Requiem

Over the weekend I watched all six episodes of Requiem, a supernatural thriller series on Netflix. I hesitate to call it horror because there’s nothing overt about whatever’s happening in the story. Even the supernatural elements are subtle for most of the episodes. Although your mileage may vary depending on how much you like or dislike horror, I suppose.

Requiem is a series in part by the BBC and it takes place in small town in Wales. The main character, Matilda (played by Lydia Wilson), is a cellist whose mother dies in the first episode. As Matilda goes to her mother’s house to clean up she discovers a collection of photos that somehow relate to a disappearance of a small girl from this Welsh town. Matilda and her friend/accompanist, Hal, go to this town to figure out if or how her mother was involved in the girl’s disappearance.

What proceeds is a series of episodes in this fictional Welsh town of Penllynith where Tilly & Hal look for clues while meanwhile being shunned by the members of the same community. No one wants to think about the disappearance from 23 years prior, let alone when the past is being dredged up by some strangers harassing the mother of the missing girl.

 

At the same time, Tilly & Hal have been invited by a Australian man in town after the death of his uncle, to stay at what locals call the “big house”, a large estate owned by the deceased. This man, Nick, is hoping to sell the house, the land, whatever he can, in order to make some cash and return to his home in Australia.

The big house is also somehow tied to the missing kid from two decades prior. Strange things are happening in the house, to people in town, and to Tilly as she remains in the house.

Requiem is a slow-moving plot not unlike a lot of British mystery/thriller series. Think Broadchurch or The Fall. It’s going to take more than six episodes to get to the bottom of what’s happening. If you’re not up for the slower pace, the mystery may not keep you interested. I can’t even say I enjoyed it so much as I was interested in the supernatural mystery of it, which were both tied to the mystery of the missing girl … and also separate in its own way. If it comes back for a second season, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

Nailed It: pure distilled schadenfreude in a 30 minute baking show

If you need something to watch for a few hours, do yourself a favor and watched Netflix new show, Nailed It. I’m not a huge fan of baking or cooking shows, but there really needs to be more than six episodes of Nailed It. Or at least there’s a promise for a second season.

Nailed It is a baking show for home bakers who… aren’t really very good, or experienced. There are three challengers in each show, and two challenges. The first challenge, Baker’s Choice, gives the baker’s a chance to pick from one of three similarly decorated treats to try and recreate. They’re given between 45-50 minutes to attempt the recreation and then judged on both sight and taste. The winner of Baker’s Choice gets a prize (a stand mixer in several episodes) and the chance to wear a bright gold chef’s hat for the second round signifying that they’re the one to beat.

In the second round, they start from scratch and all three are tasked with recreating an amazing cake – a shark, a volcano, a floral wedding cake – in 2 hours. A daunting task for even a professional. The baker’s get recipe’s of course, and during this second round are each given a panic button where they can call for help from one of the judges. In most episode the person who performed the worst in the first round is also given some kind of helper button to either distract or freeze their opponents for three minutes.

Inevitably, the bakers aren’t quite up for the challenge. They spin around their creations to the judges while saying, singing or jazz-handing their way through “Nailed it!” And usually their delivery is met with chuckles from the judges. Comedian Nicole Byer, the host of the show, is hilarious and her laugh is thoroughly contagious. At the end of round three the judges again make a decision on taste and presentation and this time the winner gets $10k. I’d probably let someone laugh at my failed baking decisions for ten thousand dollars too. 

 

Jessica Jones Season 2 — AKA I’m not sure how I feel about it

I managed to finish Jessica Jones Season 2 tonight and as the title might suggest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I didn’t watch The Defenders (maybe I’ll get back to it, but it’s not a priority) so I’m not sure how well any of it ties in, or doesn’t, to what happened there. Although I feel like it’s probably pretty stand-alone from it, given that the only real ties I saw/heard in season two related to Jeri.

For a pretty spoiler-free review I can say that I both enjoyed Jessica’s progression in this season and what the focus was for her with Kilgrave out of the picture. I can also say that it’s pretty freaking cool that they employed female-only directors for Season 2, however there was also a long way they could’ve gone to improve some of their diversity issues. Black women specifically got an unfair shake on screen and in ways that absolutely could’ve gone any direction. It’s not enough to cast black actors, there’s no excuse from writers not to be more cognizant of the roles those actors will be playing and what it’ll look like on screen.

What I’m not really happy about (again in a way that’s the most spoiler-free I can make it) is the direction they took Trish in this season. I understand the progression from her interests in the first season that this is one of the directions that could’ve gone. But, I felt it was really predictable in the beginning of season two and by the end, it was tiring and played out. To be a little more specific that’ll only be spoilery once you get a few episodes into the season — I really hate that she gets rewarded for that, even if we don’t see it explicitly by the end of the season, it obvious enough.

One of the other things that’s sort of holding back my complete enthusiasm for the season as a whole is the very cyclical nature of the arguments that start to happen in every episode about half-way in as Jessica makes the biggest discovery of the season. I don’t have to say what it is to say that the way she talks herself in and out, or other people talk her in and out of the same decision in almost every episode gets old fast. And then to have the decision taken out of her hands entirely by the end of the season, undid part of the work of the first season. I get the character choice that was made and what that could set up for a third season, but it didn’t have to go that way. It could’ve ended a dozen other ways and season three wouldn’t suffer for opportunities to rehash the outcome.

I’m not really going to address Jeri’s story line. I feel the same way about the whole season as I feel about her story. I do like Carrie Ann Moss as an actress though and I really feel like she and Robin Wright and she need to have some show where they play high-powered lesbians with great hair and expensive clothes. Or just give me some President Claire Underwood/Supreme Court Justice Jeryn Hogarth fanfic and I’d be good.

Movie: The Cloverfield Paradox

I love a good surprise movie. The Super Bowl was over by the time I saw the announcement for the new Cloverfield movie, so I finished what I was working on and hopped over to Netflix.


Now, I never watched the first movie. I wanted to, but knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the shaky-cam production. However, I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane at the theater and loved it. I’m a huge fan of horror movies — especially ones that build really well, and ones that tease you about just how threatening the thing you think might be threatening really is.

You’re supposed to spend all of that movie wondering what the real threat is. Is it John Goodman’s character or is he really a nice guy protecting our heroine from what’s happening outside? Sure, it’s not ideal, the situation, but how much can you trust about what’s happening inside that bunker? I’m a sucker for that ambiguous villain. 
The Cloverfield Paradox feeds on another one of my favorite horror genres: the isolationist space thriller. Again, this is all about feeding on our own expectations and perceptions. What’s more scary: the thing happening on the space station, or the fact that nothing is happening and you’re still cut off from all the things you know and love. Can you trust the people you’re with? Can you trust yourself? In a movie like Alien, there’s a specific threat: the killer alien. But what’s more, we learn that you can’t always trust the people you’re with either… people will do a lot for money, for power, for fame and that’s not too mention that you never know what people will do when put under that kind of pressure.
Brief spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane ahead. 
So, we’re supposed to spend the majority of the movie rooting for the heroine, Michelle. She’s saved from a wreck and nursed back to health by a stranger, but finds herself stuck inside his underground bunker. He seems strange and we’re supposed to see him as this mostly harmless but slightly unhinged guy, who maybe suffers from some mental illness. He’s particular, he gets angry and most importantly, he refuses to let her leave. He’s adamant that there’s something outside, that something dangerous has happened, that the bunker is the safest place for them all. 
For a while, she gives in to this supposed fantasy. After all, other guy in the bunker is a neighbor who seems pretty normal and he came into the bunker willingly. But over time, this stranger gets stranger. He’s forcing Michelle to play this familial role. We find out near the end that this guy isn’t just strange, that her initial instincts were correct… he is dangerous. Michelle fights her way out of the bunker. And then there’s the twist. He might’ve been a monster, but the stranger wasn’t wrong either. Something is very, very bad outside. 
And that’s where we come to The Cloverfield Paradox. 
This movie doesn’t play off the second movie any more than the second did off the first. We know there’s an indefinite something happening. It’s not explained or defined… but it also doesn’t need to be. So whatever is happening means our protagonist, Ava Hamilton is going with a team to the space station. There, the international crew spends two years firing up a particle accelerator trying to figure out a way to generate enough power that the Earth can rebuild resources. Which we can learn from the power of elimination… are dwindling. 
The majority of the movie is about the isolation of space, who and how does the crew trust. If they’re alone, how do they survive. And when the unexpected and unexplained happens, can they keep their shit together long enough to figure out how to get home again.
I have to say this reversal on an apocalyptic tale is a lot of fun. This is the opposite of something like San Andreas, for example. The disaster thriller genre shows us heroes at the center of the disaster, where the disaster is the main character. The Cloverfield movies, by comparison, mention the disaster as little as possible. 
I don’t want to spoil it for you. But if you’re a fan of space horror, or just horror in general, check it out. I really, really liked it. 
Also, holy fucking shout out to this whole cast and crew for keeping this movie on the DL for however long they had to keep that under their hats. And, to whatever casting director delivered this amazing leading cast of POCs. It was awesome.