13 Reasons Why – Review (Netflix Adaptation)

I had been anticipating the release of 13 Reasons Why, that was adapted from the book written by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so I can’t speak to how true or untrue the series is to the original story, however, the series does have merits: High production values, excellent casting and acting, topnotch writing.

Although I didn’t intend to binge watch all 13 episodes, I did find the story compelling enough that I simply didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.

Themes: Depression, Suicide, Bullying

Premise: Before a teenage girl commits suicide, she records 13 tapes that detail the 13 reasons why she killed herself and leaves them with a friend for specific distribution.

Story

Hannah Baker is an outspoken, creative teenager whose family has moved to a small town for a fresh start. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and uses humor and wit to cover her many insecurities. But we see she is somewhat damaged already in her young life.

She befriends Clay Jensen, a co-worker at the local movie theater, and they form an interesting alliance. They both dance around their true feelings for one another and never acknowledge those feelings out loud to each other. Which may be the true tragedy of the story.

The story alternates between Hannah’s narration of her tapes and the live action (both past and present) of what’s happening and what happened.

The story is largely told from Clay’s point of view, how he reacts to Hannah’s death, and how his reactions escalate as he listens to each of the 13 tapes – growing increasingly angry and anxious as he anticipates what she will say about him on ‘his tape.’ The 13 reasons are actually fellow students with whom Hannah had interacted with disastrous results. In each case, Hannah went into each relationship with the hope of friendship, love, and comradery, and in each case she is betrayed. Severely.

As Clay listens to the tapes he becomes more outraged, sorrowful, and determined to make the offenders take responsibility for what they did to Hannah. And no matter how much they try to stop, intimidate, or scare Clay, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth in getting justice for Hannah.

Conclusion

This story is heartbreaking and illuminating about the subject of teen suicide, and how bullying can lead to the deterioration of a person’s spirit. It also accurately depicts the utter nightmare that is high school. And even though it’s been lifetimes since I was in high school, the story churned up memories of my own miserable experiences as an unpopular student in high school. As though it were only yesterday when I was finally freed from that prison. As well as memories of a friend who committed suicide and the fallout that followed. It touched me deeply and I suspect it will touch you if you are brave enough to watch it.

For as damn good as this series is, it is also extremely difficult to watch. It will break your heart, remind you of your own struggles with bullies, feelings of unworthiness, insecurities, and of loved ones you may have lost through suicide. It may depress you, as it did me. It will certainly make you think and ponder about how you treat others. And examine any dalliance you’ve had with mob rule or group think.

I highly recommend this series with the caveat that it contains countless emotional triggers that may be difficult for some.

 

 

 

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Fall Finale Cliffhangers – Are we shocked?

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Well, the holiday season is officially upon as signaled by the slew of mid-season finales we’ve had in the last few days.

The Blacklist. Yikes, Red is Elizabeth Keen’s father. My shocked face. Not really. I’ve thought so all along. But I was wondering…if Lizzie was smart enough to do a DNA test on the Russian dude to verify paternity, why has it not occurred to her to do the same to Red? She could easily get his DNA. For a woman so smart, I wonder why she hasn’t thought of doing that. The finale also opened a few questions for me:

  1. Red told Lizzie that she shot her father when she was a child – so did she actually shoot Red, or what that just a load of horse puckey?
  2. What is to become of Mr. Kaplan? Will she confront Red or assume a new identity, while staying secret touch with Lizzie?
  3. Will Aram and Samar get together?
  4. Will a new love interest surface for Restin?
  5. Once Lizzie knows Red is her dad will she switch sides and start working the wrong side of the law and help run his illegal empire?

Blindspot. This was not as much of a cliffhanger as the Blacklist IMHO but it was pretty good. Speaking for myself, I always thought there was something hinky about the in-house psychologist. Poor Patterson, so unlucky in love, I kind of hope she shot him. Though something tells me he’s not as much of a bad guy as we may think. Roman shot Shepard but only winged her, so we know she’ll be back to raise havoc. And I liked how Jane decided to give Roman a ‘new life.’ That was very clever and unexpected. Questions I hope will be answered when the series returns:

  1. Is Nas the shape-shifter I believe her to be? I truly believe she will surface as a mastermind behind Orion who’s real mission is to wipe out anyone who could expose her.
  2. Will Tasha and Reed get together?
  3. Will Allie really have Weller’s baby or will she lose it – they seem to keep teasing that scenario
  4. Will Weller and Jane finally acknowledge their feelings for each other?
  5. Will Jane keep the name Jane Doe or adopt a new identity?

Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t know about you but I screamed, “Well, it’s about time!” When Jo finally told Alex the truth. I’m hoping that somehow that translates into Alex not being sent to jail. Amelia leaving Owen was predictable, unfortunately, and I hope she grows up some. For the most part not too much of a cliffhanger, except as to what Alex will decide to do. Questions:

  1. Will Meredith get over herself and just tell Maggie that she likes gorgeous Aussie doctor?
  2. Will Webber keep his job and get that arrogant new doctor off his back?
  3. Is Callie coming back?
  4. Will April and Jackson realize they should get back together?
  5. Will Bailey quit the job as Chief and go back to the operating room?
  6. Will Jackson’s mother ever stay out of everybody’s business?
  7. Will Edwards just stop being so know besty and chill out a little?

How to get away with murder. I sometimes wonder why I watch this show, since most of the characters are so hard to like. Yet still, I’m addicted to it. Okay, did anybody see Wes as the dead victim, coming? I didn’t. I was sure it was Nate. My theory is that Frank the big bag of rocks that he is, wired the house with the bomb, in order to hide evidence, but of course ended up killing people. Not sure if he killed Wes though – but it could be over jealousy of Laurel. My assumption is that Annalise being on trial will take up the remainder of the season with the verdict about to be announced as the cliffhanger. Questions:

  1. Will Annalise get over her alcohol addiction while in prison?
  2. Will Annalise grow a heart while in prison?
  3. Is Laurel’s baby Wes’s or Frank’s?
  4. Will we ever find out what is really going on with Bonnie?
  5. What secrets does Michaela’s mother know that she will blackmail her with?
  6. And for that matter, is Wes really dead? I know they showed the dead and burned body but in TV land amazing resuscitations can happen.

So, that’s my roundup on the mid-season finales. What’s your take? What do you think will happen? What favorite shows are you watching and wondering about? Feel free to tell me in the comments.

American Sniper – Movie Review

I wanted to see American Sniper for a while but my bad, never got around to catching it in the theater. Or maybe I just knew that it was the kind of film I didn’t want to watch in public because certain stories are so gut wrenching.

I watched it last night and I’m still affected by it. Which I suppose is the mark of a good film – that you’d be thinking about it the next day.

Clint Eastwood approached the story in his usual understated style and treated it with respect and sensitivity. His depiction of war, military life on and off the battlefield, and our troops was real without the usual Hollywood romanticization or exploitation that so many of these types of films possess.

The film is the story of Chris Kyle, distinguished by having the highest number of recorded sniper shots of any soldier in American military history. His nickname was the Legend. But Kyle wasn’t the kind of man who cared about fame or flattering nicknames, he cared about his fellow soldiers and keeping them out of harm’s way. He cared about keeping our guys alive. And it’s what drove him to do four tours in Iraq.

The film chronicles Chris’s military life and family life in between his tours. And it’s hard to evaluate the story because it’s not a story, it’s what happened to one man. It’s his story. The story of a man who wanted to make a difference and did. The story of a man who put others before himself. The story of a man who lived his beliefs and principles. A man that most of us would’ve liked and been happy to share a beer with or call a friend. Sadly, his devotion and desire to help, ultimately led to his death. Not on the battlefield but at home.

I highly recommend this film not because it glorifies war but because it celebrates the perseverance of the human spirit. It shows that one man can make a difference and did. And it honors those who stand the watch so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted every day.

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I thank Chris Kyle for his service. I thank his family for their sacrifice.

Writer Chick

Secrets and Lies – Review

Secrets and Lies, ABC
Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Juliette Lewis
Grade: B-

Based on the commercials and trailers I was really looking forward to seeing this new ABC murder mystery series.

Premise

Ben Crawford (Ryan Philipe) a family man in a small town goes for an early morning run and discovers his neighbor’s son in the woods, dead. He runs home in a panic and calls the police. But rather than being lauded as a hero and a good Samaritan, the lead detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) sees him as the prime suspect in the murder of the young boy.

Good, solid premise – an unassuming family man is yanked from his ordinary world into a nightmare scenario that would horrify any normal human being.

Back story

Ben is married to Christie and they married young. He is a house painter and his wife is a real estate agent who makes most of the money. They have two daughters – Natalie 17, and Abby 12. The youngest daughter is close to her father and stands by him. There is trouble in the marriage but despite this they seem to love each other. Ben’s slacker friend Dave lives in their guest house – drinks too much and is a womanizer. Tom, the murder victim is the son of Jess an attractive woman who live across the street. She has an ex special forces husband from whom she is estranged and who is recently showing violent tendencies.

I want to avoid giving any spoilers to those who haven’t seen the show yet so I won’t do a play-by-play on the story itself. It is well-written for the most part and worth watching. However, I had some problems suspending my disbelief in certain areas:

1. Ben is immediately regarded as a suspect and crucified in the press, shunned by the neighbors and even his house is vandalized. But the writer fails to show us why. There are several interactions between Ben and Detective Cornell that are tense and accusative but we don’t know why. There is no explanation why people immediately jump to the conclusion that Ben would kill a five-year-old boy. No criminal background, no unsavory interaction with children, no apparent motive. Yet within 24 hours people are convinced Ben did it and are distancing themselves from him. Why? I just couldn’t buy that it would happen that quickly without some substantial reason.

2. Detective Cornell is a very unlikable character. She is sour-faced from moment she appears on the scene. Granted, murder investigators lead grim lives and their work must weigh on them but they aren’t necessarily grump, sourpusses who cock their eyebrow and smirk at everything that moves. Also, I don’t think that detectives are that obvious, even they suspect someone of a crime, especially if they haven’t got any solid evidence, they aren’t going to come at a suspect like that. Instead, I’d expect them to be a little more friendly, and try to get their suspect to trust them a little, hopefully so they might slip and give themselves away.

Summary

Overall I think the story is good and the characters will be flushed out as the story is told. The production values are good. And Phillipe is quite good as the confused and isolated man accused of a terrible crime. There are lots of twists and turns and surprise reveals that create doubt for the viewer and should keep people watching. So, if you like a good solid mystery I think this will be a good addition to your Sunday night viewing and it’s positioned between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, so it should get decent traction.

Personally, I’d like to know more about Detective Cornell and why she is such a tight ass and more about Jess, the victim’s mother. I am suspicious of her already and believe we’ll find her caught in some pretty big lies in the not too distant future.

Did you see the show? What did you think? Any theories on who did it yet?
Let me know in the comments.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

 

 

 

 

 

The Slap – Review

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While poking around this weekend looking for a movie to watch, I struck out and so I turned to TV for entertainment. I guess Valentine’s Day superseded TV programmer’s need to put anything watchable on the tube so I turned to Hulu.

I made the mistake of watching the pilot for a new NBS show called, “The Slap.” The title alone made me wonder how a TV show could be sustained with such a title but I was desperate.

The Slap is aptly named because it’s a slap in the face of anyone who wasted their time watching it. It centers around a family and extended family of Greek decent. All the stereotypical characters make an appearance and except for the main character, Hector, seem pretty dull.

It’s Hector’s 40th birthday, so family, friends and extended family gather round Hector to celebrate while he is secretly having a midlife crisis and fantasizing about a girl who looks to be about 14 but probably is 17.

There’s the usual banter and family conflict and the thing that stands out most is that a couple (whose relationship to the rest of the characters is very unclear) who has a demon seed for a child. I think his name is Hugo and he is destructive, anti-social and has no compunction about destroying other people’s stuff – imagine what he’ll be like when he’s five? The father of said demon seed is a self-absorbed ‘artist’ who apparently hates rich people as evidenced by his antagonism toward one of Hector’s cousins, a successful car salesman. Ironic considering they’re all hanging at a huge and likely very expensive brownstone drinking fine wine and imported beer. The mother of said demon seed is an airhead whose only solution to her son’s destructiveness is to breast feed her four year old son and treat him as an infant.

All the others are irritated by the child and clearly dismayed by this child’s behavior and his parent’s lack of concern and supervision but tolerate it for some reason.

So, after the kid destroys rare vinyl collector albums, tears out have the garden in the yard, throws a game boy to the floor in a fit he starts swinging a wooden bat at one of the other kids because he’s struck out. The father of the child who is being accosted (naturally it’s the big bad capitalist who has the nerve to succeed) by the demon seed has had enough and intervenes.

He pulls the bat away from the kid who is now totally out of control and shakes him to get the kid’s attention. The kid then kicks the guy. The capitalist slaps the kid out of reflex.

Okay, granted he reacted and shouldn’t have hit the kid but the response of the others is beyond the pale. They liken him to Hitler and it ruins the party. And of course now the ‘child abuser’ is persona non grata because he dared to step in and try to control and out of control situation.

Now there are rumblings about lawsuits and everybody is just appalled by what’s happened. I guess the rest of the show will include the lawsuit and ‘examine’ child abuse as its theme.

There’s only a few problems with this show and its premise:

1. None of the characters are likeable
2. Most of them have all kinds of weird dysfunctional behavior so they aren’t exactly in a position to judge
3. The kid who was slapped was essentially unharmed and is the most unlikeable of them all
4. The parents of the child are almost as unlikeable as the kid
5. It has preachy written all over it.

If NBC or any network wants to take on the themes of family dysfunction and specifically child abuse I think they could find (if they tried) a story that actually looked at this very real problem instead of going for sensationalism and then feeling smug about it.

If you want my advice, avoid the show at all costs.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

A Walk Among the Tombstone – Movie Review

A_Walk_Among_the_Tombstones_poster

Based on the novel A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

This movie is based on an old Larry Block novel from the Matthew Scudder series. I’m not a huge Block fan but his books are solid and I do find the Scudder character appealing and likeable. So I was certain I would really enjoy the movie. Since I hadn’t read this particular I assumed that I wouldn’t have the usual hissy-fit about a poor adaptation that I have when I see movies based on books I know and love.

The story takes place after Scudder has left the police department and is working as a sort of free agent P.I. He’s sworn off alcohol and lives a quiet, albeit lonely life. He’s approached by the brother of a high level drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and murdered.

Scudder goes to see the drug kingpin and they don’t they don’t hit it off, so Scudder on the job. Later on, the drug dealer shows up at his place and gives him the real story of what happened. And it’s grisly, cruel and inhuman what these men have done to this guy’s wife.

Scudder decides to take the case. But as he investigates, he discovers that are other women who have suffered the same fate. All connected to drug dealers, all tortured, raped and killed in sadistic ways. Scudder now has a hard-on to find these degenerates and put an end to them.

For a little comic relief and human interest, we meet a young homeless boy named TJ, who Scudder befriends and helps. He’s a funny, smart alec kid with Sickle Cell Anemia with loads of attitude, some courage and a good heart. Probably the best scenes in the movie, in my opinion.

While I wouldn’t pan the movie – it’s definitely watchable – I don’t necessarily recommend it either. I don’t know if it was Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Scudder or the direction or both but the movie was too glum. And dark. And depressing. And I’ve never found Block’s novels to be that way so I’m assuming it’s the film makers that made that call. I realize it’s a murder mystery and not a musical comedy but the film lacked the humanity that Block writes so well. And for me, that has to be an element in a story like this – otherwise after you’re done watching it, you just want to blow your brains out.

Would I recommend it? Well, if it was a choice between watching this movie or watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels, I might opt for the movie. On the other hand, there are all those clothes and retro hairstyles. Maybe you’d enjoy the book more.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

The Equalizer – Movie Review

 

equalizer tv show

The_Equalizer_posterTypically, I’m not a big fan of movies based on old television shows (This one is based on the 1985 TV series The Equalizer, starring Edward Woodward). However, I am a big fan of Denzel Washington, so I thought I’d give this flick a look. I’m glad I did. When it comes to film adaptations of TV shows The Equalizer is probably one of the best I’ve seen.

Retired government agent (although they never name the agency, one assumes it’s the CIA) Robert McCall, has left his agent days behind and a lives a quiet, well-ordered life. He is a widower and most of his human contact is through his job at a local home improvement center. He is a mentor of sorts to a young kid named Ralphie who wants to become a security guard at the center and the other employees who are mostly younger men who call McCall Pops.

In the evenings he takes his book to a local coffee shop and reads while enjoying a cup of tea. At the coffee shop he befriends a young prostitute who aspires to be a singer. McCall takes a fatherly interest in the girl and treats her with kindness and intelligence – encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

Soon, we learn that the young prostitute, Teri, is under the thumb of the Teddy the pimp. A particularly sadistic jerk who works for the Russian mob. Teri defies her pimp and instead of taking a call, has a conversation with Robert in the coffee shop. Naturally, Teddy seeks her out, throws her in the car and the next thing we learn is that she was beaten up so badly that she was hospitalized.

McCall attempts to buy Teri’s freedom but is ridiculed by Teddy and his henchmen. Big mistake. CIA Agent mode kicks in on McCall and he becomes a one man wrecking crew determined to rid the earth of these scum suckers.

While the plot is pretty much the template for most action films, the actors, the writing and direction make it an above average watch. You care about these people. You care about McCall. And you want him to win. He’s like the ultimate bully fighter and does it with precision, calm and some serious creativity. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but in the final showdown sequence he does in some bad guys in some very MacGyver-like ways, that I loved. The film is fast-paced, with crisp dialogue and believable characters. And then of course there’s Denzel – who doesn’t love him?

At the end we see we’re set up for sequels (should the film do well, expect more Equalizer movies).

If you like fast-paced, sharp, tense action thrillers, I think you’ll like The Equalizer. It’s absolutely worth the price of a rental and even some popcorn too.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015