Black Mirror – Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too (2019)

Director: Anne Sewitsky

Writer: Charlie Brooker (Screenplay)

Starring: Miley Cyrus, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport

Plot: A lonely teenager yearns to connect with her favorite pop star – whose charmed existence isn’t quite as rosy it appears…


Runtime: 1 Hour

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Funny & Dark

Story: Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too starts as lonely teenager Rachel (Rice) is struggling to cope with her new school and family life, with older sister Jack (Davenport) not searching for the attention that Rachel is struggling in her own way. Rachel does have her own favourite pop star in Ashley O (Cyrus) who has been released a new interactive doll that Rachel is desperate to have and receives on her birthday, making a friend.

With Rachel turning more and more to the Ashley Too doll, to a level which starts to see her struggling to cope without it, while the real Ashley O is having her own crisis in the not so rosy world of pop music.

Thoughts on Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too

Characters – Ashley O is one of the biggest popstars in the world, she gives the world the cheesy numbers that the younger audience will flock too, which includes Rachel, Ashley however is being controlled by her manager, which sees her trying to break out of this world to be her own talent. Rachel is a lonely teenager that idolizes Ashley O, she lacks confidence in her new school becoming friends with the new doll called Ashley Too, she has been dealing in her own way with her grief of losing her mother. Jack is the older sister to Rachel, that has been dealing with her grief in her own music, she does show the most attention to Rachel as she tries to help her through her problems.

PerformancesMiley Cyrus is wonderful in this role, getting to play into how people might see her and runs with it. Angourie Rice is brilliant to watch once again, proving to be one of the hottest prospects in the business today. Madison Davenport completes the main cast showing us just how capable she fits in with the two leading stars of episode.

StoryThe story follows a world famous popstar that is being controlled by her family, but on the outside she is having the time of her life, while a superfan is trying to put her life back together her mother’s death using Ashley as her inspiration. The story uses the themes that comes from fandom, where people can see the life of somebody being all sunny, only that it isn’t what they think, we also tackle the ideas of loss and grief which shows us how people will deal with it in their own way. Mixing the themes together does help keep us entertained and when the Ashley Too doll gets unleashed, it is one of the funniest things Black Mirror has ever done.

Sci-Fi The world uses the sci-fi ideas of how technology is being used to create music and control people, which shows the advances are not too far ahead.

SettingsThe film shows the different lives both Rachel and Ashley O are living, which does show us just how they can be thinking the same.


Scene of the Movie – Ashley Too Doll.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We don’t get enough focus on Jack.

Final Thoughts This is a very dark and very funny episode of Black Mirror, it does show how technology can be controlling and how grief can be difficult to deal with.

Overall: Funny throughout.

Rating

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Black Mirror – Smithereens (2019)

Director: James Hawes

Writer: Charlie Brooker (Screenplay)

Starring: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace, Caitlin Innes Edwards, Ruibo Qian

 

Plot: A cab driver with an agenda becomes the centre of attention on a day that rapidly spirals out of control.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Truly Intense

 

Story: Smithereens starts as we meet Chris (Scott) a taxi driver that spends his time waiting outside one building waiting for clients, he does attend support groups for people who have experienced loss. Chris picks up his latest client Jayden (Idris) working for a company called Smithereen, Chris goes onto kidnap him in an attempt speak to the boss of the company Billy (Grace), the problem is that while the kidnapping gets the attention of the police and Chris finds himself surrounded by police in his race for this conversation.

 

Thoughts on Smithereens

 

Characters – Chris is a taxi driver that has been through a traumatic experience and has set out to get a message sent to the owner of a company known as Smithereen, he is on edge and kidnaps an employee of the company to get through to the man. We get to learn a lot about his life as the hostage situation unfolds. Jayden is the hostage who is just an intern within the company, he is scared for his life and will give any answers he can to help Chris get his answers. Billy is the owner of Smithereen that has a become the target of Chris’s actions.

PerformancesAndrew Scott is brilliant in the leading role, we can see just how on edge his character is through the film dealing with a range of emotions which makes his position in the story understandable. Damson Idris is great in his role which is as a hostage victim trying to stay composed. Topher Grace continues to prove himself as an actor breaking away from the sitcom figure.

StoryThe story here follows a depressed taxi driver that wants to speak to the owner of a social media network leading him to take a hostage while he waits for a conversation.  In this story we get to dive into the reality of loss, grief and depression, while showing how controlling social media has become to the world, add in the hostage situations we get one of the most intense stories you will ever see, as you just want to see what will unfold and just where the story will go next. We do have moments of humour too which does lighten the mood at times, while never taking away from the intensity the story is offering.

Sci-FiThe sci-fi involvement in this film comes from the social media aspects of the film, showing how a big firm has just as much ability to learn about a criminal situation at a faster pace than the police, showing that we are in a world where the world can be controlled by likes and comments.

SettingsThe film has an interesting mix of settings, firstly the hostage position is in the middle of a field in England, we deal with people in LA and in Utah all trying to resolve the situation, showing how quickly a global effort can work to search for answers.


Scene of the Movie –
The truth.

That Moment That Annoyed Me British snipers are terrible.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most intense episodes the series has ever put together, we have an outstanding leading performance and get to deal with the grief and suffering that people can experience.

 

Overall: One of the best episodes ever.

Rating

 

 

Black Mirror – Striking Vipers

Director: Owen Harris

Writer: Charlie Brooker (Screenplay)

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Monique Cynthia Brown

 

Plot: Two estranged college friends reunite in later life, triggering a series of events that could alter their lives forever.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Largely Forgettable

 

Story: Striking Vipers starts as two former college friends Danny (Mackie) and Karl (Abdul-Mateen II) reunite at Danny’s birthday, even though they have gone in different directions, Danny is married with a family, while Karl is a womaniser. Karl buys Danny a birthday present called Striking Vipers which is a virtual reality game.

The game takes Danny and Karl into avatars of their favourite characters, where they can actually fight and experience other feelings that can be replicated from real life.

 

Thoughts on Striking Vipers

 

Characters – Danny is a happily married man who is looking to have his second child with his wife, he has grown up a lot since his wild college years which saw him party a lot, with this new game, he starts to see life differently starting to question his own views on life, which could start to put a strain on his marriage. Karl is the old best friend of Danny from college, he has become distant from Danny, only to return with a new game which could change their lives, he is still acting like he is in college despite the fact they are reaching 40, he is often seen as the bad influence on Danny. Theo is the wife of Danny, she starts to notice the change in him, which sees her wanting to connect with her husband once again before losing the marriage.

PerformancesAnthony Mackie is great in the leading role without struggle to balance his characters emotional dilemma through the film. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II continues to show he has continued to impress in the last year as an actor fast becoming a name to watch for years to come. Nicole Beharie shows us how to make a supporting character make an impact as we see how she bring us the wife that is losing it.

StoryThe story here follows two former college friends whose lives change when they start using a virtual reality video game, it reaches dangerous levels of obsession and offers up the questions of sexually desires. For the calibre of storytelling we are used to seeing from a Black Mirror story, we look at the reluctant behaviour in relationships and how people can become overly reliant on certain ways of finding love. The way this story flows does feel off for the most part leaving us like a moment of impact in missing.

Sci-FiFor the sci-fi elements used within this film, we get to see just how the world of virtual reality can be used to achieve things you can’t do in real life and shows us that not everybody will turn to needing to find help from this source.

SettingsThe settings in the film come from the idea that everyday life can need refreshing at times.

Special EffectsThe effects come from being inside the virtual reality world, which does show how they movements could be real, which is beautiful to see.


Scene of the Movie –
The first entry to the virtual world.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does go way to slowly.

Final ThoughtsThis does just about become a forgettable story, it does want to examine real issues only to just pull out from them follow through.

 

Overall: Disappointing addition to the black mirror.

Rating

 

 

Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Writer: Becky Johnston (Screenplay) Heinrich Harrer (Book)

Starring: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, BD Wong, Mako, Danny Denzongpa, Victor Wong

 

Plot: True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.


Tagline – At the end of the world his real journey began.

Runtime: 2 Hours 16 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Drags Along

 

Story: Seven Years in Tibet starts when Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer (Pitt) heads to India to climb in the Himalayas, he doesn’t get on with his team with leader Peter Aufschnaiter (Thewlis) forcing him to return, which does see him taken a prisoner of war.

Escaping from the prison camp, Heinrich and Peter head into the Himalayas before reaching Tibet, where he befriends the young Dalai Lama which sees a unique friendship started between the two.

 

Thoughts on Seven Years in Tibet

 

Characters – Heinrich Harrer is an explorer from Austria, he heads out for his next quest in the Himalayas to avoid the war heading to his country, he leave his pregnant wife behind him, but his nature isn’t to be friendly with anybody else on his team, he must learn to work as a team when the team are captured, and the escape sees him travelling around the Himalayas. Peter is the guide on the quest, which sees him being the one that does end up becoming the only friend for Heinrich, the two do their mission across Asia to the religious city. Ngawang is one of the Dalai Lama’s advisors, he wants to use the friendship to his advantage. Kungo is the man that welcomes the outsiders into the city, The young Dalai Lama is interested in Heinrich, being somebody with outside knowledge, he wants to keep him around.

PerformancesBrad Pitt really does struggle in the leading role, his accent is all over the place and for a charismatic explorer he doesn’t drag you into his performance. David Thewlis is solid enough in his role which is where he is always an actor to turn to. The rest of the cast have a mix of experience and screen time which just doesn’t let them effect the story.

StoryThe story tells us the events that led to Austrian explorer becoming friends with the Dalai Lama during World War II and the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It does show a different in culture, how the Dalai Lama was willing to gain knowledge from people outside of his village even at a young age. We do get a lot of jumping in time, with very little happening in places, which doesn’t help the flow of the story, which is meant to be a big moment in history. The narration from Brad Pitt doesn’t help too, because it sounds like he is just mumbling the lines which are meant to fill in the gaps.

Adventure/Biopic/WarThe adventure shows the incredible will to survive that Heinrich has, the ability to adapt to each situation which will take him across Asia. This plays out in the biopic side of the film, showing us just how the event of his story unfolded. The film is most set during the war, be it the second world war or the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

SettingsThe film does use the authentic locations for the events of the film, it shows the harsh reality certain locations are for Heinrich.


Scene of the Movie –
The meetings with the Dalai Lama.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The pacing is slow for no reason.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow paced biopic that could show us a real moment of history, only it ends up not giving us enough to care about.

 

Overall: Disappointing a slow biopic.

Rating