NFLX2019 February 8th: High Flying Bird

High Flying Bird. Steven Soderbergh. 2019. ☆★★★★★

Everybody loved Steven Soderbergh after Sex, Lies, and Videotape, but then the rest of his movies happened. I mean, he’s got a bunch of blockbusters with the Oceans * movies (haven’t seen them), but he’s also done more ambitious movies, like his Solaris remake (I’ve seen it, but wasn’t… that… impressed?)

This is so not my kind of movie: It’s about sports. Some kind of American sports. You have a bunch of TV-like actors talking fast at the camera saying stuff like “I want the game”, and I’m over it.

But it’s not without qualities… the cinematography is kinda fun… and… uhm… OK, that’s it.

Oh fuck:

The film was shot using an iPhone 8 smartphone, equipped with an anamorphic lens produced by Moondog Labs.

So Soderbergh himself is up there in the actors’ faces with his tiny Iphone rig? That explains the intimate and fun (and very fish-eyed) camerawork. I like that bit.

But there’s not a single scene in this movie that didn’t give me cancer. The actors are delivering one Golden Age Of Television line after another, and it never stops.

I’ll give you a synopsis of the plot: It’s got… something… to do… with sports?

There are people who think this is a good movie. Perhaps they’re all Christian or sports fans?

But they’re wrong: This is a dreadful movie.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 February 1st: Velvet Buzzsaw


Velvet Buzzsaw. Dan Gilroy. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

Once again, this movie seems so calculated. It’s like they put random attractive movie traits (Gyllenaal as totally gay; the art scene; horror) through a blender and came up with this without anybody wanting to make this specific movie.

That doesn’t mean that this is horrible: Any scene is like randomly switching to a new TV station and there’s something odd going on there. But nothing adds up to anything, of course, because nothing is connected.

It’s such an odd movie. The scary scenes are totally un-scary (and signalled so far in advance), and the satirical art scene scenes are totally unfunny.

This is so close to being a John Carpenter early-80s horror movie. Only not scary. I think I’m starting to see a pattern here with the Netflix movies, with their Extruded Movie Product feel. But it’s still early days; perhaps it’s just a sampling artefact.

But… it looks good, I guess? And the performances are fine? And there are scenes here that seem to work?

It’s just one of those movies where you’re left wondering just how it ended up the mess it did.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 January 25th: Polar

Polar. Jonas Åkerlund. 2019. ☆☆☆☆☆★

Oh. Jonas Åkerlund? Did he just do the film about black metal Lords of Chaos? Hm… I see; that one was made a couple of years ago but not really released until now.

Anyway, I’m expecting something stylish with an excessive amount of violence, so I’ve got my pillow ready.

And this turns out just like I expected, only longer. I didn’t think Åkerlund could keep up this level of insane glee for almost two hours.

Not everybody liked it:

On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 19 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating “overwhelming dislike”.

The plot (based on a comic book by Víctor Santos) is perhaps the most moronic thing ever since the history of ever, but that only helps with the deranged mood of the film. You can only sit in slacked-jaw awe as things unfold.

I guess you could compare this to pieces of filth like The Kingsman, in that it has some of the expected “yaaah!” beats from the audience, but this movie isn’t a crime against all human feeling like that movie is: This is stupid, sure, but it’s fun.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 January 18th: Soni

Soni. Ivan Ayr. 2018. ☆☆☆☆☆★

Great! After two horrible American Netflix Originals, this is an Indian movie picked up for distribution by Netflix, so its script presumably hasn’t been auto-generated by an Eliza bot.

This movie reminds me a bit of 70s hyper-realist movies like Jeanne Dielman. 23, quai du Commerce. 1080 Bruxelles. I mean, not in depth, but in the way it places its camera in certain scenes and the lack of editing.

The camera here is handheld and very mobile, though, so just forget I said anything. NO RELATION.

It’s often the case that the less you’re familiar with what acting tradition actors are coming from, then more convincing they are. Because you can’t tell the artificiality as easy. Easily? I’ve had some wine. But my uninformed impression of these Indian actors is that they’re fabulous. I totally believe in them, and they seem totally natural to me.

Even the really, really awkward scenes seem awkwardly real to me.

I had some slight problems keeping all the different characters apart, though. “There’s a woman with long black hair, there’s a woman with long black hair, there’s a woman with long black hair…” If you get the impression that’s the only way I tell people apart is by their hair style… you’d be almost right.

It’d been nice if, as Leslie Wiener said in one of her songs, if they had wooden legs or eye patches: Easier to tell them apart.

My only problem with this is that the cop who gets into altercations all the time goes around slapping assholes instead of doing something more efficient. Hasn’t she heard that singalong song? “Target Practice” on Free to Fight?

If you choose to fight
Then remember these are the places to hit
Eyes, knees, groin, throat
Eyes, knees, groin, throat
Eyes, knees, groin, throat
Eyes, knees, groin, throat

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 January 18th: IO

Futura! Brave choice!

This guy eats a tomato for the first time in forever and has a foodgasm, which reminds me of this Sheri Tepper novel I read many years ago: It’s set in a future where there is no nature, and on a game show, a family wins the right to eat the very last radish on Earth. They spit it out and say “ewww! Nasty!”

Which seems a whole lot more realistic than this is.

IO. Jonathan Helpert. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

Yay! Sci-fi! Mah favourite!

Hm… this seems like it has a very modest budget? It’s about a woman left on a devastated Earth looking at insects while talking to people who’ve gone on to Io over a radio.

Us SF fans will watch anything… So this is the second US “Netflix Original”, and I may be prematurely seeing patterns here: Spend as little money as possible on movies that ticks some check box in some of the viewers’ heads? “It’s like The Martian, but on Earth.”

Has Netflix written a Markov Chain I mean an RNN AI I mean a Markov Chain to write movie scripts? I can’t remember watching a more predictable movie than this… except the Netflix movie I watched just before this one.

Margaret Qualley has to carry the movie, and she’s good. Anthony Mackie’s thing doesn’t really work. Brooding and mysterious just seems stupid in these circumstances.

It’s mostly just kinda, and I hate to use hate speech: Boring.

And it’s full of stupidity, from micro-actions to the shocking reveals that everybody has figured out three seconds after the movie started.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 January 11th: The Last Laugh


The Last Laugh. Greg Pritikin. 2019. ☆★★★★★

OK, this one is HDR for some reason… why not…

By Emacs! This is a horrible movie.

Let me sum up the plot: Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss are old.

That’s it.

The (I hesitate to call it that) cinematography is violently pedestrian. The jokes are… there… The characters are Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss as old people.

It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to kill yourself. I don’t think I even vaguely smiled at any of the antics so far. It may be the worst movie I’ve seen in years, and I’ve seen Hellraiser: Deader and New Year Parade Day St. Kitts SugarMas 2016.

Perhaps this is one of those movies that Netflix has generated by some sort of public sentiment algorithm? Because you can see how this is something a certain segment of the audience would want to watch. I mean, I would, too. I love schmaltz.

BUT THIS IS DEADLY!

When Chevy starts dating a woman who looks like she’s half his age — tops! (but in reality is just 20% younger than him) my eyes actually fell out due to rolling them too much.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 January 4th: Lionheart


Lionheart. Genevieve Nnaji. 2018. ☆☆☆☆★★

OK, we’re off on The Journey Into Netflix Originals.

This is the first thing I’ve actually watched on this setup: I’ve only done debugging, so far, and of course problems are showing up, so my concentration on this film is far from 100%.

I’ve got the Apple TV set to “auto” mode, so it’s supposed to take care of all the HDR/SDR details. And, sure, it’s sending an HDR signal to the TV, even though the movie is SDR.

But… it’s doing something… not quite optimal? Visually, on the screen, nothing except the letterboxing is black when I’ve got HDR on: Everything else is washed out.

When I switch the Apple TV to SDR, the letterboxing goes gray, but the movie itself is less washed out? I think? A bit? But the screenshots look a lot better in SDR, that’s for sure.

Fiddling with these settings takes so long that it’s difficult to compare directly…

Frustrating. The things I go through to watch movies! Incroyable!

Anyway!

So this is a Nigerian film that Netflix picked up for distribution. It was shown on some movie festivals first…

Nigeria is, of course, a powerhouse in the African film industry, but this is the first Nigerian film that Netflix has picked up.

I can see why: It’s a fun movie, well made. The acting style isn’t something I’m familiar with: It’s slightly stylised, with every reaction to anything going on is a bit over the top. I mean, it’s not a parodic WHAAAAAT? thing. It’s just a slightly bigger-than-reality thing.

It’s fun to watch.

It’s a story about a plucky woman trying to save the plucky family business (which is a bus company), and the plot is about what you’d expect, with lots of twists and turns and complications.

It’s funny! I LOL-ed out loud several times.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.