Tag Archives: Streaming on Netflix

Sightless

After being attacked in a parking garage, Ellen (Madelaine Petsch) wakes up without her sight. The nurse at her bedside tells her the damage to her eyes is irreversible. Unable to see, she is now dependent on her caretaker Clayton (Alexander Koch), whose main job is to help Ellen adjust to her new reality. Clayton spends a fair amount of time with Ellen at her apartment, and when he is not around, Ellen is occasionally visited by the detective investigating her attack as well as her two next-door neighbours, one who is abused and one who is the abuser.

But even without her sight, Ellen sees that something about this situation is….off. She can’t figure out what exactly is wrong but as she pulls at loose threads, her whole world starts unravelling.

Writer/director Cooper Karl establishes early on that the viewer’s eyes cannot be trusted, and it’s a recurring theme on which Sightless’ twists rely. While that approach likely was intended to match Ellen’s experience of being Sightless, it left me feeling disconnected from the film since I kept being reminded that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That disconnect neuters every one of this film’s attempts to shock, surprise and thrill, since nothing on screen can be trusted.

With Sightless lacking any edge due to its structure, you’re better off seeing what else Netflix has on offer.

The White Tiger

I didn’t like the book and I didn’t like the movie.

I am so, so tempted to leave this review at just that one sentence but I know that would be a bit disingenuous since I am very much in the minority on this. So I’ll give you a slightly fuller picture and you will be your own judge. If you’d like to watch this movie, you have my blessing, and you’ll find it on Netflix.

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) is a servant in India; his caste is his destiny. He works for people he admires – Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra) – which doesn’t mean they’re nice, only that they’re wealthy, and upwardly mobile . Balram would like to be those things one day too, but for him there is no opportunity and no path toward a better life. Society itself is built around oppressing his kind and making sure they never, ever get their own ideas. So he must beat down his own path, with whatever meagre tools and talents he has. It’s going to be brutal, and it’s going to be bloody, but for Balram, entrepreneurship is the ultimate goal and the holy grail in one. It is worth any price.

The movie kept my attention better than the book, which I found tedious; the film benefits from brisk editing and a Jay-Z remix. I still didn’t enjoy it though, and I’m realizing it’s partially because the protagonist is so dislikable. Balram is hardly the first anti-hero though, and somehow I usually manage to cope. I suppose it’s that when I encounter other characters I dislike – Batman, for example – there’s usually something else I can root for, like good vs. evil. The White Tiger doesn’t give you that; it’s bad vs. worse and you can never be sure which of these slippery sides our protagonist is leaning toward. I guess I needed something to hold onto, and Balram’s underdog status just wasn’t cutting it. Balram’s story is given to us via a letter he’s writing to some successful Chinese businessman, who ultimately brushes him off, unimpressed by the story and the man, and I suppose I, too, was left cold by Balram’s plight. Perhaps you will feel more sympathetic.

Death Of Me

I like to call it vacation mode; sticking your toes into the hot sand of some exotic beach just sort of does something to you. You sleep late, drink early, fuck lazily, then murder your wife a little and toss her body in a shallow grave.

Last week I was saying that if you missed travel, why not escape to Iceland through the movies? This week let me tell you, if you miss travel, this movie right here will cure you of that notion right quick.

Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) wake up on the morning of their last day in Thailand hungover, dirty, and confused. With no clear memory of how they came to be this way, they flip through photos on Neil’s camera and are surprised to find a two hour video detailing events neither has any memory of, ending in some pretty rough sex, and what appears to be strangulation. And not, like, a little light strangulation, but it appears that Neil kills his wife, digs a shallow grave, and dumps her body into it quite unceremoniously. Of course, that can’t be what happened, because Neil and Christine are both right here, watching the movie together, although with increasing dread and panic, in slightly unequal amounts. Come to think of it, Neil’s got dirt under his fingernails and Christine’s got a ring of bruises around her neck. When she starts vomiting earth, well, what the hell?

Attempting to reconstruct the night’s events uncovers deeper and darker secrets. They get sucked into the island’s veil of mystery, black magic, and murder; the next 24 hours before a ferry can be boarded are going to be extra, extra long, and pretty darn arduous. Paradise turns into a nightmare, but while this movie believes itself to be a horror, it’s a little lacking in execution, spoiling a promising premise. There are a few decent jump scares but clichés just don’t have the same power to scare you, and this movie relies on them pretty heavily – they’re the meat AND the potatoes. You’ll spend so much time trying to figure out what the heck is going on, you’ll not have time to be entertained by the film, let alone delightfully horrified by it. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, but it’s rare for a murdered woman to be investigating her own murder while being pursued by murderers, so perhaps that’s reason enough for you to watch.

Summerland

Alice (Gemma Arterton) is a reclusive, curmudgeonly writer, whom the locals refer to as “the witch.” Her writings often pointedly refer to the various ways women have been unfairly portrayed, but what are you going to do?

One day, a young boy named Frank (Lucas Bond) shows up at her door, an evacuee from London to be kept safe during the WW2 blitz. Alice doesn’t like kids. To be fair, it seems to be her general regard toward all humans, but Alice doesn’t want a kid in her house. It’s nothing personal against Frank, she just has work to do and no fucks to give. She reluctantly agrees to house him temporarily, until another family can be found. But pretty much everyone in her small village has already taken in children and she does have a big ole house all to herself.

As Frank begins to worm his way into her heart, we learn that Alice’s self-imposed isolation is the result of a broken heart, a forbidden romance with another woman, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is now just a figment of her past, though one that still haunts her. Clearly Alice has lived with only her memories for a long time, but with a real boy as her roommate, she’s brought down to the human realm where there is a war going on and people, such as Frank’s parents, are in real peril.

This film nearly lost me, being just a little too easy, a little too neatly contrived. However, it’s anchored by a performance from Arterton that just floored me. Alice’s naked longing and repressed self-expression are controlled with such precision by Arterton, it’s a remarkable role for her, but she’s actually got some very able costars from a surprising place – the kids. Both Bond and Dixie Egerickz, who plays Frank’s playmate, are wonderful, offering grounded and thoughtful performances considering these kids are growing up in a time where childhood is pretty much non-existent

I remember reading about young war evacuees when I was a kid myself, and I’ve always been fascinated by this ultimate act of mutual aid, adopting a stranger’s child, sheltering them during a difficult time, providing a safe home for kids at risk of dying in air raids in the city. Mothers had to place such trust in the kindness of strangers, and strangers had to step up with very little the way of thanks or even acknowledgment, and kids had to grow up without their parents. There would have been little communication and tonnes to worry about and it seems like such an act of grace in the middle of a literal war. So despite the film’s shortcomings, I still appreciated a window on this particular view, and what a lovely view it was, with lots of sights to behold.

Bridgerton

It’s hot, it’s steamy, you know you want to (and chances are, you already have: this series has been ULTRA popular on Netflix). It’s deliciously anachronistic, unapologetically salacious, and totally bingeable. The costumes are sumptuous, the dialogue sparkles, the sets are incredible, and the romance is as soapy as it is sexy. Plus, the ensemble cast has incredible depth and talent, led by a luminous Phoebe Dyvenor and the brooding sex-beast Regé-Jean Page as The Duke.

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A Nice Girl Like You

Lucy and her boyfriend Jeff are having some pretty lackluster sex when she accidentally shouts a grocery item (waffles, whole wheat I believe) instead of something racy. Seeing how she hasn’t even removed her flannel pajama top, Jeff surmises that Lucy (Lucy Hale) just isn’t that into sex. She tells him he’s wrong, he storms off to the garage to masturbate, she discovers that everything he’s been asking her to do comes from the copious porn he’s been watching in secret, and they break up.

At work the next morning, she confesses tearfully, and her friends judge her to be sexually unevolved, so Lucy does the only thing that makes sense – she writes the following Sex To Do List:

  1. watch 25 porns
  2. go to a sex store
  3. read (c)literature
  4. visit a strip club
  5. sex toy party
  6. take a sex seminar
  7. test vibrators
  8. stream some internet porn
  9. consult a sex expert
  10. visit a brothel
  11. meet a porn star
  12. use “hot throbbing cock” convincingly in a sentence

It’s a senseless list that promises way more than the film can deliver because despite the coming trips to brothels and furtive diddling, this R-rated comedy remains bland and banal. Sean likened it to a Hallmark movie, and he’s not wrong. It’s definitely more concerned with setting Lucy up with a more sex-positive relationship (enter Grant, ie, Leonidas Gulaptis) than with actually confronting what’s made her sex-negative in the first place, never mind ever titillating us with some of the juicier items on that list. Honestly, you won’t believe how unsexy porn stars and strip clubs can be.

The only thing interesting about this movie is that it manages to disappoint on so many levels (its only saving grace the fact that Mindy Cohn of the Facts of Life appears and works a dildo like there’s no tomorrow, but even that’s not NEARLY enough). Lucy’s love interest has the good grace to politely ask what a nice girl like her is doing in any number of the seedy establishments she frequents during the film; no one, however, has so far asked how a nice girl like me came to be watching a bad movie like this.

Guest House

Remember Pauly Shore? If you’d forgotten and I just reminded you, I’m sorry. If you’d forgotten and prefer to keep it that way, read no more.

Pauly’s back and he’s the exact same as ever, except worse because now he’s old and I’m not high.

Blake (Mike Castle) and Sarah (Aimee Teegarden) are a young couple who’ve just bought a new home with a beautiful backyard. There’s just the one problem: there’s someone in the guest house. And yes, it’s Pauly Shore. He’s calling himself Randy Cockfield in this movie but doing absolutely nothing to disguise himself. Pauly Shore never could act, except in the “acting like a demented ass with no filter and no taste” sense. Anyway, Randy is the tenant from hell, throwing obscene parties, damaging property, and violating boundaries like they don’t even exist in the first place.

Blake, apparently a reformed party boy (though Sarah’s dad, Billy Zane, still does not approve), vows to wage war against their squatter, but in truth he somehow gets sucked in. And then out. And then back in, and so on. Which is a problem because when Blake and Randy are buds, they party together, and things get so wildly out of control, Sarah winds up picking him up from the police station. And when Blake and Randy are enemies, their juvenile pranks get so wildly out of hand, Sarah winds up picking him up from the police station. In both scenarios, she’s threatening to leave.

But she doesn’t. Because Sarah’s pretty shitty too. Maybe not as shitty as Pauly Shore and her no good, Pauly Shore wannabe boyfriend, but since she’s agreeing to marry at least one of them on the very same day she was tearfully telling Billy Zane she just couldn’t do it anymore, she doesn’t get a pass. Plus, she has some pretty shitty friends. I mean, so does Blake. Definitely shitty. And so does Pauly. Ugh. So shitty. They have shitty friends because they’re awful people and they all deserve each other and there’s absolutely nobody in this movie to root for.

Guest House is an absolute mess of things that don’t make sense and things you wish you could unsee. I had no problem with Shore being alive when he wasn’t bothering me by making movies, but if he’s threatening to “revive” his “career,” I’m going to suggest we bury him Encino style, deep enough to make sure that if he’s ever unearthed, I’ll be dead and gone and he can’t hurt me anymore. His weasel persona had a 3 movie expiration date in the 90s and his resurrection is both unwanted and offensive – especially since he seems to be bringing Steve-o along with him? Double ugh. Go ahead and dig that hole big enough for two bodies and toss em both in. And while you’ve got the shovel out, go ahead and give my head a big ole whack – I know I can’t get these 84 minutes back but the least you could do is try to brain injury the memory away.

A California Christmas

Joseph (Josh Swickard) has a lot to prove working for his mother’s company, and he’s determined once and for all that he’s worthy of the job. He’s sent out to a ranch down on its luck to convince the family to sell before Christmas. Joseph is convinced this will be an in and out job, but boy was he wrong.

For some reason, he ends up posing as ranch hand “Manny” and believes that working alongside owner Callie (Lauren Swickard) and getting to know her will provide invaluable insider knowledge so he’ll know exactly what buttons to push to get her to agree (when he eventually reveals himself, one supposes). This actually requires a man with soft hands to work on a dairy farm for some time, which isn’t exactly Joseph’s forte. Luckily he’s got his driver Leo (Ali Afshar) stashed nearby, and Leo’s rooming with the real Manny (David Del Rio), who can be coaxed with cash to provide insight into the job and even he wardrobe.

Laura Swickard wrote A California Christmas, and stars in it with her real-life husband. She wrote a thirst trap for her own husband (who starts removing his shirt well before the ranch work commences). Do they have chemistry? Sure. Nothing crazy, but they’re watchable together. Less watchable: Gunnar Anderson, who is mis-cast as the film’s antagonist. It’s hard to take a man with curly hair seriously as a cattle hand, let alone as a villain – no matter how oversized the tires on his truck are, and believe me, he’s compensating for something MAJOR with the size of those babies.

Callie’s got a sick mother, a dead father, and a tragic backstory; Swickard has really written herself a juicy part, but while she thinks it’s a beautiful piece of tenderloin, it’s actually a hamburger steak, and there’s not enough gravy in the world to convince me otherwise.

This movie is trying to disguise itself as a romantic Christmas movie, and while it does okay in the romance department, it’s a complete failure holiday-wise. However, once the setting was established as Petaluma, I knew that the movie was really neither – it was really part of the Petaluma conspiracy that seems to be even vaster than I’d imagined. A lot of films coming out of Petaluma these days are very thinly veiled ranching propaganda.

Altogether, this is a pretty forgettable movie, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet and Christmassy, you’re better off over at Hallmark.

Rose Island

In 1968, there were dreamers, and Giorgio Rosa wasn’t the only one, but he’s the man we’re going follow today, all the way to Rose Island.

Actually, in 1968 there was no Rose Island as Giorgio (Elio Germano) hadn’t built it yet. But he’s about to. He’s an engineer, a creator, and a thinker. And one day he gets to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to build an island out in international waters? All to his own?

Rose Island tells the “incredible true story!” of how Rosa solved the problem of how to build an island, but more importantly, how it captured people’s imaginations, drew crowds, and was eventually declared its own nation. Built off Italy’s Rimini coast, it looked a lot like a party barge but also embodied ideals of independence, anarchy, challenging the status quo, and living life off grid, and without rules. Rosa and his acolytes believed their island could change the world, and the first step was establishing it as its own sovereign nation. Of course, that’s also what attracts the attention of the Italian government, who declares Rosa and his island an enemy. Founding your own island nation is fun and games until someone aims their cannons at you.

Rose Island is a fun movie for dreamers and disruptors but the truth is, not a lot actually happens. Between construction and war, there’s just a lot of sitting around and drinking sangria, with the occasional cut to Italian government officials wondering what they should do, who they should tell, pushing around bits of paper, and probably wishing they could jet out to the island themselves for some anonymous debauchery.

I admit that the story definitely deserves to be told and there’s definitely a vitality to rebellion and revolution. I didn’t love the movie, its on-again, off-again momentum was a bit frustrating, but I was glad to hear this little bit of history that I’d never known before.

Break

Lucie (Sabrina Ouazani) is on a very weird path. First, she’s in a coma. Well, first she’s in an accident, then she’s in a coma, and then she wakes up, pretty much completely fine, other than a memory (vision?) of a mysterious man by her bedside. Could it be her long lost father? Lucie’s mom insists no, but Lucie’s gut is saying yes, so she combines her need to get right back into training for an upcoming dance competition with a desperate search for a father she’s never known.

It leads her to Max’s bar/seedy motel, Max (Hassam Ghancy) being the prime suspect. Turns out Max is a reformed criminal who helps newly released prisoners get back on their feet. Which explains what makes barkeep Vincent (Kevin Mischel) such an irresistible bad boy – that ankle bracelet really does something for the ladies. Also, in an incredible coincidence, Vincent is a dancer who “doesn’t dance anymore” yet is continually caught dancing. Or what the French call dancing, which actually seems a little painful and spastic. A dark secret (besides the one that landed him in jail) is hinted at.

But Lucie already has a partner! A dance partner/boyfriend, one who is quickly losing patience with her quest to find herself through “dancing” with dangerous, handsome men.

Sabrina Ouazani is quite compelling to watch, and the film stumbles upon an occasional spark or two, but mostly it’s uncomfortably corny and left me rolling my eyes way more often than must be good for my health.

Director Marc Fouchard struggles to establish any tension between Lucie and her maybe-daddy, and fails to find chemistry between his two leads, which makes for a pretty lackluster movie that really didn’t hold my interest.