Mr Robot: ones-and-zer0es.mpeg (review/recap)

Mr Robot: ones-and-zer0es.mpeg (review/recap)  Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 14.29.56
Last week’s episode of Mr Robot, the season one premiere, 0hellofriend.mov ended with Elliot returning to the Coney Island arcade and finding Mr Robot and co gone. On top of that Evil Corp, under the guise of Tyrell Wellick, approaches Elliot prompting him to worry that the game is up before it’s even really started. In ones-andzer0es.mpeg Mr Robot begins with Elliot standing in front of Tyrell and 11 of the companies “most annoying lawyers.”

Wellick offers the hacker a job although, as the new CTO of Evil Corp explains, it is not a legitimate offer as they have an agreement with Elliot’s current employer AllSafe not to poach their employees. Tyrell does say that there is nothing stopping the security specialist from joining Evil Corp on his own. The promise is that within five and a half years, Elliot will be a multi millionaire.

The entire exchange, including the bit afterwards with “Mr X,” aka Mr. Sullivan, is full of threatening gravitas and weighty meaning. There is also the underlying thread of of foreboding, mostly in Elliot’s guilty mind but also the score. The use of music in the show’s opening this week is a goosebumps inducing wave of brilliance. Never has Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major Op 92. Allegretto been used so effectively.

After his unsettling meeting with Tyrell and all those lawyers, Elliot is let out of the car in front of his apartment. He sees his dealer outside with a “client” who is insisting she allow him upstairs. Elliot’s arrival stops the man in his tracks and Shayla tells Elliot that she only has his morphine. He wants to “re-up” and she reminds him that he made her promise to never give up the morphine without the Suboxone, the withdrawal meds. Once he talks Shayla into handing over “just the morphine,” Elliot goes up to his flat and hacks Tyrell’s personal accounts.

Looking at the social media images and emails in front of him, the hacker realizes that everything is too perfect and that something is not right. Panicking, Elliot believes that Wellick expected him to hack the accounts and he has been set up. Elliot trashes his system, destroying all his equipment and continuing to snort his morphine.

At work later, his boss has just given him a raise when the news shows that fsociety is demanding the release of Colby, whom they framed for last week’s computer hack on Evil Corp, and that if the company do not comply they will “kill them.” Elliot freaks out, this was not part of the plan as he understood it. However, as Mr Robot points out later, he did walk out.

Outside AllSafe, a hip-hop artist is giving away a fee CD since his album has “just dropped” and all he is asking for in return are tweets about his product. Elliot’s best friend Angela and her fiancee stop to invite Elliot out to a “Groupon” discount dinner. He accepts, while still freaking out, and Ollie takes a CD saying he will only tweet if he likes it.

Elliot heads home vowing to cut all ties with fsociety. He finds Darlene, from the organization, in his shower. After borrowing some of his clothes, and telling him that the dog “shat in your bed,” she takes him back to abandoned theme park to see Mr Robot and the rest of the crew who want to congratulate him for what he did. As the two are on the subway, she suddenly pulls him into another car just missing two men in black who are following them. Elliot’s asks himself, “Does she see them too?”

Going into the arcade, he sees the tiny group have assembled to pay homage to his efforts. Mr Robot lectures Elliot on being either a one or a zero, do something or do nothing. Elliot says real life is not that binary. Robot reveals that he wants the hacker to help him blow up a natural gas facility that stands next to Steel Mountain.

The head of fsociety reveals more of their plans to take down Evil Corp. Elliot is hesitant, he asks about the workers and people who live in the area. Mr Robot tells him that it is, in essence, a hard world and that people die every day. After a protracted argument, where the leader accuses Elliot of being a zero, “just like your father.” Elliot leaves the group again. As he walks off, Darlene shouts at him, “We’ll do this with or without you.” She also says that he is culpable regardless of his inaction and Elliot realizes she is right.

Elliot goes to see Shayla and meets the dealer she buys his morphine and Saxopone from Fernando Vera, whom he says is “the worst human being I’ve ever hacked.” The hacker learned that Vera uses his social media to buy and sell drugs and apparently to schedule hits. He also says that he’s thought of turning him in but that would dry up his drug supply.

After a one-sided conversation with the drug dealer, Vera leaves and Elliot picks the lock on Shayla’s bathroom door and discovers her in a bath full of water. It seems that Fernando raped the woman and then dumped her in the tub. Elliot makes a decision to turn the drug dealer in and go cold turkey.

At his therapy session he talks about choice and the real lack of it. While images of Vera’s operation being packed up by the police are on screen, Elliot says that everyone’s choices have been “prepaid” for them. Elliot shouts at the therapist and it turns out that the CD from the rapper/hip-hop artist doesn’t work, except it does. The man has used it to hack Ollie and Angela’s system. As Ollie leaves, the “performer” is watching Angela in the apartment via the computer.

Elliot goes back to the theme park and meets with Mr. Robot. The two sit on a fence at the edge of the pier. Elliot tells the head of fsociety that he can take down Steel Mountain without killing anyone. Mr. Robot reminds Elliot that he told him walking away would keep him out of the organization. He then asks the hacker to tell him about his father.

He tells about his father pushing him out of a window, breaking his arm, when he was eight. Elliot broke a promise not to tell his mother about the leukemia that was killing his dad. His father never forgave him. At the end of the story, he asks Mr. Robot, “Are we good?” Instead of answering, the man responds with “do you ever ask yourself if he was right?” He then pats Elliot on the shoulder and pushes him off the edge of the pier. Mr Robot finishes by saying, “You did not commit to the sacred pact,” and leaves.

The writing on this show is superior and full of the “now.” References to Groupon coupons, beside feeling a little like product placement of sorts, is a nod to the Internet based theme behind the show. Other topical and cultural references abound, Elliot’s David Koresh allusion, the mad leader behind the Waco incident, was another more obvious touch along with the “hip-hop” artist selling his CD for “likes” and social media mentions. Included in this clever topical usage is the exchange between Elliot and “Mr X” at the show’s beginning.

Despite the fact that Christian Slater may have a TV curse, one which makes every television project he works on go down the drain, his Mr Robot works well with Rami Malek’s Elliot. Carly Chaikin as Darlene and Frances Shaw as Shayla are two actors on the show who have jumped fully into their characters and impress each time they appear on screen. Malek sells his schizophrenic drug addicted hacker completely and we are behind him. We believe and support his apparent paranoia and his underlying urge to do good.

ones-and-zer0es.mpeg is all about making decisions, doing something; a one, or doing nothing; a zero. In this episode Elliot is between that proverbial rock and a hard place. Being offered the keys to the kingdom over at Evil Corp and still being wooed, albeit somewhat differently than Tyrell’s approach, by fsociety. This series delivers an intelligent discussion worthy tale that runs deep. Those with short, or deficient, attention spans need not bother with this one. Mr Robot airs Tuesdays on USA. Watch it if you like to think.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004) Martial Arts Comedy Feels Like a Musical

Kung Fu Hustle (2004) Martial Arts Comedy Feels Like a Musical Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 19.18.56
Directed, co-written by and starring Stephen Chow, as a sort of follow up to his 2001 film Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle follows a similar premise as the earlier film. In this marital arts comedy, which does feel like a musical in many parts, the idea is that kung fu masters can come in any guise and be found in the most unusual places.

This award winning film begins by showing the rise of the notorious Axe Gang and then moves to a suburb of Shanghai where the tiny township of Pig Sty is ruled with an iron fist by the landlord and his wife. Two con men who dream of joining the Axe Gang try to fool the locals into believing that they are gangsters from the notorious group.

After trying to force a barber into giving them free haircut as well as insisting that he pay them for protection, the hair cutter gets the landlady involved. She takes off a sandal and proceeds to beat Sing (Chow) pretty soundly. He warns her that he will call his brother Axe Gang members and throws a firecracker over a house.

The cracker hits a real Axe Gang member and Sing, after telling the leader that he is one of them, lets the gang take over. The landlady of Pig Sty departs rapidly and the head Axe man approaches the barber who says he is not afraid. As the gang head moves to kill the other man, something invisible hits him and he is knocked into a barrel. With his back broken he calls for backup.

The entire Axe Gang invade the town and three kung fu masters from the small township defeat the whole gang, the noodle cook, a shower curtain salesman and a handyman all save Pig Sty. The landlady tells them off and says the gang will not rest until they destroy the town and tells the three local heroes that they should leave. While she tells off the entire suburb, Sing and his friend Donut try to throw knives at her and they all end up sticking into Sing.

The two leave Pig Sty and Sing “heals” himself while the Axe Gang set out to destroy the small township. It is up to Sing, the landlord and the landlady to save the day and defeat the evil Axe Gang.

Kung Fu Hustle is easily one of the funniest martial arts films ever made. The action is on par with most Warner Bros Looney Tunes cartoons and is just as entertaining. From Sing ending up with three knives in his body, being bitten on the lips by two poisonous snakes and being chased for miles by the irate landlady to two supernatural assassins who use musical instruments to defeat their enemies, this film delights.

This movie is a homage to all martial arts film from China with many nods and winks to Bruce Lee, who helped to revolutionize the art of screen fighting in the cinema. The plot and story are wide ranging with many surprises along the way.

The film is on Netflix at the moment, but for those who despise subtitles, there are DVD copies of the film that have been dubbed. Kung Fu Hustle is a real 5 out of 5 stars for comedy and a record number of belly laughs, watch this one and prepare to be entertained. A cracking good film that does feel almost like a comedic martial arts musical.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Pretty Little Liars: She’s No Angel (recap and review)

Still of Aria looking at negative
Last week’s episode of Pretty Little Liars, Don’t Look Now, with its focus on Charles DiLaurentis and Radley ended with the girls finding more evidence that the boy was buried and dead and could not be the one who put them in the doll house. This week, She’s No Angel, brings back a couple of girls who have been missing, Mona and Lesli Stone.

At the start of the episode Spencer is obviously having a dream. She is walking down a dark, derelict hallway and in front of her she sees a girl in a white nightdress. The younger girl runs off when she notices Spenser looking. She follows the girl and they both go into a large tiled room with two bathtubs and the girl in white does a creepy interpretive dance around the two objects before disappearing. Finding a pair of sandals with “C DiLaurentis” Spencer looks to see a shadowy figure watching her.

After her nightmare, Spencer calls Aria to help her remember details from the doll house. During the call she keeps munching on the pot cookie that Sabrina baked her. Mona turns up at Hannah’s kitchen wearing sunglasses and clutching a cup of coffee and she is worried that the police will not “look out for” her but arrest her. Mona is also worried that Alison will want to hurt her. Hannah reveals that Alison only leaves the house for church.

Mona asks Hannah to take her to the precinct. Alison hears two of the police outside her house talking badly about her, or as she tells her father, “dissing” her. Sara tells Emily that she has to go home because her mother wants her back. Emily suggests that her friend get legally emancipated. Clark stops by and invites Aria out on a photo shoot and after initially saying no, she changes her mind.

Mona and Hannah stop by for coffee before going to the police and Lesli Stone shows up making a scene. She is angry at Mona for getting her involved in the whole business with Alison. When Hannah tries to calm things down, Lesli insults her as well. Spencer and Hannah meet later and the two girls talk about Lesli and how much Spenser misses Toby. Hannah mentions that they need Mona to access Radley. When Spenser takes out her pot cookie, Hannah reaches for it only to get a smack on the hand. She then accuses her friend of being buzzed.

At the route 47 junkyard photoshoot, Clark and Aria are taking pictures and she mentions she is embracing her creepy. While setting up a shot she sees a shadowy figure moving in another part of the yard. When she goes to check there is nothing there but there are sounds of someone or something moving around. Prior to this, Clark asks Aria out to dinner and she turns him down. He apologizes and Aria says he does not need to.

Lorenzo is talking to Ali about the church tasking he suggested her for and her dad comes in stopping the conversation and tells Lorenzo to get out. Emily takes Sara to see Caleb for help on petitioning for legal emancipation. Later Aria discovers that Clark got a picture of the shadowy figure who she believes is A. Aria calls Em to tell her and gets talked into borrowing the negatives to see if they can learn who A is.

Hannah and Lesli get together to talk about Mona and Radley. Spencer decides to get rid of the pot cookie and shortly after she sees Mona putting a card in Alison’s mailbox. The two talk about the doll house and asks if there could have been another younger girl in the house as well. She talks about the tiled room and Mona says she is pretty sure that everyone got out that was there and that the tiled room might just be in Spencer’s head.

Caleb tells Sara that to help her petition along, she now has a job at his web design place. Spencer and Hannah go to Radley to search for evidence that Charles DiLaurentis is really dead. Spencer discovers that the tiled room in her dream was in Radley and not the doll house. Em and Sara are at the tattoo parlor and Sara gets a tattoo of a bird flying out of a cage on her back. Em gets talked into getting her own tattoo.

While going through the room with the two bathtubs, the girls think they see a body submerged in one. Hannah shrieks loud enough to wake the dead and Spenser fishes out the “body” which turns out to be a “resuss-a-annie” CPR doll. After the discovery of the doll, Spencer finds a file that mentions Charles DiLaurentis’ organ transferal, indicating that he did indeed die at Radley. The girls are startled by loud noises in another part of the closed facility.

Aria takes a closer look at the figure in Clark’s picture and it is obvious that A is female. Spenser and Hannah discover the noise was being made by Mona who went to Radley to grab Lesli’s file. She reveals that Lesli does not want anyone to know she was at Radley. Later, Em, Hannah, Aria and Spenser discuss A being a girl and Em tells them about Sara’s freak out earlier. They talk about Mona’s taking Lesli’s file which she said was a gesture to repair their friendship.

Mona tells Lesli that the girls know about Radley and Stone gets very angry telling Mona that she always screws things up. The show ends with gloved hands making an Aria wig on a tennis ball. Is there a connection between A and Lesli, or is she just upset about the file?

Pretty Little Liars is proving to be addictive. The mystery of just who A is has taken a turn and the possibility that he is a she opens things up. The idea also makes a lot of sense, all the main protagonists in the show are female so why can’t A be a girl as well. One thing about the show thus far is that all roads seem to lead to Radley. Is there any one in that town who was not an inmate of the mental facility?

She’s No Angel was an excellent episode and it is interesting to see that Alison’s father is beginning to be a bit nasty. Spencer looks to be getting her head on straight and it looks like Aria may be the one who is crucial to figuring this all out. Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC.

Stitchers: Stitcher in the Rye (recap and review)

Still from Stitcher in the Rye
Last week’s episode of Stitchers, I See You left the subject of Marta’s waking up from her coma in an earlier segment of the show and Stitcher in the Rye centers on the previous stitcher while divulging the darker and more sinister element of the stitcher program. This sudden change in direction of the show was brilliant and anyone watching would have felt a tinge of excitement at this shift in focus.

At the start of the episode Kirsten has returned from her run and collected the mail. Camille picks up a package addressed to her roommate and opens it, revealing that someone sent Kirsten the J.D. Salinger book Catcher in the Rye. Camille asks Kirsten who sent her the book and she responds by asking who told her she could “open my stuff.” “Force of habit,” says Camille, “at least now I don’t have to reseal it and pretend it never happened.”

The two also have a discussion about Camille’s borrowing clothes from Kirsten and not asking. Since Clark has Temporal Dysplasia, Camille argues, she can ask after borrowing the items and it will not matter. Kirsten agrees, much to her roommate’s, and co-worker’s, delight. Later in the episode the matter of borrowed clothing crops up again.

The latest stitch is a mobile health food entrepreneur and conspiracy blogger who used to work for the CIA who has just had a heart attack. The man, Justin, was a major annoyance to, as Maggie puts it, an “Alphabet soup of government agencies,” and his death means that files he was suspected to have in his possession will be difficult to find. Kirsten must go in and learn where the former CIA agent kept his secret files, the latest of which had just been received by the deceased and was to have been publicized.

Kirsten enters Justin’s head and she has a odd moment where a memory from another stitch intrudes and she finds the deceased man’s hiding place. Going out to his mobile food van, she opens the secret compartment which has files and older computers (pre internet machines that are “totally un-hackable,” says Clark) and Kirsten grabs one file. *Another excellent pop culture moment here where Cameron uses a line from Hot Fuzz, “By the Power of Greyskull,” which in turn is a reference to the 1980s Masters of the Universe.*

Once the file is removed the hiding place begins to spark and smoke; Detective Fisher, Cameron and Kirsten all run from the van and the vehicle explodes in a shower of sparks, flame and smoke. The folder that Kirsten grabbed has an “old fashioned” floppy disc in it that none of the machines at the lab can access. Clark learns about Cameron’s that Maggie refers to Cameron as Dr. Goodkin, when “she’s annoyed.” “She must call you that a lot,” quips Kirsten.

Clark and Cameron talk about the weird thing that she saw in Justin’s stitch. While discussing the issue Cameron tells her that the memory could be one of hers. Kirsten reveals that she cannot remember anything from before Ed, her surrogate father. Talking about the picture she found with the word remember written on the back, she has an epiphany and thanking Cameron, she leaves.

She has remembered a moment where she was using one of Ed’s “old” computers and part of the memory revealed that there were more. She finds one and inserts the floppy disc; printing off the information on it. The print out, which she shows to Cameron first, is of the stitcher’s program algorithm.

Playing detective, Kirsten goes through her list of suspects, beginning with Cameron and after clearing him, moves on to Linus. It is after she hacks his personal computer that Kirsten and Cameron learn that Linus and Camille have “hooked up.” The clue was that Linus is wearing Kirsten’s sweatshirt. The couple are cleared also, which leaves Maggie as the only suspect. All four of the stitcher’s group head to the lab to confront her. As they come across Maggie in the parking garage, the leader of the organization is shot.

After Maggie is treated for her gunshot wound, she clears herself and also gets rather tacky about the members of her little team. Camille points out, “You’re nasty when you get shot, you know that?” Baptiste’s alibi is that she was having breakfast with head of the agency, Les Turner (Oded Fehr). The four team members are tasked to find who leaked the information and who shot Maggie.

Camille is in the middle of trying to ease things off with Linus when Kirsten reveals that the leak did not come from within the lab. Cameron asks Clark to slow down the images from Justin’s stitch and she remembers a butterfly tattoo. Goodkin says he knows exactly who leaked the algorithm, it was Marta. The team learn that right after the former stitcher woke up she checked herself out of the hospital.

Cameron reveals that Marta’s specialty with the NSA was cryptography and Kirsten realizes who sent her the Catcher in the Rye, checking the book she finds the template for a code and matches it to the spam messages she has been getting on her phone. She deciphers the last one which says, “You are in Danger. Trust no one.” She responds, “Can you protect me?”

“Yes,” is Marta’s reply and the two meet. Marta comes across as being paranoid and almost mentally disturbed. Her accident in the stitch seems to have left some lasting damage. She tells Kirsten that the stitcher program is not about helping people. “You really think it’s about solving murders?” she asks. Marta tells Kirsten that the agency is setting the program up bad things and that stitchers are evil. She admits to giving the file to Justin and shooting Maggie.

Marta is bitter and upset. She wants to save Kirsten and as they start to leave Clark’s house, Cameron, Detective Fisher and the police show up. As Goodkin tries to talk Marta down, she pulls a gun. After getting upset and asking Kristen if Cameron asked her to trust him, the police order her to come out of the house. Marta then gets a call on her cell phone.

“How did you get this number,” she asks and then listens to the caller. “I understand” she says, Marta then thanks Cameron for the flowers, and goes outside with the gun in her hand. Rodriguez is shot down by the police. Afterward, Maggie tries to convince Cameron that what happened to Marta was not his fault. He wants to put her body in the lab and do a stitch. Kirsten questions Maggie about what Rodriguez really knew about the program and Baptiste refuses to put Marta’s body in the machine.

It turns out that Maggie lied about her alibi and that Turner had Justin killed rather than have details about the stitcher program released to the public. Baptiste says that Kirsten Clark is too clever, she then asks, “What do I tell her?” Turner says to tell her anything she wants, “as long as it’s not the truth.” It turns out that Maggie is CIA as well and that the program is not what she has been advertising it to be.

In Stitchers the actors are all meshing very well, Alison Scagliotti and Ritesh Rajan get big time brownie points for having an excellent chemistry and a great give-and-take performance. Emma Ishta and Kyle Harris are dancing ever closer to a “will they, won’t they” subplot and their chemistry is also brilliant. The inclusion of Fehr as show baddie is a great touch. This veteran actor will hopefully be making many more appearances on the show.

This shift into the darker side of Stitchers is an brilliant move. It was a stretch for viewers to believe that all that money was being spent to solve the murders of, pretty much, average people. The expense behind this government program is obviously huge and the fact that Camille had been hired to spy on Clark shows that the group are not afraid to play dirty.

This is one of the best shows on television at the moment. Great writing, excellent acting and a plot that keeps getting thicker with twists and turns that keep the interest levels high. If you are not watching Stitchers on ABC right now?

Start.

The Shrine (2010): Polish Horror with a Twist

Still from The Shrine
Directed and co-written by Joe Knautz, the 2010 Polish themed horror film with a twist, The Shrine which is his second feature length film, tells the story of a journalist who is pursuing what she believes to be the next big story. Starring Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys, Warehouse 13), Cindy Sampson (Swamp Devil, The Last Kiss) and Meghan Heffern (Chloe, What If) it could be seen as a message to those who aspire to greatness, “Be careful of what you wish for” or “Don’t you think the bee story would have been safer?”

Carmen (Sampson) is a junior journalist who wrote an expose that caused a lot of problems for her publication. Her punishment is to be given mediocre and banal stories to cover. Somewhat ironically, given the mysterious virus that is killing off honeybees in the real world, she is told to investigate and write about two separate bee keepers whose bees have suddenly and mysteriously died. Finding the prospect of talking to a couple of “bee farmers” fairly dull, she tosses the assignment in the bin.

The fledgling reporter has been following her own leads and she has discovered a possible link between a local lad who has gone missing from Poland. Like others before him, the boy’s luggage showed up in an airport miles from his last known destination, a small town in Poland, and Carmen talks her boyfriend Marcus (Ashmore) and her intern Sara (Heffern) into going to the village and learning what really happened to the missing local man.

The three fly to the area and begin their investigation. They find a spot in the woods that the backpacker described in his last diary entry. A place where smoke or fog hangs in one spot. After being chased out of the small town by the locals, Carmen, Sara and Marcus double back and check out the smoke filled copse.

Sara goes into the fog while Marcus and Carmen argue. She disappears and Carmen goes in after her intern. While enveloped by the dense fog, she finds a statue of a large snarling creature clutching a heart in one clawed hand. She takes a picture and as she moves to get another shot, the statues head followers her.

This is an interesting film. Starting off as more a mystery than horror, it has all the signposts of turning into another Hostel or something very similar. However once the protagonists reach Poland, it ceases to be a mystery and goes slowly and effectively into a sort of quasi-religious horror film.

The filmmakers chose to keep subtitles off the screen when the local villagers are talking each other and the visiting Americans in Polish, although they think the reporters are British. “English?,” asks one man, “Go back to England, English, nothing for you here.” The lack of subtitles keeps the viewer in the same space as the three young American’s who cannot speak the language.

The Shrine is not too dissimilar to Ashmore’s twin brother Shawn’s horror outing in The Ruins two years earlier, it looks like the hostile townies are trying to keep the outsiders out, at first, and later to keep them there…permanently.

The twist at the ending is not earth shattering but impressive enough and although the film does end rather abruptly, but not too ambiguously, this works. The combination of no subtitles and the short chopped off ending puts the audience firmly in the shell shocked shoes of Aaron Ashmore’s character. Quite an entertaining horror film that scores a full 3.5 out of 5 and is well worth a look. True horror fans will enjoy this little gem. Steaming on Netflix at the moment.