TV Review: Westworld Season 2 (2018)

*WARNING THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR BOTH SEASON 1 AND SEASON 2*

 

Westworld is back and just as confusing, fascinating, and entertaining as ever. Season 1 ended with the assassination of Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), Park Director, by Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), the park’s most notable host who has come to realize what the nature of her reality is. From this point on, it is a battle between the hosts, who want to escape Westworld and destroy it, and the humans, who want to regain control of Westworld and destroy the hosts. Within this battle, there are several storylines involving the main characters from Season 1. William aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris) is trying to win Ford’s “game” as he searches all over Westworld to find the true meaning behind it. Meanwhile, Dolores and Teddy are rounding up the other hosts as they try to battle back and escape Westworld. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) finds Elsie, a Westworld employee in the programming division who was lost in Season 1, and the two try to figure out what is causing the abnormal behavior of the hosts. Finally, Maeve (Thandi Newton) is on a mission to find her daughter once she realizes her past.

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One of the most interesting things about this season is the revelation of the true purpose of Westworld. The idea of Westworld is not solely a park where guests can do whatever they want consequence-free, but rather a venue in which to collect data about the hosts experiences and decisions. All of this time, it wasn’t the hosts that were being monitored and studied, it was the guests. What the was the reason for this? Something that humans have been trying to figure out since the dawn of time: how to achieve immortality. By obtaining a comprehensive data set of an individual’s every move and decision within a world where that individual does not know they are being monitored and there are no consequences, the Westworld scientists can develop an accurate profile of who that person really is. Once that profile is created, it can be programmed into a host body effectively allowing that person’s consciousness to live forever in a body identical to their physical one but indestructible. However, we see during the season that experiments to make this happen repeatedly fail – the human consciousness cannot survive long-term within a host body. The reason for this is revealed in the season finale, which is one of my favorite episodes of television.

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In the season finale, Bernard and Elsie discover The Forge within Westworld, where all of the guests data is being tracked and stored. In The Forge, they meet a host version of Logan Delos, son of James Delos of Delos Inc., the company that owns Westworld. He explains the reason that the experiments to recreate humans in host bodies failed was because the code in the hosts was too complex. Humans, he says, have a very simple code and are not as complex as we might think. This idea also leads into the main theme of this season overall: free will vs. determinism. Westworld argues that it is in fact the hosts that have free will and the humans that have a predetermined destination. This helps explain why the hosts were ultimately able to become self-aware and change their destiny from a repeated loop of timelines within Westworld to one where they chose to break out of that loop and seek the real world. On the other end, the experiments to replicate humans in host bodies always resulted in that human arriving at the same destination every time, suggesting that we don’t have the ability to determine our final destination even if we do have the ability to make choices along the way.

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Once again, Westworld does a phenomenal job in exploring the very fundamental concepts of human nature in a way that we have never seen before. The show takes a deep dive at exploring what truly makes us human, and questions what the line is between human being and artificial intelligence. I think this is a fascinating concept to think about while living in a world where virtual reality is becoming more and more enhanced, slowly blurring the line between what is real and what isn’t. Throughout this whole season, you began to question who was real and who was a host. You couldn’t make any assumptions, but instead had to really pay attention to every move and every decision that was being made. This season was certainly very confusing at times, constantly jumping between different timelines, so I often had to read articles and analysis after each episode explaining what happened. However, I really enjoyed the season overall and am very excited for Season 3.

Let me know your thoughts about this season in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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Movie Review: Uncle Drew (2018)

What started as a series of Pepsi commercials has now made it to Hollywood, as Kyrie Irving makes his debut on the big screen as Uncle Drew. When Dax (Lil Rel Howery) loses his best player Casper (Aaron Gordon) to his rival coach Mookie (Nick Kroll), he must figure out how to assemble a team that can compete at the Rucker Park Classic where a grand prize of $100,000 is on the line. After witnessing Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) dominate a kid during a pick up game, Dax tries to convince him to come out of retirement and gain closure by playing for him in the tournament where the legend of Uncle Drew began so many years earlier.

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The cast of Uncle Drew is what made this movie the most entertaining for me. As a huge basketball fan, this movie was loaded with some of the funnier players in the sport. Kyrie does a pretty decent job as Uncle Drew, but when you add the team that he assembles it becomes so ridiculous that you can’t help but be entertained. You have Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), and even Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie – WNBA player). With this cast of characters, the entertainment never stops. Lights is blind, Boots is in a wheelchair, and Big Fella is a karate teacher. Add in the fact that this whole squad is around 80 years old, and it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the most realistic movie of all time.

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If you are a basketball fan and can accept that this movie isn’t the most realistic and that the plot is pretty basic, than I think you will be entertained by the comedy of it all. I certainly thought there were parts that were hilarious, and I liked that there were several jokes that were NBA-specific thrown in there as well (Shaq making fun of Kobe, Chris Webber timeout joke). I also thought it was cool how many cameos there were of NBA players, including Steve Nash, Bill Walton, Chris Mullin, Jerry West, David Robinson, and Dikembe Mutombo to name a few. Going into the movie, I didn’t have the highest expectations for a film based on a silly commercial. However, while certainly not Oscar worthy, it ended up being very entertaining and I thought it was definitely worth seeing.

IMDB: 5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% critic, 61% audience
My final rating: 6.7/10

Let me know your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

-Jeff

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Movie Review: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Ryan Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson aka Deadpool in the highly anticipated sequel to the 2016 Marvel film. This time, Deadpool must form a team of superheroes around him to stop the time-traveling cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin). Cable has returned from the future on a mission to destroy a little boy with supernatural abilities, who apparently becomes a destructive force in the future that Cable is trying to prevent.

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The unique aspect of the Deadpool movies that is different from most Marvel superhero movies is the self-awareness of the film, and Deadpool 2 does just as great a job as the original. It begins with the opening credits, which is done to look like the opening of a James Bond movie while also making fun of credits scenes in general. From that point, it’s roller coaster of action, ridiculous fight scenes, inside jokes and one liners, and even some heartfelt messages at the end. This movie definitely had the feel of “we know this is a ridiculous movie, so we’re going to go all out to make it entertaining and not take ourselves as seriously as other superhero movies.”

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Ryan Reynolds does a fantastic job accomplishing this throughout the movie. Although there were definitely some jokes that missed, there were several creative and funny one-liners and pop culture references as well. Referring to X-men as X-people, signing the Wheaties box with Wolverine as “Ryan Reynolds”, and traveling back in time to kill himself as Green Lantern were just a few of the many jokes and references in this movie. If you’re looking for a superhero movie with a serious and realistic plot, then Deadpool 2 probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re willing to go in with the expectation that there will be dumb parts to this movie, but that there will also be parts that are funny and very entertaining, than you will have an enjoyable time.

IMDB: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 82% critic, 86% audience
My final rating: 7.4/10

Let me know your thoughts and comments about this movie in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

 

Avengers: Infinity War is the highly anticipated crossover event that is a culmination of over a dozen separate Marvel movies. The villain Thanos is on a mission to collect all six of the infinity stones, each of which contain a different power, in order to execute his mission of wiping out half of all known species in the universe. It is up to the Avengers to stop Thanos from collecting the stones in order to save the universe as they know it.

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With such a star studded cast of main characters, one may wonder how realistic it is to give each superhero an appropriate amount of face time. However, I thought this was something that the movie did very well. They were able to introduce each superhero and connect them to the overall plot in an efficient manner, and each character played a key role throughout the course of this movie. I also thought the movie did a really good job of blending comedy and serious themes throughout the movie. One moment you would have Tony Stark cracking jokes and the next moment you would have Thanos having to make crucial decisions about sacrifices for the infinity stone. The movie was never too dark or too comedic throughout, it was a really well done blend.

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One of the most interesting things about this movie, in my opinion, was the philosophy of the main villain, Thanos. He believes that in order to bring balance to the universe and preserve its finite resources, half of its population must be wiped out. This is an interesting twist for a villain’s motive, since he is not necessarily interested in conquering on other planets and taking over, but truly believes he is doing what is necessary for the good of the universe. He tells a story in the movie about a planet that was suffering, but after he wiped out half the population the planet began to thrive again because there were enough resources to go around. While I certainly don’t think his approach is the right way to go, it does bring up an interesting point when we think about the population on Earth. We only have a finite amount of resources on this planet, and the population is growing exponentially faster than it is dying. What ultimately happens when we do run out of resources?

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and thought they did a great job with all of the superheroes, supervillains, comedy, and plot.

Final Rating: 9/10

Let me know your thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2018 NBA Conference Finals Preview and Predictions

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The NBA is down to the final four, and while there were lots of twists and turns along the way during the regular season, these are the teams everyone expected to be here when the season began.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: #4 Cleveland Cavaliers @ #2 Boston Celtics (+230)

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The Celtics and Cavs meet once again in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, which Cleveland won in 5 games before losing to Golden State in the Finals. Both teams have a different look this year. The Celtics completely overhauled their roster and now depend on Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier as go to players in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cavs midseason trade brought them George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance jr, and Jordan Clarkson to be the sidekicks for Lebron. James has been on fire this postseason scoring 34 PPG, 9 APG, and 9 RPG and is coming of a four game beatdown of the top seeded Raptors.

The key for the Cavs is who will step up besides Lebron. Kevin Love is the obvious second choice, but the Cavs will contributions from role players like JR Smith and Kyle Korver who can knock down threes in order to take some pressure off Lebron. For the Celtics, the emergence of Terry Rozier after Kyrie Irving went down has been a huge part of their success. His ability to knock down threes and limit turnovers has elevated him to another level. After slumping in the second half of the season, rookie Jayson Tatum has become a bigtime factor in the postseason, scoring 20+ points in 6 consecutive games. Ultimately the success of the Celtics lies with coach Brad Stevens, who will be tasked with creating a gameplan to slow Lebron and expose the porous Cavs defense. I think this will be a hard fought series but ultimately the Cavs win in 6 games.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: #2 Golden State Warriors @ #1 Houston Rockets (+180)

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The Rockets have been the popular pick to disrupt Golden State’s annual trip to the NBA Finals out of the Western Conference this year. Likely MVP James Harden and newcomer Chris Paul have elevated the team to another level which resulted in the NBA’s best record and two easy series wins to start the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Warriors have gone under the radar due to a combination of injuries and a seeming lack of interest in the regular season at times. Golden State will be looking for it’s fourth straight Finals berth while the Rockets are looking to reach the Finals for the first time since 1994.

Houston has the all-star back court with Harden and Paul, but there are several other players that deserve recognition as well. Clint Capela has been a force under the rim this year both offensively and defensively, and Eric Gordon has been a spark off the bench and instant scoring option for the bench unit. Houston is known for their quick pace and deadly three point shooting, and will certainly need it to keep pace with the Warriors. It’s no secret who the Warriors are at this point. With the Big Four in Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green, they are virtually impossible to stop after bringing back nearly the entire team that went 16-1 in the playoffs the year before. Now that they are healthy and in a groove, I don’t see anybody stopping this Golden State team, not even the team with the NBA’s best record. Warriors win in 5 games.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2018 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview and Predictions

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The Final Four in the East is set, featuring the defending conference champion, last year’s #1 seed, this year’s #1 seed, and the team most people are picking to win the Finals. Here is my preview and prediction for the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

 

#3 Philadelphia 76ers @ #2 Boston Celtics (+310)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics squeezed out a 7 game series win over Milwaukee while Philadelphia quickly disposed of the Heat in 5 games in the first round. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward out, and the 76ers playing their best basketball, the road team will come into this series as the favorite. Despite this, I think the Celtics still match up really well with the 76ers and Brad Stevens has the edge at coach per usual. After dealing with Giannis in the first round, the Celtics defense should be able to slow down Simmons. Al Horford played his best playoff series as a Celtic in the first round, dominating on offense and defense, and will be tasked with slowing down All-Star center Joel Embiid. While neither Simmons and Embiid are shooters, they are surrounded by veterans JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli, and Robert Covington who can knock down shots from the outside. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier will have to step up on the offense end to keep pace. In the end, I think the Celtics win a hard fought series in 7 games.

 

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers @ #1 Toronto Raptors (-220)

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Both of these teams struggled more than they probably should have in the first round, but advanced nonetheless. The Cavs have historically dominated the Raptors in the playoffs, but Toronto hopes to prove this year will be different. Fred VanVleet coming back off the bench will provide a spark for the Raptors deep second unit, and the Cavs will have to contain DeMar Rozan who is capable of exploding against mediocre Cleveland defense in this series. Lebron will no doubt have a great series, but his supporting cast was absent at times in the first round, and they can’t afford to have that happen against Toronto. I think this series will be a good battle, with the Raptors winning in 7 games.

 

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2018 Western Conference Semifinals Preview and Predictions

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The NBA Playoffs are on to the second round in the Western Conference beginning Saturday, April 28th, so here is my preview and prediction for the two series.

 

#6 New Orleans Pelicans @ #2 Golden State Warriors (-850)

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The New Orleans Pelicans will be rested when they take on the defending champs, after being the only team to sweep their first round series. Golden State will be rested as well, after having disposed of the Spurs in five games to win their 10th straight Western Conference playoff series. With the status of Stephen Curry still very much in doubt, I think the Pelicans have a real chance in this one. Anthony Davis is arguably the best player in the series right up there with Kevin Durant. The Pelicans backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday has been outstanding in the playoffs. The Warriors still have the firepower with Durant, Green, and Thompson, but I don’t see how anyone on that team defense Anthony Davis, and I think Rondo and Holiday will give the Warriors guards a lot of trouble on defense. Head coach Alvin Gentry has been doing a great job with the rotations for New Orleans so far in the Playoffs. Pelicans win the series in 6.

 

#5 Utah Jazz @ #1 Houston Rockets (-600)

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The surprising Utah Jazz have continued their run into the Western Conference Semifinals, where they will take on the NBA’s best regular season team in the Houston Rockets. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and even Ricky Rubio played great for Utah against OKC in the first round. Meanwhile, Harden had his ups and downs but Houston ultimately took control of the series against Minnesota and won in five. Psychologically, this will be a test for the Rockets with their two star guards James Harden and Chris Paul being notorious for early playoff exits and underachieving. I think Gobert will dominate the paint and take away a lot of the drives from Harden, while Donovan Mitchell will once again be a start. Utah upsets Houston in 7.

 

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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