Unbelievable Twist in ‘Hacks’ Season Finale: You Won’t Believe How It Ends!

Welcome to Film Chatter, the newsletter for those who can’t wait for the production of “Late Night With Deborah Vance” to commence right this second.

As Matt Brennan, the editor of this week’s Film Chatter, puts it, the two-part climax of the third season of “Hacks” sets the stage for a tantalizing (and, thankfully, already confirmed) fourth season of Max’s backstage comedy. The stars, Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder, are prepared to continue their on-screen rivalry. We can hardly wait for its arrival.

Also in Film Chatter no. 135, Bill Pullman drops in to explain why he chose to portray the true-crime phenomenon Alex Murdaugh and recommends two films for your weekend viewing pleasure.

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‘Acolyte’ leads Amandla Stenberg and Lee Jung-jae discuss the ‘cosmic connection’ between Mae and Sol: Stenberg shares her experience playing the twin characters Mae and Osha in Disney+’s new “Star Wars” series, alongside Lee, who stars as Master Sol.

‘Stormy’ filmmakers detail how Daniels contributed to Trump’s conviction: ‘Let’s give her the credit she deserves’: Filmmakers Sarah Gibson and Erin Lee Carr spoke with The Times about Stormy Daniels, their recent documentary about her, and her reaction to Trump’s trial.

Must Watch

Suggestions from The Times’ film and TV experts

“Godzilla Minus One” (Netflix)

This feature, which was a huge hit last year and is the 37th installment in the Godzilla franchise, still packs a punch even when viewed on smaller screens. A loose remake of the 1954 original, the film is set in the aftermath of World War II, with Tokyo still in ruins. Unlike in later films where Godzilla becomes a national treasure and an inadvertent defender of Japan from other monsters, here he is a lone troublemaker. And unlike the American Monsterverse franchise, which includes the Apple TV+ series “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” this film is a standalone story with no direct references to the existing canon (and without any American characters). The film also explores the human drama involving a survivor guilt-ridden airman and the adopted family that forms around him. As always, there’s a scientist with a plan. And, as always, one can’t help but feel sympathy for Godzilla, who doesn’t appreciate being shot at any more than we do. —Robert Lloyd

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“Solaris” (The Criterion Channel)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 space psychological drama is best known for being that film you’ve always meant to watch: undeniably important, with opening titles that play over a Bach organ chorale, a piece of music that encapsulates the entirety of Soviet-era stagnation in a stuffy three minutes. The rest of the “Solaris” soundtrack, an early example of electronic music, was composed by Eduard Artemyev, one of the last of the old-school state composers. (He passed away in 2022 at 85, a victim of COVID.) What he did for Tarkovsky’s film, placing it in an experimental aural landscape of whirring analog sounds and echoey chimes, represents a significant elevation of science fiction in general and a departure from Stanley Kubrick’s classicism. “Solaris” could become your new headphone jam on a gloomy L.A. morning. It’s playing in a series Criterion is calling “Synth Soundtracks.” All the entries are wonderful, but this one, in particular, stands out. — Joshua Rothkopf

Get up to Speed

All you need to know about the film or TV show everyone is talking about

In the second-to-last episode of the third season of “Hacks,” legendary comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and budding writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) face the entertainment industry’s biggest villain: cancellation. Deborah finds herself in the middle of a campus controversy over a viral compilation of her most controversial material just as she’s about to land her lifelong dream job, a late-night gig. However, after an improv show, a frat party, and a town hall meeting, things seem to settle down, and Deborah appears ready to accept her new role and Ava seems set to make her biggest breakthrough yet. The calm is reason enough to celebrate, with only the former’s reference to the show’s title, taken from a surprisingly heartfelt quote from that New Yorker profile, making me take notice: “A hack is someone who repeats the same thing. Deborah does the opposite. She keeps evolving and improving.”

I should have known that Max’s Vegas-themed comedy had another ace up its sleeve. After putting its central relationship through the wringer at a comedy festival, in the wilderness, and during an executive golf tournament this season – and broadening the storyline of potential spin-off talent managers Kayla (Megan Stalter) and Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) – “Hacks” returns to its roots in the finale, where Deborah and Ava square off in the former’s familiar mansion. Co-creators Downs, Jen Statsky, and Lucia Anello barely need their (always razor-sharp) one-liners: With Einbinder’s teary eyes and a smirk from Smart that could rival Brian Cox, the series wordlessly and skillfully deflates the high of the previous episode and sets the stage for a fourth season that I can’t wait for. Talk about constantly improving. —Matt Brennan

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READ MORE: With ‘Everything Must Go,’ Hannah Einbinder revisits her first love: stand-up

Guest Appearance

A weekly conversation with actors, writers, directors, and others about their current projects and what they’re watching

The case of Alex Murdaugh, who was convicted last year of killing his wife and son, held the nation’s attention, as it has become deeply fascinated with true crime. However, for Bill Pullman, who portrays the disgraced South Carolina attorney in Lifetime’s “Murdaugh Murders: The Movie” (Hulu), the appeal of the sordid tale lies less in what happened and more in how it unfolded. According to him, the dialogue, derived from real-life sources, captures the intriguing sound of “people who are lying, or sniffing out lies, or lying without a moral compass.” The experienced actor recently spoke to Film Chatter about the “peculiar” details of the Murdaugh case, the film he repeatedly watches to gauge his acting, and more. —Matt Brennan

What have you recently viewed that you’re recommending to everyone you know?

A few months ago, while on a flight, I watched the 2011 Iranian drama “A Separation” [VOD, multiple platforms], which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012. It tells the story of a middle-class couple who are parting ways as they struggle to care for the husband’s dementia-afflicted father and manage their 10-year-old daughter, who is trying to understand her parents’ concerns while maintaining her own sense of truth. The story culminates in a tense courtroom scene when the child is called upon to reveal facts that would prove her father’s testimony false. It’s a powerful scene on many levels. Interestingly, it’s a reversal of my favorite scene from last year’s film: the French courtroom scene in “Anatomy of a Fall” [Hulu] when the young son of a woman accused of killing her husband is called to testify.

What is your go-to “comfort watch,” the film or TV show you constantly return to?

Ha! I don’t necessarily watch movies to feel comfortable. However, there is one movie that I’ve watched more often than any other in recent years, which I turn to to once again appreciate what I believe are profound performances. “A Hidden Life” [Fubo] is a deeply moving historical drama written and directed by Terrence Malick. It follows a farm family living in the idyllic Austrian Alps as World War II is about to disrupt the world. The father, a devout Catholic, refuses to fight for the Nazis. The extended journey is so quietly devastating, and the actors are so truthful it makes your teeth hurt.

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Before you signed on to “Murdaugh Murders,” were you a fan of true crime? If so, what were you a fan of? If not, what convinced you to take on a project with this ripped-from-the-headlines sensibility?

I was attracted to “Murdaugh Murders” in part because of the sentence structure in many key scenes. Much was taken verbatim from body cam recordings, courtroom testimony, etc. The choice of words and syntax of people who are lying, or fishing for lies, or lying without any moral restraint was one of the things that fascinated me about playing the detective with hidden inclinations in “The Sinner” (Netflix).

What single aspect or detail from the case most shocked or disturbed you as you prepared to play this character?

I think there are sections in “Murdaugh Murders” that are so full of specific details that are probable but so, so strange and peculiar. The night the murders take place, the scene is a compound of dog kennels illuminated by warehouse quartz halogen lights and captured by many of the recording devices that were carried or installed around the area. Eventually, investigators retrieved footage from a Snapchat video that simply shows a dog wagging its tail. At the same time, you hear first the mother, then the son, and then the deeper voice of the person who most needed not to be identified at the crime scene just minutes before the murders occurred.

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