TV Review: The Keepers (2017)

Original Run: May 19th, 2017
Created by: Ryan White
Directed by: Ryan White
Based on: Murder of Catherine Cesnik
Cast: various

Film 45, Tripod Media, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This Netflix true crime documentary featured an incredibly interesting story about the mysterious and unsolved murder of a nun more than fifty years-ago and how it seems as if it is associated with the sexual abuse committed by a priest at a high school.

Sadly, that priest is dead and can’t suffer for the things he did to several children. However, this documentary does serve as an avenue for these victims to speak about what happened to them and how it may very well relate to the murder of the young nun, who many of the female victims saw as their one true confidant in the school.

This documentary series is seven episodes long and while each is chock full of details, this did seem like it was dragged out much further than it needed to be, especially since the case is still unsolved, even after all the information that is shared in these seven hours.

Like many of the other Netflix true crime miniseries, though, this is well-produced and well-presented. 

This is a tragic and honestly, infuriating story. Hopefully, this sheds enough light onto the case that it can actually be solved some day. As is the nature of these things, though, the more time passes, the less likely that seems possible.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: The Staircase (2004-2018)

Original Run: October 7th, 2004 – June 8th, 2018
Created by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Directed by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Written by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Cast: Michael Peterson, various

Canal+, Netflix, 13 Episodes, 44-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard people rave about this documentary series a few years back. Since I’ve recently been binging the shit out of Netflix true crime documentaries, I figured that I should finally give this one a watch.

Well, I was really underwhelmed by it and I think it’s just another case of hype blowing something up to an unrealistic level.

I will say that the story here is damn compelling and there are a lot of holes in the investigation or so it would appear, based on how this documentary reveals the details.

However, it’s the presentation of this series that made it somewhat of a bore to get through.

This follows the investigation and spends a lot of time in the court room during the trials. However, most of the show is shot and presented reality TV style, following around all the members of the family and legal team, as they constantly pontificate on that day’s activities and developments. It’s just not that interesting when you realize that all of the accused killer’s kids (minus one) are going to believe his innocence no matter what.

“Not my dad! There’s no way he could do that! I know my dad!”

“Did you know he had gay sex with male prostitutes?”

“What? I didn’t know my dad was gay! But he could never kill my mom! I know my dad!”

I also feel like this documentary was obviously biased towards the family and towards the sentiment that author-possibly-turned-killer, Michael Peterson, was innocent. Looking into that after watching this for myself, there are a lot of other people that feel like this was a biased documentary and that it omitted things that didn’t support its narrative.

In the end, I was initially captivated by the story but from a production standpoint, this wasn’t as polished and well-paced as the more recent Netflix true crime documentaries. I also don’t feel confident in the details provided by this documentary.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Don’t Fuck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019)

Original Run: December 18th, 2019
Created by: Dimitri Doganis, Adam Hawkins
Directed by: Mark Lewis
Written by: Mark Lewis
Music by: Blue Spill
Cast: various

Raw TV, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I knew vaguely about this story from headlines that I’d see pop-up on social media from time-to-time. However, I never knew all the details and how big this investigation by regular people online had grown in an effort to catch this sick, sadistic, narcissistic fuck.

Overall, this was a compelling documentary miniseries and one of the best that I’ve seen from Netflix. Weirdly, I’m starting to get addicted to these things, where they weren’t my cup of tea before. Maybe that has something to do with getting older or maybe it’s just because Netflix creates some high quality, really well produced material in this regard.

Initially, the story starts out with a group of people on Facebook trying to discover who is behind a video that features the murder of a cat. Things escalate to the point where the cat killer challenges these people to find him, as he’s obsessed with the attention its getting him. He then kills more cats and hints that he’s going to turn to people next. Eventually he lures in a guy for sex but murders him on camera, as well.

All the while, the authorities are of no help and don’t really believe the warnings of the people from the Facebook group. Ultimately, once a human is killed, the real authorities get involved and take all the previous evidence more seriously.

By the end of the story, the scumbag is caught and brought to justice.

This was presented in a compelling way and all of the key talking head interviews were pretty damn stellar, as they were able to recall all the details and help paint a picture of who this killer was and what they feel were his motivations.

In the end, this is an incredibly disturbing story that is hard to get through, at points, due to the nature of the crimes and the details, but it does have a happy ending considering that such an evil piece of shit is off the streets.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: Making A Murderer (2015-2018)

Original Run: December 8th, 2015 – October 19th, 2018
Created by: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos, Lisa Nishimura, Adam Del Deo
Directed by: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos
Written by: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos
Music by: Kevin Kiner, Jared Forman, Dean Kiner
Cast: Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey, Kathleen Zellner, various

Synthesis Films, Netflix, 20 Episodes, 47-77 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Being that I’ve been binging the shit out of Netflix crime shows, I figured that I’d finally delve into the longest one, which is also probably responsible for Netflix leaning so hard into this type of content.

Making A Murderer is the story of Steven Avery, a man who was released from prison after eighteen years. He was falsely sent to prison for a rape he didn’t commit. However, not too long after his release, he was arrested once again for the murder of a young photographer.

The thing is, the system targeted Avery and had no interest in any of the other people who were obviously suspects, as well. And as more and more details are revealed, it appears that Avery is possibly innocent of this crime, as well, and that the police and the legal system are trying to lock him back up, as he was on the verge of successfully suing them for his previous false imprisonment.

As twisted as that all sounds, there are so many other layers to the story that come to light with each episode. There is also Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was possibly duped into giving the police a false confession. With that, Dassey has also been sitting in jail from the first time that he ever talked to police.

The first season of the show goes through the details of the case and the investigation with a fine tooth comb. However, after it aired, it was criticized for leaving out key elements of the story.

The second season addresses these criticisms and it switches gears, focusing more on the lawyers trying to free both Avery and Dassey from imprisonment.

While I liked the second season and seeing the sloppy police investigation being torn to shreds, I think the show was strongest during the first season. It’s honestly two very different shows and also, despite season two being focused on freeing these two men, things are still left pretty unresolved. Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was eventually a third season if any significant changes were to occur.

I binged the hell out of this and blasted through it in a few days. I wanted to absorb it all in with the details being fresh in my mind. I think that the scariest takeaway from this story, is how easy it is for the system to try and make an example out of someone that they’ve targeted over their own biases. The level of narcissism and ego that the prosecutors and police officers had was astounding.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021)

Release Date: August 23rd, 2021
Directed by: Kwang Il Han
Written by: Beau DeMayo
Based on: The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski
Music by: Brian D’Oliveira
Cast: Theo James, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell

Platige Image, Hivemind, Studio Mir, Netflix, 83 Minutes

Review:

“This is the last time I allow any of you to ever hesitate.” – Vesemir

I assumed that after The Witcher show on Netflix did exceptionally well, that they’d milk it for everything it’s worth. While that’s not initially a bad thing, it probably won’t take long for them to water down the IP and make it just another franchise fans get fatigued on.

So the first next Witcher thing is this anime film, which I guess is the first of a series. If they want to keep my interest, they’ll have to do better than this, though.

That’s not to say it was bad, it was just okay. Honestly, it felt like a fairly half-assed effort and even though it focuses on the backstory for Vesemir, Geralt’s father figure, I don’t feel like it really gave anything meaningful to the mythos. Honestly, this felt more like fan fiction and nothing like what Witcher creator Andrzej Sapkowski would have intended.

Granted, the Netflix show takes tremendous liberties and this is just an expansion of that version of the property.

I thought that the character designs were okay but the animation didn’t blow me away. This, like a long line of modern anime by Netflix, is bogged down by a weird mixture of what appears to be traditional animation and CGI. To me, the two never blend together that well and it’s an issue I had with those shitty Netflix Godzilla animes and their original flagship anime series, Knights of Sidonia.

After seeing this, I’m not too enthused about future anime features based on The Witcher. I guess it just depends on what the premise of those future released will be.

Rating: 6.25/10

TV Review: The Ripper (2020)

Original Run: December 16th, 2020
Created by: Netflix
Directed by: Jesse Vile, Ellena Wood
Cast: various

Netflix, 4 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been going through a weird phase lately where I’ve been binge watching Netflix crime docu-series. This generally isn’t my genre but I like the way that Netflix tells these stories. They’ve developed their own style and it’s both effective and done in a way that keeps you glued to the screen.

This one is about a serial killer that dopey, idiot detectives just assumed was a Jack The Ripper copycat and thus, named him The Ripper. However, many of the victims were later discovered to not be prostitutes and the theories the authorities had were thrown out the window, once it was clear that they were dead wrong and had also been jumping to conclusions based off of their own biases.

Beyond that, this also covers the gender-focused fascism that this part of the UK employed to keep women “safe” based off of completely false assumptions.

There were a lot of interesting layers to this whole story and I thought that the sections of this documentary were well organized and generally well presented. I was also surprised that they covered this pretty thoroughly in just four episodes.

While this isn’t my favorite of these type of Netflix shows, it’s still damn engaging and was a good way to spend four hours in an afternoon sick in bed.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Squid Game (2021)

Original Run: September 17th, 2021 (all episodes)
Created by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Directed by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Written by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Music by: Jung Jae-il
Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, Kim Joo-ryoung, Lee Byung-hun

Siren Pictures Inc., Netflix, 9 Episodes, 32-63 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I couldn’t avoid watching this any longer because of two reasons: the hype and because everyone was talking about it that if I didn’t watch it, the show would’ve been spoiled for me. So, this leapfrogged other shows I had in my queue first because I wanted to see it without it being ruined.

Overall, I did enjoy this but it didn’t blow me away. It’s become a mega-phenomenon almost instantaneously but I found it to be derivative of several things I’ve seen before. And I don’t mean that as a knock but those seeing this as a fresh concept, probably just haven’t watched enough movies.

Hell, in a lot of ways, this is Saw sequel with a much larger group, more appealing surroundings and a cash prize instead of just winning your right to continue living. Then again, that’s also exactly what the prize allows the winner to do, get a fresh chance at life with a new outlook, regardless of how fucked up the journey was.

There’s a big “twist” at the end too, where you discover who is behind this game and why they created it. None of it is all that shocking or surprising and if you’ve digested enough stories similar to this, you can arrive at these answers on your own. It’s honestly, lowest common denominator stuff and I was pretty disappointed in this reveal, as I had hoped the show would’ve thrown a legit curveball, knowing that many probably already thought that this was just a game to entertain the richest people, as the players are just disposable cattle or as the show puts it: race horses being gambled on for kicks.

All that being said, I still mostly enjoyed this because of the characters and their personal stories. Sure, I knew good people would do bad things and that terrible people would be the absolute worst. However, the show does make you care about these people and that’s really the only thing that holds it all together.

In the end, I hope that this stays a miniseries and that Netflix doesn’t try to convince the creator to make more. It’ll just go downhill from here and it’s always best to quit while you’re ahead. But c’mon, man… this is Hollywood. We’re definitely going to get more based off of how this show exploded in popularity, almost immediately.

Rating: 8/10