New Shows + Movies by Women — June 10, 2022

I’ve written about review brigading before and the MCU’s newest series “Ms. Marvel” is getting some of the worst in a while. Apparently eight films centered around white actors named Chris and four projects for the Tom H.s of the world isn’t enough to balance out one lone series that represents a quarter of the world’s population.

We’ve had 25 MCU films centered on white characters, three centered on non-white ones, 13 series centered on white characters, 5 on non-white ones (I’m treating “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Cloak & Dagger” as half a count each).

Nearly 25% of the world’s population is Muslim, but making two-percent of your projects about someone who’s Muslim is too woke and pandering? Who do we think they’re pandering to if 78% of their output centers on a demographic that accounts for only 10-to-20 percent of the world’s population? Because that’s what they’ve done for their white audience. White viewers are overrepresented by a factor of four, while Muslim viewers are underrepresented by a factor of 12, yet this is somehow pandering to Muslims?

The only thing less would be erasure, but that’s the point when this kind of review brigading happens. You might say to ignore it, but a lot of people decide on whether to watch a series by checking the aggregated user scores on Metacritic or IMDB. Right now both have been deflated because some people are offended Muslim people aren’t staying invisible.

I don’t know about you, but when something like that happens, I watch the shit out of whatever they’re brigading. I watched the premiere – it’s a great start to a coming-of-age superhero series and the best premiere among the Disney+ series outside “Loki”.

But that’s not even the point. I mean, we kept the MCU going after extremely subpar films like “Thor: The Dark World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. That we have to prove something like “Ms. Marvel” is exceptional when we don’t even have to prove projects like “Dark World” or “Ultron” are passable – that’s the point. What if it were average? Would that mean it shouldn’t exist? Cause I’ve seen a couple of average pieces come out of the MCU, and what I always hear about them are the arguments for the parts that are good, or how they tie into other projects we’re hopeful for.

It’s the film directed by Chloe Zhao or the series starring a Muslim woman that have to prove their exceptional nature in order to be granted legitimacy to a group that already lionizes the exceedingly average. The thing is, the parts of the MCU that are new, inclusive, that tackle new ground with characters who haven’t gotten their moment yet – that’s the part of the MCU that still excites me. The crap that worships the average and seeks to repeat it over and over again, that’s the part of the MCU that feels like a bunch of unrewarding homework. That’s the part that needs to prove it’s exceptional, because I’ve already seen 20 movies like that already – if you can’t do something different, include someone you haven’t before, then I’ve seen you already. I haven’t seen anything like “Ms. Marvel”, which gives me a reason to visit the MCU again.

NEW SERIES

Ms. Marvel (Disney+)
showrunner Bisha K. Ali

While attending Avengercon, Kamala Khan discovers that she possesses her own superhero powers.

Creator and showrunner Bisha K. Ali was a data scientist and domestic violence support worker before she shifted into stand-up comedy. She moved into screenwriting on Mindy Kaling’s “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, and worked with the MCU previously as a story editor on “Loki”.

Four of the six episodes are directed by women, with two apiece from “For All Mankind” director Meera Menon and documentary producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

You can watch “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+. The premiere is available now with a new hourlong episode dropping every Wednesday for a total of 6.

Intimacy (Netflix)
showrunners Veronica Fernandez, Laura Sarmiento Pallares

A revenge porn video threatens the career of an up-and-coming politician. This Spanish series follows four women who see their lives upended by similar attacks.

Veronica Fernandez and Laura Sarmiento Pallares are both experienced writers in Spanish film, with Fernandez winning a Goya for “El Bola” and each seeing Iris Award nominations for different series.

You can watch “Intimacy” on Netflix. All 8 hourlong episodes are out.

CW: brief imagery of mass shooting

Queer as Folk (Peacock)
co-showrunner Jaclyn Moore

A new adaptation of the onetime BBC (and then Showtime) series, “Queer as Folk” follows a group of LGBTQ+ friends recovering after a mass shooting incident.

Jaclyn Moore showruns with Stephen Dunn. Moore previously wrote as co-showrunner on “Dear White People”. She famously left that show in opposition to Netflix’s support of Dave Chappelle’s transphobic remarks.

You can watch “Queer as Folk” on Peacock. All 8 hourlong episodes are out.

First Kill (Netflix)
showrunner Felicia D. Henderson

Juliette and Calliope fall in love. The only problem for the two students is that one’s a vampire, the other a vampire hunter. The series is based on a short story by V.E. Schwab.

Showrunner Felicia D. Henderson brings a lot of relevant experience to the table, with a writing and production history that includes “Fringe”, “Gossip Girl”, “The Punisher”, and “Empire”.

You can watch “First Kill” on Netflix. All 8 hourlong episodes are out.

Baby Fever (Netflix)
co-showrunner Amalie Naesby Fick

This Danish dramedy follows Nana, a fertility doctor who drunkenly inseminates herself with her ex-boyfriend’s sperm. This leads to a pregnancy she now has to explain to friends and family.

Obviously, the premise intersects with issues of donor consent and fertility fraud. I don’t know how responsibly the series handles it.

Amalie Naesby Fick created, writes, and directs the show with Nikolaj Feifer.

You can watch “Baby Fever” on Netflix. All 6 half-hour episodes are out.

NEW MOVIES

Trees of Peace (Netflix)
directed by Alanna Brown

In 1994, four women are trapped together during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. They work together to endure and survive.

Writer-director Alanna Brown has written on “Blindspotting”. This is her first feature.

You can watch “Trees of Peace” on Netflix.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Shows + Movies by Women — June 3, 2022

The most exciting thing this week is a new collection of documentaries on athletes by ESPN. All the athletes covered are women and a monthlong series of premieres kicked off with five short films. They’re calling the series “Fifty/50”.

Later in the month, they’ll be premiering “Dream On” (June 15), which chronicles the foundation of the WNBA. On June 18, eight more short documentaries will arrive. June 21 and 28 will see “37 Words”, a four-part documentary on Title IX, which legally codified equal rights for women in education and athletics.

College networks will also see new documentary debuts. June 23 sees “Catch98”, chronicling the career of basketball player Tamika Catchings on SEC Network. “Hidden Dynasty”covers North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, which won 22 national championships. It arrives June 23 on ACC Network.

A range of accompanying digital pieces, reporting, interviews, and podcasts are also part of the effort. ESPNU is also making 75% of their programming this month feature women’s athletics. All of this put together is a lot to choose from, and more than I can cover here, so take a look at the full list.

You can also find past documentaries on women athletes as part of their “30 for 30” and “Nine for IX” series. You need ESPN+ to watch them, but this comes bundled with Disney+, and can be bundled with Hulu. It’s also included in certain cable/satellite subscription plans. These are some of the best documentaries on TV. The “Fifty/50” shorts should also arrive on that page soon.

Let’s get into the new narrative series and films by women this week:

NEW SERIES

Surviving Summer (Netflix)
co-showrunner Joanna Werner
half-directed by Sian Davies, Charlotte George

Summer is a Brooklyn kid who acts out. She’s expelled from school and punished by her family to go live in Australia (I should have acted out more). Once there, she falls in love with surfing.

Joanna Werner showruns with Stuart Menzies. She’s produced on other Australian series such as “The Newsreader” and “Clickbait”.

You can watch “Surviving Summer” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are available immediately.

Tom Swift (CW)
co-showrunners Noga Landau, Melinda Hsu Taylor

“Tom Swift” spins off from the CW’s “Nancy Drew”, folowing a billionaire inventor who delves into a world of sci-fi conspiracies in search of his missing father.

“Nancy Drew” showrunners Noga Landau and Melinda Hsu Taylor are joined by “Empire” writer Cameron Johnson.

You can watch “Tom Swift” on the CW. The premiere is available, with a new episode arriving every Tuesday.

NEW MOVIES

Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+)
directed by Julia Hart

The sequel to 2020 film “Stargirl” (not to be confused with the 2020 superhero series “Stargirl”) finds the free-spirited musician striking out on her own in Los Angeles. Grace VanderWaal reprises the lead role, with Judy Greer and Uma Thurman also starring.

Writer-director Julia Hart returns. Aside from the YA-oriented “Stargirl” films, she’s helmed some incredibly different movies at the start of her career. This includes a take on superheroes in “Fast Color” and one of my favorite films of 2020, the 70s crime drama “I’m Your Woman”.

You can watch “Hollywood Stargirl” on Disney+.

Nudo Mixteco (HBO Max)
directed by Angeles Cruz

As the Festival of San Mateo unfolds, three indigenous women navigate the restrictions of custom, religion, and tradition when it comes to their sexuality.

The Mexican film is the first feature from writer-director Angeles Cruz.

You can watch “Nudo Mixteco” on HBO Max.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

“Angelyne” and the Pursuit of Painless Existence

“Angelyne” tells the story of someone who’s famous for being famous. Yet she created that fame from nothing, by transforming herself into an icon. She drafted a community that she could relentlessly take advantage of, but one that argues it gets more back than it puts in. Telling its story according to a roster of unreliable narrators, the series is exciting because it confronts how one woman can repaint reality, and how those around her repaint it once more. Layer after layer of misrepresentation offers very few truths, but rather the shape of something we can begin to grasp.

Emmy Rossum plays Angelyne, a real-life figure who popped up on billboards in L.A. during the 80s and 90s. She had a small band, but they weren’t her path to fame. The mystery of who this person is, why she’s suddenly everywhere – that created the fame. It wasn’t an outside marketing push either; she convinced a billboard company to start posting her picture all over the city.

“Angelyne” tells her story – and the story of those around her – in a faux documentary format. I avoid the term mockumentary because it’s not as straightforward as that genre’s premise. Interviews shape each episode, shifting from one set of characters to another in order to introduce possible frameworks of truth. The bulk of each episode happens in those flashbacks, but there’s no solid omniscient or filmmaker’s perspective here.

The genius of Rossum’s performance isn’t that she’s playing a character well, it’s that she’s playing a character well who’s playing Angelyne – sometimes well, sometimes unevenly, sometimes learning how to play Angelyne better. Angelyne as a celebrity icon is as much a place to hide as anything else, a shield from engaging the world on its own, often unfair terms. Early on, Angelyne talks about living a “painless existence”. She sees her own story as malleable, her own past as unimportant. Details take the shine off the mystery. If who she is needs to be constantly mutable, then details are antithetical to Angelyne existing in the first place.

The best parts of “Angelyne” center on the clashing truths of its bevy of untrustworthy narrators. An early scene features Angelyne’s boyfriend Cory describing their breakup. She’s jealous that his single is getting radio play, that he has a billboard before she does, that he has some fame rather than acting as a stepping stone to her own. In the middle of her temper tantrum, she coldly stops to point out this isn’t how it went. She literally drags Cory onto another set, where he grudgingly takes his place in her version of the scene – in bed with another woman. Based on the performances and some logic, we can take away that her version of the scene is likely the real one, but it’s not always quite this clear.

Even our understanding of Angelyne – as narcissist, a manipulator of others, obsessed with her own fame, renegotiating others into corners – is founded upon a reaction to intergenerational trauma, loss, child abuse, Hollywood misogyny. There’s a complex well of truths to draw from, and no compass for how and where each is relevant.

Angelyne is a cultish narcissist who saps others of years of their lives, who redirects their dreams so hers can feed on them. Angelyne is a feminist reaction to the 1980s and the role women were expected to play, someone who only ever played the game exactly as the men in Hollywood do. Angelyne is a beautiful self-expression of someone realizing who they want to be; Angelyne is a survival mechanism that shelters someone who never had a chance to discover who she wanted to be. All of these things are true, especially the parts that don’t agree.

It sells the mystery of the show: who is Angelyne? That’s a feat when my initial thought would be why should I care about a forgotten 80s icon who was famous simply for being famous? But there’s something in the heart of Rossum’s portrayal that communicates a woman haunted by something, trying to erase her past while using those around her to Positive Think her way into a new reality where none of it matters. What that pain is, why it needs running away from, that’s what makes Angelyne matter.

If Angelyne is the shelter from it all that she lives inside, how does that speak to others who also face something they have to escape? Is that her appeal? Is she a safe space not just for herself, but for fans who recognize they need a similar shelter? And how does this interact with her manipulation and harm of those closest to her?

This is what makes Angelyne’s determination to control her narrative compelling, even if that means lying about the facts as that narrative is told. There are good and bad reasons, and every other unreliable narrator disagrees how the scale tips between them.

The series also takes its most dramatic moments and transforms them. Drama is uninteresting to “Angelyne” because it conveys trauma rather than escaping from it. Camp and kitsch are far more interesting, because these are visual expressions and celebrations of that escape. The moments where Angelyne escapes, or helps someone else feel like they’ve escaped their burdens, are sometimes literal flights of fancy. Camp gives us emotional answers while being uninterested in the precise, logical ones.

There’s one scene where a reporter talks about Angelyne showing him who she really is. They enter a mansion’s front hall – which also happens to be space featuring a surreal, kitschy dance number. It makes no sense whatsoever, and yet it’s an emotionally complete answer.

At times, “Angelyne” is genius. Yet as it gets more precise and reveals more about her past, the camp stops fitting as well. It’s hard to say if this is a shift from Lucy Tcherniak to Matt Spicer as director, or simply the script having to describe lawsuits and the harder details of Angelyne’s past. The show gets to an incredibly high plateau midway through, and finishes very solidly, but its strength rests in those moments where Angelyne fights over the narrative and reality.

As we’re told more single truths, instead of trying to figure out what truth is from a morass of elements, the show gets heavier and more dramatic. What could earlier be fused to camp underpinnings doesn’t fit cleanly anymore. Perhaps this is necessary and inevitable, but as a show there’s an alchemy it reaches that starts to fall a little out of balance. It’s not enough to ruin anything – the show’s still extremely good. There’s just some really heightened storytelling in this that I wish could have pushed through that last step.

It’s one of the best shows of the year, with one of the best performances of the year. Expect a biopic or drama and you’ll be disappointed. If you like metaphor through camp and kitsch, it offers a complex portrayal with some stunning moments.

You can watch “Angelyne” on Peacock.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Makes the Silliest 60s Villain Terrifying

There are very few villains that send a chill up my spine. “Star Trek” as a franchise has had three. Those original flavor Borg with their singular objective and minimalist score still thrill me every time I scroll past a rerun of “The Best of Both Worlds”. They may represent the hallmark moment of franchise villainy precisely because they can’t be circumvented through diplomacy or logic. Their single-minded objective is a straight line from “we need to assimilate you” to “you’re assimilated”. There’s no wiggle room for negotiation within that.

Of course, later iterations of the Borg would reveal hive structures, hierarchies, a queen – elements that may make them more interesting, but that also open them up to the power of negotiation and compromise. We all know if a Starfleet crew can negotiate with someone, they don’t have to beat them or survive them any longer, they just need to solve the mystery of getting to the same table together.

This was one of the most exciting ideas that premised “Star Trek: Discovery”. The Klingons recognized the negotiation table was inevitable, that Federation diplomacy was too influential to overcome, and the only way to stave it off was a state of ever-present war. But the Klingons aren’t really terrifying when their most famous character is the big, cuddly grumpikins that is Worf.

The second terrifying villain in “Star Trek” came from “Voyager”. This came in the form of the Vidiians, whose species were dying to a disease known as the Phage. The Vidiians themselves were tremendously empathetic, but what the Phage forced them to do meant that there was once again no room for a diplomatic or logical solution. The Vidiians use other species to replenish the degraded organs of their own, hunting living transplant candidates. Simply put, you can’t negotiate with a disease, and their single-minded desperation was something anyone could be driven to. This also gave us the greatest of the Janeway monologues:

Perhaps “Deep Space Nine” should count – not for the Dominion but for the more realistic, religiously manipulative, systemic villainy of Kai Winn and the casual, self-justifying embodiment of genocide in Gul Dukat. But DS9 dealt more in grasping its large concepts, in looking at what should be terrifying and understanding the banality of it, and in so doing knowing better how to recognize and resist it. Where the other shows in the franchise offer hope, DS9 engages the practical work that builds it (except for O’Brien, who is forever destined to get screwed). Where various iterations of the Enterprise would tell the alien of the week, “This is where the real work for your people begins” before flying off to the next adventure, DS9 just tucked into the work. It couldn’t really fly anywhere. There’s a place for both, but there’s a reason DS9 is heads above the other shows for me.

And there are villains who are just fun. Jeffrey Combs is 32 flavors and then some of Weyoun, Romulans drag the party down with that Cold War energy but have by far the coolest ships, Q borders right on that line between fun and annoying, and Ricardo Montalban’s Khan – perhaps the greatest Star Trek villain of all – is so successful a foil to Captain Kirk that he actually grounds William Shatner’s acting for a whole movie.

There are also one-off horror episodes, something “The Next Generation” was particularly good at with “Night Terrors”, “Schisms”, and “Identity Crisis”, but occasionally missed on with “Conspiracy” or the fun but ludicrous “Genesis”. Yet these didn’t offer villains who promised to return so much as mysteries that could be solved then and there. Certainly, there was no one who made a promise to return an undeniable threat that you couldn’t begin solving.

Enter “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”. The series is wildly successful out of the gate, drawing from all eras of Star Trek and firmly planting its stake as one of the best series of the year. It retains the quickfire, in-the-moment nature of “Star Trek: Discovery” while framing standalone episodes along the lines of “The Next Generation” or “Voyager”. It returns the franchise’s sense of weekly moral quandaries with stellar casting that includes Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Christina Chong, and Melissa Navia, just to name a few.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” delivers the most chilling moment in the franchise since “The Best of Both Worlds” and that chilling Borg synth score. It comes from the most unlikely place, a species long known for its rubber suit and slow, memeable fighting in “The Original Series”. I hope you’re ready to log-in to YouTube so they can make sure you’re old enough to watch this mature, violent content:

But “Strange New Worlds” takes that single 60s villain (and its brief CGI entry in mirror-universe “Enterprise”) and turns the Gorn into a force of nature, an unseen pack hunter seeking live prey to transport to the planets where they raise their young, like a cat bringing a mouse back to its kittens so they can train for killing. “Memento Mori” immediately becomes the most thrillingly frightening Star Trek entry in nearly three decades, and it returns me to that place where I was a 90s kid enraptured by what I saw on screen.

Sure, the episode’s a ‘submarine’ episode, a franchise staple of ships hiding from each other in space since “Balance of Terror” in 1966. It doesn’t just emulate, though, it translates the concept into the remarkable pace and energy of “Strange New Worlds”. In a franchise that enjoys characters sitting down to problem solve, the Gorn’s single-minded relentlessness – much like the Borg’s – is what makes them most terrifying. You can’t problem-solve relentlessness, you just have to hope you can mitigate the damage of each new corner you’re pressed into as you try to outlast it.

In its first three episodes, the series has already shown us it can pull off first contact, space mystery, and medical emergency plotlines. Now it’s shown us it can land a space action/horror episode with cinematic elegance. Next we get a comedy episode.

Look, this article’s an excuse to geek out about Star Trek memories, sure – but really it’s a way of highlighting just how impressive “Strange New Worlds” is. I could go on and on, and might in the future. There’s so much to talk about in Captain Pike’s soft-spoken, inclusive, patient, and trusting style of leadership, an expression of healthy masculinity realized by Anson Mount that’s still rarely seen in film or TV. It speaks volumes in a franchise where Kirk would bite, Picard would go full rulebook, Saru’s still learning, and Archer would ask for suggestions as an excuse to dump his passive-aggression on whoever he could corner.

(Sisko and Janeway are cool, though. How best captain boils down to Picard and Kirk instead is beyond me. Maybe if you Tuvixed them into Pikirk or Kircard. That fanfic’s gotta be out there.)

Right, the point is that “Strange New Worlds” is a phenomenal show, and it’s the strongest, most polished “Star Trek” straight out of the gate. I say this as someone who loves the new and old shows. For instance, “Discovery” gets a lot of flak, but it takes some of the silliest legacy concepts in Star Trek and creates captivating, meaningful story arcs around two of the best leads the franchise has ever had (Sonequa Martin-Green’s Burnham and Doug Jones’s Saru). And of course, “Strange New Worlds” got a bit of a try-out across season 2 of “Discovery” itself.

“Strange New Worlds” builds on the divergent modern trio of “Discovery”, “Lower Decks” (more than you’d think), and “Picard” in some very smart ways, but it also takes big parts from what made the more strictly shaped 90s trio so successful. It reinterprets retro design and ideas from “TOS” and “Enterprise”, and mixes and matches special effects elements with CGI in a way that hasn’t been realized quite this thoroughly in the franchise before.

Four episodes in, and “Strange New Worlds” has announced that it’s eager to try anything and everything Star Trek, with the talent and development in place to succeed on every count. That it’s delivered terror in a way we haven’t had since original flavor Borg is just one way of saying it’s delivering Star Trek in a way we haven’t seen since the 90s – thankfully not the exact same way, and certainly with 30 years more social progress. In terms of result, it feels like the bridge between the 90s and today, episodically self-contained but with a faster, modern cinematic approach replacing the stagy elements of the 60s/90s/00s era. (If you forced me to choose the most similar entry, I’d go straight to the last of the 90s shows and the previous best bridge of the eras, “Voyager”.)

“Strange New Worlds” easily stands on its own, but if you like “Star Trek”, you’ll recognize a mountain of elements and influences drawn from across the franchise’s history. What’s more impressive is what you won’t recognize until you think about it later. “Strange New Worlds” does an incredible job of absorbing and learning from what’s come before in a way that feels seamless and incredibly natural as you’re watching.

You can watch “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — May 27, 2022

We had a few weeks a month back where we were seeing 10-15 entries a week. Things have cooled off in late May, but it’s not as if major series like “Obi-Wan Kenobi” or “Stranger Things” are afraid to debut new seasons.

Anecdotally, I’d suggest that international, non-English series and films have eased off the last few weeks in the U.S. I’ve also seen a drop-off in straight-to-VOD releases. I know the theatrical approach is for these to find room at the beginning and end of the year. Some of this has to do with grouping around the awards season, when international and indie-styled films get their best chance at a marketing push.

Beyond this, summer tends to be occupied by tentpole franchises. If streaming follows the same logic as theatrical releasing for these, that could explain why major franchises are still debuting new content while there are fewer non-English and indie-styled releases. Summer break has a lot to do with this, as families find series and movies to watch together and, for whatever reason, things like Finnish noir tend not to make that list.

And look, I don’t know a good segue for this, but we’ve seen this week that not all families make it to the summer. In the wake of the Robb Elementary School gun massacre in Uvalde, Texas, attention’s been called to the fact that the leading cause of death among children is now due to guns – surpassing motor vehicles for the first time since the data’s been recorded.

I don’t mean to always make the intro here or commentary in my other articles touch on issues like these, but the U.S. never really left suffering a slow-motion coup. We may have gotten Biden elected and the January 6, 2021 insurrection may have passed, but the Republican party has become one of increasing terrorism. Even in the wake of the Robb Elementary School gun massacre, Senate Republicans voted against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022 just yesterday. They don’t want to see gun sales decreased or the white nationalism that feeds their coup impacted. Put plainly: they’d rather that domestic terrorists buy guns than lose a consumer for the gun industry. To see why, you only need look at the list of senators who receive funding from the NRA, starting with everyone’s favorite excuse for a moderate Mitt Romney at $13.6 million.

The right to an abortion, gun regulation, voting rights, single-payer healthcare, combating climate change…we could have these, but it takes an Uvalde to get engagement on our side back up to the levels it consistently hit under Trump. It shouldn’t take disasters like these to get us to fill up congressional voicemails. I’ve coordinated activism, and worked as a legislative aide and campaign manager. If we could manage the level of engagement we’re at now, or during the vote on the ACA a few years ago, we could steamroll Republicans. We could manage unprecedented turnout. It’s difficult and uncomfortable, and requires sacrifice in all of our lives, but better to sacrifice time and effort in our lives than the actual lives of elementary school children and their teachers.

This goes double for men. In every facet of activism, men have a tendency to show up to lead and not to work. Most activist calls to Congress are made by women. As men, we’re conditioned to armchair quarterback how someone else does activist work rather than to do it ourselves, as if we all haven’t complained about that exact same kind of useless manager at some point in our lives. It’s not women’s job to save children, it’s all our job. It’s not women’s job to fight for women’s rights, it’s all our job. It’s not women’s job to stave off a slow-motion coup, it’s all our job. As men, we need to show up, and listen to the voices that are leading activism in order to know what work needs doing. Then we need to actually do it, and we need to get other men to join us in this mentality.

Let’s awkward segue to the new show and film this week:

NEW SERIES

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)
showrunner Deborah Chow

Obi-Wan Kenobi lives in hiding as the Empire employs special hunters to run the rest of the Jedi down. Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen return from the prequels as Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.

Deborah Chow has directed on “The Mandalorian”, “American Gods, and “Better Call Saul”. She showruns and directs all six episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi”.

You can watch “Obi-Wan Kenobi” on Disney+. Two episodes premiere today, with a new one premiering every Friday.

NEW MOVIES

A Banquet (Shudder, AMC+)
directed by Ruth Paxton

Sienna Guillory plays Holly, a widowed mother who tries to cope with her daughter Betsey declaring her body now belongs to a higher power. Betsey refuses to eat, but doesn’t suffer or lose weight, and Holly is forced to contend with who or what this higher power may be.

Ruth Paxton started as a production designer and art director, and has written and directed several shorts that interpret painting and dance. This is her feature-length debut.

You can watch “A Banquet” on Shudder or AMC+, or see where to rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Nostalgia Bait Can Get Off My Lawn — “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers”

I’m working on an article about the evolution of cyberpunk and I found myself thinking about William Gibson’s shift from cyber noir into postcyberpunk. It happened with a novel called “Pattern Recognition”, and I bring it up because the protagonist Cayce is allergic to brands. She gets sick when she sees a logo. Marketing firms hire her because she has an eye for good design – the few logos that she can physically tolerate. She feels debilitated around places like Times Square, where the number of brands overwhelms the senses. “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” would have seen her hunched over a garbage can.

Let’s get this out of the way first: most people like this movie. You might, too. My reaction to it appears to be clearly in the minority. If you like it, that’s awesome and I’m glad you do. I’m not going to super-focus on trashing it or anything. OK, maybe a line or two, but that’s it. I’ll go through what I don’t like, but for me, it opens up a far more interesting conversation about the increasing habit of brand packing such as in this or “Ready Player One”. I don’t take to it the way some do, and where that line of tolerance exists for different viewers is really interesting to me.

“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” was a series I loved as a kid. I was way too young to remember much when I watched it. My memory of it is really just brief impressions. I couldn’t name a specific scene if you asked, so I don’t have nostalgia for it as much as I have curiosity about what it can be.

The animated series followed chipmunks Chip and Dale, riffs on Indiana Jones and Magnum, P.I. They start a detective agency together and handle cases brought to them by other animals.

The new movie decides this is all a show the pair are cast in, and decades later the chipmunk actors who played those parts have gone their separate ways. It allows the film to tackle a world of human and animal actors – many of whom are 2D cartoons getting 3D surgery to appear in 3D-animated films. It’s very similar to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in terms of worldbuilding. Dale is still pursuing acting, so he’s gotten the 3D surgery, while Chip is content to work in insurance as the same old 2D version of himself.

They parted on bad terms, but the kidnapping of cartoon actors forces them to work together when their friend Monterey Jack (a mouse actor on “Rescue Rangers”) is kidnapped. The culprits are bootleggers, who redraw the kidnapped cartoon actors into similar but legally distinct characters they can then film in foreign knockoffs.

That’s clever, but “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” always seems to stop at clever. There are few punchlines, just a lot of smart set-up. One scene involves police investigating the crime and telling Chip and Dale they’re at a dead end. It combines 2D, 3D, stop-motion, puppetry, and live-action to some stunning effect. Some of these are emulated through CG rather than being the actual medium, but the scene is a successful meld of influences nonetheless. The problem is that nothing happens in it. The stop-motion detective in charge tells them several times over that he can’t do anything, and then a live-action officer just names the next plot point so they can get to it.

This highlights some big problems in the film. The script is repetitive and feels like a rough draft of concepts that need to be fleshed out with more specific dialogue later. Even a kids film (although this is a pretty adult take on it in places) needs dialogue that at least pretends it’s not the same conversation you’ve heard in a thousand movies before.

All the live-action actors come off as extremely wooden. Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, and Joanna Cassidy were anything but un-emotive in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. A hybrid animation like this is a brilliant excuse to choose certain emotional ranges for live-action characters and play them up. Although it’s a little bit different as a hybrid medium, take a look at any Muppets movie for another example of this approach. That’s completely missing here.

As for the animated characters, Chip and Dale were once a charmingly optimistic and playful odd couple. They’re just downright annoying here. John Mulaney’s fine voice-acting Chip, but Andy Samberg’s Dale comes off as Andy Samberg. He’s a great ensemble player when he has a Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews, or Cristin Milioti to do the heavy lifting of everything else going on, but I have trouble with him as the central focus. He highlights moments in comedy rather than carrying them the whole way. That’s not a criticism; very few people can do that. It just means that I don’t think he’s used right at all here.

The biggest issue by far is probably the most divisive one. “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” has received a ton of praise for how many character brands it packs into its world. This is what reminds me of Cayce from “Pattern Recognition”. It all starts to feel less like worldbuilding and comedy, and more like an infomercial for unused discount brands.

When Ugly Sonic gets an early monologue about his plight in life, I had mixed thoughts. The human-like CG hedgehog originally advertised in the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie was replaced with a more cartoonish version after fan backlash. The original design was no longer in the film, but survived as a meme. Yet his inclusion in this film struck me less as a nod to fans, and more as “we spent a lot of money on that original CG, let’s see if we can make a brand out of him”.

It doesn’t help that the joke centers on his human-like teeth, a major online criticism that resulted in his redesign. Ugly Sonic doesn’t make any jokes or participate in the creation of any joke; the joke is simply “remember that criticism you had once”. The content is just a quick game of Recognize the Memory. There’s a market for that out there, but I guess I’m really not part of it. What I find interesting going forward as we get more and more brand-packed films like this is where that separation occurs.

The opening of the novel “Ready Player One” lists the 1980s obsessions of a billionaire tech celebrity. Exhaustively. It even has footnotes about additional 80s details the initial list doesn’t cover. It’s grueling. It operates off of the idea that rote nostalgia is content, to the point where I found it unreadable. The book was a major hit.

I know I’m not totally alone in this reaction, though. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” was widely criticized in 2021 for being a laundry list of Warner Bros. brands shoved into a movie in the hope LeBron James’s presence might reignite interest in one of them. The difference appears to be where that line is for different viewers.

I don’t think most would disagree that “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of the most successful approaches to folding disparate sources together into one story. Sure, Miles Morales, Peter B. Parker, and Gwen Stacy live in similar enough universes, but Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir? Kimiko Glen’s mech-operating anime Peni Parker? Spider-Ham? It shouldn’t have worked in a thousand years, but instead…it was funny, endearing, and surprisingly meaningful.

Maybe that dictates where the line gets drawn. An early joke in the “Rescue Rangers” movie is that onetime mouse co-star Gadget has married fly costar Zipper. The pair have had 42 babies, half-mouse, half-fly. I didn’t watch the entire film in one sitting, and this joke is just one example why I initially turned it off. It felt mean-spirited to take a character known primarily as an inventor – even if it’s a cartoon, cartoons can still shape us, and it was probably my first mainstream exposure as a child to the idea that women should be scientific leaders – it certainly made the argument more forcefully than what mainstream content for adults was pushing in the 90s. Yet here she’s reduced to a mother pumping out 42 half-fly babies. That’s the joke. Look at a meaningful message in a kids show about the idea women should lead in STEM, now she’s pumping out 42 babies. I guess it’s hilarious if you’re on the Supreme Court.

The characters feel like throwing a thousand brands at the wall to see which might stick and become profitable, and the jokes feel randomly applied because they’re funny to some in a vaccuum, regardless of the spirit behind them, the context, or whether they fit a character. I found it unwatchable. The movie is a major hit.

Maybe this is my get-off-my-lawn moment; I just didn’t expect it to hit in my 30s. Also, I guess I’d need to own a lawn to tell people to get off it and, you know: housing prices.

I don’t think I have answers for where each of us draws the line between finding something to be an inspired collection of sources vs. a compilation of nostalgia-bait masquerading as whole content. I’m not saying I’m right about where that line is – the whole point is it’s different for each of us. We each have different tolerances for it.

I’m not like Cayce, I’m not skipping dinner out of the nausea of it, but I’m so wary of the brand fire sale that many of these films become. I’m wary of the door that opens up into normalizing movies as dumping grounds for as many brand relaunches as can be packed in. We complain about well-thought out reboots or reinterpretations of a single source, and why doesn’t Hollywood come up with anything original, while we take an hour-and-a-half to invite 40 one-note jokes to compete for our relaunch love. The tension of the movie becomes less about anything on-screen, and more about which disused brand will find its viral moment. Maybe it’ll launch a new streaming Ugly Sonic series.

In a way, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before:

You can watch “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” on Disney+.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — May 20, 2022

It’s a quieter week, but with a few intriguing new projects. There’s been a surge of new women-led shows over the last month, so it’s also a good opportunity to catch up. The last few weeks have had new series dropping left and right, including Apple’s “The Essex Serpent” and “Shining Girls”, HBO’s “The Staircase”, Hulu’s “Candy”, Netflix’s “42 Days of Darkness” and “The 7 Lives of Lea”, Paramount’s “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and “The Offer”, PBS’s “Ridley Road”, and Showtime’s “The First Lady” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth”.

I’m personally interested in “Angelyne” and “Troppo” this week, and I’m always curious what Belen Rueda’s doing, but a lighter week means that not all tastes will be served. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on what’s been covered in past weeks, too.

For now, let’s look at this week:

NEW SERIES

Angelyne (Peacock)
showrunner Allison Miller
directed by Lucy Tcherniak

Emmy Rossum plays “Angelyne”. Based on the true story of a model who came to prominence in the 80s by buying billboards to promote her punk band, she in many ways presaged our brand-as-content era.

Allison Miller showruns. She’s produced on “Strange Angel” and “Brave New World”. She started her career as an assistant on the “Spartacus” series.

You may not know Lucy Tcherniak as a director, but with multiple episodes each of “The End of the F***ing World”, “Station Eleven”, and “Wanderlust”, she’s the definition of a director to watch out for.

You can watch “Angelyne” on Peacock. All 5 episodes are available immediately.

Troppo (Amazon)
showrunner Yolanda Ramke

In this Australian series, Thomas Jane plays a disgraced ex-cop. He escapes to the Australian tropics and finds himself wrapped up in a private investigative service run by a wanted woman.

Showrunner Yolanda Ramke wrote and directed Martin Freeman-starrer “Cargo”. She’s also directed on “The Haunting of Bly Manor” and wrote on “New Gold Mountain”.

You can watch “Troppo” on Amazon. It’s on one of the app’s sub-channels called Freevee, which means you can watch it as part of your subscription, but with ads. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

NEW MOVIES

The Perfect Family (Netflix)
directed by Arantxa Echevarria

Belen Rueda plays Lucia, a matriarch who disapproves of her son’s girlfriend and their in-laws. If Rueda seems familiar, she was the lead in Spanish horror film “The Orphanage” and drama “The Sea Inside”. There’s no English-translated trailer, but the film will have subtitles.

Arantxa Echevarria directs. She also directed “Carmen & Lola”. She got her start as a trainee assistant director in the 90s, later moving into production managing.

You can watch “The Perfect Family” on Netflix.

13 Minutes (Showtime)
directed by Lindsay Gossling

This drama follows four families on the day a tornado hits their town. Amy Smart, Thora Birch, Paz Vega, and Anne Heche star.

Writer-director Lindsay Gossling previously wrote “Un traductor”. This is her first feature film as director.

You can watch “13 Minutes” on Showtime, or see where to rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Shows + Movies by Women — May 13, 2022

Please continue to call your Congresspeople, as well as elected officials at the state level, to support enshrining abortion rights into law. The more states have protections for it, and protections for both abortion providers and their patients, the more difficult it will be for Republicans to push further. Republicans will erode the right to an abortion in states that currently maintain it if given the chance, and it’s much harder to retake rights while you’re still losing them.

If you’re a dude who’s never called your elected officials or who used to but doesn’t anymore, start doing it. A call a weekday means you get five a week for…what, two or three minutes a day? Double that for five minutes a day. That’s it? That’s literally the absolute least we could be doing to support the right to an abortion. Treat it as a first step, but at least take it. Elected officials need to start hearing men in support of the right to an abortion, too.

NEW SERIES

The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+)
showrunner Anna Symon
directed by Clio Barnard

Claire Danes stars as Cora, a widow who moves to Essex. She’s there to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. She bonds with a local pastor played by Tom Hiddleston, but the locals soon believe that she’s the reason for the creature’s presence. This is an adaptation of the novel by Sarah Perry.

Anna Symon’s become an in-demand writer, having scribed recent series “Mrs. Wilson” and “Deep Water”. Director Clio Barnard has been nominated for three BAFTAs, including for “Ali & Ava” as this year’s Outstanding British Film of the Year.

You can watch “The Essex Serpent” on Apple TV+. The first two episodes are available now, with another premiering every Friday for a total of 6.

Candy (Hulu)
Showrunner Robin Veith

Jessica Biel stars as Candy, a housewife in 1980 Texas who’s had enough. The result is a double murder. Melanie Lynskey co-stars. The show is based on real events.

Showrunner Robin Veith has produced on “The Expanse” and “True Blood”. She started out as a writers’ assistant on “Mad Men” before working her way up to executive story editor and staff writer on that show.

You can watch “Candy” on Hulu. It debuted an episode a day this week, making all 5 available now.

42 Days of Darkness (Netflix)
co-showrunner Claudia Huaiquimilla

In this Chilean series, Cecilia searches for her missing sister Veronica. The case balloons as media-hungry detectives and a greedy lawyer complicate an investigation she’ll just have to do herself.

Writer-director Claudia Huaiquimilla showruns with director Gaspar Antillo. This is her first series after writing and directing two feature films.

You can watch “42 Days of Darkness” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are available immediately.

CW: suicide

New Heights (Netflix)
showrunner Marianne Wendt
half directed by Sabine Boss

When Michi’s father commits suicide, he’s forced to choose between a successful career and a shot at keeping their family’s farm running. No English trailer for this one, but the series has subtitles.

The Swiss drama is created and showrun by Marianne Wendt, a writer who usually works in German television. Director Sabine Boss helms half the episodes. She won for Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 2014 Swiss Film Prizes for “I Am the Keeper”, and was nominated in 2003 for Best Film for “Ernstfall in Havanna”.

You can watch “New Heights” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

The Kids in the Hall (Amazon)
half directed by Aleysa Young

The 90s Canadian sketch comedy show returns with the original cast.

Aleysa Young directs the first five episodes. She directed “Baroness Von Sketch Show” and on “Kim’s Convenience”.

You can watch “The Kids in the Hall” on Amazon.

NEW MOVIES

The Stylist (Shudder, AMC+)
directed by Jill Gevargizian

A hair stylist obsesses over her clients’ lives. In an attempt to make her own relevant to theirs, she begins murdering them.

Writer-director Jill Gevargizian has mostly directed short films and in horror anthologies. This comes from starting a monthly showcase for indie and amateur filmmakers in her town. “The Stylist” is an expansion on a short film she directed in 2016, and comes from the experience of working as a hair stylist for more than a decade.

You can watch “The Stylist” on Shudder, or AMC+.

Sneakerella (Disney+)
directed by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum

A sneaker designer dreams of getting his designs seen by the most famous brand. He hopes to make it to SneakerCon and impress, but can he escape the endless list of chores and expectations at home?

Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum has helmed on shows like “Dead to Me” and “Empire”.

You can watch “Sneakerella” on Disney+.

Faye (Hoopla)
directed by Kd Amond

Faye is an author of self-help books. She goes to a cabin to finish her next book and try to find some peace after the death of her husband. Needless to say, creepy things ensue.

This is writer-director Kd Amond’s third film. She’s produced and edited a large number of short films in the last several years.

You can watch “Faye” on Hoopla, or see where you can rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

The Fashion Faux Pas of “Halo”

Flapper space wife is back. She says some sensible stuff that’s largely ignored, and totally won’t come back to bite her husband. This is the burden of Flapper Space Wife. But first!

I ended last week’s rundown by saying “Halo” had found its true voice, centering itself on Natascha McElhone’s brilliant portrayal of Natascha McElhone as she smirks vengeance at anyone who dares turn her monologue into a dialogue.

I even said: “What about Kwan Ha, Soren, and their rebellion against the Rhyming Dictator? The show may have realized it had no clue where its B-plot was going and cut it out. We see them fleetingly in episode 5 before they disappear completely in ep 6. Buuut, it’s “Halo”, so I’m sure the next episode will be entirely about them”.

Yeah sure, betting on horse racing is legal, but there’s no betting market for future “Halo” plotlines. That’s my calling. I coulda been someone. I could’ve gone on that midnight edition of Sportscenter that’s all about gambling and tolerated Scott Van Pelt long enough to explain the betting ins and outs of calling future “Halo” episodic arcs. But that’s too ridiculous! Let’s just stick to reasonable things, like betting on which horse can tolerate the largest amount of drugs the longest. And you wonder why I keep watching “Halo” instead.

We open with a flashback to when Kwan Ha was younger. It shows us that she was once angry at her dad for leading the rebellion that she now wants to lead. The only thing this makes us understand better is how “Halo” isn’t capable of portraying character development. It just gives you flashbacks where the characters were totally different in order to make you go, “Huh, I guess they must’ve learned and changed in a more interesting episode I didn’t get to see”.

Cut to Soren, Kwan Ha’s erstwhile chaperone. He’s having a party with his flapper space wife and their flapper space family. Naturally, this must be a flashback as well – the last we saw of him his double-cross of Kwan Ha was double-crossed and he was stranded unconscious in the desert without a ship. The show wouldn’t steal from us the tale of how he managed to escape a desert planet with no money or transport, would it yesitwould.

Soren’s just suddenly back home with no explanation for how he got there. But there is talk of how he came back without his ship, his valuable bounty, or his payment. What is that talk? Will it tell us how he made it back to his asteroid colony faster than it’s taking Kwan Ha to drive 100 miles? It’s not that sort of talk. It’s more like an amorphous, non-specific talk that fades into an incoherent mumbling, like the showrunners trying to explain where the fucking budget went, or a Bob Dylan lyric.

It’s enough talk to set up an incoming plot point, but not so much as to explain the several that just got skipped.

In front of Soren’s entire party, his business partner Squirrel is all like, “Have you heard the talk? It’s a-mumbling”. Why’s his name Squirrel? Who knows anymore.

Soren takes offense at this. He asks Squirrel if he thinks Soren’s lost a step. Squirrel is kind of frenetic in an anxious way – maybe that’s why he’s named Squirrel. Anyway, he backs off and Flapper Space Wife ™ collects Soren, but not before he lays this line down. Check it out, this is why you watch seven episodes deep: “Looks like Squirrel found his nuts”. Oh shit! That’s why he’s named Squirrel! For that line. So the writers could put that line in the dialogue! Emmys here we come!

Later, Soren regrets leaving Kwan Ha on Madrigal. Flapper Space Wife tells him she knows that Kwan Ha’s still alive cause Vinsher just tripled the bounty on her.

What about that rhyming dictator? Vinsher’s more into free verse now, OK? He rides around the desert in a black SUV spamming lines that want to be like Shakespeare at a driver who probably doesn’t get paid enough for this shit.

And folks? You haven’t lived until you’ve seen his trenchcoat made entirely from backpack mesh pockets. Oh, you think I’m kidding:

A tremendous loss of backpacks supplies Burn Gorman's Vinsher coat in "Halo".

This guy’s awesome. Those pockets were on every backpack made in the 90s and 2000s. He must’ve hunted every single one of them down to have that coat made, Cruella de Vil style. Of course, he’s a dictator, so I’m sure it’s bulletproof, like every backpack made in the 2020s.

So he’s being driven around, wearing his backpack coat EVERYWHERE, and spitting free verse like the only way to save the old student center is to beat Anne Waldman one-on-one in a Poetry Battle at Bennington Parents Weekend, and he only just learned what poetry is from his drunk roommate last night.

Meanwhile, Kwan Ha’s located the desert witches who can prophesy her fate. It’s refreshing to see such an original plot point in sci-fi for once. Their religion seems to be based around wearing extremely fake white wigs. The head desert witch, Desiderata (I shit you not) is all like, “I don’t know, you’re too angry. The only way you can prove yourself is to drink this juice I just made from fire”.

PSA: This is an example of peer pressure. If someone ever makes you hand flame juice, don’t drink that shit. Kwan Ha does, and the vision she has is actually kind of cool. She has to fight Master Chief, who unmasks even in her dream, but of course she can’t even dent him. It’s only when she realizes she doesn’t have to fight Master Chief in her vision and they can just hold hands that he remembers his stage directions and Carlos Castanedas her over to her father.

Her dad tells her that their family are the protectors of a portal. To where? He won’t tell her, but I’m totes mega sure it won’t have anything to do with the Halo ringworld that Master Chief and Makee had a vision of last week. I’m sure it’s a portal to the nowhere else that’s been mentioned in the show so far instead.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Soren and Squirrel are stealing a super-engine from the UNSC that’s going to make their ships extremely fast and it’s…like smaller than a car engine. In the universe that’s made a point of still using AK-47s 500 years from now. Sure. Soren catches Squirrel in a trap that relies on Squirrel putting his foot under a loaded shipping pallet so Soren can drop it on his toes cause there’s no way anyone can foresee Day One fucking OSHA training. How bout those nuts, Squirrel? Almonds and acorns, and I like cashews, those are good, pecan pie’s my favorite, are macademias overrated, I don’t know where I’m going with this, I’m clearly not the writer these “Halo” guys are.

I want to take a moment to highlight that their pirate crew is dressed like they’re characters from “Unreal Tournament 2004”, i.e. Cliff Bleszinski’s BDSM-tinged vision of corporate space future that’s also arguably the best multiplayer FPS ever made.

Unreal tournament 2004 Juggernauts character roster.

Come to think of it, Flapper Space Wife is more like Ska Emo Space Wife in this one, like if Gwen Stefani had gone club goth instead of marrying Gavin Rossdale. That’s probably the good timeline.

Soren gets back to Madrigal in the time it takes Kwan Ha to drive to a place the Desert Witches can clearly fucking see from their camp. So that’s Soren out of Madrigal and back to it in the space of a scene when earlier in the series they made it abundantly clear what an incredible and expensive pain it was for him to get there. Maybe he used the new carburetor he stole from the UNSC; we’ll never know.

Soren joins Kwan Ha as Vinsher descends on her, and Vinsher’s troops – all wearing trench coats in the desert – wander straight into a deuterium fuel field. Needless to say, they’re surprised when they’re blown up, Vinsher’s caught in the blast, and I’m totally sure his backpack mesh pocket coat didn’t save him and he won’t be back in a future episode with the make-up team going overboard on scars and burn texture. Seriously, let me bet on this nonsense.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I do think this was one of the better episodes of “Halo”. It’s certainly the best of the Kwan Ha plot so far, because she’s actually written to do something now. It works. I’m not sure what show it works for, but it works.

What about Natascha McElhone, Master Chief, and Cortana? The show may have realized it had no clue where its A-plot was going and cut it out. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Because I can’t.

You can watch “Halo” on Paramount Plus, but only if you’ve finished your OSHA training.

Help me reach my dream of one day having a backpack mesh pocket coat.

New Shows + Movies by Women — May 6, 2022

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion draft that would end Roe v. Wade, I want to repeat some things shared in the April 15 article. Please get involved – this is especially true for men reading this. I’ve done a good deal of organizing in activist spaces, and men showing up to do the work is not terribly common. We need to be involved, show up as allies, and consistently do the nitty-gritty work that helps everyone fight this.

Time and again, I’ve seen fellow men show up, realize they’re not going to be gifted a leadership position, and then fade away until it’s mostly women working to protect people. We have this mythology of ourselves as men that we show up to do work and protect others, but I’ve seen little evidence of that. From what I’ve seen, we tend to show up to be congratulated for showing up. We tend to armchair quarterback the people actually putting in the work, and pretend that doing that is somehow work. That’s some bullshit. We need to do far more than that.

We’re supposed to be allies. That means contacting elected officials, putting our weight into politically pressuring them. That means volunteering, marching, donating, and doing the routine, daily jobs that come up in the course of activist efforts regardless of whether they’re tough or thankless. We’re not here to be thanked. We’re here to give help. So give it.

Knowing what we’re up against is crucial – Washington Post has a good resource for the types of state bills that have been passed and introduced, including trigger bans that would go into effect the minute Roe v. Wade is overturned. It explains each type of bill in turn, and shows which phases each state is at.

Securing the right to an abortion is crucial in states that support the right to choose. This is being done at the state level in many states, either through law or, even more firmly, through amendment to the state constitution.

For instance, the Connecticut General Assembly has recently approved a bill that protects providers of care and patients seeking care in Connecticut, regardless of which state the patient comes from. It would ensure that information cannot be turned over to another state, and CT Governor Ned Lamont has vowed to sign it into law. The right to an abortion must not only be protected by law, but we need to make sure those laws protect people providing and seeking such medical care.

Right now, Republicans hide behind the perception that this is an issue for only half the population. They’ve bet that men aren’t going to show up to fight it, and when we don’t show up, their strategy proves out. We’re not needed to save the day, but we are needed to support those who are already leading. We’re needed to make abortion rights leaders’ jobs easier, we’re needed so that our numbers add enough to overwhelm what Republicans anticipated.

Our job isn’t to assess whether others are resisting appropriately; our job is to ensure the way they’ve chosen to resist has our numbers and support behind it. Allies do work for those they’re allied to, and this is a time we’re needed to do that work. As men, we need to join and support the fight for choice and the right to an abortion.

This week, new series by women come from Canada, Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. New films by women come from Argentina, Finland, France, and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

The Staircase (HBO Max)
co-showrunner Maggie Cohn

Based on the real incident, Michael Peterson is a crime novelist whose wife was found dead at the bottom of a staircase. The ensuing judicial battle lasted 16 years. Toni Collette, Colin Firth, Sophie Turner, and Parker Posey star in the biographical crime drama.

Maggie Cohn showruns with Antonio Campos. She brings experience as a producer on “American Crime Story”.

You can watch “The Staircase” on HBO Max. The first three episodes are available immediately, with a new one dropping every Thursday for a total of 8.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)
mostly directed by women

The newest “Star Trek” follows Captain Kirk’s direct predecessors on the Enterprise. Returning from well-loved roles in the 2019 season of “Star Trek: Discovery”, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, and Ethan Peck play Captain Pike, Commander Chin-Riley, and a young Lt. Spock. Other original series favorites return, such as Nyota Uhura and Christine Chapel.

Though Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman serve as showrunners, six of the 10 episodes look to be directed by women. This includes Amanda Row (“Nancy Drew”), Andi Armaganian (“Smallville”), Sydney Freeland (“Reservation Dogs”), Leslie Hope (“Snowpiercer”), Maja Vrvilo (“Star Trek: Discovery), and Valerie Weiss (“Outer Banks”).

You can watch “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+. New episodes drop every Thursday for a total of 10. Filming on a second season already started in January.

Ridley Road (PBS)
directed by Lisa Mulcahy

Based on the book by Jo Bloom, “Ridley Road” sees a Jewish woman go undercover within the 1960s British neo-Nazi movement.

Lisa Mulcahy directs off the teleplay by creator Sarah Solemani. She previously directed on British series “Years and Years” and “Blood”.

You can watch “Ridley Road” on PBS. New episodes arrive Sundays, for a total of 4.

The Porter (BET+)
showrunner Marsha Greene

The story of the first Black union is told through the eyes of those who formed it – porters working the railways that cross the U.S. and Canada.

Showrunner Marsha Greene previously produced on “Mary Kills People” and “Coroner”.

You can watch “The Porter” on BET+. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

CW: domestic violence

Blood Sisters (Netflix)
directed by Temidayo Makanjuola

Sarah gets engaged, but her upcoming nuptials hide a secret involving her friend Kemi.

This is the first project recorded for Temidayo Makanjuola, but IMDB can often be incomplete when it comes to Nigerian projects.

You can watch “Blood Sisters” on Neftlix. All 4 episodes are available immediately.

Signora Volpe (Acorn TV)
showrunners Rachel Cuperman, Sally Griffiths

Sylvia becomes disillusioned with her life of spycraft. On a trip to Italy for her niece’s wedding, things go wrong and she puts her skills to use. Perhaps she’ll start a new life as a detective in the Italian countryside.

Showrunners Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths both wrote for “Midsomer Murders”.

You can watch “Signora Volpe” on Acorn TV. New episodes drop every Monday for a total of 3.

NEW MOVIES

Language Lessons (HBO Max)
directed by Natalie Morales

Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass star as a Spanish teacher and an adult student who become friends.

Director and co-writer Morales also helmed last year’s “Plan B”. She’s best known for roles in “Dead to Me” and “Santa Clarita Diet”.

You can watch “Language Lessons” on HBO Max, or see where to rent it.

Inbetween Girl (VOD)
directed by Mei Makino

After her parents divorce, a teenage artist copes by secretly hooking up with the popular boy at school.

This is the first feature from writer-director Mei Makino.

See where to rent “Inbetween Girl”.

Anais in Love (VOD)
directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet

In this French film, Anais is broke and disinterested in her relationship. She falls for a new man, but he leads her to fall for the woman he’s seeing, Emilie.

This is the first feature from writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet.

See where to rent “Anais in Love” on iTunes or through Spectrum.

Hatching (Hulu)
directed by Hanna Bergholm

In this Finnish horror film, a gymnast finds a strange egg. She hides it from her demanding mother and keeps it safe, waiting for the day it hatches.

This is director Hanna Bergholm’s first feature.

You can watch “Hatching” on Hulu.

Along for the Ride (Netflix)
directed by Sofia Alvarez

Based on the novel by Sarah Dessen, two insomniacs explore their town at night before one heads to college.

Writer-director Sofia Alvarez helms her first film after writing the “To all the Boys” movies.

You can watch “Along for the Ride” on Netflix.

La afinadora de arboles (HBO Max)
directed by Natalia Smirnoff

In this Argentinian film, Clara and her family move to the countryside for a slower pace of life after she wins a world prize for children’s literature. Can’t find an English trailer for this, but there are subtitles for the film.

Director Natalia Smirnoff started out as an assistant director and casting director, including becoming Lucrecia Martel’s go-to casting director. Smirnoff started writing and directing features in 2010.

You can watch “La afinadora de arboles” on HBO Max.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Movies and how they change you.