I rate Spectral GREAT with FOUR FINGERS at 85%.
Original content on Netflix is somewhat disappointing me. Their original movies are hit and miss, but Peaky Blinders, Narcos, and The Last Kingdom are worth it and then some. I like their variety.
November 18, 2019: Netflix Movie Recommendation: Spectral (2016)
Quote from Spectral by Dr. Mark Clyne
“My business requires us to prove them. Your technician’s job is to find glitches, so, he sees glitches. Your job is to find the enemy, so, you see the enemy. Locals believe in spirits, so they see spirits. Everyone is biased in one way or another. So, my answer to you right now is that we lack data to support any theory.”
I rate Spectral GREAT with FOUR FINGERS at 85%.
October 23, 2019: Documentary Recommendation: Naledi (2016)
“The elephant never gets tired of carrying its tusks.”
Executive Producer: Paul G. Allen
Director: Ben Bowie and Geoff Luck
Cast: Mike Chase, Wellington Jana, Brett Mitchell, Boago Poloko, and Robert O’Brien.
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
If you want to watch two more documentaries about elephants that are just as educational although not as uplifting as the one Naledi possesses, they are below. The footage of The Ivory Game and Tyke Elephant Outlaw is more graphic, but that’s what you get when you cover the decimation of elephants for profit whether the ivory trade or for human entertainment. I would say watch The Ivory Game over Tyke Elephant Outlaw but both should be watched for reasons I explained above.
September 30, 2019: Docu-Series Recommendation: Inside the Real Narcos (2018-)
This docu-series doesn’t list the creator, director, or producer(s). It doesn’t offer much description for what each episode involves except where the location of each. The fact there aren’t many episodes is the only downfall of this series because I would love to see more. The three episodes run around 45 minutes long and the main person narrating and speaking is Jason Fox, a former British Special Forces member. He often refers to the men he meets as blokes and goes into areas with guides that few have gone before, which is deep into the various parts of cartel operations. Whether he’s in Colombia, Peru, or Mexico, he asks important questions of its members and paints a grim picture for them. It’s a reality many can’t entertain and yet you get a better understanding of their situations by viewing this. If your government has abandoned you, then you go to the next best thing that will help. It’s an eye opener about the barrios, poverty, and cartel violence in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico.
I rate Inside the Real Narcos PERFECT with Four Fingers and One Thumb at 100%.
September 20, 2019: TV Show Review/Netflix Recommendation: In the Dark
Quote from In the Dark by Murphy
“I don’t need the dumb antibiotics. Since the beginning of time, women have healed themselves.”
Creator: Corinne Kingsbury
Executive Producers: Brian Dannelly, Frank Kiracusa, John Weber, Jonathan Collier, Jackie Cohn, Corinne Kingsbury, Michael Showalter, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Weinstock, and Emily Fox
August 28, 2019: Netflix TV Recommendation: Mindhunter (2017-)
Quote from Mindhunter by Bill Tench: “I can choke down the bile, manufacture empathy – when our subjects are at least informative.”
Pisaries Creator rates Mindhunter PERFECT at 100%
Four Fingers and One Thumb
August 16, 2019: Netflix Docu-Series Recommendation: Dirty Money (2018-)
Creator: Alex Gibney
Executive Producers: Adam Del Deo, Alex Gibney, Brad Hebert, Yon Motskin, Lisa Nishimura, Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, Jason Spingarn-Koff, and John Turner
Directors: Erin Lee Carr, Alex Gibney, Kristin Jacobson, Brian McGinn, Jesse Moss, and Fisher Stevens
MMPA Rating: NA but would say not suitable for young children
Dirty Money is a Netflix original television series that has interesting stories about corporate corruption, greed, and scandal. There are only six episodes in the first and only season until the second one is released. They are informative but at the same time loaded with emotions for the victims/little people involved. I’d say the HSBC bank money laundering for the cartels was the most eye opening and the inaction from the government to curb it maddening. For all the hard work being done on the front lines with the illegal drug trade, it seems futile if it’s “legal” for banks to launder billions of dollars with little consequence. The other episode about drug companies and one in particular, Valeant, was as scandalous as HSBC bank. The greed among pharmaceutical companies is massive. This company fattened the pockets of their shareholders while not caring that people were dying when they hiked up prices of their drugs so much they could not afford them. The last episode focuses on Donald Trump. It delved into his business practices during the 1980s and 1990s and how transforming his image in the 21st century saved him from complete financial ruin. Each documentary styled episode has a sobering reality where businesses have its flaws and even when identified nothing really changes despite the whistle blowers. Welcome to the Wall Street jungle where money is the main crop raised, cultivated, and unevenly distributed.
Pisaries Creator rates Dirty Money
Four Fingers and One Thumb at 100%
July 24, 2019: Netflix Review: House of Cards Season Six
Do not read if you haven’t seen all seasons of House of Cards!!!
In 2017 I wrote a post about House of Cards. It was one of the reasons I still kept Netflix when others were running away from it. I still haven’t run away from it although I’m finding some of the newer original material, movies and shows, lacking in some form or another. This show was great, mainly the relationship between Frank and Claire Underwood. I ended with it would be silly to stop without continuing another season. This was before I knew Kevin Spacey would be fired from the show. When I found this out, I wasn’t running to Netflix to watch it because I knew it would be half of what it should’ve been. I was right as the last season suffered due to Frank Underwood’s physical absence. I understand why the creators needed one more season to close the Underwood reign in Washington, but the final season could have been even more. I will give some reasons why it didn’t capture my attention as any of the seasons before it.
The character of Claire Underwood stepped out of the shadow of her husband, Frank, and by the final season she became Claire Hale. She begins the next chapter of her life as President, trying to gain respect from Congress and the American people. She has a large order to fill with some adversaries wanting her power and to control her. There’s even an assassination attempt, which I was expecting, but left me feeling a little cheated. The viewers missed out on the explosive battle between him and Claire for dominance. I was looking forward to learning who was going to be the winner and the other left in a state of annihilation by the final episode. It was clear Claire would do anything to hold onto what she gained, but again I wanted her grip somewhere else instead of the short rope she was given. Her focus then shifted on finding out the truth about her husband’s death, not knowing who was responsible until the final episode and why the person did it, which made half-sense. If Claire Hale regretted marrying Frank, why would she care what happened to him so much. He’s dead. Move on. Then again, curiosity has been known to be a human quality, often leading to tragic consequences when you cross the line. The ending was neither here nor there in the relationship between Claire and Doug Stamper.
Frank and Claire duking it out on the screen would’ve gone down in TV history as some of the most explosive scenes to watch between married and then divorced couples. Sometimes you don’t get that luxury and need to do a fair amount of telling to piece together the story. This is what the final season had to do. A protagonist needs an antagonist. Nothing wrong with Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear, but it wasn’t Kevin Spacey. Had he stayed, it would be another dynamic between Frank and Claire. They would compete for loyalty among the same crowd. The progeny of Frank wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure he would’ve grown up to be semi maladjusted like Annette Shepherd’s son, Duncun. It did little to excite me since her child was still in the womb and even after Claire gave birth, the best her child could offer was the difficulties of being the President of the United States and a single mother. Due to Frank’s absence, it gives Claire the opportunity to promote and further her influence on the Capitol. From the beginning of the show, you knew their desire for power at whatever costs. Their level of depravity went deep. Her level should’ve gone deeper. I personally would’ve loved to have seen Claire holding Frank, think body double, in the first episode of season six and go from there. The whole point would still be who killed Frank and the hurdles Claire has to face. As other Presidents have faced before, impeachment should’ve been a part of this season.
Jogging your memories of the earlier seasons, there was Zoe Barnes who had a relationship with Frank. There was Adam Galloway who had a relationship with Claire. Frank becomes the Vice President and Claire the Second Lady. They use every bit of their pasts to political advantage and rarely show vulnerability in public or private. When they ascend into the White House, things intensify and cracks become larger. They are the dysfunctional couple who likes to exercise. She by running outside and he on the rowing machine. She convinces him to be running mates in the next Presidential election. Things turn out in her favor and after beating Will Conway and kicking other adversaries to the curb, she assumes her role as President of the United States. Remember Catherine Durant, Tom Yates, and Tom Hammerschmidt? They come back to peck at Claire’s exterior, but that’s all they do. Doug Stamper did get to repent for some of his errors although I wonder what he did to incapacitate Frank? Did he shove poison into his mouth and hold it shut. If his physical prowess was similar to Frank’s, you’d think there would be more than a little struggle. Or did he give him poison discreetly, but given what had just happened, I doubt it. The part that bothered me was Claire’s pregnancy. It screams a little bit of desperation on her part. If it was truly Claire’s turn as she said herself, there wouldn’t be a baby involved. She would have found a way out of this situation. The relationship between Claire and her Vice President, Mark Usher, was okay. The ending was the biggest disappointment. If Doug Stamper’s goal was to protect the Underwood legacy, aren’t there other things to do that will stun and delay Frank. Even though Kevin Spacey was not there, another actor could have played him. He could’ve been locked up somewhere, his face obscured, but again it’s easier to kill the character and be done with it. I could see Claire being transported to a secret place where her husband is being hid in the last episode. She opens the door and says, “let’s talk, shall we?” and leaves it open ended. Given how lethal Claire could be, I wanted her to have more involvement in the reveal of Frank’s death. We are left with Michael Kelly and Robin Wright’s performances, which were great, but it wasn’t enough to end the series on a really high note.
I rate Season Six of House of Cards Three Fingers at 77%.
July 7, 2019: Netflix Recommendation: My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (2018-)
Quote by David Letterman: “There’s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe – because I’ve done a little of this myself – pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.”
I love this show because it showcases David Letterman in a different light. He’s changed and evolved as a person. We all know he’s a father because he can’t stop talking about this son, Harry, and clearly is one of his highest accomplishments of his life. This is Letterman basically interviewing people he sees as exciting and interesting, but more influencing the world in ways he admires. Yes, even Kanye West is influencing and helping others in some way. There’s definitely a serious side to Letterman I never knew he had before or maybe never showed that much before. I’ve missed him on late night and glad he is in back in this way. Every episode should be watched, but the ones standing out being the most funny with heartbreaking moments are George Clooney, Tiffany Haddish, Ellen Degeneres, Tina Fey, and Melinda Gates. I can’t wait to see more interviews as a new one comes out each month.
June 6, 2019: Netflix TV Recommendation: Designated Survivor (2016-2019)
Quote from Designated Survivor by Seth Wright
“Maybe he’ll realize he has no business running the country.”
May 27, 2019: Netflix Documentary Recommendation: My Son the Jihadi
Executive Producer: Richard Kerbaj
Director: Peter Beard
Major Cast: Michael Evans, Sally Evans, and Thomas Evans
Rating: NA but would say TV-MA
Running Time: 47 minutes
I thought I’d give this short documentary a try because the different Islamic extremism groups are pretty much cults, and I find the adults that join them perplexing. The higher members prey on low self-esteem individuals although not in every case, but everyone must show complete devotion to their causes. In this case of brainwashing, it dealt with a young British man named Michael Evans who would later be referred to as Abdul Hakim. After converting to Islam, he decided to cross the line by joining al-Shabaab, a terrorist group in Somalia. He had limited contact with his British family, but when he did call the news was upsetting. Being 23 years old at the time, he married a girl who wasn’t more than 14 years of age. Michael’s mother, Sally, worked to get him out of Somalia, but it was no longer an option when news broadcast his death in 2015. He was killed by a Kenyan Army sniper as he was raiding a military base with other militants. There’s a few conversations between his mother and his wife after he died. She commented how he is burning in hell and relieved he can no longer hurt others where his wife said she is happy he died a martyr. It raises a difficult question regarding both thinking their beliefs are the right ones in this tragic story.
May 12, 2019: Netflix Documentary Recommendation: The Creative Brain
Major Cast: David Eagleman, Tim Robbins, Michael Chabon, Nathan Myhvold, Robert Glasper, Nick Cave, Bjarke Ingels, Claire Elise Boucher/Grimes, and Phil Tippett.
Rating: NA but the certificate reads TV-14
Running Time: 52 minutes
May 12, 2019: Netflix Documentary Recommendation: Survivors Guide to Prison
Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes
May 10, 2019: Netflix Recommendation: ReMastered:Devil at the Crossroads (2019)
Partial lyrics from Robert Johnson’s song “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom”
I’m gonna write a letter
Telephone every town I know
I’m gonna write a letter
Telephone every town I know
If I can’t find her in West Helena
She must be in East Monroe I know
Netflix has these remastered stories about musicians. One of them is about Robert Johnson. This short documentary about the supposed deal he made with the Devil to become one of the best guitar players covers bits and pieces of his life including commentary by his relatives. It’s enough to realize how heartbreak after heartbreak led his marriage to drinking and his guitar. There’s obscurity in how he died with strychnine poisoning and contracting syphilis as the two main theories. He was only 27 when he died in 1937, but as the documentary points out he influenced the likes of Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Robert Plant. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame credits four of his songs to shaping the rock and roll genre: “Sweet Home Chicago” (1936), “Cross Road Blues (1936), “Hellhound on my Trail (1937), and “Love in Vain” (1937). Johnson was rated the best guitar player out of 35 by Spin magazine in 1990, fifth greatest guitarist out of 100 by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008, and ninth top guitarist out of 50 by Guitar.com in 2010.
Executive Producers: Irving Azoff, Stu Schreiberg, Jeff Zimbalist, and Michael Zimbalist
Director: Brian Oakes
Writers: Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist
Major Cast: Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, and Bonnie Raitt
Rating: NA but I would say TV-MA
Running Time: 48 minutes
I rate ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads Four Fingers at 90%
April 16, 2019: Netflix Documentary Recommendation: Saving Capitalism
Executive Producers: Steven Firestone, Nick Morton, Rick Rosenthal, Justin Schein, Stephen M. Silberstein, and Ryan Smith
Directors: Jacob Kornbluth and Sari Gilman
Major Cast: Robert Reich
Running Time: One hour and 13 minutes
April 8, 2019: Netflix TV Mini-series Recommendation (2018)
Quote from Bobby Kennedy for President by Robert F. Kennedy: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
Executive Producers: Nestan Behrens, Ben Cotner, Gunnar Dedio, Adam Del Deo, Jon Kamen, Laura Michalchyshyn, Lisa Nishimura, Dawn Porter, Dave Sirulnick, and Justin Wilkes
Director: Dawn Porter
Major Cast: Harry Belafonte, Peter Edelman, Paul Schrade, William Vanden Heuvel, Dolores Huerta, John Lewis, Munir Sirhan, and Robert F. Kennedy
Running Time: 62 minutes per episode
April 7, 2019: Netflix Movie Recommendations: Triple Frontier (2019) and The Dirt (2019)
While the subject matter for these two movies couldn’t have been on opposite sides of the spectrum, I consider these movies average. They are average in the sense that from my viewpoint, many movies released either from Hollywood or streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu although I’ve seen more movies made by Netflix, falter when it comes to pushing the story to the edge. I find this particularly with dramas within the last decade where the surface is merely scratched. I’m not sure what exactly would make good stories great, but I recognize more emotional/human content sorely missing. I feel this element is being skipped for the sake of producers, directors, and maybe even writers who feel the viewers want simplistic beginnings, middles, and ends. I know it’s ultimately up to the writer to produce the final version of a script and that it can change along the way once filming starts. Yet, getting the right actors and actresses can make all the difference too between pushing the movie from good to great. With movies being around for over a century, pretty much everything has been done before and we’ve seen it all. Those untapped areas may not even exist anymore, but what keeps coming back to me is the story. These two Netflix productions aren’t lackluster, but they are just movies for the sake of being movies. There is nothing wrong with this, but I had already figured out who died in Triple Frontier within the first twenty minutes (because even writers drop clues they may or may not realize). Because I was less knowledgeable about The Dirt, the life of Mötley Crüe before and during their fame, it was new material for me, but again the movie told a story in a pretty straightforward direction and manner. Maybe, I gave too much credit to Bohemian Rhapsody as I gave it 100% when it came out in the theaters, but I also think Freddie Mercury’s talent as a singer is beyond any of the members of Mötley Crüe. I also thought Rami Malek did an excellent job despite it seeming half the viewers thought he was great and other half not so much. I knew going into these movies, neither one would be categorized as eye-popping cinema, but counting them out as good entertainment would be a shame.
Executive Producers: Mark Boal, Anna Gerb, and Thomas Hayslip
Director: J.C. Chandor
Writers: Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor
Major Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal,, and Adria Arjona
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language throughout
Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes
Triple Frontier is a movie about five former operatives coming together for monetary reward they feel they are due for serving their country. The mastermind behind this plan is Pope (Oscar Isaac), a private military advisor in Colombia. With help from his informant, Yovanna, Pope gets the necessary information and supplies. With his team in place in including Redfly (Ben Affleck), Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam), Benny (Garrett Hedlund), and Catfish (Pedro Pascal), they get down to ironing out the details. Their target is a drug lord, Lorea, and his money rumored to be held in his safe house somewhere in the jungle. Their plan is officially under way when they scope out the safehouse and later to find the money. As the search continues, problems arise within the safehouse and outside of it. This is where the blame game starts. With tempers flaring and glaring differences of opinion about their next move, the realization of them in a country on a mission no one knows about because it’s illegal grips them tighter. They have no choice, but continue whether it has a good or bad result. They push on because staying in one place for too long will ensure they all get killed. The ending was decent, but again a little predictable. Therefore, I give it the rating below.
Executive Producers: Steve Kline, Michelle Manning, Chris Nilsson, Ben Ormand, and Rick Yorn
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Writers: Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Neil Strauss (book) and Amanda Adelson and Rich Wilkes (screenplay)
Major Cast: Machine Gun Kelly, Douglas Booth, Daniel Webber, Iwan Rheon, David Costabile, Pete Davidson, Levin Rambin, Jordan Lane Price, and Rebekah Graf
TV Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour and 47 minutes
The Dirt is a movie about four misfits living in Los Angeles during the early 1980s, and their journey to becoming a staple in the Glam rock/mental music scene. The creator of Mötley Crüe, Frank Feranna Jr., would later change his name to Nikki Sixx and the rest is history as they say. Sixx along with Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars would get used playing in front of an audience. They soon were playing in countless jam-packed night clubs and signed with Elektra Records. With cash flowing in faster than they knew what to do with, relationships got serious as well as the partying. Insert more drinking and drug use especially with Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil, and the end result is never good. The high life eventually leads to tragedy as it did in this case. As the band tries to regroup and heal from the destruction and fall out, things are still rocky as they tour. The band eventually breaks apart from each other. The end of Mötley Crüe had arrived and was officially disbanded in early 2000s. But, like any good band does, the members make amends and come back together for one last show or one more album. They played more shows with their last concert being in Los Angeles in December 2015 until this movie came out. Mötley Crüe, as of 2018, is recording new songs and continue to maintain support from old fans and probably gaining new fans as well. They’ve been around for almost 40 years. Longevity in the music scene is not a constant so good for them.
April 5, 2019: Netflix TV Series Recommendation: Hitler’s Circle of Evil (2018)
Executive Producers: Compton Ross and David McNab
Directors: Simon Deeley, Matthew Hinchcliffe, Vicky Matthews, Guy Smith, Ashley Morris, and Chris Roberts
Writers: Simon Deeley, Matthew Hinchcliffe, Vicky Matthews, Ashley Morris, Chris Roberts, and Guy Smith
Major Cast: Jonathan Michaels as Martin Bormann, Mairead Armstrong as Magda Goebbels, Alex Dee as Hermann Göring, Henrick Jørgensen as Adolf Hitler, James Lowe as Rudolf Hess, Blake Scott as Joseph Goebbels, Peter Turnbull as Heinrich Himmler, and Jo Wheatley as Ilse Hess
Running Time: 52 minutes per episode
If you look on any list of influential political leaders, evil political leaders, or deadly dictators, Adolf Hitler will more than likely be somewhere in the top ten. He is probably one of the most studied political leaders to date. While he had a great interest in music and art, he would be remembered for his vicious belief system, which he justified by invading mainly other European countries during WWII. Scapegoating against everyone who wasn’t his ideal would also lead to massive extermination of people. This docudrama starts with the key figures who would be by Hitler’s side from the start. They include Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler although others would appear too, all in the goal of improving their lives and getting Hitler’s approval. It was interesting to see how those closest to him sought his attention every chance they had, especially when he hosted parties and meetings at the Berghof. The recorded footage from that time is interesting to watch. You get to see how the political and social climate changed after becoming Chancellor of Germany. His influence catapulted his power to a new level when the stock market crashed in 1929. It was a perfect opportunity for Hitler to spread his belief in a superior Aryan race and exterminate those he viewed as inferior. He was no longer the novice public speaker who failed to convince the German people they needed him to an engaging orator who used his pulpit to assert his dominance across Europe. With every country invasion, his Nazi regime was a step closer to the end game. The last few episodes covers his time in the bunker with Eva Braun and Goebbels, which I found interesting. The weaving of re-interpretation of key moments, actual footage of Nazi members, and narration lent a great portrayal of the rise and fall of the Nazi Party. The only major complaint I have is some of the information and footage were repeated in a few episodes. I read another viewer’s complaint that it was one-sided, meaning England was portrayed exclusively in a positive light, where Germany was demonized (paraphrasing). I really don’t think that was the intent, but the fact Hitler blamed the German people for losing WWII points only in one direction. For all his political influence, his mental hysteria was his biggest downfall in the end, and of course, the Russian forces.
March 19, 2019: Hulu and Netflix Recommendation: Fyre Fraud (2019) and Fyre (2019)
Quote by Fyre Festival: “Things got off to an unexpected start at day one of Fyre Festival, thank you for bearing with us as we work through the growing pains that every first year event experiences.”
Fyre Fraud (Hulu)
Producers (main): Lana Barkin, Cameron Davison, Dana Miller Ervin, Kate Ferraguto, Kelsey Field, Angela Freedman, Jenner Furst, Sharmi Gandhi, Michael Gasparro, Jed Lipinski, Alec Macrae, Julia Willoughby Nason, Patrick Newell, Alyssa Raimann, Michael Swaigen, Lavell Wells, and Joanna Zwickel
Writers and Directors: Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason
Major Cast: Billy McFarland, Ja Rule, Bella Hadid, Austin Mills, Cameron Davison, Maria Konnikova, Ava Turnquest, and Matthew Burton Spector
MPAA Rating: NA
Running Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
Producers: Guy Belloch, Gabriel Bluestone, Danny Gabai, Jon Karmen, Brett Kincaid, James Ohliger, Max Pollack, Mick Purzycki, Matthew Rowean, Cassie Sagness, Chris Smith, and Elliot Tebele
Director: Chris Smith
Major Cast: Billy McFarland, Ja Rule, Jason Bell, Gabrielle Bluestone, Shiyuan Deng, Michael Ciccarelli, MDavid Low, Samuel Krost, Andy King, J.R., Brett Kincaid, Mick Purzycki, James Ohliger, Grant Margolin, Keith van der Linde
MPAA Rating: NA
Running Time: 1 hour and 37 minutes
Along the same veins of Ponzi scheming and insider trading, these documentaries cover the disaster of the music festival called Fyre Festival that was supposed to happen in 2017, conceived by Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. Fyre Fraud, a Hulu production, was released before Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the Netflix production. While both covered the same event or should I say lack of event, both managed to include insight and coverage the other did not despite the final consensus that the Fyre Festival was a complete disaster from start to finish.
McFarland was born in the year to make him a millennial, where social influence is more abundant than ever before, and he saw an opportunity to get a slice of the American pie as an entrepreneur. When you combine all three, the Fyre Festival was conceived and while it might have been a good idea on paper, a music festival of this magnitude takes a lot of timing and planning. This is where McFarland failed in a big way. He probably should’ve stayed in school because he might have learned a half thought out conceived plan rarely goes well, and combined with his delusion things went from bad to terrible. He clearly didn’t have the patience or years to know you just can’t live the high life and earn millions of money without adequate effort and work.
Fyre Fraud included the interview of McFarland after he was charged with mail and wire fraud. He seemed to have a blank stare on his face most of the time, a huge disconnect with what the documentary filmmaker was asking, which to me is a sign he still hadn’t absorbed what he had done and probably the magnitude of it either. While there was some coverage of those McFarland had financially hurt, it was more prevalent in Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. It might have been done to draw attention away from Jerry Media’s involvement, but the stories tended to be more personable. Those who suffered because of this failed music festival, from the workers on Great Exuma to the concertgoers to the American investors, were basically duped. The only people who got paid their due were the celebrity promoters.
This puts me near the end of this music festival, barreling toward the grand finale that turned out to be pretty chaotic in most respects and dismal on the music front. There was no Blink-182 because they had dropped out. They obviously smelled the danger from far away. For whatever reason, maybe to take pity on the people who paid thousands of dollars to attend, a local band offered a few hours of their time. The disaster relief tents leftover from Hurricane Katrina served as the luxurious housing promised and were completed with soaked mattresses from prior rain. There wasn’t adequate lighting so when the sun disappeared and night fell, you can imagine the horrors that occurred when people had to use the portable toilets. Good luck washing your hands because there was no running water. People couldn’t get cell phone reception either. I could go on and on, but seeing this part further made me realize McFarland didn’t care about anyone but himself.
I wish I could say McFarland learned his lesson after this doomed luxury music festival, but he did not. I’m not sure he will learn his lesson after he comes out of federal prison, but only he knows that. Given how many lives he wrecked along the way, I’m not sure anyone would give him another chance. The Netflix documentary primarily focused on McFarland’s delusions, victims of his actions, and his true character behind the scenes. The Hulu documentary focused on his character as well, but it didn’t go in-depth of his life prior to the Fyre Festival as much, although both were willing to place most of the blame on him. I encourage anyone who likes documentaries to watch either one or both.
I rate both documentaries GREAT at 90%
March 19, 2019: Netflix Docuseries Recommendation: Losers (2019-)
Question from Losers by Netflix: “In a ‘winning is everything’ society, how do we handle failure?”
Producers: Jennie Bedusa, MIckey Duzyj, Aaron Ernst, Jason Fisher, Adam Goldberg, Jason Heilig, Lisa Leingang, Victoria Millin, Mona Panchal, Adam Pincus, Rick Ramirez, and Karla Zambrano
Directors: Mickey Duzyj
Writers: Brin-Jonathan Butler
Major Cast: Michael Bentt (boxer), Torquay United (as they say in England football) Surya Bonaly (figure skater), Pat Ryan (curler), Mauro Prosperi (endurance racer), Aliy Zirkle (dog sledder), Jack Ryan (streetball player), and Jean van de Velde (golfer)
Running Time: approximately 30 minutes long
I wasn’t sure what to think about this show and it took me a few episodes to really get into it. I started with Surya Bonaly (ice skating) and next watched Aliy Zirkle (dog sledding). Being such different athletes but both with interesting stories although I’d say one more mirrors Tonya Harding’s story in which the judges didn’t give her a fair shake where the other is just plain frightening, I moved onto the next episodes. As I continued and left the sports I was least interested in for last (sorry English football and golf), the inclusion of accidents, mishaps, winning, and defeat made those tolerable as well. I surprisingly thought the golf episode was entertaining. Probably not to Jean van de Velde, but I’m sure golf enthusiasts can relate to his struggle. The grossest one is the endurance racer, the saddest one is the boxer, and the best turnaround is the streetball player. You can decide for yourself, but I hope Netflix keeps this going.
February 10, 2019: Netflix Movie Review: Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Quote from Velvet Buzzsaw by Morf Vandewalt : “Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining.”
I’m not going to lie I watched this movie originally because of Jake Gyllenhaal. He has become the actor I like to watch whether it be a comedy or drama, light or dark, realistic or surreal. This is the one of the few times I had no solid basis of what this movie was about, other for the fact it had him in it. I had no idea it was a horror movie because let’s be honest, the red lettering could also be spray paint. In the opening scene of Velvet Buzzsaw, the viewer is brought into the life of art dealers, critics, and the artists they love to hate. The snobbish energy drips from the ceiling like invisible paint, and this is ultimately what captured my interest once it began. I entered another world, which I would probably not want to be a part of because as quickly as you are sucked in, even quicker can you be spit out. The question of what constitutes art is an itch that continues throughout the movie whether up and coming artists or established ones who have paid their dues. It took a fair amount of time to show the horror elements, but it only increased my interest to see how it would end.
Velvet Buzzsaw is a Netflix and Dease Pictures Inc. production with Dan Gilroy as writer and director. Gilroy was the one also responsible for Nightcrawler where Jake Gyllenhaal played a freelance photojournalist. Jennifer Fox was the producer and Robert Elswit was the cinematographer. The main cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vanderwalt Rene Russo as Rhodora Haza, Zawe Ashton as Josephina, Tom Surridge as Jon Dondon, Toni Collette as Gretchen, Natalia Dyer as Coco, Daveed Diggs as Damrish, and John Malkovich as Piers, Billy Magnussen as Bryson, and Alan Mandell as Vetril Dease. This one hour and 53 minutes long movie is about the fine line between art promotion and profit in terms of consumerism, greed, and artist relevance. It has a R rating for profanity, nudity, and frightening & intense scenes.
Here is the basic plot that doesn’t include minor or major spoilers. We start out in Florida, Miami Beach to be particular, where Morf (art critic) and Josephina (art agent) pretty much finishes each other’s sentences and has similar opinions. They have a strong relationship that only strengthens when Josephina travels back to her apartment in Los Angeles.
She stumbles upon a man in the hallway and when she realizes he is dead, she swallows her fears and enters his apartment. Once inside, she realizes the potential to make a name for herself especially with her hardened boss, Rhodora. When she finally attachs a name to the recently deceased, Josephina encourages Rhodora to show and sell Vetril Dease’s paintings. The subject matter isn’t necessarily dark, but they have a haunting quality to them as recognized by everyone who sees them. This includes art curator, Gretchen, and an artist, Piers.
To ensure the demand for Dease’s work, half of the paintings are put in storage at the request of Rhodora. In the cut throat art scene, people’s greed can get the better of them and results in consequences. But, people turn a blind eye like Rhodora and continue on like nothing happened unless your name is Coco. She is the only one who truly knows something is not right, but given her status as a failing assistant, no one listens to her. This doesn’t mean others aren’t doing their own research into Dease. He might not be the first painter to use body fluids in his pieces, but what he uses alarms Morf, and this secret must remain with him.
As Gretchen and Rhodora work to popularize Dease even further, a new artist comes onto the scene called Damrish. As he becomes the new “it guy,” Piers is having a hard time finding inspiration for creating new pieces, and Morf continues to suffer mentally from what he has learned and done. Josephina’s life isn’t faring well either as she is now alone. Gretchen and Rhodora hope to survive this colossal mess on their hands before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Piers finally finds some peace near a beach where he draws designs in the sand that disappear when the tide washes over them.
As I mentioned before, I enjoyed seeing the snobbery of being an art critic or art gallery owner because this does happen and does exist. It’s a culture that is fascinating because the decisions made are usually behind closed doors. The same goes for music and film. Who decides if a person gets paid thousands of dollars for something versus a few pennies. You can have two people with similar technique, vision, creativity, and skill, but one will hardly make any profit as an artist. This is part Velvet Buzzsaw’s strength because even critics are subjective in their criticism. They can be your worst nightmare or best friend. They can end your careers or push you to new limits. I also liked the part of a particular painting or any object for that matter being inherently bad. It begs the question of how much of the intention by the artist matters once it is finished. Besides people creating art as an emotional and energetic outlet, are there layers not seen by the human eye too? Long after the person has died, what is the full impact of the work?
I’d recommend this because it’s not only a satirical commentary of the art scene, basically the pretentiousness of its players and artists, but it had an interesting concept. This wasn’t so new for me because I’ve watched one too many shows concerning similar types of phenomenon, but Velvet Buzzsaw was more buzzsaw than buzzkill. I liked it for Jake Gyllenhaal, of course, but for the fact the ending was just that, without any gimmicks. Sometimes things are just what they are, and no matter what you do, life keeps going on with or without you in it. How much you think or obsess about it is totally up to you. Yet, I thought there could’ve been a little more screen time between Damrish and Dease. I think you’ll know what I mean if you watch it.
I was so excited to post this that I forgot to rate it. Therefore, I rate Velvet Buzzsaw NEAR PERFECT at 95%.
February 6, 2019: Netflix TV Recommendation
Quote by Frankie Bergstein from Grace and Frankie: “Your anger is frightening the sand.”
Creators: Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris
Major Cast: Jane Fonda as Grace Hanson, Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein, Sam Waterston as Sol Bergstein, Martin Sheen as Robert Hanson, Brooklyn Decker as Mallory Hanson, Coyote Bergstein as Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael as Brianna Hanson, and Baron Vaughn as Nwabudike Bergstein
Episodes Per Season: 13
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Jane Fonda is best known for her Hanoi Jane nickname while Lily Tomlin for her fight with David O. Russell on the set of I Heart Huckabees. If you can put this aside and find some forgiveness, Grace and Frankie is a funny show. Grace and Frankie deals with all kinds of family and personal issues, starting with divorce and homosexuality, and then spreading into other areas of life such as children, aging, relationships, addiction, and death. The relationship between Fonda and Tomlin, characters Grace and Frankie, mirror their ex-husbands who finally admit to themselves they no longer are into women. It’s hard to say who elicits more laughs, but the whole cast is good. Sam Waterston as Sol and Martin Sheen as Robert give credence there is still time to have your dream relationship, of course with some conflict, when you are past 50 but not yet 80. Their children and friends lend additional humor to Robert’s passion for theater, Sol’s dislike for confrontation, Frankie’s desire to make decisions from her heart, and Grace’s need for mental and physical control over everything. My favorite episode has to be the one where Coyote’s birth mom visits him. There are five seasons and the 6th will most than likely air in 2020.
January 28, 2019: Netflix Mini-Series Recommendation
Quote from Watership Down by General Woundwort: “You will find the outsiders and when you do, we will destroy their warren, and leave no trace of them on this Earth.”
Directors: Noam Murro, Peter Dodd, Seamus Malone, and Alan Short
Writers: Tim Bidwell (4 episodes) and Richard Adams (1 episode and novel)
Major Cast: James McAvoy as Hazel, Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, John Boyega as Bigwig, Ben Kingsley as General Woundwort, Tom Wilkinson as Threarah, Gemma Arterton as Clover, Olivia Coleman as Strawberry, Mackenzie Crook as Hawkbit, Anne-Marie Duff as Hyzenthlay, Taron Egerton as El-Ahrairah, Freddie Fox as Captain Holly, James Faulkner as Frith, Lee Ingelby as Captain Campion, Miles Jupp as Blackberry, Daniel Kaluuya as Bluebell, Rory Kinnear as Cowslip, Craig Parkinson as Sergeant Sainfoin, Rosamund Pike as Black Rabbit of Inlé, Daniel Rigby as Dandelion,Jason Watkins as Captain Orchis, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Captain Vervain, Gemma Chan as Dewdrop, Lizzie Clarke as Haystack, Rosie Day as Thethutinang, Henry Goodman as Blackavar, Peter Guinness as Silverweed, Charlotte Spencer as Nettle, Peter Capaldi as Kehaar, Murray McArthur as Farmer, and Lorraine Bruce as Farmer’s Wife
Episode Length: 45 minutes
The original movie made in 1978 was recommended to me about 13 years ago. I watched Watership Down, loved it, and have yet to read the book. I know, I know. The original version has more violence and blood compared to the remake so this is more kid friendly. The drawing animation in the original is timeless, and you can’t stop watching the different rabbit warrens vying for control and survival in either one. There was criticism of the unpolished look of the rabbits given the advancements in technology. This doesn’t hold a candle to movies with a bigger budget, but I wasn’t too bothered by it. I will talk about the Rottweiler later. The other criticism was how the rabbits looked more like hares, but some wild rabbits do have longer legs. If you can look past the less than animation and what is construed as erroneous leg length and facial features, this four-part series is for you. Let me give you a little information before I give a short summary of Watership Down. The rabbits are broken into their respective warrens: Sandleford, Cowslip, Efrafa, and Watership Down. When they speak of Lord Frith, this is their sun-god. El-ahrairah is the Prince that was their leader in the beginning. Owsla is a rabbit police force. The word silflay means grazing and Efrafans belong to the Efrafa warren (as you probably deduced). A word of caution, there’s a lot of rabbits in this, and it’s hard to tell them apart at times especially when they dart back and forth.
The story begins with two brother rabbits, Fiver and Hazel. It is Fiver who has visions of the future and Hazel who partly believes in them. They decide to tell their leader, Threarah, anyway who doesn’t believe them. They are forced to take leave from the Sandleford warren with a few rabbits who believe them including Bigwig. Their escape is full of danger and they eventually find a new home when Hazel meets a peculiar rabbit named Cowslip. It is here Fiver has more visions except this time even darker. He realizes man poses danger everywhere, and the rabbits take leave with Strawberry. This leads to newfound respect for Fiver and humble pie for Bigwig. They arrive at Nuthanger Farm where Hazel meets a domestic rabbit named Clover. He makes several attempts to rescue her, but to no avail. This places him in great danger, and it is Clover’s determination along with Fiver’s vision that help him to safety. The remaining Sandleford warren is just that as Captain Holly barely makes it out alive as it’s destroyed by man. He has no choice but to follow Fiver and Hazel to Watership Down.
What is clear to all the rabbits is the dangers of the Efrafa warren, but Hazel doesn’t shy away from it. Being the Chief Rabbit, he sends Bigwig to infiltrate the dangerous warren in order to gain General Woundwort’s trust as well as Hyzenthlay, a female rabbit. They round-up rabbits willing to risk leaving Efrafa, but the Efrafa Owsla is never far away. You’ll start to feel for the rabbits who have been there much too long. The rabbits fear of failture, but they have no choice. It also helps to have Kehaar, the gull, who eats too much when he’s not flying around. Back in the safety of Watership Down, the rabbits reunite with Strawberry, Hawkbit, and Dandelion who is credited for creating the warren’s underground tunnels that are later used to protect the rabbits when General Woundwort returns with his Owsla. Being ever aware of danger, Fiver has another vision and sets off with Hazel to stop the destruction of Watership Down. They run back to Nuthanger Farm because dogs like to chase things. Remember when I spoke of the Rottweiler earlier? It’s too bad General Woundwort was fearless.
After all was said and done, I enjoyed this version because the rabbits had markings they had been around a while. Wild rabbits experience a lot of harsh elements. They have tears in their ears and scars on their faces from fighting. They are different sizes, some small and large although I’d love to know what the Efrafa warren was eating when they weren’t smacking each other around. There were some differences in appearance of the wild and domestic rabbits. Some of the scenes jumped back and forth too quickly, but the actors and actresses that lent their voices were great. Ben Kingsley as General Woundwart and Peter Capaldi as Kehaar were my favorites, and you have to enjoy the brotherly love of Hazel voiced by James McAvoy and Fiver voiced by Nicholas Hoult. I only had trouble with how the Rottweiler looked. The last scene of the Rottweiler left me unimpressed. This was the only time I laughed in the series. The relationships between male and female rabbits was more prevalent in this version, which broke things up a bit. I encourage you to watch the original as well and see which one you like better.
December 17, 2018: Netflix Movie Recommendation
Producers: Mohamed Alrafi, Jennifer Aniston, Michael Costigan, Kristin Hofmann, Danny Nozell, Kelly Todd, and Christopher Tricarico
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writers: Julie Murphy (novel) and Kristin Hahn (screenplay)
Major Cast: Danielle Macdonald as Willowdeen Dickson, Jennifer Aniston as Rosie Dickson, Odeya Rush as Ellen Dryver, Maddie Baillio as Millie Michalchuk, Bex Taylor-Klaus as Hannah Perez, Luke Benward as Bo Larson, Harold Perrineau as Lee Wayne/Rhea Ranged, Kathy Najimy as Millie’s Mother, Ginger Minj as Candee Disch, Hilliary Begley as Lucy Dickson, Sam Pancake as Dale, Dan Finnerty as Eugene Reed, Molly McNearney as Delia Shepherd, Tian Richards as Marcus, Ryan Dinning as Patrick, and Andrew Fletcher as Tim
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
This has minor spoilers.
While it isn’t what I normally watch, I’ve been known to stray here and there. This is one of those movies. It’s a coming of age story about Willowdean Dickson, nicknamed “Dumplin” by her mother, Rosie. We find out the daughter is nothing like her mother. Willowdeen doesn’t have Rosie’s looks or interests. She enjoys lounging in pools, having crushes on guys, and singing along to the radio. We are taken into her life, which includes her love of Dolly Parton who reminds her of her aunt, Lucy. While she feels out-of-place, her best friend, Ellen, serves as a rock in her life when her mother is unavailable. Rosie isn’t embarrassed with Willowdeen’s weight as she believes although she is fully embarrassed by her mother’s fascination with pageants that leads to even more distance between them. A combination of events leads to Willowdeen entering the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant and in a round about kind of way to understand her mother better. There are rules to this pageant, but she doesn’t care because winning isn’t her goal. It is to challenge the beauty standard and convinces a handful of other girls to do the same. Hannah, Millie, Ellen, and Willowdeen attend the pageant orientation much to Rosie’s frustration. They practice and decide what to wear after the committee has no choice but to allow them entry. Nothing happens without some minor setbacks along the way and after accepting their differences, they seek help from one of Lucy’s past friends, Lee Wayne. In the midst of all this, Willowdeen juggles her feelings for Bo. As the pageant approaches, the outsiders make up their own rules to support of each other. The relationships come full circle and no one really is left feeling alienated or cheated out of something they deserved. This is basically a feel good movie. You can pretty much predict how it will end. This is okay because it has enough substance to keep the viewer interested, but would’ve liked to seen more exploration between Lucy and Rosie.
December 2, 2018: Netflix TV Mini-Series Recommendation
Producers: Mick Aniceto, Scott Frank, Jessica Levin, Michael J. Malone, Mimi Munson, Casey Silver, and Steven Soderbergh
Director: Scott Frank
Writer: Scott Frank
Major Cast: Jack O’Connell as Roy Goode, Michelle Dockery as Alice Fletcher, Scoot McNairy as Bill McNue, Merritt Wever as Mary Agnes, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Whitey Winn, Tantoo Cardinal as Iyovi, Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin, Adam David Thompson as Gatz Brown, Samantha Soule as Charlotte Temple, Kayli Carter as Sadie Rose, Keith Jardine as Dyer Howe, Rio Alexander as Bud Ledbetter, Samuel Marty as Truckee, Justin Welborn as Floyd Wilson, Luke Robertson as Bill Chick, Tess Frazier as Callie Dunne, Joe Pingue as Alonzo Bunker, Russell Dennis Lewis as Daryl Devlin, Matthew Dennis Lewis as Donnie Devlin, Travis Hammer as John Doe, Marie Wagenman as Trudy McNue, Kim Coates as Ed Logan, and Duane Howard as Shoshone Brave
Running Time: 60 minutes
Godless is a seven episode western drama mini-series about a town called La Belle, New Mexico during the pioneering days. It is in this town, primarily made up of women due to an earlier mining explosion that wiped out their husbands, where power and revenge is sought. Three major stories play out. The first is Frank Griffin and his gang seeking revenge on Roy Goode. You learn how Roy came into Griffin’s life and his supposed wrongdoing. While Frank’s only mission is to find Roy, more than one person has eyes on Frank. The second is the sheriff of La Belle, Bill McNue. He is dealing with his own personal issues and searching for answers on the road when he should be staying put. His sister, Mary Agnes, has become a pseudo mother for his children when he is away and is a voice of reason for the women of La Belle. The third is Alice Fletcher and her family including her son, Truckee, and mother-in-law, Iyovi. There are two minor stories involving men offering their services to the women of La Belle and the outsiders who have built up a community of their own. The reason for liking Godless besides it being a western was the overall production value. There was enough realistic dialogue to tell the audience what was happening without overly stating the obvious. Some of the cinematography shots, especially of the horse riding, were first rate. The main cast including the supporting cast had a complete naturalness to their acting. I know these are general things to like about a TV show, but watching this was like eating a four course meal where the dessert tasted just as great as the appetizer.
November 28, 2018: Netflix Recommendation
Producers: Gillian Berrie, Richard Brown, Brian Coffey, Rob Kettlewell, Danny McGrath, Claire Moorsom, and Stan Wlodkowski
Director: David Mackenzie
Writers: Bathsheba Doran, David Mackenzie, James MacInnes, David Harrower, and Mark Bomback
Major Cast: Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as James Douglas (Lord of Douglas), Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh, Billy Howle as Edward (Prince of Wales), Tony Curran as Angus MacDonald, Lorne MacFadyen as Nigel Bruce, Alastair Mackenzie as Lord Atholl, James Cosmo as Robert de Brus (6th Lord of Annandale), Callan Mulvey as John III Comyn (Lord of Badenoch), Stephen McMillan as Drew Forfar, Squire Paul Blair as Bishop Lamberton, Stephen Dillane as King Edward I of England,Steven Cree as Christopher Seton, Sam Spruell as Aymer de Valence (2nd Earl of Pembroke), Rebecca Robin as Margaret of France (Queen of England), Stewart Brown as the Ginger, Jamie Maclachlan as Roger De Mowbray, Benny Young as Sir Simon Fraser, and Clive Russell as Lord MacKinnon of Skye
MPAA Rating: R for brutal war violence, some sexuality, language, and brief nudity
Running Time: 2 hours and 1 minute
This has minor spoilers.
Outlaw King starts with Robert the Bruce in 1304. William Wallace has recently been killed by King Edward I, but Robert still pledges allegiance to King Edward in exchange for land promised him. He marries Elizabeth de Burgh, and finds himself at odds with the king after he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. It is here you realize Robert is respectful of Elizabeth’s new role as wife and is a tender leader and fighter. Two years pass between them and his ambition to revolt against the English is solidified when he becomes the newly crowned King of Scots. This doesn’t make King Edward pleased, and Robert is now considered an outlaw. A series of events forces him to leave Elizabeth and his daughter, Marjorie, from his first marriage. He loses men along the way and finds himself under the thumb of the Prince of Wales. Hoping to bring Robert out of hiding, the prince takes Robert’s wife and daughter from Kildrummy Castle to England. They become prisoners, at the mercy of a hanging cage and religious nuns. Robert continues his quest to free them. When King Edward dies and the prince now known as Edward II replaces him, Robert fights him in a battle at Loudoun Hill. The Scots are outnumbered six to one, but with Robert’s plan he is able to overtake the English soldiers, leading to a duel with Edward II. It is a fight leading to more fights where Robert the Bruce’s place in history is secured as well as his descendants. While this movie was good, I wasn’t at the edge of my seat. It scratched the political surface of Scotland when it should’ve dug the nails in deep. In other words, I wanted more screen time between Robert and Elizabeth. I wanted to see more emotions behind Robert’s actions. I wanted to see the power struggles beyond swords and crowns. Usually by the end of this type of movie, I’m persuaded to learn the craft of sword fighting after I gain 20 pounds of arm muscle (even if it lasts for only a few minutes). This time I was not. This doesn’t make it unworthy to watch, but it’s missing some of the energy one feels when the downtrodden (so to speak) rises to the top. Yet, I still recommend it.
November 28, 2018: Netflix TV Review
Executive Producers: Stephen Butchard, Nigel Marchant, and Gareth Neame
Directors: Peter Hoar, Jon East, Anthony Bryne, Ben Chanan, Nick Murphy, Jamie Donoughue, Richard Senior, Erik Leijonborg, Jan Matthys, and Edward Bazalgette
Writers: Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Butchard, Sophie Petzal, Ben Vanstone
Major Cast: Alexander Dreymon, Ian Hart, David Dawson, Eliza Butterworth, Harry McEntire, Arnas Fedaravicius, Emily Cox, Adrian Bouchet, Millie Brady, Mark Rowley, Jeppe Beck Laursen, James Northcote, Toby Regbo, Tobias Santelmann, Ewan Mithcell, Julia Bache-Wiig, Simon Kunz, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Innes, Cavan Clerkin, Adrian Bower, Peri Baumeister, Thea Sofie Loch Naess, and Magnus Bruun
Running Time: 60 minutes
The Last Kingdom finally returned to Netflix. The fans were waiting a long time for this. Uhtred (played by Alexander Dreymon), son of Uhtred, continues where he left off in season two: fighting lengthy battles while trying to knock the reality of being part of a royal family into the head of Aethelflaed (played by Millie Brady). The third season continues with Uhtred continuing his desire to recapture his birthright despite the precarious line he walks in his allegiance to King Alfred (played by David Dawson) and his brother, Ragnar the Younger (played by Tobias Santlemann). The following will not have any major spoilers, but will mention there were a few surprises I didn’t see coming or maybe more wishing it hadn’t ended that way.
Season three’s opening is different because King Alfred is no longer a young king. He is ripe with knowledge, but for the first time you see his body and mind not in congruence. He now concentrates on his family’s longevity and mainly through his son, Prince Edward (played by Timothy Innes). It also includes his vision for Wessex to ensure its survival and a place in history. In the land of the Danes, the story continues with the relationship between Uhtred and Ragnar as well as Uhtred and Brida (played by Emily Cox) where loyalties are tested. Uhtred’s wife remains a part of life, Gisela (played by Peri Baumeister), and Skade (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess) becomes a thorn in his side he’s trying to remove throughout the season. Patience is a key word when it comes to Skade as she is passed around from Sigurd Bloodhair (played by Ola Rapace), Haesten (played by Jeppe Beck Laursen), and Uhtred.
While some characters got what was coming to them, the precursor to it left me stunned because again, I never thought it would play out that way. The last episode includes a jockeying for power among the royalty including Athelwold (played by Harry McEntire) as well as among the Danes where Haesten probably misses Erik and Sigefried from the previous season. We end with Uhtred having the same goal he began with, and whether he got any closer to it remains to be seen. I’m wondering how the relationship between him and Brida play out in the next season as her commitment to Ragnar is fiercer than ever, and what will happen to Beocca. It wasn’t hard for me to enjoy the show because I like historical fiction. For all the other shows out there dealing with kings and queens, mystical beings, and jealous enemies, The Last Kingdom is also worthy of your time.
November 20, 2018: Netflix TV Review
Quote from Narcos: Mexico by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo: “Business is changing, and we must change with it.”
Creators: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, and Doug Miro
Directors: Andrés Baiz, Josef Kubota Wladyka, Amat Escalante, and Alonzo Ruizspalacios
Writers: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro, Eric Newman, Scott Teems, Clayton Trussell, Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, Andy Black, and Jessie Nickson-Lopez
Major Cast: Aaron Staton, Alejandro Edda, Alfonso Dosal, Alyssa Diaz, Clark Freeman, Diego Luna, Ernesto Alterio, Fermin Martinez, Fernanda Urrejola, Gerardo Taracena, Gorka Lasaosa Guillermo Villegas, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Jackie Earle Haley, Joaquín Cosío, José María Yazpik, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Lenny Jacobson, Manuel Masalva, Matt Letscher, Michael Peña, Scoot McNairy, Tenoch Huerta, Teresa Ruiz, Tessa Ia, and Yul Vazquez
Running Time: Varies
I wasn’t the only one binge watching Narcos: Mexico last weekend, but I’m one of them who waited to review it so here it goes. This spin-off deals with how the Guadalajara Cartel formed to become a dominant force in drug trafficking during the 1980s. Enter Diego Luna as Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and his sidekicks Tenoch Huerta as Rafael Caro Quintero and Joaquín Cosio as Ernesto ‘Don Neto’ Fonseca Carrillo. The convincing portrayal of Gallardo by Luna is equally done through a glance suggesting “this is the way it’s going to be” or through more vicious means. Huerta and Cosío give worthy portrayals of Quintero and Don Neto.
While the trailer unveils Gallardo and Camarena as the main antagonist and protagonist in this first season, there is definitely more brewing than just this cat and mouse chase although it’s uncertain how close Gallardo was in proximity to Camarena in real life. A nod to Michael Peña who plays the recently transferred DEA agent, Enrique Camarena, known as Kiki. He was a man on a mission and while I missed some of the relationships forged in the previous seasons among the DEA agents, it was fitting he was alone much of the time. Kiki was an open your mouth when it’s absolutely necessary kind of man and his trust was gained with caution. Patience wasn’t one of his strong suits, which was more than necessary since the DEA, Drug Enforcement Administration, was still in its infancy.
This doesn’t mean there wasn’t success as Camarena’s relentless attitude and energy to combat drug trafficking led to a pivotal moment in the season, and one that viewers knew was coming but still find tragic to this day. It mirrors the overall tension between the DEA and Guadalajara Cartel up to the final episode, which serves as a stepping stone for the next season. It points in a new direction for the DEA, meaning bigger guns and rougher looking agents, to make those key players who protected Gallardo pay as well as himself.
I’m hoping there’s expansion of Isabella Bautista as played by Teresa Ruiz. She could become an engaging force Gallardo would underestimate if they deviated from the actual story in the next season. It was nice to see a few characters from past seasons make an appearance in this one. Therefore, I could see a few of the characters in this season included into a minor storyline in the next. That probably won’t happen as the narrator, voiced by Scoot McNairy, signals he’s the next in line to take the drug war to the next level with the focus being on Operation Leyenda. In conclusion, although I preferred the seasons focusing on the Medellín and Cali Cartel, this one shined bright too.
Creator: Laeta Kalogridis
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Connor, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Trieu Tran, and Renée Elise Goldsberry
Running Time: 60 minutes
Altered Carbon is a sci-fi show incorporating elements and concepts found today. The dichotomy between the have and have nots will always be a part of civilization. There is a pecking order in any social organization or particular culture. This futuristic world is no different. The main character is a highly trained soldier named Takeshi Kovacs (interesting surname choice played by Will Yun Lee and Joel Kinnaman). He is brought back from the dead to solve the mystery of who killed Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy). There is not going to be an easy task for Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) even though he walks around with a little backpack you’d more likely find on a little girl who’s into trendy accessories. The path he follows zigzags from past and present, the backstory woven well, until the end. There is some nudity in the show, and while some of it may seem excessive, it does lend itself to the story. I’m thinking of a particular fight scene between Reileen (played by Dichen Lachman) and Kristin (played by Martha Higareda). Let’s face the fact of Reileen being a badass fighter who defends first and doesn’t bother to ask questions later even when naked. She is that sure of herself. The fight scenes in and out of the ring are also some of my favorites. While I like Joel Kinnaman as an actor, I hope they don’t bring him back. The appeal of the show is the same characters taking different “sleeves.” But, I do hope they bring the character name of Takeshi back as well Kristin and the comic relief of Poe (played by Chris Connor). While this show included unfamiliar concepts and thoughts, it was not so radically different that you get completely lost. However, there was mild confusion in one of the sub-stories. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Altered Carbon a rating of 95%.
Creator: Veena Sud
Stars: Clare-Hope Ashitey, Michael Mosley, David Lyons, Isaiah Butler, Regina King, Peter Jablonski, Nadia Alexander
Running Time: 60 minutes
Seven Seconds is a crime drama involving racial tensions and corrupt cops in New Jersey. It’s created by Veena Sud, the same woman who gave us The Killing. This show threw everything into it, including a few sinks along the way. I understood the reasoning, but it seemed to leave some characters only scratching the surface when they could have dug deeper. I might liken it to jam packing everything into a tiny suitcase, hoping you’re able to sit on it efficiently to close it. Sometimes it works better to leave a few things out or save for a later date. The show follows the Butler family after a tragedy occurs. It takes you into the heart of the police department, court system, lawyers, gang activity, racial and sexual stereotypes. There has been some grumbling about the ending, but it is a realistic portrayal of what could and does happen. The characters of KJ Harper (played by Clare-Hope Ashitey), Fish Rinaldi (played by Michael Mosley), Latrice Butler played by Regina King), and Isaiah Butler (played by Russell Hornsby) were the best in the show. The pacing is slower than The Killing. It does not have as many twists and turns compared to it either, but it kept my attention. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Seven Seconds a rating of 90%.
Creator: Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams
Stars: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Jason Butler Harner, Marc Menchaca, Esai Morales, Michael Mosley, and Charlie Tahan
Running Time: 60 minutes
Ozark is a crime drama involving a Chicago family that is uprooted from their home when a business deal sinks further down a hole that does not seem to end. This show hooked me from the start and never go. This show is about power, control, and expectations within the Bryde and Langmore families. When you add questionable FBI tactics, drug cartel laundering, and church services held on a lake in boats, things only get better for the viewer. The characters of Marty Bryde (played by Jason Bateman), Wendy Bryde (played by Laura Linney), Ruth Langmore (played by Julia Garner), Russ Langmore (played by Marc Menchaca), and Del (played by Esai Morales) were some of my favorites. This is a well-constructed script and the casting is on point. Some may be offended by the stereotypes of the people, but this is bound to happen in writing. While not everyone is in need of major dental work and/or enjoys shooting animals just because there’s nothing else to do, these people do exist in the Ozarks and beyond. When you mix together city life people with smaller town people, it tends to be a good story. It has been renewed for a second season, but the specific story line is to be determined. In conclusion, I give Ozark a rating of 97%.
There’s been some backlash over Netflix, mainly their original programming and what they allow to stream on their service. I find it more user-friendly based on my preferences and needs. I prefer the option of binge watching television shows and seeing older movies. Releasing only one season or a few seasons at a time is cumbersome for shows no longer airing and those with many seasons. I will say Hulu has some original programming I’m interested in watching. So far all I’ve seen is the first episode of Handmaid’s Tale. So far, so very good. I can’t wait to see more. Since I was introduced to Netflix first, I’m giving it some needed love, and my choices are in no particular order.
CAUTION: DON’T TRIP OVER THE SPOILERS ALONG THE WAY!!!
House of Cards (original programming) is a political drama involving Frank and Claire Underwood. It is an adaptation from the book, same name, written by Michael Dobbs. The BBC made a four-part series in 1990. There are five seasons, so far, in the current version. Season one starts with Frank as a Congressman who has high sights of making his name mean even more in Washington D.C. I think we all know politicians can be ruthless and the show doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Some of it may be construed as over the top, but we all have private things we’d like to keep private especially when it involves circumstances where coming back seems impossible and lethal means exactly that. The progression through the seasons continue to focus on the different personas the Underwood’s take including the political stage, as well as their pitfalls and achievement. It is equal part a story about the Underwood’s marriage arrangements and their maneuvering in the political world. Season five ended with more questions to the motives of Claire and how Frank will counteract this in season six. I will say after watching this it gave me more respect for Robin Wright’s acting skills and Kevin Spacey never disappoints. Michael Kelly who plays Doug Stamper is a character I find very intriguing. I’m curious how his character arcs when the show ends. There have been great guest roles. A part of me wants to see what Frank has built collapse at the end of the show, and hope I get to see the next part of his life as the next season is still pending. I’m 99% confident there will be a next season. It’s just plain silly to stop it at such a pivotal moment in quality television making.
Narcos (original programming) is a crime/police drama about the lucrative cocaine industry and those opposed to it. It is created and produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro. There are three seasons and the fourth season is to be released in 2018. I have only seen the first two seasons and one episode of the third. Season one begins with Pablo Escobar and his rise to the top as the drug kingpin in Colombia. Wagner Moura who plays Escobar was highly convincing as the vindictive, egotistical, and family loving billionaire. To give an idea of how he operated, Escobar stapled a cone onto a horse’s head and wings on its back so his daughter could have her very own unicorn. This ended up killing the horse by infection and this real life event is not in the show. He got what we wanted even if it meant death. His cousin, Gustavo Gaviria, was one of the few he trusted. Their relationship was one I enjoyed watching especially when it was tested. The first season involves the interesting relationship between DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, where the latter is not a part of the capture of Escobar as seen later. Season two continues the saga of Escobar’s imprisonment or lack thereof since he planned and built his own prison. He effectively remains hidden due to strict loyalty from his cartel from the police, and only when it crumbles does his life come to an end in the infamous shootout on top of the roofs of Colombia. It leads to the Medellín Cartel to be succeeded by the Cali Cartel. They gained top control of the cocaine manufacturing and distribution before Escobar’s blood turned cold. Season three begins with Peña going undercover in the Cali cartel. I’ve only seen the first episode and it did not disappoint. I suspect there’s going to be moments of surprise and tension as the Cali Cartel operates through bribery versus violence. Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, as head of the Cali Cartel, is both cunning and charming. Season four will set place some of the time in Mexico. I will also say the location manager for the show was recently killed so RIP Carlos Muñoz Portal. No matter how the fourth season ends up, I’m going to like it because it hasn’t lessened its content just because Escobar and Murphy are gone.
Stranger Things (original programming) is a science fiction drama about a town in Indiana during the 1980’s. It is created and written by twins, Matt and Ross Duffer. There is so far only one season, and the second season is to be released in October 2017. There are plans to have four total seasons. It revolves around a mother, Joyce Byers, and her two sons. Her younger son runs around with a group of children who come across a girl named Eleven. The purpose of her existence is not fully explained, but it is enough to know she has supernatural powers and can use them for good. While Byers and her younger son is reunited in the end of the season, the town has clearly been affected negatively. I’m curious to know more about the portal in season two and hope they delve further into it. Matthew Modine who plays Dr. Martin Brenner works at Hawkins National Laboratory is seen sparsely so far and believe they will go even further in his broken relationship with Eleven in season two.
Peaky Blinders (BBC) focuses on the Irish gang located in Birmingham, England so it is crime drama. Tommy Shelby, protector and criminal, is the boss of the Peaky Blinders. He lives his life always keeping in mind ways to further advance his bloodline and gang family. It is created by Steven Knight and produced by Caryn Mandabach. The actors and actresses are those you might not recognize and were picked for good reason. You don’t want someone who can’t speak in an Irish and English accent convincingly. Season one focuses on how Tommy’s one decision impacts himself and his family throughout the whole season. I know it is vague, but I’m trying not to spoil it too much. Season two is when the charming Tom Hardy character arrives as Alfie Solomons. It focuses on the horse betting scene and where we get a sense that Tommy loves anything that is profitable. Season three started with a great opening episode and ended with a bang I couldn’t have expected. Get ready for the Russians because they come into various scenes in all their glory. Season four will more than likely be released in 2017.
The Last Kingdom (BBC) is a British historical drama. It is an adaptation from Bernard Cornwall’s book series, The Saxon Stories, and set in late 9th century England. The centerpiece of the first season is Uhtred’s survival that leads to him forming a relationship to King Alfred after he escapes with Brida. It was refreshing to see a female character of her strength, but not losing sight of her femaleness. This relationship between two very different men continues into season two full of tension and respect for each other. You get to see the vulnerable side to Uhtred as one tragedy piles on top of another. These were some of the best scenes of Alexander Dreymon. Season two also involves seeking revenge along the way as Uhtred carries out his allegiance to King Alfred. Be prepared to see battles where blood spills whether Saxon, Dane, or Viking. I’m sure season three will not stray from the dilemma of Uhtred honoring his ancestors and those who raised him. I’m curious what will happen with Beocca and Thyra. Season three will more than likely happen in 2018. There is talk about it being solely original programming, but either way I hope it is released sooner than later.
And there you have it, the five reasons I still keep Netflix at this moment.