Category Archives: Netfix

Mini-reviews of currently streaming streamables.

Netfix: Casting JonBenét

casting_jonbenetThe murder of JonBenét Ramsey will probably go down in as one of the saddest, strangest unsolved murders in American history. Despite all that science can give us, 20 years later we still don’t know who killed JonBenét. The Netflix original documentary, Casting JonBenét, takes an original look at one of our nation’s most speculated upon murders.

What makes this documentary so interesting is that it’s not so much a documentary as it is a deconstruction. No actual associated parties are involved – it’s all reenactment. This method  is incredibly appropriate, considering that this case is pure speculation.

From the moment they made their public appearance, Patsy and John Ramsey were judged unscrupulously by the public, and would be judged for the rest of their lives. Additionally, there would be little to no personal time to grieve, let alone process this atrocity, while being prime suspects for the police.The beauty of this documentary is everything we witness is that spectacle.

On the whole, this is an exploration of mass perception and how it shapes our views of others, while reflecting on our own inner troubles. During a powerful point in the story, when John and Patsy are meant to be making their statements to the police, the actors spill their guts about their darker character manifests. The finale is an emotional cacophony, which renders the viewer overwhelmed, and ultimately very sad.

The Good
In the end, I found this film to be haunting. The spectrum at the end – every possibility played out to its fullest – cements that this was a real tragedy that actually occurred to real people.

The Bad-ish?
As much as I appreciate the idea of a speculative documentary about a news spectacle, it’s really an anti-documentary. Though an exploration of emotional gravitas, one can’t help but feel it hides behind the Ramsey’s limelight to create an art piece. …Not that there’s anything wrong with that, is there?

After all, art is inspired in the strangest or bleakest of places, and there’s hardly any exploitation to be had – the performers are of their own bias and the filmmakers do not portray any opinions on the matter. It’s less about the Ramseys themselves and more about reflecting on theoreticals. So in a sense, the film is false advertising. An additional ironic cherry on top is that JonBenét is hardly even in the film at all – after all, the parents are the real stars of the show.

The Bizarre
…Does that sex-ed guy just carry those flails around with him everywhere?

Netfix: Yoga Hosers

Roughly a year ago, Kevin Smith released Tusk into the world. Though it was not received kindly, behind the scenes of the grotesque adventure  was an entirely different scenario – a time of family bonding and friendship, as it were. After seeing his daughter and her best friend behind the clerk’s counter, Smith was inspired to weave a new story just for them.

And what a tale it is.

Yoga Hosers stars Harley Smith and Lily-Rose Depp as Colleen McKenzie and Colleen Collette, respectively. These two sophomores love to hang out, jam, and practice yoga. The only thing spoiling their precious youth is their part-time job at the local convenience store Eh-to-Zed.

 

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Glamthrax is an awesome band name.

One fateful day, everything changes for the Colleen Coalition: they are unexpectedly invited to a Year 12 Party! OMG! 😂

Frankly the first half-hour of the movie is pedantic teen nonsense with some Smodisms tossed in – but when Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp reprising the role) steps in, things get really weird, and so much more fun. What begins as a teen romp snowballs (heheh) into a cascade of B-movie mayhem, with bratwurst Natzis. Bratzis.

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Justin Long as Yogi Bayer

The Good
This film was a family affair – chocked full of cameos (including both the girls’ families), references and easter-eggs. It’s obvious everyone was having fun on this one. Needless to say I am still looking forward to the final chapter of the True North Trilogy, Moose Jaws (which is like Jaws, but with a moose).

The Bad
Though the intentions were good, this portrayal of teenage girls was painfully pandering, to the point of being embarrassingly condescending. Also are undergrads trying to get into senior parties still a thing? (Was it ever a thing?)

Considering this was aimed towards modern teen girls, but features 80’s/90’s references, it’s hard to figure out who this movie’s really aimed at.

The “What the f*ck?”
Is it weird that I thought the bratzis were strangely adorable? …Did you know that is the same voice he uses to speak to his dogs? (Coincidently, Smith’s dachshund, Shecky, also makes a cameo.)

In all, this movie’s pretty fun. Dumb, but fun.

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Two gals, a Guy and a sausage party.

Looking Through ‘Black Mirror’

Ever since its arrival on Netflix, I have been completely enthralled with Black Mirror. If you are under a rock and unfamiliar with the series, I think it’s fair to call it Twilight Zone meets futurology/media commentary; All but the first episode are based in a gritty sci-fi future – not gritty in the Mad Max sense, more that the series not only displays fantastic concepts, but also dour consequences.

Black Mirror is an anthological series, consisting of six episodes original episodes, six “Netflix original” episodes, and a Christmas special. For the heck of it, I decided to rank them from my least to most favorite – because lists are fun! There will be spoilers as we go, but hey, if you haven’t seen any of it, this may (or may not) persuade you. But here’s a hint: I definitely dug the original British run over the American involvement – for the most part, anyway.

13. S3E6: Hated in the Nation
Kinda coincidental, I suppose. Once you follow through the harrowing fantasies of this series, the finale is disappointing, to say the least.

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Bees?

One of the biggest critiques regarding the Netflix expansion is that these episodes stray from the formulaic pacing of the originals – also the narrative tends to lean more on characters than world-building. Hated in the Nation offers neither. Personally, I felt this to be a drawn-out sci-fi Law & Order episode rather than an introspective commentary on society.

Okay, sure there was the whole twist where the public put their money where their mouth was, but it all felt very shallow, if not boring, compared to the girth of previous episodes. Also just a waste of Kelly Macdonald. Moving on.

12. S3E2: Playtest
As much as I appreciated the Twilight Zone-esque zinger at the end, I feel like that wasn’t enough to warrant sitting through 30 minutes of travel montage. The AR was cool and all, but ultimately mediocre when set against heavier subjects. As mentioned, since this season had more character focus, I think it’s worth mentioning that this protagonist didn’t really garner much empathy from me either.

11. S2E3: The Waldo Moment
waldo-600x399Picture Triumph the Comic Insult Dog on acid, and then place him in this year’s election. That’s pretty much this episode. Being a more character-focused episode, this one lost me a little bit, because I found myself more interested in how the government was to be run rather than the comedian’s spiral into dissociative madness. Maybe I’m a little heartless, or maybe I just wasn’t that into it.

10. Black Mirror: White Christmas
There are many things to appreciate about this Christmas special: the accumulative use of technology, multiple emotional gut-punches, Jon Hamm… But really, this is an episode that sends you reeling. My only issue is wondering how Hamm’s character is supposed to survive if he’s completely blocked out (maybe he can just order groceries online), but at the same time, this is an incredibly interesting take on solitary confinement – more about “blocking” later.

The story itself is enjoyable (in that edge-of-your-seat sense), and was ultimately a great one-off. Definitely finish the series before watching this, if you haven’t yet.

 

9. S3E3: Shut Up and Dance
Much like a later entry on this list, Shut Up and Dance is a more realistic parable rather than morose fantasy. Extreme realism sure, but still frightening. I feel like this is what my parents thought would happen if I had a Myspace.

8. S2E2: White Bear
One of the grimmest episodes (arguably), that makes one wonder what kind of punishment is truly justifiable. The tension is pretty fantastic throughout, with a twist that sends you reeling. I really did enjoy this episode, alas there were others I liked more.

7. S1E2: Fifteen Million Merits
This was an episode where things started getting cool. We have a distopia, set with multiple commentaries of daily life: reality tv, fat-hate, living through social media, etc. Take all of this and crank it up to 11 and you have Fifteen Million Merits – sort of. This is an episode that truly needs to be seen and experienced. It’s surreal enough but still has heart.

6. S3E1: Nosedive

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Welcome back, Bryce Dallace Howard.

This episode was a great start for a new season (especially aiming for an American audience); despite the social downfall of our protagonist, she rediscovers the power of self-expression…albeit behind bars. So yes, a cringey high-note, but a high-note nonetheless. If Charlie Brooker decides to do another holiday special, I’d love to see a cameo of Lacie doing some sort of menial job with a smile on her face.

5. S1E1: The National Anthem
The National Anthem is less about futurism and more a satire of modern media, and frankly, it’s a weird start for the series. It’s the perfect “what would you do?” scenario where truly no one wins, but it’s such an amazing stinger: the world would rather watch a man screw a pig rather than ensuring a woman’s safety. It’s so devastatingly dark, not to mention played to my Dogme 95 fandom. Why I prefer The National Anthem over Shut Up and Dance: That twist was more satisfying than bad wolf internet trolls.

4. S3E5: Men Against Fire
As Agent Teddy Daniels once pondered, “Which would be worse – to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” Take this question and mix in some warfare, a massive dash of augmented reality, and you have Men Against Fire. This episode was an incredibly heavy experience, especially considering that the AR didn’t end in the warzone.

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3. S3E4: San Junipero
This episode has led to some rifts between cohorts, but I’m standing my ground on this. Yes, it is comparatively “too happy,” but I love the amount of depth in these characters. The end of this episode sparks all sorts of discussion of theology and second-chances. Despite the heavy-handed nature of these topics, it was so nice for this episode to breathe some levity and hope – even if a massive hack or crash could destroy everything, but we’re not thinking about that. Let’s keep riding that nostalgia wave, just for a little bit longer.

2. S1E3: The Entire History of You
I personally see this episode as the flagship for the series. It’s got a crazy concept with tons of societal implications, and we get to see everything go wrong for someone because entire-history-of-you2of their own paranoia. You know how right as you fall asleep, the most embarrassing memory pops into your head? Imagine having access to that and being able to zoom and enhance.

This concept also allows people to be “blocked” and forgotten, taking selective sharing to a whole new level. It’s interesting to think about forcing someone out of your head so literally, especially when they are trying so hard to be there. It’s these ideas, as well as the imagery, that makes this episode so haunting.

1. S2E1: Be Right Back
In an age where facebook profiles become literal, living shrines, people are finding new ways of coping with loss. Be Right Back essentially personifies the struggle of letting go in a time where reminders of lost loved ones are just a click away. This is an episode that brought me to ugly tears, and thusly I tell everyone to watch.

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Netfix: The Suicide Theory

Chances are, you’ve seen this movie pop around your recommendations but totally ignored it way more than the other recommended films/shows, and I think I know why.

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The poster’s shitty. Shitty and forgettable. Which is a dirty shame really, because The Suicide Theory has a really cool premise:

Percival (Leon Cain), frankly, wants to kill himself – but for some reason, he can’t. It’s not that he hasn’t tried, he just keeps on living all the time. So what’s a man to do? Hire someone to do it for you – this is where Steven (Steve Mouzakis) comes in. For Steven, what seems to be a done deal opens a whole new can of worms instead.

The Suicide Theory is kind of like if M. Night Shyamalan had made The Butterfly Effect, but with less time travel and angst. In Australia. With no budget. In fact, I just wanted to check my facts with the last statement I made there, and just learned that this film was funded by Indiegogo! No wonder their poster’s so pedantic. (Then again, there are great-looking promo materials on the Indiegogo page, so I’m not sure what’s going on with Netflix.)

I don’t want to reveal more about the plot, so let’s just get down to brass tacks.

The Good
To avoid repeating myself further down the page, I want to note that The Suicide Theory does a great job keeping your attention. The tone and pace was consistent, and personally I was pretty happy with the ending.

Hugo Weaving, you are not.

Hugo Weaving, you are not.

The Bad
Sometimes the acting is pretty poor, but all things considered, it’s not even that bad. Well, they did go a little hard on the “fate” thing.

The Final Thought
Some say convoluted, I say charming; The Suicide Theory is pretty neat and wraps itself up nicely. It’s a story not only of fate, but also sheer cause and consequence. If you have 90 minutes, this is definitely worth a peek.

Netfix: Frank

I should not have waited as long as I did to see this.

I should not have waited as long as I did to see this.

Bored with his dull suburban life, aspiring songwriter Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) stumbles upon a grand opportunity when an experimental indie band, Soronprfbs, is in sudden need of a keyboardist. Though the gig does not go particularly well, Jon earns the attention of Soronprfbs’ masked frontman, Frank (Michael Fassbender). Jon is invited to join the band, much to the chagrin of Frank’s girlfriend and band theremin-player (thereminist?), Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

As a film, Frank serves almost as an inside look as a achieving art, or perhaps more of the perception of becoming of artist. Throughout the quirks is a story of anguish and expression, with Jon as an apt creative everyman. This is a story of fame versus respect, combined with the internet celebrity zeitgeist – wrapped up in a musical shell. From Jon’s perspective, his venture with Soronprfbs is not unlike a trip to Oz – even with the ending, but I won’t spoil anything.

The Good
Pretty much everything. I’m thinking about getting the soundtrack, even.

The Bad
…I’ve got nothing. Maybe the use of social networking will age terribly in the next few years, but that’s about it.

The Best
It goes without saying that Michael Fassbender is fantastic (as if that’s a surprise anyway); his performance as Frank is wrought with sincerity and a sort of delicate tact. Really the whole ensemble works wonderfully – I really just enjoyed watching them play together and jam.

Netfix: Escape from Tomorrow

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I wish the movie was as good as this poster, tell you hwat.

When news broke of this cinematic venture, it was hard not to be curious – a whole film secretly shot in Disneyland? A sci-fi horror film? This had my creepypasta meeter just spinning. After much controversy, this little number finally made it’s way onto Netflix. So how’d it fare? Hush now, synopsis first.

On the last day of the White family’s Disney vacation, Jim (Roy Abramsohn) is told that he’s been fired. Despite this news, he does his best to keep a happy face for his family. Little did he know that this day would get much, much weirder: what began as a wholesome family trip became a torrent of sex, lies and possessed animatronics. The White family’s facade comes tumbling down in a venture that is not only the end of innocence, but the dissolution of sanity.

This was a movie was really just a hot mess of ideas: sci-fi, infidelity, loss of innocence – it all sounds good on paper, especially with a background as wholesome as Disney World. Personally, I love this kind of stuff. And there’s a definite appeal of something that’s gone through this amount of red tape and altercation.

I think that what first put me off was how incredibly unlikeable the protagonist was. Granted there are two sides to every relationship (and the portrayal of the wife really wasn’t helping), but the way he was ogling the jailbait (and every other woman) to the point of neglecting his children really wasn’t making me care if this man lives or dies by whatever horrible means.

Though this does happen, which is pretty cool.

Though this does happen, which is pretty cool. More of this.

The ending was also, er, problematic. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it, but it left something to be desired. Or maybe the last bit just went over my head.

The Good
As mentioned, I love the idea of Disney world as a horror backdrop, especially because they didn’t take the zombie route. Not to mention the concept of false memories crossed with temptation – it’s perfect! The sci-fi tangent was without a doubt my favorite. Really, I kind of wish the movie was more like it’s inspiration.

The Bad
Though I was left with a lingering unease (good thing), that does not help the incoherent cluster that we’re left with. Maybe if they only stuck with the science fiction and developed that more, the story would flow a little easier. Or if they did a Pleasure Island route, that would be pretty cool too. But that’s just, like my opinion, or whatever.

The Impressive
Maybe I’m just whining too much. Escape from Tomorrow definitely sticks with you, and there’s a certain charm to the guerrilla aesthetic. In the end, it comes off as a moderately-budgeted student film, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, I say it’s worth checking out.

Netfix: I Know That Voice

movie+posters+21Voice acting could easily be one of the most over-looked arts in the TV/film industry. It’s one thing for a well-known actor to provide a voice for a character – they’re mostly playing themselves. But for a person to hide themselves completely and be utterly unrecognizable amongst us common-folk, that takes talent.

I Know That Voice exposes and pays tribute to such talent as June Foray, Jeff Bennett, Daran Norris, Pamela Segall Aldon, Billy West, and many, many more. (Did you have to google some of those? I don’t blame you in the least.)

As far as documentaries go, you really can’t get any more cut-and-dry than this one. I Know That Voice goes into a brief history of the establishment of voice acting, talks about some industry pioneers, and carries on about recent happenings and new kinds of media. Plus it’s chocked full of all sorts of talent and trivia.

The Good
Now, I’m a total dork about this kind of stuff, so I really enjoyed learning about the history of voice acting as well as methods of the craft. I’d recommend this to anyone who loves learning about filmmaking – or loves cartoons.

The Bad
Nothing dates a documentary like bouncy, animated text. I’m not going to hold that against it, though.

The Just Plain Neat
Corey Burton illustrates his process for performing as Porky Pig – it’s pretty impressive.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

WYSHW: World’s Greatest Dad

Last Monday, August 11, the Internet exploded. Everyone all over social media began to scramble to answer one simple question – “is it true?” Sadly, yes. Robin Williams, beloved actor, comedian, and all around cool guy, took his life at the age of 63.

worlds-greatest-dadI don’t want to harp too much on this – after all, there’s not much left to say. In return, I’d rather celebrate this man’s legacy by talking about a lesser-known Williams film that’s all about, well, legacy: World’s Greatest Dad, directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite (which is also currently streaming).

I would like to start out saying that given the content of the film, I could see quite a few people getting upset about this one. So, take some time on this one.

Alright.

Why Juni, why!?

Why Juni, why!?

Lance Clayton (Williams) is a failed writer turned English teacher (aren’t they all), who is father to probably the worst teenage boy in existence, Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Okay, to be fair I say that sort of thing about a lot of teenagers, but we’re talking lord-god-king douchebag. One fateful day, Lance walks in to discover that Kyle accidentally killed himself in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation gone awry.

Crushed by his discovery and wishing to save his son (and more likely himself) from the embarrassment, Lance poses Kyle’s body as a suicide and writes a heartfelt note on his son’s behalf before calling the police. The note is later obtained and published in Lance’s/Kyle’s school newspaper, and Kyle soon becomes a posthumous icon for the students. Having finally been recognized for his writing, Lance decides to pen a journal under Kyle’s name, which soon becomes published as a national phenomenon.

Admittedly, this is a film about terrible people. Simultaneously, it’s a fantastic satire on the cult of celebrity. And again, I warn you (and as if you couldn’t tell by my little synopsis there), this movie is dark. Not to mention especially heartbreaking given the circumstances.

Though it’s been a couple years since I sat down and watched this movie, but one thing that stuck out in my head was how absurdly funny the whole thing was. That, and William’s incredible range on display. Despite being crass and about terrible people, World’s Greatest Dad is an unexpected gem worth checking out.

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Though he may be gone, his legacy of laughter will always remain in our hearts and minds. And with that, we will miss you.

Netfix: Mud

I’ll come out and say it: I dig the McConaissance. Coined by the New Yorker through Dallas Buyers hype, it was believed that Magic Mike was the film to kick off this star’s return. Personally, I think it started before that, with smaller titles such as Bernie and Killer Joe. Soon after came a little gem now available on Netflix, Mud.

"I dare you to touch the butt."

“That’s a pretty big butt.”

Mud is a charming little coming-of-age drama about a pair of friends in De Witt, Arkansas, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). These boys spend their days riding around the Arkansas River, selling fish and talking about boobies. One day Neckbone discovers a mystical boat stuck in a tree. The boys decide to claim the boat to themselves, until they find it’s already home to a mysterious drifter called Mud (McConaughey).

Mud tells the boys that he’s returned to De Witt to find his lost love, asking them for food in exchange for the boat. The boys oblige, only to find that the law also has it out for their new friend. Meanwhile, Ellis has entered a delicate phase, leaving him to question his moral standing on love and good and evil.

L-I-V-I-N

L-I-V-I-N

Mud adheres to the charm and sensibility of Stand By Me, met with the mild burn of Southern Comfort. It’s really quite mushy if you think about it – Ellis is witnessing each stage of love lost, whether it’s his parents’, Mud and Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), or his soul-crushing encounter with his first lady-friend. Of course, childhood love stories are boring without a little gunfire.

The Good
As wonderfully shot as it is acted, Mud is an incredibly enjoyable film wrought with originality.

Pure evil.

Pure evil.

The Bad
I hate the play this card, but all of the women are the cause of all the pain and misery to be had. The only saving grace is when Ellis’ father tells him, “Women are tough. They’ll set you up for things.” We then proceed to witness a more dynamic shift in the mother’s portrayal in order to make her more empathetic.

Granted, Ellis spends the most time with his father and they’re going through a separation, so obviously Senior’s view is going to be skewed. Then again, both Ellis’ girlfriend and Juniper do some mean, nasty things – poor Ellis can’t seem to catch a break.

The Alright, Alright, Alright
Despite my beef about the ladies, Mud is a great watch. Even through the grit and heartbreak, the end of Mud’s story is nothing short of satisfying.

Netfix: Antiviral

Brandon Cronenberg, son of the one and only David Cronenberg, has finally (okay, two years ago) made his full-length directorial debut, Antiviral.

In a society obsessed with celebrity culture, adoring fans have no resorted to paying for infectious diseases, in order to bring themselves one step closer to those they admire. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) acts as a disease-mule who works at the only clinic that offers ailments straight from starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). When Hannah suddenly dies, Syd is cast into his own personal hell, caught between devotion and survival.

Personally, I think that the trailer was better than the movie.

Stylistically, this film’s golden. The choices of light and composition clearly reflect a materialistic world with an eerie underbelly. The visuals (and physical props) are admirably grotesque, but made me yearn for more.  Additionally, given the pleasure of at least one fever-dream sequence, but not much else.

They went for a gaze/spectacle motif, but unfortunately overshot so far they missed the mark.

They went for a gaze/spectacle motif, but unfortunately overshot so far they missed the mark.

At first glance, the grim celeb-obsessed future plot seems kind of interesting, but it doesn’t carry the story at all. In fact, there’s very little story to be had. I can’t even describe the protagonist that well. He’s a creepy ginger fellow…and Jones does a great job at faking sick.

His obsessions are only acknowledged in dream-form, and even then we’re not given much more to work with. Maybe that was the point – people are so obsessed with other people that there’s literally no individual personality left in the world? The character design would seem to suggest this, but it just comes off as kind of lame and misguided.

The Good
Like I said, gorgeous composition. I really wanted to know more about this world and how society and science took this perverted turn. I loved the grotesque visuals and sci-fi involved here – more of that, please.

The Bad
Unfortunately, when you have a story that is about obsession and only obsession, it gets old kind of quickly. It’s clear that the plot/ending was only going to turn into a gory shock-factor, and that’s really a dirty shame.

The Ugly
Antiviral had the oomph, only to flop over as a one-trick pony.