The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1

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A hauntingly engrossing, evocative and vivid rendering of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is compulsive television that presents many terrifying possibilities and ideas that will leave you glued to the screen but shaken. Be warned, spoilers may follow in my review of this season. Plus, I’ve just read that the show has been renewed for a second season which should be interesting.

In a future version of what was North America, the Republic of Gilead has come into power through unjust and harsh means. It rules with totalitarian authority and oppresses all, particularly women. They are divided into various ranks and treated as second class citizens by a male dominated world that uses religion to justify its regime. It is seen as a return to ‘traditional values’ by those in power, but is upheld by extreme brutality. Over the years, birth rates have plummeted and only a handful of women can bear children. Offred(Elisabeth Moss) is a handmaiden who represents the main character. She had a different name and a life before the rise of Gilead, but it is forbidden to talk about it now. She also had a husband named Luke(O.T. Fagbenle) and daughter, who we see was snatched away when they attempted to escape Gilead for the border. We hear her thoughts as she leads us through her terrifying circumstances. The main job of a handmaiden is to provide offspring for the household they are assigned too, as a sexual slave to a high-ranking official known as a Commander. The ceremony is a forceful one in which the women have no choice and are basically victims of institutionalized rape. Earlier, the handmaids are conditioned and brutalised by The Aunts, a group of women who drill into them the horrifying duty they must perform and use violence if disobeyed. Offred is stationed at house of Commander Fred Waterford(Joseph Fiennes). His wife Serena Joy(Yvonne Strahovski) , who was one of the instrumental figures in crafting Gilead, is desperate for a child and often acts in a cold manner to Offred due to her being barren. Navigating her way through this horrible existence, Offred slowly chafes at it and with the memories of her daughter and husband still with her, stiffens her backbone. For she intends to survive the hellish universe and with help from other handmaid’s who are part of a form of resistance, she may just do it. But in this tormented and oppressive world, can anyone truly escape?

Right off the bat, The Handmaid’s Tale is loaded thematic meat and backbone in the most eye-opening way.  What definitely strokes the hardest is that the events depicted don’t seem that far removed from genuine reality and can be read as highly topical too. We live in a time where the future could go either way in terms of attitudes and God knows what else, so The Handmaid’s Tale functions as something of a wake up call to many. Themes of female subjugation, physical, sexual and emotional abuse along with rebellion, dictatorship and corrupt power flow like a river in this horrifying but compulsive series. Having Offred be the guiding force of the narrative, particularly her narration, is a well employed tool for framing the show. Often, her voice is at odds with her actions due to the way that the society has forced her into submission. But crucially it places right into her mindset and how the world is seen through her eyes. We are privy to important information that moves the story along and allows us to be witness to her growing strength and rebellion.

On the visual side, shallow focus is supremely well employed in capturing the conflict of the world and just how much it takes a toll on the much abused women. Offred is the main window into events and intense close-ups that frame her are some of the most piercing moments in this disturbing tale. Bright lighting for exterior shots is one example of a pointed irony that permeates from the series throughout. The blinding sunlight is very much the opposite of what life is like for Offred and her fellow handmaid’s and that juxtaposition is palpably terrifying and cloistered. When inside, only a shaft of light creeps into the spaces which benefits the growing hope inside Offred as well as the dire situation at hand. In fact, irony is one of the shows greatest assets as it horrifies and disturbs with how the world has fallen. From the handmaid’s being coerced into beating a man supposedly guilty of rape to death and a ceremony of sham for visiting dignitaries, the unfairness and hypocrisy of Gilead knows just how to unnerve the audience and shock with deep intent. The low murmuring of the sinister score echoes throughout the episodes, with a definite haunting quality that is both futuristic and spooky.

Leading the cast is the exceptional Elisabeth Moss as Offred. A mixture of desperation and steely gumption colours the work, with Moss hitting the notes and beats excellently in conveying the situation of a woman trying to persevere in a world of horror. so much is displayed through her eyes- fear, determination, pathos and defiance largely due to the fact that her character is trying to survive a regime that keeps everyone oppressed and silent. Elisabeth Moss has a gift for subtlety that is nonetheless expressive and nuanced, a string in her well armed bow that strikes to the heart of Offred and explores her beautifully. It’s a remarkable piece of acting that highlights just how talented an actress Moss is as she charts a gathering storm of feeling Offred goes through. Joseph Fiennes finds a deep ambiguity in the Commander, who is one of those responsible for the rise of Gilead. He manages to be both creepy and strangely charismatic, you never quite know what to make of him as he is a layered character. Yvonne Strahovski is cruel, cold and ever so desperate behind it all as the melancholy wife of the Commander. Chinks of humanity lie behind her nasty facade of devout righteousness as she knows that she is essentially a prisoner of what she wanted, but she’s best when being vindictive and callous.

Alexis Bledel is another fine addition to the series, essaying a tragedy and alternating will. Playing a seemingly pious handmaid who is in fact a member of resistance against government, Bledel, much like Moss and her eyes, uses her orbs to enact her varying emotions to amazing degrees. I ask anyone to not feel intense feeling when she is put through the wringer of sadness and possible hope as Bledel is so good at making a very lasting impression. Madeleine Brewer, with alarming and childlike mannerisms, gets to the core of her part, who has been ground into near madness by conditioning and trauma. She has some of the most eventful moments in the series and delivers the goods. On scene-stealing form is Ann Dowd, who makes the absolute most of her time on screen. Starring as one of the Aunts, she is severe, abusive and authoritative. But Dowd goes beyond just the temptation to make her a simple villain by unearthing that she too is somewhat brainwashed by the cause and seriously believes she is doing God’s will. Samira Wiley, with her strong face and intense demeanor, compliments Moss when she appears largely in flashback as her best friend. Her sense of attitude and sarcasm are a welcome relief in a series that is largely dark. Max Minghella is another ambiguous presence, portraying the driver to the Commander who may or may not have bad intentions. He is most explored through his tenuous relationship with Offred, that shows that he’s got some good in him yet we still don’t know whether he is trustworthy or not. O.T. Fagbenle rounds out the cast as the husband of Offred, who appears for a big chunk in flashback. He is a welcome reminder that there was once goodness within man before Gilead totally took over.

A truly disturbing yet completely compelling series that benefits from its execution, visuals and acting, The Handmaid’s Tale truly stays with you for a long time after viewing it.

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Posts You Should Check Out Part 7

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I’m all for the blogging community and sharing fantastic work with others. So here’s another entry of posts you simply must read.

Loyal and eloquent Keith writes a sterling review of First They Killed My Father, which is certainly going on my watch list.

Fine reviewer and all round good guy Mark deeply analyses Eyes Wide Shut, complete with his customary excellence.

 

My Return

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I’m still coming to terms with my Grandpa’s death, but am supporting my family at this time. While I’ve taken time off, I feel that keeping busy and protective is a good approach for me. So I’m back blogging. I’ll be playing catch up, but I’ll get there. Thanks for all of your understanding in this difficult time.

A Change in Plan

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I know I promised to be back a lot more on the blogging front, but something has halted it. Sadly, my Grandfather passed away the other day which came as a shock. I’m dealing with my grief by busying myself, but I am also spending time with my family and supporting them. I promise to be back to blogging, but  hope everyone understands my absence.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

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Film Title

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Director

Jim Gillespie

Starring

  • Jennifer Love Hewitt as Julie James
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen Shivers
  • Ryan Phillippe as Barry
  • Freddie Prinze Jr. as Ray
  • Anne Heche as Missy Egan
  • Johnny Galecki as Max

Although penned by the same guy who wrote the game changing Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t quite fall into the category of classic. And despise that, it’s actually quire a good horror movie. Not really newfangled or unexpected but extremely serviceable and entertaining in what it presents.

In their hometown of Southport, North Carolina, Julie James, her boyfriend Ray, best friend Helen Shivers and her beau Barry are taking part in celebrating the end of high school and the Fourth of July. After Helen is crowned beauty queen, the group continues to celebrate by visiting the beach. After a round of ghost stories and intimate moments, the popular kids hop into Larry’s prized car. As Barry is too drunk and disorderly to drive, sensible Ray takes the wheel. Yet things take a dramatic and drastic turn as their enthusiasm is brought crashing down when they accidentally hit a stranger while driving. Thinking he is dead, the group goes into meltdown. Filled with severe panic over what this could cause them and their future plans, the group agree to dump the body in the river. Julie reluctantly takes part, but feels immensely guilty about her part in it. As they are dumping the body, the man they thought was dead briefly stirs in his dying grasps, causing Barry to push him in the river. This seems to kill him and now the four friends know they are now accountable for murder. As each vows to remain silent about their involvement, this secret will soon weigh heavy on them. A year later and the group have been driven apart by their respective guilt. Julie returns home a shell of her original bubbly self, and things are about to get a lot worse. Receiving an anonymous note in the post that spouts the eponymous title, her fear escalates as she is forced to come into contact with her disparate group of friends once more. Someone obviously is aware of their actions and wants them to pay for it, but just who could it be? The very person makes his presence felt, armed with a fish-hook that he hacks victims with, leaving a growing trail behind him. All the while, he is heading for the terrified quartet who he has an axe to grind with. Investigating, the teens believe all of this terror relates to a specific person, but discover it’s a lot more complicated than it is straightforward. Before more bodies hit the floor, can Julie and her estranged friends uncover who the killer is?

As I previously referenced, I Know What You Did Last Summer is no Scream, and yet this is sometimes why there is unfair dissent us aimed at the film. Sure it’s not the hip, self-referential classic, but even though its traditional, it gets the job done handsomely. Jim Gillespie has a nice handle on things and manages some immensely good scares and jolts of nerve jangling. As a movie, it has a good sense of mystery to it which for me is a plus in a horror movie. It doesn’t take a genius to work out some of it, but it can be surprising when it wants to be. Not that it’s without plot contrivances and a little bit too much complexity, but by and large keeps you watching. The movie comes apart in the last act, where it attempts to be overly smart but ends up getting a bit ahead of itself. But for the main duration, thanks to a good script from Kevin Williamson, I Know What You Did Last Summer still has a lot of atmosphere and effective use of foreshadowing. There is also something very eerie about the fishing town setting, added to this is the moody colour palette. A shivering and strangely melodic score further brings tension to the piece.

A cast of largely 90’s idols play their parts well, even if the characters are somewhat lacking in quarters. Jennifer Love Hewitt is our main focal point; the good and largely pure girl who genuinely feels guilty about her part in the previous summer’s events. A nice vulnerability is clear in her work and it suits the role of Julie, benefiting from a quiet determination too. Out of all the characters, Julie is the one that you have the most sympathy for. Sarah Michelle Gellar, while not kicking ass in style as she did in Buffy, is very well used as the confused beauty who might be somewhat shallow, but is far from a bad person. Playing the part of resident jerk, Ryan Phillippe does a credible job of really making us despise the spoiled little brat that is Barry. You do feel genuine resentment towards the character because of his selfish actions and lack of concern for anyone but himself. Freddie Prinze Jr is the main person who is given a serious lack of things to do. And no amount of enthusiasm can perk his part up. Anne Heche provides unusual support as someone who may be linked to the case and has the off-kilter vibe to set you on edge. Johnny Galecki briefly but memorably has a role as the rather unfortunate first victim of the killer.

No classic of horror but the provider of some good scares and attractive cast, I Know What You Did Last Summer deserves a bit more recognition than its received.

Heartbeat!

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Please everyone, give this heartwarming post a look. It’s truly beautiful.

The Doors To Wisdom...

Heartbeat!

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It goes without saying, but the man i’m deeply and madly in love is truely the love of my life. A guy who has shown me the world and accepted me as the person I was when we first met and still accepts me for the person I am today. I generally couldn’t be happier with my life right now.

I generally belived I was in love before, but clearly not. The feeling of love changes between different people, but this person is special and the love between us is beyond infinity. There is no words that can properly describe the way I feel and with everytime I speak of us, it fills me with so much emotion.

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The feeling I hold in my tummy is enchanting and the way I love him is sensational. My heart feels content and he is captivating. The way he looks at me…

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Rainy Day Thoughts

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The weather where I am has been pretty bad, with almost non stop rain. Whenever it is a dat like this, I busy myself with thoughts regarding media, movies and television. Today my mind came on the trends in movie and television that are growing tiresome. For me, reality TV is a real drag as I find it false and overly manufactured. But what trend in movies and television is getting a bit old hat or pointless to you? Hopefully this image of me contemplating helps.

The Stud

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For my second entry into the blogathon after Sea Wife, I took it upon myself to review the movie known as The Stud.

Film Title

The Stud

Director

Quentin Masters

Starring

  • Joan Collins as Fontaine Khaled
  • Oliver Tobias as Tony Blake
  • Sue Lloyd as Vanessa Grant

The Stud is basically a soft core fantasy from a book by Jackie Collins, with no basis in reality and a let down in case of what it promises, Joan Collins at least provides some respite with a role similar to what we generally think of when her name is mentioned.

Fontaine Khaled is the beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman, who enjoys sex a lot and frequently with the manager of her nightclub. This man is Tony Blake, the eponymous stud, who can’t resist her and keeps coming back to satisfy. Fontaine knows how to play Tony like a fiddle and enjoys toying with him for her own delight. Tony also wants to start his own club, but never seems to succeed with it. While sleeping with other women, he is mostly on hand to supply the pleasure for his boss. However, Tony has grown tired of Fontaine and turns his attentions to her stepdaughter Vanessa, who resents her stepmother. Yet Fontaine is crafty and is perfectly adept at turning Tony’s life upside down when needed. Things obviously don’t turn out in a tidy fashion for Tony.

Quentin Masters contributes a muddled direction that does nothing to help the already labored movie. He can’t decide whether he wants the film to be sleazy or make a point about the lifestyles of the jet set crowd. Masters could have done better, especially as the story(what there is of it) is largely about the sex and not much else. The confusion also abounds in the visual style that is at times high key and then too dimly lit. It might have been better to just stick to one thing and not try to be something that it isn’t. The Stud is pretty laughable if it is attempting to say something, as the dialogue is stilted and unconvincingly clunky. While scenes of naughtiness are featured, but you expect more from an erotic movie than what’s presented. Yes the orgy scene is completely crazy and the lift sex is hot, but it can all feel frightfully dull. And that is one thing you don’t want with an erotic movie. The disco/funk score is pretty cool however and the various club scenes have a lot of energy and groove to them. It may smell of kitsch, but the music will get your foot tapping if nothing else.

What brings The Stud to some level of guilty pleasure is Joan Collins. This revitalised her career and established her as the go to lady for sassy and sexy vamps. Collins has this wicked gleam in her eyes and sexual energy that transcends the trite story here. Plus, she is completely comfortable with being revealing and not hiding her body, looking effortlessly fabulous and seductive throughout. Without Joan Collins, The Stud would simply be unwatchable. Oliver Tobias, while possessing a handsome face, is pretty flat and wooden as the supposed charmer. It’s pretty hard to believe that so many women fall at his feet, especially when his work is so lifeless and lacking any vigorous sexuality. Sue Lloyd is also beautiful to look at, but pretty bland in the scale of things. The main feature and the best one is Joan Collins.

No one will think of The Stud as something deep or at all plausible( it’s hardly even a good movie), but the presence of Joan Collins at her sexy, devious best is what makes it at least bearable.