Month: January 2018

Nerve – review

Nerve is a high school drama and thriller directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, as a frustrated senior student in high school finds herself thrust into the world of the online game ‘Nerve’, which sees people performing dares for money as a community of people online watches. The film stars Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade and Miles Heizer.

This is not your typical high school drama, as we follow Vee (Emma Roberts), a somewhat shy, anxious high school senior about to embark to college in a few months time, she has a good set of friends and a stable upbringing but she feels like she could be doing more with herself, which comes to the forefront as it turns out that her friend see her as being a bit safe, lacking an adventurous spirit. And thus the story in essence begins and say hello to ‘Nerve’, a near future online game that’s sweeping her high school and teenagers all around the city, seeing people dare each other for money, increasing in value as the dares get more outrageous and you know, illegal.

I really like the premise for the film as it strays away from the typical high school drama, involving technology quite heavily in the story, it’s almost like if the Watchdogs game got a live action spin off film, set in high school. Though that being said, you do still get the tropes of high school drama with Vee and her best friend Sydney having underlying issues with each other and with things coming to the surface over boys, the good thing is that the plot doesn’t necessarily drown in this melodrama however and the pacing keeps things moving at an interesting, engaging pace.

The fun of the ‘Nerve’ game is its unpredictability, which takes the plot in a visceral, interesting direction as you don’t know what dare Vee will take on next or if she’ll do any dares whatsoever, with the wild card Ian (Dave Franco) bringing an interesting dynamic the plot and serving as a love interest for Vee simultaneously, Franco shines in the role and comes across very naturally in a sort of reckless, cocky way with a touch of charm to himself. Meanwhile Emma Roberts is again great as the main character in a high school drama, effortlessly switching from mean queen in some TV shows she’s starred in, to out of her depth shy girl in Nerve. With the acting on the whole being quite solid.

Nerve is a pleasant surprise, an engaging story that feels of the time with online communities and what anonymity online can make people do, making an interesting social commentary while also charting a sort of coming of age story for Vee who does change along her journey. The plot serving like a cautionary tale to young peoples obsession with being online and fringe activities they may participate it in, just to be a part of the conversation among peers.

7/10

. Well paced, engaging plot

. Good performances

. Interesting mix of technology with story

Ranking Black Mirror (season 3)

So I only recently realised I’d never actually finished watching season 3, missing out on episode 6, well I watched it and can now make my definitive ranking. This was the first season that was more widely available to audiences worldwide as it aired on Netflix exclusively as opposed to Channel 4 like previous seasons.

Hated In The Nation (episode 6)

One of the more recent episodes I’ve seen and at feature length (being just shy of 90 minutes long), this episode feels like… a feature length film and less like a Black Mirror episode but it still contains the series dark sensibilities and cold social commentary. Featuring swams of autonomous bees that are used to attack and essentially kill people that get targeted through a viral hash tag on social media, the allegory is on the nose and obvious, the bees representing the swarms of people attacking individuals for perceived bad actions/behaviour.

The commentary is all the more biting because this happens right now, not to the extent of people being killed by robotic bees but you get the point, people have been hounded to death online and online bullying is a real thing, it’s a dark and sickening side to the internet but a side that we all know exists. Themes aside, the way the episode is shot, the pacing and the acting is all on point as well, resulting in a very high quality end product and the best episode of the season.

 

Playtest (episode 2)

Playtest feels like an episode right out of The Twilight Zone, an intriguing premise, twists and turns galore and an unwravelling plot that has you pretty much hooked from the offset. The acting is quite good in the episode as well and helps to make some of the more horror like scenes work, it’s a more psychological horror than a thriller in fact and there are some pretty genuinely unsettling moments. There’s also an interesting commentary on new technology, playing into our fears about the unknown when it comes to new technology and things that could go horribly wrong, not to mention the pretty harrowing and gut punch of a twist, episodes like this are what have the series so memorable.

 

Shut up and dance (episode 3)

One of the darkest episode in the whole series and another on the nose commentary of social medias dark side, this episode feels very poignant as we follow an individual who is harassed and forced to undertake crazy tasks to avoid his dark secret being exposed to the world, all for the enjoyment of people online despite him going through a living hell. You’re left after watching the episode wondering what the point of all it was, ruining someones life just because you can just for your own twisted entertainment? It seems completely sadistic and cruel but hey, trolls actually exist… again this feels all too real and helped with the emotional impact of the story.

 

Nosedive (episode 1)

Bryce Dallas Howard stars as the main character in this story just 5 minutes from now in a twisted alternate reality that sees everyones lives being rated, lower rated people are shunned out of society and frowned upon while the higher rated people live their best lives, it’s a twisted, warped version of reality but perception really can be real. And with social media, this concept of rating each others lives again feels very modern and not too far off in the future, though it’s taken to the extreme. I like the central message presented as well as I take it, that it’s okay to live how you want to and not feel like you need to conform to societal expectations, presenting a fake, superficial facade of yourself just to please others, I mean life’s too short for that anyway!

 

Men Against Fire (episode 5)

A weird sort of dystopian VR nightmare, this episodes story didn’t quite grab me despite an interesting looking premise, the acting is okay as well but the plot just felt a bit samey and I could sort of see where they were going with the twist/reveal which didn’t have too much of an impact.

 

San Junipero (episode 4)

This just might be the episode from season 3 I’ve seen mentioned the most on social media and in positive terms but it didn’t really do anything for me, in part because I’ve seen plots like this before in different forms and it wasn’t anything new, though despite that I appreciate that at the heart of the story is a touching, somewhat bittersweet love story.

Ranking Black Mirror (season 2)

So Black Mirror‘s sort of a brilliant anthology show that I’ve never really talked about on TheDoc but now with its growing popularity and everyone knowing about it because of Netflix, it’s on just about everyones radar and for good reason, with the quality of the writing and directing in a lot of the episodes.

 

White Bear (episode 2) 

There’s something satisfying yet also a bit twisted in seeing people get their comeuppance and taste of justice in the way Black Mirror does it anyway, but an intriguing premise and a feeling of karma drives the story, as we follow a bystander of an accident who didn’t help, now being recorded and watched by people as she seemingly embarks on a sort of reality show. The story is tense, keeps you guessing and makes a clear allegory to societies obsession with watching other people, especially at their lowest, the bystander effect is a real thing and is all too common in this day and age.

 

The Waldo Moment (episode 3)

Stinging political satire and all the more relevant in the age of Donald Trump and the circus-ification of politics, the premise is completely absurd but at the same time all to real and poignant in this day and age. A story that feels very relevant, even years before the state of politics as we know it now. It’s an interesting and it makes for a very irreverent, sarcastic take on the gamification of many aspects of society, including politics and how making a joke out of something can lead to a run away impact / monster that you can’t control anymore, just take a look at viral trends for a sort of comparison.This is Black Mirror at some of its most satirical and sardonic nature.

 

Be Right Back (episode 1) 

‘Be right back’ didn’t really resonate with me that much but I appreciate the idea behind the macabre premise, though maybe because I’ve seen the idea so many times before it didn’t really make that much of an impact on me. That being said, the acting is decent and there is a strong emotional core to the story of two lovers trying to connect beyond death in a rather superficial way via technology. The emphasis here in my view being that technology can only imitate and provide virtual experiences, which can never beat the real thing, no matter how close they come…. even with futuristic technology.

Ranking Black Mirror (season 1)

So there’s this little anthology show called Black Mirror that you may have heard of and may be watching right now…. or very recently, well it’s great and though I’ve never really talked about it on here, I’ve been watching it since it started here in the UK in 2011, exploring dark, dystopian futures that expand on modern lifes obsession with technology. I also love sci-fi and modern/emerging tech so the show really hits the spot for me, anyway I’m almost through season 4 and will rank that soon but I’m starting off with the first season and moving forward. Here’s my ranking (I haven’t seen The Entire history of you).

 

The National Anthem (episode 1)

A princess in the royal family has been kidnapped and her kidnapper well… he has a very specific set of demands for UK prime minister Michael Callow, forcing him to take drastic measures in order to get her back, in a very politically charged climate at the time of the episode and even more so now in the UK, the premise felt very of the times albeit a bit to extremes (like every Black Mirror premise). But with some good acting (Rory Kinnear as the PM), great tension and a plot that kept you guessing, you really didn’t know how it was going to end and that kept things interesting, also delving into the fact of being faced with impossible situations, would you humiliate yourself and possibly end your career to save someones life? It’s a immoral and dark question you’ll probably never face but epitomizes the essence of the show.

it may be one of the more forgotten episode among recent seasons but it’s still one of the best.

 

Fifty Million Merits (episode 2)

A biting sarcastic look at reality TV and the lengths people go to, to get fame and fortune, this is very much a commentary on our current society and the sometimes unfortunate mental state of people who go on such shows and the way they get exploited for views or get surprising opportunities to continue to work in the media off the back of controversial behaviour or actions. With an interesting ending to boot that is genuinely quite surprising, almost undermining the whole premise of the episode, it serves as some great satire to the way reality TV and parts of the media work. Also an early starring role for Daniel Kaluuya (star of Get Out, also in the upcoming Black Panther)

Top 5 anticipated 2018 films

2017 is dead, long live 2018… yeah I know, we just crossed into the new year but I’ve already seen the likes of Collider video and Schmoesknow with top 10 lists for films out next year and I’m sure you already have a handful you’re looking forward to so yeah, here are my top 5 films I’m anticipating, not top 10 for a change because I always end up not liking 3-4 films on each list I make each year. (US release dates by default).

And I just want to do something different this time around and also they’re in no particular order so here goes.

 

Black Panther – February 16th

Director: Ryan Coogler

More Marvel films being on my list go pretty much goes without saying at this point but Black Panther in a word looks, slick, it’s a Marvel film with a difference as we’re not really getting T’chalas origin story as he has already donned the Panther persona but seeing more of Wakanda is pretty intriguing. An almost all black cast is a first for a superhero and a Marvel film and the choice of actors is also on point with a wealth of talented actors, the set pieces look fun and the melding of tradition and culture

 

Avengers: Infinity War – May 4th

Director: Joe & Anthony Russo

No top 5 or 10 list can really be complete without Infinity War, maybe some people are a bit tired of the super hero formula that Marvel has nailed but a lot of people are pumped and understandably so, the crescendo of the MCU as we’ve known it may see some character deaths and introductions as we slide into phase 4 and get a whole new style of Marvel films. Based somewhat on the Infinity War storyline, the stakes have never been higher and seeing all of your favourite Marvel characters come crashing together stokes excitement and interest the likes of which we haven’t seen since well, The Avengers though Batman V Superman also got a lot of filmgoers excited. Anyway I’m expecting good things, a darker tone, some resolution to character arcs and some impactful drama, I can’t wait!

 

Venom – October 5th

Director: Ruben Fleischer

A standalone film in the Spiderverse (sort of) starring Tom Hardy as Venom? I’ve been signed up to this film for a few months now since we heard of Hardy being cast at least, the concept is a brave and bold one and could spark a new wave of comic book films centred on antagonists if it’s a big enough of a hit. The film being outside of Marvel could also allow it to be quite dark and adult which is intriguing, we could see interesting sides to Eddie Brock/Venom, especially with such a talented lead in Tom Hardy.

 

Incredibles 2 – June 15th

Director: Brad Bird

The sequel we’ve also sort of been low key waiting for is just 6 months away, following up on one of the best superhero and animated films ever really, the premise for the story is brilliant and executed so well off of such a straightforward idea that I’m intrigued to see where Pixar takes the story. Hopefully still focusing on the heavily family side to things and the humour that derives from it along with some well done action, it should be a good one.

 

The Predator – August 3rd

Directed by: Shane Black

Shane Black doing a Predator film? Interesting… I’ve never been a huge Predator fan but I’m quite eager to see a new film in the franchise and some new ideas for stories, the predator is still one of the most uniquely made and interesting aliens in sci-fi that hasn’t quite been done justice in films aside maybe 2 (Predator and Predators), so we’re well overdue for some quality, hard hitting new Predator films.

Notable mentions:

The New Mutants, Solo (A Star Wars Story), Deadpool 2, The Purge: The Island, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – review

Yorgos Lanthimos directs this psychological horror/mystery film, centred around a seemingly normal family, headed by a celebrated surgeon whose life is flipped upside down after he befriends a mysterious teenage boy, the film stars Colin Farrel, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone and Sunny Siljic.

Boy do I have thing to say about this film… but let’s start off with the seemingly inherent hypocrisy a reviewer can face when it comes to mysterious, enigmatic films like this that present an intriguing premise but offer little in the way of explanation and I’m guilty of this, either quite liking a film with such a set up or completely being turned off, I quite liked It Comes At Night for example but I left The Killing of a Sacred Deer a bit disappointed.The frustrating thing is that slow burn mystery horror films like this are almost all set up the same narratively but can elicit such vastly different responses and in itself, that’s a great thing about films. The films’ tone and set up quite reminds me of Dogtooth actually, also by Lanthimos, one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

But honestly the film’s just not great, despite a pretty good cast as well, Colin Farrel as Steven, figurehead of the Murphy family and a caring family man, alongside Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two kids Kim and Bob, they’re a pretty normal family but then again they’re kind of not aside from the parents, the kids are sort of twistedfgrom the offset, even without the even stranger Martin (Barry Keoghan) coming into the fray. And this is part of where the film loses me, it’s almost like the writing is trying to make the film strange and unnerving right from the start with very odd dialogue and line delivery that sticks out so much it had me practically saying “no one talks like this” and with such dialogue, Lanthimos seems to like flattening certain characters in his films to almost one dimensional levels, making it hard to connect with or empathize with them. This is in part played for black comedy I’m sure, with the Murphy kids especially talking so bluntly to each other and their parents without a hint of humor to the absurdity of what they’re saying, the kids are also strangely emotionless throughout the film and this distance from the characters makes it hard to empathise with them.

The dialogue is so bad that it both takes you out of the film in fact and reduces any potential emotional impact and I struggled to really come to terms with anything that was happening in a logical sense (much like the parents in the story I suppose) but with no real backstory for Martin and no explanation of anything whatsoever, things happen and the story goes it course…. and that’s basically it. There are some well framed shots and long takes that linger on a bit too long to help evoke a feeling of nervousness and an unsettling feeling does pervade the film so it does succeed in that regard, with Barry Keoghan giving a truly twisted and bizarre but nonetheless memorable performance. While a scene in particular was so disturbing that I could barely watch it – this coming from a guy that is un-phased by the vast majority of horror films.

Anyway the film did nothing for me despite instilling an unsettled feeling and I feel like the story is a big missed opportunity, structurally it could have been put together better, especially with the writing. For more detail on it, the premise is sort of based on an Ancient Greek tragedy – ‘Iphigenia in Auglis’ and reading up on it does bring the basic layout of the story to a more coherent place but this modern adaptation of it left me well, un-phased. Because no film deserves a pass on good writing and plot, for the sake of the viewing experience, no matter how big or small it is.

5/10

. Poor pacing

. Bad writing, trying to evoke an unnatural feeling through dialogue that feels too forced

. Plot feels a bit hollow and void of any impact, in part due to the writing and detached tone of the film