brendan halpin

TV

I had never seen any of the previous seasons before watching season one, so instead of measuring season 4 against season 1, I’m going to do the opposite.

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The Netflix show, not the anti-reproductive-freedom Sex Pistols song. (How did John Lydon end up a fascist? Real head-scratcher!)

Anyway, Bodies actually concerns one body that is found in four different time periods and investigated by four different detectives. The performances are top notch, the script is smart and convoluted and features a number of those WTF twists we expect in a time-travel show. (Yes, Futurama fans, a character in this show does in fact do the nasty in the pasty and thereby become their own ancestor, just like Fred Ward in Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann).

But what I’d really like to talk about is the moral courage this show displays. This is gonna involve some spoilers, so…

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Watched two really good works of fantasy media within the last week. One was Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This, as many others have said, was a fun, funny, rollicking adventure movie with a great “found family” theme and wonderful performances top to bottom. (Hugh Grant is an especially delicious craven villain) You do not have to know anything about D&D to have a fun time watching this movie, but if you do know something about D&D, it will only add to the fun. Unless you’re one of those killjoys who would point out that this two-hour movie would probably take months to run as a D&D campaign because of how incredibly much combat slows down the game. But I digress.

Fun adventure movies are few and far between. Pixar always wants you to cry, and Marvel somehow got a sense that they’re Important, and so the idea that you can have a good time at the movies watching a bunch of folks do something difficult and heroic seems to have gotten lost. I’m glad this movie found it.

On TV, I watched a really good fantasy show. Karen Pirie (on Britbox) doesn’t have magic or wizards or Owlbears, but it does feature a familiar fantasy trope: the incredibly competent cop who will stop at nothing to solve a case, even if it means taking on the entire power structure of the city.

If you can suspend your disbelief and remind yourself that this is only a fantasy, you’ll have a very good time with this well-acted, cleverly-plotted show. Lauren Lyle is especially winning in the title role, but there really isn’t a weak link in the cast. Of course it’s easier to turn in a good performance when you’re working from a good script, and Emer Kenny’s adaptation of Val McDermid’s novel (I was impressed enough by her 1979 to want to watch this because it was based on her writing) is really strong.

Fantasy media is fun, but it’s important to remember that if you see a guy in a robe on the street, he’s not going to be able to do any actual magic, and, similarly, you shouldn’t expect the folks in your town cosplaying dedicated, hyper-competent, deeply moral characters like Karen Pirie to actually be like that.

[Tangent: I watch a fair amount of British fantasy police shows, and everybody is DS this and DI that, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for a “DS Nuts” joke that nobody has thus far taken advantage of. I hope British TV will get on this ASAP.]

#review #tv #movie #fantasy

Recently watched the Netflix offerings Dear Child and The Woman in the Window. Both featured excellent performances and both, weirdly, left me feeling a little unsatisfied at the end.

Dear Child is a German six-episode series about a young woman and a young girl who escape from domestic captivity and how the mystery of who they are and what happened to them unravels. It’s well-acted top to bottom, with Nalia Schuberth turning in a fantastically creepy performance as the child, Hannah. I hope Germany treats its child stars better than we do, or else that she takes the money and leaves the profession for ten years.

The Woman in The Window is a Netflix movie starring Amy Adams as an incredibly wealthy (that house! In Manhattan, yet!) agoraphobic in yet another riff on Rear Window. Here, as in Dear Child, the performances are fantastic, especially Amy Adams, who does a really fantastic job bringing a complicated character to life. Julianne Moore and Bryan Tyree Henry (you may remember him as the highlight of Bullet Train) are great in supporting roles, and Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Anthony Mackie are all wasted in small roles where they’re not asked to do very much. This is especially true of Oldman, who yells three times, and Leigh, who has, I think, 2 lines. Just a weird flex to put such talented actors in roles where you don’t give them anything to show what they can do.

Both the show and the movie, though, fail to stick the landing. The twists in The Woman in the Window are pretty good, but the final twist was just kind of meh to me. I guess the big reveal felt pretty mundane compared to what came before. Masquerade was a terrible movie and No Way Out was a pretty good movie, and both of them had big reveals that made you go, “WHOA!”. That’s not the case here. My reaction was, “hm. Interesting.”

Also, fun fact: did you know that almost getting murdered can cure your agoraphobia? Apparently that’s the case! Why would a movie lie about such a thing!

Dear Child has a lot of very satisfying twists, but literally every punch in the series is telegraphed, so that when it lands, it doesn’t really land. Here’s an example that will spoil very little. One character puts a hand on another character’s hand when they’re sitting next to each other. The second character moves the first character’s hand away. Two episodes later there’s a big reveal that these two had an illicit affair. And, like, duh!

It’s like that with every twist in the show, but the most egregious (and here be veiled spoilers, so proceed carfully) is that there’s a character whose face isn’t shown at all through 5 episodes. So naturally I’m thinking, “oh, he’s a character we know from somewhere else!” Nope! Just a guy!

Anyway, both were entertaining and had five star potential and three and a half star execution.

#review #netflix #tv #movies

I really enjoyed this show, the rare comedy/mystery that works really well as both. The first two episodes are really funny, and the remaining ones are intermittently funny as the focus shifts from comedy to mystery.

It’s about a small town in Tasmania that is rapidly gentrifying thanks to an influx of lesbians from the mainland, one of whom is long-suffering cop Dulcie. This is a great performance from Kate Box (Good God, imagine how hard middle school was for this woman), who essentially plays the straight man (comedically speaking) to most of the rest of the cast of quirky characters, led by Madeleine Semi as foul-mouthed, horny mainland detective Eddie. It’s kind of like if Northern Exposure was about a serial killer instead of some will-they-or-won’t-they bullshit.

One of the things I really love about crime fiction and television is that it allows for exploration of social issues without didacticism (usually). Deadloch does this really well, highlighting the aforementioned gentrification as well as the mistreatment of the indigenous people and the paternalistic cruelty of wealthy white people who do philanthropy for them. And, of course, how women are mistreated by men in their personal and professional lives. The only stumble, in my opinion, is this: Dulcie sees one of her indigenous neighbors has sprayed ACAB on their garbage cans and just kind of gives it an exasperated eyeroll. For a show that clearly sets out to skewer a lot of injustices, it’s a weird blind spot. Why even bring it up only to dismiss it?

My slight political objections aside, I still give this a full-throated recommendation. It’s one of the best crime shows I’ve watched in years. I’m really hoping for a season 2, though I suspect this is a lightning in a bottle situation that won’t be repeated. Catch it on Prime.

#TV #Review #Cops #Crime

I watched all 3 episodes of House of Hammer (Not to be confused with Hammer House of Horror, which is also great) this weekend. It’s a riveting, disturbing documentary.

Of course it’s about sexual abuse, so it features survivors telling their stories in graphic detail, so if that kind of thing is going to send you spiraling for a few days, please do not watch it.

I found it gross and awful and couldn’t stop watching. I very rarely watch TV by myself, and yet after starting this and getting about 15 minutes in, I found nearly 3 hours to continue it.

So: an excellent documentary with a huge content warning for sexual assault. That’s the review. Now the reflections.

I hope that as stories like this continue to emerge, we’ll start to change our perception of the ultra rich. The Hammer dynasty (Armand, Julian, Michael, Armie. Not MC, who is, as far as I know, a decent guy) is comprised of shockingly horrible people. And I don’t think they’re alone. For one thing, becoming ultra rich seems to require a lack of empathy for other humans that is almost certainly pathological. For another, with apologies to Master P, growing up with no limits seems to break something in the human brain. In short, the people who amass huge fortunes probably have serious personality disorders, and even if those aren’t passed down genetically, growing up ultra wealthy seems to lead to people becoming awful. So maybe we can stop lionizing these folks. They are the absolute scum of the earth, which is not the kind of term I throw around lightly.

It’s impossible to adequately praise the courage of the women who came forward to detail what Armie Hammer did to them without slipping into cliche. But to survive that kind of horrible trauma only to be targeted by horrible fans? To know that the person you’re exposing has enough money to both smear you and evade consequences for pretty much anything forever? That really is a profound bravery, and ultimately, self-sacrifice. Because they face the public vilification in hopes of saving other women from enduring what they endured.

This is in no way to diminish the aforementioned incredible courage, but something I noticed was that one of the Armie Hammer survivors was the CEO of an app company (so just regular rich, not ultra rich), and was able to just take off for multi-week vacations on a whim. I firmly believe in most organizations, the more money you make, the less important you are to the day to day functioning of the place. The boss never has to find anyone to cover their shift because it doesn’t matter if they show up or not.

Circling back to the toxic fans. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to be able to admit when we’ve been conned. Armie Hammer successfully conned people into believing he was a certain kind of person (not a monster), and people who invested so much into admiring him would rather publicly attack a rape survivor than admit they were wrong. But here’s the thing. Cons, scams, cults, whatever—they don’t just work on stupid people. They work on all of us because they use the good parts of our personalities against us. So giving people the benefit of the doubt, showing forgiveness, believing in the necessity of working for a better world—these are all good things we don’t want to lose, and as long as we have them, people will con us. Armand Hammer didn’t amass a huge fortune by conning only dumb people. He conned everyone. I pride myself on my cynicism and was succesfully conned by two different employers, each one peddling idealism they didn’t believe. I’m susceptible to being conned again for the same reason.

Also, if you’re not a sociopath, they’re hard to spot. That’s why they can do so many crimes and become super wealthy! I, like most people, consider myself a good judge of character but was completely stunned to find that someone I used to work with was credibly accused of two violent crimes. Up until I read the details of their alleged crimes, I would have told you they were a warm, friendly, and very good-hearted person. But I appear to have been wrong about that. Or, anyway, those qualities somehow coexisted with violent rage. I would like to encourage us all to have some humility about our ability to judge people and not see our inability to immediately spot horrible people as our flaw. It’s not. It's the very qualities that make us not horrible that make us fall for these people. The problem isn’t us. It’s them.

#Review #EatTheRich

#TV