Hopefully my review tonight will be as enigmatic as the show I am reviewing as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. No spoilers here!
The often overused term; mind-f**k, is the perfect term for the television show, Westworld. Based on the 1973 movie of the same name starring Yul Brynner, the series is a science fiction thriller which takes place in a high-tech amusement park. The park is populated with human-like androids with which rich people can do whatever they please while living out fantasies in a western back story. Their creator is played by Anthony Hopkins, who comes across as both sinister and disconsolate. There’s what could be a glitch in the system and some of the androids appear to be becoming sentient.
We follow the lives of a few androids and humans, key players in the park as well as newcomers there for some fun. Throughout the show you get the feeling that something is undeniably wrong with humanity. That some would revel in a fantasy of brutalizing, raping and killing others, is deeply disturbing and yet something which happens in reality all too often. You can’t help but feel sorry for the androids, especially those who have gained insight into their lives and the outrageous actions carried out on them by humans. With technology now at the point where some parts of the story are credible, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The opening credits alone are jaw dropping.
It is raw and gritty, with violence, nudity and sex scenes which make complete sense to the concept, not used as a ploy to get viewers. It is intelligent and well crafted with a story which moves along smoothly and always grabs the attention. It’s rarely boring and always thought provoking. You never quite know all the humans or all the androids. You keep double guessing yourself as to which is which. Then someone who you thought was one turns out to be the other!
Every week there is a blinder of a twist that you just don’t see coming. You spend the week thinking you have it all figured out, then the next episode turns what you thought on its head. There are twists within twists, and every week I end up staring at the screen as the credits roll thinking…wow….mind…blown…..!
It has been a long time since I watched a television program which made me think as much as Westworld does. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Next week is the series finale and already my mind is blown. What else they can throw at us I don’t know, but it’s sure to be fantastic whatever it is! If you haven’t watched it yet, get watching!
F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE
I am known for my stubbornness when it comes to new shows and books etc. I have this ability to be completely unfazed by the hype, to the point of purposely not watching or reading a thing out of pure spite. I have no idea why I do this, I just know that I do. Sometimes I reverse my decision only to arrive at the party too late, sometimes by years.
Take for example Naruto. Now, this is one of the best manga and anime series ever made. I used to scoff at the cosplayers who turned up to conventions with these bands on their foreheads, because at that time I had no idea what they meant.
What are they supposed to be? Ninjas or something?!
It became so popular that I had to look up what these people were watching. When I got my first glimpse of Naruto, I laughed. How the hell could so many be so entranced by something so cliched? Ninjas?! What could possibly be so entertaining about ninjas?! So I had no more to do with it– for YEARS.
Then, a couple of years ago, I had nothing to watch or read one night and came across Naruto once more. I decided to read the first manga volume out of pure boredom, hoping it would send me to sleep. I read four volumes that night and got no sleep whatsoever. Completely hooked, I became Naruto’s biggest fan, searching the internet for fan groups and art and anything I could feast my eyes upon. I bought the manga, the anime, filled my shelves with figures from the series. Of course, Naruto manga is now finished; I arrived to the show not long before the end. It was through Naruto that I met Sam, and the Dead Pete Society was formed.
I recently had much the same experience with a show on television–namely the Hawaii Five-0 reboot. I had a conversation with a friend a while back which went something like this:
That conversation was a few years ago. Hawaii Five-0 has been on the go since 2010, so I am six years late on this one. A week ago I was waiting on the postman delivering my new wrist splints, bored to tears as I hate waiting on anything. I popped the tv on, flicked through a few channels then had to answer the phone. By the time the call ended there was something else on the tv. I caught sight of a lovely car, a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, and it looked a sweet ride. While I may not have a thing for leering over hot men like my friend does, I do have a thing for a good looking machine. Mostly aircraft, but cars do it for me too.
So I settled back on the couch and kept watching, wondering what other good looking machines might show up. It cut to break a few moments later and imagine my surprise when I saw it was actually Hawaii Five-0 I was watching.
So I stopped watching, jumped into the Sky planner to see if they had the series on Box Sets. They had complete season one on Box Sets and so I downloaded them and started at the beginning.
That first episode hooked me immediately. There was something about it that was so different to what I imagined this show would be like. I thought it would be all jiggly-boobs on the beach and surfer dudes showing off six packs with the occasional catch-the-villain thrown in to keep the flavour of the original show alive. It wasn’t just a sex-on-the-box type of show at all, it actually had a story. It was clever, it had angst, it had a villain you wanted to know more about and a broken hero you just wanted to hug. And that was just the first episode.
Considering my favourite characters, it was actually obvious I would fall in love with this show. I love Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. The lead character of Hawaii Five-0–Steve McGarrett–, is a similar hero.
The two leads are also perfect together. Their conversations are usually snarky and make me laugh. They hate each other but love each other and all you want to do is bang their heads together and tell them to stop the bickering. Of course there are cheesy parts, the occasional cringe-worthy episode and it has its fair share of filler eps.
I forgot the postman that day and ended up watching six episodes in a row. By the end of the last episode I booted up my computer and read as much as I could on the show. How long has it been running for? What are the odds of it carrying on? Will it be cancelled on a gigantic cliffhanger, forever doomed to never truly finish like so many of my favorite shows?
Well, so far so good. There is a seventh season which just began airing in the past couple of weeks. There are rumours this might be the last, but that’s okay. Why? Because if the writers know it will be the last, there is a chance of them ending the story properly.
I called my friend the other day, and the conversation went a little like this:
Something tells me my friend and I are a lot like Steve and Danno…
F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE
I have wanted a pair of VR glasses/goggles for along time, the ones which have tiny screens in each eye to give the impression of watching a huge screen. Every time I went to buy a pair, I talked myself out of it. As I do for most things before I buy I did a little research and discovered that the majority of people said they were not really worth their money. The screens lacked definition, poor colouring, lack of adjustments in some models and poor quality footage in display. Considering the price of some of the high-end glasses, I decided to wait until something better came out.
With the announcement of the Gear VR headset for Samsung, my interest in this personal theatre experience was piqued again. Until three weeks ago, I had owned three different Samsung S3 mobile phones. I always felt they were the best phones on the market, so any time my mobile contract was due up, I’d just source another S3. Therefore I was genuinely excited to try out the Gear VR. Alas, it was not to be. When my contract ran out a few weeks ago, I decided to go for a different phone model entirely, one which does not fit the Gear VR.
So on the final day of our holidays last week, I decided to look for a VR headset with a universal fitting for any phone. The market is now flooded with such headsets, so much so that choosing one was difficult. Again, I did a little research on different models and unfortunately found that a great amount of them had positive views simply because the reviewer had been given the headset either for free or at reduced cost in exchange for a good review. Despite many saying that this in no way swayed their opinion, I was a little put off by the sheer amount of overly positive reviews on single items all saying the same thing: Got them for free in exchange for a review-they are great. So remember, even if an item has over 200 five star reviews, read them to find out if their view is biased in such a way. I eventually found a pair that was cheap as chips, with a universal fitting and available in a shop local to me so I was able to get them straight away without having to wait for a delivery.
The Stealth VR headset is simply a glorified Google Cardboard–as are most of these vr headsets. There are two lenses, both adjustable in focal and pupil focus. The difference from the cardboard version is they are much more comfortable to wear. The eye area is very well padded, the head straps are easily adjustable with large velcro pads. I had seen many models with built in headphones, but I own many sets of head/earphones so this model was perfect for me and cheap enough to try out. I also received a little pair of retractable headphones in one of my Loot Anime crates that go perfect with this model!
There are so many vr apps available on both Android and Apple, but the reason I wanted the headset or theatre glasses was so I could watch a movie or anime in bed without disturbing my husband with the screen brightness glaring him from a tablet or laptop. Of course, I have tried a lot of the apps and they are pretty amazing. Some are awfully glitchy, but the majority are very clever and do immerse you in an experience. These apps eat the phone battery and heat up the processor so much I had to stop using the headset to allow my phone to cool down. Then I discovered that this headset has a removable front especially to allow air circulation while using VR apps. But, for watching movies–the very reason I bought the headset–it is absolutely perfect!
I ended up using one of my old Samsung S3 models so that I didn’t damage my new phone. Since it is the screen of your phone you see, the picture through the viewer is exceptional. It is crystal clear and highly coloured. There is no bending of the headset lense to misshape the view, and no loss of picture definition. But the S3 screen is not quite as good as my new Xperia, and as a result I can see tiny pixels on the S3 screen when viewed through the headset. I can not see the pixels on my Xperia when it is in the headset, but I don’t want to damage my new phone and the pixels are so tiny they do not ruin the experience at all for me.
I dare say that actual VR goggles, the ones I originally wanted, are much lighter on the face and easier to wear since they do not require a mounted phone. They will also look a lot neater than wearing the headset as to accommodate a phone they are built rather large. But these are very minor issues and for the cost and quality of the Stealth VR, I am more than happy to look like a complete idiot as they do exactly what I wanted and in comfort!
So if you are ever looking for a wearable VR item, do a lot of research on different models, find the right one for you. If you want to be able to play the actual VR apps, be mindful of the fact your phone will heat up inside a headset. Make sure the lenses are fully adjustable, otherwise you will have problems seeing the images and more than likely will suffer eye pain from constantly trying to focus.
If it’s just movies you want to watch? I recommend the Stealth VR or something similar. Cost effective, durable, lightweight, well constructed, highly adjustable and comfortable. It ticked all my boxes and are absolutely perfect for my needs 😀 I also recommend the Cardboard Cinema app, as it allows you to watch the movies you already own and displays them as SBS (side-by-side) format especially for VR headsets.
As for controlling your phone while it is in the headset, yeah, that’s not quite so easy. This particular headset and the vast majority of others do not have button controllers built in. I have seen bluetooth controllers which I might try, but first I am going to try a USB-to-go cable and a plug -and-play controller to see if that works. I have these items on hand, so no extra cost if it works! I will let you know if it does!