Altered Carbon


Altered Carbon
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Tom Conner, Trieu Tran, Diechen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Kristen Lehman, Renée Elise Goldsberry,
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Netflix
Grade: A

Altered Carbon, which takes place in a semi-dystopian future society in which human bodies are simply called “sleeves” and memories and personality are stored on hard drives located in place of one of our neck vertebrae and called “stacks,” follows Takeshi Kovacs, who was serving a prison sentence after being fatally shot, after he’s revived to solve the murder of the rich and influential Laurens Bancroft, and chosen because he’s the last remaining Envoy, someone trained to have intuitive abilities that border on being psychic. As he investigates, Takeshi comes into contact with Lieutenant Kristin Ortega, who’s conducting her own investigation into the killing.

This neo-nor/sci-fi series is perfectly suited to internet streaming services like Netflix. The characters are all well-developed and multi-dimensional, and the actors all work well together. Joel Kinnaman does well as someone needing to get used to the skin they’re in for the first few episodes. James Purefoy, somewhat of an expert at playing the borderline psychopathic person, is nearly perfect as Laurens Bancroft, and infuses a sort of bored menace into everything he says. Martha Higareda’s Kristin Ortega is a dedicated, but conflicted, police officer who abandoned her religion to pursue a career in law enforcement. The real standout, however, is Tom Conner, who plays the AI hotelier Poe, the character who runs/owns the hotel where Kovacs lives.

The special effects are very well done, showing the fictional Bay City (formerly San Francisco), as a crowded, claustrophobic, built-upon neon city. The AI and holographic renderings nearly perfect, as are the scenes on alien worlds.

I would definitely recommend this show to any sci-fi fan, or even those who prefer detective stories and don’t mind some sci-fi infusion. It does require a little bit of attention, but the storyline and the worlds it takes place in are intriguing enough to hold viewer’s interest.

Altered Carbon is only available to stream from Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

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Lost in Space (2018)


Lost in Space

Starring: Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Parker Posey,
Rated: TV-PG
Network: Netflix
Grade: B

Lost in Space, a reboot of the 1965 series (and 1998 movie), follows the Robinson family as their vessel, the Jupiter 2, crash lands on an alien planet. As they navigate the alien planet while searching for survivors of other downed Jupiter vessels, as well as a way to get off the planet and back on their way to Alpha Centauri, where a new human colony is being established after the Earth has become nearly uninhabitable.

As stated before, this is a reboot of the series from the 60s, though I suspect that character names are about all that carried over from that show. This reboot is much less campy, and opts for a darker, more serious tone. The Robinsons are also no longer stranded alone. Their ship is one of several that crashes on the alien planet where Season 1 takes place, and there are several flashbacks to their time on Earth, as well as some to when they were on the main vessel, the Resilient. The effects are well done, with what I assume is a mix of practical and special effects used. There are some space shots of the star system they landed in that are particularly breathtaking.

The actors seem to handle themselves fairly well. From what I can tell, Toby Stephens is the only one not using his natural accent (he’s British playing an American), and he handles it well. Parker Posey seems to be enjoying playing the villain, and manages to not chew on the scenery every time she’s on camera.

If you like sci-fi, you’ll probably like this series. It might be a little much for casual viewers to handle, especially if they’re old enough to remember the original series, if only simply because they just throw you straight into everything, with no build up to the space and aliens plot. The show is also slightly serialized, so a small bit of attention is required so as to not get completely lost (pardon the unavoidable pun). It also looks like there will be a second season, so there’s no worry about getting invested in something only to be left hanging.

This show can only be streamed through Netflix, and there’s no information about whether they plan to release it on video.

Harlan Coben’s Safe


Harlan Coben’s Safe

Starring: Michael C. Hall, Amanda Abbington, Amy James-Kelly, Freddie Thorp, Louis Greatorex, Hannah Arterton, India Fowler, Raj Paul, Joplin Sibtain, Hero Fiennes Tiffin,
Rated: TV-MA
Network: Netflix
Grade: B+

Safe, an original series from author Harlan Coben, follows widower Tom Delaney as he attempts to locate his daughter, Jenny, who went missing after attending a friend’s party. As he delves deeper into his daughter’s disappearance he begins to realize that he may not have know her, or her late mother, as well as he thought. That, coupled with the fact that Jenny’s boyfriend turned up dead at the same party she disappeared from, means that Tom is racing to unravel an increasing number of intertwined mysteries before he loses his daughter forever.

This is the type of show that, once upon a time, would only be found on the BBC in the UK, or Masterpiece in the US. Another great example of serialized British murder mystery, this show, while not perfect, is definitely better than some of the shows on TV. It can get a little soapy and over dramatic at times, but for the most the story stays on point. It looks like there’s probably not going to be a second seasons (though no one seems to be ruling it out, either), so the probability of getting the kinks hammered out over time is unlikely, unless it’s a massive hit on Netflix.

The acting is pretty good. Most of the cast is British, with Michael C. Hall being the only American on the show. Hall’s accent can get a bit choppy, even to my untrained ears, but closer to the end of the season he seems to get something of a grip on it.

I would recommend this series. The storyline is decent, and so long as you don’t mind slow-simmering crime dramas, it should hold your interest. It requires a bit more attention than the typical crime drama, but not so much that you must remain glued to your couch.

This show can only be streamed through Netflix, and there’s no information about whether they plan to release it on video.




Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Ben Barnes, Luke Hemsworth, Angela Sarafyan, Tessa Thompson, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins,
Rated: TV-MA
Network: HBO
Grade: A+

Westworld is a continuation/update of the 1973 movie written and directed by Michael Crichton.  The show follows the daily routines of robotic “hosts” Dolores, Teddy, Maeve, and Clementine as they serve the parks guests, as well as the behind-the-scenes technicians Bernard, Angela, Stubbs, and Dr. Ford, and a few of the park’s guests, William, Logan, and the sadistic Man in Black.  Throughout the first season, we see the robots slowly evolving their programming as the various technicians try to figure out what’s going wrong with the park’s attractions, as well as dealing with the implementing of a new story narrative being introduced.  The Man in Black sets off on a quest to find what he calls The Maze, and William and Logan set out on an adventure in advance of William’s wedding to Logan’s sister.

This show is delicately woven and almost mesmerizingly told.  The various stories are almost seamlessly put together, with the final reveal of some of the plot twists coming almost naturally.  As several of Westworld’s robotic hosts, or characters, begin to show glitches in programming stemming from a recent software update, the park’s technicians begin to wonder if the error is really an error, or part of something else.  In the meantime, hosts Dolores, Teddy, and Maeve, as well as several others, begin to evolve, becoming more violent and self-aware.  At the same time, the Man in Black has set off on a quest to find The Maze, which he believes will offer a more realistic genuine experience in the park as friends William and Logan attempt to have an adventure before William is to marry Logan’s sister, which ends up revealing more about William’s character than he thought was there.

The acting is terrific.  The actors who play the hosts give it just enough to seem slightly off at one moment, and completely human in the next.  There’s very little scenery chewing, and most of it’s done  Most of the actors get to use their natural accents, from what I can tell, with the only exceptions being Ben Barnes and Luke Hemsworth, who use flawless American accents, and Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden, whose Southern accents slip occasionally, which can always be explained away by the fact that they play robots.

The show is filmed in Utah, as well as various other sets used in Westerns, which offers beautiful scenery.  We don’t get to see the “real world” outside the park’s offices.  The closest we get is a small, resort-like complex that seems to be mostly used by employees and visiting executives.

I highly recommend this series.  The show is, for the most part, a sci-fi/western hybrid, and it has an appeal for fans of either, or both, genres.  It can be a little violent at times, but there’s nothing too graphic, with most of the harsh violence being against the non-human characters.

Like all HBO shows, this can only be streamed from the HBO website, which requires subscription, or through an inclusive package, or with an iTunes or Amazon Prime Season Pass.  You can also rent the first season through Netflix home delivery service.

The Alienist


The Alienist

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning, Brian Geraghty, Robert Wisdom, Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear, Q’orianka Kilcher, Matt Lintz,
Rated: TV-MA
Network: TNT
Grade: A-

The Alienist, based on the novel by Caleb Carr, revolves around New York City in the late 1890s, where a series of grisly murders grips the city.  Unofficially brought in to consult on the case is Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a local alienist, or psychiatrist, as well as John Moore, a reporter for the New York Times.  The two team up with some NYPD employees, Sara Howard, the first woman to work for the NYPD, and Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, Jewish twins whose forward methods of investigation are looked down upon by the rest of the force.  The group runs a parallel investigation reporting directly to Teddy Roosevelt (yes, that Teddy Roosevelt), who at the time was the head of the NYPD.

Serialized murder mystery shows have never quite caught on here in the States like they have in other countries, though I myself am a fan of them.  This show does not employ a side mystery-of-the-week that many of its counterparts have done, and the show is somewhat stronger for it.  The pace if kept faster, and B stories tend to go toward character development and secondary characters rather than a distraction from the main story.  The show is billed as a Limited Series, meaning it was developed with only one season in mind, but given the fairly decent ratings, and the potential the show has to expand upon its characters and their world, it wouldn’t be surprising if they decided to give a second season a go.

The acting is fairly decent.  Only Dakota Fanning, who’s normally dynamic, seems a bit stilted and wooden, as though she’s unsure of why she’s there.  She seems to mostly recover from it by the end of the season, but you can tell she’s uncomfortable through the first few episodes.  Luke Evans handles an American accent well, though his natural Welsh one does slip through occasionally.  Daniel Brühl manages to water down his natural German accent a touch without eliminating it completely, which is on point for his foreign-born character.  The rest of the cast are Americans playing Americans.

The scenery for this show is beautiful.  It was filmed in Budapest, which has plenty of old-world architecture to use for a late 19th century setting, and they really make the most of it.  The costumes are also well done, with Fanning’s character getting some rather impressive sleeve poufs.

I would definitely recommend this series.  The story is compelling, and for the most part, the action is swift.  It may require a bit of attention, so it’s not really a casual watch, but it is worth the time to sit and pay attention.

This show can only be streamed from the TNT website, which requires a subscription or an inclusive package, or through an iTunes or Amazon Prime Season Pass.  It hasn’t yet been release to video and isn’t available free through any streaming sites.

Midnight, Texas


Midnight, Texas

Starring: François Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Arielle Kebbel, Jason Lewis, Peter Mensah,
Rated: TV-14
Network: NBC
Grade: B+

Midnight, Texas, follows medium Manfred Bernardo as he moves to the titular small Texas town to escape his past and start over.  As Manfred settles into his new home, he meets and befriends a small group of tightly-knit locals, most of whom have their own secrets, supernatural and otherwise.  It’s based on the book series of the same name by Charlaine Harris, whose other works include the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which inspired the HBO series True Blood.

Sci-fi/Fantasy series tend not to do too well on network stations because of the limited audience they cater to, however, this show takes what it has and makes the most of it.  The characters are all interesting, and it’s set somewhere in the same universe as True Blood, though there aren’t any overlapping characters.  It’s mostly just through references and types of supernatural beings.

The format vacillates between story-of-the-week and overarcing-serial, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story, which manages to remain balanced and interesting.  The acting is well-done.  No one chews on too much scenery, and when the inevitable life lessons are taught, they don’t hit you over the head with it.  The effects are about what you would expect from a mid-budget summer series on a network channel.  Nothing too flashy, but also nothing too corny.

All in all, I would recommend this series as pure popcorn enjoyment.  It’s nothing that’s going to make your brain hurt or confuse you, but it’s also not going to make you wonder why you’re wasting your time.  In other words, perfect summer viewing.

This show can be streamed from the NBC website, which is free to register on, and can be found on Hulu as well.