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Netflix announces live action Cowboy Bebop

The all-time popular anime Cowboy Bebop gets a go from Netflix. Apparently, Netflix has announced that this will be a 10 episode series, with Christopher Yost being the writer of the first episode. This has been at the works since 2017.

Here’s the tweet that announced it.  Suffice to say, we’re all pretty hyped. Cowboy Bebop is one of the greatest Anime’s ever made, and our entire team agrees.

Cowboy Bebop tells the Jazzy story of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, and Radical Ed. They are a crew of bounty hunters IN SPACE. Who are on the run from their depressing past. The original anime came out back in 1998 directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. Now that Netflix has given a go on this classic anime, we don’t know what to expect. Netflix has given us a lot of good stuff like Daredevil, Jessica Jones. Even on the anime series side, Bleach was really good too. But now, comes the bad ones like the Fullmetal Alchemist, Deathnote, Mob psycho 100. Regardless some are still clinging on to hope as the Sci-Fi series Altered Carbon delivered.

Cowboy Bebop has always been a fan favorite of all ages. From Suspense, Jazz, Action, this anime had it all perfect harmony. Which makes it an all-time binge-worthy show. The only thing we can now do is hope that Netflix blows our minds away with the series and get the characters, the story and the jazz right.

Daredevil season 3 review: Devil’s Due

Netflix’s attempt at giving Marvel’s more grounded, street-level heroes their platform has been hit-or-miss for the most part since its inception in 2015. But one series has always been more or less consistent in delivering quality content- Daredevil, the man without fear. Be it Charlie Cox’s outstanding performance as both Matt Murdock and the titular vigilante, engaging and investable supporting characters or the best rogues’ gallery (Wilson Fisk in particular) in Netflix’s roster- Daredevil has always been a great lens for this amazing comic book character and his world. And I am glad to report, the third season of Daredevil actually cements this notion even more by taking us on a cerebral redemption journey full of twists, action and a whole lot of self-reflection.

Daredevil season 3 review-HiFi Public

The premise

Right out of the bat (billy club?), things look grim. Matt Murdock just had a building fall upon him, but not before he lost the love of his life, Elektra, for the second time, during the events of Defenders. Soon he winds up at the orphanage where he grew up after his father died, where the nuns in residence nurse him back to health best they can. But the crisis of faith he goes through at the start of the season takes a bigger toll on him than his broken physique.

This emotional exodus of our hero is expertly crafted through Matt’s scenes with the resident nun Sister Maggie, played by Joanne Whalley. The interplay between Whalley and Cox is one of the highlights of this season, as Maggie apparently comes from the school of hard knocks and tough love. She wants to help Matt and to coax him back to the faith he has seemingly lost after his recent experiences, but the nun is not exactly gentle about it, and some dark laughs result at times.

Fisk is back

Matt’s continued descent into spitefulness comes to a screeching halt though for the untimely release of Wilson Fisk from prison. Yes, the Kingpin himself, played by the great Vincent D’Onofrio, is back with a vengeance. The Season 1 villain is one of the best characters in the entire Marvel pantheon. So it’s great to have him back again as a major player this season. D’Onofrio has lost none of the intense, deep-voiced and well-articulated seriousness that made his Fisk so indelible. You are always wondering what’s really going on inside his Machiavellian mind throughout the bulk of this season.

Most of the time when a single villain dominates the adversarial element for an entire run, things tend to get sluggish. But Daredevil NEEDS Kingpin. He needs this type of cerebral foil. Fisk’s tendrils stretch so far and wide, and started way before anyone knew to look for them, that he comes across here like one of the most masterfully meticulous criminals ever. But his greatest masterstroke in this season has to be the intricate foundation he laid in the origin story of Bullseye, one of the greatest Daredevil antagonists.

Daredevil season 3 review-HiFi Public

Dex hits the Bullseye

FBI special agent Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter (Wilson Bethel), a high-functioning and lethally skilled sociopath, is introduced this season. He was shown absolutely primed early this season for getting trapped in Fisk’s long game of subterfuge. Bethel gives a standout performance as the tortured antagonists spiraling down to the rabbit hole from where he will finally come out as Daredevil’s greatest comic book rival ever. And his bouts with Daredevil are a pure cinematic joy to watch. The first fight, where Matt wins the close-up fisticuffs rounds but Dex wins overall because of his unexpected long-range precision strikes, feels like a comic book fan’s dream come to life. And even if you didn’t grow up watching these two characters duke it over the panels of a printed page, it’s still an incredibly savage showing. It’s not the only one as well but I will stop talking about the rest right now.

Rest assured, Daredevil’s action still towers over the rest of Netflix’s Marvel offerings. The fight choreographers have clear ideas about the strengths and weaknesses of the participants of a fight. They executed the scenes with surgical precision. And if you are wondering, this season keeps up with the tradition of a “one-shot corridor fight” in episode four. Needless to say, it absolutely knocks it out of the park.

The usual brilliant supporting cast

When things quiet down from the busier action scenes, the supporting cast do a great job to hold the rest in cohesion. I already talked about how great Whalley’s Sister Maggie has been throughout Matt’s internal struggle. But it’s up to Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) to truly get him back on track from self-destruction. Because Fisk wasn’t just hell-bent on destroying Daredevil’s persona as the savior of Hell’s Kitchen this season. He was after Matt Murdock’s good name too. And when the man without fear was very much full of fear and behaving at his most arrogant and abrasive, it was up to them to show him a brighter way.

Woll was always light-years better than her last show, True Blood. It pleases me greatly that she has a part now that showcases her ability to present viewers with complexities and hypocrisies and subtitles like only she can. No spoilers but there is a scene with her and Fisk that really bolsters Karen. It turns her into a roguish superpower of wicked righteousness. It’s a thrilling game of mental chicken. Foggy, on the other hand, remains the sole foundation of legal righteousness in Matt’s life. His faith in his best friend is unrelenting and absolute despite Matt’s own constant moral jeopardy.

In fact, all three of Daredevil’s lead characters are inherently polarizing. So kudos to our three main players for giving us severely flawed people who we’re still drawn to and root for. It’s because of them that the middle chapters were increasingly great. Instead of falling down the Netflix trope of bloat and bad filler.

Daredevil season 3 review-HiFi Public

Jay Ali’s Nadeem needed more

But some caveats remain. Jay Ali’s FBI agent Ray Nadeem gets a lot of screen time as a newcomer. He has intricate ties to the main narrative. Yet up until the last third of the season, his character doesn’t become engaging enough to be emotionally invested in. His struggle to do the right thing gets vehemently crushed between all the dangling story threads. It becomes a clichéd hodgepodge right before picking up a notch. And while this season has really improved upon maintaining a steady pace in the middle episodes where usually it all goes slow and bloaty, it should be mentioned that there are still signs of unnecessarily drawn out scenes and conversations. Netflix should seriously start to consider producing 10 episode seasons from all their Marvel characters for more tightly paced storylines.

Daredevil season three is just bloody good television.

Charlie Cox, as usual, thoroughly delivers as Matt. He convinces us here of the character’s pain, distressed state, and his eventual redemption. Vincent D’Onofrio’s restrained, grimacing, and mostly internal performance is just a behemoth achievement. The rest of the cast craftily delivers the goods as well. The action is robust, intimate and brutal. Overall, it’s just a great love letter to Daredevil. You don’t have to have Matt’s heightened senses to appreciate it. The devil’s got his due alright.

Netflix’s Ghoul: guilt, tyranny and the monsters among men

Quietly released on 24th August, Ghoul is a sharply directed, enigmatically paced political allegory of a TV show, with a dash of supernatural spices thrown in for good measure.

The little ads and marketing you may have seen for the miniseries suggests the reverse is true, as does the director himself. “Dystopian future is something I’ve always enjoyed seeing in fiction,” Patrick Graham said, explaining how the idea of Ghoul came to be. “So we thought it would be a nice backdrop to this oppressive, claustrophobic story to have this fascist state behind it all. But really the main bulk of the story came first, and the atmosphere we wanted to create came after.”

The evil that men do

Ghoul unfolds in a dystopian India, suffering from sectarian conflicts and fascist state policies. Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) chooses the state over her own minority roots and hands over her dissenting father to the state for reconditioning camps. Sometime later, she is assigned to Meghdoot 31, a remote interrogation facility to draw a confession out of Ali Saeed, a feared terrorist. Amidst tensions within and between the military staff and the prisoners, it soon becomes clear that there are other, far more sinister forces in play.

The allegory, while daring and thought provoking, is anything but subtle. The persecuted minority, which includes intellectuals and priests, all bear Muslim names. Graham, however, does a great job in creating an oppressive, paranoid atmosphere. The limited number of locations also helped heighten the intensity. Originally intended to be a film, the three-part acts were shot on location over one month, for fourteen hours a day, in a smelly, ‘damp setting with no sunlight’.

Produced through a unique collaboration between Ivanhoe, Blumhouse and Phantom Productions, it also features some serendipity in the form of the lead actress, Radhika Apte. This is her third Netflix feature in 2018, following Lust Stories and Sacred Games. “I’m very excited,” Apte commented on the coincidence. “I’m loving the attention, but it wasn’t by design.”

What turns good men cruel

Sacred Games and Ghoul are different affairs, and rightfully so. While the former is a big budget blockbuster production, this is a more intimate story that succeeds more due to the competent cast and tight storytelling. Apte does a fine job as the morally conflicted daughter who comes to see both herself and the state in a new light as the story progresses.

Manav Kaul plays Colonel Sunil Dacunha, the decorated war hero in charge of Meghdoot 31. It’s a more introspective role compared to Apte’s Rahim. Dacunha has long surrendered his conscience to the orders of the state. His guilt, however, remains submerged and potent. It’s this guilt, as well as the guilt of the rest of Meghdoot’s staff, that becomes fertile ground for the forces of chaos and terror to play with in the series’ third act, along with ideas of sedition and mutiny being played out both within the prisoners and the facility staff.

Demons in disguise

The supernatural aspects of the series, while novel, are a little underdeveloped and easy to counteract. Graham uses elements from Arabic folklore to great effect, but the horror of the story draws more from the Orwellian aspects of the setting. Graham was also conscious about limiting the use of jump scares. “Anybody can have a cat jump in through the window or have a bird hit a window pane. Jump scares are not the most challenging aspect of making horror.”

The main antagonist turns the table on the military staff, preying on insecurities and flaws such as collateral damage and broken marriages before eating their flesh to steal their identities. “I am nothing like them, Ahmed, and nor do I want to be,” is a key line that says volumes about Ghoul’s views on who the true monsters are. This is underscored to great dramatic effect in the film’s climax, with a line that reminded me, oddly enough, of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

As a limited series, Ghoul also reminds me of The Thing, Alien and Pitch Black, as well as survival horror games such as Dead Space and F.E.A.R. The political elements borrow liberally from classics such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and A Clockwork Orange.

The Verdict

While it’s a good horror production, one can’t help but feel it could have benefited from a longer narrative that allowed more room for both the political and supernatural elements to breathe. Thankfully, the ending leaves room for a Season Two. “Yeah, anybody who watches it can very much realize that isn’t the end of the story,” Graham acquiesced when pressed on the series’ future.

Whatever lies in the future for Ghoul, Radhika Apte is optimistic about the future of Indian content on Netflix. “Sacred Games’ success has really made everybody believe that this is one of the biggest and best things that could happen right now.”

Originally published on Medium and UpThrust on August 26, 2018.

Nathan Fillion plays Nathan Drake in an Uncharted short film

The Uncharted series is a franchise exclusive to the PlayStation system, achieving total lifetime sales of over 21 million copies. The game combines seamless transition from game-play to Hollywood level Action movie set pieces and cinematics. Nathan Fillion semed to . Fans got their wish when on 16th July when Fillion and Director Allan Ungar (Gridlocked) made a fan movie and have released the project on the internet.

The film stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake such as Steven Lang as Victor Sullivan, Mircea Monroe as Elena Fisher and Geno Segers as the antagonist. The movie follows the trio as they try to find the lost treasure of Flor De La Mar.

This fan-made movie is independent of the currently still at development Uncharted movie being made at Sony. The official project remained in production hell going through numerous rewrites. Director David Russell (The Fighter, American Hustle) was tasked with directing the movie and joining him was Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake, but due to creative differences David Russell departed the project along with his proposed cast. As of the latest news, Tom Holland (Spiderman: Homecoming, Avengers Infinity War) is currently set to star as Nathan Drake with the movie getting a complete overhaul focusing on Nathan’s younger years.

Whether the movie comes out or not remains to be seen but fans can be happy that a fan made movie is made staring their ideal cast for Nathan Drake and there is hope that this movie follows the example of Deadpool where something similar happened with Ryan Reynolds playing the Merc with a Mouth in a fan made project and due to the positive response the movie was given the green light to be made .

Only time will tell whether the official movie production can change its fortunes.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: small heroes, big laughs

While the Marvelites are still recovering from their post-traumatic misery disorder after the monumental finale of Avengers Infinity War, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and The Wasp works as a potent antidote to all the doom-and-gloom. Be sure to be effortlessly entertained by a breezy “heist” sequel that never takes itself too seriously. While missing James Gunn’s heart wrenching depth or the Russos’ action sensibilities, this movie stands on its own with a strong cast, great size-shifting action elements and some endearing hilarity.

Thanks to his previous “heroism,” Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from similar prosecution. Neither parties have spoken in some time, but that’s until Scott dreams he’s inside Janet Van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) body – aka Hank’s long-lost-to-the-Quantum Realm wife. Cue a rescue mission.

Ant-Man and The Wasp juggles a couple of story threads with moderate success. First off is using Hank’s quantum gateway to rescue Janet while thwarting black market dealer Sonny (Walton Goggins) from stealing their tech. A house-arrested Scott Lang also must ensure federal agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) doesn’t catch him outside his permitted area. But the movie’s tragic antagonist Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) aka Ghost gets the best story thread of glitching her way to stealing Janet’s essence for her own healing purpose. Marvel has created some truly memorable villains over the last couple of years and while Ghost doesn’t share the highest mantle with Thanos or Killmonger, she definitely gets close with John-Kamen’s tortured portrayal of the character.

Paul Rudd is also stellar as expected in portraying Ant-Man’s average Joe super heroism and fatherhood. His affable personality just works in all of the comedic sequences. But it is Michael Peña’s Luis who steals the funny train. He takes full advantage of the tighter comedy in the script and hyper-babbles to victory under “truth serum” influence. Peña’s that one-line jukebox which keeps cranking out the hits. May every movie feature his mini-voice shrieking with excitement. Evangeline Lilly just crushes it as well this time around fully kitted by the Wasp suit and makes up for her superheroine persona’s absence in the first movie. Wasp’s fight scenes revel in the graceful femininity and the sexy lethality of her comic book counterpart.

Credit is due to the effects teams behind Ant-Man and The Wasp too. As technology increases, so does Hollywood’s ability to superimpose the faces of Douglas, Pfeiffer and Fishburne in flashback ages – which Marvel fashions nicely. Then you’ve got Scott and Hope’s constant ballooning or deflating, which never feels out of place in a visual sense. Cinematography doesn’t exactly break the mold, but it keeps us anchored in worlds of varying magnitudes even in Quantum Realm psychedelics. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would be proud. Gigantic tomatoes, refrigerator-sized salt shakers, miniaturization scales of otherwise regular sized products and all.

Ant-Man and The Wasp is endearingly earnest, positively punderful and ant-tastic from start-to-finish. While there are weak links weakening the foundation, the final build is a solid romp. This flick may not be essential in the grand Marvel-ous scheme of things, but you’ll be glad it exists. Ant-Man has always been a tremendous supporting character, and that’s exactly what this origin sequel lets Scott Lang do best.

Also, DO NOT miss out on the post-credits scene.

Sacred Games: a dark triumph of noir storytelling

Sacred Games makes its grim ambition abundantly clear from the get go.

A dog falls to its death, hitting the ground with a thud, its white coat marred with faint patches of red. A woman is murdered in cold blood by a self-professed gangster god, half naked, his modesty barely covered by the hem of his panjabi. Many others soon fall to a hail of bullets.

Sacred Games is Netflix’s first Indian series. Adapted from an acclaimed 900-page doorstopper by Vikram Chandra, the eight-episode first season is equal parts gripping and thrilling. Directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, it’s also socially charged, finely balancing sharp commentary within the dual narratives.

Saif Ali Khan plays Sartaj Singh, a jaded cop trying to uphold his father’s integrity in a police force that has no use for such lofty ideals. In a depressingly mediocre ten-year career, Sartaj has failed to bag anything other than small time thugs. His fate changes, however, when he receives an anonymous call about the whereabouts of Ganesh Gaitonde, a legendary crime lord who has been missing for 16 years. Ganesh Gaitonde is played with weathered, dangerous calmness by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The kingpin starts a chain reaction of events that are set to shake the foundations of the Mumbai underworld to the core.

Like most Kashyap features, this is solid, pulpy noir, featuring staples such as damsels in distress and rampant corruption. Mumbai is also portrayed as a complex, multi-layered character in its own right. Sacred Games is unabashedly Indian, with many references to the local religious divides smartly woven into the winding narrative. The writers (Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath) have done a decent job in constructing a universal revenge-fueled narrative that will appeal to viewers worldwide.

Saif Ali Khan’s straight laced, tortured Singh is a decent protagonist, but he is the straight man to Nawazuddin, the undisputed star of the story. His antihero gangster story unfolds in a way that reminiscent of not only Gangs of Wasseypur and Godfather, but also lesser known indie features such as Only God Forgives.

The supporting cast is also well-rounded. RAW agent Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte) plays a memorable role later in the season. Sartaj’s right hand man Katekar (Jitendra Joshi) is an underrated delight along his wife Shalini (Neha Shitole). The couple take turns playing comic relief and emotional support to Sartaj’s straight man. The cinematography does well in portraying the journey of Bombay to Mumbai, featuring authentic outdoor locales in lieu of stock beauty shots. The soundtrack, mellow and haunting, fits well with the anguish and bitterness of Sartaj and Ganesh. The score is also fused with traffic and other Mumbai noises in a visceral mix.

Of course, Sacred Games is not without its flaws. The characters’ common sense is often sacrificed at the altar of plot expediency. Noir stories, though initially thrilling, can get repetitive if they stick to the beaten path. Nawazuddin’s Ganesh, for instance, feels like a spiritual successor to his Faizal from Wasseypur. The show’s narrative is also driven by a ticking clock device, a trope liberally used in earlier thrillers such as 24.

Like all foreign Netflix productions, Sacred Games is also available in multiple dubs. However, it’s best viewed in Hindi with subtitles. The Hindi is authentic, as expected, but what makes the language essential hearing is the liberal peppering of Marathi by the various characters.

In the context of Indian content landscape, Sacred Games has the potential to be a game-changer. The majority of Indian TV content focuses on family drama and reality TV, mostly targeted at an older generation. There is a dearth of engaging mature content that speaks about relevant issues that cater to multiple demographics. There have been previous attempts of producing big-budget limited series starring Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bacchan and Anil Kapoor. However, Netflix’s name value and subscriber base may be a key difference maker.

Can it be the Narcos of India? It certainly has the quality and star power to pull it off. At any rate, the cliffhanger leaves room for a solid, if not stronger second season, along with similar Indian TV shows waiting in the wings.

The end of an era – Ronaldo to Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 105-million-euro move to Juventus after nine glorious trophy-laden years at Real Madrid rightfully sent shockwaves around the footballing world, with most discussions now moving on to assessing the implications of the transfer.

The Portuguese superstar underlined his unyielding love to the club he grew up supporting in his farewell letter while media speculation swirls that the reason for his leaving was mostly down to the Madrid giants not reciprocating that feeling in full.

The 33-year-old came to Real Madrid when they were staring down the barrel of Barcelona’s all-conquering gun and turned them into Europe’s most dominant force in recent history by virtue of 451 goals in 438 games that yielded 16 trophies — including four Champions League titles that he nearly single-handedly won as he finished as the competition’s top scorer six times over the past six years.

Overall, he netted an incredible 105 goals in Europe’s elite competitions since donning the storied white strip of Los Blancos, with 60 coming in the knockout stages — 20 in the last 16, 23 in the quarterfinals, 13 in semifinals and 4 in finals.

Those incredible performances also saw him claim the Ballon d’Or four times, with another — which would take him past Lionel Messi’s tally of five — possibly arriving this December.

When Ronaldo left Manchester United as one of the two best players in the world, fans accepted the decision knowing of his childhood love affair with Real that made the move an eventuality.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United lines up a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on May 10, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

However, having won everything there is to have won and written his name in the annals of Real Madrid history, where he is now on a pedestal equal to if not above the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ronaldo’s move to Juventus leaves far more questions than answers.

The foremost among them being: why did he leave?

The Madrid press believe it had little to do with issues on the field. Yes, Ronaldo started the season slowly and that may have cost Real Madrid La Liga, but he more than made up for it with his yet-again astounding performances in the Champions League.

Real president Florentino Perez’s reported refusal to honour a bumper contract agreement made last year strained their relationship, with the agreed terms having never materialised.

However, the chief reason for the move is thought to be the tax case against Ronaldo. Although he has already been handed a hefty fine and a suspended sentence, the Portuguese is said to have been more than mildly annoyed by the fact that the club had not gathered around him as Barcelona did with Messi. He had expected Perez to wield his influence to make the case go away or at least reach a quick resolution. Instead, the breaking point was reportedly reached when Spanish authorities raided Ronaldo’s boat while his son was on board.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

​”There are thousands of boats in Formentera and police with cameras boarded the smallest one, Cristiano Ronaldo’s one. Are we murderers or what?” the Portugal captain asked.

Career-wise, the move is certainly an interesting one. In the slower pace of Serie A, Ronaldo can prolong his career as he pushes into his mid-thirties. The system at Juventus should also serve him well and will no doubt be geared even more towards the striker than ever before.

What is of even more interest will be to see how Real Madrid fare.

They have lost a man who scored 33 percent of the club’s 1378 goals over the past last nine seasons and provided 119 assists. They have lost the man who has scored over 44 percent of their goals in the Champions League in their winning season.

There is every assurance that Perez, with 105 million and the other hundreds of millions at his disposal, will make a marquee signing or two or even three. However, the market is not in Real or Perez’s favour.

Paris Saint-Germain will be unwilling to let go of either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe if they are to be seen as a European giant, while Tottenham already inked a six-year deal local lad Harry Kane merely weeks ago.

Mohamed Salah could be tempted and Liverpool may not resist, while Eden Hazard is another possible signing. Robert Lewandowski, whose powers are on the wane, could also arrive. However, even the three of them combined may be unable to fill the giant void left behind by Ronaldo, especially in the Champions League where most teams have an embarrassment of riches.

With Juventus having shattered their wage structure to accommodate him, Ronaldo’s future is already secured and, more importantly, assured. What lies in store for the aristocracy of Madrid remains to be seen.

The world needs a TV show like Sense8 – here’s why

For those who’ve been following, Netflix has decided to cancel one of its most successful shows to run on the streaming platform, Sense8. After the second season was aired in early June, Netflix has decided not to renew it for the third season. The news certainly came as a blow to its passionate fanbase, but we’re not here to dissect Netflix’s decision, as hurtful as that may be. We’re here to discuss why Sense8 became so popular and why the world needs a series like Sense8, now more than ever.

What is the show about?

Sense8 shows a beautifully told narrative, where 8 random strangers from all over the world suddenly start to connect with one other through a neural connection. All of them are from different countries, different ethnicities, races, cultures and sexual orientations. And they are able to live and experience each of those lives simultaneously. They come together to help each other in their personal quests and escape from the notorious organisation that’s hunting them.

Diversity in the show

Interesting, right? But this captivating storyline of Sense8 is not what makes Sense8 so great. Its how Sense8 manages to portray and handle diversity. The show boasts a diverse cast, with characters hailing from urban Mumbai to slums of Nairobi. We see a transgender woman fight for her rights and a gay actor who is rather melodramatic in real life, slings guns in action movies. An Indian girl defies her marriage and falls in love with a German man. A Korean woman struggles against the trappings of her patriarchal family. It’s the beauty and the raw passion for diversity that Sense8 managed to get right, that makes this show so appealing.

And not to mention, one of the three co-creators of the show, Lana Wachowski, herself is a transgender.

Message of inclusion and acceptance

The beauty of Sense8 lies in the fact that in a world so prejudiced by difference, it succeeds in normalising difference and inclusion. And it does so in a meticulously crafted method, not hurting any culture or faith or race in the way. It takes pride in the fact that the message of inclusion and acceptance is portrayed throughout the series.

In a world so divided by “us” and “them”, where we are taught to be sceptical of those who are different from us, to be afraid and cautious of those who do things differently, in a world where we feel guilty and ashamed to embrace our identity, Sense8 spreads the message of oneness.

It shows us that it is okay not to be like others, that we don’t have to play by their rules. We don’t have to suppress ourselves. Our identities. And that diversity is beautiful. Love is beautiful. And it does not matter what the colour of our skin is or what sex we are, we are all the same.

Which is also a perfect way to describe how it feels to watch Sense8, a profound sense of our shared humanity and connectedness.

And a deep disconnect with a world that is increasingly hostile towards empathy and difference.

Sense8 shows TV how to deal with these issues

TV is a powerful media that appeals to the mass. It reaches out to a greater number of people that a book or a rally or a seminar ever manages to. And even if a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people watching this show, who are either scared, embarrassed or a bit too shy to embrace diversity and difference, change their minds about diversity, then the show is a success. And the world will be a better place than it is now. Even if a little bit. But that is okay because that is how change works, a little bit at a time.

To quote a line from the show itself, “Nothing good ever happens when people care more about our differences than the things we share in common.” And indeed, the world is in a bad enough shape as it already is. What harm will it do if we start to accept diversity and live happily together?

If you took the time to read this far, here’s a little treat, Sense8 has returned from cancellation for a special two hours episode. Happy binging.

Cannes Film Festival 2018: movies that got the most attention

This week, on the 8th of May, began the prestigious 71st annual Cannes Film Festival. Festival de Cannes in French, the event is renowned for featuring new films from across genres – from comedy to drama to even documentaries. The event is invitation only and many legends and stars of the industry from around the globe are make an appearance there. For once, these guys are not the star of the show, but simply the guests. The movies are what they come to watch and this year has been no exception. There are some movies, however, that received more attention than others, for various reasons. Here are some of the movies that are getting the most hype at the festival.

Everybody Knows

Only the second Spanish language film to have opened the festival, Everybody Knows is Asghar Farhadi’s psychological thriller chock full of star power with the likes of Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin in the starring roles. It’s a very dramatic movie, with many of the characters harboring many secrets from their loved ones. The film is anticipated because of its stars, but it certainly has a decent story as well. It hasn’t been received very positively by critics but it is still one of the better reviewed movies to open the festival in recent years. The film is also competing in the Main Competition section of the festival.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is a comedy movie based on the book “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth. Directed and produced by veteran director Spike Lee, the movie’s name does an adequate portrayal of how bizarre the story is. An African-American cop in Colorado Springs named Detective Ron Stallworth is asked to infiltrate the local Chapter of the Klu Klux Clan, an infamously racist white supremacist organization that dates back hundreds of years. The movie seems to be a satire based on the current political and racial landscape of America. Many are looking forward to the movie to not only to have a good laugh, but maybe find some smartly disguised messages of how racist Americans perceive other skin colors. The movie is also in contention for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Loosely based on the novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is an action-adventure-comedy directed by Terry Gilliam. The movie is most anticipated for a reason the producers would rather not be infamous for: being the most notorious example of development hell in film history. Gillian has tried to make the movie nine times over the span of twenty-nine years and failed repeatedly. The film, however, has finally been finished after several bouts of bad luck, and now with Adam Driver of Star Wars fame as the lead and with veteran actor Jonathan Pryce as the titular character, this film is now wildly anticipated to steal the show as it closes out the festival on 19th of May.

Sorry Angel

The movie industry prides itself in its progressive values and one of the frontrunners for the Queer Palm award, Sorry Angel, is a great example of this. A college student from Brittany, the western-most region of France, named Arthur, has an affair with a 39-year-old writer, Jacques, from Paris. The film is a modern depiction of love between two people of the same gender, and of their happiness and their struggles. It opened on 10th May, the third day of the festival, and many people complimented the progressive story as a modern tale of love.

The Image Book

Directed by Jen-Luc Goddard, the legendary French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critique, The Image Book is an examination of the modern Arab world. Named “Le Vivre d’Image” in French, the movie stars no actors, but instead relies on a storyteller. This change of method makes this a fresh film to watch, and one of the most anticipated one’s in the festival. It too is competing for the Palme d’Or award. However, it has been received by the audience in a lukewarm fashion. As usual, the near mythic Goddard is not physically present at the event, instead opting to have his presence be electronic at the event with apps like FaceTime.

A farewell to The Expanse: the last bastion of spacefaring Sci-Fi TV

Pop quiz. Right now. What is the last truly great Sci-Fi TV show that you all watched? If your answer is a resounding Battlestar Galactica, you would be right on the money. You would also be guilty of missing out on a masterfully carved gem that is just as profound and intelligent. And dare I say it evokes the same sense of grandeur that only shows like BSG could command. Or should I say it DID?

The Expanse, Sci-Fi’s greatest hurrah of the last decade, has fallen. The show has been cancelled in the midst of its third season run.

Being in the spectrum of any given fandom is not always easy. We put the love all our hearts can muster in the pedestals of artisans and creators who bring us great characters and imaginative worlds. But behind the curtain lies the bitter truth of corporate backing, boardroom meetings and the pure math of profit margin of giant corporations. The Expanse is just the latest in a long line of show business victims. But today should not be about grief. Today we look back and celebrate an exquisite television artistry that might become a bigger cult classic than Firefly down the line.

James S.A. Corey’s (Corey is, in fact, a shared pseudonym for authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) popular series of space novels are the basis of the Expanse. The show imagines a future 200 years from now, where the premise of political tension among Earth, a colonized Mars and a ring of blue-collar space stations called the Belt is ripe for great storytelling. Between Earth’s larger army and Mars’ better one, the Belt accommodates the solar system’s lowest social class and is in both planets’ crosshairs because of its rich resources.

The show’s narrative is three-pronged, which it handles effortlessly. We have Captain Jim Holden (Steven Strait) and his ragtag crew aboard the stolen Martian warship Rocinante, a police detective named Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) who is obsessed with a missing girl named Julie Mao and the sketchy proceedings of a savvy U.N. leader Chrisjen Avasarala (Shoreh Aghdashloo) to keep the shaky peace between Earth and Mars intact. The way The Expanse shifts its perspectives from the grand theater of an escalating cosmic Cold War to the very personal interrelationships of its characters is just a pleasure to watch. The crew of Rocinante resonate the spirit of Firefly; the political intrigue of BSG permeates the whole show and Detective Miller’s noir mystery thread is just a page out of Blade Runner. This is a formula that just works. On top of that, the more the story progresses, the more it branches out and introduces new characters, ices some old ones and holds some truly great surprises.

Of course, a great setting and an engaging story can go only so far without three dimensional characters that will make us invest in said setting and story. Arguably, this is where The Expanse shines the brightest. Packed with characters with different motivations and agendas, The Expanse spares no time to put them in high stakes situations where every choice can be their last. From the square-jawed leadership of Holden to the tortured portrayal of Miller, this show crafts a character driven journey that is bound to get you hooked. You cannot but treasure all the scene-stealing moments Avasarala or Amos just sparingly sprinkle around you. Of all its awesome aspects, there is one single truth that binds The Expanse as a whole. At its core, The Expanse is all about people responding to fear- fear of each other, fear of the unknown, fear of inequality, fear of death. And the actors expertly bring those struggles to life with nuance and passion. Also the writers have reached a point where you can tell they feel completely confident in the world they’ve created and can do whatever they choose within it. Sadly we will not see what could be in store for these awesome characters in the future.

One of the biggest strengths of this show is its complete attunement to hardcore science fiction. The Expanse is not Star Wars. There are no space knights and space wizards. Nor it is Star Trek with “alien of the week”. This is a show that is grounded on established science while extrapolating a few hundred years. FTL (Faster-Than-Light) travel, while taken for granted elsewhere on the Sci-Fi genre, does not exist in this show. There are no laser shields or weaponry because nothing beats trusty old ballistics. Travelling in high-g requires passengers to sit in “crash couches” which pumps them with drugs to keep them awake and not crush under extreme pressure. The commitment the writers have bound themselves to in maintaining such staggering authenticity amounts to a gritty take on an already engaging universe.

Many years from now, we will look back upon The Expanse and be amazed at its majestic contribution to Sci-Fi. But it will always sting to not be able to see this show grow to be something even more special and reach its true potential. I guess we fans are all Belters now- a tribe without a country. While the production company is still trying for continued life of the series, it isn’t looking hopeful. But let us not despair. Keyboard warriors among us, now is your time to shine. Spam that #SaveTheExpanse hard to make some noise. Let the noise split the corporate boardrooms asunder!

Yam Seng Beltalowda!