Saturday, April 16, 2022


Once in a while I'll stumble across a show that has all the ingredients for an effective and entertaining story, only to have the story fall apart completely, and become entertaining for all the wrong reasons. This week, or maybe last week, my wife and I discovered a glistening little gem on Netflix that held a Pandora's box of awfulness. One trope after another punched the viewer with giant, clown boxing gloves, delivered with all the finesse of a drunk tap-dancer with his shoelaces tied together.

This PG or PG-13 movie purported to be a mystery based upon a book written by a famous mystery author. The story line goes like this: Famous mystery writer goes to see her sister. The sister has always played second fiddle to mystery writer. Sister is now a high school teacher who hides a secret life as an online d*****trix. Said life consists of dressing in leather and masks while cracking a whip and shouting, "Say it!" Sister is also initiating a custody battle, now that she has her life back together. She has gathered info on her ex that implicates him in some serious white collar crime. 

Mystery writer meets next door neighbor, a police detective who recently solved a well-known case. Detective also has at least one of writer's books, and he's in the middle of a home remodel. There is an instant connection between detective and writer--at least in the script--but the chemistry between them seems more like that of oil and water. Not to worry, writer will dominate him--and absolutely everyone else in the show--before...well, let me explain the rest of the setup.

Sister is murdered after completing one of her special online sessions while writer is over at detective's house. Writer enters moments after the crime. She finds the body, apparently makes sure that sister is dead, and then stumbles down the stairs and out of the house to collapse in a blubbering heap, crying that her sister is dead. Detective sees her and goes to the body. Writer follows and suggests that sister may still be alive--which seems weird after moments earlier having declared her dead. Sister is not alive.

Now that we've seen how the mystery writer--who is well steeped in crime and murder--has a soft and vulnerable side, she becomes the d'trix for the rest of the movie. She dominates absolutely everybody. She is better at everyone else's job than the actual professionals. One of the first people she dominates (after the detective) is detective's boss. Of all the people in this movie, I felt the worst for detective's boss. She's a strong woman (as are all the women in this show--only the men are weak and pliable things) who is the master of her department. She objects to mystery writer's involvement until writer explains that she has keen insight into the criminal mind. Boss immediately caves. From that point on, boss' only function is to tell everyone else that she agrees with mystery writer. Boss has completely lost the ability to form independent thought; she can only parrot the thoughts of mystery writer.

The boss of the online company for which sister did her whip and leather lessons is also headed by a strong woman. Only she and two weak men have access to the database of the identities of the d'trixes. As you might guess, one of those weak men has spilled some information to  his cousin who works at the school where sister taught. One or two other online ladies are killed in a fashion similar to how the sister was killed. Another escaped death and wounded the attacker's arm.

It's during the investigation that we see two important things: First, either the author of the book, or whoever did the adaptation for the movie has an uncanny ability to write bland and uninteresting dialogue. I mean, third graders write better dialog than what goes on in this stain on celluloid. Second, neither the detective nor anyone else knows how to interview witnesses or suspects (nor are they able to get search warrants). After some quick questions by the trained professionals that get nowhere, mystery writer swoops in to understand and dominate the interviewee. She asks the one question that gets the vital information. She does everything but say, "Step back boys, and let me show you how it's supposed to be done." In all fairness, this isn't all that unusual in the mystery genre. The amateur may followup with some insightful questioning that the professional didn't do. In this case, the professionals are particularly inept, and there's an implied, "Look at me!" or trumpet fanfare after each interview. The execution of the trope in this show is among the most maladroit I have seen.

Another strong woman we get to meet is a senator. She may be the only woman who is almost as bad as sister's ex. Sister's ex is of course the prime suspect, and writer is insistent that he is the killer for a while. No one watching the movie will fall into the "the ex did it" trap. It really comes down to two suspects. My wife picked the killer right off. I suspected the other suspect at first, until I found out about the senator. All the pieces came together then, but the fake suspect did show up with a wound on his arm to lend credence to my initial hypothesis. However, he had another secret which absolves him of any sin in the eyes of modern Hollywood.

Finally--and we all saw this coming from the opening--mystery writer must don the leather to lure the killer into a trap. I almost forgot: Along the way, writer also got to punch sister's ex in the face--because that's what strong women do; they dominate everyone in every way. So anyway, she's doing the domination thing online. The cops manning the trap think they've already got the perp, and abandon the trap. As we knew would happen, the murderer thus catches writer alone. They do the fightey-fight with writer still leathered-up. Detective rides in on his Shetland pony to prove that although he is incapable, in spite of his training and experience, of asking meaningful questions, investigating, or carrying on any sort of interesting conversation, he can shoot. He does, and there's another body for the meat wagon. Case closed.

I may have ruined the plot for you, but it is secondary to the box of unintentional horrors that constitutes this movie. Besides, I'm not going to give you the name of the thing. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about--you're nodding in agreement as you laugh about having wasted more than an hour on the thing. If you haven't seen it, once you've hit play, you'll find yourself in the Vietnam of  movies. You know you should stop and back away, but you can't seem to do it. There's always another trope stumbling at you in grotesque face paint and sequins. It's one train wreck after another. It's like watching NASCAR with a massive pileup on every lap. I have to stop before my similes and metaphors rise up and stage a coup.


In lighter news, the two boys to whom I used to refer as RC and K-man were here today. I say "used to," because I've settled on new nicknames for these Corsican brothers: Moss and Roy. If you know these two, and know the reference, you'll know who is who.

The highlight of the get together was the war of the dinosaurs. We made up a game which pitted a jug of plastic dinosaurs against one another. Each side had ten or fifteen terrible lizards and one super dino. Roy had the gigantic T-Rex. Moss had the ptremendous pterodactyl. Also, we had artillery. Don't ask me to explain it. We just wanted to throw balls at dinosaurs. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures. 

Moss started the game with artillery fire. Roy advanced his lizards. Roy had good luck with the ground attack, inflicting heavy casualties on his advance up the center and on the flanks. He said that's what you had to do. You had to have a center and two flanks. Moss did some damage with artillery attacks, but not much. Roy's attempts at artillery attacks were less effective. Moss finally sent ptremendous pterodactyl into the breach. He cleared a path up the center. Roy brought monster Rex up to counter. It all came down to the battle of the behemoths. They decided that for a battle this important and with such massive foes, the fight should have three rounds. Moss won the first round. Roy won the second. The third ended with Moss taking the two dino-kings and showing the animation of the fight which resulted in the pterodactyl smiting the ruin of the T-Rex upon the carpet in both fast and super slo-mo action. It was a fun time.

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