Sarah Z's Book, Movie, & TV Reviews

Updated: Nov 1

So I've been on deadline to get a fresh draft of my book out to beta readers, which means....I've been watching a hella lot of shows. It's not just my favorite way to procrastinate (some people sleep or...exercise, I hear? eww) but it genuinely does relax and inspire me creatively-when w it's good. When it's bad? It gives me hope that if THAT SHIT can be published/made, so can mine shit.



Bad Sisters (Apple TV)




" I found it very, very funny- you know, how bad they are at murder and how good he is at escaping death."- Sharon Horgan, the creator and star said about watching the source material for this show, 'Clan,' a Flemish series from 2012.


If you don't yet know Sharon Horgan, the hysterical and brilliant Irish writer/producer/actor, fix that today. Start with one of my all-time favorite shows, Catastrophe (Amazon Prime, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes), and then come back here.


This show (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) had me from the first moment, from the weird intro to the way the five sisters interact so naturally and share a trauma bond over wine, raunchy humor, and swimming in the frigid winter waters of Dublin, to the really deftly written villain. It's a funny, sometimes farcical, often very real murder mystery/comedy family/domestic drama thriller. Each and every one of the characters is rich and interesting and perfectly cast- even the foes are amusing and delightful in their wickedness or bumbling ineptitude. Also, the cinematgraphy is gorgeous. Robb and I watched it obsessively and quickly. PLEASE watch it so we can talk about it. I'm obsessed.



Luckiest Girl Alive (Netflix)




I always use the 4 hours I'm pinned down and alone while donating platelets/plasma to watch stuff I wouldn't otherwise get to at home. This movie got stuck deep behind my molars and won't come out- I wasn't sobbing in my chair exactly, but it's a beautifully paced and carefully unfolded story of multiple trauma and rebuilding, led by the captivating, uber talented Mila Kunis. I imagine the book, same title, 2015, written by debut author Jessica Knoll, is even more emotionally striking, but I haven't read it yet (book club idea!). It centers on a character who is attempting to create an adult life that doesn't at all resemble her early life where she and her single mom always felt behind financially and socially, and where she was victimized repeatedly. She's built thick armor and is decorating herself with the trappings of success. Ten years post a series of intimate and public violent events, a documentarian is harassing her to tell her side of the story and she does it in layers- the first person narrative to us, we get the real story, then there's the almost fully real story she shares with her best friend, and the little less real version she tells to her fiance, and the wholly false one she presents to the rest of the world. Gradually she starts to merge her versions and longs to lower her armor and know who she is, to heal, to grow authentically- it's a beautiful and well-earned story arc and, I think, a pretty accurate depiction of PTSD. I think, because it's done so gently and from her strong perspective, the moments of violence weren't as gutting as they may have been- I'm pretty sensitive and was able to watch it easily. Well worth it- highly recommend.



She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Disney +)




So, umm, this show is delightful. 100% every single person in my house loves it. It's smart, hilarious, totally fourth-wall busting, and just completely fun. The lead is a 30-something modern successful attorney with a fabulous clerk/best friend who just happens to be related to The Hulk and in an accident she gets some of his Hulk blood and....she now works for a big firm leading their super hero division...as She-Hulk. There's action, romance, painful/violating and empowering relationship and body image reflections, and so many solid jokes. It's very socially aware and provocative and seems to be telling the story of what a freakish huge thing has to occur for a woman to feel safe in a man's world...and even then...?


State of Terror (BOOK)




This book is so bad I'm mad at it. I almost quit it a bunch of times throughout but kept pushing because....I have no explanation. It never got any better. The thing is, I really liked HRC's non-fiction/memoir books and I SUPER DUPER EXTRA LOVE Louise Penny's cozy Canadian murder mystery Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series. She's prolific (there are 18 of them so far) and her prose is precise and surprising, poignant and often very funny. When I picked up this book, I'd hoped it was a matter of HRC being a fan of LP and there to just offer her insights into American politics so that LP could write a great book about the North American forces of good(?) coming together to solve some problem or other, centered in the teeny charming village of Three Pines.


Sadly, no. It's clear by the repetition and clunky, hackneyed writing that this is fan-fic written by HRC to make an (somewhat unclear) political point. I'm not even positive LP read it through before it was published. At the tail end (if you make it that far) there's a tiny taste of Three Pines but by then I was like, "NO, stay away! These worlds do not match! Don't soil it!" The story has no clear timeline either- it reads like adventure and urgency ("The clock and her heart beat in rhythm") like a show like '24,' but because the characters are always flitting off to ten different countries on several different continents, it's hard to know how long anything actually took- unless they were teleporting. Maybe they were teleporting. There are undeveloped, uninteresting characters up the wazoo and, while the world leaders' names were fictionalized, I kind of wondered if the former SECRETARY OF THE ACTUAL STATE should be sharing these impressions of our own and other country's governments so freely? Like I kept thinking, is this going to be a problem for anyone? But doubtful that anyone will read that far. ANYWAY. Boo. No. I don't think people need to stay in their own lanes or anything, but I do think maybe some work in proficiency or a really strong editor would help the merge.


Hocus Pocus 2: (Disney +)


Better than the other reboot Sarah Jessica Parker is involved in right now, but actually similar in many ways. After much anticipation from its diehard fan base, SJP and her iconic co-stars are back! Well, two of them at least- there's been a whole lot of drama about...Binx the cat deciding not to come back because...Binx the cat has better things to do and there's allegedly bad blood between the actors.


As usual, the city (Salem) feels like a living, breathing character and is written in only the most flattering light. Fans were never here for reality, though, and will be glad to see the return of chic outfits, creative cocktails, and salacious conversations.Don’t be surprised when the men and children are killed off or maimed; this story has always been about the ladies. I only started watching the original 1993 Hocus Pocus a few years ago and honestly don't like it all that much. This one is better. Funnier and more sincere, less cringy with the kidnapping/kid murder, etc and there are some really genuinely touching moments at the end. The closure of the franchise is very satisfying. Also, Hannah Waddingham and Sam Richardson both have fun parts, so Ted Lasso fans are in for a (trick or) treat, as well!


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