We’ve seen Chiwetel Ejiofor’s (star of 12 Years a Slave, Doctor Strange) directorial debut on Netflix, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and found it compelling and enlightening. Based on a true story about a Malawian boy who saves his village from famine with his wits, ingenuity, and education, The Boy offers us an inside look at things we can barely begin to relate to; widespread starvation, civil unrest and the breakdown of society. Things that we may have to relate to sooner than we think.
We have seen the latest Marvel super extravaganza, Captain Marvel, and come away with the suspicion that it’s missing something from the usual Marvel formula. If anything, it feels DC-esque in the way it’s attempting to shoe horn in a new, unknown super power into the MCU. Uninspired fights, plot twists that are seen for miles away, and lacking engaging supporting characters (aside from Jackson’s Nick Fury, whom Brie’s Marvel has very good chemistry with) that give the main character emotional stakes, Captain Marvel is good, perhaps, but not great, and maybe that’s overselling it.
Jim and A.Ron watched a near record amount of television this week! We finished The Umbrella Economy and Lorena, as well as offering first looks at the third season of Documentary Now and the new Prime Original, This Giant Beast that is the Global Economy. Buckle in, this is a mega round up with lots of deep dives into political and economic topics!
Jim and A.Ron have seen the highly acclaimed Netflix original, “Roma”, and we’re conflicted. On the one hand, we can see what it’s seen as great; it’s beautiful to look at, and it’s final act is as good as anything you’ll see anywhere and is widely accessible. The problem is that it asks you to crawl through 90 minutes tedious and boring and banal moments of everyday life before you get there. Now, that’s exactly how real life is, which is probably the point, and probably makes the final act land as well as it does, but it’s not going to be something everyone can or is willing to interface with. We think on balance it’s worth the effort, but not everyone is going to agree on the math on that.
Jim and A.Ron have seen The Umbrella Academy and Lorena, Netflix and Amazon originals respectively. The Umbrella Academy is a smart, fun take on the X-Men universe with some Noah Hawley DNA mixed in. Lorena is a four part documentary examining the 1993 dismembering case of Lorena Bobbitt. While the case is no doubt interesting and probably a big landmark in the struggle for equality of the sexes, we’re not sure this production is doing a great job of raising these issues or presenting the facts in a straightforward way. We’ll be back next week to give The Umbrella Academy and Lorena another whirl!
Jim and A.Ron saw Alita: Battle Angel tonight, and declare it a mess, albeit a beautiful, groundbreaking one in terms of effects work. This feels like the first half of the third part of a movie trilogy; everything is mysterious, nothing makes sense, the world is being built hastily and right in front of our eyes, and the movie ends right at the beginning of what promised to be a kick ass third act. But if you want to see what state of the art CG looks like in 2019, this is a shining $170 million example.
We took a look at the latest Netflix original, High Flying Bird. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and shot on an iPhone 8, it tells the tale of NBA management squeezing the players for a reduced share of profits during a labor dispute, and one high profile sports agent that is caught in the middle. It works on the level of a heist film; instead of smooth talking con-man Danny Ocean, we have smooth talking agent Ray Burke. Instead of boosting millions off of a ruthless billionaire casino owner, we’re negotiating for millions off ruthless billionaire team owners. But it also works as a commentary on the power dynamics of labor in general, and on a meta level, the film industry itself. It’s a well made, well-acted, gorgeous film, and it’s final act is as thought provoking as it is fun to watch unfold.
Jim and A.Ron take a look at Netflix’s new darkly comedic take on the Groundhog Day concept, Russian Doll. Starring Natasha Lyonne, it offers a funny, inventive, and interesting take on the human condition, what being happy and connectedness means, and what obligations we have to our fellow humans around us. At a binge time of less than 4 hours, we both feel like it’s worth just about everyone’s time to check out. We also circle back around to Black Earth Rising, which is still phenomenally interesting at its core, but can’t decide which of a million sub-plots and character details it wants to focus on and remains a bit of a jumbled mess.
Jim and A.Ron checked out the latest Netflix original film, “Velvet Buzzsaw”. Directed by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. It functions well enough as a horror story, a farcical look at art criticism, as well as an introspective look at the creative process and the related critical process. We have quibbles here and there, but the film looks great, has some inventive/gruesome deaths, and the main cast has a lot of fun being terrible people.
Jim and I have seen the new Netflix original movie, “Polar”. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, “Polar” is an ultraviolent revenge flick combining elements from “John Wick”, “Crank”, and “Sin City” with an engaging and energetic performance from Mads Mikkelsen as anaaginh hitman. Unfortunately, it’s also a tonal mess, careening from slap stick humor to gory horror and back again, never sure of when to take itself seriously and commit to a point of view.