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What to watch: ‘Ripley’ is a sight to behold — and that’s no con

Fans of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” get ready. Netflix’s black-and-white “Ripley” takes a more studied approach and it works. But you will have to be patient.

Meanwhile, fans of sexy historical series will get their fill of Starz’s steamy “Mary & George,” while those of us looking for something fun can choose between “Wicked Little Letters” or the second season of “Loot” on Apple TV+.

But the best watch comes in a limited version. “Woman” gets four stars out of four and is our find of the week.

Here is our summary.

“Ripley”: Netflix’s eight-part adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” is such a visual masterpiece that individual screenshots of the B&W series might well find a home on a child’s wall. art collector. What cinematographer Robert Elswit does is so good. The highly visual and delightfully detailed “Ripley” holds you in its visual enchantment throughout its viewing of the 1950s world through the sleepy eyes of Tom Ripley, a sociopath whose opportunistic “talent” is to deceive and assume identities when there is a complete lack of them. . Ripley’s story is hardly new to anyone who has read Highsmith’s off-center stories about her or watched the four film versions featuring the wily criminal.

Director/writer Steven Zaillian (SF State University alumnus won numerous awards for writing “Schindler’s List”) tackles the inner workings of this anti-hero and makes the genre and his character noir proud. The understated Andrew Scott gives a calculated, deliberate performance that is unnerving and serves Ripley better than his previous versions.

The real star is the atmosphere and the elegant, slow-jazz feel that Zaillian and his team have gone to extraordinary lengths to create. (He also features an extraordinary feline performance; watch for it.)

Ripley sets this deception in motion when he lands a cushy job after overestimating his acquaintance with the lazy son of a rich industrialist. Ripley takes advantage of a good salary (especially in the 50s) in her latest role – to persuade Dickie (Johnny Flynn) to leave Italy and return home. Dickie wants nothing to do with it while his sort-of-girlfriend Marge (Dakota Fanning) wants nothing to do with Ripley. She doesn’t trust him at all. She should not.

What unfolds from there must unfold before your eyes, but it’s safe to say that despair and paranoia ensue, accompanied by a clever cameo from John Malkovich, who played an older version of the character in 2002’s “Ripley’s Game.”

While some might be put off by “Ripley’s” measured tempo and its detached icicle of a protagonist, fans of noir won’t be and will admire how effectively it revives an often overworked genre. Simply put, “Ripley” succeeds. Details: 3½ stars out of 4, all episodes released April 5.

“Marie and George”: Starz’s sexy and spicy period melodrama certainly kept intimacy coordinator Robbie Taylor Hunt gainfully employed throughout. The addictive and oh-so-talkative seven-part standalone series is a bawdy affair with lots of bodies in all sorts of action. Creator DC Moore uses 2017’s “The King’s Assassin” as a template for this shocking piece of English history set in the 17th century. We follow the ambitious, zealous Mary Villiers (Julianne Moore, channeling the looks and looks of Bette Davis) as she fights her way to becoming a countess. She does this primarily by supporting her handsome son George (Nicholas Galitzine of “Red, White & Royal Blue”) with King James I (Tony Curran). The pouty-lipped and burly George – Galitzine is perfectly cast – stumbles at first but then works his way to becoming King James’ principal lover, a position firmly held by the duplicitous Earl of Somerset (Laurie Davidson). The mother and son’s royal ambitions metastasize from there, leading to family backbiting, a beheading or two, murder, death, and other plots. Never staid and often perverse, “Mary & George” stumbles midway but remains breathtaking entertainment, a spicy affair that grows more outlandish and naughty with each episode. It helps that Moore and Galitzine are so good at forming this chess-like alliance and that a trio of first-rate directors – Oliver Hermanus, Alex Winckler and Florian Cossen – never let the big drama tip into pure camp and simple. The writing is good too. Just consider this tart phrase delivered with aplomb by Moore: “Self-pity is for ugly people.” Leave it for the ugly ones. Really delicious, just like this series. Details: 3 stars ; the first episode comes out on April 5 and a new episode comes out every week until May 17.

“The State of Girls”: Talk about being in the right place at the right time. For their follow-up to 2020’s “Boys State,” Bay Area documentarians Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss accompanied young women as they participated in an annual weeklong American Legion program, this time held in the Missouri alongside Boys State, to form a mock government. . The first film was released during a volatile time, just as the world was entering the COVID-19 lockdown. This one comes just as word is circulating that Roe v. Wade could be overturned by the Supreme Court. McBaine and Moss focus on seven 17-year-olds as they form platforms, participate in campaigns, discuss issues — including abortion — and even hold mock Supreme Court hearings. They also denounce the discrepancies between the Boys’ State and the Girls’ State (especially on the amount of extra money spent on guys). Looking at it is like opening a long-blocked window in a stuffy room to breathe in rejuvenating air that promises future generations might help us. The film’s breath of fresh air lies in the determined young women – including conservative journalism student Emily Worthmore, dynamic speaker Cecilia Bartin, and the more reserved but intelligent Nisha Murali – as they listen to each other, debate and attempt to lay the foundations for their future. a better tomorrow. Details: 3 stars ; available April 5 on Apple TV+.

“Bad Little Letters”: The clash between Jessie Buckley and Olivia Colman (they starred in “The Lost Daughter” but did not appear on screen together) produces a hilarious, unflinching display of fireworks in Thea Sharrock’s irresistible charmer. takes place in a 1920s English film. village. It is in this picturesque location that an unknown serial letter writer utters creative profanities in missives that send all who live there into a dizzy spell. Who is the profane author of these blushing disassembly? Fingers point to Rose (Buckley), a feisty single mother and Irish migrant, an outcast not averse to curses. His manner ruffles the feathers of the pious and uptight neighbor Edith (Colman) who criticizes almost everyone for not reaching the highest moral standard. Sharrock’s light strokes lose some pep in his step as he packs (it should have been punchier), but there’s plenty to delight you (especially those inventive caustic letters). In a small role, Anjan Vasan plays the accused police officer (the only one in the department) who seeks to unmask this cursed culprit, a difficult task to accomplish since she crosses the quicksand of sexism that surrounds her. Details: 3 stars ; in theaters April 5.

“Booty”: Season 2 of the Apple TV+ series headlined by Maya Rudolph carries the high torch of the first season with Molly, billionaire turned superficial philanthropist, officially severing ties with her tech ex (Adam Scott). At least that’s what she thinks. Season 2 finds love and desire blending for Molly (the episode with her expiring on a blissful retreat with Benjamin Bratt is the season’s highlight) as well as for her team, the non-profit executive director lucratively motivated Sofia (Michaela Jae Rodriguez). Filled with quirky supporting characters that rival those on “Parks and Recreation” (and series creators Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard had a hand in that classic TV show), “Loot’s” humor comes with a message about work, play, love. and what ultimately makes us rich: friends who accept us unconditionally. Details: 3 stars ; two episodes available on April 3 and one episode each week until May 29.

Find of the week

“Women” : Two incendiary performances worth remembering during awards season provide the spark that ignites Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choong Ping’s queer-themed tinderbox, a revenge story where a hate crime perpetrator is targeted by the drag queen he brutalized. The uncompromising drama dries up your emotions and challenges your own ideas of what’s right and just as Aphrodite Banks (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) plays with fire by forming a relationship with her attacker, the wiry, muscular brute Preston (George MacKay of “”1917”). True to the nature of that premise, this expanded version of the directors’ short continually hits like a python and wraps itself tightly around thorny ethical questions. It’s also visually impressive and takes us to dark places and spaces, again under the neon direction of cinematographer James Rhodes. Stewart-Jarrett and MacKay have already received an award for their work together at the British Independent Film Awards, with more accolades expected to come their way. Freeman and Ping also deserve praise. Details: 4 stars ; in select theaters on April 5.

Contact Randy Myers at soisrandy@gmail.com.

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