

And let’s not forget about Aslam and the news team at Al Jazeera.

From watching the first episode, it appears as if the world is against Ballard and her allies, with high-ups in the U.S. Army and SOC spinning a web of lies about the demise of Ballard and Task Force 24 on the homefront.

This makes for a promising watch (yes, I know, things don’t bode well because the series has been cancelled) so stay tuned, I’ll be back at the end of the series with a review.

In the meantime, I hope she guards that pen drive!

 

 

 

 

 

Forever: A Review

Ioan Gruffudd and Joel David Moore as Dr Henry Morgan and Lucas Wahl in the ABC drama Forever.

The critics didn’t seem to peg Forever well right from the get-go, and that’s probably why it didn’t get a second season.

Maybe it was the immortality, or lack of interest in Dr Henry Morgan’s English charm?

Either way, I still enjoyed this series.

Sure, it had it’s moments, and ending on a cliffhanger was not the way to go. A flash forward to see how Jo handled the “It’s a long story” wouldn’t have been too much to ask, would it?

Other than that peeve, I don’t really see how a second series could have panned about.

The storylines were all wrapped up: Burn Gorman’s character, known only as “Adam” had been defeated, the mystery surrounding Abigail’s (MacKenzie Mauzy) disappearance had been solved and we knew that Henry would continue being his old Sherlock-y Medical Examiner self, solving crime in his 200-year-old style with Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza) and Detective Mike Hanson (Donnie Keshawarz) in tow, with Abe (Judd Hirsch) close behind to keep him out of trouble (or should I say in trouble?).

Well, for those who are yet to fall in love with Henry’s English charm, 200-year-old manners (and views?), pocket watch and waistcoat (or already have and don’t mind a refresher), here’s a bit of a down-low on what Forever is all about:

It’s 1814 and Dr Henry Morgan is shot dead on his father’s slave trading ship for trying to free slaves. Flash forward to modern day New York and Henry is a Medical Examiner, solving crime and trying to navigate a perplexing never-ending existence, when Detective Jo Martinez and Adam enter the picture. Keeping his secret just got harder…

It was great to see Torchwood‘s Burn Gorman as the villain Adam, a formidable fellow immortal who just happens to have been around the block a bit more than Henry (for 2000 years), and all the more darker for it. Gorman gave a superb performance, so much so that I wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley anytime soon. With his gravelly voice and a particular talent at pressing all of Henry’s buttons, his beef with Henry was what really had the story moving. You never knew what kind of sadistic game he’d play with Henry next. And after all, what scares an immortal more than knowing that the game might be up.

Ioan Gruffudd was absolutely amazing in his role as Dr Henry Morgan. I quickly fell in love with Henry’s eccentricity and a certain panache that came from being a man out of time. Sure, he did his best to adapt in his survival, but with his characteristic dapperness, manners and views he was the “same old Henry”. His rather philosophical and self-reflective narration at the opening and closing of every episode (which usually centered around purposeful and accidental deaths) added a poignant depth to the series.

What I can describe only as a crime procedural with a 200-year-old character thrown in, Forever was a thoroughly enjoyable watch with enough mystery, villainry and deaths, you’ll forget my grumblings about cliffhangers and the fact that there’s no second season.

Don’t believe me? Check out the trailer below:

 

 

 

 

Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas: A Review

The Wilson sisters, Amanda (left), Vicki, and Kelly, with their stallions in Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas.

I’m not really one for reality tv, but combine it with horses, and my eyes are glued to the TV, and have been for the past eight weeks. Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas finished on TVNZ here in New Zealand last week, and I’m sad to see the Wilson sisters go.

Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas followed Wilson sisters, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda as they saved 11 Kaimanawa horses from slaughter at the biannual muster in 2014 and trained their wild stallions for the Stallion Challenges at Equidays.

The series was not only insightful, but also entertaining, with Wilson sister Amanda providing much comic relief with her antics – making the builder biscuits that just happened to be dog biscuits covered in chocolate and hundreds and thousands (he actually enjoyed them and thought it was a lovely gesture…until he found out what they were of course) – and overall goofy personality. She appeared to be the underdog of the sibling rivalry and in the Stallion Challenges, but in the last episode emerged with a second place ribbon. She was my favourite.

Vicki always seemed to be several steps ahead of the others in her bond with her stallion and training for the Challenges. For me, she appeared fearless, doing a lot of tricks on bareback, on both land and water (the property flooded after a lot of rain!)

Kelly wasn’t just a ‘country bumpkin’, constantly being teased for her love of makeup and clothes by her mum and sisters. Kelly appeared to be a talent with the camera and seemed media savvy. She also wrote the Wilson sisters autobiography, For The Love of Horses (which is on my list to read!)

I loved how the show did not shy away from the difficulties and struggles the sisters faced, within themselves and also with their stallions. Amanda comes particularly to mind here, with her stallions Hoff and Nikau, where she had what can be characterised as an up-and-down relationship – with Hoff it was because of pain associated with his teeth that had become psychological. And then there was Vicki, who made the difficult decision to put one of her Kaimanawas down.

It was great to see both the stallions and the sisters grow as the series progressed, and truly captured the spirit of the horses.

The relationships that developed between the sisters and their Kaimanawas was so heartwarming, and beautiful to watch.

Overall, it was great that the series brought all the highs and lows to the screen and hopefully this means more Kaimanawas will find homes in the next muster.

I’m looking forward to their documentary The Mustang Ride which is due for release in 2016, and follows their time with training mustangs in the U.S.

If you’d like to know more about the Kaimanawas, check out this website 🙂

Our Girl: A Review

Our Girl may have only been 6 episodes long, but I fell in love with ‘Our Girl’ Molly Dawes. I might be jumping the gun, but I’d have to say Our Girl has been my favourite watch this year. I take my hat off to creator and writer Tony Grounds for creating a fabulous and heart warming series that wasn’t afraid to question Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan (slightly) and touch on PTSD. I anxiously waited for Sunday evening to roll around every week to catch up with Dawes, something that many shows I watch have been failing to do.

Lacey Turner was fantastic in her role as Molly. As I mentioned in my first impressions , Molly was the kind of character who, despite her ability to take s*** from no one with her mix of wit and feistiness, wasn’t without her vulnerabilities, and it was great that this continued throughout the series. Not only because she was the only chick in her platoon, she didn’t put up with copping flak from her comrades, least of all Smurf, played by Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon. As I expected, she grew into a strong and courageous young woman, not afraid to risk her own neck (on many occasions) for those she cared about. However, she wasn’t without her vulnerabilities, and this is where the series was a real winner for me – she loved her best friend and former flame Smurf, Captain James and her family. She worried about everyone but herself and in the end she was appreciated for it. Everyone accepted her for who she’d become, her family most of all. But let’s not forget about Lacey Turner. I couldn’t, and still can’t, think of anyone else who could have been Molly. Although I haven’t seen her in anything else, to me, she is Molly. A superb actress.

Our Girl also showed how versatile Iwan Rheon is in his role as Dylan ‘Smurf’ Smith. In Game of Thrones he is sadistic Ramsay Bolton and in Our Girl – I wouldn’t go so far as to say a love-sick puppy – he was a young man who cared immeasurably for the woman who’d saved his life and was trying to honour his brother’s memory by serving. It was very hard not to smile at his class clown personality, and when he wasn’t down about Molly or Molly and Captain James, he was a truly lovable character. He certainly made Molly’s time on her first tour easier. It was very sad to see him go (sorry, I know, spoilers!), although I’ll never really forgive him for almost (I stress the almost) killing Captain James.

Molly’s relationship with an Afghani girl, Bashira, really pulled at the heartstrings. You just know that it’s Molly’s empathy that makes her a great medic, and what a great mother Molly’d be. To a certain extent, Bashira also served as vehicle for Molly to question the good she, and the British Army, were doing in their presence in Afghanistan. With Bashira, it was allowing her to have an education, and when Molly was targeted by the Taliban and Bashira whisked off to a safe house, Molly questioned how her decisions had inevitably changed the course of Bashira’s life forever. Nothing melted my heart more (well, maybe Molly and Captain James) than when Molly held Bashira in her arms, knowing she was safe, and Bashira had no hard feelings.

It was also great for Our Girl to have included PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in the final episodes. Both Smurf and Molly were affected by their time in Afghanistan, having nightmares etc, and it was great that Smurf and Molly seemed to be moving through it together. I hate it when it’s treated like a taboo, and in Our Girl, it wasn’t. You can never dismiss a soldier’s experience, no matter how dark it may be.

Now, I can’t wrap up this review without talking about the relationship between Captain Charles James (Ben Aldridge) and Molly. I’m a hopeless romantic, I can’t help it!

Captain James & Molly

As Molly did with her comrades, she grew on hardliner Captain James and he fell in love with her wit and courageousness. They were unbelievably cute, without meaning to be. The moment he opened the door, a big goofy grin on his face and Molly said “You miss me?” in all her sassiness, I melted and was smiling for hours (no kidding, I did!). In the end, love proved stronger than army regulations!

I understand there will be a series two (minus Molly 😦 ), but if it’s any good as Our Girl was (sounds like it!), then I will definitely sit down to watch more of Tony Grounds transformative magic. Fingers-crossed that the next series makes its way to New Zealand shores.

Love, love, loved this series, so I encourage you to go away and fall in love with Our Girl.

When can I get in on DVD?! 😉

When We Go To War: A Review

When We Go To War started flat and ended flat. With its focus on New Zealand’s efforts in Gallipoli, the series promised a lot but ultimately failed to deliver in the first and final episodes. However, the series’ inclusion of more controversial aspects of the war throughout the remainder of the series still make it a worthwhile watch.

A six-part series, When We Go To War follows a seven strong middle-class New Zealand family and Maori brother and sister during the Gallipoli campaign. Separated into three distinct narratives – that of headstrong and opinionated nurse Bea Smith (Esther Stephens) and her tumultuous romance with Dr William Chambers (Tom O’Sullivan) while caring for the wounded in Egypt, the Gallipoli campaign’s effects on lawyer-turned-officer Charles Smith (Ido Drent) and his ‘black sheep’ brother Harry, and finally family friend Manaaki Kokiri (Alexander Tarrant), who struggles not only with his move from preacher to soldier, but also with his stubborn sister, Awa (Shavaughn Ruakere) – the story was framed around letters that six of the central characters wrote home and from home.

The series’ focus on character, rather than on action, was what made it a slightly better watch than Gallipoli and one of the reason’s why I continued. I wanted to know what happened to the characters and if the war changed their outlooks in any way. The fact that the series was told through a succession of letters by members of the Smith family and Manaaki allowed the audience to truly understand the characters and invest in them.

This was particularly the case for Charles, an Auckland Territorial keen to do his bit for king and country, who became a man disillusioned with the war.

The shows ability to delve into controversial and oft forgotten aspects of World War I, including shell shock, conscientious objectors and anti-German hatred, made it a truly worthwhile watch. The series also briefly touched on homosexuality through the youngest member of the Smith family, James (Leith Towers) and his feelings for best friend George. The series also did not neglect to touch on, albeit briefly, the vulnerabilities of many women left behind on the home front and this was done, rather successfully, through Cissy Smith (Freya Milner), whose desire to comfort Manaaki on his return from the front result in her being in the ‘family way’.

Through Manaaki’s horrible experience of putting his best friend Harry out of his misery after being horrifically injured, to seeing visions of him – almost acting as the darkest parts of his conscious and a visual representation of the war within himself, preacher versus solider – served to paint a humbling picture of shell shock, what is now termed PTSD.

And Harry’s mother’s determination to not let another son die explored the controversial, and less known, existence of conscientious objectors, a group I did not learn about until Year 11 History.

The fact that George’s father, a well-respected watchmaker and repairer, was imprisoned just because he was from Germany, and James’ turning his back on his best friend, served as an exploration of anti-German hatred in New Zealand and the fact that both sides in the war were affected.

My favourite character was Bea (not just because I love a good love story :P). She would not let herself be ruled by a man and scoffed at a woman’s ‘proper place’ being in the home as a bit of a ‘blue stocking’ (and now, come to think of it, reminds of Molly Dawes in Our Girl, although being a century apart). Although she got herself in to a pretty sticky situation having an affair with her lecturer, Dr William Chambers, she had the tenacity to get herself out of it – albeit having to give up her dream of becoming a doctor – returned to nursing.

Altogether, a well-rounded series. If you can ignore the rather disappointing first and final episodes, When We Go To War is a series well worth the watch.

You can catch full episodes here:

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/when-we-go-to-war