You Can’t Turn it Off and On Again (Black Mirror Season 3 Review)

CHILL OUT. NO SPOILERS HERE

So I only got into watching Black Mirror after stumbling by the trailer for its third season. I only heard about the show and I didn’t really get interested until I saw the trailer. Like most good trailers, it had me thinking “What the fuck did I just watch and where can I watch more of it?”

To any potential viewers, Black Mirror is a British anthology series that is basically what the Twilight Zone would be if the stories were set in the not too distant future and they revolved misusing technology. And WAAAAAY more fucked up.

There are thirteen 44-75 minute episodes as of now and if you’re like me, that is nowhere near enough to keep satisfied. The show’s creator and main writer Charlie Brooker unleashes almost every possible what-can-go-wrong scenario with humanity’s use of technology and does extraordinarily well. If the episodes aren’t unsettling enough, it’s more unsettling because you could definitely see us going down those paths if we’re not careful.

Season 3 has recently come out on Netflix last weekend and after binge watching them (which is mistake that lead to many mixed emotions), I am ready to review them. Being that each episode deals with a different plot and character, I will review each episode in a paragraph or less. Ranking these episodes was a challenge as Season 3 proved to be Black Mirror‘s best season yet. Maybe I’ll do a similar version for seasons 1 and 2, but enough about my future plans!

S3 E1: Nosedive (4.5/5)

Imagine Peeple (that App that lets you rank other people), but taken to the extreme. Now imagine if a low ranking can have real life consequences, now THAT’s scary. Bryce Dallas Howard is our protagonist as Lacie Pound, a young woman who is trying really hard to get everybody to like her for a better ranking. This is definitely one of the funnier episodes in the series as a whole, being that it was also co-written by Rashida Jones and Michael Schur (Parks and Rec anyone?). What I like most about this episode is its critique of society’s obsession with our need of approval from others and vice versa. The humor was also a nice touch which, if you’ve seen the entire series, is not present that often. And yes, I noticed the irony of me ranking an episode about….well, ranking.

S3 E2: Playtest (4.5/5)

A young man traveling the world is hired as a video game tester in hopes of using the money to get back home. I will say this: I did find the idea of VR video games interesting and innovative, but after watching this episode, I’m gonna give it a HARD pass. There’s not much social commentary here, so it’s an episode mostly focused on the paranoia and terror of wondering if what you’re seeing is real or just a simulation. Mixing terror and comedy just right, Playtest will have any gamers crazy enough to try VR Gaming to proceed with caution. Oh and…ALWAYS call your Mother.

S3 E3: Shut Up and Dance (4.9/5)

This and San Junipero are my favorite episodes of the season for the exact opposite reasons. An all-too-real story about a teenager who is blackmailed by hacker who secretly filmed him in his “private time” on his laptop. Alex Lawther’s performance as the teenager is spectacular here, perfectly capturing the anxiety, panic and desperation that one would go through in his situation. But the ending, OH MY GOD, that ending will leave you infuriated and broken but probably not for the reason you’re thinking. If this episode doesn’t get you to put a strip of tape over your laptop camera, I don’t know what will.

S3 E4: San Junipero (5/5)

On the other hand, here’s an episode that made me feel tons better after that soul scorching conclusion in Shut Up and Dance. Here we have love story about a woman searching for her friend in the paradise of, you guessed it, San Junipero. If you’ve noticed by now, most of Black Mirror‘s appeal is the dark outcomes of the story that’ll leave you worried if we are really heading in that direction. This is one episode,however, will make you wish we ARE heading there. The main protagonists (Mackenzie Davis and Gugu MBatha Raw) are perfect together and the story effortlessly combines science fiction, romance and a sense of optimism that’ll just leave a goofy smile on your face by the time it ends. Heaven IS a Place on Earth, am I right!?

S3 E5: Men Against Fire (4/5)

In a future where modern warfare has changed, a soldier begins to experience glitches that mess with his tech that helps him identify enemy targets, as well as his mind. While I did enjoy the story (depending on your definition of “enjoy”) and the cast, my only gripe with this episode is that it was pretty on-the-nose with the social commentary. That, however, doesn’t take away from the message it’s trying to send and how relevant it is now.  Sometimes, you don’t really know who your enemies are unless you open your eyes.

S3 E6: Hated in the Nation (4.75/5)

The longest episode of the season and it uses every minute to good use. A pair of detectives investigate the mysterious death of a journalist, which might be linked to the internet hate she received for an article she wrote. What makes this episode stand out is its take on how easy it is for us to express hate over someone on the internet without considering the consequences. In other words, in a world where anybody can become scrutinized by the internet, shouldn’t the scrutinizers also be punished? In true Black Mirror fashion, the ending is going to leave some jaws on the floor. And if you hate bees, watch with caution.

And that’s Black Mirror Season 3. The whole series is definitely worth a watch. It’s relevant, thought provoking and is total mindfuck.  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to contemplate how we as species are doomed by the very thing we created. Have a nice day!

P.S. If you wanna know what the title “Black Mirror” means, turn off your device 😉

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If Only I had Parents Like That…..(The Birdcage)

You might be thinking “Wait, that movie came out years ago” That is certainly true and I had the unfortunate luck of never seeing it until now. This sub series of reviews will focus on movies that had already came out, but I had never gotten to see. I see it as a way to keep my blog more updated and to share my thoughts on films that had already established a public opinion, just to see if mine differs or concurs. To my defense, I only heard about this movie after the tragic death of Robin Williams (R.I.P) as part of his “best of” gallery of performances. Before then, he was always The Genie in my heart, though I did enjoy many of his other performances (shoutout to “Good Will Hunting”, “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “World’s Best Dad”).

Seeing this film only again proves William’s ability is an actor remains to be unmatched. Enter Nathan Lane….

William’s and Lane are dynamite playing the eccentric couple Armand and Albert Goldman, respectively. Most of their scenes almost feel like they are engaged in a fencing duel to see who can steal the scene and they both make one hell of a team. Armand’s reserved, but engaging demeanor compliments Albert’s drama queen-esque personality. I would have loved a TV show just focused on them two; though I do see the similarities between the Goldmans and Cameron and Mitchell from Modern Family.

The plot kicks off when Armand and Albert’s son, Val, makes a surprise visit to the titular Miami drag queen nightclub “The Birdcage”, a club that Armand owns and Albert regularly performs at. Val’s surprise visit is followed by a surprise announcement that he intends to marry Barbara Keely, a girl he recently met and slept with. As if his son marrying at such a young age (Val is 21, Barbara is 18) wasn’t worrisome for the Goldmans, they are hit with the news that Barbara comes from a strict conservative politician family who are in the midst of a scandal as the patriarch, Kevin Keely, is up for re-election. Okay, that’s pretty bad, but is that it? Nope! Those crazy kids want their parents to meet…tomorrow night…at the Goldman residence….which resides on top of The Birdcage. Cue the zany antics!!

And there you go. The film then splits into multiple story arches climbing up to the climatic meet up. Some of these story arches kind of drag the film. For instance, the Keely’s story arch seemed to be the weakest part of the film. Geen Hackman and Diane Wiest, who play the Keely parents, do okay but they come off as ridiculous, air headed human beings (and I’m not just saying that because they are conservative). But here’s some perspective. When you make the Goldmans look less silly than your family, who are supposed to be high class, stern and of political background, then you might be doing something wrong. Who knows? That might be the point of the film.

Another story arch I thought was superfluous was the whole scandal with the Keelys. Long Story Short. Keely is a co-founder of a political society that fight for traditional values, but when another co-founder is found in a compromising situation, the media goes bananas. It didn’t feel like it contributed anything to the film’s plot except building up to the film’s end, which I thought was kind of weak but I still liked it enough that I had a smile on my face. Yes, we know. Reporters can be snarky, weasel-like parasites who are always looking for the next big story. We get it. I just don’t understand why they were necessary in this film.

Overall, the film is carried mostly by Williams and Lane’s performances and nifty direction from Mike Nichols (also R.I.P) and it sends a good LGBT-themed message that gave the film more heart. I’m actually surprised that the film didn’t receive any backlash for its content, being that it was released in 1996. But hey! I’m not gonna complain!

Here’s a blog post that talks more about family values and how The Birdcage’s involvement with it if you’re interested: http://www.amc.com/talk/2008/07/family-values-the-birdcage

Rating: 4/5

Most likely to love it: Fans of Robin Williams, the LGBT, White Wine Lovers

Most likely to hate it: Close minded Conservatives, Red Wine Lovers (Tannins!!)