Quickfire round: Inheritance

An annoying waste of time, this movie drags you along through its story – littered with boring characters and empty set design – with the promise of a great, mystery-solving payoff at the end. Spoiler: it was not worth it.

Who is she pointing that gun at? If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know how smart this caption is.

“That sounds like such a great story, let’s turn it into a movie!” <- words which were, apparently, uttered by someone, for how else would we have ended up with the 1 hour, 51 minutes waste of time that is Inheritance? I will struggle to write more than a few hundred words on this for that is how hollow the entire thing is.

Lauren Monroe, Manhattan District Attorney and member of a very wealthy family, inherits part of her late farther’s estate including, via posthumously released video tape, the ‘deepest secret’ her family has. I’ll tell you right now: it’s a man who’s been chained up in an underground bunker on the family estate for 30 odd years. Okay, as a viewer, you’re immediately interested, right? What’s this guy doing down here? Who is he? How has he been kept a secret for so long? Lauren tries to uncover the truth without telling anyone in her family about the guy.

So what went wrong? Firstly, this is one of the weakest attempts at creating an atmosphere for the story that I have seen. The entire supporting cast, including her brother, husband, daughter, and colleagues, may as well have not been in the movie at all for all they brought to it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay for thriller/horror movies to concentrate intensely on the central plot. But only if that central plot is worth it. This… wasn’t. I won’t spoil the exact ending but will say that, essentially, the mother in the family knew about the guy in the basement, and the plot twist he would help execute, the whole time. Whoop-de-doo!

If you’re thinking I added Inheritance to my Watch List after seeing Lily Collins in Emily in Paris, you’d be right, damn you. Honestly, she does as good as job as she can here, but the role feels totally mis-cast.

Give this one a miss.

363w

Back for more: Unsolved Mysteries (Season 2)

Slightly less captivating than the first season, this show about mysteries which remain – literally – unsolved to this day, still managed to keep me hooked for long enough to recommend it.

A body found in a landfill – how did it get there? We still don’t know for sure.

The first season kicked off with a genuinely eerie mystery – a man found lodged in the roof of a hotel building, having seemingly fallen through it from a great height. Season 2 kicks off in similar fashion with the discovery of a body in a landfill site. Former White House aide Jack Wheeler showed up there after a short disappearance following calls of a disturbance near his house. We see lots of CCTV footage of Jack’s last hours, where he looks agitated and confused, which raises plenty of questions aside from the apparent murder.

For the rest of the episodes, we swap out last season’s broad theme of ‘injustice’ (recalling the murder of a black man at a house party in a highly conservative town) with one of sheer mystery, as we learn about abduction of two different toddlers from the same New York City park – just three months apart. Absolutely mortifying.

Another one for the mystery fans – and one that makes for really good book material – is the unexplained death of a woman in a hotel room in Norway. This was probably my favourite of the series. For starters, we don’t ever find out the woman’s identity, let alone how or why she died. But the story of how they tried to answer these questions is fascinating and a real treat for mystery fans. Of course, it is also grossly tragic – and one must remember that these are real cases with real people waiting on the end of a phone line to hear from viewers who may have information that can lead to the case being solved.

There is also, like last season, a paranormal episode, this time involving ‘spirits’ said to have appeared after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I gave this one a miss, as I usually don’t do paranormal stuff where it is represented as fact.

Overall, whilst I wasn’t quite as captivated by the mysteries from the first season, viewers who enjoyed that one will no doubt enjoy this one as well.

376w

Quickfire round: American Murder: The Family Next Door

Despite its forgettable title (is it American Family: The Murder Nextdoor? Or America Nextdoor: The Family Murder? Neither!) this documentary uses incredible original footage to tell the chilling story of how, and why, Shannan Watts and her two children were cruelly murdered.

One person in this photo escaped death. Can you guess who it was?

I’ll start off by saying that this documentary shows how far we’ve come with technology in our society that it is able to tell the story in such a coherent manner with absolutely no voice-over and only first-hand footage (from police body cams and interview rooms, neighbours, news crews, text messages, and Shannan herself).

This method of telling the story makes it all the more terrifying. We start out with police body cam footage – after Shannan’s friend and colleague called the police, concerned for her whereabouts as she wasn’t responding to texts. The footage – otherwise entirely routine – immediately captures a scene of confusion and mystery as Shannan – and her two young children – are nowhere to be seen. Her phone is there and switched off, but the children’s blankets are gone. Her husband, Chris Watts, raced back from work at a remote oil well, and seems distracted as he speaks to officers about the last time he saw his wife alive and who – or where – she could have gone to.

Incredibly, the documentary also features Shannan herself. She was a prolific Facebook user, recording and posting footage of family moments almost daily. What a juxtaposition these happy videos of her and her husband are to the text messages she was exchanging with her friends and colleagues shortly before her death – telling a story of how her husband had become distant and uninterested in her.

I think I know what makes the documentary so gripping. The Facebook videos and text messages are all pre-death, of course. And the police footage is post-death. We therefore see the story unravel from two perspectives – Shannan’s, as she hurtles towards her murder, and the police, as they piece everything together. Everything is revealed in sync with each other – the text messages become more surreal and desperate as the police interviews become more dramatic and revealing. It’s great storytelling, if incredibly tragic.

If you like true crime, you absolutely don’t want to miss this.

381w

Back for more: Good Girls (Season 3)

The Breaking Bad meets suburban-housewives dark comedy is back for a third season which takes it in a slightly different direction, although fans of the first two seasons surely won’t be disappointed.

Never a dull moment in the lives of these three.

It looks like everything has gone back to a relative normal for the three working mums following the drama of the last season. Beth is a shop assistant at a greetings cards business who press their own designs. Annie is a shop attendant and moonlights as a valet, bringing in lots of single dollar bills. And Ruby puts up with rude customers at a nail salon.

Hold on a minute. A printing press, lots of dollar bills, and access to solvents… uh oh. The girls haven’t retired from a life of crime, in fact, they’re working on perfecting their fake money printing scheme. Free from the harsh oversight of crime master Rio, they’re looking to run their own illegitimate enterprise. However, as inventive as they are, it doesn’t take long for them to get taken advantage of by the more bone-headed type of criminal.

The show continues its winning formula of heartwarming family issues, quick-witted humour and surreal violence all wrapped up in Breaking Bad style suburban criminality. This season we get to see more of a focus on Ruby’s deteriorating relationship with Stan and her kids, which is interesting as I’d pointed out in my review of Season 2 that we weren’t seeing enough of that family. Sadly I can’t take any credit for the shift as the third season was already airing in the US when I wrote it.

If you like Good Girls and its rather absurd premise, you’ll certainly like the third season. For newcomers, don’t start here. There’s too much backstory you’re missing out on.

302w

What I thought about: Mary Kills People (Seasons 1-3)

Thought-provoking and dramatic, if a little rough around the edges, this drama about a doctor who assists suicide whilst balancing home and work life and being under constant peril from police investigation, is a great watch for fans of shows like Dexter.

Des, looking confused as ever.

What’s it about?
Dr Mary Harris is a doctor who saves people. She also kills people. You see, Mary thinks people should be in control of their death as much as they are of their life. Some of the patients at her hospital, referred to her by nursing colleague Annie, are facing terminal illness, and are usually in pain or will deteriorate to such a point. Because of that, they want to go sooner rather than later. Mary issues a fatal dose of pentobarbital, a sedative sometimes used to execute prisoners when carrying out the death penalty.

Of course, what Mary’s doing is illegal* and only a select few countries, such as Switzerland, allow you to die with the assistance of someone else. Mary, together with her business partner and former plastic surgeon Des, therefore pose as end-of-life counsellors and meet discretely with patients. The series arc sees an undercover police investigation to catch Mary in the act. Let’s just say it doesn’t go according to plan.

What do I like about it?
First up, it’s got that consistent pacing I love in US dramas. Yes, there’s a wider series plot, but the show doesn’t get swallowed up in it. This is gonna sound weird, but every episode is Death Guaranteed. A new person, a new story, every single time. It helps to build the thought-provoking piece of the show as you learn about the different conditions and reasons why people might want to end their lives in this way.

Next, there are some nice side plots. Mary is a real doctor and also a (divorced) mother of two children, so it’s a lot to juggle and can get quite chaotic. The elder daughter, Jess, is friends with Naomi, a troubled teenager often left alone while her lawyer mother is away on business. Naomi gets jealous of Jess’ relationships and throughout the show she spirals further and further out of control. Gripping in its own right.

What do I not like about it?
In a word: Des. He is terrible. He is weird. His British accent is… questionable. He is misery. He is pain. He is weak. I kind of get it, but at the same time I kind of wish they’d put in a side character who is mostly free from those attributes.

Des sums up the show’s occasionally shabby edges, another of which is their unrealistic portrayal of police investigations.

Worth a watch?
I binged this thing hard. If you don’t mind the philosophical issues and you like the typical American black comedy style, then absolutely.

By the way…

  • *The show is set in Canada, where assisted suicide was illegal until the law changed during filming of the third season, which means it technically doesn’t make any sense now.
  • I have to give credit to Katie Douglas for a particularly standout performance as Naomi.

533w