Saturday, December 31, 2016

Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement...

2016 is almost over... and this is the last episode of Black Mirror's 3rd season for me to review! This episode was titled 'Hated in The Nation' and quite frankly it's the most ambitious of all of the series episodes to date!





SHATTERED MIRROR


Without question the most ambitious of all the Black Mirror episodes produced, this episode could've easily been titled 'Bees My God'... cause what was the tech here was a 'deadly bee weapon'... and brings on thoughts of the Nicholas Cage version of 'The Wicker Man' 'Not The Bees' meme...

In all seriousness, this episode follows up on thoughts I had regard episode 5 and how the military would want the MASS implants for the perfect soldiers, in this episode we see how the government would want the 'perfect' way to spy on a nation, using something to help the environment, in this case artificial bees that have basic pattern recognition software for pollination... and how some lone self-righteous crusader could take control of it to push a moral message about the spread of fear-mongering and hate on social media, turning it into a way to create a database of who would give into the temptation to sends the bees after someone. In the wake of some of the nonsense that has happened the past few years regarding social media and a number of the real life problems its caused, hell just look at how Twitter caved into the pressure of left wing-nuts this past few months to 'target and eliminate' those with right wing-nut views. Now imagine if that was basically weaponized. Now imagine if all those who to part in it the 'getting rid' of someone were revealed as a whole and the whole thing turned on them, because they are the ones who spread the fear, hatred, a cruelty to a whole other level.
Terrifying ain't it?
Now lets talk about the episode story, which is told in a flash back by DCI Karin Parke who is explaining to a committee about everything that went down, that a journalist who was the target of online threats due to a column suddenly commits suicide, but it turns out it's part of a larger scale plot but a former employee of company that has created Artificial Bees to counter-act a collapse of the bee population. Parke and new partner named Blue, who worked in cyber forensics, investigate the mystery and we see their process step by step, from realize who's the next target to trying to protect her, to trying to access the bees' database. to discovering whose the culprit and his 'endgame' to take out all those whose contributed to the 'picking' who should be taken out, resulting in in nearly 400,000 deaths... with the aftermath being Parke being a hated public figure and Blue apparently 'killing herself' but instead going off the grid to catch the guy who did it.

My summary doesn't do the story justice, because it's extremely well paced to keep the viewer invested, plus if one pays attention, this episode has a number of references to previous episodes, in particular Blue was the one who cracked the case that lead to the events in the episode White Bear.

The performances in this is awesome up and down. Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Nanny McPhee, Boardwalk Empire)  as Parke is a great lead, portraying a rather 'old school' way of thinking investigator who has seen all the usual ways things turn out, she's a little patronizing, but that's due to experiences. Faye Marsay (Doctor Who: Last Christmas, Game of Thrones) is stellar as as Blue, someone who wants to prevent crimes from happening and whose expertise puts her in a life changing experience for a second time. Benedict Wong  (Doctor Strange, Marco Polo. Law & Order UK), brings a nice rounded performance to Shaun Li, an officer of the National Crime Agency, who tries to keep things hidden while also contributing to the investigation but you know he's trying to do the best he can considering his responsibilities.


Black Mirror: Men Against Fire

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement...

It's New Year's Eve, and we're up to the 5th episode of Black Mirror's third season titled 'Men Against Fire', and of course here is my review of said episode





SHATTERED MIRROR

Now here is an interesting episode in regards to making a more 'efficient military' combined with the 'eugenic warfare'... two things that don't seem like they would go hand in hand, but it  in this episode it works. First in regards to making the military more efficient, more willing to 'kill', in this episode we are shown an implant called MASS that totally warps their sense of reality, making the solider see monsters instead of their true target, other human beings and to draw the comparison to World War I, World War II where the percentage of those who fired was 15%, and even then it was people intentionally missing.... then by the Vietnam War training got soldiers who fired up to 85% and then the kill rate was still low... so the MASS system is to make it a clear 100% kill rate for 100% Shots Fired while dehumanizing the enemy because humans by and large don't want to kill other humans. But it goes beyond that, 'dreams' can be programmed as well, and this perception filter can create a whole environment totally controlled by the soldier's handlers.

The other interesting aspect of this episode is the 'Eugenics Warfare', as those humans who are deemed unworthy because of genetic disposition are labeled as roaches, outcasts to be wiped out, to protect the 'bloodline', to keep things pure and so forth... down right fascist in its own way, and combine this with the MASS system that is the key tech to the episode, and you got one ugly, but fascinating concept that is down right terrifying when you realize we're probably not to far away from this type of tech becoming reality.

Which leads to the story of this episode, a soldier named Stripe has his MASS implant interfered with by what he and other soldiers are told are 'roaches', apparently mutated humans, but in fact are humans that are being wiped out for being genetically inferior. And over the course of the episode, Stripe's implant malfunctions and he ends up learning the truth, but and eventually has to make a choice, either agree to have his memory erased of what he learned, or put in prison with an endless loop of what he did under the MASS implants influence... and what he does is chooses to have his memory erase, getting the illusion of being discharged with full honors, a dream house and a gorgeous woman waiting for him... but instead it's just what he's programmed to see.

Now the problem with this episode is that like with 'Shut Up and Dance' the truth is revealed to early, and you lose any chance to sympathize with the lead character here considering when the 'propaganda and fear mongering' aspect of dealing with the 'undesirables is brought up and it's handled a little too cookie-cutter

That said, Malachi Kirby whose played Gastron in Doctor Who 'Hell Bent' last season does a great job with Stripe in conveying his gradual confusion turned to realization to coming to terms with what he willingly signed up for, and that if it wasn't for the MASS implant going hay-wire, he would've been none the wiser. Also Madeline Brewer (of Orange is the New Black, Hemlock Grove) as Rainman is so over the top its down right comical, its as if her character was lifted directly from Starship Troopers.



Black Mirror: San Junipero

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement

The Countdown to 2017 continues, with my review of the episode San Junipero of Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 4







SHATTERED MIRROR
 
Alright, this was just a wonderful episode, a great little love story with a nice twist and a very optimistic way of presenting things. Sure Black Mirror has specialized on the bleak and dreary, but here we had a great variation on 'the afterlife' and what it could be thanks to how technology advances.  And going with a positive spin on it was a smart move, cause I recall an episode of Futurama where it is implied a more bleak perspective. The idea of a virtual reality 'nostalgia therapy' tech is something that could help people cope or give them something to look forward too beyond just starring at walls, ceiling or out a window.

Anyway, the story, a shy girl named Yorkie arrives in a town called San Junipero and is getting her bearings, she meets Kelly, a partier, and they hit it off... connecting on level Yorkie never experienced and an on a level Kelly doesn't initially want... then it turns out they are in a virtual reality world... San Junipero is where the deceased can have a heavy and those near the end can jump in for five hours of fun a week... the situation for Kelly and Yorkie also gets revealed, Yorki is someone who paralyzed at the age of 21, living for 40 years on a life support machine and is looking forward to having her 'life' in San Junipero, however Kelly's situation is more complicated due to a 49 year marraige and a losing a daughter at the age of 39 before the technology for San Junipero existed, putting in the position of does she want to be with her family in 'nothingness' of the traditional afterlife, or with Yorkie in one that she knows is real.

Trust me, the episode is a lot deeper than I'm making it, because it is a joy to watch, particularly after the tripe that was 'Shut Up and Dance'

They production crew did a great job of getting classic arcade cabinets, correct period clothing and tech (such as TVs, arcade cabinets), and the music is really spot on...and the music selections were perfect, in particular the selection of Heave is a Place on Earth.

That said, the performances of Gugo Mbatha-Raw as Kelly and  Makenzie Davis were just perfect. I'm somewhat familiar with Mbatha-Raw since she was on Doctor Who and Spooks years ago, but will admit I don't know anything about Davis, this being the first thing I've seen her in. Also a strong nod has to be given to Denis Burse who plays 'the elder' version of Kelly, who perfectly matches the portrayal of Mbatha-Raw when the character is in San Junipero, which is something that has to be appreciated because it can't be easy for two actors to get their performances in-sync to where you can believe they are playing the same character.
 

Black Mirror: Shut Up and Dance

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement

The countdown to New Year's continues with my thoughts and opinions regarding Black Mirror's Season 3 episode titled 'Shut Up and Dance'




SHATTERED MIRROR

This episode is a slight re-tread of 'White Bear' of season 2, where it seems like seemingly innocent people are being hounded for no reason, but then it turns out they are being blackmailed for things they have done wrong... and is basically a cautionary tale of being aware of what you do online and so forth.

It's not a particularly strong episode in my opinion, cause the reveal and twist happened to early totally telegraphing the obvious ending, which makes it so  you don't care about the characters or their situation.

Anyway the lead In this case our lead is Kenny, whose  computer got hacked and he was filmed doing something, and he is forced to do a number of tasks... which in turns leads him to encounting other people who were doing things in order to comply with the truth getting out... leading him to a fight to the death with someone who did the exact same thing he did... only for the 'truth' to be leaked out.

What else is a disappointment is that while nearly all the other episodes up to this point have had some twist on technology, this episode doesn't have a 'gimmick' of any kind, that would make this come across as 'satire', which makes this episode even more of a chore to sit through.

That said the performances are fairly decent, carried by a young actor named Alex Lawther (who played Kenny), he emotes well because he doesn't really have much dialog to sa,  and Jerome Flynn, a veteran actor know for his roles on Game of Thrones & Ripper Street, his role as Hector helps balancing things out a bit, There is some decent on-screen interaction with, but nothing that will be memorable.

The Rogues: New Years Evil #1

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement...

It's New Year's Eve and I'm trying to catch up on things I had scheduled for this week in one day, and we're kicking off with this weeks comic book review: The Rogues: New Years Evil #1 from DC Comics!





RAMBLINGS OF A COMIC BOOK FAN

Hello Dweller and Welcome to the Basement…

And Happy New Year…

As you may now, I’m pretty much limping into 2017… as I try and get done many of things I had scheduled before an unwanted trip to the hospital sideline me… and so we’re going to get the ball rolling with this Week’s Comic From The Basement… with The Rogues: New Year’s Evil #1 from DC Comics

Which leads to a question… who are The Rogues… they are basically the blue-collar criminals, those who rather just commit minor crimes and instead of taking over the world, they mostly are members of The Flash’s gallery of bad guys, often consisting of characters like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, Trickster, Weather Wizaerd, Pied Piper & Golden Glider… and if you’ve seen The Flash on the CW, these names are obviously familiar too you. Their first appearance as a team was in The Flash #155 back in September 1965… over the years, the team has seen members come and go and by the late 90s there was a fairly even status quo established, such as moral code of conduct between members… and have time have acted as heroes when it was in their best interests.

Now back in in the late 1995s, DC did a little event series called Underworld Unleashed… in which Captain Boomerrang, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master and Weather Wizard were offered a deal for real magical powers instead of their familiar tech-based abilities by Abra-Kadabra in order to unleash the demon Neron on earth, killing all five in the process… they were not told this part of the deal… as hell was basically unleashed on Earth for a bit… Neron was stopped, and they are eventually returned to the land of the living thanks to The Flash

Now with that half-ass backstory out of the way, let’s get to this weeks comic, ‘From The Page of The Flash: The Rogues: New Year’s Evil #1, which is as far as I can tell, the first time the group ever had a ‘solo title’

The story: Taking place after the Three Of A Kind story line in The Flash/Green Arrow/Green Lantern books and called ‘Men & Gods’ , this comic sees Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerrang , Weather Wizard breaking into a temple of Meshta, and Heat Wave is a bit reluctant considering the status of their souls and are looking to get something to keep Neron from taking their souls… but it turns out instead part of the The Trickster’s plan to make sure the son of an old friend is kept safe, and with the help of the Pied Piper… these Rogues do battle again against Ahrynu and Neron… in order to get Neron off the Rogues back as well as making sure Nero leaves the Meshtra Temple and those involved with it alone.


The Verdict: The artwork in and of itself its totally fine, and the story flows nicely with just enough backstory given to allow anyone who just grabbed this issue at random to understand the circumstances, such as The Trickster being somewhat on the side of justice at the time, and Heat Wave being inspired to stay behind to become a monk at the end of the story. It’s a light easy read that wraps up some details while opening the door for new stories with these characters.


Next time in The Basement: It’s back to Tank Girl with Tank Girl Carioca #3 to wrap up my look at that mini series.


Blue Seed: "A Chase Down Yamato Highway! Love Under Fire!!"

Hello Dwellers and Welcome to the Basement...

I'm out of the hospital, back home and it's back to 'work' with Talking Anime, we're up to episode 14 of Blue Seed, "A Chase Down Yamato Highway! Love Under Fire!!"




PLANTED SEEDS
  • Original Air-date: January 4, 1995, English Air-date, December 18, 1999

  • This episode concludes the second disc on the 2005 ADV Box set, disc labeled 'Decent Into Terror'
  • Momiji is not all there mentally following revealing her feelings to Kusanagi who is distracted with the return of Kaede, which leads him to not really be a factor with the Aragami monster of the week.

  • The town featured in this episode, called Nara, is 'Nara City' and is known for a lot of its historical monuments, including shrines and temples.
  • We see that Koume is a bit of an expert when it comes to the 
    Japanese Shrines and Temples, in particular with the 'favor' system, if you make a deal saying you'll do something in return what you want will be done for you. Momiji uses this as a way to try and get Kusanagi's feelings for her by vowing to defeat an Aragami by herself
  • Perhaps the most surreal thing about this episode is Yaegashi, who is jealous of Kusanagi and wants to defeat the Aragami  in order to get Momiji, he's very gun-ho and over the top, making Koume seem reasonable and
    level headed i
  • The Argami, being made out of a tree, and spreads a killer pollen all over the place was just a big monster to be defeated, Nothing to special about it though it can be argued it is one taken down by  Koume and Momiji
  • This episode also sees Sakura Yamazaki become 'officially' linked to the TAC as Mr.Kunikida had to pick her up, though in a limited role, Sakura plays a big part in using her magic to stop the Aragami from smashing up a temple.

Doctor Who: The Gunfighters Part 2: Don't Shoot The Pianist

It's Monday December 11, 2017, and this week I'm reviewing Doctor Who: The Gunfighters Part 2: Don't Shoot The Pianist Suppo...