Tag Archive: direct-to-Netflix movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

With hits Tron: Legacy, Oblivion, The Dig, Only the Brave, and Top Gun: Maverick, director Joseph Kosinski seems to be batting a thousand, and his best work may be his new science fiction movie, Spiderhead.  Now streaming on Netflix, it should remind you of the days before sci-fi blockbusters, when science fiction tales by great futurists became the next amazing story you’d see on the big screen.  It also has the genre world’s best actors, with Chris Hemsworth as a pharma genius slash mad scientist running a penitentiary in the vein of A Clockwork Orange, and Miles Teller as his chief inmate, test subject and guinea pig.  Fresh off of The Offer, and co-starring in Top Gun: Maverick, Teller’s career trajectory seems to only be going up.  Compared to the usual direct-to-Netflix fare, especially compared to its record of sci-fi genre films (basically that’s ARQ, iBOY, The Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction, I Am Mother, The Midnight Sky, and IO), Spiderhead is in a different league entirely.  Think THX-1138, Minority Report, Ex Machina, and Orbiter 9Spiderhead is a movie you’ll wish you were able to catch in the movie theater.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A British-led counter-intelligence operation calculated to deceive Nazi Germany during World War II that involved Allied coordination among the likes of Winston Churchill, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and British intelligence officer Ian Spelling sounds like the stuff of a suspense-thriller, right?  That’s not quite what you get in this weekend’s direct-to Netflix war movie Operation Mincemeat.  As genre movies go, count this spy movie as purely historical fiction, primarily a mix of the mundane steps of pulling off even the most unlikely–but true–adventures in international trickery with some romance thrown in for the legion of Colin Firth swooners.  Detailing the plot to throw the Axis off the scent of Britain’s invasion and liberation of Sicily using a dead body with faked documents dropped off the coast of Spain, the movie lands in the same league as all the other 21st efforts to re-conjure World War II–its bland, sentimental account doesn’t match the drama of contemporary Hollywood of the 1940s.  But if you like watching your favorite British genre actors chewing up the screen, it’s worth the time.

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A British-led counter-intelligence operation calculated to deceive Nazi Germany during World War II that involved Allied coordination among the likes of Winston Churchill, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and British intelligence officer Ian Spelling is getting a new adaptation.  Coming in May, Netflix will premiere the new war movie Operation Mincemeat, detailing a plot to throw the Axis off the scent of Britain’s invasion and liberation of Sicily using a dead body with faked documents dropped off the coast of Spain.  If its sounds familiar it’s because you may have seen the popular 1956 drama The Man Who Never Was starring three-time Oscar nominee Clifton Webb as the key character in the story, Ewen Montagu, who planned and carried out the ruse, and wrote the novel the original film was based upon.

Oscar-winner Colin Firth steps into the lead role this time, joined by an impressive genre star cast including Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Trek Discovery), Kelly Macdonald (Brave, Harry Potter series), Mark Gattis (Sherlock, Doctor Who), Mark Bonnar (Shetland, Doctor Who), Penelope Wilton (Shaun of the Dead, Doctor Who), Rufus Wright (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Shetland, The Watcher in the Woods, Quantum of Solace), and Johnny Flynn (Emma.) as Ian Fleming.

Here’s the trailer for Netflix’s Operation Mincemeat:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s tough to review something you’ve been waiting for that doesn’t meet your expectations, especially a sequel to a great, original story.  Unfortunately that’s the case with Fistful of Vengeance, Netflix’s newest action movie that forms a sequel to its 2019 streaming wuxia TV series Wu Assassins, one of the Top 10 fantasy television series of the past decade.  As with Firefly, another property that went from series to movie, the movie just doesn’t capture the magic that made the series so well received.  Fistful of Vengeance isn’t horrible if you really liked the relationship of the three male leads of the series.  But in the series they were secondary to the fresh, new world of magic users it created.  And aside from international martial arts headliner Iko Uwais and his supporting actor, Mortal Kombat star Lewis Tan, the best parts of the series were left behind.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of either of the three stars of Red Notice will probably flock to this latest direct-to-Netflix movie just to see their favorite star in their next picture.  But Red Notice, which arrived on the streaming platform this weekend, is another production that falls into the vibe of the old direct-to-VHS movies–it’s something you’d watch for free on cable but probably wouldn’t pay full movie ticket prices for it.  Going back to the first of Netflix’s exclusive production/distribution projects, Brad Pitt’s War Machine, subscribers began to see this trend, which, despite enormous box office budgets and big-name directors and actors, deliver only ho-hum content.  These include The Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction, IO, Polar, The Irishman, and Mank.  That isn’t to say Netflix never gets it right.  Roma, The Highwaymen, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Extraction, 6 Underground, and Rebecca are exceptions.

But how do you go wrong with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot?  When that’s the only thing you deliver.

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THE ICE ROAD

Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you need a good Liam Neeson movie, even if it’s a B-movie, or a direct-to-Netflix movie, because sometimes those movie have just enough–just enough Liam Neeson, or just enough action.  Unfortunately The Ice Road is not a good Liam Neeson movie, nor is it even salvageable as an action movie.  I wrote a mixed review for Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit (reviewed here), which looks very much like The Ice Road if you believe the promotional materials, but somehow it’s more like the painfully bad, also wintry Polar or Daughter of the Wolf in its writing and execution.  It’s two years since Neeson stated he was done with making movies, and audiences will keep watching until he gets another right, and since then we’ve seen him in Men in Black: International, a great use of Neeson, plus he’s made four more movies with six more in production.  His fans have a lot to look forward to.  but if this is what Ice Road Truckers is about, I’m glad I’ve never seen it.  So why doesn’t The Ice Road work?

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In the next of what has been literally thousands of adaptations over the past 134 years of Doyle stories of his famous detective Sherlock Holmes and companion Dr. John Watson, Holmes takes the backseat and Doyle’s street urchins called the Baker Street Irregulars take center stage.  Netflix’s The Irregulars is an eight-episode series set in Doyle’s traditional Victorian London, following the local troubled young adult/teenagers who now solve crimes at the behest (as in blackmail) of Watson, leaving an elusive, drug-addict Holmes to get all the credit for their successes.  The crimes aren’t garden-variety either, with dark supernatural twists promised for the series.  Henry Lloyd-Hughes (The Pale Horse) plays Holmes, Royce Pierreson (Death in Paradise) is Watson, and the ubiquitous Aidan McArdle (Ella Enchanted, Humans, Mr. Selfridge) is Inspector Lestrade, but they aren’t the leads.  Those are played by young Thaddea Graham (The Letter for the King), Darci Shaw (Judy), Jojo Macari (Cursed), McKell David (The Gentlemen), and Harrison Osterfield (Chaos Walking).  It feels like Sherlock Holmes with a Doctor Who spin.

Take a look at the trailer for Netflix’s The Irregulars:

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It was only last year that television viewers got a great look at the potential of theatrical quality, direct-to-Netflix films, via the superb, Academy Award-winning, black and white drama Roma (reviewed here).  Will the next black and white movie produced by the Netflix studios fare similarly?  Mank stars genre actor Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz (if you don’t know “Mank’s” large body of work, you at least likely know of him through his grandson Ben Mankiewicz, host of Turner Classic Movies).  Herman’s fame came from writing scripts for film classics, including The Pride of the Yankees (and he was a contributing writer to The Wizard of Oz), and the off again on again critic’s pick for the best film of all time, Citizen Kane.

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As ardent fans of Stranger Things, Victorian mysteries, and all things Millie Bobby Brown (Intruders, Godzilla: King of Monsters), we were indeed excited to see the preview for Netflix’s new Enola Holmes, based on Nancy Springer’s novels for elementary (ahem) schoolers.  Teenager Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of two famous older brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin, My Cousin Rachel) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  When their unconventional mother (Helena Bonham Carter, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series) disappears, Enola sets off to track her down, much to the chagrin of her siblings.  Proving she’s ever bit as clever as her brothers, Enola (naturally) stumbles into a mystery.

The direct-to-Netflix film looks to be chock full of delightful Victoriana, and the source material is a fun twist on the Sherlock story.  We love seeing Milly Bobby Brown with her natural English accent.

And if you think this trailer looks like fun, allow me to point out even more diverting Victorian mysteries featuring an irrepressible young sleuth you’ll surely also enjoy.  My own new novels, Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle (currently an Amazon #1 New Release!) are being published October 6, in a rare two-book launch event extravaganza (to quote a publisher of our acquaintance).  Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has an unconventional obsession with criminology and a passion for justice… and a Highly Opinionated Feline Sidekick.  Netflix Life lists the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries as part of its “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”

Here’s the trailer for Netflix’s Enola Holmes:

Begin by getting your first fix of Victorian sleuthing with Enola Holmes on Netflix September 23, and check out my new mystery series October 6, at Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Elizabeth C. Bunce / mystery novelist / borg contributor

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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