silhouette of gun in hand

What I Watched: February 2023

February was Murder Mystery Month but there were a few series I’d already started before, that I finished this month, making this a mixed bag of murder, mystery, magic, Magnum, and making a movie – and not forgetting the fabulous Tali.

Tali’s Wedding Diary
Murder mystery be damned. In January, I watched Tali’s Joburg Diary and I just had to watch the first two seasons of this brilliant mockumentary. Tali’s wedding kicked it all off and I think it’s the best and funniest season so far. If you’ve ever shaken your head in exasperated despair at what performances weddings have become, you have to watch this: Tali will boggle your mind with her over-the-top nonsense. Yet despite her ridiculous engagement reenactment; her overpriced, undersized dress; stealing a venue; and branding the wedding you can’t help falling in love with Tali.

Tali’s Baby Diary
The fun continues in the second season as Tali’s fit influencer lifestyle and career come to a grinding halt when she falls pregnant. Luckily for Tali, it gets kickstarted back to life when she discovers the world of momfluencing. What follows is a hilarious season filled with vegan pants, gender reveals, and great new characters in the form of Selebi and Kelz.

American Horror Story: Coven
This is my favourite season of American Horror Story so far. Okay, there are eleven seasons and I’ve only watched three, but this one has witches! Lily Rabe is ethereal, you love hating Emma Roberts and Jessica Lange’s characters, and Sarah Paulson is excellent, as always. It incorporates different forms of witchcraft, and the women have all kinds of interesting powers from seeing past events and bringing people back from the dead to telekinesis and clairvoyance. It has a dark, almost Harry Potter vibe – what with the girls all living together in what basically amounts to a boarding school for witches – and makes for a smart, entertaining, female-focused watch.

7 Women and a Murder
As the title tells you, this Italian whodunnit is about seven women and a murder. They are pretty much the only characters you see for the duration of the movie, as they spend it trying to figure out who killed the family patriarch and why. I figured out the twist very early on, but it was really enjoyable watching the women point fingers and outline motives as they try to figure out whodunnit. It’s got a great cast and employs one of my favourite plot devices: confining the action to one setting. Trapped in a snowbound mansion on Christmas Eve’ with no means of communication, it’s not long before tempers flare, clues are discovered, and even delicious meals are shared in this funny and entertaining murder mystery. It’s a remake of the French film 8 femmes, which I’d love to get my hands on too.

Irma Vep
A beautiful, uber-meta limited series, I was drawn to it by the presence of Alicia Vikander. She stars as a famous Hollywood actress (just one of its many meta moments) who heads to Paris to star as Irma Vep in a French series adaptation of the French film Les Vampires. This series is itself an adaptation of the 1996 French film, also called Irma Vep, about a French director trying to remake Les Vampires. Layers, I tell you. Layers! Vikander does a beautiful job pulling those back on her character, as does Vincent Macaigne as the director René Vidal – who is pretty much a representation of the show’s creator, writer, and director Olivier Assayas, who wrote and directed the 1996 film. Gottfried, played by Lars Eidinger, is also a delight to watch, especially as he confronts the people working on the film, and the audience, with hard truths. Each episode opens with a capering animated sequence, but as René continually reminds everyone, he is not making a TV series, but an eight-hour movie; and that is essentially what Assayas does here as he lifts the veil on the making of movies and series as an art, a craft, and a way of life.

In for a Murder
It was back to theme with this Polish murder mystery. The movie follows Magda, a gentle, caring housewife who discovers a dead body and becomes involved in solving the mystery alongside the bumbling detective who is also an old friend. Woven into this murder mystery is the story of a friend who disappeared without a trace, a mystery which Magda realises may be linked to the murdered body. It all sounds very dark, but it’s actually very sweet and heartfelt and even has moments of unexpected hilarity, all driven by a great cast of characters.

Magnum P.I.
Season 4
I started season 4 last year and finished this month, but it actually kind of suits Murder Mystery Month: there is always murder and mystery for Magnum and Higgins to solve. This show is a total guilty pleasure, with its cheesy writing and over-the-top scenarios. But it’s such fun. The episodic structure gives Magnum and friends a case to solve each episode, so you always know exactly what you’re going to get, making it a comfort watch too. However, this season (although it’s been building up forever) I got more annoyed than ever with the “will they, won’t they” toing-and-froing between Magnum and Higgins. I wish they wouldn’t.

The Kennel Murder Case
Along with the book club book, Shedunnit hosts a watch party every month. The book and movie are chosen according to theme: this month was “the impossible crime”. I enjoyed the movie pick more than the book pick (Death of Jezebel). I was pleasantly surprised at how spunky the female characters were. I totally guessed the killer, because the person has a conversation in which they give away their motive. But, as an impossible crime (a locked room mystery, in this case) it was fun finding out howdunnit even if I already knew whodunnit.

Season 1
As many crime writers do, Richard Castle (the character after whom the show is named) retires his famous protagonist by killing him. When Castle is consulted on a murder investigation (because the killer mimics murders from his books) he meets his new muse in the form of Detective Kate Beckett. This soon sees him join the team as a permanent consultant, solving mysteries side by side with the hard-boiled detective thanks to his years of writing mystery novels. Much like Magnum, this is a guilty-pleasure watch because really the premise is so silly and implausible – which is what makes it so much fun. Nathan Fillion stars as Castle and he’s as charming as ever, and Stana Katic (a dead ringer for Julia Roberts) is great as Beckett. Fellow detectives Esposito and Ryan amount to mere sidekicks at first, feeling very generic and interchangeable. But they grow on you, add to the banter, and soon prove themselves to be smart and capable. There are eight seasons (with the first being only 10 episodes, but the rest running the traditional gamut of 20+ episodes), so this one’s gonna last me a while.

CB Strike: Lethal White
I read the book upon which this is based while watching the show. I watched the first season (The Cuckoo’s Calling) a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The actors who portray Cormoran and Robin (Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger) are fantastic and a big drawcard, but reading the book at the same time makes the show feel a bit thin because the book is packed with so much detail. As much as I enjoyed the book, I’d rather watch the show; but if I do return to the books, I think it’s best to watch the adaptation first – and not at the same time.

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