Category Archives: mystery

Is There an Android in Your Future?

Androids. One of the most popular, recurring themes in science fiction. A theme very popular today as several movies and television shows have focused on topic and made it very, well, human.

Ex Machina

First up there’s the feature film, Ex Machina in which nerdy genius Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest which allows him to spend a week with Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac), the mysterious, reclusive CEO of the company where Caleb works. Nathan lives in a house in the middle of primeval forests, accessible only by pontoon aircraft. He has created Ava (Alicia Vikander), an android he wishes to pair in conversation with Caleb to see if artificial intelligence really works. No spoilers here just a note that this suspenseful film delivers a memorable climax and conclusion.  It’s on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter boasts a superb picture but the sound is tricky. The dialogue is on the soft side but if you boost it, the music score and sound effects might blow you out of your home. The exaggerated dynamic range eases up after the first third of the movie.

Humans

Humans is an 8-part first season of a show filmed in Great Britain and shown in the U. S. on AMC. The show is set in the near future where people can buy “synths,” as the androids are called, to do domestic duties and the like. But the creator of the androids that look exactly like humans gave a small group of them extra, human emotions and reasoning powers. Humans follows the interactions of this artificial family with a real human family. They win over most of the real humans, but not all. At the end of the season, the line between human and android begins to blur. Low key yet totally absorbing thanks to fine casting and an intelligent script.

Extant

Extant was created as a starring show for Halle Berry. She stars as an astronaut scientist who orbits in space for a year, then returns to earth mysteriously pregnant. That’s the main theme, but a parallel one examines her relationship with her android son, Ethan. One of the most interesting questions asked is whether Ethan is “property” or not. The show turned into a bit of a snooze in its first season, so no blame if you stopped watching it. But season two is revved up with new acting blood, tighter scripts and more answers. Give it a second chance and I think you’ll agree that it’s appealing science fiction. And after watching all three of these productions, you’ll probably start looking at the stranger next to you at the bus stop and asking yourself “I wonder if he/she is one of them?” You’ll never know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign TV Via Netflix

Netflix streaming, which I consider one of the great values out there, has always had a smattering of foreign TV, subtitled and all, but that small number of titles has blossomed into a large number that have their own separate search division. Here are three of the  best, which you also might be able to obtain on DVD or Blu-ray disc, depending on your access. But wherever you find them, don’t miss these superlative shows.

The Code

The Code is an Australian show, so it is in English without subtitles. It’s concerned with one of action drama’s favorite topics – government cover up. A young couple, cruising in the outback, gets involved in an accident and the girl dies. A video is involved that proves that the girl was murdered. Two brothers pursue the truth. Reporter Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) wants the story for his raggy newspaper, brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman) is a computer hacker extraordinaire, who keeps the brothers informer but also at odds. The whole cast is find but American actor Zukerman is especially good. Suspense builds and builds for six episodes. and the photography and sound are first rate. Netflix has season one, there’s apparently a season two (also six episodes) in the wings.

Salamander

Salamander is a Belgian TV show and carries easy to read English subtitles.  It’s about espionage and that favorite topic again – government coverup – adding another favorite theme – the heist. Sophisticated thieves go through sewer  tunnels to gain access to a bank’s  safe deposit boxes. They empty 66 of them, taking papers and photos that might prove embarrassing to government officials were they to be revealed. The bank wants no police involvement, fearing the knowledge of the contents of those boxes might bring down the government. One policeman, Paul Geradi (FIlip Peeters) seeks the truth and for his trouble becomes a wanted man, pursuing justice against all odds. Though 12 episodes long, Salamander is taut and exciting to the end, each episode ending with a cliffhanger that propels a viewer on to the next chapter. Breathtaking thrills and lots of cat and mouse action, with multiple cats and multiple mice! A second season is in the works, as is an English language remake.

Witnesses

The Messengers is a French show and like no other I’ve seen.  It’s subtitled and set in a French seacoast town that has vistas of amazing beauty. Three recently buried bodies are discovered exhumed and placed in the show house of a new housing development. They’ve been positioned so as to imitate an average 3-person family. It happens again, and this time, a photograph of a former police investigator is left behind. That man, Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte) rejoins the force and along with his former student, Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), now a full investigator herself, sets out to find the culprits. In episode 3 it becomes clear that these crimes are a distraction to hide a real crime. That one is solved in episode 5, the other in the final episode 6. This show, like Salamander, is exceptionally taut, with splendid photography, and also has Class A movie style acting.  Lhermitte, usually known in France for comedy, and Dompnier have hand in glove chemistry. It’s wonderful to watch them work together.  Lhermitte walks off at the end of this one, but I’ve a feeling he’ll be enticed back for a second season. Let’s hope so.