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.
Vice Principals: when a school principal retires and the vice principals are passed over for a promotion they form an unlikely tag team to take their new boss down. Not unlike most Danny McBride projects, the humour in VPs is an acquired taste: it’s stupid and lowest-common denominator stuff, but I’m a fan of the funny to watch the crass swearing, childish squabbling, stereotypes, silly faces etc… McBride’s pretty much been here before in Eastbound and Down with his faded baseball star going back to school to teach; his latest character Neal Gamby is essentially an older, and slightly more filtered/censored Kenny Powers. Goggins on the other hand turns in an against-type effeminate role, that requires a lot of eye rolling, sucking up, and mincing around in pink clothes. Both leads are great at what they do and the core supporting cast notes (Gregory / Whigham / King / Love – GO SCOTLAND! / Patterson) all hit the right comedy notes. The show mostly cruises along, with scenarios that lead to silly and cringe comedy, but there’s a few curveballs in here with surreal moments, weird filming techniques, and the finale feels a little too bizarre and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the show. Vice Principals will go down best with fans of McBride’s trademark style, and he’s firmly in his comfort zone… for regular viewers it may be stray a little too far into crass and unacceptable territory.
Swiss Army Man: a marooned man befriends a washed-up corpse, who turns out to be very useful for getting them back home in one piece. Both leads are very strong; Radcliffe turns in a superb physical performance paired with equally strong deadpan comic delivery. Paul Dano is also great to watch, but feels more like he’s cruising in his typecast weirdo role. Together, they have undeniably fun ‘bromance’ chemistry that really elevates the film. Tonally, “eclectic” doesn’t do this film justice: it’s creepy, uplifting, strange, beautiful, depressing, funny, weird, innocent, unique, entertaining, and batshit crazy – all at the same time. It shifts and shimmies between all of its quirky ideas so quickly that it stops you even thinking about how and why all of the surreal things are able to happen. It like the kind weird films you’d have expected to come out of Japan in the early 2000s, and most resembles cinematic oddities like Rubber, Happiness of the Katakuris, and a little bit of Be Kind Rewind. It feels like the filmmakers were really wanted to bring up some observations about our modern values and way of living… but because of all the farting, trouser compassing, and fart-based jet skiing & flying the film ends up avoiding any deep or meaningful insights altogether, coming across as superficial a ‘pop philosophy 101’ class. Swiss Army Man is truly a film like no other, and one which defies categorization; and it really does need to be seen to be believed… however, it does feel more like a collection of individually ‘cool’ ideas, jokes, and moments that would be better suited to a barnstorming music video, or more focused, upbeat, and magical short film.
Blood Rage (AKA: Slasher. AKA Nightmare at Shadow Woods. AKA Complex): an evil child frames his twin brother for murder – 10 years on, when the sane brother escapes from an asylum, he finally has an excuse to kill again. The clunky dialogue and bog-standard horror scenarios really emphasise the wooden performances – championed by the mum, who is drunk in one scene, then normal, then catatonic, then madly cleaning, then scoffing food off the floor… she’s laughably terrible. Strangely, the direction itself isn’t bad; conjuring up some striking and iconic images, and the ‘twins’ aspect (both played by the same actor) is well done; arguably the most impressive thing about the film. Despite the catalogue of unintentional missteps it’s a fun enough film to watch – namely due to the comically extreme and over the top slashtastic gore: entire sets are painted red, and limbs & bodies end up everywhere. Mash this all together and it kind of works in a weird, HDTGM type of way (nothing about the story makes sense). While Blood Rage isn’t a great film in anyone’s book; it’s the best type of bad film, for having a high body count, and being knowingly bad (like the Cranberry sauce zinger!). it can still be enjoyed, and is prime for cult viewings and drinking games.
B-Movie Score: 7/10
The Arrow Blu Ray 2K restoration is great: the film looks cleaner and brighter than it has any right to be, and – as always – there are shedloads of behind the scenes, extras and interviews with the cast. Making this a must-have for B-Movie aficionados.