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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Dead Asleep’ on Hulu, a Sloppy True-Crime Documentary About a Sleepwalking Killer

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Dead Asleep’ on Hulu, a Sloppy True-Crime Documentary About a Sleepwalking Killer

Hulu’s Dead Asleep hits all the true-crime qualifiers: Grisly murder, high-profile tragedy, unusual court case. In 2017, Randy Herman Jr. attacked and killed his roommate and longtime friend Brooke Preston, stabbing her 25 times – then claimed he had no recollection of what happened because he was sleepwalking at the time. Director Skye Borgman (Abducted in Plain Sight) digs into Herman’s story, even interviewing him in prison, where he’s currently serving a life sentence. But she never got Preston’s family to participate in the doc, resulting in one of the genre’s weaker entries.

DEAD ASLEEP: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: The doc is immediately sensationalistic: We hear a 911 call, and it’s Herman, reporting his own misdeed. Randy and Brooke had moved from smalltown Pennsylvania to West Palm Beach, Florida, where they lived as roommates with Brooke’s older sister, Jordan Preston. They were in their early 20s, liked to party, hoped for greener pastures down south. They were childhood friends, tight like siblings, and at first glance, you’d wonder if the weren’t from vastly different peer groups – she’s described as outgoing, bubbly and athletic, and he’s described as short in stature, chubby and relatively introverted. Borgman gives us portraits via their social media: There’s Brooke in a bikini, playing beer pong and having a great time; there’s Randy, live-streaming self-involved commentary and taking a long pull from a bottle of beer.

What went so wrong that Randy would brutally murder such a close friend? That’s the hangup here. A forensic expert describes a “vicious crime scene.” Blood was splattered throughout the three-bedroom house they shared, evidence of a considerable struggle. He remembered what happened before and after the murder, but couldn’t remember how or why it happened. We see grainy police footage of Herman being interrogated, whimpering and confessing; we see grainy police footage of Brooke’s mother breaking down as she learns how her daughter died. B

Bergman interviews Randy’s public defender, who admits that coming up with a defense for this case was incredibly difficult. Randy’s admission to the killing “seemed like a genuine lack of recollection,” the lawyer says, so they came up with an insanity plea insisting Randy killed her while sleepwalking. His mother and sister say he sleepwalked often throughout his life. Psychologists analyze Randy from afar: He grew up with two women; his father wasn’t a big part of his life, and committed a murder-suicide; he may have been harboring feelings for Brooke, and jealous of her boyfriend. Lawyers discuss legal precedent; experts discuss the science of sleepwalking; journalists discuss the trial; jurors discuss parsing the evidence on their way to a guilty verdict. Does any of this add up?

Dead Asleep Hulu Movie
Photo: HULU

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Netflix docs American Murder: The Family Next Door and Why Did You Kill Me? are similarly sensational, but not nearly as sloppy as Dead Asleep.

Performance Worth Watching: None of Bergman’s talking heads stands out – but it’s odd how so few of her interviewees come off as credible or insightful.

Memorable Dialogue: Randy, calling his mother from prison: “I just wish I knew how I did it.”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: So if Dead Asleep were to properly answer the question whether it’s possible to commit murder while sleepwalking, it would probably be a profound breakthrough in medical science. Maybe it goes without saying that that’s unlikely. But curiously, Bergman doesn’t aim for ambiguity, an analysis of the mysteries of the human mind. Instead, the director throws together a bunch of information and speculation that never comes together coherently. It’s manipulative and lacks rigor, the material parched for deeper analysis that might happen if interviewees faced stronger lines of questioning – or if Brooke’s family were here to share their views. But they’re not, which renders the documentary not just incomplete, but irreparably broken.

Yet Bergman soldiers on anyway, as if facing a contractual mandate to produce a documentary on the subject. In-between the talking heads, the film pieces together piles of social media screenshots, close-ups of cassette tapes rolling in players, a weird 3-D diorama with figurines arranged to dramatize Brooke’s final moments, surveillance footage of people doing odd things in their sleep and bleary POV shots of what sleepwalkers might experience. The police footage of Brooke’s mother weeping is particularly exploitationist, considering her desire not to participate in the film, and is some real Hard Copy horseshit. A sleep psychologist discusses the “reptilian instincts” all humans have, which may manifest during sleepwalking; cue a scary shot of a big-fanged snake striking at an invisible target, as apt a metaphor for this film as any.

There’s a whole host of problems and dangling thoughtlines here: The experts interviewed offer very little clarity on the science of sleepwalking. The lawyer commentary is problematic; remember, they share arguments, not necessarily truth. There’s a brief tangent on the topic of toxic masculinity, which may or may not apply to an armchair psychoanalysis of Randy. Journalists tell us how they Googled other sleepwalking murder cases in preparation for the murder trial. Randy’s mother insinuates that an expensive criminal lawyer might’ve been able to get Randy off the hook, but they didn’t have the money. And there’s a real howler of an assertion made that the murder weapon here, a buck knife, is just a common thing to be found on the nightstands of Floridians. OK, cool! Just go with that, let’s not ask why, or put any effort into poking holes in that flimsy declaration. Dead Asleep is a frankly irresponsible piece of quasi-journalism that reaches only one solid conclusion: The backlash against true crime docs is justified.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Dead Sleep is bottom-of-the-barrel true crime crud.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

Stream Dead Asleep on Hulu

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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