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Josh Reviews Netflix’s Season Three of Black Mirror!

I adored the original six episodes made of the British TV show Black Mirror.  Series creator Charlie Brooker had made a riveting modern/day Twilight Zone, with each episode a completely stand-alone installment presenting a look at the ways that technology has the potential to be terribly destructive to our lives. Those first six episodes, made between 2011-13, are brilliant, and if you haven’t yet seen them I implore you to drop everything and go check them out — they are available to stream on Netflix.


I was very excited when I read that Netflix would be resurrecting the show, allowing Mr. Brooker to create six new episodes. I took my time watching the new episodes, both because I didn’t want them to be over too quickly and also because these episodes are very intense and I couldn’t handle too many too quickly! But now I have completed the new season and am eager to share my thoughts.

While there is nothing here in season three that equals the best of the original six episodes, I enjoyed most of these new episodes very much. Mr. Brooker has brought in some talented people to help create this new season, and it’s interesting to see the resulting slightly-different spins on the show.  (Though, rest assured, these new episodes all thoroughly feel like Black Mirror.) None of these new episodes reach the genius level that so many of the original six episodes did, and a few are weakened by some flaws I’d have preferred to have seen corrected along the way. But all six episodes are interesting and have a lot to enjoy. While this third season might just be “very good” rather than “genius,” that is still something for us to be thankful for. I am very glad that six more episodes of Black Mirror now exist! (With the possibility of more on the way!)

Here is my episode-by-episode rundown. I’ll avoid major SPOILERS but, still, I highly advise stopping here if you haven’t yet seen these episodes.

Nosedive — the new season gets off to a somewhat shaky start with this first installment.  “Nosedive” has a brilliant, terrifying-in-its-possibility premise, but it suffers somewhat in execution. In the not-too-distant future, everyone can use their cell-phones to rate their interactions with every person they meet, and those scores accumulate into a person’s average score that is constantly visible (because of special contact lenses that everyone wears) whenever you see anyone else.  Bryce Dallas Howard is spectacular as a young woman, Lacie, trying to nudge up her personal score. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that these scores classify each individual into a certain social class. (The story is instigated because Lacie wants … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Hanna!

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl who has been raised in total isolation in a frigid, rural setting by her father Erik (Eric Bana).  When we first meet Hanna, it becomes immediately clear that Erik has been training her to be a fierce warrior — tough, smart, and fearless, with a keen tactical mind and skills with all manner of different weaponry.  Erik has apparently been in hiding from government agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett) for years, but now that Hanna has become a teenager she has grown tired of her isolation.  So Erik allows Hanna to let Marissa know where they are hiding, setting young Hanna on a violent collision course with Erik and Marissa’s secret past.

Hanna is a violent, fast-paced thriller.  This story could have been a slow-burn story of intrigue and subterfuge, but while there is no shortage of intrigue and subterfuge in the tale, Hanna is a kinetic, adrenaline-pumping film right from minute one.  The throbbing, techno-beat pumping of the score reminds me of Run Lola Run, and it drives the action scenes forward with at a propulsive pace that is also reminiscent of that terrific German film (read my review here).

This was not exactly the type of movie I expected to see from Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.  But his second collaboration with Saoirse Ronan is incredibly potent, and Mr. Wright brings extraordinary skill and style to spare to this film.  And truly, Hanna is an exercise in cinematic style from start to finish.  There’s nothing exceedingly unique about the story of spies and their dark secrets, but the execution by Mr. Wright and his team give the film a truly distinct flavor all its own.

They are ably assisted, of course, by the terrifically talented threesome of Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett.  I haven’t seen Atonement, the first film that brought Ms. Ronan national attention a few years ago, but she is a captivating presence here.  There’s a bright intelligence to be seen behind her piercing blue eyes, and she is entirely convincing as the brutal, feral warrior she has been raised to be.  She also completely sells the moments of naive innocence exposed in Hanna when she’s confronted with aspects of the modern world that she’s never before experienced.

Cate Blanchett is touch as nails and entirely unlikable as Marissa, which of course is exactly what the role calls for.  Ms. Blanchett dials back her charisma to create, in Marissa, a woman who is clearly a shell of a human being, totally devoted to her job and her pursuit of secrets that has become her whole life.  She’s a great villain.… [continued]