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THE HANDMAID’S TALE

MGM Television (available on All 4)

Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale depicts life in a patriarchal, dystopian society. Within the established regime women have no rights, and as such, are required into restrictive, abusive roles. Offred (a wonderful Elizabeth Moss), as a handmaid, is sent to live with the commander and his wife, forced to proffer her reproductive services at a time when the birth rate is low. An engaging, intelligent series that encourages analysis. The narrative feels just as prescient today. **** SD

NERVE

Lionsgate (available on Netflix)

You’re either the Watcher or the Player. Either way, you’re involved. This film is about a truth or dare game that anyone can play, but you can only pick dare. It pushes its Players to their limits, searching through their online profiles to find their weaknesses. The movie reflects common worries that anyone can get hold of your information and force you to do something that you don’t want to do because of that leak. This thriller makes you really question what you would do in the same situation. Who would you be? A Watcher? Or a Player? **** MM

Feature

JANE THE VIRGIN

CBS Television (available on Netflix)

In the style of a telenovela, this hilarious show explores the crazy life of a normal Catholic and Hispanic woman. However, Jane’s normality changes when an emotionally drained doctor accidentally artificially inseminates her with someone’s sperm. After this, she experiences one crazy storyline after another. Although this is an American show, the link to telenovelas is undoubtable. The show not only hints at the original, but immerses itself into the classic tropes of the genre. Both joking at the dramatic nature of a telenovela and joining in with the exaggerated atmosphere, the writers do an amazing job of balancing the cultural background with the new American cultural setting. ***** MM

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

ABC Studios (available on Netflix)

If you’re a little sick and tired of the brilliant miserablism of House of Cards et al. then Kiefer Sutherland’s latest could be right up your Pennsylvania Avenue. Pitched somewhere between The West Wing and 24, Designated Survivor matches White House politicking with FBI action. The shockingly brilliant premise of a post-terror attack capitol allows the writers to imagine what a cooperative political landscape could look like, given the opportunity to blow it all up and start again. *****JPD

Feature

THE NEON DEMON

Space Rocket Nation (available on Netflix)

Flawed yet intoxicating, The Neon Demon follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), an ingénue flung into an increasingly horrific representation of modelling in L.A. With underdeveloped narrative elements, it is the style here which truly shines. The cinematography and soundtrack exude a disturbing sensuality, the moments of both beauty and terror a fascinating watch. The performances are mostly bland yet excel in the physical department, Fanning remaining a striking presence throughout. While the themes and motifs are barely developed past the surface level, the piece still warrants a watch. Though certainly not for everyone, it makes for rewarding viewing. ****EL

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

Alta Vista Productions (available on Netflix)

A delectable slice of classic Gothicism, Hollywood legend Roger Corman’s adaptation of Poe’s short story revels in its heady mix of ancestral trauma, forbidden chambers, and premature burial. Amidst the poor supporting performances and plodding dialogue of early sections, the atmosphere and location (heavy on the cobweb-littered secret passageways) keeps the film afloat. The visuals are engaging throughout, with impressive use of lighting, colour, and some gorgeous matte paintings. As the eponymous pit and pendulum arrive in the finale, Vincent Price’s deranged performance excels. Descending into a tale of Freudian insanity, the film’s great elements rise to the surface and cap it off with creepy aplomb. ****EL

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