Let’s deal with the one-third first. An, I guess, Irish fortune-seeker (the accent, whatever it’s meant to be, comes and goes) who’s come to medieval China in search of “black powder” (i.e. Even after six writers, including The Last Samurai’s Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, finished with the script, there’s no compelling reason for William to be at the center of this story, and Damon acts like he doesn’t know why he’s there, either. gunpowder), he and comrade Pedro Pascal stumble upon the Great Wall by accident—you might think it’d be hard to miss, but, at least in this universe, you’d be wrong—and discover its true purpose: protecting China from the hordes of monsters known as the Tao Tei. box office on its opening weekend, it’s not clear that’s even true in a pragmatic sense—it opened bigger in China, although it dwindled quickly thereafter—but that argument also ignores the political ramifications of casting a white European man as the salvation of not only the Chinese characters around him but, in this case, China itself. It’s true that we enter The Great Wall’s story through the eyes of Damon’s William, but he’s almost immediately sidelined once we meet the Nameless Order, the Chinese forces under the command of Jing Tian’s Commander Lin. (For an epic fantasy, The Great Wall is startlingly short, barely over 90 minutes without the closing credits.) There either needed to more scenes centering on William or, better yet, none. You can make a movie about Native Americans or Japanese samurai, but you’d better find a way to center it on Kevin Costner or Tom Cruise. Amid Damon’s tone-deaf public response to the issue and the controversy around his treatment of black producer Effie Brown on Project Greenlight, the fact that The Great Wall was also a film by one of the greatest of China’s Fifth Generation directors was reduced to a virtual footnote. Given The Great Wall’s narrative semi-coherence, it’s hard to tell how much of this is in the script and how much is Zhang working against it, but it’s a movie that fights its own contradictions as fiercely as any of its characters do the monsters within it. The lines of extras costumed in radiant primary-color outfits seem to stretch for miles; when they run across the wall’s battlements, it’s like watching surging rivers of paint. But its politics aren’t so easily nailed down; they’re slippery, verging on incoherent. I can’t claim to be a Matt Damon completist, but this is at the very least one of the worst performances of his career. From the moment it was announced that Damon would be playing the lead in a fantasy story centered on the Great Wall of China, the movie was accused, incorrectly as it turns out, of whitewashing, and, more plausibly, of being a white-savior movie in which Damon’s character teaches Chinese troops how to repel the monsters the wall was built to keep out. Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall is roughly two-thirds great movie, one-third terrible one. Female warriors in flowing blue uniforms leap from the wall and plunge hundreds of feet to stab at hellish monsters before being pulled back up by the cables around their waists. Given that The Great Wall is predicted to come in behind The Lego Batman Movie at the U.S. Although they managed to talk their way out of being promptly executed, William and Pascal’s Tovar spend most of the Nameless Order’s first battle against the Tao Tei tied up on a parapet, looking on in silent awe as the order’s color-coded troops deploy a dazzling array of combat strategies against their mythological foe. It is, indisputably, a movie that inserts white characters into the story to relieve U.S. But the white characters other than Damon’s are unreconstructed scoundrels, and although William initially stuns the Nameless Order with a display of his unparalleled archery skills, he’s often just along for the ride, outclassed by the Chinese characters in terms of both military strategy and moral fortitude. Flaming cannonballs trace plumes of smoke through the air before exploding in a 3-D cascade. It’s not hard to see what drew Zhang to this story, nor is it hard to see where most of its reported $150 million budget went. None of this is to ignore The Great Wall’s politics by taking refuge in aestheticism. Zhang called it a movie with four Chinese heroes, but with the exception of Commander Lin, their stories seem to have been gutted even more thoroughly than William’s. (I haven’t even talked about the movie’s climax, which features a flotilla of diaphanous hot-air balloons and a chase through a stained-glass tower.) In terms of spectacle, The Great Wall may not measure up to Zhang’s early-aughts trilogy of Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower, but a decade after he closed that book, even an appendix is welcome. The pre-release criticism of The Great Wall, most forcefully raised by Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu, was that the insertion of white characters—Willem Dafoe also plays a prominent role—into a fundamentally Chinese story was an unacceptable concession to the conventional wisdom that big-budget international productions cannot succeed without a Hollywood star, who is almost always a white man. About those combat scenes, though. As a filmmaker who has been making movies in the government-controlled Chinese film industry for decades, however, Zhang Yimou is adept at the art of subversion, or at least of simultaneously serving multiple masters. Buried under a comically shaggy beard and wig for the first part of the movie, his character becomes no more distinct once the scruff is shorn away. I call it “Zhang Yimou’s” less out of auteurist principle than because it has up to this point been associated almost entirely with its star, Matt Damon. There are undoubtedly more scenes devoted to William than any other single character, but it still feels like the material pertaining to him has been cut in half. audiences of the burden of identifying with its Chinese protagonists. A hunk of magnetized rock that William brings with him does play a key role in attacking the Tao Tei, but it’s not him who figures out that it can be used that way.
And, more importantly, it’s about how her husband can’t really deal with the sudden shift in the status quo. Joel, meanwhile, is incarcerated for his pursuit of her cure. While Sheila finds power in her situation, Joel works to squash it. “I don’t feel dead or undead,” she tells her family and the neighbor boy who diagnoses her. A real-estate agent, wife, and mother, she’s long adhered to the whole suburban-mom thing: green smoothies for breakfast, a closet full of monochromatic business attire, SAT prep on weekends. This is the story of a family grappling with their matriarch’s newly discovered agency. “I feel the opposite: totally alive.”
Santa Clarita Diet wisely shrouds Sheila’s transformation in mystery. “It’s just not where I saw my life going.”
When Joel let’s the drug dealer go, an angry Sheila belittles his life trajectory, citing Joel’s pot smoking and gullibility as culprits for his poor judgment. Sheila Hammond, freshly zombified, seems like a brand-new woman. Though it goes unsaid, this conversation seems to spark something in Joel, who later embarks on the solo mission of finding a cure for his wife’s ailment. A horror-struck Sheila, expecting something “romantic” like a single gunshot to the head, points out the anger in Joel’s response. I wake up one day … and so am I,” he says despondently. “Where is that coming from?” she asks. Later, Sheila kills Gary in her garden and eats his stomach. She hasn’t just touched on something: She’s fully pinched a nerve. Drew Barrymore is Sheila, whose sunny, natural charm makes for a surprisingly compelling suburban “Mombie.” Timothy Olyphant plays her husband, Joel, and though he at first seems a little out of place, his manic, nervous outbursts eventually snap into focus. Something about a Serbian curse and earlier-reported cases lend a mythology to her condition, but don’t hamper its implications. “That’s how they kill the undead in movies,” he responds, trying to move on. They got married, he putzed around for a while—learned guitar, tried improv—but got serious with the arrival of their daughter. “I’d bash your brains in with a baseball bat,” he admits, as if he’s thought about it. Sexual jealousy, also a recurring theme, highlights Joel’s discomfort with Sheila’s newfound agency. In the pilot, a co-worker Gary (Nathan Fillion) attempts to both put the moves on Sheila and steal one of her clients. This article originally appeared in Vulture. Joel confronts him in a bar, but backs out before a fight breaks loose. Tensions between the couple climax when, in the season finale, Sheila asks Joel how he’d kill her if it ever came to that. She “dies,” then immediately wakes up. “My wife is a realtor. Her revived thirst for life is a threat to his apathy. The women behave badly—have affairs with hot oncologists, set off smoke bombs, make threats to rude teachers—while the men embroil themselves in unnecessary crime and chaos, and wind up dead. Sheila’s zombification is a confrontation for him. At what appears to be a psych ward, he babbles to his doctor about the ways Sheila’s transformation has pushed him to try new things. Joel and Sheila were high-school sweethearts, prom king and queen. Though Sheila ends the season in literal chains—she asks Abby to lock her in the basement in case her primal side takes over—she’s finally free of the rigor of a life that expected her to pipe down and take what comes. “It’s just hard to see you connecting with someone when you and I haven’t exactly been burning up the bed sheets,” Joel says, blaming her for both making a friend and shelving their sex life. But then she comes down with something. We see Joel for the insecure, at times downright-pathetic guy he’s become: the type who smokes weed in parking lots and dresses in cargo shorts. “When I look back at my life just three weeks ago, I think maybe I was the dead one,” he says with a laugh, before a look of dreadful realization takes hold of his face. She vomits buckets of green goo and coughs up what looks like a small organ. Joel, openly uncomfortable with her new cohort, demands to see Sheila’s texts. And more than just showing the dichotomy between suburban men and women, Diet works to subvert the idea that wives should be pretty, quiet things while the husbands win bread. The shift in the expected power play casts a shadow on their marriage, as evidenced later in the season when Sheila befriends a man she bit and transformed. Santa Clarita Diet continually returns to the idea of how suspiciously men regard positive female transformation. She’s renewed, rejuvenated, and hungry for the delicacies she’s long deprived herself of—not the human flesh she now needs to survive, but spontaneous sex, nights out, morning jogs, a Range Rover. She goes on with her life, reveling in her newfound popularity, outspokenness, and strengthened relationship with her daughter. See also: Santa Clarita Diet Tells the Same Joke, Over and Over Again After Joel befriends a drug dealer he meant to kill for Sheila’s supper, he opens up about how he got to where he is. But Sheila’s onto something—there is anger in their relationship, as well as resentment.
Colossal, the latest effort from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes), starts out not unlike a good chunk of broad American comedies: Gloria (Anne Hathaway), a washed-up party girl, loses her job and boyfriend and moves back home to pick up the pieces in her life. From there, however, the film proves to be anything but typical. This first trailer doesn’t give too much away, but it does shine a light on Hathaway thoroughly enjoying her monster-related character, and should hopefully serve as a reminder that in addition to being a great dramatic actress, she can be pretty funny too. Colossal hits theaters on April 7. Rather abruptly, Colossal unveils itself as a delightfully bizarre monster movie. In what can reasonably be described as her most interesting role in some time, Hathaway plays a woman who comes to a realization that her own mental breakdown is, in some way, connected to and responsible for a giant kaiju rampaging through Seoul, Korea. Along those lines, the movie balances laid-back humor with its extraordinary premise, and according to the reaction out of its well-received Toronto International Film Festival debut last year, it’s also full of surprises.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have teamed up to run The House, a new studio comedy from first-time director Andrew J. Aboard The House as part of the impressive assembled ensemble are Jason Mantzoukas (Sleeping With Other People), Cedric Yarbrough (Speechless), Rob Huebel (Transparent), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Michaela Watkins (Casual), Lennon Parham (Playing House), Steve Zissis (Togetherness), and, perhaps most notably, Jeremy Renner. Even if Cohen’s transition to directing doesn’t exactly pan out, there might be enough talent here to make The House a worthwhile stopover anyway. The House hits theaters on June 30. The film centers on Will and Kate, parents of a college-bound high school graduate who start an underground casino in their basement to fund the tuition bill they secretly cannot afford. The pairing of Ferrell and Poehler, who outside of Tina Fey projects Baby Mama and Sisters has yet to lead a studio film, appears inspired here, as does the supporting cast. And, as these movies tend to go, things get a little wild. Cohen (best known for co-writing the Neighbors franchise).
Yes, I think of her as a victim of her time. You’re OK,” there’s a way in which I agree with you. As it was, she did become a teacher. I would say my daughter is complicated and moody, the word my mother used about me, but not particularly depressed, I’m happy to say. It isn’t easy to cover it up in the end. Daphne Merkin: I went through different stages writing it. I move in fairly, if you want to call them that, sophisticated circles. We do talk. I wouldn’t watch TV. The last time I was enormously depressed frankly wasn’t so, so long ago. When I was very, very depressed, it was referred to as a vegetative depression. Right. When she was very young, I would leave. She knows little bits and pieces of the book, but she hasn’t read the whole book at all. It will taper off and then recur when it recurs. Right. Writing the book, I became more aware that depressions don’t last. They stop, and they recur. I think the real issue for me is depression is unbelievably isolating. That was my hope. And writing not ingratiatingly but seductively, compellingly so that you’d want to read about it. I sensed that with your book, but you also talk about her drinking and things like that. She couldn’t finish school. Yes, I have. I know that I wanted to write a readable, hopefully not too depressing book about depression, and in that way make it a seductive book in spite of the subject. I’m going on about Trump because I’ve been thinking about him a lot today. The thing about candid autobiographical writing is you never know what the writer didn’t say. Certainly more up front. Have you ever talked to her up front recently about the mistakes that your mother made and whether she feels that you’re making them? One thing you can do is coax yourself along in a form of self-talk. They talk about AA, but depression has another connotation. With rare cases, it completely remits, and people are never depressed again. I mean, people’s experiences matter to them, and it doesn’t always help to say, “Think of the starving in India or China,” to a child who doesn’t want to finish her food. I mean, there are things I don’t write. I think about the experience that my parents went through, because my mother used it strangely. It’s hard to function, hard to focus. It’s not you fighting yourself. I go nuts when people say he’s narcissistic like that’s the whole answer. The opposite of depression is feeling moderately content. … I think she had a lot of ambition. I think the kind of severe depression I was trying to describe in the book comes with a lot of stuff. I think she takes all this with an enormous grain of salt. I don’t keep many secrets. The use of it is too out of whack. You don’t eat. Maybe that has its own drawbacks, to not spare her enough. I think the people who do best altogether in this whole period are people who take it in and then put it aside. Some people said to me they didn’t realize I was depressed, and I guess they read it with a degree of dismay that they didn’t realize this. There’s being made depressed by Donald Trump, as I expect many people are. However, I will say that I think the fact of leaving Germany, particularly for my mother, having very close relatives on both my parents’ sides who perished in the Holocaust, my mother was enormously marked by it. You can’t say about everything, “Well, it’s not Auschwitz,” and therefore it’s tolerable to a child. He seems unhappy but not depressed. That’s undoubtedly what leads to suicide: the idea that you’re going to be stuck in this painful, in a way noisily painful yet also silent, illness forever. There were periods where I was depressed and didn’t write. I don’t know that many people who are inclined to depression who don’t also have a certain empathic mode. The British mandate took over their house. This is again going to maybe sound reductive, but when you’re really, really depressed, you’re sort of embattled in yourself. I think most people who have been in one would say that. I think of writing as yet another way in which I threw my wits and my charm, ostensible charm, at this subject of depression. Even though I said you can’t say to a child, “You’re not dying. … “My mother was only nice to me when I was sick,” Merkin writes, in one of many passages that take on added meaning as the book unfolds. Another thing I’ve thought about is that depression, or a degree of it, is humanizing. I think one of the hardest things about being in a severe depression is that you don’t think it will end. Bringing up an extreme, drastic, historical event of genocide didn’t make me feel any better when I was homesick in sleepaway camp. There were times when I was significantly not depressed. I didn’t read. You have biological predisposition, but then you need triggers in your life. She probably would have pursued some form of fuller career. They had very little money. Isaac Chotiner: What, if anything, about the act of writing the book changed the way you think about either your own depression or depression more generally? My guess would be that you are also pretty upset about what’s happening in the world. I think one thing that helps even in these times is to try and focus on meaningful work—that it’s not all for naught because there’s a mad king in the White House. When I wrote this first piece about being hospitalized for depression when I was at the New Yorker, it wasn’t the kind of thing people talked about even if they were depressed. It happened to have been when I tried going off medication last summer. I suppose though one difference would be that you’re able to talk to her in a more up-front way than your mother was able to talk to you about certain things, right? People say, “Oh, I read the newspaper today, and I got depressed,” which makes it seem more ordinary. I was thinking to myself, “OK, Trump is here, but we’re not living in siege mentality in truth.”
Yet, Daphne, yet. With Donald Trump, it is disturbing and depressing, but not in so personal a way. I didn’t mean that she was a major alcoholic. It’s also, in milder forms, something that everyone goes through. It usually does come with a degree of empathy. Nothing adds up and all you can think about is the raw nerve of pain that your mind has become—and, once again, how merciful it would be to yourself and others to extinguish this pain.”
I spoke to Merkin, who has contributed to the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine for many years, last week. Cumulatively, it gave me some kind of perspective on depression and its landscape. You haven’t been bombed by napalm. You withdraw. Yeah. No, I do worry. How would you compare your moments of bad depression internally versus what you feel now about the world? It remains somewhat more stigmatized partly because it’s elusive. I am not asking you to quantify—
You can’t. It hasn’t stopped. It’s essentially enervating. I feel she was burdened with witnessing some of my depression at its most severe. Even in a sophisticated place of employment like the New Yorker, it wasn’t like people talked about this kind of thing. You don’t talk much. Last time I happened to watch The Deer Hunter, I was watching those horrendous Viet Cong scenes. I still don’t think functioning people talk about depression much. What does your daughter think of the book? If Donald Trump suffered from depression at all, as opposed to a variety of sociopathology including but certainly not limited to narcissism, he’d be a different man. It had horrendous results. Anyway, I couldn’t cover up when I was very depressed. In one passage, you write, “I have hurled all the charm and wits I have at my disposal against my proclivity to depression, such that it would be difficult for even close friends of mine to detect how low I am at any given time.” Was the act of writing the book, ironically, a conscious example of trying to throw your wits and charm at your depression? You can’t say these are its symptoms, this is what it looks like. Correct. You never worry that writing will make it difficult for her? I agree. I don’t want to sound too glib or self-helpy, but are there any coping mechanisms that you would recommend for people who are dealing with situational depression right now? (She also details the way in which her parents, who escaped Nazi Germany, ignored her and her siblings and allowed a nursemaid to abuse them.)
The book recounts her hospitalizations and the complex relationship she has with her own daughter, now 27. I wrote a piece some years ago for the Times called “Is Depression Inherited?” attempting to clear up that depression is at best 50 percent genetic. I think things would have gone very differently for her had that not happened. Yes, and that’s also what makes it problematic in its more severe forms. Her father was an upper-middle-class lawyer, and they went to what was then Palestine. Yes. That’s reactive depression, which the whole world suffers from, getting depressed in response to depressing circumstances, versus depression from within. She saw me very, very depressed. But usually it does have a life of its own, and it is not all that predictable. They talk about rehab. Do you know what I mean? During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed her attempts to parent differently than her own mother, how writing the book changed her outlook on her own life, and what lessons she has for those who feel despondent about Donald Trump. She also wrote. This is my last reference to Trump for this conversation. With or without medication, they have a lifespan. I read her that scene actually because I was worried she wouldn’t like it. Depression, she writes, causes someone to lose “the thread that pulled the circumstances of your life together. Daphne Merkin’s new book, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression, is at once an exploration of her own mental health and a memoir of her experiences growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family with a complicated, domineering mother. At 16, she had to leave Frankfurt, which she very much loved. My daughter is a deeply, deeply independent-minded soul. Her life dramatically changed. I don’t think they suddenly abate. I do feel I wish I could have protected her against that. What has been the response to the book from people you are close to? Let me hasten to say that my daughter makes it a habit to not read most of what I write, I think self-protectively. I think I quoted Diane Keaton saying, “Everyone’s a little depressed.” The word depressed is thrown around a lot, as you just said. I was going to add “yet” myself. It both partakes of a serious illness and doesn’t look like a serious illness. That part I read to her. You say very clearly that you don’t want to make the same mistakes with your daughter and that you hope that your daughter doesn’t struggle with depression. How did writing the book change the way you thought about your mother? I mean, there’s a much wider range, if you ask me. I think at the very end of the book I said the opposite of depression isn’t some state of great, extraordinary happiness. The one perverse thing that makes me feel weirdly better is that I sometimes say to myself, “ We could be living through the Khmer Rouge or the Holocaust or whatever.” And this in fact connects to your book. But I don’t act like she can’t know things. They don’t walk around with this pervasive “the world has become Trumpified.” I don’t know.
At last, Disney has put the galaxy’s largest “singular or plural?” question to rest. On Friday we got our answer, thanks to the official French Star Wars Twitter, which divulged the French title of the film:
Les Derniers Jedi uses the plural form of “Last,” making it indisputable: The Last Jedi definitely refers to multiple Jedi. In January, the studio revealed that the title of Star Wars: Episode VIII would be The Last Jedi, sparking a debate (à la The Last Samurai) about whether the word Jedi is meant to be singular or plural in this instance. We may have to wait until Dec. 15 to know for sure. Other offical foreign accounts soon also posted titles in their languages, all using plural pronouns, in case there was any remaining doubt. Will Kylo Ren, who once trained as a Jedi, return to the Light side? Just Luke, the only Jedi we know is left alive, and Rey, who we can assume will become his pupil? Now the question we’re left with is: Who are the last Jedi? Are there more? Does the title also refer to Finn, who showed some signs that he might be Force sensitive?
It literally just finished. And then, in the middle of the day, Hurricane Trump happened—again.”
Donald Trump’s bizarre, winding, frighteningly erratic press conference on Thursday had late-night comics scrambling as to adequately make sense of it. Very civil, very calm. Goody goo-goo. This my motherfucking house. It just happened, actually. And then Donald Trump held what can only be described as a batshit crazy press conference.”
Here’s Stephen Colbert making sense of Thursday’s horrifying events on the fly, to begin The Late Show: “I am your host Stephen Colbert, and wow. today, we had a draft about Republicans’ attempts to repeal Obamacare that we felt good about. It must be fresh because you can smell it.”
And here’s a very grim, troubled Trevor Noah, echoing Meyers’ claims of a rewrite: “We had a really nice show planned for you. Noah probably came closest to capturing the essence of what we all bore witness to on Thursday, in channeling Trump’s performance: “I’m not drunk. The amount of remarkable details—Trump’s “All Black People Must Be Friends” comment, his repeated lie about the size and historical significance of his victory, his stunning attacks on the media, his contradictory comments regarding “real leaks” and “fake news” and whether his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did anything wrong, his demand that a Jewish reporter expressing concern about an uptick in anti-semitism “sit down” and “be quiet,” and on and on—rendered any cogent summation impossible. “Our show tapes at 6:30,” Seth Meyers explained as he began his “A Closer Look” segment on Thursday night. We’re recording this in the early afternoon. You’re all drunk. This my motherfucking house. “Words fail me,” as Colbert admitted. Goody goo-goo.”
Enough said. Noah and Meyers’ teams cut together highlight reels, making clear just how unsettling the whole charade was, while Colbert turned to news anchors’ bewildered, and in most cases disturbed, reactions. I am glad you could be here on this historic evening, because Donald Trump held his first solo press conference as president …. You’re all drunk. What I’m saying is this is fresh. “Usually, we start writing ‘A Closer Look’ the night before; by 1:00 p.m.
It’s also a new era for CBS, which is using the extension of its most acclaimed show—if far from its most popular—to break ground for original scripted programming on its subscription streaming service. In “Inauguration,” Diane defends the city of Chicago in a police brutality suit involving four white officers and a black victim; when Robert’s partner, played by Justified’s Erica Tazel, balks at bringing Diane on board, he quips that she’s a “diversity hire.” Tazel’s Barbara Kolstad takes an immediate dislike to Diane: It’s clear she sees her as a typical white liberal, a pre-intersectional feminist whose solidarity is only skin deep. But the two episodes available in advance of its February 19 premiere show the Kings and co-creator Phil Alden Robinson trying to balance the comforting familiarity of a broadcast show with the freedoms of nonlinear TV, and not immediately succeeding in either realm. (It was supposed to be joined by Star Trek Discovery, the franchise yang to The Good Wife’s yin, but that troubled production has already shed one showrunner and is now scheduled for later this year.) Although the original series was nominated for 42 Emmys and won five, including two for star Julianna Margulies and one for her (sometimes virtual) co-star Archie Panjabi, its frequent losses to shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones clearly stuck in the Kings’ craw. The pilot’s credit sequence, which features a succession of office furnishings exploding in slow motion to the Ren Faire strains of David Buckley’s theme song, reeks of a desperate attempt to seem “edgy,” like a recently divorced dad showing up with a fresh tattoo. Although The Good Fight’s images are letterboxed to give them an added veneer of class, it looks to be shot on a substantially smaller budget than its prestige predecessor. In the second episode, “The First Week,” Diane needs to hire a new assistant, and she bypasses the black candidates Barbara has lined up in favor of a familiar white face: Sarah Steele’s Marissa Gold. But they find a home at Lucca’s new firm, a largely black concern run by Delroy Lindo’s Robert Boseman. In The Good Fight, there’s a scene in the pilot where Diane explains to idealistic Maia that every client deserves vigorous representation, the kind of One-L civics lesson The Good Wife took for granted its viewers already understood. It’s a new day in America, if an exceptionally gloomy one, and it’s a new era for Diane, who quits the firm she co-founded with plans to retire to the south of France, only to lose her life’s savings in a Madoff-like investment scheme. One of The Good Wife’s most distinctive features was its brutal realism about the amoral workings of the legal system: Sometimes our heroes were on the right side, sometimes the wrong, but in either case who won was solely the function of who played the better game. It wasn’t meant to be that way: Robert and Michelle King had conceived their CBS All Access spinoff of The Good Wife beginning with a victory lap for liberal law partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), whose office décor prominently featured a grip-and-grin photo of her and Hillary Clinton. As the show’s most prominent new character, Maia ought to get the most real estate in its opening episodes, but there have been so many stories about naïve attorneys discovering what the law is really like, and Leslie’s wide-eyed anxiousness adds nothing new to the mxi. Diane and Maia’s attachment to that Ponzi scheme makes them both toxic, especially among Diane’s former allies; like Madoff’s fund, this one purported to do good as well as turn a profit, and Diane vouched for it with liberal friends and organizations, all of whom are similarly devastated by the loss. It’s not even as adventurous as The Good Wife, which regularly took advantage of its longer seasons to build episodes around innovative structural gimmicks. The episode’s title, “Inauguration,” does double, and maybe triple, duty. By the end of its run, The Good Wife was pretty well out of gas, and The Good Fight is still struggling to fill up the tank. That being the case, you might expect The Good Fight to run with the advantages of its tidy 10-episode first season. And though we’re naturally in Diane’s corner, the show gives us some reason to agree with that assessment. The Good Fight is timid in other ways, though. But instead, thanks to some close-to-the-wire reshoots, we open on Diane’s face frozen in shock as she sits in a darkened room watching Trump take the oath of office. Dealing with race was never The Good Wife’s strong suit, but the Kings seem intent on attacking the issue full-bore here. The Good Fight’s episodes are studded with f-bombs—FCC-safe alternate takes were shot for the pilot’s broadcast version—but the show thus far shows little inclination to run with the freedoms afforded by its medium. If this were a broadcast show, one could forgive the sluggish start, but The Good Fight does little to generate the kind of excitement necessary to get audiences to sign up for yet another paid service, and it’s doubtful those who already subscribe to All Access for a la carte NCIS episodes will find much added value in it, either. Towards the end of the show’s run, CBS took to running “For Your Consideration” ads highlighting the difference between The Good Wife’s 22-episode season and cable shows’ eight to 13, which is a little like an early primate complaining about the unfair advantage of opposable thumbs. In its first two episodes, The Good Fight has its hands full moving Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn to center stage and introducing Diane’s goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), a novice lawyer whose fledgling career is almost immediately torpedoed by her involvement in the same financial scandal that wiped out Diane’s retirement savings. Even the show’s distribution feels caught between two stools. The first episode will premiere simultaneously on CBS and CBS All Access, while subsequent streaming-only installments will arrive at a weekly clip. Granted, Marissa’s also taken the initiative and provided critical assistance on a new case, but there’s still something slightly ugly about the way she uses her previous connections to jump the queue, and the show doesn’t shy away from it. The first voice you hear in The Good Fight belongs to Donald Trump. The staggered delivery of broadcast meets the additional cost of streaming: The worst of both worlds.
Since nothing is hotter than a little statistical analysis, we ran the numbers to compare the amount of sex, kink, and overall darkness in both films. Even so, the number of such scenes in each movie is about the same. Amazingly, even the precentage of time Christian is seen shirtless is so reliable across both films that we can only conclude this is the result of a carefully calibrated formula designed to maximize the impact of Jamie Dornan’s naked torso. Still, both movies are remarkably consistent when it comes to the amount of doin’ it. But in Fifty Shades Darker, they’re almost constantly in danger, whether Christian’s troubled ex is brandishing a weapon or Ana’s boss is being a world-class creep. This post contains spoilers for Fifty Shades Darker. In Fifty Shades of Grey, the greatest threats Ana and Christian faced were broken hearts, sore bottoms, and, in one instance, a speeding cyclist. But how about the amount of BDSM? Then again, for those characters who aren’t named Christian or Ana, it really doesn’t matter which movie you’re in—it’s just not safe to go near an elevator when those two are in it. Sex and Nudity
Since our main characters have already hooked up when Fifty Shades Darker begins (and because there’s not nearly as much paperwork this time around), there’s also a lot less time to wait before the first sex scene. The title may say Fifty Shades Darker, but is the new BDSM-flavored romance from James Foley actually any darker than its prequel, Fifty Shades of Grey? Throw in the revelations about Christian’s terrible childhood, and Darker’s title turns out to be wholly justified. And yet, when you run the numbers, there’s actually surprisingly less BDSM to be found throughout Fifty Shades Darker, which tends to favor some light exhibitionism over kinkier fare. For starters, there are fewer spankings—and only hand-administered blows in Darker, whereas Fifty Shades of Grey also makes use of the riding crop and a particuarly nasty belt. Surely to justify the sequel’s title, there should at least be some darker tastes in play. General Darkness
Fine, so Darker isn’t all that much darker when it comes to sex. BDSM
Okay, so we’ve established that there’s just about the same amount of sex in both movies. Note: We’ve stretched the definition of a sex scene here to include some erotic scenes that don’t technically include any intercourse, like Ana’s first spanking, or when Christian introduces her to the Ben Wa balls. … There are not only more than triple the number of threats to the main characters’ safety/well-being, those threats are also much more severe. and significantly less time spent in Christian’s carefully color-coordinated sex dungeon. There’s also less equipment being shown off, in general … Below, you’ll find our results, in chart form. But what about outside of the bedroom (or in this case, the red room)?