NFLX2019 August 2nd: Otherhood

Otherhood. Cindy Chupack. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

The Netflix recipe is to put a bunch of actors we like watching into a movie, and not really spending any money whatsoever on anything else, like directors or a script.

But so what? Bassett, Arquette and Huffman are fun to watch.

This starts off like it’s a lighthearted middle-age comedy, but then it turns out not to be not very funny at all. In a good way. It’s a wistful, melancholic movie about relationships. I was initially very confused and found it a bit formless, but it’s kinda interesting.

I like all the shots from the streets of Manhattan. Very romantic.

I loathe the three act structure that everybody tries to shoehorn their movies into (it’s “serious”), so when the last half hour started and the protagonists started having a fallout I assumed that the rest of the movie was going to suck, because that’s the norm. And, yes, there’s choppy waters, but it’s fine.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 July 31st: The Red Sea Diving Resort

The Red Sea Diving Resort. Gideon Raff. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

Uh-oh. “Inspired by true events”. Those are words to strike fear into any film fan.

But what the fuck is this movie? It looks pretty nice… The action scenes are in shakycam, which isn’t my favourite, but the cinematographer doesn’t overdo it. We get kinda perhaps off-puttingly pretty shots of horrific acts, but it’s… It looks good.

But, man. One shot after another of brave white men leading and saving a gaggle of hapless, passive black refugees leads to eye-roll sprains after a while. The fascinating thing is that nobody uses the phrase “egregiously racist” when talking about the movie.

Oh, yeah; the plot: Mossad saves a bunch of Ethiopian Jews. The end.

There’s not much of interest going on in the movie, so I started musing about what slot Netflix imagined that this movie would fill. imdb seems to show that this movie was mostly watched outside of the US, so perhaps that’s it? A movie for the Israeli market? I guess that would make sense.

Israel deserves better than this ridiculously dull heist movie (as seems to often be the case with these Netflix movies) based on a script originally purchased by a different studio who then decided against making it.

I did like the Duran Duran resort montage, though. And the documentary footage at the end.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 July 18th: Secret Obsession

Secret Obsession. Peter Sullivan. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

Oh, Daily Dot:

Secret Obsession is a soulless lump of generic mush that aspires to the cheese level of a Lifetime original joint but doesn’t come anywhere close.

So this is a slasher flick? As has happened before with these Netflix movies, I’m not at all confident that this isn’t a parody of whatever it’s supposed to be: The movie (on a shot by shot basis) is so risibly inept that it’s difficult to tell. But if it’s a parody, the jokes don’t really land, and if it’s not, it’s… just bad.

I mean, even the hairdressing is awful.

OK, after watching a bit more, this is neither a slasher nor a parody. Instead it’s just a, well, made-for-TV movie, by a directory who’s churning them out by the buttload.

It’s one of those movies apparently made for people who’ve never seen a movie before. The plot is the standard “woman wakes up from amnesia and there’s a guy who says he’s her husband BUT IS HE REALLY THE KILLER (he’s totally the killer)” thing. The only way anybody could possibly feel intrigued by the plot is if they’ve never seen a movie before, which I guess a lot of people haven’t.

I’ve seen worse movies, but this leaves me wondering: Why is Netflix going down this route? Just filling up their coffers with low-budget movies nobody would want to see if they had a choice. Is this Netflix’ end game? Being able to say “yes, we have two hundred thrillers, so keep being subscribed!” when the movie companies withdraw all their movies from Netflix?

If so, I think that’s a bad plan. Two hundred thrillers that nobody wants to watch is two hundred thrillers nobody wants to watch. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see what else Netflix could do.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 July 12th: Point Blank

Point Blank. Joe Lynch. 2019. ☆☆☆★★★

OK, after a couple of holidays I’m back on the Netflix Originals beat. My mission: To watch all the movies Netflix has released this year, according to the list compiled by these people.

Right off the bat, this movie rubbed me the wrong way. The actors are pretty charming, but the lines are so slick and made-for-TV that it’s just maddening: The way they “as you know Bob” each other without actually saying “as you know Bob” is chalk-scratchingly annoying.

But as the movie gets going, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, the plot is cornier than a maize tortilla wrapped around an ear, and it doesn’t move fast enough for this kind of thing, but it’s (totally opposite of what I assumed after the opening lines) an unassuming, goofy action movie.

I mean, how can anybody not enjoy a car chase scene with a PT Cruiser while there’s Sigue Sigue Sputnik on the soundtrack?

There’s some horribly boring scenes in between the fun, though.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 June 19th: Beats

Beats. Brian Welsh. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

I thought this was going to be the usual rags to rap riches story, but instead it’s an unusual rags to rap riches story. It’s got PTSD and mental illness and stuff.

It turns out that everything needed to get well is some hard truths from an older man.

The acting’s kinda lame. Well, it varies between really really bad (the label boss) and acceptable (the manager).

When the movie focuses on the music career and the kid it’s OK, but the rest is So Much Drama.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 June 14th: Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery. Kyle Newacheck. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

Oh deer. Adam Sandler. Jennifer Aniston. And the director has a long an undistinguished career in television.

But, you know, Netflix is TV, so…

I assumed that this was going to completely horrendous, but it’s actually not that bad. The concept here is that Aniston and Sandler are working class Americans incongruously dropped into the midst of a bunch of very, very high class Brits in Malaga, and hilarity is supposed to ensue.

It’s kinda unpretentious silliness, really, set in a classic English murder mystery setting.

That said, so many of these scenes don’t really work. It’s like they’re almost there, but then the jokes just aren’t delivered fast enough, so you get an awkward pause where insanity should be. Or perhaps the jokes just aren’t funny enough.

But it’s way, way better than it has any reason to be. It rolls along in a very pleasant way and there’s a bunch of chuckles to be had.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 June 7th: Elisa & Marcela

Elisa & Marcela. Isabel Coixet. 2019. ☆☆☆★★★

Another Spanish Netflix Original? Sure, I’m game.

And it’s in black and white? Great. But… it looks kinda like an odd black and white? It’s looks a bit washed out… as if it was done on colour video and then they just dropped all the colour? I don’t know. But I’m oddly reminded of El abrazo de la serpiente. I mean, the movies couldn’t be more different, but I wonder whether the idea of not using colour while filming in famously scenic South America stems from the same place: i.e., going against cliché.

It’s been savagely panned by the critics, so I’m an optimist: Perhaps this’ll be great?

There’s a lot here I like: The languid pacing, the cameras getting way up into the actors’ faces, the two main actors themselves, the sparing use of music.

But it’s no masterpiece, unfortunately. The other characters are just too schematic and the dialogue doesn’t convince.

The squid thing is odd.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.