I walked in and saw two women wrapped in black plastic garbage bags, covered in dried blood stains and caution tape. Toe-tags with identifying information dangled limply off their bodies. I wasn't at the morgue or a crime scene: I was at Investigation Discovery's IDCon in midtown Manhattan, and these true crime fans were simply dressed for the occasion.
For the uninitiated, Investigation Discovery, or ID, is Discovery Inc.'s true crime cable network. A quick glance at its show titles -- including Your Worst Nightmare, Welcome to Murdertown, and Deadly Dentists -- will give you the gist. (And yes, there are enough homicidal dentists out there to make an entire show about it.) The quality of the shows vary, ranging from the campy, cheeky reenactments in Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? to more respectable ones like Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall, hosted by the Emmy-nominated journalist.
As a devoted ID fan, I'm fully aware that the ID channel is popular enough to throw a successful meet-up. Still, I was curious about how they'd make such a morbid subject into a "con," a type of event that brings to mind more superheroes and celebrities than murder victims and homicide detectives. Obviously, I had to go.
IDCon, which is in its fourth year, was set up in Center415, a 30,000 square-foot venue with a simple stage and 500-something true crime fans milling about, either listening to panels, watching exclusive clips from upcoming ID shows, or checking out some of the installations. Activations included polygraph booths, meet-and-greet opportunities with show hosts, mugshot photo-ops, and an airbrush tattoo station where you could get, among other options, former FBI criminal profiler Candice DeLong's face tattooed on your body. (I opted for a tasteful red heart that said "ID addict" in the middle of it.)
There were also opportunities for attendees to learn to protect themselves. Volunteers from the Center for Antiviolence Education did an on-stage demonstration of self-defense moves. And Breaking Homicide host Derrick Levasseur offered me a specific piece of advice that he learned from a case he'd worked on as a police officer.
"If you come out to your vehicle and you see, like, a napkin or something under your windshield wiper, what are you gonna do?" he asked me.
"Pick it up," I responded, adding I'd do so before getting in my car.
"There are some criminals out there who will do that intentionally so that when you go and grab it they can actually attack you from behind. So if you ever see that, get into your vehicle and drive out of the parking lot immediately. Do not remove it from your windshield right then."
While that priceless advice is something I will follow (and spread around), the unspoken main attraction of the day was Homicide Hunter star Joe Kenda's panel. Homicide Hunter, now in its eighth season, traces Kenda's career as a detective in Colorado Springs, where he worked to solve over 350 cases. The 72-year-old retired lieutenant isn't your typical Hollywood heartthrob, but at IDCon, he may as well be Chris Hemsworth: I overheard multiple middle-aged women with specially-made Kenda t-shirts buzzing excitedly in the bathroom about their meet-and-greet opportunity with him.
I, too, found his no-nonsense attitude appealing when I got the opportunity to chat with him. When asked about Hollywood's recent obsession with serial killer Ted Bundy, he was particularly blunt:
"I interviewed Ted Bundy in the Pitkin County Jail in the 1970s, three days before he escaped. On TV, they present him as some articulate law student. He was a psychotic piece of sh--. It was not difficult to find that out in seven or eight minutes. I thought, 'Why am I talking to this lunatic? See ya Ted.' The guy's a fool."
While Kenda acknowledged he had a dedicated fanbase, he seemed to have no interest in glorifying his work. "I never pulled a trigger on a gun in my entire career and I'm proud of that," he said. "It's not what you see in the movies, and people know that about this network and they want to see what really happens."
Overall, the day didn't feel as exploitative or gross as one might guess. Yes, those women dressed in body-bags were brought onstage and given a round of applause. But for every kitschy mugshot photo-op, there was a more serious event on the itinerary that balanced it out, including the presentation of a $20,000 check donated to the Silver Shield Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships for children of police officers and fighter fighters killed on the job.
IDCon host and former CNN anchor Tony Harris summed up the event fittingly: "Don't judge us, outside world. ... When we come here, we get a day with some of the people who keep us safe, some of the people who have all the knowledge we need to keep our families safe, we learn from the mistakes that others have made, and we get to have some laughs and we don't take ourselves too seriously."
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Rarely has a motion picture's title been so brazen with false advertising! The Perfection, a genre-hopping Netflix original film starring Allison Williams (Girls) and Logan Browning (Dear White People), is divided into three sections. The first is quite promising. The second is certainly engaging, though undeniably ridiculous. The third isn't just far-fetched, it's insulting to your intelligence and, if you are the type of person with easily ruffled feathers, it may seem disrespectful to some very serious issues. It will be difficult to discuss this film without unloading heavy spoilers, as wacky twists is this movie's main offering, but I will attempt to employ the finesse that the screenwriters ignored.
We open on Charlotte (Williams) beside her mother's deathbed. She's been tending to her for a decade and now, with her gone, family members wonder if she'll be able to return to her previous life. She was a skilled classical cellist, working with Anton (Steven Weber), the most respected instructor in the field, but she gave it up when her mother fell ill. She zips off to Shanghai to meet with him and his wife (Alaina Huffman) as they prep a competition. Their new prize pupil Lizzie (Browning) is a recording and touring star featured in New York Times photo spreads. When Charlotte approaches her with a plastic smile, you get the sense there's an All About Eve or, at least, a Showgirls storyline about to emerge.
It does, to a degree, but not as expected. Lizzie flirts with Charlotte, and the pair, who bond over music and their rigorous training, seem made for one another. There's a dazzling duet sequence, the pair bowing their cellos with an unsubtle erotic thrum, intercut with a night out in Shanghai's sleeker environments. But the close-ups on Charlotte (and the fact that the young women have matching eighth note tattoos) clue us that something is definitely up.
Chapter two ought to be the start of a romance, but as they head off to the Chinese hinterlands on a quick vacation, Lizzie starts to feel sick. Suddenly The Perfection becomes a puke fest and worse, with lovely Logan Browning voiding her bowels on a bus. And then the sequence really gets gross. The screen runs with ooze, inspiring no shortage of "ewwws!"
It is not as it seems, however, and section three brings the action back to Steven Weber's New England conservatory. Things spiral into generic horror movie territory here, with occult-like happenings and grotesque rituals, though with little creativity of, say, the dance academy in either the old or new Suspiria.
What's annoying is that other than the eruption of bodily fluids (and solids) there's nothing that weird about the movie. All of the performances are fine, but no one lets lo0se and really goes for it. Weber is ultimately a pretty generic middle-aged dude. He bears a slight physical resemblance to Gary Oldman here, and that comparison does him no favors. When the final reveal of what, exactly, has been happening at his Musikverein, the glib tone of the otherwise fun-sy film feels unworthy of the topic.
An ultra-violent conclusion is meant to be some sort of catharsis, but the preposterous set-up makes it impossible to take seriously. The movie employs a few freeze-frame/rewind gimmicks to offer new context for a sequence we've just watched, and when one dosen't comes for the ending it feels like everyone just gave up.
The punchline is that the film, written by Supernatural producers Eric C. Charmelo and Nicole Snyder with director Richard Shepard (a Girls alumni who also helmed the very entertaining Dom Hemingway) was most likely conceived ending first, with the earlier sections written as a wind-up to get to this idea. That the filler is what works best is some kind of perfection.
The Perfection premieres Friday, May 24 on Netflix.
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Now that Game of Thrones has left you for dead, you probably have a lot of free time on your hands. Abandon ye Reddit threads for three binge-worthy shows that will capture your imagination -- or at least help you while away the weekend. Netflix is debuting a campy new thriller starring Renée Zellweger called What/If; the second season of Spike Lee's phenomenon, She's Gotta Have It, returns this weekend; and Starz's Vida explodes back onto the small screen after becoming a critical darling.
These recommendations courtesy of TV Guide are here to help you through your weekend binge. And if you're looking for even more suggestions, head over to TV Guide's Watch This Now! page, which has hand-picked recommendations for all the best shows you can start watching immediately.
Here's what you need to know about Netflix's new thriller What/If: Renée Zellweger spends an entire scene passive-aggressively shooting arrows at her young protégé played by Jane Levy. An examination of power and wealth in the upper echelons of society, What/If veers unpredictably from Lifetime movie to existential prestige drama to generational family tragedy. If you like watching characters and storylines crash into each other seemingly at random, this campy mess centering on a cold-blooded angel investor saving a revolutionary scientist's company for her own personal gain is definitely for you.
2. She's Gotta Have It
The Netflix adaptation of Spike Lee's classic She's Gotta Have It was created with Lee's blessing and creative guidance. Despite an uneven first season, Nola Darling's (DeWanda Wise) new exploits are refreshingly modern and complicated, mostly due to the fact that TV Nola is significantly more queer than movie Nola. Picking up from Season 1's cliffhanger, which left Nola deciding she was ready to take a risk and pursue something real with the woman she couldn't bring herself to leave, She's Gotta Have It Season 2 takes us on a whole new journey of self-discovery.
In just six episodes, the first season of Vida captured a very specific portrait of a very specific community. Two sisters travel home to Eastside to bury their mother, only to discover not just a mountain of debt, but their mother's wife, whom they had never known about. The sisters reckon with these bombshells in different ways; one in particular is forced to examine why she still lives in the closet despite the fact that her mom was married to woman. Critically lauded for its unflinching look at queer Latinx culture in L.A., Season 2 of Vida kicks off with an examination of a different force that shapes diaspora communities: colorism. Intense, fraught, and filled with delicious insider conversation rarely seen on TV, Vida Season 2 is a must watch.
If you're still looking for something to watch, remember to check out TV Guide's Watch This Now! feature. It's full of hand-picked recommendations, from the talked-about shows to the gems you can't afford to pass up.
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