REVIEW: THE HANDMAID’S TALE – SEASON 1

CAST

Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Joseph Fiennes (Killing Me Softly)
Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck)
Alexis Bledel (Violet & Daisy)
Madeline Brewer (Hemlock Grove)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
O. T. Fagbenle (The Five)
Max Minghella (Horns)
Samira Wiley (The Sitter)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Amanda Brugel (Suicide Squad)
Ever Carradine (Lucky 13)
Kristen Gutoskie (Containment)
Jessica Gant (Reign)
Tattiawna Jones (Flashpoint)

Mankind is failing, most women are sterile because of industrial pollution (or Mother Nature just having enough of us parasites). Birth rates are plummeting. An ultra religious cult see it as their God given mission to ‘save mankind’. They seize power by staging a fake terrorist attack against the US government, impose marshal law and set about rebuilding American society. They use The Old Testament as their blue print, but with some totally wacky interpretations and distortions. Fertile women become the property of the state. Brain washed and farmed out to the new ruling elite as baby makers, slavery and subjugation is all they can hope for.Margaret Atwood, Canadian hero, social commentator, environmentalist, activist, feminist, tech inventor, business woman and visionary always maintained that this isn’t sci-fi, but ‘speculative fiction’, things that have a chance of happening in the near future. Written in the ’80’s it’s probably more profound now; the Neo Con Christian’s have become a powerful force in US politics. Could there be a Tea Party without the ultra religious Republicans? Probably not. Maybe it takes a next door neighbour from Canada to really see what’s happening with the totally dysfunctional family next door? It has always been a source of debate about how a country so entrenched in the ideas of freedom and liberal philosophy can also be the home of such obvious bigotry and divide? Surely teaching Creationism instead of proved science in some State’s schools is a warning sign? Maggie may well ridicule this dogmatic un-thinking, however it’s far from funny when she points out the possible end game and consequences for society and women in particular.The Series is slightly different from the book, and relies on a lot of flashbacks like the original narration; however this narration helps to smooth over the cracks nicely. So it still sticks faithfully to the principles and main events of the story, albeit in a roundabout ‘more up to date’ way. The subtle creep up and takeover of government and power has been well handled so far. I am enthralled, totally impressed and on tenterhooks with Bruce Miller’s adaption. The direction is also smart. Every image is a perfect composition, nothing is wasted, it’s real art in the hands of skilled camera operators.The feminism is subtle, not the clumsy and overt ‘all men are bad, all women are good little victims’ like of some of the more hardcore feminist literature. Maggie recognises that some women can be bad too, and some men will die to do the right thing, as you will see. Her book made a point that this could only happen if most women were willing parties too, and that a 2,000 year old book of moral tales can hold a massive amount of power when deliberately abused in the wrong hands.It’s also highly commendable that the cast are just ‘normal folk’, no super skinnies, models, hunks or pretty boys are in sight. This makes it all the more believable, it could happen to you and me. The lead, ‘Offred’ (Elizabeth Moss) absolutely nails it. No spoilers, but she will impress you with her canny nouse and determination to survive despite many obstacles and traps. I haven’t seen one bad actor in here so far, they’ve obviously got bags of talent and emotional range. The design and resurrection of ‘The Shaker Movement’, as in the book, harks back to an American and European age of persecution and religious fervor. Adhering to Maggie’s descriptions of the colour coded dress, the production designer’s subtle placement of now highly valuable Shaker furniture here and there helps; the muted drab colours, even in the opulent wealthy homes, take us sub consciously back to the times of Salem, witch trials, mass hysteria and life devoid of ‘modern vices’ like free speech, self determination, free love and modern relationships.It’s a fresh series for me and I am sure most people will love it too.

REVIEW: SIDE EFFECTS

 

CAST

Jude Law (Spy)
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment)
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)

After her husband Martin completes a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor drives into a wall in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks, assigned her psychiatrist, prescribes a series of antidepressants, but none work. Jonathan contacts Emily’s previous psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert, who suggests an experimental new drug, Ablixa. The drug seems to help Emily, but gives her sleepwalking episodes as a side effect.
One night, Emily stabs Martin to death while sleepwalking. Jonathan fights for Emily’s acquittal in court. She pleads insanity and is declared not guilty on the condition that she stays in a psychiatric hospital until cleared by Jonathan. The publicity destroys Jonathan’s reputation, and his colleagues assume negligence on his part.
Jonathan discovers evidence that Emily is lying; she was not depressed and faked her suicide attempts. He also discovers someone may have profited from Ablixa’s fall in stock value. He interviews Emily after administering what he claims is a truth serum that will make her drowsy. Though the serum is actually a placebo, she feigns drowsiness, confirming Jonathan’s suspicion that she is deceiving him. When he confronts Victoria with his findings, she mails photographs to his wife Deirdre implying he had an affair with Emily. Deirdre leaves him, taking her son with him.
Jonathan calls Victoria’s bluff by telling her Emily told him about their plot. He threatens Emily with electric shock treatment and tells her Victoria is paying him to keep her incarcerated so she can keep a bigger cut. Emily explains that she hated Martin for losing their opulent lifestyle, and began plotting to kill him, get away with it and profit by his death. She began seeing Victoria for counseling, and the two women became lovers. Emily taught Victoria about the financial world, while Victoria taught Emily how to fake psychiatric disorders. They plotted to kill Martin and use the negative Ablixa publicity to manipulate stock prices. Jonathan accepts Emily’s offer to give him a cut of her money if he releases her from the ward.
Emily meets Victoria wearing a wire. After Victoria mentions details of the plot, she is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and securities fraud. Emily, due to double jeopardy, cannot be charged as criminally responsible for her part in Martin’s murder. As retaliation for Emily’s part in the plot, Jonathan, who still oversees her case, prescribes her Thorazine and Depakote and describes their unpleasant side effects. She is sent back to the mental ward for refusing treatment, and Jonathan regains his family and reputation.It’s an edge-of-your-mind thriller rather than an edge-of-your- seat thriller. Never really scared, always questioning the moral and psychological behaviour of these characters. The ending takes some strange, sexually-charged turns, and perhaps a bit more conclusive than I was originally expecting, but don’t worry, you can still question where the line is between right and wrong and when each character crossed it.

REVIEW: ST. VINCENT

CAST

Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Bill Murray (Zombieland)
Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Chris O’ Dowd (This Is 40)
Terrence Howard (Iron Man)
Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special)
Nate Corddry (Mom)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)

Vincent MacKenna is a retired grumpy alcoholic Vietnam War veteran, living in Sheepshead Bay who smokes and gambles regularly. His wife, Sandy, developed Alzheimer’s years ago and can no longer recognize him, but he poses as a doctor to visit her and does her laundry. Vincent’s only close friends are a pregnant Russian sex worker named Daka and his cat, Felix. Despite his aggressive attitude toward strangers, Vincent has acquaintances who admire and care about him.
Vincent’s 30-year-old Chrysler LeBaron gets damaged by a tree branch felled by his new neighbors’ moving van. Maggie Bronstein, a radiology tech divorcee, and her son Oliver meet Vincent, who demands payment for the damage. Maggie does the best to provide for Oliver, who is ostracized and bullied at his Catholic school, but is a knowledgeable, friendly boy, welcomed warmly by his new teacher. On his first day at his school, Oliver’s phone, wallet and house keys are stolen by his classmate Robert. Oliver asks Vincent if he can stay at his home until his mother comes home from work. Vincent offers to continue babysitting for a fee.
Vincent picks up Oliver daily after school because Maggie often has late shifts. Vincent’s ideas of after-school activities involve visits to racetracks and bars. The mismatched pair begin to help each other mature, though Maggie is at first horrified by Vincent’s behavior. Vincent teaches Oliver how to defend himself, resulting in Oliver breaking Robert’s nose, who later apologizes and gives back what he stole. Oliver befriends Robert. Vincent and Oliver win a high odds bet on the horses, enabling Vincent to pay off some of his debts. But he gambles away the rest, hoping to make more to keep Sandy in her nursing home.
Vincent is confronted in his home by loan sharks Zucko and Antwan who attempt to take Sandy’s jewelry. Vincent suffers a stroke and Zucko and Antwan leave him on the floor. Vincent is hospitalized and has physical therapy. Oliver, Maggie and Daka help Vincent recover. Oliver’s father, a lawyer, finds out about Vincent and uses the information to get joint custody, with Maggie telling Vincent that he can no longer see Oliver. Vincent becomes depressed after finding out Sandy died while hospitalized. Oliver nominates Vincent, for his “Saints Among Us” school project and asks around the neighborhood about Vincent’s past. Oliver publicly declares Vincent his saint in front of the school’s assembly, who happily reconciles with Oliver. Some time later, Daka gives birth to a child, and she along with Maggie, Oliver and Robert go to Vincent’s house, where they eat and happily talk.St. Vincent is a sweet, lovable film that grows on you with each passing laugh.

 

REVIEW: COMPLIANCE

CAST

Dreama Walker (Don’t Trust The B— IN Apartment 23)
Ann Dowd (Garden State)
Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills)
Philip Ettinger (The Maid’s Room)
Ashlie Atkinson (Inside man)
Nikiya Mathis  (Knucklehead)
Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave)

After receiving a phone call claiming that one of her employees has stolen money from a customer, manager Sandra takes Becky into the back room, interrogates her, strip searches her and humiliates her, all because the voice on the other end of the phone claims to be a police officer. The film, until the end, is truthful to the events that played out in real life. I can’t fault the film for portraying what literally happened, no matter how inane the people and the requests were. I sat there thinking there is no way in hell that these people are that stupid that they wouldn’t question the voice on the other end of the phone. I think the choice on the filmmakers part that really put me over the edge was having the so called police officer, talk down to them, calling them stupid and to shut up. How, at that point in time does nothing click for you is beyond me.

Competently directed, nothing visual that really stands out, the camera served the story. A young girl being mistreated in a small room. The acting, for the most part felt natural to me. The small things that the actors do reflect real life, awkward laughter at an odd request was something I caught from the husband.

Compliance is a film that shows how stupid and gullible people can be. it shows you need to use common sense and question authority.  The only part of the film that is not true is that in the fiom they catch the guy, in real life they never did