Saturday, 15 October 2016

"Black Mirror" Season 3 - Coming to Netflix 21st of October.

In addition to the first two seasons now available to stream on Netflix, the third season of "Black Mirror" will be available in full on Netflix on Friday the 21st of October. While the first two seasons contained three episodes each, this new season will have six episodes in total. The only thing that we have left to ask ourselves this time around is how much will Carlie Brooker get right this time. Most recently I read an article about an application which can take all of a deceased loved one's tweets and facebook posts and construct a virtual persona based on this information, which is hauntingly similar to the themes and technology explored in Season Two episode "Be Right Back".

After the trailer below, you'll see the thoughts and influences that inform the show straight from the man himself, Charlie Brooker, and Executive Producer Annabel Jones and also you can see two featurettes about two upcoming episodes "Nosedive", which stars Bryce Dallas Howard, and "Playtest" starring Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

“We’re living in a time of immense flux and change,” says Charlie Brooker, who created and writes the series. “It’s exciting, but it’s worrisome, and I guess this show is reflecting that - no pun intended.” “Black Mirror is a very contemporary show, in that it explores the themes and the issues that tap into contemporary fears and things that people don’t even realize they’re concerned about yet,” adds executive producer Annabel Jones. “Sometimes, I think the speed of technology has slightly alarmed people, or they haven’t fully explored their relationship with (it).” While technology may be a common theme in Black Mirror, it's episodes cross all genres, exploring various facets of the human experience.

“We’ve got a story this time around about online hatred, for instance,” Brooker says. “There are stories that are about old age, there are stories about online relationships, there are stories about blackmail. There are stories about all sorts of uncomfortable things.”

“The show is not about high-concept sci-fi stories,” Jones says. “It’s human drama at the heart of it, and it’s about characters that you care about and that you can maybe see an element of yourself in.” She adds, “I think that it’s doing something that a lot of dramas don’t do, which is trying to hold a mirror up to now and allowing us to stop and think … but in an entertaining way.”

Not surprisingly, it takes a considerable amount of time and teamwork to craft a season of Black Mirror. Nearly every story idea comes from Brooker, who then takes it to Jones to develop it further.

“(It) will often start with a ‘what if’ scenario, or a funny idea or an image or a concept, then we will chat it through,” she says. “We’ll sit in a small room and argue about the morality or immorality of a scenario, and through that conversation, we’ll stumble upon a story.”

“I’m a total dweeb and I love technology,” Brooker says. “But I’m (also) an incessant worrier. … That’s why the show comes out as a sort of worried fever-dream nightmare about technology. But often, the nucleus of each story is an idea that has amused me on some level.”

There’s somewhat of an irony in Black Mirror’s move from UK television to Netflix, a streaming network where viewers can watch on their own “black mirrors” of computer and cellphone screens. “I think that, in a way, anthology shows have been waiting for a platform like Netflix to come along,” Brooker says. “Now that there is no schedule on streaming platforms, it becomes like giving you a collection of short stories, or going, ‘Here’s our little movie festival we’ve curated for you.’ It’s a different experience." While the show was created in the UK, Black Mirror has already attracted a global audience that can easily identify with its themes of connectivity and paranoia.

“The whole world is exposed to technology, the whole world is experiencing these societal shifts and changes and these changing relationships with other people,” Jones says. “I think in a way Black Mirror is a great show for Netflix because it does and has resonated around the world.”

As for the episodes themselves, Brooker and Jones agree Netflix has allowed them to tell more intricate stories this season, thanks to more elaborate production design, diverse shooting locations and freedom from content or time restrictions. “I think the show going on Netflix has allowed us to explore more complex worlds (and) allowed us to be slightly more ambitious in terms of scope and scale and theme,” Jones says. She adds that it also “allows the stories to breathe and fit the duration it should be. In that sense, and because of Netflix’s ability to binge-watch, it’s perfect for an anthology. Just like the world is becoming far more tailored and personalized, Netflix does that for the show.”

*Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and for this, I avail of complimentary Netflix subscription. However, all opinions are my own. Information about films available on Netflix is correct at time of publishing.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

WWE No Mercy 2016 Recap.

From its inception in 1999 until its final outing in 2008, No Mercy was always one of those B-level shows that always overachieved and featured one Match of the Year candidate. From the first Hardy Boyz/Edge and Christian Ladder Match to Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels in the same type of match in 2008, No Mercy has always delivered far beyond what was expected of it. So, did the resurrected version manage to live up to previous editions? Read on.

1. John Cena vs Dean Ambrose vs AJ Styles (c) - WWE Championship.

In what was a clear response to the Trump/Clinton match debate, WWE took no chances and threw the main event out first. The crowd were well up for it as well, judging by the reaction to John Cena, the first man out. He was joined by Ambrose and Styles and we were off at the races. Races being the appropriate word here because the pace of this match was incredible. There were only rare occasions of a guy being outside the ring to let the other two pick up the slack in this match, and we were treated to some excellent triple threat spots. The picks of the bunch being a huge German Suplex by Cena to both Styles and Ambrose, and Styles hitting a reverse DDT and a normal DDT to both Ambrose and Cena respectively. At one stage, Ambrose had the Calf Crusher applied to Syles, and Cena applied the STF at the same time causing Styles to tap out. Crucially, while the bell did ring, the referee never called for it and he ordered the match to continue as both men had Styles in submission holds as he tapped out. Thank God this wasn't the finish. That came when Cena hit an Avalanche AA to Ambrose but ended up getting waylaid with two chair shots from Styles, who pinned Cena and retained his title. Ambrose wasn't pinned, Styles had to cheat, and Cena looked strong despite losing as it wasn't a clean finish. A fantastic match to start the show and one of the better triple threat matches from the last number of years.

2. Nikki Bella vs Carmella.

In a grudge match of sorts, Nikki Bella defeated Carmella with the Rack Attack 2.0 after Carmella took most of the match. Following that opener, this match was doomed, but Carmella did some good heel work here, including focusing on Nikki's surgically repaired neck. 

3. Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs The Usos - Smackdown Tag Team Championship.

The Usos took total control of the match with both Slater and Rhyno selling for long periods. The pace was very methodical here, and the Usos did a great job of breaking their opponents down and sold well for them when the hot tags did occur. Despite hitting Slater with the superkick to the knee, Rhyno and Slater came out top after Rhyno connected with a gore. I had assumed the Usos were going over, but there's still time to do the title switch and have them eventually face American Alpha at the Royal Rumble or even hold off until Wrestlemania.

4. Baron Corbin vs Jack Swagger.

A sluggish affair, this one. These two actually work quite well together and put on a decent match with a unique finish. Swagger had Corbin in the Ankle Lock, and Corbin reached under the rope and dragged in the ring apron. The ref broke the hold but as he was fixing the ring apron he didn't see Corbin nail Swagger in the eye and then hit the ever impressive End of Days for the win. This feud will most likely continue.

5. The Miz (c) vs Dolph Ziggler - Intercontinental Championship vs Career Match.

In what should have been the main event of the night, we got arguably the match of the night. These two work so well together and told an incredible story. The going was slow to start, but once the action and near falls picked up they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Most probably thought it was a foregone conclusion that Ziggler would win, but there were major barriers put in his way which placed doubt in the minds of the crowd in attendance. At one stage, Maryse sprayed Ziggler in the face as she has done twice previously, but Ziggler kicked out after taking a Skull Crushing Finale from Miz. The Spirit Squad attempted to run interference, but Ziggler fought them off. Miz's three cohorts were then ejected from ringside. In all the commotion, Ziggler (wearing one boot after Miz removed the other) hit Miz with a superkick and won the IC title for the fifth time. A great match, even though it was slightly disappointing to see Miz's IC title reign come to an end as he's been one of the highlights of Smackdown each week since the brand split.

6. Alexa Bliss vs Naomi.

Alexa came to the ring to gloat about the fact that Becky Lynch couldn't compete but was interrupted by Naomi and we got an impromptu match as a result. Alexa took most of the match, but Naomi got her spots in as well. As a face, Naomi doesn't seem to have any fire at all, her only connection to the crowd was shouting "it's glow time" to no reaction. Bliss, on the other hand, is a ball of heelish energy, which made it all the more baffling that she lost here after Naomi stacked her while locked in a cross armbar. Bliss threw a tantrum afterwards.

7. Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt.

There is no universe in which this should have main evented this show, but here we are. The most pointless feud in years looks to shuffle on as Bray Wyatt defeated Randy Orton in this snoozefest which was saved only be the re-emergence of Luke Harper. Towards the end of the match, the lights went out, and when they came back on Orton was face to face with Harper in the ring. Off this distraction, Wyatt nailed Orton with the Sister Abigail for the victory and the two former Wyatt family members embraced. It seems that Rowan, Harper, and Wyatt can't all be on the same show at any one time as one of them always seems to be injured. The most baffling thing about Wyatt is how, at the start of the year, he was seemingly earmarked for a babyface turn and the crowd seemed accepting of it. Since his return, though, he's been meandering through this feud with Orton which has featured some of the hokiest rubbish WWE has put on screen in a long time.

In Conclusion:

Two excellent matches on this show that are well worth tracking down are the World and IC title matches. Anything after that was just there or thereabouts. Again, the placement of Wyatt/Orton in the main event was bizarre given the excitement among the fans after Ziggler won, but presumably, they thought that Harper's return would trump that (no pun intended). Smackdown won't be back on PPV until their half of the Survivor Series and their next solo show is TLC in December.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Documentary Triple Bill on Netflix.

There's been a stack of quality content added to Netflix lately. Some of it is well publicised, and some stuff just goes under the radar. These three documentaries fall into the both camps. Over the course of three nights I watched all three of these, and while none were perfect, they all entertained in their own way.

Searching for Sugar Man. 

Winner of the academy award for best documentary in 2013 no less, this film tells the story of two South African music fans who attempt to find a musician who never cracked the United States, but had huge success in South Africa for some inexplicable reasons, which are explained in the body of the film. All the songs contained in the film are from the albums that Rodriguez, the subject of the documentary, released back in the late sixties and early seventies. It's a fascinating tale that's well worth a watch regardless of whether or not you're a music fan. 

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.

This is something that I remember doing the rounds in the pre-internet days. I remember reading about it in Empire magazine; the story of three childhood friends who set out to remake their favourite movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", but without the benefit of any kind of decent equipment, actors, or money. The documentary begins with two of the three attempting to secure funding to finish the film. From 1983 until 1989 they spent their entire summers making this film, but never got around to filming the scene where Indy fights the huge Nazi beside the flying wing plane. During the course of the film, we delve deeper into the history behind how the film was made famous in the late nineties, but we also learn of the boy's upbringing and the events in their respective childhoods which made them seek out some kind of escape, which led to this. It's a fun little film but it left me with a few unanswered questions. We're given the impression that the film is a labour of love and that's why the guys want to finish it, but then what. Did they intend on screening it at film festivals? Hard to know, but still, it made for an enjoyable watch.  

Amanda Knox.

Here's the one everyone is talking about. Did she, or didn't she? This documentary doesn't offer any concrete resolutions in that respect. Anyone expecting a moment like the ending of "The Jinx" may look elsewhere. What this film aims to do more than anything is show how easily a case against someone can become so believable to people even when all the evidence points elsewhere. This is provided in the form of a two-pronged assault; an overly ambitious policeman, and a scumbag journalist. The story should be familiar to most people: 22-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was murdered in the student home that she was sharing with Knox. Police believed that Knox and her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito were the culprits, and so began the investigation. Kercher, unfortunately, is only a bit part in this film. She's the inciting incident that launches the whole thing. Some people, understandably, have taken umbrage with this. However, the documentary is called "Amanda Knox" at the end of the day. Presumably, we will get a Kercher focused film at some stage, but this isn't it. We get stories from Knox describing her school years and how she found herself in Italy, but her charmed wanderlust is soon ground to a screeching halt. As I mentioned earlier, Knox faced a two-pronged assault. On one side is self-confessed Sherlock Holmes-obsessed investigator Giuliano Mignini, a man who patently ignored actual evidence in favour of fanciful theories that fit his own narrative. When he saw the body of Kercher which was covered by a duvet, his first thought was "a man would not have done this". It's this type of investigating that has seriously damaged the Italian justice system following the fallout from this case. The second prong, or more appropriately, prick, is the tabloid media, who had no issue in exploiting this case for all they could, apparently not caring if the information they gleaned was true or not. Nick Pisa, for reasons known only to himself, agreed to tell his tale, and quite frankly he comes across as the worst person in the entire piece. At no stage does he seem any way apologetic for his shoddy journalistic behaviour, but he merely saw the murder not as the tragedy that it actually is, but more as a career opportunity. He has since locked his Twitter account. For the most part, this is a well put together piece, but there are moments that could have hit the cutting room floor. For example, Knox discussing how she fell madly and deeply in love with a guy she had known for mere days before the murder occurred. The man that is currently serving time for the murder hardly gets a mention either, but then again his trial was fast-tracked through the courts double quick. As I said, if it's an engrossing "Making a Murderer" style piece you're after here, you'll be disappointed. Essentially, it's a big budget version of "Banged Up Abroad", but is still worth the ninety minutes of your time. 

*Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and for this, I avail of complimentary Netflix subscription. However, all opinions are my own. Information about films available on Netflix is correct at time of publishing.