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Netflix’s Lost in Space

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Netflix has really pulled out all the stops with the scale and budget for this epic show whose every episode plays like a feature film.

I had absolutely no expectations going into Lost in Space, even though Netflix has been killing it when it comes to hardcore sci-fi. Earlier this year the entertainment giant gave us Altered Carbon, which quickly became my favorite sci-fi series on any platform. Couple that with an already enormous library of original sci-fi movies, and one can argue that Netflix are at the top of the streaming market when it comes to geeking out.

Syfy used to be my go-to channel for everything science fiction, but they have fallen a notch or two compared to what Netflix has been unleashing on us. Truth be told, cord cutters have more access to Netflix compared to Syfywhich is still only available through a cable provider. Don’t get me wrong, Syfy has a handful of quality shows you should definitely check out, but some recent cancellations imply the channel may be losing its edge. People want more depth and variety and that’s where Netflix shines. 

If recent reports are correct, Netflix is putting millions into producing more shows based on this exact genre for an eager audience that spans the globe. That being said, let’s dig deep into what makes Netflix’s Lost in Space so special and why it should excite audiences of the genre for future projects from the company.


The show is based on the classic TV series of the same name from the 60’s and also a bit from the 1998 movie – neither of which is required-viewing in order to enjoy this latest incarnation.
Netflix ventures way beyond the source material, a smart choice given that the original series debuted fifty years ago. Only certain references and a few catch phrases remain from the original.

People want more depth and variety and that’s where Netflix shines.

Most people who remember anything at all from Lost in Space do so from the 1998 movie starring William Hurt as Professor John Robinson, along with his wife Dr. Maureen Robinson played by Mimi Rogers, and their teenage son and two daughters, one a doctor played by Heather Graham. One major change made for the Netflix series was not only the age differences of the kids (this cast is so much younger) but the choice to make the overall family dynamic less traditional.

This time around Dr. John Robinson (Toby Stephens) is an Army soldier whose time away from home makes him feel out of place within his own family. Netflix puts a spin on things by having an African American teenage girl as Judy Robinson (Taylor Russell) who is either adopted or maybe conceived from Maureen Robinson’s (House of Cards’ Molly Parker) previous marriage. The show leaves it to the audience to imagine the possibilities. The cast is rounded out by 13 year old Maxwell Jenkins who plays Will Robinson and Mina Sundwill as Penny Robinson bringing a sweet sibling charm you’ve come to expect from Netflix.

The Robinsons are a family of over-achievers who, for very good reasons, are sought out by the government to help solve Earth’s biggest problem; extinction. The Earth’s atmosphere is slowly becoming unstable and within a year or so the entire planet would be uninhabitable. So, as you might have guessed, the government is sending teams into space to find a planet that can sustain human life.

The Robinsons, being the Robinsons, were qualified enough to be part of the mission. Dr. Maureen Robinson, an actual Rocket Scientist that worked for NASA, is up to the audacious task of plunging her family into the unknowns of space, with little more than their intellect and wit to get by. But what makes this show stand out from every other sci-fi series with the same clichés and plot points is how the Robinsons rally to become a family again throughout their journey and, oh yeah, find a new planet to call home.

Throughout the series you get clips of how the Robinsons came to be this family of explorers and problem solvers. They were as fragile and realistic as any other family, trying to cope with the father/husband being away for months at a time on private military missions and Maureen Robinson raising three kids on her own while trying to maintain a career that will soon become valuable to not only her family but for Earth. She develops an unbreakable bond with her children, teaching them how to stay alive if, for example, they find themselves stuck in a giant foreshadowed block of ice. She teaches them to trust their own instincts and those of the family, while at the same time learning how her kids think, act, and operate under varied circumstances. Maureen is the rock that holds this family of bright, energetic, and determined individuals together .

You can’t have a legitimate sci-fi show without some impressive tech, like the appropriately named “Jupiter” spaceship the family knows as home, or the “Chariot” SUV Tesla-like vehicle used to maneuver rough terrain. There’s plenty of guns and other space-tech you’ve come to expect to evoke those all important Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars feels.

Netflix has really pulled out all the stops with the scale and budget for this epic show whose every episode plays like a feature film. The topography alone feels oddly familiar yet new as the show gives you a false sense of security, making it feel as if you are right there barely escaping death from weird colorful creatures that show no pattern of behavior you can easily simulate. The trepidation of what lies ahead is always at the forefront of the show.

During the first episode young Will Robinson gets caught in a tough situation yet comes to the aid of a robot who becomes a helpful ally of the Robinsons throughout the show. Will creates a true bond with his metallic friend, which stirs up more than a bit of jealously from Will’s father who still struggles to reconnect to his son. John and Maureen not only have the enormous task of keeping their kids safe on an unknown planet, but must keep the family dynamic as upbeat as possible, which means keeping thinly disguised tensions to a minimum.

The Robinsons rally to become a family again.

The Robinsons are not the only team given the impossible task of saving Earth. In the middle of the series they meet up with the rest of the team and must work together. A liquor smuggler who ends up being part of the team is essentially the comic relief but turns out to be more than that as he is an integral part to helping the Robinsons escape danger.

The one Achilles heal of this show is the villain, if you can even dare call it that. Dr. Smith played by Parker Posey steals the identity of the real Dr. Smith and sneaks on-board a ship that was part of the space mission. Her devious and snarky attitude can be read a mile away, making it painful and cringe worthy at best. She surprisingly has a ton of screen time and even stays on the ship with the Robinsons for the duration of the series until her failed attempt at being a clever brilliant villain runs its course and the kids are quickly tipped off to who she really is. This is one of the rare shows in the sci-fi realm that has no need for a villain because of the unforgiving atmosphere that beats you at every turn, as well as hidden mysterious creatures you continually have to fend off just to navigate from A to B.

As I am writing this, recent news from Netflix along with a teaser trailer for season two has been revealed. So now is the perfect time to dive into this futuristic, suspenseful, family-based series. The past two years has brought us some of the best sci-fi shows and movies to date with more on the horizon. This undoubtedly is a great time to be a fan of this genre, from the masterpiece that was Blade Runner 2049, to the unstoppable force that is Star Wars, and all of the eclectic shows Netflix is continuing to develop. I would be hard pressed not to expect even more of the best this genre has to offer. The expectations have been set high and movie studios along with Netflix as well as Hulu have done a tremendous job raising the bar each and every year.

JXND

Delving into anything thought provoking and relevant to our current times, with a touch of sci fi and tech to keep the needle on the beat.

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10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1

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We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.

Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.

As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.

Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.

 

1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.

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While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.

I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.

2. Seating for Black People

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo of a segregated bus

While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.

3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier

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In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.

4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook

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Scene from episode 1 depiction of the Green-Book

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Actual Green-Book

The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.

5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide

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During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.

6. Ice Cream stand Scene

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Scene from episode 1

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Gordon Sparks photograph

In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.

7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo

This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.

8. The billboard across from the gas station

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Scene from episode 1

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Advertisement the billboard is based on

While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of  Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.

9. Sundown towns

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Scene from episode 1

Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!

10. White walls

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Scene from episode 1

Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!

I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.

 

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AMAZON’S “CARNIVAL ROW”

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Just three episodes in and Carnival Row has me hooked and mesmerized by the sheer amount of work Amazon Studios has put into making and building a world set in a Victorian fantasy wonderland. It may feel familiar and even remind you of majestic scales seen in Harry Potter or even The Lord of the Rings but make no mistake this series stands on its own and will be the model other similar fantasy tales are told.

Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world!

You also get hints of Sherlock Holmes from the many British actors the show puts on display. This world not only houses humans but it also features Fauns aka Critch or Puck. Which are humans with horns attached to their heads and goat legs for…. well legs of course.  The second tier of creatures are the Fae who resemble humans at first glance but instead have wings on their backs. They are a non-violent group who fled their homeland from outside invaders. They’re also called Pix. The last group of other worldly beings are called the Pact, who are no friends to the Fae. I hesitate to enter spoiler territory as the reveal of what these creatures are can be seen early in the series.

The story is essentially a civil war among three groups of people and conflicts with the overpowering government in place. Mix that with the ongoing tensions of humans and creatures attempting to live in “harmony” in one land and you have yourself an amazing story relevant to our current state of disarray in this country.

Leading the cast are actors Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne who wonderfully steer this complex interweaving beautiful fantasy world in the right direction, each playing characters opposite of each other but also having their own past backstory of fighting together in a war as well as a blossoming romance between them. Enough so to make their current situation even that more appealing and engaging.

If that’s not enough there is a serial killer prowling about the city disfiguring their prey in a grotesque inhumane fashion. Another character worth mentioning is the actual city where most of the story takes place which is called the Burge. The city is brimming with life and cracks of danger lurking in each corner. Just the lighting alone from street lamps illuminating light in the dark noir city alley ways instantly puts you in that time period, not to mention the costume details of key characters. Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world. All worth investing your time and attention in to.

Delving into anything thought provoking and relevant to our current times, with a touch of sci fi and tech to keep the needle on the beat.

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THE BEST PLAYER IN BASEBALL

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It’s a Friday night and i’m finishing up some work waiting for a friend. So I click over to the Angels Seattle game and the first thing  I see is the entire Angels team adorning the number 45, the number worn by their fallen teammate Tyler Skaggs who died of unknown circumstances. However there was something else that I came to realize while watching. Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!

The man delivers something productive practically every time I see him play. Whether i’m watching at the stadium, in an airport or at home. He’ll surely be diving in centerfield to rob a hit, stealing a base to get in scoring position or driving himself in with a 400 foot home run. His impact is beyond REAL!

If you haven’t seen him play, I suggest you catch it while you can. This level of excellence doesn’t come too often and you wouldn’t want to regret missing it. Let’s put it this way, Mike Trout signed a 12 year contract for…wait for it….$426.5 Million dollars plus a 20 million dollar bonus. And guess what? He’s not overpaid! The dude is really that good.

Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!

If you don’t believe me, just peep the stats. Coming into his 9th year in the league, the former rookie of the year, 2 time MVP (finished second 4 times) and 8 time all-star has been averaging 38 home runs, 101 rbi’s and a batting average of .306 per season. This is a Lebron in a lifetime type of talent with a lot more in the tank to go.

It may come as a surprise to the casual sports fan since Mike isn’t in every other commercial like most superstar athletes. But to baseball aficionados out there, this isn’t really a revelation at all. They’re just praying the Angels get some more talent around him to showcase those skills to the world or just trade him to the Yankees. I’m pretty sure New York can find a way to make some room for him.

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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