Month: April 2016

If This, Then That

A couple of days ago, I was reading about the algorithm, or the computer code that internet giants like Amazon and Netflix use to round up recommendations for their users. They’ve constantly been updating their algorithm, in order to provide better recommendations, and the name of the algorithm they use now, is called Pragmatic Chaos. I found this intensely fascinating – imagine engineers poring over complex mathematical equations to help you find the best way to burn another ten hours of your life, watching television. Pragmatic Chaos determines sixty percent of what is being watched/rented at Netflix, which is a ridiculously large number for sales that’s generated by a piece of code. Inspired by Pragmatic Chaos, and in the hope that this will contribute towards the remaining forty percent of viewing choices, here are my recommendations for what you should be watching, based on what you like.

If you like Sherlock, you will love Broadchurch: If you were to pin point to the reason for the appeal, and at times, frenzy behind the BBC’s contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, it would be Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock. His accent, his lack of empathy and his cheekbones make him a character who is hard to ignore and to dislike. Broadchurch, also produced by the BBC, has a similar emotionally unavailable protagonist (with similarly high cheekbones) in detective Alec Hardy, played by David Tennant. Much like Sherlock, Broadchurch has a wonderful working partner chemistry between the leading pair (Olivia Colman who plays Ellie Miller), too. If you enjoyed Sherlock, then it’s time to make way for Broadchurch as your new favourite detective series.
{Broadchurch is presently telecast on Colors Infinity}

broadchurch, television show reviews

If you like Friends, you will love Grace and Frankie: Most of my generation grew up on Friends, and I can’t remember anyone who disliked the part hilarious, part heart warming (and part bawdy) coming of age comedy. Most of my generation is also now all grown up and facing existential crises every other day, which is why I recommend Grace and Frankie, a show about two women in their seventies whose husbands leave them for each other, and now have to navigate the single life by themselves. This show is just as heartwarming, hilarious (and bawdy) as Friends. While Friends saw a lot of us wanting to become adults and grow up overnight, Grace and Frankie will make you feel a lot better about ageing.
{Grace and Frankie is on Netflix}

If you like House of Cards, you will love Veep: If you enjoy House of Cards and Francis Underwood’s takeover of the American government, it’s probably because you either have a twisted mind that’s similar to Francis’, or because you enjoy fast-paced, and entertaining shows based on American politics. If it is indeed the latter, then you will enjoy Veep, a political comedy that is as sharp as it is silly. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is excellent as Selina Meyer, the Vice President (Veep for short) of the United States who has startlingly little power. Veep is the light to the dark that House of Cards brought to politically themed shows, and although it is very funny, do not expect it to be as entertaining as the actual American elections that are going on right now.
{Veep is being telecast on Star World Premiere HD}

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Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones returns this week, marking the end of nearly a year long wait for fans who were left to hang on multiple cliffs when the previous season ended. It didn’t help that HBO released three trailers which, instead of giving a clearer picture of what’s to come, only raised more questions.

At the end of the fifth season, Danerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) looked to be in a ‘out of the frying pan, and into the fire’ sort of situation. Although she was airlifted out of a deadly revolt in her kingdom by Drogon the dragon in one of the greatest computer generated action sequences on television thus far, she was captured by the Khalasar, the powerful tribe she was previously married into. The trailer had a few scenes where it’s evident that the sixth season will see this once powerful queen being stripped (literally) into slavery. Having said that, we also see her big, bad, dragons casting giant shadows over the nomadic kingdom, so rest assured that an explosive rescue mission is also on the cards, and maybe we’ll get to see her make that long awaited trip to Westeros to claim the Iron Throne this season.

At the other end of the Game of Thones world, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who managed to rescue herself and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) from the clutches of her psychotic husband Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) now looks to have been presented the opportunity to regain control of her father’s kingdom. When Sansa Stark is first presented as a character both in the books and in the series, she is portrayed to be feminine and delicate, ready to be the rose to her future husband’s crown of thorns. As the series progresses, her luck worsens in the worst way – her future husband and the boy she dreamed of turns out to be a textbook psychopath, her future mother-in-law is a power hungry queen who will do anything to keep her kingdom, and her father is executed right in front of her eyes. She escapes with great difficulty, only to be forced into marrying Ramsay Bolton, who makes her previous fiance seem like harmless farmer. At the cusp of season six, Sansa is not only free, but also hardened. It will be interesting to see if the eldest surviving Stark manages to avenge all that has happened to her family.

The Stark family will also see Arya (Maisie Williams), blinded and left to death at the end of season five, given a second chance at life, albeit without vision. Bran Stark (Isaac Wright), who we last saw in season 3 as a chubby and adorable little child with mysterious powers that allow him to take over the minds of those around him, returns to the show, this time as a gangly adolescent with better control over his abilities.

Lastly, is Jon Snow really dead? It’s safe to say that no one, with the exception of the cast and crew has any real clue. Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow has been seen at script readings, and at shooting locations but vehemently insists that he’s dead. The internet has been flush with rumours ever since his blood seeped the snow in the final scene of the fifth season, but with barely a few days left for the premiere, it doesn’t matter what the rumours are. We’re all about to find out, and I’m not sure if we’re going to like it.

{Game of Thrones premieres April 26th on Star World and will continue to air every Tuesday}

A Brief History of One Killing

{Previously Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

The British crime mystery show, Broadchurch, asks the questions many of us have asked ourselves at some point of time – How long does it take to confidently say that you really know someone? and, do you ever really know someone?

Broadchurch is a small fictional town in Britain, where everything goes around like clockwork and where everyone lives a still life, until a young boy is found murdered, with his body dumped on the beach. Detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant), and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) must do all they can to catch the murderer, but when a sleepy town’s dark secrets begin to wake, the obstacles in their path are many.

At a time when almost every police themed television show out there takes on a fresh murder each episode, Broadchurch takes on a single killing, a deceptively simple premise (a boy was killed, who did it?), and amplifies it to an eight episode long cat and mouse chase. If, at any moment, you think you’ll be bored by the idea, let me tell you – you will be proven wrong. The show doesn’t drop pace even for a second, and the writers have packed in twists and turns so tightly, that if you miss an episode, you’ll miss crucial parts of the investigation, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the investigation. Broadchurch is renowned in the UK for reducing even the most exceptionally critical audiences into a bunch of nervous detectives.

broadchurch, television show reviews

David Tennant, famed for his role as Dr.Who, is a pleasure to watch as Detective Alec Hardy, the sullen outsider with a torrid past who suspects everyone. Olivia Colman as Detective Ellie Miller, the woman who has been in Broadchurch all her life, who thinks she knows her town like the back of her hand only to be shattered by the revelations that rise during the investigation is a class apart. Colman won a BAFTA for her role as Ellie Miller, so there’s no denying her splendid acting performance. The entire casting is actually spot on, with some familiar faces from the Harry Potter movies, and even Game of Thrones. The collective experience of the actors on screen makes you invest in the show and its characters, as if they’re people you know already.

Broadchurch explores not just murder, but also the effect of catastrophe on a small knit community, the mutual suspicions that arise, the combined nervousness which emanates while talking to anyone new, but most importantly, it explores the effects of media attention on criminal cases and the way it is capable of shifting perceptions. The British media are portrayed in the show to be cruel gossipmongers who would slime their way around for even the slightest sniff of gossip. People’s pasts, mistakes they’ve made, mistakes which they have admitted and have corrected themselves for and mistakes which they don’t want to revisit are all brought to light, just to feed the papers.

Broadchurch’s excellence as a show, and the reason it is capable of chilling you to the bone doesn’t lie in its ability to showcase drama, rather it is because of its ability to showcase reality.

{Broadchurch is on Netflix & is presently telecast on Colors Infinity}

Gangs of New York

{Previously published in The Hindu Metroplus}

Marvel’s Daredevil isn’t a conventional superhero. Blinded as a boy in a freak accident which involved nuclear chemicals, Matt Murdock doesn’t have super strength or fantastic abilities – he is human, but with a heightened sense of things around him – He can listen to heartbeats, he can listen to conversations across a wide radius and he can sense movement better than people with vision do. After his boxer father becomes a victim of gang violence, the young, orphaned Matt, is picked up by a mysterious old man called Stick, who teaches him how to fight. After Stick decides that there’s nothing left to teach, Matt goes on to study law. Matt Murdock, defence attorney by day, becomes Daredevil, vigilante crime fighter by night.

Netflix’s production of one of the most intriguing, and human superheroes is very dark, sometimes literally (there are very few scenes which involve daylight, and even those have a constant gloom that pervades Daredevil’s New York City). The show also does not mince violence either. The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed studies in brutality, where blood is spilt with the carelessness that one would associate with milk or water.

In the first season of Daredevil, we see Matt (played by Charlie Cox), just getting comfortable with his role as protector of Hell’s Kitchen, the area in New York where he is born and raised. Hell’s Kitchen is infested with gang violence, and the more Matt tries to smoothen things out, the more he realises that it isn’t a molehill which can be removed, but a veritable mountain that has been put into place by a gang boss who goes by the name Kingpin. Being an undercover hero trying to uncover a city’s dark secret is tough work, and the challenges they pose are best represented by Matt’s necessary friendship with a nurse, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) who works a night shift at the General Hospital. It isn’t long before Matt’s day job as a defence lawyer is affected, either. He must do all that he can to ensure that his best friend and partner, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) doesn’t get wind of his newfound hobby.

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Usually, in superhero shows, one sees very clear demarcations between good and bad. We have the hero, he is a good man, sometimes a wronged man, but most definitely a man with a gift, who must put it into use protecting people, and we have the bad man, an overall unappealing person who thinks about nothing but evil. The makers ensure that the audience doesn’t spend too much time wondering who to root for. Daredevil though, takes on a different path. The evil, awful villain and “Kingpin”, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is given a love story, and a rather tender one at that. Matt, on the other hand, is made to question himself multiple times about his own intentions with respect to protecting his city. After all, he constantly advises people to believe in letting the legal system take its course while wearing uncomfortable spandex and beating people up at night, making his own moral system a very murky shade of grey.

Daredevil is a series about a vigilante hero who is flawed, and a series which proves that you don’t need incredible super powers to be interesting. You only have to be human.

{Marvel’s Daredevil is presently on Netflix}

Tinker Tailor Manager Spy

{Previously Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

A few weeks ago, I’d written about the first episode and the general buzz surrounding BBC’s new, greatly hyped and exorbitant production of John Le Carre’s celebrated spy novel, The Night Manager. The relentlessly excellent series wrapped up last week, ending the roller coaster ride of emotion and the mini heart attacks that viewers underwent each time they saw an episode.

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Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is the night manager at The Nefertiti hotel in Egypt. One night, the girlfriend of the most powerful man in Cairo gives him access to information about an arms deal that her boyfriend’s family is in the middle of with one Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), a British industrialist who she calls “the worst man in the world”, which could potentially alter the fate of the political situation in Egypt. Pine alerts the British embassy about the deal, and does all that he can to protect her, but fails. The British Embassy, with the exception of one person, Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) becomes conspicuously silent, and Sophie is forced to come back to the hotel, where she dies a gruesome death. Pine, who is now traumatised by the series of events, takes up a new job as a manager in a ski resort in picturesque town in Switzerland, where he meets Richard Roper again.
The wounds reopen, and Pine contacts Angela Burr again. We learn that she is a British enforcement agent who has been trying to nab Roper and his illegal weapon deals her entire career, but with little support because Roper has the entire British intelligence in his back pocket. She asks him if he would be willing to become, and to commit to become a spy for her, and infiltrate Roper’s ranks, gain his trust and ultimately, expose him. Pine agrees, setting off a motion of events which form the series.

Tom Hiddleston is nothing short of delicious as Jonathan Pine, the spy who blazes his way up Roper’s ranks with a combination of his sort of self-deprecating “Who, me?” charm, and his surprising capability and tolerance for brutality. During the time the series was aired, there was a great deal of talk about Tom Hiddleston being the most obvious candidate for the next James Bond – a sentiment that I agreed to at the start of the series, and as the series progressed it felt like one that even the show’s makers shared – why else would Pine be made to order a Martini at a Casino?

Olivia Colman does even better as the unwavering, and very pregnant Angela Burr who is dogged in her pursuit of Roper despite all the odds (and the government) not being in her favour. Tom Hollander as Major “Corky” Corkoran, Roper’s sharp tongued right hand man, and Elizabeth Debicki as Roper’s ethereally beautiful girlfriend, Jed, are also stunning in their portrayals of their respective characters.

If you’ve read Le Carre’s novel, you’d know that Richard Roper is the kind of malevolent business man, who, after seeing little children choke and die from a gas bombing in a school in Kurdistan, starts peddling the chemical to his buyers. Hugh Laurie, during the promotions for the show, said that he had “impudently imagined” himself portraying Pine the spy, not Roper the arms dealer, because “loathed” the character. Laurie then said that he decided to play him anyway because “there is something intoxicating about someone who has put themselves beyond the bounds of laws, who has the confidence, the daring, the kind of madness.” I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve no doubt that Laurie’s Roper is much more terrifying than Le Carre’s.