HDIM Reviews: Love, Death + Robots (2019)

Love, Death + Robots is an anthology of 18 stories, ranging from 6 minutes to 16 minutes long. There’s sex, nudity, profanity, violence and gore sprinkled all over them. Each episode is made with digital animation, each in turn with its own signature, theme and flair. The animation is as nice to enjoy as the storylines themselves. That said, not every episode is for everyone.

Love, Death, Robot

This series is sooooooo not for kids. There’s no two ways about it. So many of them could have worked fine with a PG-rating but for some reason, they just want to throw some genitalia in, some nudity in, some cussing or a gunshot to the head, just for the heck of it.

Netflix just wants to get it out of the way that this is a purely NSFW watch. Doesn’t mean you cannot work around it. If you’re pressed for time, I suggest you check out the following 9 episodes first:

Suits – 17 Min (Monster Warfare)

Easily my favourite in the whole series, this episode features in stunning graphics a community of farmers that have to fight off swarming alien pests with mech robots, missiles and cannons like it’s just one of their everyday farming chores. There’s slight cussing and a ton of alien-killing. Fun watch you can enjoy with older kids.

Lucky 13 – 14 Min (Warfare)

Pilots are a superstitious bunch, says Colby the protagonist in the show. But as she was the rookie, she had no choice but to fly the “coffin with wings”. This is a good one. One of my favourites. I forget that this is purely digital animation when I watch Colby and the soldiers in action. At least until she is out of the plane. The storyline is simple but it takes the cake. Nice one.

Zima Blue – 10 Min (Safe)

A young reporter heads to an exclusive interview with art extraordinaire Zima as she breaks down Zima’s artform. Upon meeting him, he asks her to tell the world his story: why most of his work features a special type of blue and what he found at the end of his search for truth and his origin. This is based on a short story by Alastair Reynolds who is also the author for Beyond the Aquila Rift.

Fish Night – 10 Min (1 Quick Strip)

A father-and-son salesman team suffers a car breakdown on a deserted stretch of road. The father ponders upon the concept of ghosts from an older world. That night, they get visitors, but not the kind you’d expect. One of the more visually stunning episode in the whole anthology and great storytelling.

Three Robots – 11 Mins (language)

Three tourist robots visit a post-apocalyptic Earth planet. It’s a funny, intelligent episode that pokes fun at the apocalypse, not something you see every day. This episode is based on a short story by John Scalzi who also wrote the Yogurt story and Alternate Histories.

Helping Hand – 10 Min

A lone astronaut works at a space station with no backup. After a mishap she found herself set adrift, running low on oxygen, with no way to get back to the station. Because the title of the story is Helping Hand, of course she got back safe and sound. The how though, is what makes this a great story that will haunt you long after you’re done with them. I can’t label the genre without giving the spoiler away.

Alternate Histories – 7 Min (Nudity)

Ask anyone what would they do if they could go back in time, and some might say something about Hitler. Well, there’s an app for that now. What would happen if Hitler had died? The demo version of Multiversity, the app shows you six alternate timelines. Hitler is depicted in a cute way in this app but don’t let that fool you, he dies quite horribly in every single one of them.

When The Yogurt Took Over – 6 mins (safe?)

This is a real short one. It’s only around 6 mins long. The design reminded me of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the narrator’s voice made me feel a bit of nostalgia. Turns out, the episode was narrated by Maurice LaMarche (the latter in Pinky and the Brain). This could be one you can watch with the kids if you don’t mind that one scene where there is a naked lady protesting, and a guy shooting himself in the head, point-blank.

*I read the short story this episode is based on. This is a story better savoured as a read than an animated episode.

The President speaks to Yogurt

Ice Age – 10 Min (Safe)

A couple who just moved in found a miniature lost civilisation in their old fridge. Tobey Maguire and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the only two real life characters in the whole anthology star in this episode. It would have worked with just either one of them, really. You can watch this with the kids unless you have a problem with them seeing how a T-Rex feeds.

Let’s see what we got in the fridge

What about the Rest?

When you got time for the rest of the anthology, here’s what to expect. These will take you out of your comfort zone. For the general population anyways.

The Witness – 12 Min (Lots of Nudity)

A prostitute and nude cam dancer in a Hong-Kong’esque city witnesses a murder across the building. She is chased across town by the murderer. Due to the nature of her work, she is naked more than 60% of the episode, even as she runs in public trying to escape her pursuer. The graphics are extremely fluid and life-like, and the conclusion will blow your mind.

Shape-Shifter – 16 Min (Monster Warefare)

Two soldiers with unnatural powers sign up for a tour in Afghanistan. They face discrimination on camp but continues to serve out of the love for their country. For me, the discrimination is harder to watch than the gore. They have captured warfare wonderfully well. Not so much with the eyes and mouths.

Beyond the Aquila Rift – 16 Min (Sex)

Based on a short story by Alastair Reynolds, a space crew got lost while travelling through space. Waking up from cryogenic sleep, Thom is greeted by a friendly face who tells him they are thousands of light years off course from home. The truth however is far far worse. Greta is extremely lifelike compared to the rest of the cast. That’s all I have to say about this one.

This is Greta. Greta is animated.

Sonnie’s Edge – 17 Mins (So Not Safe)

If you are a fan of MMA, imagine that with two monsters battling it to the end in the ring. Expect extreme violence best savoured in HD. Oh and there’s a side story about why Sonnie would not throw the fight and where she got her edge. The graphics are better than the storyline. Take the wins.

Welcome to MMMA

The Secret War (Monster Warfare)

We follow a small Russian army in their deadly fight against an ancient evil. Unless you like battles with ugly, vicious monsters, you can give this one a skip. I wish I did. It wasn’t a pretty sight. This guy (below) looks incredible lifelike and natural compared to his peers. I applaud the team that made this possible.

Incredibly lifelike

Blindspot – 8 Min (Violence)

A group of 5 cybernetic robbers ambush a heavily guarded train to steal a microchip. Unbeknownst to them, something deadly awaits them on board. The animation feels like an upgrade of your 80s Saturday morning action cartoon. You know what else? This could work as a spinoff series.

Good Hunting – 17 Mins (Not Safe)

The huli jing is a spirit fox, a mythological creature in Chinese folklore. In this story a huli jing forges a friendship with the son of a spirit hunter who decapitated her mother. As ancient China evolves, the huli jing struggles to return to her true form and seeks the help of her old friend. A lot of nudity in this one, and the cruelty of mankind will make you sick to your stomach.

The Dump – 10 Min (Just downright urgh)

A City Inspector tries to evict a stubborn, dirty, old man who lives a home he built in the city dump. The old man tells the inspector the tale of Otto, which he had found in the same dump. I needed to wash my eyes after watching this one. It’s amazing how ugly and displeasing they can make everything look in this one. That in itself is an artform.

Sucker of Souls – 13 MINS (Lots of Blood)

An extremely violent and bloody episode, Sucker of Souls features a mercenary-aided academician stumbling upon Dracula in its purest form. Expect a lot of blood, gun power, bombs, running and did I mention blood?

Before the chaos

This anthology idea is nice. You can come in, watch an episode 5-10 minutes long, ruminate on it, then come back for more. More short stories, please!

HDIM 100-Word Reviews: Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

As a supernatural horror film Velvet Buzzsaw is mild. But it is an easy watch because of the wonderful cast. Jake Gyllenhaal shines as a bisexual art critic who stumbles upon the true reason people he worked with kept dying.

Toni Collete and Jake Gyllenhaal make their mark in the world of art

The rest of the cast: Toni Collete, Rene Russo, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen will keep your attention on the screen until the murderous haunted art starts claiming lives.

Rene Russo, 65, still stuns on screen.

It starts strong but sputters to a meh ending once Gyllenhaal dies. That said, it was fun while it lasts. Oh, and wait til you find out what Velvet Buzzsaw actually means.

HDIM 100-Word Reviews: IO (2019)

What happens when the Earth is no longer habitable? Do you escape it, where to? Do you stay to save it? Can you stay? Io makes you ask these questions. How much are you willing to work on, no, bet on to ensure the survival of the human race?

Io shines the spotlight on how far humanity has come. If we leave a dying Earth, we not only leave the bad. We also leave all the good we made with it.

For Sam, last woman on Earth, that’s the reason why we can’t abandon home. Even if it means loneliness.

HDIM Reviews: Wanted (2016-2018)

Wanted is an Australian series about a tough and downtrodden supermarket teller, Lola and the strange alliance she forged with Chelsea, a young accountant with posh tastes.

They took the same bus for 18 months but never really spoke to each other.

They met at a bus stop where a criminal exchange had gone wrong and when Lola went to help, she and Chelsea were kidnapped by one of the ruffians. In their attempt to escape attempted murders from criminals and capture by the police, the unlikely duo turned into Australia’s Most Wanted. And they have been on the run ever since.

Hey, they both got surnames that start with B

What started out as an already interesting (but not new) premise evolved into a more interesting look into the relationship between these two women. The younger Chelsea is green around the gills and lived a sheltered life, while Lola is older, wiser, more tested, having killed before.

I want to say that they developed a mother-daughter relationship over the three seasons, but their bond seemed more balanced and levelled. It’s almost as if they became the only other person on Earth that either of them would trust. That’s what happens when you save each other’s asses while you fumbled in and out of messes, countless times.

They spend a lot of time in very remote places

Despite all the coincidences and the fact that they have 29 lives (how do they not die from dehydration when stranded in the Australian outback, it’s just ridiculous), the series is rooted in some of the toughest of realities: domestic violence, crooked cops, human trafficking, smuggling, brutalities in prison, etc.

Kidnapped in Bangkok

(Spoilers!) Near the end of season 3, at the verge of being caught, Chelsea launches into this emotional tirade of how they had been running (for three seasons) mostly because nobody believed that they were innocent and that they had to run. I think that “believe women” bid was nicely and timely done and the season finale can’t be better, because of it.

HDIM Reviews: YOU (2018)

Spoiler Alert! If you are reading reviews, you’re gonna get spoiled.

YOU is a killer hit Netflix bought from Lifetime starring Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager, and Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck, the girl of Joe’s dreams. It’s not a typical love story, but it is one for the ages, more specifically, it’s one for this age.

You (2018) is based on a book by Caroline Kepnes

By now you would have heard your friends wailed about how romantic or how creepy Joe is, and that’s why they kept watching, to see if he would prevail, or if he would get caught.

Hi, I’m Joe. Not Joseph. Just Joe.

See, Joe believes in love at first sight, and he strives to be that perfect boyfriend. You know, the one who knows your favourite food, your favourite cafe, how you take your coffee, what song you like, what your insecurities and deepest, darkest secrets are. And how does he know all that?

He stalks you on social media, duh. Oh, and your friends too. For a guy who doesn’t have any social media presence, Joe is ridiculously adept at online-stalking. Then again, it doesn’t really take a genius to figure these things out, and Joe is one very, very clever guy.

If that wasn’t enough, he also breaks into people’s houses. He’ll break into your house, your friend’s house, your therapist’s office, anywhere just to get the information that he needs and will use for nefarious purposes.

Joe believes love conquers all, even breaking and entering, sabotage, kidnapping, assault, even a murder or two, or three (I don’t really know the final count), and he believes that what he is doing is protecting, helping and motivating Beck to excel in her otherwise meaningless life.

Oh, wait. We need to talk about Beck. This is Beck as viewed by Joe on the street, through her house window. Notice anything missing?

Beck has issues.

She also has a pretty face, dresses well, is a shameless flirt who refuses to acknowledge this (girl, control yourself), doesn’t believe in blinds or curtains, is a pushover, is self-absorbed, has no self control when it comes to healthy relationships, social media, friends, men, sex, money, or her craft (writing), but the worst of it all is that she sighs a lot.

Like a lot, lot. Like everything in the world is too much work for her lot. She sighs when she said or did something wrong, she sighs when she knows she has to fix something, she sighs when someone is upset with her through no fault of her own. She lives for sighs. Sigh, Sigh, Sigh. But I digress. #Becksighstoomuch

She is today’s equivalent of the damsel in distress, depicted as a girl who is is hopeless without Joe. This, to me, is why YOU works – because when the antagonist is charming but clearly demented and evil, and the protagonist is a loser yet innocent, naive, and in general can do no wrong to others: who do you root for?

Ah, the perfect couple

To help drive this concept home, from the get go, we entered the story from Joe’s perspective. We hear his inner thoughts, his inner panic, his inner frustrations but he never tells you his plans. Those, you get to see unfold as it happens. It helps that he has a narrative voice that will lure you into a false sense of security. Cause that’s so Joe.

Another thing that helps make you root for not-Beck is the toxic environment Beck almost always finds herself in. There’s her diva friends, Peach, Lynn and Annika. I enjoy them whenever they are on screen because of how ridiculous their characters are depicted to be. It’s hilarious.

The first time we see Annika, Peach and Lynn #goodjobbeck

Then there’s Beck’s boyfriend, Benji, a douchebag and totally someone you can see Beck falling for because she is terrible with men. Speaking of men, Beck has daddy issues as well. I don’t really see the point in the father as a character. But you gotta fill those hours, right?

Outside of how Joe treats Beck, he is a saint compared to Ron, the guy who is beating his next door neighbour and single parent, Claudia. Her son, Paco, spends more time reading in the hallway outside the door than inside the house, which is why Joe and Paco share a special relationship held together by their love of books and staying out of Claudia and Ron’s relationship.

The one person Joe will never hurt, Paco

A delight to see in the later episodes of the series is John Stamos who plays the scruffy and rugged-looking therapist who Beck, then Joe goes to to get help. He has way more significance than Beck’s dad. He deserves more screentime. Yup.

Maybe I should go to therapy too

Therapist Dr Nicky tells Joe that there are two parts to him. One who believes true love exists, and the other who is so fearful to have it only to lose it later. I believe this is true for most of us as well. We want to love and be loved, but we are so afraid to find it because then there is the possibility of us losing it.

Not with Joe. Joe doesn’t lose things. Joe will put you in a cage and break your legs if you try to run. Then he will spew misguided nonsense about what love is and the sacrifices one has to make for love. True love. Joe has a glass cage for his books, but he isn’t above using it for keeping people in. Which he does.

YOU is an absolutely terrifying story about what one man would do for love and whether the woman he is obsessed with can love him back. So far a second season has been confirmed.

Personal thoughts: I should get the books.

HDIM Reviews: Alias Grace (2017)

My favourite accent has always been the Irish accent, but I never knew that there were sub-accents(?) that differ depending on which part of Ireland you are from (now that I’ve said that, it kinda makes perfect sense although my ear would probably not be able to tell the difference).

Apparently the accent that Canadian actress, Sarah Gadon has in her role as is-she-isnt-she-a-murderess, Grace Marks, is a Northern Ireland accent. And she nailed that role so hard, your head is left spinning after watching the conclusion.

Sarah Gadon stuns in Alias Grace

Spoilers ahead!

The 6-part series, Alias Grace explores the story about a maid named Grace Marks, who at the start of the show, had been serving time for her part in two gruesome murders. A doctor is asked to come talk to her, to garner any sense of real guilt or innocence in her, and hopefully, secure a release for her after 15 years of imprisonment.

The show is based on a 1996 book by Margaret Atwood, who also wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. And Atwood fictionalised it from an 1843 true story where a maid of the same name was convicted of two gruesome murders many were not entirely convinced she had a hand in.

Over the six episodes, Grace would tell the doctor about how she had been treated during her incarceration in the asylum and in prison, how her mother had died during the journey over, and had left her and her siblings under the care of an abusive drunkard father.

Grace speaks to the good doctor while tending to her chores

She told him about how she became employed as a maid, where she would find solace and a friend in Mary Whitney, a crucial character in her story.

Spoilers ahead!

Mary would become pregnant with a child that belonged to the master of the house and of course we all know how that will turn out. She tries to have the baby aborted but succumbs to the procedure, bleeding to death that same night in the bed she sleeps in.

Grief-stricken, Grace leaves the household for a job with higher pay and moves to the home where the murders would eventually occur. We then get to see who the victims and the co-conspirators were to Grace, and what led up to the murders.

Well, at least up until the murders, after which, Grace would have no memory of. How convenient.

Throughout the series, the doctor is shown to develop an attraction (fuelled by pity, perhaps) to Grace (it’s that accent, I tell ya), and every time someone tells him that Grace is capable of lies and deceit, that seems to make him want to help her more. In the final episode, he eventually allows a Dr DuPont to conduct hypnotism on Grace to restore some of her memories of the event.

The seance scene

The finale is an episode you do not want to miss.

Verdict: Watch it if murder mysteries do not make you squeamish and you are up for slow-burn storytelling. Runtime is 45 mins x 6 episodes.

HDIM 100-word Reviews: Bad Genius (2017)

Bad Genius debates the ethics of cheating in exams and the moral repercussions one has to deal with when they get caught and when they don’t.

Screengrab from Netflix

No matter if you have tried cheating in a school exam before, you can relate to the level of stress portrayed in this clever Thai movie. The various ingenious cheating methods are fun to watch, but what really needs a shout-out is the editing done on this movie.

Screengrab from Netflix

You wouldn’t be able to tell that the four main characters were first-time actors. It’s a great two-hour movie for the whole family.

HDIM 100-word Reviews: Hilda (2018)

Based on a graphic novel, Hilda is an adorable and brave protagonist in a delightful animated series that is perfect for kids and preteens alike.

Hilda on Facebook

Hilda’s world is one with trolls that come alive at night and turn to rock in the day, nisse, creatures that live in the crevices in your wall and sofa, and the back of your bookcase, as well as paperwork-obsessed tiny elves.

Hilda herself displays a true sense of adventure, bravery, a strong moral compass and a great love for the environment. She’s the role model you have been waiting for all your life!

HDIM Reviews: Mowgli (2018)

Andy Serkis’s Mowgli is basically Jungle Book, the “Dark Knight” version.

I recently read my daughter’s Jungle Book school textbook (graphic novel) for English. Amongst many other retellings, this film version is close (if not closest) to the book version. And things got dark pretty much from the get-go.

The story is slower, methodical, disturbing and rooted in reality. For instance, Mowgli looks perpetually starving. The wolves don’t have clean, trimmed, silky fur. The elephants have moss growing on top of their heads and bodies.

It’s different of course, you’re used to seeing things prim and proper whereas here you have a Shere Khan who is in bad need of a shave. And Tabaqui has an appearance only a mother can love (not this mother though). 

Ugly as sin

From his time in LOTR, Serkis has revolutionised virtual production, as he calls it. In Mowgli, the characters show human facial expressions and emotions. If you don’t already know, Serkis himself voices Baloo the Bear who teaches the Laws of the Jungle. He doesn’t sign about Bare Necessities in this one. 

A somewhat eerie yet important observation one can make is that the eyes of the “animals” reflect those of humans. As uncomfortable as the thought makes me, it’s incredible that this can be translated onto the screen. I’m no expert but this is award-winning stuff right here.

It’s interesting to know that in the book, Kaa, the snake was a good guy, and that Shere Khan was trampled to death by panicked cows in an ambush masterminded by Mowgli and his brother wolves.

In this movie, Kaa is a seer who can see into the past and future, and she is neither friend nor foe. Shere Khan dies in the hands of Mowgli in a brutal not kid-friendly way.