Tag Archive: direct-to-Netflix movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is the latest Netflix-produced series, a fully-CGI-animated anime series based on the 1989 Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow.  Directors Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) and Kenji Kamiyama (Stand Alone Complex) return fans to the “Stand Alone Complex” continuity, not tapped by the franchise since 2006.  Familiar badass Major Motoko Kusanagi returns as the star of the series, but this time she takes a backseat to an incredible vision of dystopian Los Angeles and some quirky and more successful robot characters called the tachikoma.

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code-8-robot-cop

Review by C.J. Bunce

What appeared via advance marketing like it was going to be another film from the back side of the video store rack or film school-level sci-fi movie actually ends up as an acceptable sci-fi/superhero B-movie.  Code 8, which just arrived on Netflix, began back in 2016 as a short film project by Canadian cousins Stephen Amell, famous as CW’s Arrow, and Robbie Amell, who played CW’s Firestorm.  The project then went on to accumulate nearly $3.5 million of crowd-funding to make this feature length film, from first time writer-director Jeff Chan.  Ambitious is a fitting description of the film, which has overall low production levels, yet at points it offers some quality sci-fi tech via android cops and superpowered humans.  But its best feature is the promising young lead, as the more popular Stephen Amell takes a backseat to his cousin, Robbie Amell (ARQ, The Tomorrow People), whose charm and authenticity have him upstaging everyone scene after scene, including his cousin.

Robbie Amell plays 26-year-old Connor Reed, one of a rare breed of superpowered humans in a near-present day alternate Earth, with the story set in the fictional Lincoln City, some 90 years into a world of X-Men-inspired superhumans, all with varying types of powers.  Connor is a Class-5 “electric” meaning he can wield incredible jolts of power to use as a carpenter or to defeat high-tech security in a heist taking the form of android cops.  Connor’s mother, played by the versatile Kari Matchett (A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Leverage, Wonderfalls), is dying, and so he makes the decision to use his powers for evil to earn tens of thousands of dollars in gang money for a needed operation.  Class struggle is a theme handled here similar to District 9 and Elysium, with the discrimination beats of AlienNation and Bright, and the superpowers presented here bring out the vibe of Brightburn (minus the horror).

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The town has its own gangsters, centered around a drug called Psyke, including a mid-level, up-and-comer played by Stephen Amell named Garrett, who takes on Connor when he needs the extra power (literally) for a job.  The real-life cousins’ chemistry is instant, and Connor joins a crew of characters, one with the power to melt metal played by Locke & Key’s Laysla De Oliveira, a deaf superhuman with incredible strength played by Vlad Alexis (X-Men: Apocalypse), and a young woman with the power to heal played by Kyla Kane (Channel Zero).  Levels of crime lords mean power plays, and that makes everything messy for everyone.  Crime requires crimefighters, which sets the stage for the second best part of the movie, The Fast and the Furious’s Sung Kang with his always cool vibe, this time as the key cop on the case.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever longed for the easygoing action movies from the 1970s like Smokey and the Bandit and Every Which Way But Loose, you may want to check out the new Netflix movie Spenser Confidential Like those films it has the big screen leading actor in Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Shooter, Ted), playing the familiar Robert P. Parker character Spenser, the amiable co-star with Winston Duke (Black Panther, Us) as partner Hawk, the mouthy lead actress in Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Forever 31) as Spenser’s ex Cissy, the snarky elder voice in Alan Arkin (Argo, Gattaca, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Sesame Street) as Spenser and Hawk’s mentor, and even the cute animal friend presence via a friendly hound dog (that’s Pearl).  And a cool ride (here, a primo 1984 Buick Riviera).

Just like with the big screen movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (reviewed here at borg), viewers should forget about what they’ve read in the novels or experienced in the 1980s TV series starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks.  This is a trademark Mark Wahlberg movie, and he’s in familiar territory–Boston–and Wahlberg’s own real-life stint in jail brings a certain authenticity to his performance as a tough guy with a big mouth who can hold is own against much bigger thugs, emerging from the slammer.  Wahlberg’s character has bits of the roles he’s taken on in The Departed (cop), Shooter (strategist), The Italian Job (planner), The Perfect Storm (driven), 2 Guns (drugs), The Other Guys (buddy cop), even Ted (Bostonian), and the film comes from director Peter Berg, who audiences have seen team up with Wahlberg before in Mile 22, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg’s ex-cop is a good guy who must act when he sees someone in trouble, which in turn gets him into trouble.  The story in Spenser Confidential is neither complex not action-packed.  But Arkin and Shlesinger add some humor to what is very much an extended episode of early 1980s prime time television.  It has the same quality that makes us keeping coming back for more in the reboot Magnum PI series and the new Stumptown series–actors we like, characters we like, and an easy mystery to solve.

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