To be honest, tonight’s episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt isn’t really a traditional horror story. Instead, it’s a somewhat satiric homage to film noir. But I’m going to share it anyway. Halloween is about more than just ghouls and ghosts and goblins, right?
You, Murderer is an experiment that doesn’t quite work but is interesting all the same. This episode is basically one long POV shot. Whenever our protagonist sees his reflection, we see Humphrey Bogart staring back at us. Actual footage of Bogart was used in the show. Sometimes it work, sometimes it just looks strange. But it’s always interesting!
This episode originally aired on January 25th, 1995. Enjoy!
Tonight’s excursion into televised horror is the 7th episode of the 5th season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!
House of Horrors has everything that you could possibly want from a Tales From The Crypt episode! A dumbass idiot frat boy (played by Kevin Dillon) forces three pledges to enter a supposedly haunted house. Mayhem ensues. This episode is full of atmosphere, dark humor, plot twists, and unexpected turns and it features two wonderfully over-the-top performances, one from Dillon and one from Meredith Salenger as a Southern-accented sorority president who may have a secret of her own.
This episode originally aired on October 27th, 1993 and is currently celebrating its 30th birthday.
The Reluctant Vampire was the 7th episode of the 3rd season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt! It stars Malcolm McDowell as a vampire who is a little bit too nice for his own good. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Malcolm McDowell as a vampire.
The Reluctant Vampire originally aired on July 10th, 1991.
Below, you will find the third trailer for House of the Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel! I’m not really sure if I’m ready to take on yet another show that will inevitably have a complicated mythology to try to keep straight but, on the other hand, I do like dragons.
On Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Barry, hitman-turned-actor Barry Berkman (played by Bill Hader) accepted a contract to blow up a house and the Bolivian gangsters within. He was given a bomb which had been purchased on the Dark Web and which, unfortunately, had been programmed to continually repeat a phrase in Japanese. He was also given the Detonator App (developed by KABOOM), which would allow him to remotely detonate the bomb.
The only problem is that the app didn’t seem to be working and as Barry tried to figure out why, some of the gangsters heard the bomb “speaking” underneath the house. Meanwhile, Fernando — who was not supposed to be in the house when the bomb went off — showed up to talk to his father-in-law. While Fernando discovered that his own secrets were no longer secret, Barry wondered if he would even be able to get the bomb to go off.
Customer service to the rescue!
As I said, I saw this scene on Sunday and, as Monday comes to a close, I’m still laughing about it. It almost makes me want to get a job at Kaboom. This is a wonderfully executed and detailed scene and one of the best that I’ve seen so far this year.
The new documentary Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops opens with police body cam footage of a man getting gunned down in the doorway of his own house.
Why was the man shot? Because he was holding a screwdriver and he apparently didn’t drop it quickly enough. Why were the police there in the first place? They had been called by the man’s mother, who warned the police that her son was schizophrenic and that he was hearing voices. When the cops shoot him, the man’s mother can be heard screaming in the background, begging the cops not to kill her son. But kill him, they did. He died for the crime of holding a screw driver while having mental health crisis.
Unfortunately, that’s a scenario the seems to be happening more and more frequently in the United States. The police are trained to quickly take control of dangerous situations, to show no emotion, and to bark out orders. How many times do we hear it whenever someone is gunned down for not immediately dropping whatever they were holding their hands? “If he had just done what the police said, he’d still be alive.” We hear that a lot but what if, like the man holding that screwdriver, you’re already hearing voices before the police start screaming at you to show them your hands. What if you’re already disorientated and not sure what’s real and what’s not? What then?
Unfortunately, it’s rare that the police are trained on how to deal with someone suffering from mental issues. Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro are two cops in San Antonio who are trying to change that. As members of the SAPD’s mental health unit, Ernie and Joe are advocates for changing the way that the police deal with the most vulnerable members of society. As they explain at one of their training sessions, the police academy will spend days teaching recruits how to draw and fire their weapon without devoting one minute to discussing how to deal with someone who might be hearing voices or who might be suicidal. Ernie and Joe argue for compassion over brute force. (Unfortunately, while some cops are seen nodding along with Ernie and Joe’s lessons, several others are seen smirking and rolling their eyes.)
Shot in the style of cinéma vérité, the film follows Ernie and Joe as they deal with cases and attempt to teach their fellow cops that brute force is not always the solution. At one point, we watch them deal with someone who is threatening to jump off an overpass. We also listen as Joe, a former Marne, discusses seeing a child blown up in Iraq and how he is still haunted by PTSD. Ernie, meanwhile, is a family man who goes to church every Sunday and who is looking forward to soon retiring from police work. The film follows them as they talk, joke, and occasionally bicker like an old married couple. It’s a good, if somewhat low-key, documentary. One watches it and hopes that other police departments will learn from San Anotnio’s success.
As I watched the film, I found myself thinking about Vanessa Marquez. Vanessa was a former actress and a longtime member of the #TCMParty on twitter. Vanessa was always very open about her own health struggles. 14 months ago, the police showed up at Vanessa’s house in South Pasadena, California. They say they were doing a welfare check. They say that Vanessa was in obvious mental distress and that Vanessa resisted their attempts to force her to go to the hospital to be checked out. The police say that Vanessa pointed a BB gun at them. Unfortunately, we only know what the police said happened but Vanessa is not her to tell her side of the story. She was shot and killed. At the time, it was big news but, as always happens, the media eventually moved on to something else. After all this time, we still don’t know what really happened the day that Vanessa Marquez was killed in her own home. We probably never will.
Watching the documentary, I found myself wondering what would have happened if it had been Ernie and Joe or, at the very least, a cop with a similar outlook and compassion who showed up at her house on that day. Would Vanessa still be with us, watching movies on TCM and tweeting about her experiences in Hollywood? No one can say for sure but I think she would be.
Hopefully, this documentary will serve as a wake up call for some people. One need not lose their compassion just because they put on a uniform. In fact, it’s essential that they don’t.
He was the black-clad terrorist who haunted the news in 2014 and 2015. He was the faceless man with the London accent who was frequently filmed standing in the desert, taunting Barack Obama and David Cameron before then beheading a hostage. In total, Jihadi John was filmed either beheading or directing others to behead 29 hostages. Among his victims were American journalist James Foley and British aid worker David Haines.
Up until he was apparently blown up by a drone strike in 2015, Jihadi John was, for many of us in the West, the best-known member of ISIS. When we heard the word “ISIS,” he was the one we pictured. Because his face was always covered, his identity was unknown. All we knew about him was that he spoke perfect English with a British accent. He was like a creature sprung from a nightmare, a monster who materialized out of nowhere and taunted us for our inability to defeat him. There was much speculation about who Jihadi John was. Even after we found out that he was probably a Kuwait-born British citizen named Mohammed Emwazi, we still wondered how this man came to be standing in the desert, being filmed as he committed terrible crimes.
The new HBO documentary, Unmasking Jihadi John, is an investigation into the origins of terrorism. The film attempts to reconstruct Emwazi’s early life as an outsider in the UK. His teachers describe him as being quiet and somewhat forgettable. Video from that period shows a skinny and awkward-looking teenager, one who covered his mouth whenever he spoke because he had once been taunted for having bad breath. When he was ten, he wrote that he wanted to be a soccer player. A few years later, he was caught on video, smiling while sitting in a computer lab. And then, just a few years after that, he was in Syria, committing horrific acts of evil. And make no mistake about it — the Emwazi who we see waving a knife while condemning the West is evil. Evil comes in many disguises and will often try to justify itself by hijacking a religion or an ideology. But in the end, evil is evil.
Because Emwazi was vaporized in 2015, he’s not around to explain just what exactly led him to join ISIS. The film speculates that Emwazi initially joined because he was looking for both a surrogate family and a place where he actually belonged. The documentary contains clips from several ISIS propaganda videos and what’s interesting is that the images that ISIS used — children playing in the streets, men working together to rebuild a city, and friends hugging each other — are many of the same images that one would expect to find in western advertising. They’re seductive images, ones that offer up a promise of a better life as long as you follow orders and don’t question authority. They were exactly the type of images designed to appeal to someone like Emwazi (and countless others), who had a need to feel as if they belonged to something bigger than themselves.
If the first half of the documentary focuses on Emwazi and the founding of ISIS, the second half deals with the aftermath of Emwazi’s actions. Interviews, with the hostages who survived and the families of those who did not, drive home the pain that was caused by the actions of ISIS as a whole and Emwazi in specific. It’s in those interviews that we are reminded that Emwazi’s evil cannot be excused by a turbulent childhood or misplaced idealism. Towards the end of the documentary, the man who controlled the drone that fired the missile that ended Emwazi’s life is interviewed. When we watch the grainy and coldly impersonal footage of Emwazi’s car blowing up, we feel no sympathy for the man who was called Jihadi John. As to whether or not there’s joy to be found there, well, that’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves.
It’s a compelling documentary but it’s also frustrating, if just because it poses a question that may be impossible to answer. Why does evil exist? How can one go from being a normal, if awkward, teenager to being a savage murderer? Like the rest of us, the documentary can only wonder why.
Tonight, right before the start of the Game of Thrones series finale, HBO aired the following teaser trailer for season 3 of Westworld and oh my God …. I can’t wait until 2020!
I know that some people hated season 2 of Westworld. I thought it was great but, regardless, it looks like season 3 is going to be a lot different. I guess that’s to be expected. We’re out of the park now. Welcome to Los Angeles.
Anyway, I can’t wait to see what season 3 has in store for us. The teaser seems to promise either brilliance or disaster and there’s something exciting about not knowing which one we’re going to get.
The Inventor tells the story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, who, at one point, Forbes named the wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America, and who is currently facing criminal charges of defrauding not only her investors but also a countless number of doctors and patients. After dropping out of college, Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, a Silicon Valley-based company that claimed it had devised a method that would revolutionize how blood was tested and which would lead to people leading longer and healthier lives. (“No one will have to say an early goodbye,” as Elizabeth put it.) It all had to do with a blood-testing device called the Edison, a device that Holmes designed, patented, and made a fortune by licensing. That the Edison didn’t actually do what Holmes claimed that it did put lives at risk and ultimately led to her downfall.
So, what makes The Inventor such a creepy documentary? A lot of it has to do with the fact that Elizabeth Holmes herself comes across as being so creepy. With her endless supply of black turtlenecks and her rather monotonous (not to mention notably deep) voice, she comes across as being a cult leader in the making. When we see archival footage of her being interviewed or of her giving a speech to her worshipful employees, she has the type of demented gleam in her eye that one would normally associate with a particularly enthusiastic Bond villain. When her former employees talk about her, they not only mention her drive and her dedication but they also mention the fact that she rarely blinked. In fact, she so rarely blinked that other people also felt as if they shouldn’t blink in her presence. Theranos was a company full of people with thousand-yard stares.
Despite the fact that, as many people point out, Elizabeth Holmes had no experience in the medical field and that the majority of her lies were easily exposed, she still had little trouble getting wealthy and powerful men to invest in her company. Among those who invested in Theranos and sat on its board of directors: two former secretaries of state, one former and one future secretary of defense, and several prominent businessmen. Though the documentary doesn’t explore this angle as perhaps it should have, it’s interesting to note that the majority of Holmes’s backers and defenders were 1) elderly and 2) male. The one female investor that Holmes tried to bring in easily saw through Holmes’s lies. On the other hand, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz became enthusiastic backers of Holmes and her “vision.” Meanwhile, attorney David Boies — who was best-known for being Al Gore’s personal attorney and who later was hired to head up Harvey Weinstein’s defense team — is on hand to intimidate any Theranos employees who might be on the verge of turning into a whistleblower. Elizabeth Holmes may currently be an indicted pariah but, before that, she spent many years as a proud member of the American establishment.
In fact, several other members of the Establishment makes cameo appearances in The Inventor. At one point, we see Holmes being interviewed by Bill Clinton. At another point, Joe Biden stops by Theranos and praises the company. We see pictures of Elizabeth Holmes in the Oval Office, visiting with Barack Obama. Holmes is put on the covers of magazines. Numerous publications declare her to be the next Steve Jobs. She’s held up as the future of not just blood testing but also the future of business. It’s only after one reporter has the courage to actually investigate her claims and two employees risk their futures to tell the truth about what they saw at Theranos that Elizabeth Holmes is revealed to be a fabulist and a con artist. Was she ever sincere in her desire to make the world a better place or was that just another part of her carefully constructed persona? The Inventor is full of people still struggling to answer that question for themselves.
The Inventor was directed by Alex Gibney. Gibney previous directed the Going Clear, an expose of Scientology. Watching The Inventor, it’s hard not to make comparisons between Scientology and the cults of Silicon Valley. Watching Elizabeth Holmes give a speech to her employees is like watching that infamous video of Tom Cruise pay homage to L. Ron Hubbard. And just as Scientology takes advantage of those with a need to believe in something bigger than them, Elizabeth Holmes did the same thing. Everyone wanted the promises of Homes, Theranos, and the Edison machine to be true. They wanted it to be true so much that they became blind to the reality that was right in front of them.
The Inventor is a fascinating documentary about power, wealth, fraud, and the prison of belief. It can currently be seen on HBO.
Fortunately, for me, it’s not a question that I have to answer. Michael Jackson’s music has never been an important part of my life. All of the songs and albums that people rave about — Thriller, Bad, that song about the rat — were all pretty much before my time. Usually, whenever I have heard any of those so-called classics, my usual reaction has been that 1) they’re ludicrously overproduced and 2) they tend to drag on forever. (Seriously, there’s no reason to ask Annie if she’s okay that many times.) Some people grew up with the idea of Michael Jackson being the King of Pop and a musical innovator. I grew up with the idea of Michael Jackson being a rather frightening eccentric who didn’t appear to have a nose and who wrote songs about how unfair it was that the world wouldn’t accept that he just really, really enjoyed the company of children. Since neither Jackson nor his music have ever been an important part of my life, it’s rather easy for me to shrug and say, “Sure, let us never hear his music again.”
Still, there are many people debating the question of whether or not it’s time to cancel the legacy of Michael Jackson. That’s because of Leaving Neverland, a 4-hour documentary that premiered at Sundance and which recently aired on HBO. Leaving Neverland deals with two men — choreographer Wade Robson and former actor Jimmy Safechuck — who claim that they were both sexually abused by Michael Jackson as children. Interviewed separately, both Robson and Safechuck tell nearly identical stories about first meeting Jackson, being invited into the sanctuary of Jackson’s Neverland, and eventually being brainwashed, abused, and eventually abandoned by Jackson. It’s not just that Robson and Safechuck both separately tell the same story. It’s also that the details will be familiar to anyone who has ever been abused. The grooming. The manipulation. The thrill of sharing a secret eventually giving way to the guilt of feeling that you’re somehow at fault. And, of course, the combination of fear and denial that both Robson and Safechuck say initially caused them to lie and deny having been abused by Jackson. Both men talk about how Jackson used their own broken families to control them, suggesting that only he understood what they were going through and that they were only truly safe when they were with him. Jimmy Safechuck, in particular, speaks in the haunted manner and nervous cadences of a survivor. Their stories are frequently harrowing and, watching the documentary, one can understand why counselors were on hand for the Sundance showing.
That said, those who have complained that Leaving Neverland is a very one-sided affair do have a point. (To see what many of Michael Jackson’s supporters have to say about the men and their stories, check out #mjinnocent on twitter.) Leaving Neverland is very much a product of our current cancel culture. From the start it clearly chooses a side and, for four hours, it focuses only on that side. Far more attention is paid to the civil suit that Jackson settled out of court than the criminal trial in which Jackson was acquitted. Much has been made on twitter about inconsistencies in Safechuck and Robson’s stories. Yet, are those inconsistencies the result of an intentional attempt to subvert the truth or are they the result of the trauma that the two men suffered at the hands of their abuser? When I checked in on twitter during the documentary’s airing, it was fascinating to watch as the two camps debated who should be cancelled, Michael Jackson for being accused of pedophilia or Wade Robson for saying that Jackson’s hair felt like a brillo pad.
Michael Jackson is canCELLED. Childhood is ruined and I’m so disgusted and livid at how an individual (famous or not) could act the way they do, DISGUSTING. #LeavingNeverland
Ultimately, Leaving Neverland is a portrait of the power of fame. One imagines that if a stranger had approached the mothers of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck and said that he wanted to spend a weekend sleeping in the same bed as their sons, the mothers would have a very different response than they did when Michael Jackson did essentially just that. For all the red flags to be found in Jackson’s public behavior, he was often dismissed as just being an eccentric artist, a harmless Peter Pan-like figure. (You have to wonder if there was no one in his camp who was willing to say, “Y’know, Michael, maybe you should stop being photographed with little boys for a while.”) One of the more interesting things about the documentary is to see how quickly Jackson recovered from the 1993 abuse allegations. The same reporters who very gravely report the allegations about Jackson in ’93 are later seen glibly referring to Jackson as being the “king of pop,” just a few years later.
Leaving Neverland is a powerful documentary but I doubt it will change anyone’s mind. That’s one of the dangers that comes from picking a side as deliberately and unapologetically as this documentary does. Your argument may be great but only those who agree with you are going to listen. Those who support Jackson will see it as being a hit piece. Those who believe Jackson was guilty will see the documentary as being validation. Ultimately, whether or not it’s still okay to listen to Michael Jackson’s music is a decision that only you can make for yourself.