Category Archives: 2/5

Netflix Film Review “Shimmer Lake” (2017) #150WordReview

See Happiness (1998) for what writer-director Oren Uziel was trying (and failing) to achieve.

Shimmer Lake tells the story of a bank robbery gone wrong, in reverse order. An interesting concept for this mystery crime drama / black comedy which focuses on the petty small town characters and their pathetic lives.

Sadly, the comedy and mystery crime were discordant, and very few jokes made me laugh. See Happiness (1998) for what writer-director Oren Uziel was trying (and failing) to achieve.

The biggest flaw, however, was that from the get-go we don’t care about the characters or follow the plot or even want to follow what is, on paper, an alright story. There was no way in to empathise or connect at the beginning of the film, merely a mess of stuff. Even the concept falls apart; the movie thinks it’s Memento or Pulp Fiction, but it really isn’t. The smug wink from one of the characters at the end was a bum note of smuggery. If told in the right chronological order, our response to this film would be, “okay, so…?”

Disappointing.

2/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “The Prodigy” (2019) #NetflixReviews #200WordReview

Nothing you haven’t seen before

Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) was different from the day he was born, a genius far ahead of his peers. But when he starts to exhibit a sudden and disturbing change in behaviour, his parents become concerned that there might be darker forces at work.

Prodigy is a fairly standard example of the weird kid horror genre. John and Sarah Blume (Peter Mooney and Taylor Schilling) always wanted a child. Finally, and with great effort, they get him. But he’s a troubled child who starts to go off the rails. What force is behind this horrible transformation? Luckily, an expert is on hand with a kooky theory — that the Mum initially dismisses out of hand, but then comes to see is real. Nothing much is added to this rather staid formula bar some reasonable acting, including from young Scott who previously appeared in Stephen King’s It, and a few very scary moments.

Nothing you haven’t seen before, Prodigy is a well-made movie which only doesn’t score a three due to its general unoriginality.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Lineage of Lies” a.k.a. “Psycho Granny” (2019) #NetflixReview

enjoyable nonsense

This review contains mild spoilers

Samantha (Brooke Newton) has no family whatsoever apart from her mother who was herself adopted. So when her mum suddenly dies, pregnant Samantha’s world is plunged into chaos only to be saved by the unexpected arrival of her grandmother (soap stalwart Robin Riker) who is looking to make up for lost time. But does Granny have ulterior motives?

Lineage of Lies, also colourfully known as Psycho Granny, is classic network TV movie stuff. Low budget, over-acted, melodramatic, massive spoiler in both titles, and with things that make no sense. For example, how is our psycho granny able to lug 200lb dead bodies about, in public, without being seen or putting a hair out of place? Why does she only look just old enough to be Samantha’s mum, let alone grandmother? Why does someone who is self-evidently so brilliant at deception make the most rudimentary and careless errors, such as leaving dead people’s mobiles lying around for our protagonist Samantha to find? We also had plot dead-ends: why don’t the people from her past deceptions, who we are introduced to, catch up with or threaten her or her schemes in some way?

Having said all that, I loved it. This is typical student / unemployed / housewife / hungover / late night / corona furlough guilty-pleasure viewing. As for the plot, we know from the outset what Granny’s game is, and the fun is in seeing how she goes about bringing her plan to fruition. What I particularly liked about the film is that granny is after emotional not financial enrichment. Very human.

There’s no way this film can be considered “good”, but it’s enjoyable nonsense, none-the-less.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Obsessed” (2009) #NetflixReviews #Obsessed2009

Does she have a crushing Faberge Egg habit to support that only a senior manager’s salary could enable? No.

Things couldn’t be better for Derek (Idris Elba). He’s got a beautiful, adoring wife Sharon (Beyoncé), a healthy, happy toddler, and has just received a massive promotion which has sent him stratospheric. However, his world comes under threat when femme fatale temp Lisa (Ali Larter) goes a-hunting in her new office and decides to put Derek between the crosshairs.

Obsessed is a very standard psycho-stalker thriller. It draws obvious comparisons with Fatal Attraction (1987). But where Fatal Attraction would still have been daring and bold in 2009, Obsessed would have been staid and trite for 1987. Obsessed was not only paint-by-number, it was rather restrained: Derek never allows temptation to spiral his life out of control. But that itself could have been an interesting angle. Elba, Beyoncé, and Larter all give convincing, characterful performances. Sadly for Larter, the script makes no attempt whatsoever to explain Lisa’s obsession nor her crazy behaviour. Not a hint. Nothing. She’s clearly attracted to him, he is friendly but doesn’t lead her on, she randomly tries to bang him in the toilet. And she doesn’t let up. The lack of any kind of motivation is bizarre. Did Derek lead her on? No. Was she bullied by Sharon at school and now wants to ruin her life? No. Does she have a crushing Faberge Egg habit to support that only a senior manager’s salary could enable? No.

Larter and co make the best of finding a throughline. And I must say that the final show-down was genuinely exciting and enjoyable. Sadly, the script is the big problem with this film, and that is a big problem with a film, indeed.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “The Legacy of the Bones” a.k.a. “Legado en los huesos” (2019) #NetflixReviews #150WordReview

See the review for the first film in the trilogy here

seemed like an overlong episode of any … TV police show.

The Legacy of the Bones is the second in the Baztan trilogy based on the successful book series by Delores Redondo. This instalment sees our lead, Inspector Amaia Salazar (Marta Etura), return to her childhood home and try to solve a case that, once again, is inextricably linked to her own past. The evil seems intent on coming for her and her family.

The second film of a trilogy often sags. The reason is that it doesn’t really have a beginning or an end, it merely serves as a bridge for the first and last parts. However, the Baztan trilogy is more a serial than a series, each episode’s story connected to previous ones but a fresh story. Sorry, did I say “episode”? Whereas the first film, The Invisible Guardian, felt filmic in a good way, this seemed like an overlong episode of any good TV police show. Is that a bad thing? No. But it wasn’t a movie. The plot wasn’t substantial enough. I felt like I was watching a TV series. Which brings me back to the point: this trilogy is a serial of three separate stories, so the sag is not really understandable.

Good performances all round, great photography, good costume design, and the plot was well-rendered, although the lurch deeper into hocus pocus was silly. It’s hard to see how this is a movie. A big step down from the first film.

2/5

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© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Netflix Film Review “A Stranger Outside” a.k.a. “Babysitters Nightmare” (2018) #NETFLIXREVIEWS @BRITT_UNDERWOOD @JAKEHELGREN @MARKGROSSMAN @JETJURGENSMEYER @SHANICAKNOWLES

imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.

A baby-sitter finds herself trapped in a house playing cat and mouse with a masked serial killer. Sound familiar? A Stranger Outside is standard ’90s Scream-style shlock, albeit without the self-awareness. But it wins points for some interesting plot ideas. For example, the baby-sitter is really a nurse who has taken the gig as a way of getting some easy cash after suffering a career and confidence crisis due to the death of a vulnerable child in her care.

The first half of the movie was trite, and the acting was a little over-the-top, although our lead Brittany Underwood was giving a decent turn. The less said of the performances by her co-stars Mark Grossman (boyfriend Jeremy),  Michael Chandler (incompetent Dr Mixer), Jet Jurgensmeyer (baby-sittee Toby), or best friend Kaci (Shanica “No Relation” Knowles), the better. Things really fall apart in comedy style when the killer starts a-killing. The Scary Movie-like knife thrusts, slicing through pieces of paper, cowering beside counters, and hysterical screaming were beyond absurd; imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.

This film is also oddly disjointed. The first half, a 90s throwback cliché, albeit mildly entertaining. The second half, a spoof movie not realising it’s a spoof movie. Indescribably awful, but in its awfulness, thoroughly enjoyable nonsense. A jumble of decent scenes and terrible scenes, passable acting and insanely awful acting, make for a diverting 90 minutes.

So bad it’s almost good. But not quite.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “My Teacher, My Obsession” (2018) #NetflixReviews

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role.

Riley (Laura Bilgeri) moves with her father Chris (Rusty Joiner) to a new town for a fresh start. Struggling to make friends, she eventually joins forces with fellow loner Kyla (Lucy Loken). Things are going well as Riley’s personal life begins to blossom, until it becomes apparent that Kyla is obsessed with her father and will stop at nothing to have him.

My Teacher, My Obsession is a fairly standard obsessive stalker-seducer movie which brings little new to the game. Having said that, the plot is generally well constructed and the characterisation is relatively believable. However, Chris’ vulnerability and struggles to resist seduction by Kyla should have been set-up more convincingly. Also, Kyla’s mother’s naivety regarding her daughter’s true nature doesn’t quite ring true.

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role. He isn’t a bad actor, but he was miscast. He was particularly unconvincing as a teacher and father, although he does grow into the role of tormented potential seducee later on in the film. The wardrobe department also flunked the exam; I found myself constantly distracted by the bizarrely ill-fitting clothing that Joiner was dressed in.

Laura Bilgeri and Jana Lee Hamblin (Kyla’s mother) were convincing, trying their best to find the throughline in this script which sometimes sagged.

All in all, this is an entertaining TV movie, bubble gum for the brain. Generally competent, if trite, though woefully miscast in the case of Joiner.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Eli” (2019) #150WordReview

 … the script not so much careens off the tracks … as it blasts into outer space …

Eli (Charlie Shotwell) is a boy with a rare life-threatening autoimmune disease which effectively renders him “allergic to the world”, as one character puts it. His parents (played by Kelly Reilly and Max Martini) take him to a remote medical facility where renowned specialist Dr Horn (Lili Taylor) promises to save him. However, all isn’t as it appears, and Eli might not be in the safest place for him, after all.

This are-the-doctors-bad-or-is-it-all-in-the-boy’s-head thing worked very well for the first two thirds of the film. Sadly, the script not so much careens off the tracks in the final act, as it blasts into outer space with the most unlikely and film-destroying plot twist ever. A far less obvious twist, or no twist at all, would have rendered this film better.

Good acting, a tense film up until the last third, I can think of several endings that, whilst less twisty, would have been more in keeping with the tone of the film and done justice to it.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Look Away” (2018)

… this twist was shocking, but I was more shocked at how poorly the film played this strong card.

Maria (India Eisley) is a quirky and lonely teenager, bullied and suffering a barely-fleshed out eating disorder, her only friend is merely using Maria as a personal side-kick and as a kind of depressive foil to make herself look good. A depressed mother (Mira Sorvino) and a philandering plastic surgeon father (Jason Isaacs) make home life equally unbearable. But everything changes when Maria looks in the mirror to see that her reflection is alive. The reflection is called Airam (because, ya know — I mean, work it out for yourself!) and claims to have Maria’s best interests at heart. But does she/it really? Things take a turn for the dark when they swap places.

There’s no real tension regarding who or what the reflection is, the very first shot of the movie spells it out: Airam is Maria’s twin sister who died at birth. There also isn’t any real tension to the way Airam gets justice for Maria. Justice would be served, and I would just go, “Oh, okay, so that’s happened, I guess.” There felt like minimal pay-off. There could have been a slow build-up to key scenes of “justice”, there could have been a creepier tension built between Maria and Airam. Jason Isaacs does steal the movie, however, with his off-kilter and complex portrayal. The film missed another pay-off with certain revelations regarding Airam’s true fate/identity; this twist was shocking, but I was more shocked at how poorly the film played this strong card. There’s an awkward aggressively sexual scene between Maria and her Dad, but this, too, felt like it could have gone in a more interesting direction.

This was an entertaining film, but it kept me wondering why they didn’t explore the concept more. What happens to Maria when she’s in the mirror? Is there a whole other dark world in there, like ours but the opposite? Or is it happy and light, making her not want to come back while Airam is unhappy in Maria’s world? Why wasn’t justice performed more ironically; for example, why was Maria’s school tormenter not, despite having a secret crush on her, punished in a way fitting his relationship with Maria? He just gets kyboshed. And why isn’t Maria made to be more likable? Self-deprecating sense of humour, perhaps. An interesting hobby, maybe. She’s just pathetic and characterless.

Nice idea, some good acting, an entertaining albeit mindless way to spend 103 minutes, but devoid of tension. A Horror-thriller without much of either. The ending also felt incomplete. This film is a wasted opportunity.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review: The Secret @Netflix #NetflixReview

It’s like the guests are meant to be a spoof. I’m surprised they didn’t just get Armando Ianucci, Peter Serafinowicz, and that guy from Garth Merenghi to play the parts instead.

I don’t normally review films that aren’t new. But I just saw a film that was so outstanding, so unbelievable, and which moved me so profoundly, I just had to share it with you. I had to share… The Secret.

To coin a word, awfulsome: awesome in its awfulness.

Wow. Just… wow. Incredibly bad. I mean, what the heck!? I watched this at the behest of a colleague, and, sorry — WTF????? The fact that I’ve been reduced to the untermensch language of initialisms should show that no human words can express what this “film” is. A bestial scream of agony would probably articulate it well.

Firstly, how on earth did they manage to stretch literally one sentence into an entire ninety minute production???? “Whatever you think about will happen”. I kept expecting them to follow this sentence up with something, anything, but by the fifth minute I had already given up hope. Unreal how little substance there was. A 90 minute exercise in paraphrase. But people vehemently swear by The Secret, claiming it really works. Perhaps they believe this garbage because they’ve been brainwashed by hearing the same phrase, paraphrased, around six thousand times. Simple psychology; repeat the same thing over and over (and over) again, and you tend to start to believe it.

Secondly, how has this become a “phenomenon”? It’s very badly made, and totally ridiculous. I mean, where do I begin?

  • Laughable special effect “whoosh” flourishes every five seconds. Twinkly sounds, soft lighting that looks like it was added on Windows Movie Maker.
  • Talking heads/Experts who all look beyond insane: wild stare-y eyes, incredible haircuts, ridiculous teeth, and so on. It’s like the guests are meant to be a spoof. I’m surprised they didn’t just get Armando Ianucci, Peter Serafinowicz, and that guy from Garth Merenghi to play the parts instead.
  • And who are these guests? I mean, Google some of them and you’ll see what I mean. What. The. Eff!??! Crooks and fringe lunatics.
  • And what is with those titles: “metaphysician”, “visionary”!?!?!

WTF!!?! Sorry I keep saying that, but — WTF!?

The writers are surely having us on and rolling around in laughter behind the scenes, rubbing their diamond-encrusted ring-wearing hands, and spluttering “schmucks!”.

Some additional lowlights:

  • If you visualise cheques in the mail, you will literally receive cheques in the mail. No need to set up a business or get off your arse at all! But just so you don’t get carried away, the film-makers sagely advise us that we may still get the occasional bill apart from the cheques.
  • Medicine is useless. But chanting “cancer, cancer, go away” will surely destroy all metastasized growths.

I mean, sorry, The Secret was so cheap, so badly made, so idiotic, so ridiculous in every respect, the only thing this “film” deserves is the following sentence from me: whatever you do, please do NOT use “the secret” to attract free copies of “The Secret” to you…. (‘cos then they wouldn’t make money out of you) Deary me.

One fellow reviewer (on Netflix) said the following, and I think it’s hard to argue with him:

Sadly I wasted an entire 4 minutes of my life watching this utter tripe, before my own senses started to shut themselves down. Licking wasps or poking a massive bear in the face would result in less pain than having to sit through anymore of this new age, mumbo jumbo, hippy hokum. To Netflix: Can we introduce a rating system which allows us to score garbage content lower than 1 star? We could use this waste of hard drive space as a bench mark. For example, a terrible film would awarded 3 “The Secret” Turd Piles??

So why not one star, why two? Because it was so genuinely insane in every respect that it was actually marginally entertaining. And, despite the triteness of it, there is a nice core message: positivity of mind breeds further positivity. But it’s still turd.

2/5

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review first published 8 October 2014

© 2014-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry