Weekly Web Series Review: Futurestates

“A minute ago, this moment was the future. A minute from now, everything could change.” So says the website for “Futurestates,” an intriguing web series from the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and this is a pretty good mission statement for the series. A collection of unconnected short films by various writers and directors, “Futurestates” explores the not-too-distant future by looking at what is already happening in the world today, from immigration issues to environmental and economic ones. Some of the shorts begin by informing the audience exactly what year it is in which their stories take place, while others do not. Many of them feel as if they could be happening in the present, and this is clearly an intention of the filmmakers behind them.

Amyn Kaderali‘s “The Other Side” thrusts the viewer into the year 2040, after “everything changed,” as Jeff (Brady Smith) puts it when explaining what a cheeseburger is to his young son, Tyler (Jake Short). Along with his sister, Jenny (Abigail Mavity), Tyler is traveling the desert with his father in search of access to the other side, across a border protected by the government. This short film explores the issue of illegal immigration in an unusual and effective way, casting it in a new perspective that might make a viewer think twice about his or her own views on the issue. Annie J. Howell‘s “Tia and Marco,” on the other hand, explores the same issue in a more heavy-handed and obvious way, which offers little justification for its 2025 setting.

Garret Williams‘ “The Rise” and Aldo Velasco‘s “Tent City” both explore the current housing crisis in very different ways, with “The Rise” ultimately touching on environmental issues more than economic ones, while Tze Chun‘s “Silver Sling” manages to comment on a number of current issues, including immigration, economic desperation and fertility technology. Now in its third season, “Futurestates” has many such issues to explore, and a panoramic array of viewpoints from which to explore them. Below is perhaps the most unique and original short film from the series’ first season, Ramin Bahrani‘s “Plastic Bag,” featuring legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog as the title character.

  

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Weekly Web Series Review: H+

Taking modern technological paranoia to its logical next step, the Bryan Singer-produced digital series “H+” takes an interesting, non-linear approach to its apocalyptic future storytelling. Created by John Cabrera, best known for his work as an actor on the popular television series “Gilmore Girls,” the series takes place in a near future in which 33 per cent of the world’s population has opted to have a device implanted into their bodies that connects their minds to the internet 24 hours a day. When a mysterious virus crashes the system, large portions of the world dies instantly, and the series primarily follows a few desperate survivors in an airport parking garage, while simultaneously cutting back and forth in time to various points before and after “it happened.”

“H+” is designed to be watched in any order, as each episode takes place in a different time and space, allowing viewers to stick with the main storyline in the parking garage first if they choose. This storyline begins with Julie Martin (Nikki Crawford) and her husband driving to the airport “5 minutes before it happened.” As they are making their way out of the parking lot, all hell breaks loose as the system crashes and people begin dropping like flies, cars and planes crash, and the automated sprinkler system goes off all over the garage. Only Kenneth Lubahn (David Clayton Rogers) seems to know what’s going on, telling the others they should be safe so long as they remain on the lower level of the garage where the signal is out. Med student Francesca Rossi (Lela Loren) works with him to save Julie’s husband, who has also fallen victim to the virus despite being in the same underground area as the rest of the survivors.

Meanwhile, the series flashes back to Helsinki, Finland, “7 years before it happened,” where Digital Crime Unit officer Topi Kuusela (Samuel Vauramo) begins to fall for Manta (Hannah Herzsprung), a mysterious target he has been assigned to follow. It is unclear so far what exactly her connection is to H+ Nano Teoranta, the company that manufactures the implants, but with an estimated 48-episode run, it is clearly just getting started. The first 14 episodes are available now on YouTube, with new ones premiering on Wednesdays. It’s hard to tell so far if “H+” will live up to the promise of its premise, but its high production values, mysterious time-jumping narrative style and intriguing, multinational subplots make it seem well worth watching to find out.

  

Decade Debate: 15 Sci-Fi series that deserved a longer run

Together with the editors of Premium Hollywood and The Scores Report, Bullz-Eye.com is looking back at the past decade (what the hell should we call it?) and compiling lists of some of the best and worst of the 00′s in television, movies and sports. These decade debates are fun, so feel free to leave comments with your perspectives as well as we’ll be featuring them here in the Bullz-Eye Blog.

Starting with television in the 2000s, Will Harris posted a great list on Premium Hollywood of the 15 sci-fi series that deserved a longer run. One series that stood out was “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” Here’s our take:

Season 1 had its highs and lows, but the show’s sophomore year was consistently intriguing throughout, starting with the season premiere and the introduction of Catherine Weaver (Shirley Manson), the co-founder and current CEO of ZeiraCorp…except that, as we discovered immediately prior to the closing credits, she wasn’t actually Catherine Weaver but, indeed, was a shapeshifting T-1001. As the season progressed, however, her physical transformation became less interesting than her emotional evolution, with the T-1001 being forced to maintain the façade of its new identity in its entirety, which required her to raise Catherine’s daughter, Savannah (Mackenzie Smith), and try to understand her. (I have a suspicion that all of the parents in our readership just snorted en masse and said, “Uh, yeah, good luck with that!”)

The T-1001 wasn’t the only Terminator to get a crash course in humanity during Season 2. Cameron (Summer Glau) spent much of the season suffering from a serious chip malfunction, leading her at one point to adopt the approximate memories of future resistance fighter Allison Young, on whom her personality had originally been patterned, but we also saw her interacting outside of the Connor camp; elsewhere, the Terminator formerly known as Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt) had his chip destroyed, but his body was connected to ZeiraCorp’s artificial intelligence known as the Babylon A.I., leading him to take on a new name – John Henry – and leading the series to explore matters of spirituality by querying whether his sentience means that terms like “life” and “death” now apply to him. Oh, right, and there was also some pretty good stuff with the human characters, too.

Sure, there were moments which defied credibility, but when you’re dealing with a show that lives and dies by time travel, suspension of disbelief and acceptance of pretty much everything that’s handed to you is a necessity. Fortunately, executive producer Josh Friedman found a way to combine the necessary technological components of “Terminator” with deep characterization. It seriously sucked that “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was canceled just as those who’d followed it from the beginning were really feeling rewarded for their steadfast viewership, but it was just insult to injury when “Terminator: Salvation” bombed, taking down any decent chance that the series might be revisited at some point.

We have to admit that Lena Headey and Summer Glau added an eye candy factor that made the shows even more enjoyable. Both of their characters found their way onto our TV Girlfriends feature, with Lena’ Headey’s Sara Conner featured in our Married to the Job category and Summer Glau’s Cameron battling in our Fox Force Five list.

  

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