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By Anne Brodie

Steven Zaillian’s black and white iteration of Patricia Highsmith’s evergreen psychological thriller simply called Ripley starts slow but by Ep 3, you’re done for, hooked, breathlessly anxious to see what follows. You can’t look away anymore. Andrew Scott’s black, blank eyes are effective as Tom Ripley constantly seeks targets and escape routes; he’s a liar and thief in every cell, a walking destroyer. The character’s considered a psychopath but he does feel fear and weeps at a good song – and he loves fine things. Dickie Greenleaf’s (Johnny Flynn) wealthy father hires Tom – who can certainly put on a decent persona if it suits him – to bring Dickie home from Italy where he’s supposedly wasting himself. Tom finds him in a villa on the Amalfi Coast with his girlfriend Marge (Dakota Fanning) living rarefied lives buffeted with money; Dickie does nothing, Marge writes. She spots Tom’s character off the bat while Dickie likes to have the obsequious Tom pay attention; he showers him with gifts and opportunities in return like a vacation trip together. Marge refuses to join them, and sometime during the trip, Dickie disappears. From this point, Highsmith’s depiction of pure evil in human form comes into sharp focus. Ripley is unstoppable; he can worm out of any situation and come off like a choir boy. Breathtaking events take us by storm and despite six prior films on Tom Ripley, this one’s startlingly fresh. Elegant black-and-white photography serves many psychological purposes as well as setting Zaillian’s story apart from the others and suits Scott’s eerie bloodless vibe. His Tom/Richard works his way under the skin sloughing off suspicion while plotting ever more daring, dizzying gambits; you may not sleep well wondering how many Ripleys walk around. Oh, one comical moment. One. Also stars Elliot Sumner (Sting’s child), Maurizio Lombardi, Margherita Buy, and John Malkovich while Robert Elswit’s cinematography takes full advantage of Itay’s beauty set against Ripley’s empty soul, is unforgettable. April 4, on Netflix.

Disney+ launches a terrific femme-tastic action series, set in 17th-century London about a woman of, wit, humour, and joy, and possessed of extraordinary fighting skills. Renegade Nell stars Louisa Harland as the eldest of three daughters of a village publican; they’re mourning the death of their mother and facing growing economic problems. Nell needs those skills, granted to her by Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed ) a kind of genie, as the local Lord’s ((Pip Torrens) loutish son Thomas, played with evil glee by Jake Thomas feels threatened by Nell’s confidence. He bullies, beats, whips, and threatens her life in front of all the townsfolk, and is humiliated when she beats him with her supernatural physical skills. Thomas is a greedy monster, in need of money to cover his gambling debts, but his father cuts him off and pays the price, even after he covers up a murder committed by his son. They set up Nell as the murderer so she must away on her noble steed and her sisters follow. Forced into a life of crime as a highwayman, she becomes known and admired throughout the land. It’s a fantasy about women standing their ground against deadly odds, surviving anything thrown at them (literally) with a little help from their friends. A joyous, triumphant, yet dramatic and funny, Renegade Nell is a show with a deeply feminist heart! March 29

I didn’t have high hopes for the Girl Power musical series GIRLS5eva as it seemed there was a lot of noisy posturing and hamming it up, etc., but I was pleasantly surprised when I settled in to watch. Netflix has just launched all three seasons simultaneously. Smart scripting, social relevance, and entertaining and distinctly individual middle-aged ladies Dawn, Wickie, Summer, and Gloria add up to good, silly, resonant fun. They’re restarting the girl group career two decades later. The one-hit wonders are now 40-ish, two moms, a dentist, and a successful entrepreneur with a yen to get back onstage and hit the road. No manager, no money, and no real positives, except they perform a spontaneous show and the fans, now grown, love it. Funny, funny, funny, with wit and whimsy, silly, and appealing. From Tina Fey and the team behind 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Netflix (again!)

Is It Cake? S3 launches with a mystery theme, set in an old-world billiard/library of gilt-edged tomes and oops, the garden gnome isn’t cake but the table it’s standing on IS! and, the leather, studded armchair is cake. That is the kind of brain tease to expect in this, the third season of the phantom cake competition. Hyperrealistic cakes are everywhere as new bakers line up to create their versions of a mystery staple in cake and fondant. Host Mikey Daye, an overacting hoot, spies an antique tankard, and a Tiffany arts and crafts lamp in cake. He cuts them wide open as the sweet bits fall sady to the floor. The first challenge this season is for four bakers to do whatever they want, to “unwrap the mystery” that they are, for a cash prize. Baker stories are fun, the actual competition suffers from too much scripted cheering, but by now you’re off to the fridge or the local patisserie to stuff your face. March 29.



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