Canada invites Britain to America’s birthday party, resulting in an awkward meeting between these exes.
Just finished the Hulu series A HANDMAID’S TALE, and wow, what a harrowing portrayal of Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it focuses on Offred, a handmaid in the totalitarian Republic of Gilead. Gilead was constituted as a fundamentalist theocracy to replace the United States after a period of national decline that involved pollution and resulting plummeting fertility. Fertile women are trained as handmaidens in this rigidly structured society, forced to copulate with the ruling elite to produce children. Women have no rights in Gilead, sex is regulated and for procreation only, and armed men enforce a very strict sense of law and order. Abortion doctors, gays (“gender traitors”), heretics (Catholics, Jews, etc.) and others are regularly sentenced to death in kangaroo courts, executed, and mounted on a wall as a stern reminder of Gilead justice. Lesser offenses can result in a hand being cut off, eye being put out, or genital mutilation. While Gilead appears to be a Christian republic, its government and language focuses mostly on God (not Jesus) and appears to be shaped along Old Testament rather than New Testament principles.
Offred has a bleak existence. While she eats well and her main household duties are shopping and monthly ceremonial copulation, she is a slave, property. Even her name has been erased, Offred meaning, “Of Fred,” the commander’s name. The commander’s wives are similarly unhappy, the irony being they wholeheartedly supported the creation of a regime that deprived them of power and rights, even the right to read. They are true believers, however, and accept their fate, their sole motivation apparently being to have children in their lives.
The acting is terrific in the show. Joseph Fiennes brings a quiet menace to the character of Commander Waterford, and Yvonne Strahovski manages to make Mrs. Waterford both sympathetic and evil. The most stunning performance is by Elisabeth Moss, who brings an incredible level of simmering terror, resentment and rage to Offred that was missing in the weak 1990 film adaptation and frankly from the book as well.
The show is remarkably faithful to the book while respectfully adding a whole other dimension. We learn the backstories and motivations of Commander and Mrs. Waterford, who are portrayed as regular people motivated by strong beliefs and capable of cruelty but are otherwise not evil stock caricatures. We get a lot more of Offred’s backstory. From there, the show developed aspects of the story to modernize and innovate on the themes. Those familiar with the book will get an excellent adaptation plus new material that flows seamlessly from the central storyline, such as purges in the government and forced genital mutilation of handmaids caught having affairs with other women. There was one aspect of the book that was missing from the show, however, which is the prevalence of Blacks (but oddly, not a single Asian-American). In the novel, Blacks are considered “Sons of Ham” and put in labor camps. In the show, we see Black handmaids in White families and Black paramilitaries (though appropriately no Black commanders). Given racism prevalent in America’s right wing, I found that one aspect unbelievable.
Overall, A HANDMAID’S TALE was brilliant, particularly the powerful and satisfying last episode, which brings viewers to the end of the novel. It’s a satisfying conclusion and doesn’t need a second season, but the show was signed for a second season that will come out in 2018. I’m curious what will happen next as the writers leave the novel behind but carry on its themes.
The novel was always considered socially important but now the show is considered even more so given America’s shift to the Right in the last election. Various states and cities continue to enact laws such as allowing employers to fire women who have had abortions, discrimination is being supported based on religious views, and the thin wall between Church and State is under new assault. A HANDMAID’S TALE is a reminder that there’s a good reason why America is best managed as a secular society, particularly for those who fear Sharia Law, as religious law does not have to be Muslim to be threatening to a free society.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2016) is an average horror thriller dressed up as art. I enjoyed it but found it failing to live up to its extraordinary potential.
The story begins with Lockhart, who is assigned by his employers to travel to a restored castle in a remote town in the Swiss Alps to retrieve Mr. Pembroke, one of the financial firm’s partners who has entered a wellness center and won’t come home. Lockhart’s flaw is he despises weakness and believes one can only survive by being ruthless. He travels to the center but ends up in a car accident, resulting in him becoming one of the patients. Along the way, he unravels the mystery of the “cure” that the patients are hooked and the mystery of the castle itself. He solves his flaw by caring for another person, Hannah, the mad scientist’s daughter.
The film is visually beautiful, laced with mystery, and featuring a horror element that is intriguing. However, when all is revealed, it’s interesting but pretty conventional stuff. Part of the problem is A CURE FOR WELLNESS sprawls and is weakly structured, making you wait seemingly endlessly for that reveal, and the protagonist simply wasn’t likeable enough to keep me invested. In that way, it reminded me of some of Tim Burton’s movies, which I love to look at but otherwise bored me to tears. I think for me I had a problem with big expectations. The trailer was amazing, promising a lurid psychological horror mystery, but in the end it delivered fairly conventional fare with great visuals.
As a side note, 20th Century Fox, the production company, got into trouble by creating fake news websites to promote the film. Big mistake.
All said, A CURE FOR WELLNESS is a visually arresting and otherwise somewhat engaging film, but doesn’t deliver on its extraordinary potential.
The fourth episode in the highly acclaimed CRASH DIVE series is now available for pre-order for Amazon Kindle!
Still reeling from the hellish battle in the Japan Sea, Lt. Commander Charlie Harrison returns from Prospective Commanding Officer School to find the Sandtiger languishing in repair while her crew idles. He expects to take command, but the post is given to Captain Howard Saunders.
Sandtiger’s orders: Take a team of elite commandos to the island of Saipan to destroy a major coastal gun before 70,000 Marines land on its beaches. Once Saipan is taken, American bombers will be able to reach Tokyo. For the Japanese Empire, this triggers kantai kessen—the final decisive naval battle.
When disaster strikes, Charlie must save his submarine and salvage the mission, battling his erratic commander while fighting the enemy. Along the way, he learns sacrifice and the true cost of war.
Official release date is July 28, 2017.
Note all previous CRASH DIVE episodes are now available in Kindle eBook, trade paperback and audiobook. CONTACT! will be available in paperback by the end of August. The fifth episode, HARA-KIRI, will be out by the end of 2017.
Thanks for reading!
Click here to pre-order CONTACT! for the Amazon Kindle.
Back in the 1980s, a friend turned me onto one of the best comics I ever read, MARSHAL LAW. I was happy to recently find the six-issue first series and reread it.
MARSHAL LAW portrays a future in which superheroes are created using controversial techniques. The result is Public Spirit, an all-American superman type who is promoted as a man of the future. Inspired by his example, thousands of men sign up for the treatment and become super-soldiers fighting an endless war in South America while Public Spirit travels to a distant star and returns to great fanfare.
The America he left behind has turned dangerous as superheroes haunt the ruins of California cities struck by a massive earthquake. The superheroes have enhanced bodies, but their minds are the same, some unhinged by war or as a side effect of their treatment, and most don’t feel pain, prompting them to inflict it on others. The outgunned police steer clear of these zones except for one man, MARSHAL LAW.
Clad in black leather, derided as a fascist cop, and brutal, MARSHAL LAW is a superhero who feels betrayed by the empty promises and repulsed by the violent lives led by his rogue brothers and sisters. A superhero who hunts superheroes, he tracks a monstrous hero who has committed a series of murder-rapes, and sets his sights on Public Spirit.
Written by Pat Mills with art by Kevin O’Neill, MARSHAL LAW stands out as a bold, dark and original superhero story. After seeing LOGAN and the new interest in R-rated superhero movies, I’d love to see this character adapted for screen. If you like thoughtful and dark comics like RED SON and KINGDOM COME, be sure to check this one if you haven’t yet.
In REBIRTH (2016), Kyle (Fran Kranz) lives a life of routine as a white-collar suburban husband and father holding down a meaningless bank job. When he’s visited by his freewheeling college pal Zack (Adam Goldberg), he is invited to let loose for a weekend at REBIRTH, a self-discovery weekend.
Kyle is immediately singled out as not belonging. When he tries to leave, every door he opens leads to new rooms involving seduction, violence and/or being singled out. By the end, Kyle realizes Rebirth does want him to fit in. In fact, it wants to own his life.
This movie has some good execution, excellent acting, terrific premise and plenty of promise. There’s an interesting message here that we’re all yearning for something to help us become free, but even if we find that something, it winds up controlling us. Despite its promise, however, REBIRTH fell flat for me. In some ways, it feels like a bad remake of THE GAME (starring Michael Douglas), while the Rebirthers are presented as part free-spirited anarchists straight from FIGHT CLUB (with Zack playing Tyler Durden), and part ominous cult.
I could have loved this movie if the experiences Kyle had in the Rebirth rooms were in fact cathartic and meaningful, were in fact a rebirth of sorts. That he learned something about himself and became willing to change, perhaps thinking it was for the better but actually for the worse. In fact, that could have been an amazing movie. Instead, it’s just one poorly staged ritual of humiliation or attempted seduction, pointless in the end.
In the end, the film raises interesting questions and could have been truly mind bending, the way it’s being described in some reviews, but for me widely missed its potential.