“Is it future or is it past?”

This was pure pleasure. If the show’s original run taught us anything, it was to enjoy the mystery, because if you’re just enduring a show for eighteen hours waiting for clever answers at the end, you’ll be deservedly disappointed. The blu-ray has already been announced, so I’m saving the thinkpieces and episode recaps and conspiracy theories for after a second viewing.

“It is in our house now.” The Tall Man appears in the first scene, and almost everyone from seasons one and two and Fire Walk, whether characters or actors are alive or dead or refused to appear in the show, will be present in some way or another. And I really need screen shots with updates for each character and situation. Lynch merges the casts of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me with Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, brings in new mood music and his own paintings as visual design, forming an Expanded Lynchian Universe. Each episode is dedicated to a different departed actor (or character) which combines with the resurrections (Don Davis, David Bowie) and final testaments (Catherine Coulson, Miguel Ferrer) of its cast, and the limbo/afterlife storylines of the Black Lodge and Laura Palmer, the aged actors and out-of-time (“what year is this?”) feel of this belated sequel give the whole thing a sense of death and mystery beyond the storyline alone.

Some people not in the original show lineup:

Dougie “Mr. Jackpots” Jones (Kyle MacLachlan) works in insurance, lives in the Las Vegas suburbs, married to Janey-E (Naomi Watts of Mulholland Drive), with son Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon, dangerous telekinetic kid of Looper).

The Mitchum Brothers (Jim Belushi, and Robert Knepper of Carnivale) run a casino insured by Dougie’s firm, assisted by comic-relief Candie (Amy Shiels, Luna in the Final Fantasy games). Dougie’s boss is the very patient Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray, Marilyn Monroe’s costar in Bus Stop), and his coworker/rival is sweaty Tom Sizemore, who is working as a spy for Mulholland Drive‘s Dinerbrows (Patrick Fischler) trying to frame Dougie.

New FBI agent Chrysta Bell works with Gordon Cole and Albert, along with the previously unseen Diane (Laura Dern in a wig), on the case of Bill (Matthew Lillard) who appears to have killed a woman he was having an affair with, or possibly her body was replaced with that of the late Major Briggs by interdimensional gas-station-dwelling black-faced woodsmen.

Young, serious Sam (Ben Rosenfield of Person to Person) and his girl Tracey (Madeline Zima of Californication) are paid to watch and videotape an interdimensional box, but instead they have sex, and in classic horror movie tradition, get brutally murdered for it.

Evil Cooper/Bob (Kyle MacLachlan) drives around with minions Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth and Ray (George Griffith), beginning in South Dakota.

Londoner Freddie (Jake Wardle) got turned into One Punch Man by The Giant (aka The Fireman), now works as a security guard with James Hurley, who still sings his hit song “Just You & I” at the Bang Bang Bar some nights. Fate brings Freddie to Twin Peaks to destroy Bob, which emerges from Evil Coop as an orb.

Some series regulars:

Andy and Lucy (now with son Wally Brando: Michael Cera) still work at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office with Hawk, and now with Truman’s brother Robert Forster (with naggy wife Candy Clark of American Graffiti), Deputy Bobby Briggs, and traitor Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello of an upcoming hit-man comedy)

Log Lady Margaret speaks with Hawk on the phone from her death bed, feeding him cryptic clues. One-armed Mike appears to Coop-as-Dougie, feeding him pretty straightforward clues.

Nadine runs a silent drape shop, religiously watches the pirate TV broadcasts of Dr. Jacoby, who sells gold spray-painted shovels. Norma is franchising the diner with help of her guy Walter (Grant Goodeve of Eight is Enough, Northern Exposure), while Big Ed still pines for her.

Amanda Seyfried (daughter of Shelly) is dating psycho cokehead Caleb Landry Jones (son of Audrey Horne), who runs over a kid then tries to murder a witness living in Harry Dean Stanton’s trailer park.

Walter Olkewicz, who played the late Jacques Renault, runs the Bang Bang Bar as an identical Renault relative.

Jerry Horne is looking more like Jerry Garcia, gets lost in the woods, fights with his own foot, is finally discovered naked in Wyoming.

Bobby Briggs is a level-headed, good-hearted policeman, and the best surprise of the new series.

Laura Palmer’s mom doesn’t do well in social situations, freaks out at the convenience store, watches TV on a time-loop, her house a screaming dim red hell.

I never figured out who Judy is, where Audrey Horne was or where she ends up, who Balthazar Getty played, or various other threads which a second viewing will probably not enlighten.

Plus cameos by Ray Wise, David Duchovny, Jack Nance, and almost everyone else, living or dead (except Harry Truman and Donna) and some fifteen music acts, Ethan Suplee, John Ennis, Ernie Hudson, etc.

Other things:

an eyeless woman with a connection to Diane… Diane is Naomi Watts’s half-sister… the picture glitching back and forth like a Martin Arnold film… an obsession with numbers… digital spaces like Chris Marker videos, and effects completely unconcerned with looking realistic… the green ring from Fire Walk With Me… Lucy doesn’t understand cellphones… the best closing songs at the Bang Bang Bar… “hellllOOOooooOOOooo”… a short stabby hit man with his own theme music… a kung-fu drug dealer who does intense magic tricks… inside a 1945 atomic bomb… alien vomit… flickering lights and a giant tesla diving bell… a galaxy of firefly ghosts… beetle-moth-frog crawls out of a desert egg… “this is the water and this is the well”… references to “The Zone”… teens at the Bang Bang Bar with random teen problems and other scraps of side-character drama… Ashley Judd searches for a the source of a droning sound in Ben Horne’s lodge… a history of the FBI’s involvement with UFOs… Dougie electrocutes himself… Evil Coop gets taken out in the best possible way… the final Lynch/Frost logo noise scares the hell out of my birds… “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

I watched all the Resident Evil movies this summer… parts 1-3 here.


Resident Evil 4: Afterlife (2010)

After the Umbrellas of Cherbourg opening titles, we get the best scene in any Resident Evil movie yet – Alice storming Umbrella headquarters with an army of her clones. I was hoping for an entire Cherbourg musical installment of this horror series, but I’ll happily settle for this instead: Anderson immediately leaves behind the halfassed effects and sorry filmmaking of previous movies and crafts a loving homage to The Matrix, with better-than-usual electro music by former Low collaborators Tomandandy.

Shades-sporting Umbrella boss Wesker (crossover zombie-movie actor Shawn Roberts of a couple Romero Dead films) escapes in a chopper, nuking the Alice clones on his way out, and injects the stowaway Alice with an antivirus, removing her awesome powers, a major bummer.

After somewhat-destroying Umbrella, Alice starts a vlog and goes to Alaska in search of her buddies from the previous movie, scooping up a lone amnesiac Claire (infected by a Cronos scarab), then crash-landing in a prison surrounded by zombie hordes and meeting a new bunch of doomed friends, led by panicky movie producer Bennett (Kim Coates of Sons of Anarchy, Silent Hill) and cooler-headed Luther (Boris Kodjoe of Surrogates, Starship Troopers 3), also including a guy from The Tracey Fragments who will soon be cleaved in half by a superaxe. But before that, we’ll discover Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller of Prison Break, writer of Stoker) suspiciously located in a locked cell. He’s Claire’s brother, not that she remembers, acting kinda like movie star Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim.

Then the zombies break in and everyone dies. New zombie developments since the last movie: sometimes zombies will spawn quadropus parasites from their mouths, a familiar detail from the only Resident Evil game I’ve played. And it’s not really new since we’ve always had final-boss mega-zombies, but instead of a chain gun, this movie’s giant has a pinhead burlap mask and giant axe, with which he smashes in the prison gates. Bennett defects to the dark side, Luther goes missing, and our surviving heroes (Alice and the Redfields) escape through tunnels and head for the offshore cargo ship where Wesker has started eating people (incl. Bennett) to stave off infection. Wesker flees, our heroes free the captive humans, and all is well for about 15 seconds before a fleet of gunships led by a scarab-wearing, mind-controlled Valentine (from part two! with different hair) descends on them as a Perfect Circle song blares to complete the Matrix feeling.


Resident Evil 5: Retribution (2012)

I must have watched the opening titles ten times… starting exactly where the last movie left off, Evil Valentine’s troops wipe out the unarmed survivors on the cargo ship, an explosion throws Alice into the ocean, and it’s all running in reverse super-slow-mo.

In every movie it seems that Umbrella’s head has been destroyed, but there are always new evil leaders and massive research facilities popping up. Now we’ve got an training holodeck in Kamchatka, where multiple Alices and Rains (Michelle Rodriguez, for the first time since part one) and other clones are killed in various zombie-attack scenarios.

Evil Valentine has triggered a bunch of allegiance shifts in the script. Now Wesker, displaced from Umbrella by the still-functioning Red Queen A.I., has sent his warrior Ada Wong (Detective Dee and Snow Flower star Bingbing Li) to rescue our Alice underground, while on the surface, team leader Leon (Johann Urb of the Witches of Eastwick TV series) with Luther (from part four) and Barry (Kevin Durand of Guillermo del Toro TV series The Strain) prepare to destroy the place (a countdown timer is naturally involved).

Alice picks up a deaf girl (Aryana Engineer of Orphan) whose clone-Alice mom was killed. There are good Rains and evil Rains, multiple Michelles Rodriguez. Valentine is back, under command of the evil Queen, alongside resurrected actors from parts one and three. After a clip show near the beginning, this movie is full of callbacks to part one, but the story is also overexplained for the sake of newcomers, and dialogue is never great (it’s still better than the games). With the clones and the new/old characters in virtual environments, we’ve reached new, reality-bending heights… each of the previous movies had an older film it was imitating, from Romero to Cube to Mad Max to Hitchcock to The Matrix, and now the series has come into its own, this film’s primary influence being the previous Resident Evil movies (secondary influence: Aliens).

With Leon and Luther:

I was blissing out to the action sequences and kinda lost track of everything that happens, but here are some notes I took:

Music is good, but all rhythm and no tune.

I noticed in the last movie, but now it’s starting to bug me that one of Alice’s guns seems to shoot coins – an overly literal videogame reference?

Milla dials it down when the movies focus on survivor communities, but whenever her solo warrior awesomeness is called for, she’s happy to comply.

The zombies have guns!

Parts four and five are a total blast, with coherent action, proper lighting and hugely improved CG beasts.

Evil Michelle uses the five point palm exploding heart technique on poor Luther

We end on humanity’s last stand against the red queen’s forces, in the White House, Alice and Wesker newly allied, each with renewed mutant super-abilities.


Resident Evil 6: The Final Chapter (2016)

“I propose that we end the world, but on our terms – an orchestrated apocalypse.”

Based on the final shots of part five, we should have Alice, Wesker, Ada Wong, Valentine and Leon in a showdown against an army of undead at the White House – but that’s not what happens. Instead we get a backstory intro explaining that the Red Queen A.I. was constructed from video of the benevolent Umbrella founder’s child, after Dr. Isaacs (mad scientist killed in part three) has the founder murdered. Then the movie betrays all our hopes, having Alice awaken in the ruins of the White House, beat to hell, with no powers, narrating some shit about Wesker having betrayed them all. And thus begins this increasingly great series’s joyless finale, a color-desaturated, underlit, over-edited slog of close-shot action scenes, where I never knew what was going on or even what characters were in the movie. This is not the kind of homage to part one I was hoping for.

Since we’ve established that anyone can be a clone, Dr. Isaacs is back, now leading a fanatic tank convoy to Raccoon City. Even without mutant virus powers, Alice is still a badass soldier, but she’s knocked out and captured more than once along the way (and Isaacs has super-speed and can dodge bullets, but can’t dodge the computer keyboard she whacks him with).

In another doomed Last Human Settlement, Alice finds Claire, traitor Doc (Eoin Macken of TV’s The Night Shift) and a bunch of newcomers with colorful names who will be killed one by one. An actor from John Wick 2 gets sucked into a turbine, a Cuban TV star is savaged by dogs, and so on.

Here are some of them, maybe:

Finally back in The Hive from part one, Alice encounters the Original Dr. Isaacs, who is soon killed by Fanatic Warlord Dr. Isaacs, who is soon killed by Alice inside the Cube chamber, which turns out to have glass walls so I guess people in earlier movies could’ve just slammed against a side wall with all their might to escape. Alice also meets her former self (the Red Queen, now played by Anderson and Jovovich’s daughter) and future self: a convincingly makeup-aged Milla, playing “Alicia,” from whom all Alices were cloned. Alicia and Wesker are the remaining leadership of Umbrella until she pulls out an excellent Robocop reference (“Albert Wesker, you’re fired”) and security chops his legs off. Alice hands him a Terminator 2 killswitch attached to a massive bomb, downloads her childhood memories from dying Alicia, and heads out to cure the entire world with the airborne antivirus in a tiny capsule, which I don’t think is how airborne antiviruses work, but at least the movie admits it will take a few years to spread globally and in the meantime Milla Jovovich is gonna ride the country in a motorcycle blasting hellbeasts with shotguns, a comforting thought.

Final Series Ranking: 5 > 4 > 3 > 2 > 1 > 6

Best reviews: Neil Bahadur on Letterboxd: parts four, five, and, featuring a Dr. Isaacs/Steve Bannon comparison, six. And Christoph Huber wrote the Cinema Scope story in issue 70 that convinced me to watch this series in the first place (thanks).

“Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?”

Brilliant visual display of espionage, duplicity, politics and memory (real and false), with at least five perfect performances, but the one who towers above them all is Angela Lansbury as a power-hungry politician’s-wife.

A group of Americans is captured with help from their traitor translator Henry Silva, then Laurence Harvey (Darling, Room at the Top) is brainwashed by the Enemy and sent back to the States, but his fellow soldier Frank Sinatra starts to remember their capture and realize something is amiss. Meanwhile Sinatra falls for Vivian Leigh, Harvey kills his girlfriend (Leslie Parrish of Li’l Abner), and Harvey is being controlled by his evil mother to put his weak-willed stepfather in power, but he turns on them at the last minute.

Sinatra and his girl:

Harvey and his mother:

A movie featuring a wannabe-president supported by a foreign power who puts ketchup on his steaks. I originally planned to double-feature this with A Face in the Crowd, but maybe The Dead Zone would be more appropriate. Frankenheimer made this the same year as Birdman of Alcatraz, a couple years before the similarly paranoid Seconds.

Watched this twice… it doesn’t quite make sense, and a half hour of screen time is spent watching Kristen Stewart texting, but it’s just about the most electrifying thing I’ve seen in theaters lately.

Kristen spends the night in her late brother’s old house, and sees a ghost, but it’s not him. Dropping off clothes for her employer Kyra (Austrian Nora von Waldstätten of Carlos) she runs into Lars Eidinger (Clouds of Sils Maria), tells him she’s not sure she believes in an afterlife (though we just saw her see a ghost). Soon after this, an unknown number starts texting Kristen asking personal questions, and she is intrigued enough to keep responding as she travels from Paris to London and back.

Things get crazy… we see Kristen drop some bags with super-expensive, high-fashion jewelry in Kyra’s apartment just before discovering Kyra dead and seeing shadows move in back of the apartment with rhythmic sounds, then leave without the bags. She returns to call the cops, which we mostly don’t see – then later, the jewelry bags are at her own place. Unknown Caller (everyone has guessed that it’s Lars at this point) drops off a hotel room key, and she goes to the room in Kyra’s dress with the bags… then he arrives… then the camera tracks an unknown presence leaving… then he leaves and has a shootout with waiting police.

Anyway, Kristen meets Erwin (Anders Danielsen Lie, star of a couple Joachim Trier films), the new boyfriend of the late brother’s ex Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz, a small role in Eden), and we get a glimpse of the brother’s ghost. Then Kristen, who has been avoiding her boyfriend Gary, decides to join him in Oman, where she encounters… something… herself. “I don’t know you.”

If she was killed in the hotel room (as the departing spirit would suggest), what’s she doing meeting new people (Erwin) and having normal conversations and going on trips? But if she didn’t, then what happened in the room, and why does she never mention it? I suppose we know that ghosts can become visible and pick up glasses, so maybe they can masquerade as their sisters and carry bags of jewelry across the city… but no, that doesn’t make sense either. Anyway, this unknowability of the story, the lapses in logic and storytelling, only add to the movie’s great mixture of the mundane and the mysterious which has kept me thinking about it all month.

Tied with Mungiu’s Graduation for best director at Cannes last year. DP Yorick Le Saux is on a roll, with this film following A Bigger Splash, Clouds of Sils Maria and Only Lovers Left Alive. I read a bunch of articles which I won’t quote from… David Ehrlich’s family grief essay/interview was a favorite personal take, and V. Rizov’s “Anxiety of Economic Influence” article approaches the movie from a fascinating angle.

An exciting anime feature, which we got to see on a big screen thanks to the Alamo (in a dubbed version which was refreshingly free of slumming Hollywood celebs). Jumps between protagonists, between bodies, between time and space, then throws in a town-destroying meteor. Incident and action piles up, more and louder, until the body-swapping boy appears to have saved hundreds of lives and we fast-forward to the couple’s first real-life (chance) meeting.

M. D’Angelo:

The film’s body-swapping setup foregrounds questions of identity, beginning with the way that both teens react to their new, temporary genders; Taki-as-Mitsuha spends so much time feeling up his own breasts, for example, that it becomes a running gag. Meanwhile, Mitsuha-as-Taki starts flirting heavily with a slightly older female co-worker at the restaurant where Taki works, and it really looks as if Mitsuha herself is smitten, rather than merely doing Taki a favor while she’s in control of his actions.

D. Ehrlich:

Like all of Shinkai’s films, the richness of the light coats everything it touches with such an evocative hue of nostalgia that the plot only puts a damper on things (and there’s a lot of plot here). Watching these colors bleed between Taki and Mitsuha’s divergent lives is all you need to appreciate the beauty of being in this world together, and the tragedy of how that same beauty always seems to slip through our fingers.

I followed along for a while, as this arthouse mystery quickly turned into a twisty goofball survival thriller, until I started getting flashbacks to The Catechism Cataclysm, and then I was really too distracted to take anything that happens seriously. I think I’m missing religious aspects, since the letterboxd summary mentions the stations of the cross. Of course, as usually happens, I read some articles and interviews afterwards and came to appreciate the movie more.

Ornithologist Fernando (“the body of Jason Statham lookalike Paul Hamy, the voice of director João Pedro Rodrigues,” per Mark Peranson) is cataloguing the storks and vultures along a river when some rapids catch him off-guard and his kayak crashes. He’s rescued by travelers Fei and Lin, who are following a pilgrim path to Santiago, making me realize I forgot to watch the short Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day, which may be related, but then they tie him up and threaten to castrate him, so maybe not. Fernando escapes but loses his medication, and we don’t know what it was for, or if any part of the movie turns out to be hallucinated from lack of meds. He runs into some ritual partiers and gets peed on by one of them, makes out with (and murders) a deaf-mute sheepherder named Jesus, rescues a dove at a shrine, cuts off his own fingerprints, gets shot by topless woman hunters, and awakens as Antonio, then is then murdered by Jesus’s twin brother Thomas.

Even if the whole thing felt somewhat goofy, I enjoyed the mystery of the killings and rebirths at the end, and the bird photography. Music is all quavering feedback. João Rui Guerra da Mata was a collaborator, and the only familiar element from their Last Time I Saw Macao was the use of still photographs. Won best director at Locarno, where it played with Hermia & Helena, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Challenge, The Human Surge and a bunch more that still haven’t opened here and probably never will. Oh yeah, look at that… you have to go back six years to find a Locarno movie that played theaters near me – it’s the festival of doomed distribution deals.

Peranson:

Rodrigues’ blasphemous exploration of the transformative process of religious awakening, through a serious of wild—at times sexual—adventures focusing on the pleasure and the pain of the body is a modern film, in line with Godard’s Hail Mary or Buñuel’s The Milky Way.

Sicinski:

The Ornithologist is as shapeless and picaresque as the conventional Lives of the Saints, forming a clothesline more than a narrative. Granted, when this concerns getting peed on and being hogtied and swinging with your junk hanging out, as is the case here, it feels a bit more dreamlike, which is probably what Rodrigues is going for. At the same time, The Ornithologist gets a bit tiresome in its relentless punishment of the nonbeliever.

Rodrigues:

I wanted to be an ornithologist when I was a kid … Cinema interrupted this, and in a way I replaced this love of watching and observing birds in the wild and being alone, although I never felt alone because I felt surrounded by nature and living creatures.

The short looked at a post-apocalyptic celebration of St. Anthony, while The Ornithologist looks at St. Anthony more directly … the film is always set in a place that has never changed since ancient times, in a natural world that hasn’t changed very much at all. Those rocks were there when St. Anthony was alive. When I was going to these unchanged places, I thought I was going back in time. It’s a landscape that belongs to all times and has no time.

I knew this was a new feature edit of a multi-screen installation piece in which various Cate Blanchetts recite historical manifestos, but didn’t realize it would have such terrific photography and production design, or be entertaining and engaging enough to captivate a huge, packed theater at 10:00 AM. Cate solemnly recites the dada manifesto at a funeral, prays one at the dinner table, spits and curses one as a bearded homeless man, performs one as a puppeteer, sneers one as a backstage rock star, bounces one between a pair of newscasters (with a twist artifice-revealing ending) and teaches a few I recognized (Brakhage, Herzog, Von Trier) to schoolchildren.

Ideas about conceptual art, realistic art, the meaning or need for art, the future of art, freedom and dreams, reality and unconscious, truth and imitation and authenticity (thanks to Katy for taking notes) all complement and contradict each other from Cate to Cate. It’s not a 90-minute speech, either – there are moments of silent wonder like this one:

Sounds like an American-ready comedy premise (which is why there’s a rumored remake): uptight daughter gets a visit from her goofball dad who tries getting her to lighten up. Generic versions of this story have been made before, but this one uses some unique characters to change the trajectory, eventually revealing the daughter was maybe right to hide her true nature beneath a serious businesswoman facade, because when she lightens up, she’s almost psychotically awkward (shades of Ade’s debut The Forest for the Trees).

The infamous nude scene was different than I expected, at least. You figure a nude scene will be about sex in some way, and it’s not. Out of a combination of the quirky strangeness that her dad’s visit has perhaps inspired and frustration at a dress zipper, Ines (Sandra Hüller: Requiem, Amour Fou) answers the door to her party guests in the nude, then starts insisting they disrobe as well. Meanwhile her dad Winfried/Toni (Peter Simonischek) has dramatically upped his costume game from a moppy wig and false teeth to a giant Bulgarian hair-monster costume, and arrives at the party without saying a word, freaking out the already scared naked party guests. It’s clearly a very good movie, and even if I have trouble understanding Cinema Scope’s film-of-the-year acclaim, this may be the scene of the year.

Ade, probably predicting the failure of next year’s remake:

When I tried to shorten the film, it gets very banal and less complex. The film needed a certain length … The moment you take out 20 minutes, then you have the father coming, he’s an idiot, she’s a businesswoman… it gets very simple, very fast.

Six more Charlie Brooker-written dystopian fictions, now streaming in our dystopian reality.


Nosedive

Not the best opening to the new series, too blunt and screamy for my tastes. A yelp/ebay/etc star-rating system gone out of control, with everyone rating everyone else over every interaction, and all social status and even home loans depending on personal ratings. Lacie (Bryce Howard of Lady in the Water) gets increasingly desperate as her plan to increase her ratings for a society wedding backfire, and she spirals down until she can’t even get picked up hitchhiking due to her short-term social media reputation. Trucker Cherry Jones gives her an inspirational speech about living outside society, then Lacie crashes the wedding. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), cowritten by Parks & Rec‘s Michael Schur and Rashida Jones, and featuring the best Black Mirror music ever, courtesy Max Richter, who incorporates the downvote sound effect into the music during Lacie’s death spiral.


Playtest

Cooper (Wyatt Russell, the guy who pretends to still be in college in Everybody Wants Some!!), kind of a likeable idiot, gets stranded while traveling the world, signs up to earn some quick cash playtesting a VR game. I’m a sucker for movies with dream/game layers where you can’t tell what’s real, and this was a good one. The idea behind the game is a haunted-house horror experience that uses your mind’s own fears against you, and Coop’s biggest fear is losing his mind like his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father did, which is what happens when his attempts at trade-secret espionage interfere with the equipment and it fries his brain. Director Dan Trachtenberg made 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Coop playing an early, harmless demo:


Shut Up and Dance

I don’t think this one is based on any technology that doesn’t already exist. After trying to have affairs or look at child porn or other blackmailable offenses, strangers with prankster-infected laptops get dragged around the city making deliveries and being asked to do increasingly terrible things, including bank robbery (“I saw it in a documentary. It looked easy”) and fistfighting to the death. Then their secrets get leaked to friends and family anyway, a grinning trollface sent to each of the victims. Director James Watkins made The Woman in Black and Eden Lake, lead Alex Lawther played young Turing in The Imitation Game, and his older partner in crime was Jerome Flynn of Ripper Street, not Michael Smiley like I first hoped.


San Junipero

Just what I needed after the nihilism of the previous episode, a lovely story with complicated ideas about (virtual) life and (actual) death. Opens with a Lost Boys poster and Belinda Carlisle song on the radio and Max Headroom on TVs, pushing its 1987 setting hard, but then “one week later” we’re in 1980, and “one week later” it’s 1996. Shy Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis of Always Shine) met exhuberant Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) one night in a time-hopping Matrix fantasy world but didn’t have the nerve to follow through on their relationship, and now searches for her every week during their time-limited trials, as their actual, aged bodies live in separate nursing homes. The most human-feeling Black Mirror, and also the one that ends in the most inhuman manner, a robot arm attending to its databank of disembodied consciousnesses. The director did last season’s Be Right Back, also about personal/virtual relationships.


Men Against Fire

Not my favorite episode, by director Jakob Verbruggen (Whishaw/Broadbent miniseries London Spy) who makes a hash of the action scenes, but it’s one of my favorite evil technologies – military implants that help soldiers kill the enemy without hesitation by making the enemy “roaches” look and sound inhuman. Lead soldier Stripe, whose equipment glitches so he can see the truth, is Malachi Kirby of the new Roots remake. He’s briefly allied with Ariane Labed (Alps, The Lobster) before his partner catches up with him, kills Ariane and his equipment is recalibrated to brainwash him back into blissful ignorance and conformity.


Hated in the Nation

A combination of previous ideas – rogue hacker messes with people over social media leading to their deaths, and intrusive government technology leads to dystopian horror. In this case the gov-tech is bee-drones which replace the country’s dying honeybees and happen to double as ubiquitous surveillance devices. After our hacker uses a sort of twitter poll to let the people decide whose brains the bees will burrow into through their ears, cop Kelly Macdonald (voice star of Brave) tries to protect future victims. She finally gets lead beemaker Benedict Wong (Prometheus and The Martian) to try deactivating all bugs, but instead they go after everyone who participated in the online death polls, killing hundreds of thousands. A nicely apocalyptic way to leave off. Director James Hawes made a TV remake of The 39 Steps a few years back.