Tag Archives: tv

Don’t F**k with Cats – A Review by Eva Marloes

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The Netflix true crime mini-series Don’t F**k with Cats is not a documentary. If you expect a documentary exploring the who, what, how, and why of a crime, you will be disappointed. You will also miss what Don’t F**k with Cats is all about. The show is about the porous boundary between reality and social media. It’s about us watching videos created for social media, the reality behind the videos, and how real social media are in bringing people together to act in ‘real’ life.  The weakness of the show is that director Mark Lewis is not fully aware of that.

Don’t F**k with Cats follows is a bunch of amateur sleuths investigating a killer. It is an entertaining and disturbing Miss Marple on Facebook. Gripping, fun, and shocking, but showing little awareness of what true crime is about and spoiling it all by blaming the audience for being voyeurs. The show fails to grasp the relationship between reality and cyber-reality, how social media make us actors not mere audience.

It begins when a shocking video of a young man killing a couple of kittens is posted online. Facebookers in horror, anger, and condemnation. Then Deanna Thompson, a data analyst for a casino in Las Vegas, who uses the alias of Baudi Moovan on FB forms a group to track down the killer. Baudi and a man using the alias John Green are the key investigators of the group looking for clues in the video to identify something that might lead them to the location of the killer.  

The killer is a narcissist seeking attention. When the group has taken the wrong turn, he seems to throw them a bone to get them to chase him. Does the investigation encourage the killer to commit more crimes? I personally doubt that the killer, Luka Magnotta, would have stopped killing had the group stopped chasing him. People become serial killers because they get away with crime after crime, and their crimes escalate. Don’t F**k with Cats should have included an expert commenting on this, especially given the fact that the amateur sleuths ask themselves the question.

Don’t F**k with Cats is not a documentary!  It is a show playing with our curiosity while at the same time wanting to expose our thirst for blood, real blood. We are the sick people watching and enjoying the crime. Filmmakers like playing innocent (see this analysis of Vice), but if they choose to lead us in a direction, they are to blame. Not to mention the fact that they do so to profit from it. Crucially, Don’t F**k with Cats does not focus on the crime. It gives us no details of it, nor does it explore the personality of the killer.

The show focuses on the investigation. It is the investigation done by ordinary people that is engrossing. Director Mark Lewis should have had a little more awareness of the structure of his own show and how it ‘reads’ to the audience, and have spared us the preaching.

Don’t F**k with Cats fails to focus on the most interesting and socially relevant element: the investigators are ordinary people. It is us. We do not experience social media passively, like a film or TV show. We are actors. We discuss, condemn, form opinions, and influence people using mainstream and non-mainstream media. We create misinformation and spread conspiracy theories. We also collect evidence, we shine a light onto police brutality, we organise protests. All on and through social media. The old saying, ‘Police don’t solve the crime, people do’ is at the basis of Don’t F**k with Cats. It is its strength. Someone should tell the director.  

Series Review, 35 Diwrnod: Parti Plu, S4c, by Gareth Williams

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

There is nothing like a dining table to expose a series of lies and untold truths. Many would point to Mike Bartlett’s terrific 2015 drama Doctor Foster as the epitome of that. Yet there is a scene in the latest series of 35 Diwrnod that comes close. After four episodes cranking up the tension, this moment represents the point at which the bomb, slowly ticking away since the opening scene, truly starts to go off. It is an extraordinarily gripping scene, full of revelation, as the incalculable web of mystery and intrigue that writer Fflur Dafydd has spun begins to quickly unravel. True to her style however, she leaves enough enigmatic plot points to keep the viewer on tenterhooks to the final moment of the final episode.

What I love most about the writing of Fflur Dafydd is her attention to detail. The series may set up Beth (Gwenllian Higginson) as the main character, whose impending marriage to Dylan (Geraint Todd) provides the focal point, but the interlocking narratives of every single character and the gradual exposure of their secret links to one another means that, in the end, it becomes an ensemble drama. We as viewers become invested in every single person because Dafydd herself has gone to great lengths to make each of them complete and fully rounded characters in their own right. It means that there is no let up; no subplot that exists simply to give the viewer a break from the main focus of the drama. Instead, it is a constant stream of deliberate action, in which every interaction, however mundane on the surface, becomes a point of information that feeds into the wider narrative. The viewer gets drip fed little details, sometimes through dialogue, sometimes via a cleverly crafted camera shot, which act as tantalising threads that keep us hooked. It is a visual guessing game that springs surprises and often plays with our expectations. Dafydd is without doubt one of Britain’s best screenwriters.

This latest series of 35 Diwrnod also features some of Wales’ best acting talent, with Sion Ifan (Efan) and Rhodri Meilir (Bill) starring alongside some inspiring new faces, none more so than Emmy Stonelake (Angharad). Indeed, Meilir and Stonelake are excellent as a married couple whose relationship becomes increasingly fractious due to the former’s controlling behaviour. The calm and calculated persona that Meilir adopts in Bill’s attempts to isolate Angharad from her friends helps achieve a verisimilitude that offers a welcome contrast to some of the more outlandish content in this drama. Stonelake portrays the emotional effects of Bill’s behaviour on Angharad with such obvious subtlety that though it may not grab you by the scruff of the neck like in series two of Bang, this domestic abuse storyline still resonates with a quiet power. Dafydd handles it with great sensitivity, just as she seems to with transgenderism. The inclusion of a character in the process of transitioning may be used as a plot twist, but the emotional impact on them and their family strikes me as sympathetic and considerate in its portrayal. Dafydd balances high-octane scenes with delicate moments really well. 35 Diwrnod: Parti Plu is an emotional rollercoaster for the viewer as much as it is for its characters.

I am always fascinated by the exploration of memory and perception that is a feature of all Fflur Dafydd dramas. In this series of 35 Diwrnod we witness the mental traumas that some characters carry, the mental anguish that others feel, as well as the mind games that a few play. Viewers are frequently challenged in their perception of what is happening onscreen, the many surprises and twists throughout providing plenty of mental stimulation that causes us to think twice about our own theories and assumptions as we engage with this incredibly intricate world of Dafydd’s own imagination. I did think that I had her writing figured out. But as my early expectations failed to match with the outcomes onscreen, I realised that it was facetious to even entertain the notion that I could second guess her every move. 35 Diwrnod has deservedly returned for another series with critical acclaim. It further cements Fflur Dafydd’s reputation as a master storyteller.

Watch the series on S4C’s Clic here.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

Review, Handstand, BBC Wales by Gareth Williams

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The first original TV drama of 2020 to emerge from Wales is a short one-off piece called Handstand. It may be quirky and slightly clichéd on the surface, but there is a dark underbelly that gradually reveals itself over the course of half an hour. Director Peter Watkins-Hughes has chosen to shine a spotlight on domestic abuse through what is essentially a love story between the hardworking and compassionate Luke (Darren Evans) and his new neighbour Sarah (Mabli Jen Eustace).

Evans and Eustace demonstrate a wonderful onscreen chemistry from the get-go, their characters’ first meeting being the perfect mix of socially awkward and humorously sweet. The telling camera angles and silently knowing looks to one another add to the sexual tension between them, whilst the synth-pop soundtrack and cinema setting coat their relationship in youthful possibility and nostalgic innocence respectively. It is this portrait of young love that makes the turning point in the story all the more dramatic and affecting, as Luke hears the raised voice of Sarah’s father, Alan, resonate angrily through the ‘shockingly thin’ walls of his bedroom. What follows is a moral dilemma centred on the public and private dichotomy, where the question of intervention is explored rather well, given the drama’s brief running time. Christian Patterson is excellent as the two-faced Alan, whose jolly exterior slowly slips away to reveal a manipulative man whose obsession with power and control is ultimately his undoing.

As a stand-alone piece, Watkins-Hughes has created something that is both entertaining and informative. It is also educational insofar as it deals with the subject of domestic violence, thereby reflecting the three Reithian ideals that the BBC was founded on. I believe that this is important to highlight as the BBC and its licence fee comes under increased scrutiny and ever sharper criticism. There is no doubt a conversation to be had about its future funding model, but I believe Handstand is an example of what publicly-funded broadcasting does best, supporting projects that have no commercial value but nevertheless tell important stories that need to be heard. It is also why public service broadcasting is needed, because without it, I fear that the voices wanting to tell such stories in Wales may be bereft of opportunities to do so in a media marketplace driven solely by profit.

Click here to watch Handstand.

gareth
Gareth Williams

Review My Little Pony The Movie by Jonathan Evans


 
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
 
Probably to the shock and awe of everyone when we got another iteration of the My Little Pony franchise it’s standard of quality was higher than we expected but it also gathered a large audience from not just little girls but boys and not little boys elderly men. They are known as Bronies, so the show had an extra audience that they probably didn’t count on. I know about this because I am one.
Our main group of characters are (bare with me, these names are real I swear) Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) the book smart but also neurotic and worrisome, Applejack (Ashleigh Ball) the hardworking, salt of the earth type, Rainbow Dash (Also voiced by Ball) the hot-headed enthusiastic one, Pinkie-Pie (Andrea Libman) the colorful, bouncing, party obsessed funny one, Fluttershy (Also voiced by Libman) the shy, delicate one who will be the last one to start or join a fight, Rarity (Tabitha St. Garmain) the fashion obsessed fussy one and finally is Spike (Cathy Weseluck) the little dragon who is always there for support. These are the typical archetypes that we’ve come to know for a group dynamic but they work here because they’re still distinctive from the other archetypes, few are as mad and fast talking as Pinkie Pie, or quite as intricately paranoid as Twilight. Reusing a formula is OK as long as you make it distinctive, which they do here, so there’s still something to connect and remember.
For the plot our group is gathered together for a special celebration, all is happy and going fine but a dark cloud approaches and from it emerge invaders that take the castle. Our heroes escape and now need to travel the lands and find allies.
The animation is an upgrade from the show, having much wider and detailed range of expressions from the characters as well as wider shots along with more sweeping movements from the camera. None of this is able to compete with Disney, Dreamworks or Ghibli but who says it has to? The show has its own style and it gets more effort put into it here.
This is is up there with one of the most vividly colourful movies I’ve ever seen (equal with Trolls). There is every single bright colour used here, from primary’s to others like turquoises, fuchsia and creams. But it never becomes saturated because each character has their main colour and the backgrounds are distinct so even if you squint you will know who is who. This is a good use of the tool.
This is a musical adventure. Though I must say that the songs are the weakest part of the movie. I can’t recall one of them from memory. They play at moments of plot-points or to expediently have a character tell you a lot about them. They may have other young fans singing them and buying the soundtrack but these aren’t the high-points of the movie.
For the big screen they gathered celebrity casting as you’d expect. The names are impressive with names like Zoe Saldana, Liev Shreiber and Michael Pena as-well as others. But they all fill their roles very well and are not distracting. These are actors that know how to be behind the microphone and create a character using only their vocals. Probably the biggest is super star Sia, essentially playing herself as a big musical star.
The main antagonist Tempest is easily the best part of the movie. Her darker colours contrast the others as-well as the world. The animators clearly put in effort with her facial expressions, most prominently her eyebrows. Emily Blunt puts on an American accent flawlessly and enjoys sinking her teeth into this no-nonsense, very fearsome threat.
For young children this movie will definitely entertain as well as comes with basic but fundamental lessons. For the older fans (which do exist) they will be glad to see their characters on the big screen in a bigger scenario. But the true appeal of the movie is probably what got young girls and older males to become fans, it has a distinct and undeniable charm.
Hanazuki Review

The opening short for this movie is a journey of colour, imagination and friendship. it is actually doing all the movie seeks to do and does it better.
It is instantly accessible, charming beyond belief and tells a full story. I would be glad to see this again as well as have it shown to children.
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)