THE HANDMAID’S TALE, 1.2 – “Birth Day” (TV Review)

 

Channel 4 – 9pm – Sunday 4th June 2017

Created by and teleplay by: Bruce Miller

Based on the novel by: Margaret Atwood

Directed by: Reed Morano


 

THERE IS AN US

At the close of last week’s series debut (reviewed HERE), reluctant concubine Offred (Elisabeth Moss) was warned that a despotic Gilead spy (known as an “Eye”) is watching her, even while she goes about her demeaning slave-like duties as a sex-surrogate for wealthy Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his stuck-up wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). In “Birth Day”, Offred feels herself stuck ‘tween two extremes and pulled both ways: should she go against the strict new conventions and meet with her new master alone, or use her unique position to betray his trust and provide intel to a network of rebellious Handmaids, led by “carpet-munching gender traitor” Ofglen (Alexis Bledel)?

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE, 1.1 – “Offred” (TV Review)

Channel 4 – 9pm – Sunday 28th May 2017

Teleplay by: Bruce Miller

Based on the novel by: Margaret Atwood

Directed by: Reed Morano


 

BREEDING STOCK

As intrigued as I was by its release (and Channel 4’s acquisition for UK transmission), I am a week behind on Hulu/MGM’s new ten-part adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s speculative dystopian novel because I wanted to view the 1990 film version first. While not out-and-out disappointed by the Natasha Richardson-starring production (which you can read my review of HERE), my enjoyment was tempered by the outdated feel which crippled the suspension of my disbelief and meant I never felt truly engaged enough to appreciate the abject horror of the notion. A reader on my blog commented that I should still give the new series a try, as it improved upon the earlier attempt.

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The Handmaid’s Tale (DVD Review)

15 – 90mins – 1990


 

FUNDAMENTALIST FUTURE

27 years before Hulu remade it into a highly-acclaimed and much-discussed, must-see television series, Margaret Atwood’s eye-opening 1985 dystopian novel was adapted to film, courtesy of a Harold Pinter screenplay. Critically commended though it was, an eleventh hour change of director led to rewrites Pinter was “too tired” to work on, so he suggested incoming helmer Volker Schlöndorff return to the author for any “tinkering,” leading the Nobel-Prize winning playwright to all-but disown credit for such a “hodgepodge.”

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The Belko Experiment (Cinema Review)

18 – 89mins – 2017


CATTLE ROYALE

Social science meets horror in hot-right-now screenwriter James Guardians of the Galaxy Gunn’s startlingly brutal and bloody analysis of the alliances that form and anarchy that follows the revelation that eighty white-collar workers at Columbian recruitment firm Belko Industries are pawns in a maniacal game of last man standing.

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Equals (DVD Review)

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12 – 98mins – 2015


 

THE LOVE BUG

“We cured cancer, we cured the common cold, we can cure S.O.S.”

In a starkly clinical ‘utopian’ potentiality where to be “Switched On” to your emotions is to be labelled “defective” and sent to the doctor for inhibitors, tantamount to a disease which is on the verge of being cured, two members of the Collective struggle to keep their love for one another under wraps.

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Zardoz (Blu-ray Review)

Zardoz.jpg15 – 106mins – 1974

“KILL THE TABERNACLE!”

Ignoring the maxim “less is more”, this dystopian sci-fi from the director of the more–fondly-remembered Deliverance (1972) and Excalibur (1981) is a trippy and continually baffling amalgam of myriad discordant genre ideas (talking data rings, psychic powers, memory rooms), existentialist theories on life, death, society and religion, sex education (seriously!) and bonkers fancy dress costumes, starring a former 007 as a nappy-wearing Executioner.

Having spent the first twenty minutes wandering silently through ever-more bizarre and diverse locations from a flying stone head to a country farm, Sean Connery’s Zed is enslaved and has his memories probed by a community of unlikable immortal bread bakers who at one point engage in an uncomfortable kissing orgy to extract the “life” from him.

John Boorman’s film attempts to justify its incomprehension with lofty literary references (L. Frank Baum, T.S. Eliot, Nietzsche) and elevate its standing with an oft-repeated refrain of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, but it all just comes off as too clever for its own good. Entertainment really shouldn’t be this difficult to digest.

Much like the film itself (oh, how meta of me), I am going to end my review with quotes from the script to justify my opinion. “It is certainly very fragmented,” someone comments after watching a vidscreen of Zed’s life as a gun-toting Brutal. While as a man lays dying at the film’s busy conclusion, he utters the perfect summation: “It was all a joke!” Pity unimpenetrable cult claptrap Zardoz isn’t a funny one.

CR@B Verdict: 1 star