GET OUT [Spoilers]: when a girl takes her new boyfriend home to meet her family, he gets way more than he bargained for. As a white metropolitan elite male, and part of the liberal media (a blog counts, right?) the moments of sleight racism, underhand stereotypes, and low-key comments about ‘form’, ‘structure’, ‘genetics’, etc were the hardest bits to watch. The strongest aspect about this film is that it skillfully uses the ‘language’ of horror cinema (jumps, isolation, string score) to emphasize the uneasy and odd parts of the plot. Even white people talking normally about Tiger Woods, Jessie Owens, and Obama sounds creepier through the ‘horror’ lens. The final 10 minutes see a major tone shift into exploitation & schlocky B-movie cheese, with some crowd pleasing gore – although it does feel like it’s been heaped on for good measure – a highlight being a ‘reverse American History X headstomp’ homage. There’s a few other missteps like the ‘gentrified’ help coming over more “robotic” than ‘transplanted’, and the TSA agent friend is purely in there for some cheap comic relief. The best thing about Get Out is that everything mentioned in the first half fits together perfectly for the reveal and finale; however, the flip side of that is that there’s no subtlety, and you get pushed down a particular path, which the film sticks religiously to; which feels too straightforward in a time where you expect more from top-drawer horror.
Sicario: a young SWAT member joins a ‘special activities’ task force that may or may not be as legitimate as they first appear. The acting, direction, and visuals are gorgeous and often spellbinding; the characters and plot however… not so much. Very little new ground is covered, particularly with the characters: a naïve by-the-book agent (Blunt), mysterious and dangerous man-with-no-name (del Toro), the charismatic but cynical and amoral team leader (Brolin), questionable American operations, yada yada yada. The central character – who is already an unnecessary audience surrogate – has an even more redundant BFF to more explicitly vocalise her thoughts and attempt to let the dummies at the back know what may be happening (not much is actually revealed until the last 20 minutes). There’s a few nerve-shreddingly intense scenes like the border crossing, tunnel raid, and the last supper; which are paired with bursts of ultra-bleak violence and very graphic gore, which make the movie more grisly – although these felt like they were chasing notoriety, and ‘sexing up’ the otherwise flat tone. The daytime scenes look fantastic, downside being that some of the low-light or night-vision scenes are harder to follow. While Sicario looks fantastic, has the big names, and some dark and memorable scenes it’s far less effective than a straight-up drama like Prisoners: it feels a bit like a Steven Seagal/SWAT plot viewed through another character, and with an arthouse guise – leaving me with the impression that it’s more a film for the critics than the public. Like the pacing, story, shots, and characters, Sicario is intentionally slow and steady.
Black Mirror: (3 Episodes) nihilistic social commentator and comedian Charlie Brooker’s latest TV drama Series. Despite each episode being set in a different reality, time and having different casts; all stories impeccably balance being realistic yet bizarre, believable yet surreal, sensible yet satirical, controversial & shocking yet engaging & thought-provoking. The series takes things from the present, twists and warps them until they’re barely recognizable, then throws it up on the screen as a cautionary tale, highlighting where these things can, have, or are going wrong. The casting and acting in particular are outstanding; production is ridiculously high and very slick – this is clearly something that has aimed exceptionally high from the planning through to post-production stages. The first two episodes are fantastic, however the finalé feels more like a single afterthought stretched to the limit – it’s still good, but has by far the least to say about the fewest subjects. The 15 Million Credits rant is among the most powerful and affecting TV moments I can remember watching. TV is undoubtedly where Brooker and his opinions shine brightest – I’ve started two of his books but finished neither due to page after page of brutal insults becoming rapidly tedious. On the whole, Black Mirror is darkly satirical, riveting and massively unsettling, this could well be the important thing you’ll see on TV, but don’t read anything else about it as there’s spoilers everywhere; hunt this down and make your own mind up.
Episode 1 – The National Anthem: The UK Prime Minister must meet a bizarre demand in order to free a kidnapped princess. Satire and commentary of newsrooms, politics, social media and the fickle public.
Episode 2 -15 Million Merits: a numb dystopian future where people work for merits and spend on useless rubbish. Scathing critique of reality TV, talent shows, free-to-air adult channels, consumerism and where our lives may be heading.
Episode 3 – The Entire History of You: anybody can have a chip that will replay any memory on demand… but that’s not always a good thing. Stand-alone sci-fi idea, definitely the odd one out.
Chatroom: London teenagers meet up online in a ‘Chelsea Teens!’ chatroom where they discuss their problems and bring out the worst in each other. At the centre of the film are five teens, overdramatized and riddled with angst, hatred & depression to the point of stereotype. There’s the least likable central character for as long as I can remember, and the other four people/plot-lines are picked up and dropped when convenient – and not properly explored or concluded. Unsurprisingly, it’s a very wordy film, but that creates the small problem that every word comes from 5 depressed teenagers all burdened with issues. When a story is driven through these characters manipulating and bringing the worst out in each other it doesn’t really make for inspired viewing. The best idea in the film is representing online chatting through a discussion with real people in a physical room, but it’s only novel for about 10 minutes. This is propped up by a few good tongue in cheek ‘online LOL‘ moments like the paedo entering, sex chat rooms and clay-mation skits. It’s shot well (Ringu series / Dark Water director) and the ‘chatroom’ sets are as seedy, sleazy, strange and twisted as your mum’s opinion of the internet. This film is to the internet use, what Requiem for a Dream is to drug use. Apparently nobody online does anything positive these days, and everyone’s up for egging on a suicide etc. There are a few neat ideas scattered throughout, but nothing sustainable for +90 minutes. Emo teen drama.