Tag Archives: Kate Beckinsale

Beckinsale Elevates an Unsteady but Ambitious “Guilty Party”

“Guilty Party” stars Kate Beckinsale as a tenacious journalist trying to prove a Black woman innocent of murdering her husband. A year off winning Colorado’s most prestigious investigative journalist award, Beckinsale’s Beth Burgess is now discredited. She once worked for a major newspaper. Now she toils away in a clickbait factory.

The ideas that create tension in “Guilty Party” are good ones. When she was successful and admired, Beth could count on her husband as supportive. Now that the power dynamic has shifted in their relationship, he’s pressuring her to have children she doesn’t want. He also wants to move to Wyoming, which would essentially end her career – and that’s the point. If she had no career left, she’d have to do something else. Say…raise a family.

At the same time, Beth starts out doing a shoddy job at her one opportunity for redemption. When she meets with the imprisoned Toni, convicted years prior for the shooting murder of her husband, Beth hasn’t bothered to do her research. She leans instead on her privilege, something Toni immediately recognizes and calls out.

Most series do one or the other when it comes to privilege. They don’t try to take on the complexity of someone who has privilege in one way and lacks it in another. This is the appeal of “Guilty Party”. Beth is someone who gives the right answers when questioned about her intentions: she wants to help a Black woman prove her innocence in a justice system that’s railroaded her. Yet she primarily treats the opportunity as a path to return to the limelight. It’s not Toni’s redemption story; it’s her own. It’s not someone proving that Toni is innocent. Beth doesn’t even seem to care if she is. It’s about Beth specifically owning the story and proving that she’s still relevant.

It’s a shockingly good set-up to show how a person who lacks privilege in one area will feed on their privilege in another just to stay afloat. As a premise, it immediately demonstrates how patriarchal systems make those without power re-enact oppression against others. Nobody’s fighting for space against systems of white and male privilege when they’re fighting each other for what little space they’ve retained.

Does such a good idea make “Guilty Party” a good series?

The problem is that “Guilty Party” has to land this, and it’s difficult to tell if its focused enough to do so. The first two episodes are all over the map. Beth’s relationship to Toni is manipulative, and our trust in Beth as an audience is very conditional. We don’t have a consistent tone to rely on, and we have an intentionally inconsistent lead. New episodes drop weekly, so we just don’t know yet how the series intends to engage this conversation more fully.

Let’s approach that tone issue. “Guilty Party” is a black comedy first and foremost. Before COVID, Isla Fisher was cast to star in the series. You can see how well it’s designed for an actor like her, complete with zany departures and some physical comedy. Fisher withdrew due to the pandemic, and Kate Beckinsale replaced her. Does this work? Yes and no.

Beckinsale is clearly playing against type, but she’s always been a strong actress in her action and horror career. She tends to elevate material and make it more compelling than it would be otherwise. She’s also kept up in smaller, dramatic films.

Beckinsale brings a pathos and desperation to Beth that may’ve been played a little too much for comedy in Fisher’s hands. Beckinsale adds a heft to “Guilty Party” that it badly needs. She also inhabits the role in a way that sells the physical comedy better than you might expect.

The writing has its bright spots, including some incredibly quotable lines. The dialogue is clever, with a host of effective, observational one-liners.

That said, there are absolutely places where you can see a gap, and this is primarily the writing’s fault. In one scene, Beth confronts a gun-runner who’s stalking her and goes off on a justifiably angry monologue. Because it’s written to be a comedic moment, it’s where Fisher would have shined. She’d have jumped through the monologue with a lightness and rhythm that could’ve fused the angry to the comic.

Beckinsale powers through it, without letting that pathos up. There’s an extra gear of idiosyncrasy that she can’t shift into, the exact space that tends to be Fisher’s bread and butter. Beckinsale can elevate the central themes and stakes of the show in a way Fisher might not have, but she also bumps into situational premises that were expressly designed for an actor who specializes in comedy.

Ultimately, “Guilty Party” is a show that needs elevation from its lead on both fronts. It’s watchable, and more so if you like Beckinsale. With Fisher, it might’ve been funnier. With Beckinsale, it has added edge. I tend to think the latter is the better route for “Guilty Party” because of the themes it wants to engage. It’s funny enough either way, but Beth needs to be someone we both like and dislike, trust and distrust, in order to evoke how her privilege and lack of privilege intersect. Whether the show can do this successfully is still up in the air. Beckinsale gives it a withering perspective that provides initial space for us to trust the show and see where it goes.

My first reaction was that I wish they’d have been able to land an actor who could’ve tackled both. I can’t help think of Zoey Deutch’s performance in “Buffaloed”, but she’d also have to be 20 years older for this role. She also had the benefit of a great script, Tanya Wexler’s direction, and supporting actors like Judy Greer in that film.

That makes me realize my first reaction is absolutely wrong. Isla Fisher, Kate Beckinsale…either one is wildly successful casting for a series. That the show shifted its lead from one to the other provides an opportunity to highlight the series’ design and what works and doesn’t. That’s where the comparison should stop. Beckinsale isn’t failing here; she’s squarely lifting the show up.

While Beckinsale’s approach to the dialogue might mean a zany bit here or there doesn’t work as well as it could, her shaded irreverence deepens the themes and questions at the core of the show. There’s both an idealism and vindictiveness to Beth that stretch beyond comedy and into the drama that “Guilty Party” needs to fuse its disparate parts together.

That Beckinsale does this nine times out of 10 instead of all 10 is hardly a criticism of her. That she needs to do this so often to lift the show around her is the fault of the show around her. She’s being asked to make up too much ground. That she almost does is incredibly impressive.

The truth is that “Guilty Party” needs to be more focused and edited. There are more than a few scenes that are bad ideas. For instance, at one point Beth shows up to the women’s prison on a day when visitors aren’t allowed. There’s no time pressure involved, but she antagonizes the guards trying to see Toni, stages a short-lived protest where she refuses to leave, and then tries to bribe the gate guard.

I can buy her showing up on the wrong day. It’s something reporters know to check, but Beth is a year out-of-practice and it’s hardly the first mistake she makes out of desperation. Yet a reporter who’s supposed to be as exceptional and experienced as she is wouldn’t take those next actions without a directly achievable goal. She’d simply know they wouldn’t work, that they’d risk jeopardizing her ability to return at any point in the future, and she’d come back a day later. (I’ve worked as a reporter; this is pretty straightforward).

The scene exists because it’s an opportunity for a zany comedy sequence, but it doesn’t work in the more consequential world “Guilty Party” wants to inhabit. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, it’s that it directly undercuts everything else we’ve been told about who Beth is. Trust her or not, in a space of privilege or not, the one thing we know about her is that she’s skilled and experienced. Here, she’s completely incompetent for the sake of a bit.

You can have a bit that makes no sense. “Guilty Party” makes other absurdist elements work. A wannabe Tiger King character named Wyatt who’s inches away from being a David Spade sketch helps create a sequence that’s both tense and funny. What you can’t do is stick a bit in that so thoroughly undercuts the most foundational piece of who Beth is, especially when that’s the only piece of an unreliable protagonist that anchors us to her. Beth’s attempted prison bribe is a situational premise that could have been pulled off by a Rebel Wilson or Will Ferrell in the kinds of comedies they’re best known for making. That doesn’t mean it fits here. “Guilty Party” wants to have a consistent, consequential world, so when it does something like the prison bribe scene, the comedy has zero chance of working because it doesn’t fit the world, the show, or the character.

I really do think Beckinsale saves the series, and gives a performance worth watching. That said, I have a hard time seeing “Guilty Party” work with most actors in the lead because of the show around it. The ensemble is fine – especially Jules Latimer’s imprisoned Toni, Madeleine Arthur’s editor Amber, Andre Hyland’s Wyatt, and coworkers played by Djouliet Amara and Tiya Sircar. It’s the writing that too often stumbles.

For the discussions about privilege it wants to have, it stretches too far into comedic scenes that undercut its foundation. There’s still a good comedy here without those scenes, and probably a much more pointed one. If you expand social criticism into the entire show, then the comedy needs to be a lot more precise than this is. “Guilty Party” has these themes embodied in its characters; it should trust this more and bring the comedy closer to them.

I plan to keep watching. There’s enough interesting possibility for where “Guilty Party” could go, and Beckinsale is doing a superb job of making the series work better than it should.

Enough of the dialogue and Beckinsale’s physical comedy works to still sell the comedic elements. Where Beckinsale really excels is by pinpointing the themes of the show and giving us a character who zig-zags around them so much that we won’t be surprised if she serves them or opposes them. This could be a redemptive tale about two women wronged by very different systems, a black comedy “House of Cards” about someone who plays the victim brilliantly, or half of each. Beth could be innocent and idealistic, or manipulative and egotistical. Or all of the above. This takes what would otherwise be a very watchable but unremarkable series and turns it into something genuinely intriguing.

Just like I don’t know what to think of Beth, I can’t tell whether “Guilty Party” is going to land where it wants. I won’t be surprised if it begins zeroing in on its social critiques much more effectively. I also won’t be surprised if it screws up the conversations it wants to have. I won’t be surprised if it gets more cohesive and gels around the irreverent, manipulative performance Beckinsale is giving. I won’t be surprised if it continues to undercut its themes and that performance trying to out-comedy the parts of it that are already pointed and funny.

I’m pretty sure “Guilty Party” knows what it wants to be thematically. Hiding what this is behind an unreliable protagonist doesn’t change that, but it does require some patience. That it’s so imprecise about what it wants to be tonally does give me some pause about how effective it will be about landing those thematic reveals.

I plan to keep watching, but consider it a light recommendation.

It’s a watch if that sounds intriguing, and you’re willing to let a series into your life that needs leeway before showing you what it is. It’s a watch if you’re a Beckinsale fan – it’s refreshing to see her flex her acting chops this way.

Alternately, it’s not a watch if you can’t place that kind of trust or time in a series before knowing if it’s worth it. If you couldn’t care less about Beckinsale, this is unlikely to change that.

You can watch “Guilty Party” on Paramount+. New episodes arrive every Thursday.

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 15, 2021

This is a phenomenal week for surprises. It includes a new psychological horror from one of the best directors out there, Claudia Llosa. It also features one of the best reviewed horror movies of the year, the latest in a recent surge of Welsh suspense. Nineties franchise “I Know What You Did Last Summer” gets re-adapted as a series. To top it all off, Kate Beckinsale goes against type in an ego-driven dark comedy. This is where we’ll start:

NEW SERIES

Guilty Party (Paramount+)
showrunner Rebecca Addelman

Kate Beckinsale stars as Beth, a discredited journalist. She tries to relaunch her career by ingratiating herself with a mother sentenced to life for murdering her husband. Beth is determined to prove herself relevant again- er, to prove the woman innocent.

Showrunner Rebecca Addelman has written and produced on “Dead to Me” and “Ghosted”.

You can watch “Guilty Party” on Paramount+, with new episodes premiering weekly.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (Amazon)
showrunner Sara Goodman

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” is a new adaptation of the Lois Duncan novel. It also saw a popular 1997 film adaptation. Five teens hit someone with their car on the night of their graduation. They hide the body. A year later, someone starts killing them one by one.

This is the first series showrun by Sara Goodman.

You can watch “I know What You Did Last Summer” on Amazon.

Build Divide #000000 Code Black (Crunchyroll)
directed by Komada Yuki

I really appreciate Japanese titling. From “Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon” to “Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense”, and even “Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code”, they’re just so much braver than our surfeit of boring, old 1-3 word titles.

Anyway, in “Build Divide #000000 Code Black”, players in a trading card game attempt to defeat the king of Neo Kyoto. If they do, their wishes will be granted. (#000000 is the hex code in a spreadsheet for black, if you’re wondering what the connection is. I’m…still not sure that clarifies anything.)

Komada Yuki previously assistant directed “Mugen no Juunin: Immortal”.

“Build Divide #000000 Code Black” is simulcast as it airs in Japan, with new episodes every week. You can watch it on Crunchyroll.

NEW MOVIES

Fever Dream (Netflix)
directed by Claudia Llosa

“Fever Dream” is an adaptation of Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 novel of the same name. It tells a surreal tale of horror inspired by environmental abuses in Argentina.

I named writer-director Claudia Llosa’s “The Milk of Sorrow” my best film of the 2010s. She is a brilliant visualist and patient storyteller. You could say her sense of empathy has infused her movies with elements of cultural horror (about misogyny and colonialism), but this looks like her first crack at a film that’s housed in the horror genre. The crew she’s gathered is a stunning group, including “Loki” composer Natalie Holt, “The Orphanage” cinematographer Oscar Faura, and “A Fantastic Woman” production designer Estefania Larrain.

You can watch “Fever Dream” on Netflix.

Censor (Hulu)
directed by Prano Bailey-Bond

Enid is a film censor. She’s strict, with a specialty for censoring moments of violence. When she’s tasked with reviewing a particular film, its details spur childhood memories about her sister’s unsolved disappearance. Enid sets to work investigating the film’s origins, even as fiction and reality increasingly blur.

This is the first feature from director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond. It also marks another well-reviewed Welsh horror entry centered on family bringing to light generations-old wrongs. Welsh horror is carving an extremely unique voice with independent-styled films that focus on characters who convey different realities based on privilege. These horror metaphors tend to center on gaslighting, often of women and often in relation to long-disappeared or dead family members.

I can’t help but notice the popularity of this theme, and wonder how much it might connect to a history of English abuses and cover-ups such as the culturally defining Aberfan disaster.

I featured “Censor” when you could rent it, but this is the first time it’s been on a streaming service. “Censor” now also appears on Hulu.

The Blazing World (VOD)
directed by Carlson Young

In this fairy tale horror, a woman returns to her childhood home. She’s stayed away since the accidental drowning of her twin sister. Yet as she returns, she finds access to an alternate world where her sister may survive. She’ll have to convince three demons to release her sister back into this world.

This is the first feature for director and co-writer Carlson Young.

See where to rent “The Blazing World”.

Moving On (MUBI)
directed by Yoon Dan-bi

In this Korean slice-of-life movie, two children move into their grandfather’s house for the summer. Their aunt soon follows, and the three generations work out how to live under the same roof.

This is the first film from writer-director Yoon Dan-bi.

You can watch “Moving On” on MUBI.

On the Fringe of Wild (VOD)
directed by Emma Catalfamo

The story of two young men falling in love in small-town Ontario is inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”.

This is the first feature-length film from director Emma Catalfamo.

See where to rent “On the Fringe of Wild”.

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.

Great Star Turn, Terrible Movie — “Jolt”

In “Jolt”, Kate Beckinsale plays a woman with intermittent explosive disorder. According to the movie, this gives her superhuman strength and martial arts talent that makes her a shoe-in for the CIA. After all, what intelligence agency wouldn’t want someone they can’t control? When we find Lindy, she’s in between jobs as a bouncer.

Lindy controls her violent outbursts through a vest that delivers jolts of electricity. Anytime she feels an impulse coming on, she presses a button, receives a jolt, and calms down. After her boyfriend is murdered, she sets off on a path of vengeance to find the killer.

This is a pretty bad take on intermittent explosive disorder, but sometimes we overlook a film’s problematic core when it’s just one of a host of glaring issues. It becomes a “forest for the trees” situation as you watch.

“Jolt” is like when you nail your elbow on a door but you’re distracted by that really uncomfortable numbing sensation by slamming your shin into a table, causing you to step on a Lego and rush upstairs for ice so fast you cram your head into a low-hanging pipe. At that point, picking the worst problem is less about what to do and more about taking a moment to appreciate just how much of a mess can be created at this one focal point in the universe.

The first blaring klaxon is that we’re introduced to Beckinsale’s Lindy by way of a needless prologue. It’s narrated by someone we won’t see or hear from again for an hour-and-a-half – but don’t worry, it won’t even matter then. I’m all for a good narrator, but not one who dominates the first few minutes and then completely disappears. What’s more, “Jolt” is determined to keep Lindy mysterious and ill-defined. This could be a strength, but it directly undermines a prologue meant to ground us with the character.

Each new scene in “Jolt” introduces a new failure on the movie’s part. Despite a few brief flashes of violence Lindy imagines, there isn’t a real action scene in this action movie until 40 minutes in. It’s also an action comedy, which the police officers pursuing Lindy will remind you of as often as they can. Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox play such incompetent cops that they feel lifted out of “Reno 911”, “Police Academy”, or real life. Cannavale’s entire motive for being convinced Lindy’s innocent is that he wants to sleep with her and misreads the kind of person she is. Cox’s entire motive for Lindy’s guilt is that Cannavale’s reasoning for believing she’s innocent is absolute nonsense. I mean, she’s right even if her conclusion is wrong, and there’s a lot you could do with this, but there’s no consequence attached to any of it. It’s just an excuse for them to bicker in some of the worst writing that’s ever been put to screen. Every moment they’re on-screen plays like a farce, when nothing else in the movie does.

Look, don’t get me wrong. When you go in for a Kate Beckinsale actioner, you’re expecting a competent, mid-budget throwback determined to carry the torch of 90s gothic action movies. You’re not expecting hundreds of millions in visual effects or a who’s who of action stars. You’re looking to see heroes and villains toeing the line of BDSM fashion while hotly debating vampire bylaws, taking occasional breaks to see which werewolf can cleave a distinguished English actor’s jaw the furthest. I like to think this is how golf started.

They’re an acquired taste. You’re not looking for “Avengers”, you’re looking for costume design, dry wit, efficient pacing, enough extraneous lore to fill a Ken Burns miniseries, and quick bursts of splattery violence.

Beckinsale can sell an action scene. This ranges from the superhero-esque choreography of the “Underworld” franchise to the martial arts of the “Total Recall” reboot and the more practical, realistic fights in films like “Vacancy” and “Whiteout”. Whatever combination of Beckinsale and stunt actors has played these roles has conveyed extremely solid action scenes again and again.

All this is getting round to stressing that “Jolt” utterly fails her. Beckinsale is there, she’s doing the work, she’s delivering the dry wit, she’s hauling the entire film forward clenched between her teeth in as fun a way as someone can, but outside of her, this is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

What’s frustrating is that “Jolt” can’t settle on what the hell it is. Beckinsale’s scenes with Jai Courtney are a romance where she feels seen for the first time. Her scenes with the designer of her electroshock vest, Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Munchin, are some of the film’s best and are full of acerbic wit. Her scenes with the detectives are straight-up farce and it’s often hard to tell how intentional this is or isn’t. I mean, the baby-tossing scene obviously is, but often the film communicates this too late and it doesn’t fit at all into the rest of the world “Jolt” is painting.

What is that world? It’s the dark, bleak, gothic, “It can’t rain all the time” universe you expect out of a Beckinsale action movie, complete with an old, scenery-chewing English villain so bad he’d be twirling his mustache if he hadn’t, you know, like outlawed mustaches altogether so he could eat people’s faces more easily. Not literally, that’s not an aspect of the plot, but if it had been I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I would have been pleasantly surprised because at least the film would have been clearer about what it was trying to be.

Worst of all, the film’s central metaphor works on Lindy finally “uncaging” herself from her electroshock vest and learning that her anger is something she can use to solve a problem. It is a power and something she should have allowed herself much earlier. That can be an amazing metaphor for women taking hold of their anger to make change. It’s a really shitty metaphor for people dealing with mental health issues such as the intermittent explosive disorder the film builds itself around. It’s especially shitty given that we’re shown numerous flashbacks where Lindy doesn’t control her anger and maims and kills innocent people as a result.

Those flashbacks were fine in the moment because they’re comedic and it’s communicated they’re not meant to be taken at face value…except we’re then asked to hold those kinds of actions accountable in order to cheer for Lindy and see her freed from a form of impulse control in a way we’re expected to take at face value. Lindy’s reckless cruelty is meant to be a dark humor we don’t take seriously – yet when the film asks us to take the power of her anger more seriously, we also have to take the casual murder of innocents, baby hurling, and blowing up residences where others live more seriously.

Is it a farce making fun of action movies and cliché dialogue? In the cop scenes, yeah. Is it trying to be a successful action movie? In assault-the-tower, torture, and fight scenes, yeah. Is it a witty comedy? When Beckinsale and Tucci go at it, yeah.

Half the problem is that it never fully gets there. A lot of the farce doesn’t play and the physical comedy is terribly blocked out. The chase scenes are awful and serious action is so delayed it becomes compartmentalized from the rest of the film. Beckinsale and Tucci deliver on the verve of witty comedic scenes in order to make up for where the dialogue fails them.

The other half of the problem is that “Jolt” doesn’t commit fully enough to any single aspect. I love films that cram together divergent genres. Last week’s “Gunpowder Milkshake” effortlessly glided between genres, influences, and styles of art. Or if you don’t sell every genre you’re going for, you can go all in on at least one of them. That makes an anchor for the others to work off of – look at “Shadow in the Cloud” from earlier this year.

“Jolt” just doesn’t have follow-through on any of these aspects. Every time we shift genre, half the cast feels completely out of place. Beckinsale visits the physical comedy farce despite never existing in it. Cannavale and Cox visit the action despite never existing in it. No one burrows into one of these genres deeply enough for it to make those shifts feel consequential, and no one glides between the genres in the way needed to guide viewers through those shifts. That’s not a criticism of the actors – that’s the fault of direction and – here at least – the screenwriting.

Above all, I’m shocked that this is something Tanya Wexler directed. Her film “Buffaloed” came out last year, and it is both a successful comedy and a biting social commentary. The performances are all phenomenal, led by Zoey Deutch and Judy Greer. Hell, the woman even made Jai Courtney interesting. Wexler was able to glide everyone and everything across genre and commentary in a way that is often sublime.

Her prior film “Hysteria” is a comedy about the invention of the vibrator that’s considered one of the more unique and creative comedies of the 2010s. Wexler was on something of a roll, until now.

Above all, I blame this on Scott Wascha’s screenplay. Maybe this was intended as a more straight-up actioner. Maybe it was supposed to be a “Hudson Hawk” style send-up. Something, somewhere along the way got unbelievably muddled and lost.

None of this torpedoes my faith in Wexler. Her talent for witty slam cuts of flashbacks and imagined violence are one of the few comedic aspects of “Jolt” that works. The art design is inspired in moments. She has nothing to prove, and every director has a bad movie in them.

Tucci does what he can in limited screen time. Cannavale and Cox just don’t seem to be in the same film as anyone else, and that’s not their fault. Courtney’s already the internet’s punching bag for his performances and whether deserved or not, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of point in trying to sink the Titanic even deeper.

As for Beckinsale, it’s a mark of success that it’s taken this long in her career for an action star like her to deliver a truly bad movie. That’s not a period of competency that Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone can claim.

Hell, Bruce Willis came out with three movies this past week that wish they had the scores of “Jolt”. You have to add the IMDB scores of “Cosmic Sin” and “Out of Death” together (5.6) to match that of “Jolt” (5.5). His standout is “Midnight in the Switchgrass” at 4.3. As a rule, I hate IMDB scores, but you get the idea.

Beckinsale is by far this film’s strength and she combines sheer charisma as an action hero with timing that can make a bad line of dialogue feel intentional and weighted. It’s rare that you can watch a movie you think is a failure and come out thinking more highly of the star who at least dragged it halfway out of the well.

Beckinsale elevates this film from completely unwatchable to a bad film that has its moments. That doesn’t sound like praise, but believe me it is. It’s almost worth watching to see someone do that, but at the end of the day the key word there is almost and that’s the strongest possible angle of endorsement I can give “Jolt”.

You can watch “Jolt” on Amazon.

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — July 23, 2021

In researching this week’s new entries, I came across a show called “Etheria”. It’s a horror anthology where every episode features a new story directed by a woman. Its listed as premiering on Shudder this week, though it seems to have been there last year in a film festival format. It’s also been available on Amazon since August 20, 2020.

That listing sent me researching. Etheria Film Night is a film festival that features short horror films directed by women. Yet despite premiering less than a year ago in its series format, the “Etheria” website says six seasons have already been made. Five seasons totaling 48 episodes seem to be available on Amazon. I believe this has been done by bringing prior years’ entrants into a season format. Either way, “Etheria” has flown under the radar, with only 22 reviews for its first season on Amazon.

These episodes are best understood as short films. Some are 20 minutes, some are fewer than 10. Still, realizing there’s a 48-episode-and-counting horror series out there directed exclusively by women is phenomenal. It’s not new, but realizing that it’s out there and so under-seen is blowing my mind right now. Go check it out on Amazon or Shudder.

Let’s dive into the new entries:

NEW SERIES

Outlier (Acorn TV)
co-showrunner Kristine Berg

This Norwegian noir was shot in the Arctic. A crime profiler returns to the Sami community where she grew up. She wants to solve a murder others think has already been resolved. The Sami people are an indigenous people who live in the northern regions of Scandinavia.

Kristine Berg writes and directs with Arne Berggren. Berg has written extensively in Norwegian television.

You can watch “Outlier” on Acorn TV.

NEW MOVIES

Cousins (Netflix)
directed by Ainsley Gardiner, Briar Grace Smith

“Cousins” follows the lives of three Maori girls. One is stolen from her family and put in an orphanage. The film tracks their separate experiences, and speaks to the unfathomable internal violence of colonialism.

Both Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace Smith are Maori directors. Gardiner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film in 2005, and has produced a number of Taika Waititi’s films, winning best film at New Zealand’s Film and TV Awards for “Boy”.

You can watch “Cousins” on Netflix.

CW: sexual assault

Test Pattern (Starz)
directed by Shatara Michelle Ford

A Black woman is sexually assaulted. Her boyfriend takes her to the hospital. They don’t have a rape kit available. They refer her to another hospital. The night drags on, the pattern repeating, the woman treated more as offender than victim, each hospital referring her to the next.

This is the first feature from writer-director Shatara Michelle Ford.

You can watch “Test Pattern” on Starz.

Jolt (Amazon)
directed by Tanya Wexler

Kate Beckinsale plays a bouncer who’s gone through a kind of shock therapy to manage her anger. When her boyfriend is murdered and she becomes the suspect, it’s up to her to express that anger by beating dudes up. Oh, and to track down the real killer, of course.

At more than $2 billion worldwide box office, multiple hit action movies, and her own franchise, Beckinsale might be the most bonafide action star who’s rarely thought of that way. She’s reliable, and she’s elevated a lot of mid-budget actioners.

The other big draw here is director Tanya Wexler. She helmed the exceptional “Buffaloed”, which had a sharp sense of humor, laser-focused social criticism, and enabled Zoey Deutch to deliver one of the best comedy performances in recent years. Wexler has a knack for getting her actors to buy into roles and feel comfortable testing genre boundaries.

You can watch “Jolt” on Amazon.

Arab Blues (MUBI)
directed by Manele Labidi

A woman returns to Tunis after years of living in Paris. Her goal is to open up a psychotherapy practice. Golshifteh Farahani stars. You may recognize her from an exceptionally strong supporting performance in last year’s “Extraction”.

This is the first feature film from French-Tunisian writer-director Manele Labidi. She’s also written and directed extensively for theater and radio.

You can watch “Arab Blues” on MUBI.

Mezquite’s Heart (HBO Max)
directed by Ana Laura Calderon

A girl in Northern Mexico wants to help her heartbroken father by playing the harp. The instrument is only played by men, according to tradition, but she’s set on her dream.

Writer-director Ana Laura Calderon primarily works as an editor. This is her second narrative feature film as director. You may also find the film listed as “Corazon de Mezquite”.

You can watch “Mezquite’s Heart” on HBO Max.

Milkwater (Netflix)
directed by Morgan Ingari

Milo meets a gay man at a bar. She decides to become the surrogate for his child. The two struggle with how it changes their understanding of their own lives.

Writer-director Morgan Ingari has worked a number of other jobs on indie projects, such as assistant director and script supervisor, on her way toward her first feature film.

You can watch “Milkwater” on Netflix.

The Last Letter from Your Lover (Netflix)
directed by Augustine Frizzell

A journalist tries to solve a mystery at the heart of a love affair decades prior. She sifts through a trove of letters, the film interweaving her story with the one she begins to learn. Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley star.

This is Augustine Frizzell’s second feature film as director after 2018’s “Never Goin’ Back”.

You can watch “The Last Letter from Your Lover” on Netflix.

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans (Netflix)
co-directed by Johane Matte

Netflix’s family-friendly, animated series “Trollhunters” was originally created by Guillermo Del Toro. It formed the basis for a universe that included two other animated series: “3Below” and “Wizards: Tales of Arcadia”. After three successful seasons of “Trollhunters”, characters from these shows unite to fight an evil order.

Johane Matte directs with Francisco Ruiz-Velasco and Andrew L. Schmidt. Matte has directed on all three series of the Arcadia universe. She got her start as an assistant animator on 90s TV fare, and progressed to a storyboard artist for shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, “The Legend of Korra”, and “The Penguins of Madagascar”.

You can watch “Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans” on Netflix.

Mass Hysteria (Shudder)
co-directed by Arielle Cimino

Salem witch trial re-enactors get themselves caught up in a contemporary witch hunt in this low-budget comedy.

Arielle Cimino directs with Jeff Ryan. It’s the second feature the two have directed together.

You can watch “Mass Hysteria” on Shudder.

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

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