The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu Series 2017)

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Eventually, the multiple Emmy awards, the constant streaming of advertisements, and the general hype about The Handmaid’s Tale sucked me into a disturbing futuristic world created by Margaret Atwood.  This sometimes savage story about totalitarian theonomy that has taken over the United States is enough to make you nauseous.  There were times I wanted to turn it off but felt imprisoned to watch the outcome much as the poor handmaidens are kept enslaved.

Written in 1985, the book has won multiple awards, including the series itself. It’s based on the story of a woman who was once known as June who narrates her tale in the given name of Offred. The plot summary is rather detailed, including the Republic of Gilead and how it works in the scheme of this new world.  Because the future has left an immoral and out-of-control society, a fundamentalist group of men rise up and gain enough power to bring about change.  The revolution kills the leaders of the free world, takes away the rights of women, disbands the Constitution, and initiates a social order based on Old Testament theology, sprinkled with a few verses from the New Testament, and extreme religious fanaticism.  Thinking these people are Christians could not be further from the truth. It’s a new religion of sorts, while they destroy the old beliefs and tear down churches.

In addition, the world has been polluted and diluted from disease to such an extent that the population is diminishing. Women are infertile; men are sterile; few women remain who are able to bear children.  To breed, the higher caste who run the government inslave fertile woman, calling them handmaidens of the Lord. They base their practice upon the Biblical story of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, who entreated her husband to impregnate her handmaid since she was barren.  The new society turns it into a rather disturbing ceremonial ritual that leaves you appalled.

Because this new society of Gilead is so detailed in its workings you should head over to Wikipedia and read the explanation of who plays what role in this caste society.  Even their dress and colors have various meanings, as well as their names. I must admit that Margaret Atwood’s fantasy-created world is seriously distressing but genius storytelling.

This series has done an excellent job on many levels, which despite the story that gives you the shivers, does deserve its accolades as well.

  • First and foremost the acting is phenomenal for all involved.  I cannot rave enough about Elizabeth Moss’ performance and well-deserved Emmy win. It’s not often that an actress can portray such hopelessness, fear, and loathing with such intensity that you experience the same emotions during the scenes.
  • The music adds to the terror and tenseness of the plot with expert precision.
  • The awards speak for themselves:  Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Cinematography, Outstanding Direction, etc.

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My warning about this show is that you may find it deeply distressing.  The story may shock, grieve, anger, and bring you to tears.  It will incite in your heart fear and make you question whether something like this could ever happen in our lifetime.  It will cause you to ponder how a group of people could gain dominion and control over society with such force.  It is religious fanaticism forced upon the masses at its worse.  You will wonder if faced with the same scenario, would you give in and obey or would you never let the bastards win.  Perhaps that is the purpose of this story — to leave you troubled and vexed for a good reason.

As most of us know, there are pockets of such societies that sadly exist upon this earth today.  To make matters worse, some groups are still intent on imposing their beliefs and controls upon others elsewhere in the world.  Let us pray, if you do pray, that nothing like Sons or Jacob or Gilead ever rises to power in our lives.

In the meantime, if you have enough courage, head on over and immerse yourself in the frightful scenario of the land of Gilead.

 

Outlander – Ep. 301 (The Battle Joined)

301**SPOILERS UNTIL IT AIRS** There are great advantages to having a subscription to Starz on Amazon. The main one is that episodes are posted online before viewing is available elsewhere.  I couldn’t sleep this morning and woke up wide awake at 3:15 a.m. Sat down at the computer with a cup of coffee and had a notice that Season 301 of Outlander was up and ready. Of course, I didn’t think about going back to bed. Instead, I hit “watch now.”

To be totally honest my interest in Outlander has come and gone. Not a huge fan of graphic violence and sadistic behavior, there have been times I’ve walked away from the series with no regrets.  There have been others where I’ve returned to see what’s next. After the end of the last season with the flash forward twenty years, my interest has piqued again.

Episode 301 returns the audience to the blood, violent, and gory outcome of the battle of Culloden in 1745. Claire has returned to the future, and Jamie has returned to fight. Be prepared to watch many of the characters you’ve seen in the show die a terrible death, except Jamie who is severely wounded and miraculously spared.  As an author, you have the power of life and death while writing. You can twist history and keep alive any character in order to continue the series book after book.

The show, as usual, flips back and forth from the past to present with rapidly changing scenes. In the present, Frank and pregnant Claire have moved to Boston and taken up residence. Claire is still in the past, refusing to allow Frank to touch her and retreats into a depressive shell.  When she has her daughter, things appear to mend for a brief moment as they recommit to one another to raising the child.  Let’s face it, Jamie lovers. Poor Frank has gotten the short end of the stick in Claire’s adventure. Regardless if he’s the spitting image of Black Jack, he’s a heartbroken man who has lost his wife to a ghost from the past. I cannot help but feel sorry for him.

The show begins to insert the reality of the times, too, where women were expected to be housewives at home and possess no opinions regarding the workplace or politics. As you know, Claire is far too outspoken to keep quiet and allow society’s norms to mold who she will become or how she should behave. It’s that part of her prickly and outspoken personality that occasionally rubs me the wrong way.

Nevertheless, lass, Outlander has returned. I’m hoping for less blood as the season continues, but once Claire starts cutting people up on the operating table, that will no doubt end.  And yes, your Jamie, wounded from battle lives on. I will give Sam a high-five for his performance on the battlefield and his moaning among a heap of bodies next to Black Jack.

If you can’t wait to watch each week, ditch your cable and sign up for Starz on Amazon. A link is off to the right.

Salvation (CBS 2017)

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Streaming on Amazon Prime is Salvation, another story about the earth doomed by a speeding asteroid on a trajectory to destroy the planet.  The first nine episodes are up for viewing, with three more on the way.

We have lived through Armageddon in 1998, Deep Impact in 1998, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, 2012, and a host of other movies and programs about the possibility of destruction. Now comes Salvation, a television program. After spending my entire Saturday and Sunday watching the nine episodes, I can’t say that it’s anything new except for a few screwy sub-plots of government overthrow and meteor weapons.

Though there is some nice eye candy for the ladies in the way of male characters, it is somewhat overshadowed by unbelievable aspects that ruin the moment. Santiago Cabrera plays Darius Tanz, the successful and rich entrepreneur who wants to start the first settlement on Mars and now is intent on saving the planet.  Ian Anthony Dale plays Harris Edwards, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, with Jennifer Finnigan as Grace Barrows, his girlfriend, and coworker. Charlie Rowe is Liam Cole the young geek who discovers the incoming asteroid, who appears to be the only one on the entire planet earth to have noticed its existence.  I guess Russia and the UK don’t have any telescopes or scientists that look to the stars very often.

The show morphs from somewhat entertaining and leaves a few cliffhangers and then changes to unbelievable and ridiculous plotlines and scenes that make no sense. If I don’t believe it’s possible, my interest goes out the door.  I’ve seen more convincing science fiction movies than Salvation, which frankly isn’t worth saving if it keeps the trajectory it’s on.  If the characters portrayed are really operating the government, and the USA has all this power to determine who lives and dies on planet earth when the asteroid collides, we are all in big trouble.  There is no collaboration here by the world governments to save the planet–only self-serving individuals using the impending doom to their own advantage.

Will it be renewed? Iffy. I don’t think I will be tuning in to find out.

The Passengers (Movie 2016)

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In anticipation of the new season of Outlander, I renewed my Starz subscription on Amazon last night. I do love being able to do that whenever I want to, rather than paying an exorbitant amount through my cable TV service for a bunch of channels I do not need. When the series that I want to watch is over, I just cancel it again and save $8.99 a month.

Anyway, I said all that to say that last night I watched the movie The Passengers on Starz, which I had not seen at the theatre.  I’m not much of a SFI freak, but this movie was somewhat interesting. It’s about a passenger ship streaming through outer space heading to a new planet. On board are 5,000, plus 200 plus crew members, in a hibernation inside individual pods to make the trip that will take longer than their earthly lives.

As the ship silently travels through space, it hits an asteroid belt.  The shields deflect what it can but some damage to the ship occurs.  As a result, one poor man, Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt, wakes up ninety years too early and is stuck on a ship with no other life except one android bartender, robot floor sweepers, and hologram computers, talking to him as if he’s arrived at his destination.

After spending over a year alone, he does the unthinkable and awakens a beautiful girl out of a pod, Aurora Lane, played by Jennifer Lawrence. At first, he lies to her that she, too, is a victim of the ship’s malfunction.  When she finds out the truth, let’s just say she’s over-the-top angry.

As they travel along, falling in love, the ship continues to malfunction and finally, a crew member is also awakened, who has a short life. Eventually, they discover that the ship was damaged while going through the asteroid belt.  Jim and Aurora are the spaceship’s only hope of salvation from complete destruction.  See, all that angry emotion, and she would have died anyway.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and have no concrete reasons to say why.  Maybe it’s her voice.  Maybe it’s her looks.  Chris and Jennifer are an odd pairing on this lonely trip through space. Emotions are high once she learns he woke her up and ruined or life by relegating her to ninety years on a ship with no one but him and a robot bartender for company.

At the end of the movie, I really felt hanging in many ways as you never know how their lives played out after they save the ship. The last scene shows the remainder of the passengers waking up as they near their destination. I would have thought that Jim and Aurora might have had children who would have welcomed them, but alas you never find out what transpired those ninety years.  Did they grow old together? Who died first? How many kids did they have? Perhaps she took birth control.  Did they commit suicide? Did they wake up anyone else?  I guess we will never know.  Oh, well.  Whatever, it was probably a lonely ride through space.

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