Is 'Black Mirror' Season 5 Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
NO LONGER STRANGER THAN REALITY

· Updated:

New episodes of the sci-fi anthology series were released on Netflix today, but is the new season of "Black Mirror" worth watching or has the once groundbreaking show run its course? Here's what the reviews have to say:

Anthony Mackie's 'Striking Vipers' VR Episode Is Probably The Only One Worth Watching

The Season 5 episode about a pair of gamers who fall in love considers how digital worlds can warp people's self-image.

[The Altantic]

Like the best "Black Mirrors," it's extremely clever, probing questions about identity and happiness bleeding from the virtual world into the more mundane one.

[CNN]

This is one of those episodes of TV that feels fresh. It'll bring other great Black Mirror episode San Junipero to mind, as well as The Entire History of You and Be Right Back, both tender looks at heartbreak and humanity.

[CNET]


Andrew Scott's Performance Elevates The Otherwise Mediocre 'Smithereens' Episode

The second episode, Smithereens, is the slightest and perhaps least successful of the trio. […] It is largely held together by Andrew Scott's uniquely potent and peculiar energy (whether he's hot priesting or Moriartying it), perfectly channelled into the role of a grief-stricken, increasingly desperate taxi driver who kidnaps an employee of an Apple-esque company in order to force its CEO to speak to him.

[The Guardian]

Scott's committed lead performance (the actor most recently played the "hot priest" on Fleabag's second season) kept me at least interested throughout. But "Smithereens" doesn't add up to much.

[The Atlantic]

The trouble is that, as thesis statements go, the message of "Smithereens" is both redundant and a little weak; it ultimately feels like a sophomoric, slippery slope argument, with little nuance beyond "social media is bad," unlikely to edify anyone who's been following news of the tech world lately.

[Vox]


Miley Cyrus' 'Black Mirror' Episode Is The Weakest Of The Three

The Black Mirror episode titled "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" stars Miley Cyrus as a pink-wigged pop star whose manipulative manager has found a new way to exploit her using a tiny new high-tech toy called Ashley Too.

[NPR]

This installment wants to say a lot of things at once, but has a fundamental unseriousness of tone and of approach that makes anything it might say seem not worth the effort.

[Variety]

This is… a mess. Seemingly two separate stories fused together — or one story thrown out of whack by a beefed up supporting role to accomodate Miley Cyrus' star power — "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" has a deadbeat dad character who never develops past providing important computer parts, a main character who literally never develops at all, and a script that can't even get the details right.

[IndieWire]


In General, The Show Seems To Be Stuck In A Creative Rut

It's possible that Brooker—who has scripted almost every episode of the show, occasionally with a co-writer—is running out of "what if" potent enough to strike fear into the heart of the typical Twitter junkie. 

[TIME]

The problem with these episodes is not in their production or their performances. In each episode, but especially "Smithereens" and "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too," the problem is that instead of an underlying point powering the story's core, there is almost nothing.

[Vulture]

More than seven years after it first debuted, the sci-fi anthology can still make you laugh (sometimes), unnerve you (many more times), and even disappoint you (more on that in a bit). It just may no longer be able to surprise you.

[Wired]


And Given How Bleak Our Current Reality Is, The Dystopian Sci-Fi Show Doesn't Offer Anything New To Say

A strange thing has happened since Black Mirror first launched back in 2011: the real world has become more and more like the fictional, sci-fi world of the show. Tech companies have become more and more powerful, and more and more destructive. Social media has played a real part in harming – some might even say destroying – democracy. […] As the world around us becomes more and more unstable, Black Mirror now finds itself in a precarious position. How can your dystopian sci-fi show compete with the actual impending actual dystopia?

[/Film]

It may be focused on the future, but is Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones's dystopian anthology series Black Mirror in danger of feeling a bit passé? After all, its focus on the disrupting and corrupting influence of technology can seem a bit quaint in an era where the somewhat more overarching issues of political collapse and ecological catastrophe loom ever larger. 

[BBC]


TL;DR 

[I]nstead of keeping viewers up at night with political hellscapes and other horror-movie scenarios, season 5 rarely departs in a meaningful way from what's possible now.

[TIME]

Watch The Trailer

 

<p>Pang-Chieh Ho is an associate editor at Digg.</p>

Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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