Tag Archives: Netflix original

Murder Mystery

You may not believe this, but Adam Sandler’s in a Murder Mystery and he’s not playing the corpse.

Nick (Sandler), a New York cop, has repeatedly failed to make detective, and failed to take his wife on a European honeymoon for 15 years solid. Luckily, on the eve of their anniversary, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) picks a fight about this very thing and Nick is able to book extremely last minute tickets and pass them off as a surprise. On this transcontinental flight, she runs into a disgruntled first class passenger, Charles (Luke Evans), who invites them to join him on his yacht.

It’s a little more complicated than that: his fiance Suzi has recently left him for his billionaire uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp). The yacht is full of people who are not overly happy about this: the son who stood to inherit, a maharajah whose family fortune is entangled with Malcolm’s, a famous actress, the godson Grand Prix racer, his best friend and literal life saver (and a bonus bodyguard). He’s gathered them all together to call them leaches, to cut them off, and to amend his will to reflect only Suzi as inheritor. But just as he’s about to sign the new will, the lights go out, and when they come back up, there’s a body. Malcolm is dead. One of the yacht’s occupants is a murderer.

For a murder mystery, it’s pretty light-hearted. It IS an Adam Sandler project, after all, but his usual humour’s been tempered somewhat and most will find this surprisingly tolerable. Not a great movie maybe, but definitely watchable, despite his mustache. Sandler and Aniston have a great chemistry after a couple of movies together, and the script, though not quite clever enough to actually keep you guessing, is entertaining enough that you won’t really care, and the ensemble cast supports it ably. Director Kyle Newacheck doesn’t try anything fancy but he doesn’t get in the way of the film’s strengths: a few moments where Aniston shines, a few moments where Italy shines, and the harnessing of Adam Sandler’s baser, more juvenile instincts. It’s for the best.

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I Am Mother

All that remains of humanity is a maternal droid and 63 000 human embryos. Following her directive, the Mother robot grows a baby and raises it, alone in some sort of bunker. Mother (Rose Byrne) seems programmed to repopulate the earth but is in no hurry to do it, so far working just one at a time, and in fact, stopping at just the one. Their bond is unique but not without warmth and nurturing (though it did make me think of those experiments of rhesus monkeys raised by wire “mothers” who would cling to and love them as long as they had literally any kind of padding).

I watch countless sci-fi movies and read many books more in the genre, but I never understand how or why humans think they deserve to save themselves – or rather, why, when failing to save themselves personally, they still feel so strongly about saving ‘humanity’ in general. It’s conceit, obviously, to think we can and should thwart the natural order of things. To defy our own extinction when the time comes. To watch countless plant and animal species become endangered and then disappear but continue to place ourselves above them. We’ve had a good long run at the top of the food chain and of course we’d like to extend that indefinitely, but everything must end, and we seem to be doing our best to hasten ours. But when actually faced with the consequences of our footprint on the earth, our best fictional accounts continue to depict our self-importance.

When daughter (Clara Rugaard) reaches early adulthood, she’s been reading a lot about our kind, and even though Mother warns her of the toxicity outside the bunker’s doors, she can’t help but be curious as to what’s out there. It must be hard to imagine living among other people when you’ve never laid eyes on another. But it also seems part of our genetic makeup to want to be part of a pack, and a robot Mother will only cut it for as long as there’s no choice.

And then one day, choice comes knocking. A woman (Hilary Swank) bangs on an outer door. She’s wounded, shot, and is begging for access. Daughter lets her in, but there’s immediate tension between the Woman and the robot Mother. They’re telling VERY different stories about what’s going on in the outside world, and the droids’ role in everything. What motivation could Mother have for lying? But then again, we could say the same of Woman.

I Am Mother develops a striking sense of the creepy. There is lots of room for doubt, which fills the holes in our imagination. Which is good, because the setting is sparse. We’ve got one cold bunker, a constant interior shot that’s not going to vary. And Daughter’s interactions are against an imposing hunk of metal named Mother. It’s hard to act against a robot, and it’s hard for a robot to act. So it’s got a couple of strikes against it cinematically but much more going for it thematically, combining heaping helpings of Passengers and Ex Machina, with liberal sprinklings of Isaac Asimov for kick.

Always Be My Maybe

Sasha Tran is a famous chef opening a new restaurant in her hometown, San Francisco. Her fiance has just fled to India for 6 months, during which time they’re going to “see other people.” Those other people may or may not include Marcus, Sasha’s childhood best friend, with whom she lost touch after an ill-conceived grief-fuck in the backseat of his car. I mean definitely not. Their brief coupling was so awkward, and then she went off and did big things and he stayed behind to work in the family business after his mom died. It’ll never work. Never.

Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) have a lot of love between them, but love is not enough. Their lives have diverged more than just geographically. Plus, it’s hard to take a dip in the hot springs of love when you’ve been lollygagging in the fallow fields of friendship all these years. Can they possibly overcome?

I mean, yes. Of course they can. This is a goddamned rom-com people. It’s not rocket science. There’s no will they or won’t they, there’s just how much longer until they do. And with this movie, you kinda hope it’ll be a while because you’re just enjoying the ride so much. Or at least I was, and improbably, I believe Sean was too. So that’s two people who hate romcoms (Sean because he literally has no emotions and myself because I’ve literally had eyeball surgery after bursting a network of vessels when I rolled them too much) who have made an exception for this one.

Always Be My Maybe is funny, and not just because the title is a pessimistic twist on a 1990s Mariah Carey song. Ali Wong is of course a comedy genius, and she plays very well against Randall Park, who I’ve always thought of as more of a dry comedian, but he’s got a bigger bag of tricks than I ever knew, including a musical side AND a violent side – and while I love them both, by god, I loved them even more when combined (stay through the credits).

This movie has absolutely nothing new to add in the romance department but you’ll be so busy being taken by surprise by random lines funny enough to stay with you for weeks you won’t even care. The cast is charmingly quirky and features a cameo (in fact, a meaty little part) that will pretty much make your year. Always Be My Maybe is streaming on Netflix right now, and it’s not a maybe, it’s a full-on yes.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

The Lonely Island is a comedy trio consisting of childhood friends Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. They became known for their popular digital shorts on SNL, many of which, like Lazy Sunday, went viral, for comedic songs like Jack Sparrow, featuring THE Michael Bolton, and for movies like Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. If you like them, you probably love them, and if you love them, you’re in for a treat. Especially if you also have a soft spot for late-1980s-era major league baseball.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a 30 minute short streaming now on Netflix that’s the supposed never before seen\heard rap collaboration between steroid bash brothers Jose Canseco (Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Schaffer) of the Oakland Athletics. I don’t give two shits about baseball (especially not historical baseball from another century), but Sean did and does and had an especially appreciative chuckle for all the references they got right.

The rap album consists of many memorable musical numbers, literally something for everyone, between such hits as Bikini Babe Workout, IHOP Parking Lot (featuring Maya Rudolph), Oakland Nights (featuring Sia, who looks an awful lot like Sterling K. Brown in a a wig unworthy of the real Sia), and my favourite, Daddy, which explores the mountainous daddy issues behind the Canseco-McGwire shenanigans.

Sean wondered how – not if, but how – high they were when they wrote this stuff. And the answer can only be: extremely. So high. And yet I was sober when I watched it and I still dissolved into fits of giggles (a credit cameo featuring “Joe Montana” had me gasping for breath). It’s light-hearted and doesn’t dare take itself serious for a single split second. The narrow theme of the “visual poem” (a la Beyonce’s Lemonade?) ensures that the songs are punchy and topical, if not always sensical. But you didn’t come for the sense. You came for the nonsense, and they’re flooding the diamond with it.

Samberg and Schaffer are both hilarious in their terrible mullet wigs, but it seems like everyone who pops up in these videos are having a riotously good time. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience offers locker room injections of satire and parody, and they will PUMP YOU UP.

Good Sam

Kate Bradley (Tiya Sircar) is a TV reporter who takes too many risks getting exclusive footage of fires and daring rescue attempts. Dedicated to the bummer beat, her boss can’t get her to stop, so he gives her a different kind of story, soft news that insults her, but the story turns out to be quite the gold nugget.

An anonymous donor has left a literal bag of cash on someone’s door step. She’s thrilled to have $100 000 but has no idea who could be so generous. That first recipient wants to call it a miracle, but Kate’s story doesn’t stop there. There are other door steps, other bags of money, and pretty soon the whole city’s abuzz with the good news.

MV5BNzcxMDM0NWItMTVmYS00ODFkLWFlZTctYjZhMGM4ZTg3ODJiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODIyOTEyMzY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_Kate, who started off reluctant to report on something so negligible, now has quite a story on her hands. And it’s not just that it’s something positive making the news for once. It’s the mystery of the thing. Who is this guy, who becomes known in the media as Good Sam, short for good samaritan, and why is he changing lives without taking credit? Kate is obsessed with but skeptical of the notion that someone might be doing good without expecting anything in return – is this naiveté, or wishful thinking, or a new kind of philanthropy set to inspire a whole city?

Good Sam is a feel-good story, and perhaps a bit of a fantasy. In the day and age of Trump, it’s hard to imagine such a positive news cycle dominating the headlines. The plot’s a little flimsy and the characters aren’t shadowed by motivation or even much personality, but Tiya Sircar leads the cast with such good cheer, she’s hard to resist. Which is a good thing, because though Good Sam reaches for themes on the top shelf (journalism’s role in public perception, generosity without expectation), it all too often scrapes along the very bottom (mired in Kate’s relationship status). But with tempered expectations, Good Sam is not a bad way to spend time thinking about how ratings drive a news cycle, and heck, it’s easily accessible on Netflix right now.

 

See You Yesterday

CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Chrichlow) are the smartest kids in their Bronx high school, and they’ve got the perfect experiment to win a pair of scholarships to M.I.T.: a time machine.

Any time travel movie that makes a bold reference to Back To The Future is all right in my book, but this one’s got an even twistier twist. It’s a time travel movie with a social conscience.

CJ’s brother Calvin (Astro) is one of the dozens of unarmed young black men who get murdered by the police every year. If you were a teenage girl with both a dead brother and the ability to move through time and space, wouldn’t you go back to save him?

But like their high school teacher tries to warn them, time travel has moral and ethical MV5BMmU4ZDYxZTUtMmI0My00MGVmLWE2NGYtZDQ2NmE5ZjQ0ZWE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDM2NDM2MQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_implications that are not just beyond their understanding, but beyond ours. Even the tiniest unintentional change can have unpredictable consequences.

Despite its science fiction premise, See You Yesterday feels very grounded thanks to its social relevance, its community in mourning, and the anger that simmers just below the surface. I really enjoyed this genre mashup, the in-your-faceness of reality interfacing with the fantasy. The world feels believable too – sure there are a surprising number of nawt nerds in one high school, but CJ and Sebastian are experimenting in grandpa’s garage, with grandma’s cheese and cracker snacks. The cast is uniformly strong, but Duncan-Smith is the inevitable stand-out.

It’s the grieving, though, that makes this film exceptional. I had no idea what I was in for when I put this movie on. I didn’t expect to be moved. I didn’t expect such powerful imagery. Plenty of sci-fi has a social agenda, but most have to be set in the dystopian future to make their point. This one is set today. Without ever saying it, the message is clear: if you’re poor, if you’re a minority, today IS your dystopia. But director Stefon Bristol leaves us with a shard of hope: the future is female. The future is black. The future may be a young kid working away in the garage next door. Please don’t shoot her.

Despite Everything

Four very different sisters reunite in Madrid for the first time in years upon their mother’s death. A series of profusely weeping men make displays of themselves at her funeral. The next day, at the reading of the will, the four sisters learn that the man who raised them is not their biological father, and that their fathers may be four different men, any or none of the weeping funeral goers. In order to obtain their inheritance, they have to go on a wild goose chase to find their parentage.

The premise is wacky but they play is straight. Or, as straight as possible when the characters are all ridiculous caricatures. Well, the lucky ones anyway. Some of them don’t even get drawn with wild but general cliches. There’s the French artist, the blind priest, and perhaps worst of all, the man with dementia.

The sisters, meanwhile, get an even worse treatment. Claudia (Belen Cuesta) is uptight, MV5BNDdlZDIzZTctZmIwZS00MTljLTg5Y2UtYjc1ODliYWExNDM2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM2Mzg4MA@@._V1_and her marriage is failing. Sara (Blanca Suarez) is an important New York City businesswoman who left behind her true love, Sofia (Amaia Salamanca) is a lesbian with commitment issues, Lucia (Macarena García) is the baby.

So it’s like Mama Mia, except it’s a funeral, not a wedding, and there’s no singing or dancing or Meryl Streep or reasons to watch. Did I enjoy this movie? Evidently not. I veered from bored to skeptical to mildly offended. Plus there’s the issue of dubbing, which unfortunately is always an issue, one I should probably stop complaining about since it saves me reading subtitles. I don’t mind a subtitled movie at the theatre, in fact my ADD probably embraces it, but at home I’m never just watching a movie – I’m watching a movie and and and and. Which keeps my energy in check and my mind focused enough to absorb things and not get bored. Subtitles make it hard to multi-task. But dubbing makes it hard to take a movie seriously. The lips don’t match! They never match! Still, I can’t help but admire the people who work on these translations – you have not to just turn Spanish into English, but distill the essence of what’s being said into the same amount of syllables, which many languages would make very challenging. Of course it’s a bad sign for a movie when I’m mostly just thinking about how hard it would be to fit all those words and meanings into a set cadence. And from what I’ve seen, Netflix is springing for real professionals, not those TV movie of the week people who keep speaking long after lips stop moving. But back to the movie: should you watch it? No. There are roughly 5500 titles on Netflix – Canada’s Netflix catalogue is third largest in the world, behind Japan and America. So there’s really no excuse. You’re not that desperate.