Category Archives: series

Altered Carbon – Laeta Kalogridis (series) (season 1) (2018)

This interesting-looking Netflix series is rated 8.1 on IMDb.com. So far I have had more luck with series on Netflix than with films. To me, “Altered Carbon” is by and far no 8.1 though.

The story is a bit thin. At some point humanity found a way to put a personality (or consciousness) on a disc (“stack”) that can be put in the neck of any body (“sleeve”).

Takeshi Kovacs is an “envoy”, a rebel soldier, who had been in “cryosleep” for 250 years (“put on ice”) after which he wakes up in a different body. As ‘the last envoy’ he draws attention. Then he is hired by an extremely wealthy man for a job in trade for his freedom. The case: the man has been killed, but fortunately he keeps a backup of his “stack” on a satelite, so he can just download himself and put himself in a new (newly cloned) “sleeve” when the old one perishes.

All good and well. Muscle-body Kovacs sets out to investigate. He is constantely followed by police-woman Kristin Ortega. Of course they run into all kinds of situations that make some action, romance or drama. The story gets less and less interesting as we go along. The series have some nice findings here and there, but overall, it is amusing at best. I doubt I will ever watch the second season.

Godless (series) (2017)

Not entirely what I expected. “Godless” is a Netflix series, or mini series perhaps, as there are only seven episodes. It is ‘but’ a Western.

Basically there are two stories. There is a small town of La Belle which in the 1880’ies USA lost almost all their men in an accident in the local mine.

Then we have a group of lawless men who are looking for one of them who escaped with their money. The escaped man of course ends up in La Belle.

The lawless men are led by Frank Griffin who is magnificently played by Jeff Daniels. In spite of Daniels’ friendly face, he manages to set Griffin as a scary maniac.

The series are slow paced, have some cold humour, romance and tension. Not bad at all, but as I said, it is mostly ‘but’ a Western.

Dark (season 1 and 2) – Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese (2017/9)

IMDB.com

I do not have much luck with films on Netflix, especially not “Netflix original” films. This “Netflix original” series are excellent though.

In spite of the English title, “Dark” is spoken in German. The first season starts with the mysterious disappearance of a boy. We learn that 33 years before something quite similar happened.

Initially there are some (torture) horror elements which are quite unnecessary and do not really have a function in the story either. I guess it is to raise an atmosphere in which the ‘bad guy’ can be pinpointed so that the viewer can be put on the wrong foot later on. Especially the first season is moody and fairly dark. The mystery that surrounds the village of Winden with its nuclear power plant slowly becomes clear. From then on, and particularly in the second season, this red thread is constantly twisted and turned.

The characters of the series get new faces often, which in some way makes clear what is going on and makes you ponder the underlying idea of the series. Scenes go from surprising to unlikely, but the atmosphere remains very strong. There is a minimalist soundtrack that consists mostly of just low noises and drones. Here and there is a scene with wonderfully surprising use of music.

The second series mostly stretches what we already know and at the end a new angle to the story is given with a massive cliffhanger. Hopefully the series will not be milked out into a seven season series…

Try to not read too much about the series before watching it. It is enough to know that they are dark, slow, minimalist, surreal and pretty good.

Taboo (series) (season 1) 2017

IMDb.com

In the rough early 1800’s London, the supposed dead James Delaney unexpectedly returns when his father dies. Delaney proves to have an elaborate plan to take over his father’s trafficking business.

From the beginning it is clear that there is ‘something about Delaney’, but it is not really explained what. He spent time in Africa and appears to have taken on some of the dark magic of the Africans.

Besides that Delaney is highly intelligent and appears to have some sort of second sight knowing all that is going on in London. His claims to his father’s inheritance brings problems with the allmighty East India Company and even the King, who go to great lengths to protect their own interests.

Along the line it seems that Delaney (also) has two very personal reasons for his actions: getting back on the EIC and obtaining the birth-land of his mother.

“Taboo” (I am not sure what the title refers to) is a nicely gloomy and gritty series with a story that slowly unfolds.

The end is quite open and indeed, a second season is announced for 2020.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

IMDb.com

These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.

True Detective (series, season 3) (2019)

IMDb.com

After a few years of silence, here we have the third season of “True Detective”. The first season was brilliant, the second less so, it was different, good, but not like the first season. This review of the third season is a bit like that of the second.

The first two episodes are great and like the first season. Very slow and minimalist, a droning soundtrack that suggests something terrible. Then we continue with a police investigation of two quite different officers, quite like in the previous series. The initial investigation is repeated a decade later and again later, so we get the story in three time-lines. The case itself looks small. Two kids get lost. Initially something sinister is suggested, but as the investigation continues, the focus of the series goes more to the drama of the investigators and the parents of the lost kids.

The series gets a bit of a Memento edge as one of the main characters’ memory starts to fail him in the timeline in which he is old. The story of the lost children is told in bits and pieces and in the three timelines only slowly clearing things up.

Season 3 is descent, mostly moody and well-written, but just as the previous one, 3 does not really rise above the level of descent.

American Horror Story Roanoke (series) – Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 6 2016/7)

IMDb.com

Reading back my reviews of previous seasons I see that I am seldom overly enthousiastic about “American Horror Story”, yet my memories usually seem more positive.

My first thought about “Roanoke” is that it is the least interesting season so far. Looking back I remember the first season as alright, of the third, fourth and fifth I have good memories.

In “Roanoke” the series live up most to the term “horror” in the title. The series sets off as a bit of a “Blair Witch” type horror with pressing atmosphere and the suggestion that what happens is real. The story is told in interviews and images and the result is pretty much horror. Then the creators start to use different styles of horror going from found footage, jumpscare to torture and a bit of zombie-like horror. Way too horror for my liking. Only here and there the black humor of the previous series found its way into the story.

And then we get a variation to the story and another one and another one until it all becomes pretty dreary.

The story is simple. A mixed couple flees the city and buy a massive house in the middle of nowhere. Of course there are (un)dead people who do not want them there. In the variations the creators show how (social) media exploits such events which is one of the few positive points about “Roanoke”.

As I said before, the different seasons have nothing incommon with the rest except for the actors. If your preference does not lay in typical horror, I would advice to skip season 6.

Fargo (series) (season 3 2017)

IMDb.com

Once again the creators of the series have found an unlikely story in a remote part of the USA.

We meet the brothers Stussy, both played by Ewan McGregor. One is rich (Emmit), the other jalous (Ray). The feud gets kindled when the jalous brother hooks up with a client.

Emmit has another problem. Trying to save his business he took a loan from a shady middle man who now comes to take over his business. These two problems start to strangely mix again making a “Fargo” with weird situations, black humor and violent outbursts.

This time there does not immediately seem be a connection between the stories of the previous ‘Fargos’. It is again an amusing series with a weird, weird true story.

11.22.63 – Bridget Carpenter (series 2016)

IMDb.com

The title of these series of course refer to the date of the assassination of JFK. There is only one season of eight episodes which are written by noone less than Stephen King.

Jake, a high school teacher, learns from a friend who owns a diner that there is a door to 1960. When somebody comes back to the present, only two minutes have passed, no matter how long he stayed in the past. Al, the friend, took up the idea to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and collects all the information he can find in the present and in the past and went ‘in’ several times only to come back without succes. So he asks Jake.

Of course when you want to prevent the assassination, you will have to spend a few years in the past. Most of the series are Jake in the 1960’ies try to blend in while trying to find a way to try to find a way to do what he came to do. When he succeeds, the result is not what he thought it would be though.

The series have some alright findings and things to think about, but all over the line it is not much more than a drama about a contemporary man trying to live two decades ago.

Westworld – Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy (series season 1 2016)

IMDb.com

I got these series as birthday present. It was also on my wish list, but not too high. The first season is alright, but as with most series that I see, not good enough to make me want to see season 2 or the announced third series some time soon.

Westworld is a virtual Wild West, an amusement park where people can submerge themselves in adventure. They can even go around killing people and go to the brothel, for most visitors the main attractions. Most people in Westworld are androids, robots that are almost exactly human, called “hosts”. When a host gets shot, it is repaired and sent back to the park to pick up their parts in their “loops” (part of a “narrative”) again. When ‘upstairs’ the hosts are usually clothless, an easy way to incorporate nudity into the series for an unclear reason. A host cannot kill a visitor.

In order to make them more and more human, the creators frequently update the hosts, even giving them some sort of consciousness. Then some seem to start to develop consciousness themselves. This leads to lengthy philosophical monologues about what makes humans human and what makes reality real. Of course it is in the development of an own will of the hosts that the series get their story from.

“Westworld” is an alright series that raises a few interesting questions. The events jump back and forth in time and the story is well-written with subtle references and a few surprises. Anthony Hopkins is great as one of the creators of the park. In the first episodes the score is interesting too, as it is often classical versions of pop songs.

All in all, “Westworld” made a nice watch, but like I said, I not nice enough to put the following seasons high(er) up on my to see list.