Tag Archives: Netflix

Moana

Today while I was working from home, Mary turned on Moana. I saw half of it once, and the first act twice since then (all of these because I have three nieces/nephews under the age of five). This makes it kind of hard to review, and probably I shouldn’t, but it would feel good to do something on time for once, I guess.

Anyway, she turned it on as background noise to hanging out with her mom, since my TV shows are too loud or something. Result: as soon as the neighbor started lawn-mowing near the “all is lost” part of her hero’s journey (which probably has a name I could look up, but here we are), I missed some of it I guess. But kid movie, so I can’t pretend I don’t know what happened on a review scale.

So, right, Moana. A polynesian chieftain’s daughter learns that she has been chosen by the ocean to go save the world from a whole bunch of death and destruction caused by a trickster demigod named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and she goes out on a boat to make things right. Also, there are songs.

It had some pretty silly long fight scenes to make it long enough I guess, and/or kids like that kind of thing, but as I alluded before, it’s a pretty tidy Campbellian archetypes story, with a climactic revelation that I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. And the songs were pretty good too. If you like that kind of thing, Disney usually does alright, right?

Hush (2016)

I’m excited by the Olympics, because it apparently means nobody is airing any opposing television, which means I have time to watch movies! Hence Hush, the random horror movie on Netflix I picked to watch a few nights ago when Mary had already fallen asleep but it was very early.

Premise: deaf-mute lady author in the woods. Later, a guy in a creepy mask shows up and stalks her, because sometimes shitty dudes with crossbows gonna be shitty. Then, seventy minutes of ratcheting cat and mouse tension. Tiny cast, ironically great sound editing, and otherwise, either you like this kind of thing or you don’t, y’know? Obviously I do, and this was an excellent example of the genre with basically nothing to disrecommend it.

 

Bright

When I was in LA in mid-December, I saw posters everywhere for a Netflix movie called Bright, starring Will Smith. It was to be released in like a week, but I had never heard of it before that weekend. No idea why, really. I mean, I suppose the fact that 90% of LA billboards are advertising for the screen instead of like 20% here in Dallas could account for part of the reason?

Anyway, it looked interesting. See, it’s the modern world as we know it, except orcs are the stand-in for the downtrodden classes, elves are the stand-in for the wealthy and powerful classes who don’t want to be bothered with having to acknowledge that there even is an underclass who got a raw deal, and humans are the stand-in for, y’know, whoever fits in between the two extremes I just detailed. Oh, also, there was a Dark Lord a long time ago, and people hate orcs because they were on his side then. Institutionalized racism at its finest, folks!

And, frankly, that’s the problem with the movie in a nutshell. Someone decided that, oh, cool, we can highlight the massive race and class problems in America by using fantasy race stand-ins! …and then they didn’t really do anything else with the idea except point at it over and over again. For example: at one point, cop Will Smith and his orc partner (who is the first ever orc policeman, and if you guessed that both every orc and every cop hates him, then you already see my point here) are interviewing some hispanic folks in a house, and they’re speaking Spanish, which Will Smith knows and the orc does not. But it’s okay, because Will Smith doesn’t speak orcish when they’re in the orc gang hideout, and, oh, wait, why do elves speak elvish and orcs speak orcish, but humans have all the same languages we’re already used to since it’s regular earth? It’s possible this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it’s just so damned shoddy!

Anyway, yeah. Buddy cop movie with high tension between the nominal buddies, and there’s a lot of magic floating around via all-powerful wands that most people can’t touch without just exploding to death, and of the people who can, mostly they’re only elves, but also the world is so shitty that people would go ahead and grab a wand anyway if they were just laying around because hey, if you don’t explode, cosmic power is yours for the wishing. And I’m pretty okay with that as a setting, but man, the clumsily (and, worse) lazily-handled race stuff ruins the whole thing for me.

But I hear it did well and there’s a sequel, so maybe they can focus on Dark Lords and magic next time, or at least have someone set them straight on how to not build ridiculous caricatures that we’ve all seen before. (I should say: the opening credits of the movie highlight the tensions and problems of both their world and ours extremely well, so much better than the plot or dialogue ever came close to.)

Last Shift

Mary was out of town for a couple days last week, so at one point I pulled a random movie off my Netflix watch list, which as will surprise nobody is like 90% horror. Last Watch was good as a mood piece, but very hard to make sense of if you find yourself paying the slightest bit of attention to the plot.

See, there’s a rookie cop, and it’s her first day (well, night) on the job, and she shows up at the precinct, only to find it empty of everything except office furniture and fluorescent light. Which, that was maybe cool when I was playing Resident Evil 2, but not for a movie? But it’s okay, soon someone else shows up to tell her she has to man the station overnight, until a hazmat team shows up to take away unsafe materials from the evidence room, after which the whole place will be shuttered and she’ll take up normal duties at the new station down the street built to replace this one.

So, fine, she starts her solo last shift at the station, and then… well, y’know, there’s a movie in there somewhere. And it’s appropriately creepy and jumpy and chock full of variously predictable and unexpected events. Y’know, a horror movie. The problem is, by the time I got to the end of the movie, I found that the premise retroactively made no amount of sense whatsoever. So if that would bother you, then don’t do it. If you could mostly get by on the mood part? They did a good job, other than the writing!

Would You Rather

MV5BODE3OTY0MzAtYWQzMy00MDdiLTlkOTItNzY1NWNjY2ZkNjBhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMjk0NjI@._V1_SY1000_SX679_AL_The difference between rich people and poor people, in a nutshell, is this: if you are rich, you can spend your money any way you want to. You can hire personal painters or musicians under the patronage system, or you can make bums fight on camera, or you can throw elaborate annual dinner parties for groups of strangers, where eventually they will play a high-stakes children’s game for your amusement. If you are poor, you can hope you find the rich person who wants to improve the atmosphere of the world to be your patron, but most likely you’ll only find the other rich people instead. Good luck!

Would You Rather capitalizes on a grimly plausible premise and a consistently recognizable cast, to maybe rise above what could have been a by-the-numbers entry into the gross-out subgenre of horror. I mean, it’s pretty by the numbers; they establish a heroine early on, and her impossible situation is of course very sympathetic, but the will she / they or won’t she / they is played out to good effect, the whole movie long. (Even the people who obviously will are characters that I found fascinating rather than mono-dimensional cardboard.)

That said… it’s still a cheap horror movie of functionally no social or historical value.

State of Emergency (2011)

MV5BMjE5OTI5ODY5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM3MjUzNw@@._V1_Last night was random Netflixing night. Well, semi-random; I was choosing from my pretty long queue list, but still. The result was the fairly disappointing State of Emergency. See, a county somewhere in the southern tobacco belt has been quarantined after an explosion and people going crazy with rabies-like symptoms. (You know, zombies.) From there, we focus in on one man’s travails while trying to survive.

The problems were manifold. Random failures for irrelevant plot points to make any sense whatsoever[1]; undeserved character development, just for the sake of having some; acting that occasionally rises to the level of professional; briefly highlighting the zombie menace as some kind of mystery to be solved[2] and then failing to in any way go about solving it… the list goes on.

Long story short: don’t watch this. There are much better options if you need a dose of zombiepocalypse.

[1] Example: news broadcast in which an audio feed of an embedded reporter with soldiers is overlaid by random images of helicopters flying around, soldiers standing around, or an ominous explosion cloud pluming into the sky. This is all fine, but suddenly due to predictable circumstances the audio feed cuts out. That’s accompanied by the stock, looped footage that had nothing to do with the audio feed also cutting out, to a generic test pattern and “feed lost” on top of it. This has no bearing on anything at all, but the lack of attention to making the least bit of sense was repeated again and again, and it’s hard to really take a movie seriously when they’re getting little details so very wrong.
[2] As opposed to the correct way to deal with zombies in most movies, which is to treat them purely as a setting choice, no different from “at the Arctic circle” or “1940s Europe”.

Horns

MV5BMTQ2Nzk5NzIxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2NTc5MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Mary picked Horns for movie night, a film about which I knew very little. Basically, just an image in my head (not dissimilar to the one in front of you) of Daniel Radcliffe with some, y’know, horns growing out of his forehead. It turned out to be pretty interesting, though! Mainly by that I mean that its philosophical / religious underpinnings were thought-provoking. If your very presence brought out people’s darkest secrets and basest impulses, who would you hang out with? Who would you avoid?

Unfortunately, the actual story above said underpinnings was not really worth holding up. What started as a moody murder and identity mystery quickly lost track of itself in an admittedly compelling relationship history, and by the time it found its way back, all of the moodiness had been lost in a generic anti-feminist fist fight between two guys over the fate of a dead girl.

It’s too bad, though. The principle actors were solid, and I think there’s a really excellent movie buried in the premise. This just wasn’t that movie.

Hercules (2014)

MV5BMTQ4ODA5MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjMyODM5MTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I saw Hercules last week because it was in the 10% of shows on my Netflix queue that were neither horror nor serial. (Well, and because my girlfriend didn’t want to watch a horror movie.) I have resisted reviewing it until now because it was just so… bland.

Don’t get me wrong, I always like The Rock. And that guy from Deadwood, Swearengen, who plays his seer sidekick, is a true delight. It’s just that the plot is… I can’t say bland again. Deconstructionist is not, per se, a negative. But this particular deconstruction took all of the literal and figurative magic out of the Hercules myth and turned it into not much more than a war story. Train the troops, fight the battles, and if I wanted a Greek war movie, I’d just watch Troy again.

It ended up better than I’m describing, but not enough better to be worth saying good things about. Or maybe the wait was too long? Either way: meh. You can do better, The Rock and Swearengen and people prospectively viewing this movie.

Zombeavers

MV5BNTMzMzc4ODc1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM0MTgxMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing I like about monster movies is everything you need to know is presented up front and boldly in the title. I Was a Teenage Werewolf? I think you know how that film is going to go down. Sharknado? Piranha 3D? I’m just saying. Easy peasy.

Which brings me to Zombeavers, a film I first learned about when it popped up on Netflix sometime last month. Literally everything you need to write the script for this movie is contained in the title. Thing 1: these are radioactive chemical zombies, a la Return of the Living Dead. This is a foregone conclusion, because how else would it only affect beavers and not everything else, except if it was somehow tied to a limited geographic area? Thing 2: this is a college kids trapped in the woods movie, a la Evil Dead. This is also a foregone conclusion, because how else do you get the victims near the zombeavers? Ah!, you ask, but why college kids? Because it’s a one word title. Zombie Beavers, you might have some leeway, but with Zombeavers, you need people who are young enough that you know they’ll be naked sometimes, and old enough that this is permissible. The pun is just too on the spot for anything else, and also, man, the poster you are seeing here is unfortunately not the one I see on Netflix.

So, why should you watch a movie about college kids in the woods vs. zombie beavers? Because, despite everything I’ve just told you about the inevitability of the flick, this is the most subversive horror movie I’ve seen in years. Explaining how would be a spoiler, so I won’t do it here. But if anyone asks, I can definitely elaborate in comments, and in the meantime, if you have even a slim percentage of amusement in the base concept, you must see this movie. Like, yesterday.

+1

MV5BMTQwOTA5Mzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkxODAxMDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Before telling you that you definitely want to avoid +1[1], I should at least try to explain what happens in it. So, the first layer of the onion is that it’s one of those high school / early college break-up movies where the boy and the girl have some kind of valid or contrived misunderstanding, and then the one who isn’t pissed tries to make up with the one who is at a big, raunchy teen movie house party, while various secondary stories play out and roadblocks keep appearing to prevent the inevitable reconciliation.

The complicating factor is some kind of space-spawned electrical disturbance that resets time weirdly. So, like, the first one jumps everything backward about 20 minutes, and you have the people who already lived through those 20 minutes and the people from 20 minutes ago, now both existing at the same time. (Not occupying the same space, because the vast majority of partygoers end up in different locations right before the jump, which is convenient I guess?) Then the same thing happens again, but the backward jump is only like 10 minutes the next time, and so forth. Inexplicably, there are never more than two sets of people, but whatever, go with it. Poorly thought out consequences is not why you want to avoid this movie.

Honestly, the background stories all kind of worked. The nerdy girl’s search for peace, the rowdy best friend’s search for a hot chick to bang, the big group’s reaction to the weird happenings going on around them mostly unnoticed, each of these stories plays out in novel or at least believable ways, which is more than you can say for most teen house party movies. But the main story about the boy trying to reconcile with his wronged ex-girlfriend? It starts off in the exact formulaic way you would expect, with him using found knowledge from the time rewind to get his reconciliation speech just right. And then it gets seriously a whole lot worse, without any kind of ultimate consequence or useful lesson.

Long story short: I want to kick this movie in the nuts. And then I want a time loop to jump back 20 minutes, so I can kick it in nuts again at about 19:30, and then the other me kicks it again immediately afterwards.

[1] Because you should avoid it, I’m not going to be shy about the spoilers. If for some reason you think I’m wrong and you want to see it anyway, probably don’t read this review? Also, make sure you’re good on blood pressure meds.