Series Issues: Mr. Robot gives us a fsociety meltdown. Season 2’s story so far.

Hello friend.

(Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

(Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

Just to clear it all up, this is episode 8 – titled eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12. I wanted to review the previous episode, but I’m too late. That being said, we haven’t seen the shocker from last week really take hold yet. We’re in an Elliot-less episode, primarily seeing fsociety deal with an unexpected visitor. Ok, let’s face it, we all knew that was going to happen. For all their great care in covering their tracks, fsociety’s flaws are the same that programmers deal with on a day-to-day basis. They forget some mundane loophole that anybody else without a tech-savvy background could’ve pointed out.

Season two has been a batch of surprises, and given the direction they’re in, they’re all welcomed. See, there’s no comfort zones in this world. Gideon is dead. Romero is dead. Angela is learning that the only way to survive in E Corp is not avoiding the corruption but literally jumping into it. Am I the only one that sees Game of Thrones parallels in the corporate world of E Corp?

Tyrell Wellick is in the wind. Or dead. Or both. We don’t get to know just yet, but something happened to him. Can we trust Mr. Robot into believing that Elliot/Robot shot him during those days he doesn’t remember? Did he/they clean the prints off the gun or is that going to appear later? Is Tyrell going to do a surprise comeback from the grave? Am I the only one seeing Game of Thro– Ok, I’ll stop that.

Elliott’s supposed routine designed to get rid of Mr. Robot visions was a little too circular. I think it was the basketball game and the recurring meals in the same place with Leon that tipped me off. Yeah I suspected he was imprisoned too. I’m not quite sure Leon is real real though. The whole Ray deal couldn’t have been fully imagined. Elliot did use Ray’s computer to write the hacking program. So perhaps Ray ran an illegal business of getting prisoners things through the library facilities. That means that beating Elliot took was probably done by corrupt prison guards, and he was put in solitary confinement for a bit.

Let’s go back to Tyrell for a moment. It’s true that Joanna Wellick has been getting presents from someone, but I find it a little too easy to think it’s Tyrell. Then again, this show makes me a bit paranoid about easy answers. It could be him. On the other hand we’ve been following a parallel storyline with Joanna and her lover, to whom she last presented a gift: divorce papers from Tyrell. Is she really serious about that? I don’t think so. She’s still smiling when she gets another gift, specially one for her newborn kid. The show is saving Joanna for something and I think it’s bigger than just Tyrell being alive. I’ve been expecting Joanna to grow into more than just Tyrell’s wife. After all, we’ve had several hints that Joanna is not only as much of a sociopath as Tyrell – she’s a much more efficient functioning one. Hopefully whatever we have in store for her character will not be a disappointment.

And now let’s get into this week’s episode with fsociety’s breakdown. Yes, they do manage to intercept and make public a conversation about the eavesdropping Project Berenstein. Then we get Susan Jacobs coming home, a simple event that you could’ve foreseen a mile away but that everyone forgot to prevent. It’s such a typical mistake to forget the obvious while setting contingencies for the improbable and minuscule that I have to applaud the showrunners on getting right what most tech gurus get wrong. It doesn’t take long until Darlene confronts Susan, and that ends how it was meant to end since Darlene picked Susan’s house for the gig.

The coincidence of Mobley getting picked up afterwards is not altogether improbable. I must say I love Dominique DiPierro, the new character and FBI agent investigating E Corp. Was Mobley relieved as he learned this was about Romero’s death and not Susan’s? Not really, after all the lines are bound to get all of them to where everyone is exposed. But Mobley gets a break. Trenton, meanwhile, is being contacted by someone impersonating Mobley. After all, Mobley has already wiped and ditched his phone after leaving the FBI… Right? Every single development is now an attempt to mislead us into thinking we’re on to a different story.

Highs:

  • Elliot is still the star, but I’m glad we’re not forcefully putting him on the foreground all the time. The fact that he’s imprisoned does not put him out of action.
  • Darlene is fsociety’s main lieutenant taking charge of the entire operation for the new season. She’s definitely a more commanding presence, although you wonder if she’ll defer to her brother for the endgame. If there is an endgame to be had, that is.
  • Angela Moss is quickly becoming the character to watch, as she navigates the dangerous waters of corporate climbing. She has a sudden encounter with a friend of her Dad’s who just tries to run her night. He fails at it. Is Angela destined to become a top player? If so she would be the main antagonist to go against Elliot. That has the potential to be awesome.
  • Leon is a mystery. He can’t be completely a figment of Elliot’s imagination, with mentions of the Dark Army and skills to take down a whole gang.
  • Agent Dominique DiPierro is a cool player of the game of the cat toying with the mouse before springing her trap. She’s very close.
  • Mobley’s protectiveness of Trenton is going to be his downfall. Or hers.

Lows:

  • The whole Tyrell thing. If we’re going with dead, will we really get to see what happened? Also, would it make sense to kill him?
  • If he’s dead, does that mean Joanna will be looking for revenge? That’s the other thing, can Joanna start her own play at being in charge? So far she’s been contented with a few BSDM sessions and she doesn’t seem to want to go except E Corp for her missing check. I’d love to see some hints at a larger plan.
  • The people that Angela Moss keeps running into. Is she really that much of a traitor, or is she willing to climb up the corporate ladder for a different reason?
  • Cisco really seemed to care for Darlene, and in some twisted sense, he might have been trying to defend her. Still, that doesn’t excuse his secrecy specially after all they’ve been through. So Cisco deserves that bat to the head for either being an asshole or an idiot.
  • Joanna Wellick keeps moving her story along, but it has yet to intersect with anybody else’s. I really don’t want Joanna to just be a point of reference for Tyrell to jump back in the series. That’s one of the reasons I’m unconvinced that Tyrell should be alive.

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Review: As The Gods Will

(Source: FUNimation)

(Source: FUNimation)

Here’s the other Takashi Miike movie on the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival that was not Terraformers.

As The Gods Will actually came out in 2014. It does have somewhat of a premise, Gods or aliens or illuminati – or just your favorite conspiracy villain – seem to holding the world hostage by making young high school kids around the world play sadistic yet infantile games in which there can be only one winner. It’s a death-match style carnage bringing to memory the classic Battle Royale mixed with Alice in Wonderland… or perhaps Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory should be more fitting. The point is that every game looks innocent and childlike but ends up in gore, blood and guts all around. There’s a riddle to be solve.

Shun Takahata (Sota Fukushi) barely makes it out of his classroom alive, where a daruma doll with a stop button keeps turning hoping to catch the next student in mid-movement just to make their heads explode. And I mean literally explode. Eventually he will be paired with smart bad boy Amaya Takeru (Ryonosuke Kamiki) and his childhood crush, Ichika Akimoto (Hirona Yamasaki). Knowing fully well only one can become the winner… Oh, let’s not try to sell it – you want to see this one already. You know how it’s all going to go down, but the chess-like-death-match-via-brain-twisters is unapologetic, unredeeming, violent fun.

Okey, yes. It’s batshit crazy and there’s not really a moment in the film when we pause and take note that kids (or young adults playing kids, really) are getting killed left and right. And that’s probably why too much thinking might turn you off from this one. There’s something to be said about making a live action movie where people die as entertainment. You gotta have a switch to understand why this entertainment should not be taken seriously because reasoning will not get you there. It’s a good thing then, that all deaths and games are created with over-the-top nightmare images. It’s a horror movie after all.

Highs: No apologies death match style where the motives are in the background and the gore fest is fast and furious. Fans of Battle Royale will feel right at home as well as gore fest aficionados. Ingenuity wins the day against brute force. Cheat carefully and you live a day more.

Lows: Requires a strong suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t ever address the game is basically making the death of high school kids into entertainment. There is no sarcasm or hidden moral lesson to discover. The PC crowd might not want to make it part of movie night.

Strictly recommended for fans of the genre, which is a death match without apologies. However, for those fans I would strongly recommend it as it doesn’t really ever stop for exposition or reasoning. It’s on the next game, and the clock is always ticking. Not for the sensible or the sensitive. If it’s not your cup of tea, be aware it never has a moment of respite, so you might want to choose a different game… I mean, movie.

That will do for now.

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Viewer’s Cut: Stranger Things

(Source: Netflix)

(Source: Netflix)

To prove that nostalgia is close to becoming a genre itself, we don’t need to look any further than Stranger Things.

The series plays like a 80’s adventure movie, taking place in Hawkins, Indiana in November 1983 and starting with the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). Enter Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), divorced mother of two, following the clues to her son, as unlikely and illogical as they could be. Local Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is eager to put the case to rest, but as a parent who lost his own daughter, he’s slowly realizing there might be more to this disappearance than a simple accident.

Meanwhile, Will’s friends are also doing their own search. Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) cover a lot of terrain in their bikes, but instead of finding their friend they run into another fugitive, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Eleven is young girl that seems to have grown up inside a lab and have some secret abilities. She’s running away from Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). She’s also not the only fugitive from the Department of Energy’s facilities in town. The other fugitive is lot more hostile.

Joyce’s other son, outsider Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), has issues of his own. He’s the quiet type with a stalk-level crush on Mike’s sister, Nancy Wheeler (Nathalia Dyer). Nancy however is going out with bad boy Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) who doesn’t like Jonathan one bit. However, when Nancy’s best friend Barbara Holland (Shannon Purser) disappears, Nancy and Jonathan will have to form an unlikely alliance as they come up against something that they can’t explain.

That’s as much as I want to reveal. Netflix’s latest hit, written, produced and directed by the Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross) along with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen seems to hit every note right down to the details. It’s got the ambiance, the lighting, the cast, the music swells up and even the font from the 80’s movie era. It’s horror and science-fiction with a dosage of fantasy added for good measure. Carefully balancing its cast, we may have Winona Ryder and David Harbour as main leads but the real scene-stealers are the kids. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and their guest Eleven are the real stars of the show as they have to battle bullies, hide the truth from their parents, and run away from a secret government agency determined to cover everything up. With scenes that could’ve been part of the Goonies, E.T and perhaps a bit of Akira, there’s definitely some Spielberg-esque influence in the making but the series is not rehashing any plot points from days gone by. It makes strides of its own.

Trust me, it’s good. There’s a raw quality to it that gives it that kids-are-smart adults-dont-get-it feel that tugs at your heartstrings. Is the movie just playing emotional blackmail with you? Perhaps. Would you care the same if it was a group of teenagers in New York? Perhaps not. Stripped of all the nostalgia, there’s still a story to tell, although the idea of the fantastic does ask a lot of your ability for suspension of disbelief. There’s a monster out there of a nature that seems to tear at the fabric of reality. It’s horror at the door, and we got elementary school kids on bikes. If this was taking place on any other movie, it would be carnage and gore. Instead we’re given an adventure where the danger is palpable but friendship is crucial. Definitely a nostalgia vehicle, but one built on a solid, albeit fantasy-filled, story.

Highs: The show balances its casting well. Great performances by Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Charlie Heaton and Nathalia Dyer. However, it’s the kids that steal the show. Millie Bobby Brown shines as Eleven. So do Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin as Will’s friends. Hawkins, Indiana would easily would fit in a Stephen King novel or as the setting of a Steven Spielberg movie.

Lows: The nature of the monster is a bit of a reality stretch. The horror genre might be over the top for kids of the same age that we see in the movie, meaning that kids of that age might be too young to see this series. The story line does leave some loose ends, which we hope can be addressed on a second season. On second thought, that might not be a low point after all. The ending for Eleven specially was a mixed bag, but perhaps that could also change *hint*.

Extremely recommended for 80’s kids fans of horror and science fiction, but it might be too much for today’s. In case that’s not clear, that means adults that were kids on the 80’s will like it but they might have to tell their own kids to leave the room.

That will do for now.

 

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