TV Review – Black Mirror: Crocodile

Black Mirror: Crocodile (2017)
Written by Charlie Brooker
Directed by John Hillcoat

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Fifteen years ago, on their way home from a club, Rob and Mia hit a cyclist and proceed to toss his body and bike into a lake. Now, Mia is a successful architect who is on a business trip in the city. While she is there, Mia commits a second heinous act and appears to cover this one up as well. However, Shazia an insurance claims investigator is traveling down a path that will come colliding with Mia’s. Shazia uses a new form of technology that uses sensory input to create video images of people’s memories. This way the insurance company has a more accurate gauge of the events that happened. An accident occurs outside Mia’s hotel window the night she makes a decision out of desperation, and she ends up on the list of witnesses to interview.

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Movie Review – Ginger & Rosa

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Ginger & Rosa (2013)
Written & Directed by Sally Potter

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It’s London 1962, and the world is feeling the effects of fear surrounding the Cold War. The most significant worry is that nuclear weapons will bring about the end of humanity. Feeling these fears is Ginger, a 17-year-old girl who is just beginning to figure out who she is and doesn’t want the world to end. She sits between her mother, Nat, who wants her daughter to become more responsible and live conventionally and her father, Roland, a free-spirited intellectual who encourages Ginger to rebel and skip school. In addition to these two influences, Ginger has her lifelong best friend, Rosa. While Ginger has succeeded in academics, Rosa has fallen behind and is making drastically different choices in life. Ginger feels pulled to that side of life but is also caught up in the movement to ban the bomb. Eventually Ginger will discover a dark secret about Rosa that threatens to upend the young woman’s life.

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TV Review – The League of Gentlemen Series 1

The League of Gentlemen Series 1
Written by Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith & Jeremy Dyson
Directed by Steve Bendelack

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The fictional Northern England village of Royston Vasey is not a place you would want to spend much time in. This does not bode well in the opening scene for young Benjamin Denton who has come by train to visit his Uncle Harvey and Aunt Val. But he is just one character (the majority played by Gatiss, Pemberton, and Shearsmith) that make up this mosaic of depravity and dark humor. There is Mr. Chinnery, the veterinarian with a long accidental kill streak, Pauline the brutal jobs trainer for citizens on the government dole, and the trio of Brian, Geoff, and Mike, lads who were friends since school but have risen to very different levels of success. The worst though is high on the hills outside of town, operating a local shop for local people: Edward and Tubbs, a terrifying duo of inbred killers. Did I mention this show is a comedy?

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Movie Review – The Levelling

The Levelling (2017)
Written & Directed by Hope Dickson Leach

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Clover is a veterinary student estranged from her father, Aubrey. She has returned to the family farm in Somerset Levels wetlands in the south west of England in the wake of her brother, Harry’s death. Clover can tell right away that her brother’s death was a suicide despite Aubrey’s insistence that this was just an accident with a gun in the bathroom. The farm has been in decay since a massive flood which the insurance company would not pay out damages for. As Clover seeks the truth about what drove Harry to kill himself, she finds the tension between she and Aubrey growing.

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Movie Review – Prevenge

Prevenge (2017)
Written and Directed by Alice Lowe

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Ruth (Alice Lowe) suffered a terrible tragedy and is now a single pregnant mother to be. Something strange has happened though. She’s begun hearing the squeaky whispered voice of her unborn child. This gestating being compels Ruth to go on a series of murders that seem random at first but slowly reveal a methodology. The reason behind the killings and the tragedy that happens before the film starts to lead to a tragic and disturbing finale.

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Movie Review – Free Fire

Free Fire (2017)
Written by Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley
Directed by Ben Wheatley

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It was Boston in 1978, two members of the Irish Republican Army, Chris, and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley, respectively) are making a rendezvous with a South African arms dealer, Vern (Sharlto Copley) in an abandoned factory to purchase weapons for the civil war back home. Their intermediary, Justine (Brie Larson) assures them the deal is right and this is backed up by Vern’s representative, Ord (Armie Hammer). However, as the moment of truth nears closer, money exchanges hands, irregularities about the weapons are addressed, and the various members of each side interact it becomes apparent that something is about to blow.

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Movie Review – Dredd

Dredd (2012, dir. Peter Travis)

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Mega-City One is an urban sprawl filled with crime and poverty. Enforcing the rule of law in this crumbling post-apocalyptic landscape as the Judges, a natural combination of judge-jury-executioner. The most famous of these brutal lawmen is Judge Dredd, an enigmatic figure who is more of a justice-dispensing machine than a human being. He’s charged with testing rookie Judge Anderson on what ends up being one of his toughest days. The call comes from the large tenement Peach Trees that there has been a triple homicide. The Judges quickly learn these murders are tied to a threat is plaguing all of Mega-City One.

Most movie-savvy people are aware of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 trash fire of a film, Judge Dredd. His adaptation of the popular UK comic book made a ton of errors that betrayed the spirit of the source material. He rarely wore his Judge’s helmet after the opening action sequence, and the script gave a lot of backstory to the Judge. These story elements are pretty antithetical to the nature of the comic book. The film ended up highlighting the more absurd elements and has become a perennial entry of the Worst Films of All Time lists. So, this reboot had a tremendously bad reputation to overcome.

Dredd manages to stay very faithful to the source material, even the more fantastic parts while delivering a character-centered story. Apparently inspired by The Raid, Dredd focuses its action within the walls of Peach Trees, a housing complex that provides plenty of set pieces and a palpable tension. When you have nowhere to run from the forces out to kill you, it will inevitably bring out more ferocious elements in humans. With a character like Judge Dredd, he is absolutely in his environment with this scenario. To say Dredd is a violent film is an understatement. This is a gory, visceral, kill fest. Yet, it tells a compelling story, particularly through Judge Anderson.

In the same way, Max in the Mad Max films is merely a cipher through which to tell a story, writer Alex Garland fashions Dredd into the same type of protagonist. It is entirely unimportant what Dredd was like as a child or the what the moment was that he forfeited his humanity to become an arbiter of justice. Instead, he is the vessel that helps tell the story of Judge Anderson’s loss of innocence. Actor Karl Urban takes on a role many actors would shirk at, the majority of his face covered with the entire film. But Urban, a fan of the comic, expressed that he understood why keeping Dredd’s identity obscured was essential to the character. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson first appears as your typical by the book, nervous rookie but by the end of the film, she is able to hold onto her humanity while acknowledging the violence that people can be pushed towards. The exact route her character will take within the fiction of the film is left for us to wonder about.

Lena Headey plays the movie’s central antagonist, Mama. I was absolutely thrilled with the choices she made in playing this crime boss villain. The minute she spoke I knew I was going to love her performance because she chose to be quiet in the way she spoke. This wasn’t the godawful Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Rising sort of calm quiet then SHOUTING performance. We learned a lot about Mama through how she communicated. In the environment where she grew up, words carried little currency. For people in places like Peach Trees, a threat is worth nothing if there isn’t a physical punishment behind it. Mama makes sure to inflict brutal horrors on people who cross her. Even in the final showdown between Dredd and Mama we have her maintaining a very calm, quiet hate in her voice.

Dredd succeeds and undoing and helping the audience forget everything about the 90s attempt to adapt the property. It is definitely elevated above your average comic book fare as well. It has tons of social commentary cleverly embedded in amongst the brutal violence. It is definitely one of those futures that, while extreme and different than our modern day, still feels unsettlingly familiar and far too close to our lifetimes.