Mr. Robot [Season 1]: follows Elliot – a Cyber Security engineer by day / social vigilante hacker by night – as he’s recruited by a shady anarchist called ‘Mr Robot’. Firstly, the shows gambles everything on a wild main character: an anxious & depressed, socially inept, lonely, mentally unstable, and unsympathetic junkie-hacker! The central plot is told through his paranoid point-of-view, where we hear his thoughts – including some beautiful IT snobbery: “he owns a blackberry” “he likes the music of Josh Groban” / “stupid Marvel movies”. While Malek’s lead performance is outstanding, he’s not alone as the entire show is very well-cast: everyone has a unique look and set of traits & skills – Wallstrom and Slater in particular get a lot of time to shine. The show also looks phenomenal; it’s beautifully shot with lots of bold & striking imagery, vibrant colours, and unorthodox camerawork; like low-level & asymmetrical shots, strong leading lines… you could screenshot almost any moment and hang it on your wall. In fact, the production is so slick that it feels more like a 10-hour long movie. Every character, every sub-plot, almost every scene feels like it’s saying something about our modern way of living; how insipid tech is permeating our lives, and how ‘the masses’ are being exploited. As someone who works in IT I found myself nerding out over accuracy and tech savviness of the show; Hell, even the episode titles like “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov” are smart and cool. As the season marches forward viewers are rewarded with compelling story arcs, Shakespearian twists and turns, and scathing critiques of modern life, big business, & corporate culture. It’s very anti-establishment, and isn’t dumbed down in the slightest. Insightful, intelligent, and crammed with current issues & ‘news story’ plots, Mr Robot is the kind of show that’s setting the bar in terms of style and substance.
Kung Fury: After being struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra a cop is transformed into a Kung Fu master and swears to protect his city from evil; evil like Adolf Hitler. Not unlike a Zucker brothers comedy, Kung Fury is crammed with a continuous assault of gags – lots hit the mark, some don’t, but the rapid pace doesn’t give you time to dwell on any of them. There are however a couple of big reservations that hit you when watching this: firstly, it all seems overly familiar because the film’s structured like a collage of ‘cool’ scenes, ideas and parodies from lots of great sources – Danger 5 (literally dozens of ideas stolen from this), Iron Sky, Oldboy, MacGruber, Mortal Kombat, ThunderCats, MASK… all of which are welcome, but you’ll have seen elsewhere. Secondly, with the characters being steampunk Nazis, talking animals, Viking babes with machine guns, dinosaurs etc – it feels like box-checking meme-bait: think SuckerPunch distilled into 30 minutes. Aesthetically, it looks beautiful and feels retro – mostly green screen, but all very well done, with seamless editing, and a couple of nostalgic VHS wear / tracking / distortion moments that really play up the 80s setting. There’s no denying that Kung Fury is fun, entertaining, and particularly well-crafted given the CGI-heavy nature – but ultimately it’s let down by a distinct lack of originality content.
You can watch the entire movie on YouTube below
Tron Legacy: 3D – sequel-ish rebooty mish mash, in relation to the original sci-fi epic Tron; and almost 30 years in the making. First off, the story is atrocious, convoluted and a shoddy excuse to bombard your eyes with cutting-edge special effects. Not necessarily a bad thing as the CGI is great, and there’s plenty of sly little nods to the definitive Sci Fi flicks; Matrix, 2001, Blade Runner, original Tron etc. The 3D element (particularly in the computer) was impressive and added to the big, loud, bold & fast action sequences. I enjoyed how the Technical/I.T./Computing terminology and detail is still tight, however this is a bit of problem because the film tries to balance this (appealing to the sub-culture of computer geeks – like the original) with a blockbuster movie – which was alienating to technophobes as it doesn’t hold back with the jargon. The story also relies on viewers seeing & understanding the original to fully ‘get it’. Bridges is alright but essentially plays a watered-down PG version of the Dude. CGI Bridges was so life-like that I bet some people couldn’t tell he wasn’t real. Oh, and Michael Sheen was ridiculous as a Bowie rip-off. The Daft Punk soundtrack was spot on; booming and atmospheric in all the right places. Despite the visual opulence, for an epic big-budget studio film it all feels quite hollow, and purely there for aesthetic reasons / franchise-based ticket sales. Other than the action sequences (essentially graphically updated from Tron), and a couple of scenes that make you think “awesome!” there’s not a whole lot else to take away from Tron Legacy.
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.