Tag Archives: hulu

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1 and 2 Review

Praise be, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Hulu’s big (and perhaps only) hit.

I avoided this show for a long time, largely due to the subject matter. I understand the importance of its message but ultimately, I view movies and TV as a means of escape from the crappiness of my own life, so a TV show about women being forced into a lifetime of sexual servitude at the hands of a cruel, tyrannical dystopian regime doesn’t exactly sound like good time viewing.

But with Hollywood saving their best stuff for post pandemic releases, I dove into it recently and I am hooked, though that probably is not a good thing.

For the uninitiated, the show is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, about an America that has been replaced by Gilead, a fascist, hyper-religious bible thumping regime. There is a passage in the bible about Jacob’s wife, Sarah, who can’t get pregnant, so her handmaid Bilah does the deed with Jacob so that Sarah can raise the resulting offspring of her own. Gilead circles around this passage, as the novel and the series, and as an aspiring writer, I tip my cap to Atwood, because she got a lot of mileage out of that passage.

SIDENOTE to writers – there is plenty of stuff in the public domain that you can build entire worlds from too if you put your mind to it.

Back to the review. It’s funny, I always thought that other show that Elisabeth Moss was in, “Mad Men” gave the best illustration of why women stood up and demanded their civil rights in the 1960s. On the surface, that show was about Jon Hamm’s boozy, womanizing Don Draper, a man who on the outside was the epitome of success but on the inside, torn about by a seemingly endless hole in his soul, one there wasn’t enough success, money, power and women in the world to fill.

But if you dig deeper into that show, you get to know more about the struggle of Betty (January Jones), Draper’s wife who has to put up with Don’s chicanery. She wants to leave but can’t. She has no money and no skills because the culture of the time prevented her from working in any meaningful capacity. Alas, she languishes under Don’s thumb until she meets a nicer, older man who whisks her away, willing to pay for lawyers and whatever it takes to cut Don off.

I mean, it’s nice that Betty finally gets away from Don but the underlying message was clear – women of that time weren’t able to escape a bad man unless they had the help of a good man. Basically, they couldn’t do anything without a man.

But if Mad Men is a testament to why the civil rights movement was important, The Handmaid’s Tale is a look into the nightmare the world would become without it. This show is basically a woman’s worst nightmare come to life on screen, the stuff that keeps them up worrying at night and should motivate us to keep the world from moving backward.

The set-up? In the not-so-distant future (or perhaps an alternate present), environmental disasters leave the world ravaged and most women end up infertile. Populations are dying out, some countries going years before a healthy baby is born.

Long story short, a bunch of bible thumping dudes see their opportunity to seize control of America and put the last few fertile women into slavery as their handmaids and well, I’d rather not get into the gritty details of what that entails. You can get your own Hulu subscription and find out.

The show starts strong. Moss is a boss at communicating messages via her eyes. Offred, her character (Handmaids are called Of plus the name of their “commander,” in her case, Fred. Her real name is June. Offred can’t communicate much on her own, so her eyes do a lot of the talking. When she is forced to feign allegiance to all of this stupidity in public, her eyes tell the viewer that she truly believes this all to be bullshit. Who can blame her? She once had a nice life as a book editor with husband Luke (OT Fagbenle who you might remember from long ago as Meadow’s boyfriend on the Sopranos), daughter Hannah and BFF Moira (who you might remember as OITNB’s Poussey Washington.)

So many long, long discussions could be (and are) generated by this show, more time than I have to dedicate to on this fine blog. From a TV show analysis standpoint, I’d say it starts off strong, but then I have to admit, as it goes on, it loses its way, starts to meander, can’t figure out quite what to do next, though it then veers back on track.

Ultimately, from the very beginning of the show, we see the cruelty of the Gilead regime in all its way too gory detail. Heretics, non-believers and generally people who have pissed the ruling class off in the most trivial of ways are hanged daily, and bodies swinging from nooses left out in public for days on end serve as reminders for people to not step out of line.

Women are divided into classes and forced to wear uniforms as such. The wives of the ruling commanders wear green, the “Marthas” i.e. housekeepers wear gray, the Aunts i.e. the women who boss the handmaids around and keep them in line (usually through cattleprod shocks) wear brown and the handmaids are in red.

Overall, the ability of a show to keep the viewer in suspense is what keeps viewers coming back for more. This is why Game of Thrones put butts on couches on Sunday nights, because it was all too possible that at any moment, a beloved character could buy the farm.

Thus, this show draws the viewer in because we know the Gileadeans are totes a bunch of merciless d-bags, so we are on the edge of our seats as Offred circumvents the rules to improve her life, or the lives of her children, or to help others or whatever she is doing to help in the current episode.

SPOILER – where the show starts to meander is that there are many times when Offred gets one over on the Gileadeans. She scores big victories, it looks like she might be sentenced to death and then, poof, all is forgotten and she’s back to work as a Handmaid for the Waterfords, truly the worst yuppy couple in history (Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred and Yvonne Strahowski who I always thought was critically underrated and underutlized by Hollywood since her Dexter days.) Here Strahowski has some chilling moments as the complex character Serena Joy- at first, like a Wicked Witch of the West character, gladly selling all of woman-kind down the river if it will help her get a baby and keep her social standing, but then as the show progresses, an ally to the struggle (because, you know, eventually this Gilead bullshit starts to affect her personally.)

SIDENOTE – this is probably Atwood’s key message, among many, namely that it becomes easier for a regime to subjugate women when they turn on each other. The evil male commander dudes probably couldn’t have pulled this off if their wives hadn’t gone along with it. Alas, everyone has their own selfish self-interests and usually can’t be persuaded to stick up for others until their own interests are on the line.

What was I saying? It’s a good show that provokes a lot of discussion, A LOT. However, a formula emerges and they go to the well one too many times with it. Offred screws with the regime. It looks like she’s going to be sentenced to death or worse. Then someone in charge is like wait she’s fertile, so we can’t kill her. So then her crimes against the evil regime are swept under the rug. Close up on Offred’s sorrowful eyes. Back to the Waterford house she goes. Rinse. Repeat. To the show’s credit, the writers try to work this in. Offred mentions in narration her story is disjointed, perhaps because she is recalling it years later and there is so much to tell she has a hard time keeping up with it all. And perhaps certain Gileadean dignitaries are so willing to sweep her disobedience aside because deep down, even they know their regime is crap and they can’t tell if they are part of it because they believe it or if they just feign allegiance to it to save their own hides. (And to be certain, while they don’t kill Offred, the Gileadeans are adept at inventing new punishments where she might be better off).

The book and the 1990s movie were more succinct. Let us peak into Offred’s shitty world then cheer as she escapes…like one time, for good, and that’s it. Not a hundred and fifty times where Serena and Fred just end up wagging their fingers in an impotent (pun intended) rage as if it becomes a sitcom, That Wacky Offred.

But I get why Hulu is dragging it out. This is the service’s first big original success in a sea of other stuff that is mostly junk (though I did enjoy Hulu’s show about Catherine the Great and that Andy Samberg movie where he keeps reliving the same day.)

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. New season in April. I have only started season 3 so don’t spoil it for me. Under his eye, 3.5 readers.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Full Monty (1997)

Are you looking for hot stuff, 3.5 readers?

Hulu has a nice collection of old movies, so I’ve been turning to it lately, only to find this oldie but goodie.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and Dave (Mark Addy) are a couple of friends and unemployed steelworkers. Their hometown, Sheffield, England, was once a great place to live, but when the steel mill upon which the local community depended went out of business, it wreaked havoc on the community.

Being out of worked has caused them to lose their mojo and for Gaz, it has wrecked his marriage. His wife has left him and his continued ability to see his son depends on his ability to pay child support.

One fateful night, they pass by the only business in town that is packed, a male strip club where the ladies converge upon, throwing away their hard earned cash just to see buff dudes.

Gaz realizes he and his pals are no studmuffins, but in doing the math, realizes that if some how, if he can pack the house, the cut that he and his pals will get will be enough to keep him on his feet and his support payments paid.

They recruit their old foreman, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who once barked orders at them but now that he is out of work, spends his time taking dance lessons with his wife, to be the team dance coach. Along the way, they recruit Horse (Paul Barber), Lomper (Steve Huison) and Guy (Hugo Speer) all locals with their own down on their luck stories thanks to the tanked economy.

Together, they will have to overcome their fears – that they’ll look like fools, that this was a stupid idea, that none of them are exactly Chippendale’s material, and in Dave’s case, that he feels bad that he’s fat.

If you set aside the ridiculousness of a bunch of average man setting out to become male strippers, there’s humor in drama in the lengths that long term unemployed people have to just to get a job. Be out of work long enough and society will write you off as a loser, and you’ll have to reinvent yourself, and perhaps event a job for yourself just to get back out there again.

Also, no one’s saying that women don’t have it rough, but this movie does meditate on some of the things that men have to go through. Its a myth that men don’t have their own body issues, and men tend to rest their self worth on their ability to be good providers, perhaps that just goes back to the caveman days.

“A few more years and men won’t exist,” is somewhat of a prophetic line in the movie. Is it true? I’m sure we can debate all day long about it. And no one can blame women for wanting the independence and security that education and good jobs can provide but somewhere along the way, men like the Full Monty dudes were left in the dust, no way to make a living and what does it matter, because nobody no longer needs them.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Worth a watch for no other reason that it is so hard to believe that Mark Addy, so young and insecure in this film, went on to play boorish prick King Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones and then in other ways, it isn’t hard to believe because Robert is almost a parody of a shitty king that only a comedian could really handle.

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Movie Review – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

You’ve seen director Taika Waititi take off in films such as Thor:Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit, now see the movie that took him to the next level just a few years ago in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Old couple Bella (Rema Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame) take in Ricky (Julian Dennison of Deadpool 2 fame), the least popular kid in the New Zealand foster care system. Ricky has a habit of being uncontrollable and has a habit of running away from his assigned families.

Something about this family is different. Hec is grumpy and doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t want the kid living on the couple’s farm. Bella is sweet and kind, nurturing Ricky to the point where he loses the desire to run.

Alas, all this changes when Bella passes away unexpectedly.   Upon learning that his social worker, Paula, is coming to collect him (she thinks the boy would be better off with a couple and Hec, no fan of Ricky, doesn’t protest) Ricky, true to form, runs off into the forest.

Hec ventures after him, only to break his leg, rendering him immobilized for weeks. Ricky takes care of the man he comes to call Uncle, but also true to form, the media makes a mountain out of a molehill, ginning up a false narrative of how Hec has kidnapped the boy and run off into the woods with him with all manner of evil intentions under the sun.

I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Not to give it away, but it doesn’t seem fair what happens to Hec, but then again, life is not fair. I think the underlying point of the tale is when the media and government team up in believing a false story, they rarely, if ever, are willing to admit they got it wrong and won’t stop until they get their scapegoat, that being Hec, here. Dennison is funny as Ricky, though at times, Ricky is a little jerk who fans the flames against Hec when he doesn’t get his way, and sometimes one wonders why Hec doesn’t just drop the kid off at the nearest sign of civilization and then run.

Sam Neill is great in this role and personally, I think this is the best thing he’s done since Jurassic Park. I’m sure he’s done a lot of great stuff but generally, he always plays the same stern, grumpy, leave me alone type character and that pays off here as he plays opposite a very annoying kid.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Available on Hulu.

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Women Think Everything is the Handmaid’s Tale Now

Hey 3.5 readers.  BQB here.

I have never seen “The Handmaid’s Tale” – a) because I don’t have Hulu and b) because I have a penis.

However, my understanding based on the shrill harpy cries I hear on TV is that it takes place in a future where women are subjugated to male rule, kept as slaves, forced to wear red dresses and white bonnets and do the man’s bidding.  Apparently, fertile females are rare so they are owned by men who procreate with them and keep them locked up or something.

Also, apparently there’s an old woman named Aunt Lydia who keeps the handmaids in line.

So, I’ve never seen this show.  Tell me if it is worth a Hulu subscription but again I won’t think so because I have a penis.  All I know is these are some real life scenes that are happening all over the world thanks to this show.  Basically, if you ask a woman to do anything at all now they reach for the red dress and white bonnet.

SCENE #1 – The Remote Control

MAN:  Honey, can you pass the remote?

WOMAN:  Ah, fi on thee, cruel world, for though hast forced me into a life of handmaidenry!  Damned to do the bidding of my cruel master!  I shall toil away for life and never find any peace as I…

MAN: Oh, nevermind.  It was right next to me the whole time.

SCENE #2 – Sandwich

MAN: Honey, while you’re in the kitchen, can you make me a sandwich?

WOMAN:  Cursed villainy! I shall now dawn the red dress and white bonnet of the handmaid, for shuffle I will through life like a cursed wretch!

MAN: Whoa!  A 2 for 1 pizza coupon in my pocket!  Babe!  Nevermind!  I’m going to call Luigi’s!

SCENE #3 – At Work

MALE BOSS:  Sarah, the figures in your report is all wrong.  I’ll need you to stay late and re-do it.

FEMALE EMPLOYEE:  Oh, vicious agony!  To the chamber I will retire to work my fingers to the bone!

SCENE #4 – Kids

HUSBAND: Babe, I was thinking, should we have a baby?

WIFE:  Bah!  Oh woe unto me, for I have been forced into the unenviable life of a brood mare, damned to whelp your spawn at my breast for all eternity.

HUSBAND:  Yeah.  Plus babies smell bad and they cost a lot of money.  You know what, let’s just get a puppy.

WIFE: I love puppies!

SCENE #5 – The Date

MAN:  Pardon me, ma’am.  I don’t mean to be rude.  My name is Fred and I’m never usually this forward but well, you intrigue me and I wonder if you’d like to get coffee sometime so I could get to know you better.

WOMAN:  Blasted fate!  I shall have no choice but to take the name “Of Fred” and live in your broom closet where Aunt Lydia will whip me and chain me up and …

MAN: Whoa, geeze.  You know, I just remembered I’m allergic to coffee so, have a nice day.

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TV Review – Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

“All of this has happened before and will happen again.”

Umm…except no matter what, my site will only have 3.5 readers before and again.

Seriously, it’s like shouting into the deepest reaches of space here!

I just hope if a Cylon gets me its the Tricia Helfer model.  Awooga!

BQB here with a review of Battlestar Galactica.

Just so that we’re all on the same page here, I’m talking about BSG that aired on the SyFy channel in the 2000s, not the 1970s original where the actors wore capes and the cylons looked like tin cans and shit.

This show was a real coup for sci-fi nerds.  After all, it isn’t like anyone was really clamoring for a remake of the cheesy 70s version, but series rebooter Ronald Moore delivered and delivered big time.

Twelve colonies, all named after the astrological signs, are filled with humans who work together under one government.

Alas, the cylons (robots run amuck) blow shit up big time.

In a surprise turn of events, Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) becomes the president as every other head of state above her dies.

Thereafter, Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos), at the command of Battlestar Galactica, leads a convoy of ships filled with humans on an epic search for the mythical lost planet known as “Earth.”

You might have heard of it. You’re sitting on it, dummy.

Along the way, there’s political intrigue, backstabbing, sex, violence, and the constant fear that someone in the ranks might in secret, be a damn traitorous cylon as, what a twist, Cylons are able to take human form now.

Did I mention that the Cylons chase the humans all over space? Cy-douches if you ask me.

Over the years, SyFy has given us such wondrous films as Sharknado and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.

In other words, you sort of get the impression that they phone most of their shit in, but somehow, everyone involved with this show was firing on all cylinders. Why they haven’t been able to recreate this success before or after is beyond me.

Add to the mix the exploits of space fighter pilots Lee “Apollo” Adama aka the admiral’s son (Jamie Bamber) and super hot nerd fantasy girl Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and you’ve got a great show.

Honestly, the show could have introduce Katee Sackhoff to the world and stopped there. She’s built a career on starring in sci-fi nerd movies/shows ever since and I hope she never stops.

Oh, and there’s James Callis as the duplicitous scheming super weenie Dr. Gaius Baltar who, we learn early on, basically helped the Cylons destroy humanity through his douchebaggery and then somehow he must hide this info from his human compatriots throughout the series or be thrown out the airlock.

Yup.  Somebody was always getting thrown out that airlock, often at the behest of grumpy Cylon hater Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan.)

I hate to say it, 3.5 readers, but this isn’t available on Netflix at present.

However, you can check it out on Hulu and if you’re a sci-fi space geek, it is worth the subscription fee, even if you just decide to subscribe until you’ve binge watched the whole thing.

And it is binge worthy. There are many cliff hangers and ongoing arcs, plot points you can’t help but want to see resolved.

And Moore and co. are creative in taking pieces of our earthly world and implanting them in the BSG world with the suggestion that the culture we experience now has its roots in this ancient space faring group of explorers.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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