Tag Archives: Netflix

Netflix Film Review “Orphan” (2009) #NetflixReviews #200WordReview @isabellefuhrman

A thrilling film

A husband and wife have recently overcome the tragedy of losing their child and decide to adopt. But is the new addition to their family everything she seems at first sight? (Well, it’s a horror film, so no.)

Orphan is a rare thing, a genuinely believable and real-feeling horror thriller. Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) totally convince. All their passion, love, boredom, mutual frustration, arguments will be familiar to anyone in a long-term relationship; nothing felt forced, it seemed like being a fly on the wall. The development of their relationship as things go from bad to worse was also thoroughly believable. Nothing was at all melodramatic.

Believable is the key word, for some fairly extreme things happen in this film, yet we buy everything. Good acting, good writing, and some rather effective lighting and make-up work, totally sell the story and the twists. And just when you think things may come off the rails, Isabelle Fuhrman delivers as orphan Esther. The only thing that bugged me was why they even needed to adopt; they already had two healthy kids. The motivation to adopt another child didn’t fully convince.

A thrilling film, not your typical “weird kid” horror movie.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “The Paramedic” a.k.a. “El Practicante” (2020) #NetflixReviews #200WordReview

A fairly low-grade guy, Ángel was already half-gone before he even went

Ángel (Mario Casas) is a paramedic in the ambulance service. Stable job, reasonable flat, beautiful girlfriend Vane (the elfin Déborah François), and talk of babies: life seems to be going in the right direction. However, after tragedy strikes during a call-out, Ángel becomes increasingly distant and suspicious of Vane.

The Paramedic a.k.a. El Practicante is a good film. Well-acted, it keeps us with bated breath. A fairly low-grade guy, Ángel was already half-gone before he even went, so his downward spiral seems less a transformation than a totally believable and natural development. But herein lies somewhat of a problem: I couldn’t quite understand what Vane saw in Ángel even from the beginning. Another problem was the end. It seemed hollow, although that’s perhaps in keeping with the tone of the film. But more than that, it seemed slightly unbelievable.

The dark tone and machinations of the characters keep us dutifully hooked. Suspenseful, thrilling, a disturbing slow-burn, and yet somewhat lacking; the movie’s trajectory felt almost inevitable from the get-go.

A disturbing slow-moving thriller which never quite lands a killer blow. Still very much worth a watch.

3/5

© 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 Review “The Mystery of Michelle” a.k.a. “Long Lost Daughter” (2018) #NetflixReviews

it is totally unbelievable that anyone that age [seven years old] would not remember their own parents clearly.

Kathy Rhodes’ (Molly Hagan) seven year old daughter Michelle disappeared on the way to school. Now, twenty years later, the arrival in town of twenty-seven year Michelle Jacobs (Sofia Mattsson) sparks off an obsession: has Kathy’s little girl somehow returned to her?

The Mystery of Michelle a.k.a. Long Lost Daughter is an entertaining TV movie and feature length debut from writer Joe Ryan Laia. The characters are generally sympathetic and believable. However, Kathy’s obsession with Michelle generally lacks the edge or menace required to make this movie really pop, except suddenly and therefore somewhat jarringly towards the end, and I feel this is a missed opportunity for Laia as it would have been easy to fix in a redraft. The movie therefore often plods along rather than zips.

The ending is fairly satisfying but also curious: what was apparently meant to be the cherry on the cake showing the sweetness and humanity of Michelle Jacobs instead comes across as giving her rather sociopathic tendencies. A bit of a discordant misstep to end the story with. But the most curious aspect of the plot, as it would be so easy to sort out and would have multiplied the drama tenfold, was Michelle’s age when she disappeared. She was seven. Not three. Not four. Not even five. But seven. The tension of the films depends on believing that Michelle’s own early memories of her real family could be confused and blurred. Yet it is totally unbelievable that anyone that age would not remember their own parents clearly.

None-the-less, there were some great scenes with neat writing and lovely acting, such as the tense dinner between Kathy, her husband, Michelle, and Michelle’s husband-to-be. This scene was very relatable, somewhat humorous, vaguely menacing, and the performance from Hagan really exuded guarded motherly love.

An entertaining 90 minutes.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Review: “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” (2020)

left such a powerful impression but at times failed to make a sharp impact.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill follows a troubled young woman whose return to her hometown at Niagara Falls triggers a disturbing memory from her childhood. Did her seven year old self really witness a child’s kidnapping all those years ago, or is it all just a confused memory, or a fantasy?

Tuppence Middleton gives a convincing performance of unbalanced, charismatic, driven loner Abby. I was captivated, totally believing that she is capable of all the deviousness she gets up to. The other cast members are also good, the film-stealing turn coming from director-turned-actor David Cronenberg (yes, the same). Unfortunately, the important role of the Moulins (Paulino Nunes and Marie-Josée Croze) seemed like a side of overdone eggs with extra ham. The sound design was unsettling and was key to the eerie, almost surreal and dream-like atmosphere of the film.

The film was a little bit tricky to follow, especially at the beginning, and the ending felt like it needed a more distinct underlining. But that was befitting a picture which left such a powerful impression but at times failed to make a sharp impact. None-the-less, I was along for the ride.

A wonderful portrait of a lonely woman in a town of lonely souls, Disappearance at Clifton Hill sometimes lacked edge and at times veered off into crime series territory (in terms of acting, story, soundtrack), but it was an enjoyable and engrossing ride — albeit too slow-going for some viewers.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E6: US Election Special Part II #BritBox @BritBox_UK

underwhelming

Spitting Image‘s sixth episode saw a return to Megan and Harry, the start of what looks like a running sketch (new James Bong auditions), and more of Richard Branson’s deluded ramblings that he’s still relevant.

BoJo’s audition to be Bond was an amusing bit, I can’t deny. Perhaps this sketch really could be a runner and a great addition to the series. Let’s see how they use this audition set-up.

We saw Megan Markle release — what else? — a cosmetics range of her own. In a truly grotesque moment, we see that her range features a bottle that squirts the liquid out of an orifice shaped like a lady’s part: inspired toilet humour and satire. The puppets really sell it.

Bezos, Musk and Branson duke it out to be the first to land on Mars. This was fairly topical, which was good, but it was fairly unfunny, too, which was bad. The less of this boring triumvirate the better.

Jo Biden gets confused and starts working in a diner: this was amusing stuff. Although, once again, cutting edge it was not. What point were they making other than that Biden seems to get easily confused?

Generally, episode six was underwhelming. It was far weaker than episode five. And weirdly for a “US Election Special”, there was very little US election in it. A bit of a let down.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E4 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

When your best joke in a twenty-four minute sociopolitical satire relates to a five year old viral meme about the colour of a dress, you need to ask yourselves some serious questions.

Spitting Image‘s fourth episode saw an increased emphasis on the doings of Michael Gove, pop star Adele, and Ivanka Trump. It was about as focused as last week’s episode in this regard (which also focused on a few main characters, mainly Prince Harry and Megan Markle), there thankfully being no return to the chaotic scatter gun approach of Episode Two.

However, there was nonetheless a notable drop in quality from last week. Many of the jokes weren’t relatable (I still find the “Priti Patel is a vampire” thing unintelligible, only now it’s unintelligible and tedious) and many of the others have been well and truly overdone by only the fourth episode (I’m thinking Emmanuel Macron’s overly long lascivious tongue). The joke about Adele’s weight loss and everyone’s fixation on it was mildly amusing the first time it was told in this episode, but not the second time — let alone the fourteenth. We get it, we get it already! Here comes another joke for the umpteenth time: Ivanka Trump is a vacuous person. Okay, okay. Stop it, please, stop the “joke” already. My God, stop. On the up side, Jurgen Klopp was, once again, amusing, although not quite as “funny” as he was in Episode Two. And the “The dress is blue and black… I heard ‘laurel'” joke was admittedly funny, albeit five years out of date. When your best joke in a twenty-four minute sociopolitical satire relates to a five year old viral meme about the colour of a dress, you need to ask yourselves some serious questions.

The main “joke” about Gove seems to be that his cheeks look like two giant bollocks. Heady satire indeed(!) Speaking of which, however, the puppets are wonderful. We get a long look at Piers Morgan, and it’s truly delightful. The puppets really are magnificent. A shame the episode wasn’t. Another tawdry song number rounded off what was a pretty poor, if not totally worthless, fourth instalment. It has made me YouTube the songs from Not the Nine O’Clock News; now that was how to write a funny comedy song!

I haven’t given up hope yet, but I’m getting the feeling that Season One might end up being best viewed in a single twenty minute “Best Bits” compendium.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E3 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Spitting Image still seems to be finding its way

The third episode of BritBox’s Spitting Image was a bit less random than last week’s outing, focusing more on a few key characters. This was necessary as it gave us a bit of time to develop the jokes, insofar as the jokes are developable and not just the same gag repeated and reheated.

We see a massive increase in the presence of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. The jokes were mostly obvious — Harry is a bit of an idiot, he’s posh, he thinks he’s run away to freedom but is actually more under-the-thumb than ever — but these punches nonetheless landed and were funny. The line involving “chukka” made me laugh, encapsulating in a few words Harry’s total detachment from reality like never before in his life.

We started to see significant time committed to ridiculing the totally ridiculous Labour front bench. This was nice, and it’s unclear why the Shadow Cabinet hasn’t been featured that much already; perhaps it’s fear of offending the left, or perhaps it’s just that this ridiculous Labour frontbench is beyond satire. In any case, Starmer was portrayed as the only competent one, all his team presented as incompetent toddlers in need of direction. I’m not sure if this is particularly on the nose, however, as his team is generally seen (by critics) as an example of positive discrimination gone awry with incompetents being overpromoted due to having ticked the right boxes.

Episode Three did just enough to nudge a good rating, but it’s still marginally weaker than the season opener. Spitting Image still seems to be finding its way. It’s a show that the world needs, and it’s a show with a great weight of history behind it. Therefore, I’m willing to give it time to come of age. But it’s still not hitting the right notes.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E2 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

the scattergun approach … leaves the viewer grimacing rather than grinning

Let’s just get straight to it: Spitting Image Episode Two was much weaker than the season opener. No amount of new regular characters can save it. And boy were there a bunch of new characters! We were absolutely pelted with them. Sadly, the scattergun approach usually leaves the viewer grimacing rather than grinning, and this episode did not break that pattern.

It seems they have made the microscopic coronavirus a regular character; it’s boring and pointless. Boris was as underwhelming as last week. Cummings is still good, his reptilian shtick not yet boring although not as funny as last week. Thunberg is amusing, and it’s nice to see them lampooning a person with a learning difficulty. Not because I enjoy mocking disabled people, but because we live in an age where lampooning a person like Thunberg is considered haram due to her autism; satire is there to expose the ridiculous in everyone and everything, and it cannot have sacred cows or else it is toothless. Her autism itself was not mocked, and that is the key.

Stand out stuff was Jurgen Klopp finding the positive in everything including bricks through the window. Very funny and helped me just about get through what was, otherwise, a mostly boring 24 minutes. Frankly, the Klopp stuff were the only parts where I actually laughed out loud as opposed to merely smiling — that is, where I smiled at all.

Generally forgettable stuff, but some shoots of hope remain for this series.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E1 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

wasn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen

Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show that helped define an era (the ’80s-90s Conservative governments) and which was internationally syndicated and remade in dozens of countries. It has gone down in TV legend, so much so that there have been several tries at rebooting it or copying it. But October 2020 is when the show was finally rebooted, exclusive for the BBC-ITV joint delusion venture to rival Netflix: BritBox. But can reality ever live up to the memory of this now fabled show?

Episode one was surprisingly on point in terms of style and gags; you would never have thought the show had been off air for around 25 years. However, just like the good old days, many of the gags fell flat. And just like the good old days, many other gags had an inspired insanity about them (I’m thinking an extra-terrestrial, insectoid, baby-eating Dominic Cummings… if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will).

There was some lampooning of the right, as you would expect, but thankfully the left wasn’t immune, either, Lewis Hamilton and Greta “Magical Autist” Thunberg coming in for fire.

One bizarre weak point left me scratching my head. The guy doing Boris Johnson just wasn’t that good. He was weirdly restrained. Boris Johnson himself makes a better parody of Boris Johnson than this Boris Johnson parody did. Quite odd, and a bit of a flat note.

All in all, this wasn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen. However, it was much better than the knock-off Newzoids (2015-2016). Many jokes landed. It seems to be taking swipes at all. And the trademark mix of heady satire and toilet humour has continued. Worth watching, although I’m not sure if it’ll be good enough to help make BritBox a success.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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