Tag Archives: Netflix original

The Last Thing He Wanted

Do you like drama and intrigue and secret ops and exposing deeply classified cover-ups? Oh that’s too bad. This movie has none of that. The Last Thing He Wanted is the last thing anyone wants when they sit down to a movie. It’s sort of counting on you to turn it on and either take a two hour nap take a nap or walk out of the room for a snack and never come back.

Elena (Anne Hathaway) is a journalist who…covers foreign correspondence. She has a kid in boarding school since she’s never home and I have no idea what happened to the kid’s father other than he is indeed alive. Rosie Perez plays her friend/photographer. I think they get reassigned to cover the election at home, which pisses off Elena. She has a kooky father (Willem Dafoe) who is definitely into some shady business and possibly has dementia. He implores Elena to take care of a deal he’s sunk half a mil into but now cannot himself follow through. She does. Or she tries. And things get really shitty. Ben Affleck is around…pretty sure he’s CIA, possibly also into politics? Hard to say.

 

So this is a brand new Netflix Original that did two things very well: it confused me and it bored me. Granted, those aren’t generally things movies are trying to do, and maybe this one isn’t either, but that’s hard to believe given what a big fat mess it is.

IMDB seems to think it’s about a veteran D.C. journalist (that would be Hathaway) who loses the thread of her own narrative when a guilt-propelled errand for her father (Willem Dafoe) thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. So it turns out I did have the gist. I just didn’t give a fuck. I’m horrified to see this has been adapted from a Joan Didion novel. I hope she doesn’t have a Netflix subscription.

This isn’t a swing and a miss because it was never going to be more than a bunt. I lost track of motivations first, then plot. Anne Hathaway is…dogged. Either survived breast cancer or had a horrific boob injury. Her signature look is a chest covering scarf. She’s mad at everybody. She’s suspicious of nearly everyone but not suspicious enough. It’s so hard to get a handle on this and yet it was so underwhelming I can’t even be bothered to look it up.

Despite the brand name cast and director Dee Rees’ other successes, The Last Thing He Wanted is a real dud. It’s too late for me, but save yourself.

 

 

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Lara Jean and Peter are officially girlfriend and boyfriend.

You may recall in the first film, Lara Jean’s little sister sent out a bunch of love letters that she’d been writing to her crushes to release some of your tortured young passion. The love letters were personal and confessional and never meant to be read by anyone, but most of all not by the people to whom they were addressed. And yet they were.

Which brought Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) together, superficially at first. They pretended to date because they each had certain needs their high school hearts could justify but you might guess that they eventually found themselves falling in love. Cue the sequel!

Everything is right with the world, except for the fact that Lara Jean can’t quite forget Peter’s ex and jealousy doesn’t exactly become her. But there are worse things to come. One of the other love letter recipients finally resurfaces: John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) and man is he cute. In fact, he and Lara Jean end up volunteering together and circumstances are perfect for dying embers to reignite.

There’s a sweet innocence to these movies that holds some sort of universal appeal – perhaps because we’ve all had a first love and not only can we relate, but it’s sort of fun to revisit. But we also get wrapped up in Lara Jean and Peter’s romance because it’s a lived fairy tale. How does Peter have money to take dates to 5-star restaurants and why does Lara Jean have a series of cocktail dresses? They’re babies. They should be going on awkward group dates to the movies, getting dropped off by whomever’s mom had the biggest mini van, or hanging out in each other’s living rooms with their siblings not only watching but actively trying to humiliate.

Anyway, I’m finding it impossible not to be charmed by this franchise. The leads are exceedingly likable and the whole thing goes down as easily as a box of chocolates on Valentine’s day, so why resist? To All The Boys is one indulgence I’m not going to feel guilty about.

 

 

Top 5 Netflix movies to watch on Valentine’s Day.

15 quirky romance movies that don’t suck.

Valentine’s movies for single people.

 

Horse Girl

Sarah (Alison Brie) is a socially awkward woman who never really grew out of her girlhood horse phase. It’s clear to everyone but her that she’s not really welcome at the stables anymore, but she visits her old horse Willow even more diligently than she visits her childhood friend who was injured in a riding accident.

But horses are the least of Sarah’s problems. She’s a sleepwalker and she’s finding that her troubling lucid dreams are starting to leak into her waking life. She’s losing time, finding her body bruised, and since she’s a big fan of supernatural shows, she’s prone to those kinds of explanations. Is she a clone? An alien abductee?

And what’s really interesting is when she meets a guy and he had to decide if he’s horny enough to put up with her crazy. Because it’s clear that her mental health is deteriorating. Whereas before she seemed quirky if cringy, now her behaviour is getting harder to ignore or excuse. Her boss Joan (Molly Shannon) hardly knows how to help her but she doesn’t have many other non-equine friends.

As things fall apart, so does the narrative structure of the film. It’s clear Sarah has been an unreliable narrator, but for how long? What’s real? We doubt ourselves and her story far more than she does.

The very talented Alison Brie produces and is co-writer as well; she owns this story because she has created it, crafted it. Sarah slides down a slippery slope, and the descent is gives Brie a chance to show a muscularity in her performance that we haven’t seen before.

I wish the film were a little more sure of itself. Director Jeff Baena is reluctant to come down on one side or the other but the ambiguity starts to wear thin and push the bounds of credibility. It was thoughtfulness and sensitivity that pulled us in, and we lose a bit of that toward the end. Horse Girl is for an audience comfortable with oddball films and open endings.

A Fall From Grace

Grace is a grandmother, a devout church lady, a steadfast volunteer. Also a murderer. Also a murderer? That one doesn’t fit. But she’s in jail and she confessed. So how come no one believes she did it?

Jasmine (Bresha Webb) is a young public defender. She’s already questioning whether the law the right career path for her, so to get throw this case as her first murder trial is a little daunting. She’s inching along cautiously but Grace (Crystal Fox) isn’t making things easy for her. She’s more concerned with protecting other people than herself.

In court, her story unravels: after a post-divorce depression, Grace meets an artist, a younger man who sweeps her off her feet. This is her alleged victim. But obviously things are not what they seem or else they wouldn’t have bothered to make a movie. Well, they hardly bothered to do even that. It’s pretty bland as courtroom dramas go, with a pedestrian script by writer-director Tyler Perry.

And yet this movie was fractionally entertaining to me, for a few reasons.

  1. The boring reason: the performances were good. Ish. If you can look past the bad wigs.
  2. It’s always fun to watch Sean, an actual real-life lawyer, squirm through what Tyler Perry (or whomever) thinks is the law. As a non-lawyer myself, there was plenty of objectionable content that even a lay person could easily point out, but yelling “I object!” from my bed hasn’t persuaded a single Netflix judge yet.
  3. Perry boasted that this film was shot in just 5 days. What he didn’t say was that he edited in just 5 minutes. At least that’s how it feels. You could play a very saucy drinking game just pointing out the plot holes, continuity errors and other fun editing mistakes of which there is a continuous parade.
  4. My grandmother, who turns 87 this week, recently received a jury summons. God bless her little heart but even IF she could drive there and then by some miracle find the right place, and let’s be clear that I do not believe she could do either of those things, she would then not hear any single thing that anyone said. Not a thing. But let’s for a minute pretend she somehow gets there, and somehow hears things. She’s still not going to understand them. Not a damn thing. My grandmother speaks a hybrid of French and English but understands neither. For the past three decades she’s been getting by on the popular “nod and smile” technique. Later she’ll ask my mom, if she remembers. Which she probably won’t. So I’m mentally inserting my grandmother into the jury box, picturing her confused scrunched up nose, picking invisible lint off her slacks, balling up kleenex and putting it in her sleeve, and if she thinks anyone’s looking, smiling vaguely and nodding uncertainly in the direction she thinks is appropriate. Wouldn’t you be pleased to have her on a jury of your peers?

But wait just a minute y’all: my daddy is sleepin and mama ain’t around. There’s a twist!

The Operative

Rachel (Diane Kruger) calls Thomas (Martin Freeman) and says “My father died. Again.” It’s code for: get me the hell out of here. She is the operative, he is her handler, and she worked undercover in Tehran for the Mossad where things got…sticky. Her subject, Farhad (Cas Anvar) becomes her entanglement and if things were complicated before, well, they only get more so. Is she working both sides? Have her allegiances shifted? Dude it’s hard to trust a spy. Now, years later, she’s bringing Thomas back in. But why?

And also: who cares? The truth about spy work is that it’s probably boring like 99% of the time. Lots of sitting and waiting. Reading. Researching. Waiting some more. Blending in. Not getting up to much. Waiting for the phone to ring. Movies cut that shit right out. To be fair, The Operative edits out those same things as well, gets right to the getting-the-hands-dirty in the field bits. And yet it still, amazingly, manages to be incredibly boring. Incredibly.

Neither the story nor the characters were compelling. I love Martin Freeman but despite him being as animated as this movie got, I still couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Diane Kruger was as remarkable as a boiled potato. More than once I asked Sean how much longer this movie had left, and more than once that Netflix progress bar seemed barely to have moved.

Yuval Adler’s film is unflashy and unstylish. Calling it forgettable is an insult to films I’ve merely forgotten. This one caused a fair bit of frustration even as I forgot it. I could hardly keep my attention even half on the film, snapping it back only to be disappointed by instant boredom yet again. And then it ended. Well, not so much ended as stopped. It just stopped being a movie exactly when it seemed it might have justified its existence. But no. The thing you’ve hung in there for 2 hours for…it never materializes. And yet you’re only half mad because even if you didn’t get a satisfying ending, at least it’s over.

 

 

 

6 Underground

A billionaire who goes by the name of One (Ryan Reynolds) has assembled a team of ghosts. Six men and women, having faked their deaths and truly gone underground, operate outside of the usual channels to clean up the dirt other people can’t, or won’t.

Two (Melanie Laurent) is a CIA spook; Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is the hitman; Four (Ben Hardy) is a skywalker; Five (Adria Arjona) is the doctor; the new recruit, Seven (Corey Hawkins) is a frustrated, sharp-shooting soldier fresh from Afghanistan. Together they have plans to topple a dictator. Ambitious? You betcha. Especially so early in their mission history. After all, they may be officially dead, but they’re as flawed and vulnerable as the living. The bad guys are pretty angry about their lack of hubris.

6 Underground, a new Netflix original, is directed by Michael Bay and it’s got all his hallmarks: American flags, big explosions, scantily clad women. In fact, there’s sex in this movie where no sex belongs. But it’s the car crashes that are truly nutso bananas. This is Michael Bay, unleashed, unmuzzled, unrepentant. The opening car chase alone threatens nuns, babies, AND puppies. Too much, you say? Bah. Just you wait. Now, Michael Bay didn’t write this one but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t occasionally replace dialogue with taglines. The writing is a notch above Bay’s usual tripe, and Ryan Reynolds goes a lot way toward pulling it off. Still, much of the movie is montage, and that’s normally a relief – less cringey lines uttered – though less so when it starts to feel like a wannabe Baby Driver ripoff.

“No man is more important than the mission,” says One, but some of his team disagree. And that’s kind of a big thing to disagree on, real deal breaker type stuff, and the last thing you want during a coup d’├ętat is your little gang splintering. But that’s One’s problem, not yours. If you’re just here to see teeth splatter and brains splatter and people get multiple knife wounds by multiple knives, then this is your jam.

Marriage Story

Eight minutes in and this movie’s already breaking my heart. Nicole and Charlie have just spent 8 minutes sharing the things they love most about each other, and their lists are touchingly precise. But it turns out they’re in mediation, and the exercise is meant to kick off their divorce proceedings. Nicole welches – she doesn’t want to read hers, and I sort of can’t blame her. It’s so vulnerable to admit that you once loved the person you no longer love. Fuck.

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is a talented actor and the star of a play directed by Charlie (Adam Driver). They share a son, Henry, and a New York City apartment but now that they’ve split, Nicole plans to return to L.A. to work in television. Charlie intends and expects to stay in New York. Though they originally swore off lawyers, agreeing to do things “amicably,” they have one asset that’s precious to them both: Henry. Fighting for custody and for coasts is important to both, so they lawyer up and get down to fighting dirty.

Interviewing lawyers, one dirtbag (Ray Liotta) asks Charlie “Does your wife do drugs or anything? Coke?” he asks, hopefully. Fuck. It’s gross. It’s gross that two people who loved each other and each care deeply for their young son can’t be civil. Civil? They are so hopelessly and desperately past civil that the word looks meaningless here on the page. And the lawyers? They’re fucking hyenas looking to devour their prey.

A Marriage Story is actually a Divorce Story. As both a child of divorce and a divorcee myself, I feel both sides of this thing so acutely that I feel as though I’ve been impaled by my own hopes and dreams. My parents’ divorce was the best thing that ever happened to us; we hated my awful father as a unit and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally left our house for the last time. My mother raised four daughters by herself. Money was tight but there was never any doubt that we were better off without him. But is there a small part of me that wondered why he never fought for custody – never even asked for visitation? A small(ish) part of me that will always wonder if there’s something fundamentally unlovable about me? Leavable about me? My first marriage ended badly, traumatically, like a death. As they do sometimes. We had no child to fight over so one day I just never saw him again and now I have no idea whether the man I once promised to love and cherish forever is dead or alive. And now I’m married to Sean and it’s wonderful and stable and safe and sexy and I hardly ever stay awake all night wondering why it’s so easy to stop loving me and if it could happen again.

Sean saw this one at TIFF (without me – I was off reviewing Jojo or Joker or somesuch) and told you he liked it nearly 3 months ago, but to me he said: it will make you cry. And of course he was right. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, you don’t really stand a chance of remaining unmoved. Marriage Story is an insightful and well-aimed gut punch. It hit me right in the feels. But even Sean, who comes from a cozy nuclear family and is married to the most amazing woman on earth, even Sean was stirred up. Love is easy. Marriage is hard. Divorce is a goddamned hole in the heart.