The End of the F***ing World: John Entwhistle (Creator)

If I was 18 I would have loved The End of the F***ing World, it has a lot of things that would have appealed to me but now as a 39 year old, I see it as two and a half hours of angst, pouting and swearing but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The plot is simple: James thinks it is his destiny to kill someone so he targets Alyssa, after befriending her they decide to escape from their boring lives and go on a road trip. As things happen James kills a perpetrator and the duo are now on the run. On the way they discover they have feelings for each other and their personalities change.

This is where age makes a difference. I tried my hardest but in the end I saw James and Alyssa as a couple of whiny brats who try their hardest to be cool. Probably if I was younger I would have thought this to be edgy but now it’s just a lot of vacant stares and lower lips being prominent. Aside from this the show is not bad at all. There is character development, the overall aesthetic is good, some fantastic shots and the music is great: a mixture of soul, indiepop and French pop. The pacing is excellent and I did not get bored once. Let’s admit it , considering that when I was 18 the teen shows we had consisted of My so Called Life, Dawson’s Creek and vapid Peter Engel shows ( Saved by the Bell, Malibu C.A. and USA High) I can say that The Endof the F***ing World sets the bar pretty high. Really the only thing I intensely disliked was the unnecessary relationship between the two policeman. It doesn’t add anything and feels like an afterthought.

So yeah, give it a shot. No one really asked for a teen version of Bonnie and Clyde but at least this one is pretty good.

 

 

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Black Mirror S4, E6: Black Museum – Colm McCarthy (dir)

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SPOILERS

The season finale of Black Mirror may not be the best episode but it is an important one as it confirms that the Black Mirror universe is indeed its own world. The reason being that there are physical details from previous seasons and episodes. Superficially it is one big homage.

The show itself is divided into three segments all feature Rolo Haynes describing his adventures in neurotechnology to Nish. The setting is the Black Museum, a museum where all the exhibits are from previous episodes of Black Mirror.

The three stories have a strong Roald Dahl vibe running through them. The first one deals with a doctor who installs a chip in his head that allows him to feel pain of his patients, however he starts to enjoy the painful sensations and this drives him to commit certain acts. The second story is about a man who installs a digital version of his recently deceased wife into his own brain, which ends badly and the third features Rolo creating a living hologram of a convicted prisoner and torturing it as entertainment within the Black Museum.

Soon we find out that Nish is the convicts daughter and she ends up killing Rolo and transferring a digital copy of him into her fathers’ brain and starts to torture him until the digital copies disappear.

As Nish is leaving we viewers find out that her mother is located in Nish’s brain and is congratulating her on her method of revenge.

I enjoyed this episode. The three stories had an anthology feel and kept me on my seat wanting more. More than anything it felt like a satisfying conclusion.

So what I think of Black Mirror Season 4 – well as such I disliked two episodes out of six , but I felt that only two episodes were brilliant while  the other two were good. Here’s my ranking – one being the best and 6 being the weakest.

  1. Hang the DJ
  2. Metalhead
  3. Black Museum
  4. USS Callister
  5. Crocodile
  6. Arkangel

Til the next season!

Black Mirror S4, E5: Metalhead – David Slade (dir)

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One crucial aspect of cartoons is the idea of the chase; Wil E Coyote chases the Roadrunner, Tom chases Jerry,  the first Droopy cartoon is an elaborate chase (and tackles the trope in an interesting way)  A chase adds tension due to the fact that you never know if the victim will escape the clutches of the chaser. In the case of the Black Mirror episode Metalhead this is a chase that raises the tension levels to eleven.

The chase in Metalhead is between a human, Bella, and a killer robotic dog. Throughout the episode Bella tries to trick the dog, hide from it, destroy it. In true Black Mirror fashion it ends badly because when she finally kills the dog it shoots out a bullet with a tracking device, one is lodged in her neck and other dogs gather for the kill.

What makes this episode great is that it is totally different from the usual Black Mirror fare: it’s in black and white, it takes place in an apocalyptic wasteland, it is under 40 minutes and there’s no build up or twist. This is a chase in its purest form, however Slade manages to create jump scares, tense moments and although Bella has no backstory we viewers root for her to outwit the dog. It requires a talented director to throw in a character and make resilience the only real trait and yet emotionally involve the viewer.

Some little pieces of trivia. There’s something in this episode that links with the episode Crocodile and the little dialogue in the beginning concerning the non existence pigs and dogs is a homage to Orwell’s Animal Farm. The pigs in the book are the leaders and the dogs were the henchmen (or KGB) who would carry out the more brutal work. In this world only dogs exist.

Whereas last episode, Hang the Dj’s strengths lie in complexity, Metalhead is the opposite and simplicity makes it stand out.  I’m glad that these last two episodes have restored my notion that Black Mirror is one of the brainiest shows out there.

 

oh here’s a music video directed bz David Slade. Notice any connections between this and Metalhead?

Black Mirror S4, E4: Hang the Dj – Tim Van Patten (dir)

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SPOILERS AHEAD

One thing I like about Black Mirror is how some episodes just focus on current trends and give them a new perspective. In the case of Hang the Dj, online dating and dating apps in particular are the central themes of this episode.

As seen in the media online dating is a big thing and Van Patten manages to keep within the basic idea (profile matches) and yet manages to give it the Black Mirror treatment and present something that is imaginative.

The setting is a sort of utopia. Grass is green, blue sky etc and a lot of dating occurs which is controlled by a white palm shaped object called The Coach. This machine automatically finds matches pairs the couple for a certain amount of time (which is called the expiry date) and then after a while The Coach finds the perfect match and as the tagline states there is 99.8 chance that a person will find the right one.

Amy and Frank are part of this service, however they fall in love with each other and despite other pairings they find out that they need each other.  The problem is that they cannot exceed the expiry date of their relationship.

After a couple of setbacks Amy and Frank decide to rebel, ignore the expiry date, destroy The Coach and escape the utopia by climbing the massive wall that encircles the place. Suddenly their world disintegrates into blackness and the place is filled with copies of Amy and Frank together, then all the Amys and Franks evaporate and a sign stating that there were 998 rebellions from all the Amy and Frank clones ( I’m guessing the remaining 2 just settled for the life partner assigned). The episode shifts to the real world where a real Amy and Frank are looking at their mobiles and find out that they are 99.8% compatible. In other words the utopia at the beginning was really the algorithm of the dating app that Amy and Frank are using in real life.  In other other words rebellion is part of the matching process.

oh yeah this song is playing at the club where real Amy and Frank meet.

This episode is FANTASTIC. It is intelligent, well plotted, makes you think and, actually has a happy ending that even borders on being twee. I enjoyed watching Hang the Dj and it is the first time in season four that I felt completely satisfied with the show. Do I want more episodes like this? no but I do want the remaining two episodes to have credible. creative aspects like this.

 

Black Mirror S4, E3: Crocodile – John Hillcoat (Dir)

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SPOILER ALERT

After watching two weak episodes, Crocodile, redeems itself, for the most part, but at this point it definitely is the stronger film and is more in line with the Black Mirror episodes of the first two seasons.

Mia and Rob are driving on a coast road after a night of clubbing and Rob accidentally runs over a cyclist. The couple then dump the man into the sea and drive off.

The story then takes place fifteen years later. Mia has become a successful architect also is married and with a kid. Rob hasn’t done so well due to his alcoholism. After Mia gives a talk, Rob meets her and wants to expose their mistake to the victim’s wife. Mia gets angry and kills Rob. After the deed she looks out of her hotel window and sees a man knocked over by a pizza delivery van.

At this juncture a subplot is introduced and insurance agent, Shazia,  is helping the victim of the pizza delivery accident remember the events of the evening by replaying his memories using a recalling device (a chip connected to a monitor). Due to the force of the accident he can remember the details but Shazia manages to track down all the people at the scene and she goes to Mia so that she can recall the scene and obviously the two killings show up on the monitor.

From this point onwards, the show loses a bit of credibility. Mia then goes on a killing  rampage and her last murder, which is a baby (we don’t see that, thank goodness) is watched by a pet guinea pig and the police then wire the animal to the recalling machine, discover it’s Mia and arrest her.

For a good forty minutes Crocodile is clever, well paced and teases the tension levels excellently. Then after Shazia’s murder it just descends into a schlockaton, the guinea pig bit more silly than intelligent. I did enjoy it though and I did like the way the two plots were entwined, it’s a pity that it ended on a farcical note.

 

Black Mirror S4, E2: Arkangel – Jodie Foster (dir).

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During the mid 80’s there was a device that was able to monitor a baby so that cot death would not occur. This machine consisted of a microphone connected to a speaker or walkie-talkie and the parent would be able to hear the baby in another room. The second episode of Black Mirror goes a step further.

Marie, a single mother decides to protect her child, Sara, by implanting a device in her head that is connected to a tablet, thus Marie can see everything Sara can see and when something scares Sara it will be blurred. Eventually Marie understands that the device is restricting Sara’s perception of the real world and just puts the tablet away and removes all settings so Sara sees the things that scare her properly.

Time passes and Sara is now in her late teens and she hooks up with the neighbourhood bad boy Trick. Sara lies to her mother and goes out with Trick, which causes Marie to start reusing the tablet again. Ironically adult Sara is now doing things that are slightly more dangerous than toddler Sara used to do but that’s not the point.

Anyway Sara discovers that her mother is spying on her and it leads to a bloody mother/daughter fight and Sara leaves Marie forever.

As an episode it is ridiculous, mostly due to the unnecessary melodrama and the predictable storyline. Sure it’s a little cautionary story about letting children go and how technology brings out the inner voyeur but it has been done before in the Black Mirror universe – The Entire History of You from Season 1 had a similar plot, same with Season 2’s White Christmas. So nothing new. Like episode 1’s USS Callister, I liked Arkangel but I knew this is not the standard Black Mirror has set in the past.

Black Mirror Season 4, Episode 1: USS Callister. Toby Haynes (dir)

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So Black Mirror is back! Expect six episodes of people being screwed by technology in the most horrific way possible!

Despite the semi-sarcastic tone I am a fan of the series, true the overall pessimism is bordering on parody but I still do like seeing how technology messes up lives and judging by the first episode of the new season Black Mirror’s MO has not changed. In fact USS Callister is a good summary of what I like about Black Mirror and what irritates me. I must war you though, that there will be spoilers.

The episode begins with a parody of  Star Trek, There is a captain of a ship and his crew have to fight an villain. It is worth noticing that there is a classic feel to the show: The female crew members were revealing dresses and act in a submissive manner.

We then cut to reality and find out that the ‘captain’ is a nebbish computer programmer called Robert Daly who is hated by his colleagues, that is until a new worker called Nanette joins the company and expresses her love for Daly’s work.

Us viewers eventually find out that Daly takes the DNA of his co-workers and digitally re-creates them as part of a virtual reality program based on his favourite TV show, Star Fleet. The situation gets more complicated as we find out that he is using this program to channel both his vengeful and sexual harassment fantasies on his colleagues. As this is a virtual world, his real life colleagues have no idea what is going on.

Things change once digital Nanette joins the crew and finds out about Daly’s intentions and does her best to stop him from exerting this psycho-sexual-territorial fantasy.  She manages, which is more entertaining and gripping than any of Daly’s self-centred adventures, and Robert Daly is stuck in his virtual world and in reality is in a coma, thus he will be left to die in his chair.

USS Callister is a great statement about gender equality. When Daly succeeds in his missions he gets to kiss all the female crew members. They all kow-tow to him and if there is any hint of rebelliousness he turns them into monsters or punishes them in cruel ways. When Nanette finally breaks free, the whole crew become modernised, the women wear non gender specific clothing and have normal hairdos and act as equals. I thought that was clever. I even liked the way Nanette decides to react to the next adversary: just ignore and move on.

The episode also tackles stereotypical nerd tropes that are prevalent in Hollywood. As we know in films, the nerd who is bullied in real life will get the girl and wreak havoc but that does not happen here. Daly loses, big time and it is through the own world he created. These aspects of USS Callister and liked, they were executed in a clever way.

My gripe is that I knew how the episode would end. I guessed that Daly would be trapped. I also guessed that Daly’s fantasy world is a reaction to his normal life, we viewers see this after the first space mission. I was surprised at the Tommy subplot so kudos  there but I did sort of predict the outcome as that is the Black Mirror formula.

USS Callister is not disappointing and is a decent opener but I am hoping that the remaining episodes will be better.