HDIM Reviews: YOU (2018)

Spoiler Alert! If you are reading reviews, you’re gonna get spoiled.

YOU is a killer hit Netflix bought from Lifetime starring Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager, and Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck, the girl of Joe’s dreams. It’s not a typical love story, but it is one for the ages, more specifically, it’s one for this age.

You (2018) is based on a book by Caroline Kepnes

By now you would have heard your friends wailed about how romantic or how creepy Joe is, and that’s why they kept watching, to see if he would prevail, or if he would get caught.

Hi, I’m Joe. Not Joseph. Just Joe.

See, Joe believes in love at first sight, and he strives to be that perfect boyfriend. You know, the one who knows your favourite food, your favourite cafe, how you take your coffee, what song you like, what your insecurities and deepest, darkest secrets are. And how does he know all that?

He stalks you on social media, duh. Oh, and your friends too. For a guy who doesn’t have any social media presence, Joe is ridiculously adept at online-stalking. Then again, it doesn’t really take a genius to figure these things out, and Joe is one very, very clever guy.

If that wasn’t enough, he also breaks into people’s houses. He’ll break into your house, your friend’s house, your therapist’s office, anywhere just to get the information that he needs and will use for nefarious purposes.

Joe believes love conquers all, even breaking and entering, sabotage, kidnapping, assault, even a murder or two, or three (I don’t really know the final count), and he believes that what he is doing is protecting, helping and motivating Beck to excel in her otherwise meaningless life.

Oh, wait. We need to talk about Beck. This is Beck as viewed by Joe on the street, through her house window. Notice anything missing?

Beck has issues.

She also has a pretty face, dresses well, is a shameless flirt who refuses to acknowledge this (girl, control yourself), doesn’t believe in blinds or curtains, is a pushover, is self-absorbed, has no self control when it comes to healthy relationships, social media, friends, men, sex, money, or her craft (writing), but the worst of it all is that she sighs a lot.

Like a lot, lot. Like everything in the world is too much work for her lot. She sighs when she said or did something wrong, she sighs when she knows she has to fix something, she sighs when someone is upset with her through no fault of her own. She lives for sighs. Sigh, Sigh, Sigh. But I digress. #Becksighstoomuch

She is today’s equivalent of the damsel in distress, depicted as a girl who is is hopeless without Joe. This, to me, is why YOU works – because when the antagonist is charming but clearly demented and evil, and the protagonist is a loser yet innocent, naive, and in general can do no wrong to others: who do you root for?

Ah, the perfect couple

To help drive this concept home, from the get go, we entered the story from Joe’s perspective. We hear his inner thoughts, his inner panic, his inner frustrations but he never tells you his plans. Those, you get to see unfold as it happens. It helps that he has a narrative voice that will lure you into a false sense of security. Cause that’s so Joe.

Another thing that helps make you root for not-Beck is the toxic environment Beck almost always finds herself in. There’s her diva friends, Peach, Lynn and Annika. I enjoy them whenever they are on screen because of how ridiculous their characters are depicted to be. It’s hilarious.

The first time we see Annika, Peach and Lynn #goodjobbeck

Then there’s Beck’s boyfriend, Benji, a douchebag and totally someone you can see Beck falling for because she is terrible with men. Speaking of men, Beck has daddy issues as well. I don’t really see the point in the father as a character. But you gotta fill those hours, right?

Outside of how Joe treats Beck, he is a saint compared to Ron, the guy who is beating his next door neighbour and single parent, Claudia. Her son, Paco, spends more time reading in the hallway outside the door than inside the house, which is why Joe and Paco share a special relationship held together by their love of books and staying out of Claudia and Ron’s relationship.

The one person Joe will never hurt, Paco

A delight to see in the later episodes of the series is John Stamos who plays the scruffy and rugged-looking therapist who Beck, then Joe goes to to get help. He has way more significance than Beck’s dad. He deserves more screentime. Yup.

Maybe I should go to therapy too

Therapist Dr Nicky tells Joe that there are two parts to him. One who believes true love exists, and the other who is so fearful to have it only to lose it later. I believe this is true for most of us as well. We want to love and be loved, but we are so afraid to find it because then there is the possibility of us losing it.

Not with Joe. Joe doesn’t lose things. Joe will put you in a cage and break your legs if you try to run. Then he will spew misguided nonsense about what love is and the sacrifices one has to make for love. True love. Joe has a glass cage for his books, but he isn’t above using it for keeping people in. Which he does.

YOU is an absolutely terrifying story about what one man would do for love and whether the woman he is obsessed with can love him back. So far a second season has been confirmed.

Personal thoughts: I should get the books.

HDIM Reviews: Alias Grace (2017)

My favourite accent has always been the Irish accent, but I never knew that there were sub-accents(?) that differ depending on which part of Ireland you are from (now that I’ve said that, it kinda makes perfect sense although my ear would probably not be able to tell the difference).

Apparently the accent that Canadian actress, Sarah Gadon has in her role as is-she-isnt-she-a-murderess, Grace Marks, is a Northern Ireland accent. And she nailed that role so hard, your head is left spinning after watching the conclusion.

Sarah Gadon stuns in Alias Grace

Spoilers ahead!

The 6-part series, Alias Grace explores the story about a maid named Grace Marks, who at the start of the show, had been serving time for her part in two gruesome murders. A doctor is asked to come talk to her, to garner any sense of real guilt or innocence in her, and hopefully, secure a release for her after 15 years of imprisonment.

The show is based on a 1996 book by Margaret Atwood, who also wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. And Atwood fictionalised it from an 1843 true story where a maid of the same name was convicted of two gruesome murders many were not entirely convinced she had a hand in.

Over the six episodes, Grace would tell the doctor about how she had been treated during her incarceration in the asylum and in prison, how her mother had died during the journey over, and had left her and her siblings under the care of an abusive drunkard father.

Grace speaks to the good doctor while tending to her chores

She told him about how she became employed as a maid, where she would find solace and a friend in Mary Whitney, a crucial character in her story.

Spoilers ahead!

Mary would become pregnant with a child that belonged to the master of the house and of course we all know how that will turn out. She tries to have the baby aborted but succumbs to the procedure, bleeding to death that same night in the bed she sleeps in.

Grief-stricken, Grace leaves the household for a job with higher pay and moves to the home where the murders would eventually occur. We then get to see who the victims and the co-conspirators were to Grace, and what led up to the murders.

Well, at least up until the murders, after which, Grace would have no memory of. How convenient.

Throughout the series, the doctor is shown to develop an attraction (fuelled by pity, perhaps) to Grace (it’s that accent, I tell ya), and every time someone tells him that Grace is capable of lies and deceit, that seems to make him want to help her more. In the final episode, he eventually allows a Dr DuPont to conduct hypnotism on Grace to restore some of her memories of the event.

The seance scene

The finale is an episode you do not want to miss.

Verdict: Watch it if murder mysteries do not make you squeamish and you are up for slow-burn storytelling. Runtime is 45 mins x 6 episodes.

HDIM 100-word Reviews: Bad Genius (2017)

Bad Genius debates the ethics of cheating in exams and the moral repercussions one has to deal with when they get caught and when they don’t.

Screengrab from Netflix

No matter if you have tried cheating in a school exam before, you can relate to the level of stress portrayed in this clever Thai movie. The various ingenious cheating methods are fun to watch, but what really needs a shout-out is the editing done on this movie.

Screengrab from Netflix

You wouldn’t be able to tell that the four main characters were first-time actors. It’s a great two-hour movie for the whole family.

HDIM 100-word Reviews: Hilda (2018)

Based on a graphic novel, Hilda is an adorable and brave protagonist in a delightful animated series that is perfect for kids and preteens alike.

Hilda on Facebook

Hilda’s world is one with trolls that come alive at night and turn to rock in the day, nisse, creatures that live in the crevices in your wall and sofa, and the back of your bookcase, as well as paperwork-obsessed tiny elves.

Hilda herself displays a true sense of adventure, bravery, a strong moral compass and a great love for the environment. She’s the role model you have been waiting for all your life!

HDIM Reviews: Mowgli (2018)

Andy Serkis’s Mowgli is basically Jungle Book, the “Dark Knight” version.

I recently read my daughter’s Jungle Book school textbook (graphic novel) for English. Amongst many other retellings, this film version is close (if not closest) to the book version. And things got dark pretty much from the get-go.

The story is slower, methodical, disturbing and rooted in reality. For instance, Mowgli looks perpetually starving. The wolves don’t have clean, trimmed, silky fur. The elephants have moss growing on top of their heads and bodies.

It’s different of course, you’re used to seeing things prim and proper whereas here you have a Shere Khan who is in bad need of a shave. And Tabaqui has an appearance only a mother can love (not this mother though). 

Ugly as sin

From his time in LOTR, Serkis has revolutionised virtual production, as he calls it. In Mowgli, the characters show human facial expressions and emotions. If you don’t already know, Serkis himself voices Baloo the Bear who teaches the Laws of the Jungle. He doesn’t sign about Bare Necessities in this one. 

A somewhat eerie yet important observation one can make is that the eyes of the “animals” reflect those of humans. As uncomfortable as the thought makes me, it’s incredible that this can be translated onto the screen. I’m no expert but this is award-winning stuff right here.

It’s interesting to know that in the book, Kaa, the snake was a good guy, and that Shere Khan was trampled to death by panicked cows in an ambush masterminded by Mowgli and his brother wolves.

In this movie, Kaa is a seer who can see into the past and future, and she is neither friend nor foe. Shere Khan dies in the hands of Mowgli in a brutal not kid-friendly way.