12 Monkeys And Third-World Dreams: TV and movies (#SFWApro)

Although TIMELESS has been this season’s hit time travel show (and I like it myself), 12 MONKEYS (all rights to image reside with current holder) is by far the better show. The second season has Cole, Cassie, Jennifer, Katarina and the other players continuing their struggle against the Witness, the sinister prophet who founded the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. The Witness’s goal is the creation of the Red Forest, a strange altered reality in which time shall be no more, and therefore death shall have no power — in timelessness lies immortality.

What makes it great is that it’s well acted (Emily Hampshire’s cuckoo Jennifer is particularly funny), and puts a surprising amount of thought into characterization. Cassie becomes considerably more hardcase after the first episode of S2, often putting her and Cole at odds, but it never feels forced. The struggle against the time paradoxes unleashed by the 12 Monkeys are more interesting than the more Time Tunnel-esque adventures in Timeless.

I’m particularly impressed that just four episodes in, we learn about the significance of the Red Forest. These days it’s a basic principle that (as I’ve complained about Lost) TV shows hide as much of the truth as possible. It’s refreshing to see a show that doesn’t. Not that there aren’t still mysteries, but we learn something of substance too.

My only reservation is the reveal in the final episode. It’s cliched, and could easily reduce Cassie’s role in S3 in sexist ways. But I’m hopeful that won’t happen. “Hello egg — meet the chicken.”

Turning to movies, MARIA, FULL OF GRACE (2004) is a remarkably effective, naturalistic film about a pregnant Columbian teenager who loses her job, then opts for a gig as a drug mule to make ends meet (“We’re sending you to New Jersey, a small town near New York.”). A very good job of making events flow realistically while leaving me completely uncertain what was coming. “Be glad you’re small.”

THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN  (2007) is an award-winning French film that didn’t click with me at all. The story focuses on an Algerian immigrant’s struggle to open a couscous restaurant with the support of his extended family, but it’s much more of a slice of life than I expected — less about the struggle and more about slow, leisurely scenes of his family living their lives. They were well done, but the film didn’t hold my attention, particularly at 2.5 hours. “Wearing diapers at her age!”

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