Tag Archives: Elizabeth Olsen

New Shows + Movies by Women — The True Crime-Con Artist Hybrid

I’m always fascinated when multiple projects come out about the same real event. In this case, Elizabeth Olsen stars in “Love & Death” on Max (formerly HBO Max). She plays Candy Montgomery, who had an extramarital affair with the husband of her friend Betty. In 1980, Betty was found murdered, struck 41 times with an axe. Montgomery was accused and a high-profile trial followed.

Olsen and Lily Rabe take on the roles of Candy and Betty in Lesli Linka Glatter’s new series. Last year, Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey played the same two roles in Robin Veith’s “Candy” on Hulu. The two shows premiere 11 months apart.

As far as I can tell, there’s only been one narrative series before that’s directly depicted the case. 1990 TV movie “A Killing in a Small Town” was directed by Maggie and Jake’s father Stephen Gyllenhaal. It had a surprisingly good cast including Barbara Hershey, Brian Dennehy, and Hal Holbrook, and Hershey won an Emmy for it.

One adaptation in 40 years and then two in a year is unexpected. Why now? The true crime boom has been going on for years and years. If anything, you’d expect an adaptation of this case to arrive sooner. What’s different is the newer wave of true life con artist series – “The Dropout”, “Inventing Anna”, “Pam & Tommy”. This is also crime, but true crime as a genre usually revolves around murders. Con artist series cast a wider net.

What’s happened is you’ve seen the con artist narrative genre start to seep into true crime adaptations. These have become less about the investigation – the true crime portion – and more about the personality at the center of the case – more in line with the con artist genre. Renee Zellweger in “The Thing About Pam” and Elle Fanning in “The Girl from Plainville” are similar examples. They’re not primarily about the investigation, they’re about witnessing the person at the center of it all and how they attempt to ringmaster the circus around them.

We haven’t lost the true crime adaptations that focus on investigation, but the reinvigorated popularity of the Candy Montgomery trial doesn’t just speak to true crime obsession – it also evidences how the more recent popularity of con artist series have hybridized with true crime. It’s not as if we haven’t seen these projects before, but we are in a boom cycle for them. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ve got choice.

New series by women this week come from South Korea and the U.S., and a new movie from the U.S.


Love & Death (Max)
directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

Elizabeth Olsen stars as Candy, a woman who has an affair prior to the axe murder of her friend Betty (Lily Rabe). Jesse Plemons and Krysten Ritter co-star. The series is based on a real case that took place in 1980.

Lesli Linka Glatter has directed on a huge number of shows, including “Homeland”, “The West Wing”, “The Newsroom”, “The Morning Show”, “Mad Men”, “Masters of Sex”, and “Ray Donovan”. She got her start as a dancer and choreographer. She’s the current president of the Directors Guild of America.

“Love and Death” is on Max, the recently renamed platform formerly called HBO Max. The first three episodes premiered this week, with a new one arriving every Thursday for a total of 7.

The Good Bad Mother (Netflix)
directed by Shim Na Yeon

Young Soon is a single mother and pig farmer who raises her son with strict rules. As an adult, Kang Ho resents her. He’s become a prosecutor and kept her at arm’s length. An accident means he has to return home, connecting with old friends, a former crush, and trying to patch things up with his mother.

Director Shim Na Yeon also helmed “Beyond Evil”, named best series at the Baeksang Arts Awards (South Korea’s largest TV awards ceremony) for 2021.

“The Good Bad Mother” is on Netflix. The first two episodes premiered this week. The series will follow a two-a-week release strategy with new episodes arriving Wednesday and Thursday every week for a total of 14.

Saint X (Hulu)
showrunner Leila Gerstein

A woman investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. Ruled an accident, she’s determined to uncover the truth years later.

Showrunner Leila Gerstein has written and produced on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Looking for Alaska”.

“Saint X” is on Hulu. Three episodes are out day one, with a new one every Wednesday for a total of 8.


Clock (Hulu)
directed by Alexis Jacknow

In this horror movie, a woman takes more and more desperate measures attempting to “fix” a biological clock everyone keeps telling her is broken. Dianna Agron stars.

This is writer-director Alexis Jacknow’s first feature film.

“Clock” is on Hulu.

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

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AC: Why “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a Complete Disaster

Well, technically I phrase it why it’s “impressive, fun, and a complete disaster,” but chiefly it’s about the complete disaster part. And the film’s weird obsession with slow-motion cleavage shots. It’s like Joss Whedon suddenly turned into Michael Bay.

Here’s my review over on AC.


Massive Success and/or Giant Failure — “Godzilla”

Park all the tanks on that bridge

A fin coming out of the water and a two-note anthem. A velociraptor tapping her claw impatiently on the floor as she hunts two children in a hotel kitchen. These are some of the most terrifying moments on film, but why? It’s not the fin that frightens, but the monster it suggests, gliding underwater through Jaws. Yes, we’re scared of the raptor’s scythe-like killing claw in Jurassic Park, but the eeriest moment happens when she impatiently taps it on the tile – as if to say finding you is inevitable, so why keep her waiting? And so it is in Godzilla, in which monsters loom out of the midnight fog and detach from the shadows themselves. We’ve reached a point in filmmaking where it’s very difficult to scare audiences through complex visual effects. But the simple shadow of a monster around the corner? That will always set hearts and minds racing.

Does Godzilla reach the peaks of those epic Steven Spielberg monster tales? In terms of visual tension, absolutely. One of the biggest keys to creating a successful suspense film lies in withholding the payoff an audience expects. You can’t answer every moment of tension with a release. If you do, a movie becomes formulaic. You have to make a game out of when that inevitable jump scare or action scene will occur. Earning an audience’s trust while constantly betraying their expectations is what makes horror and suspense such difficult genres, but Godzilla director Gareth Edwards has obviously watched those Spielberg movies many, many times.

Get used to this expression

Even the opening credits of Godzilla build its mystery, redacting text in black marker as faux-historical footage plays in the background. From here, we’re offered a tragic prologue involving nuclear engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston from TV’s Breaking Bad) and an apparent earthquake. Years later, we pick up the plot with his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who’s lured to Japan when Joe gets arrested. Godzilla spends a lot of love and care setting up these characters and their history, which is why it’s so strange that it all becomes immaterial once monsters start hatching and destroying the countryside.

There are considerable problems here. The biggest is Taylor-Johnson, who may look the part of a typical leading hero, but who fails to elicit much emotion. Tell him a loved one’s dead, inform him of prehistoric beasts the size of skyscrapers, and even have one gnash its gigantic jaws feet from his head, and he only ever looks like he’s waiting very courteously for the camera to start rolling. It’s a shame; when the monsters are this big, it doesn’t matter if your hero’s as tall as The Rock if he can’t manage the curiosity and wonder of Richard Dreyfuss. In a cast featuring Cranston as a conspiracy nut and character actors Ken Watanabe (Inception) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) as scientists with a near-religious fervor for the giant beasts they hunt, Taylor-Johnson’s perpetual lack of emotion is glaring and begins seeping into the audience. Elizabeth Olsen plays Ford’s wife Elle, and all it takes is one conversation – on the phone, no less – to make you realize who you’d rather see facing off against giant monsters.

Olsen shows you how to do a reaction shot

The plot is incredibly uneven. We don’t expect Shakespeare from Godzilla, but after the lush and detailed opening half-hour is chucked to the side, narrative developments later on are rushed so badly that, at one point, a character literally washes up into the next scene. Disaster-movie cliches – will the dog outrun the tsunami, will the hero find the lost boy’s parents – are answered with such coincidental ease that it’s easy to start distrusting any emotional investment we’re asked to make. These cliches are always manipulative, but they should never feel that way.

There’s a lot that’s right about Godzilla and a lot that misses the mark. It’s visually clever in a way few films are, but combine an illogical story and an unengaged lead and you have one strangely apathetic movie. What we’re left with is something that works exquisitely on the primal level – seeing the fin in the water – but that fails in giving it personal consequence. It’s half-a Spielberg movie, visually awe-inducing but without that crucial human element. Call it the inversion of Super 8 or Cloverfield, both of which I preferred more. In the end, though, I can’t remember the last time a movie had acting and a plot this bad and I still came out liking it. The visuals really are that striking, but I have to admit that little else about Godzilla is. It’s rated PG-13 for destruction and creature violence.

Godzilla imagines a better colead