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Tag Archive: Netflix


Review by C.J. Bunce

It may have the strangest of any television series’ opening credits, but Hinterland is one of the best mystery/crime dramas around.  All three seasons of the British series can be found on Netflix.  Similar to another solid British crime series, Shetland, the series Hinterland is more introspective, focusing on troubled Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Mathias, a man trying to escape his past.  He does this through a form of distraction, immersing himself in each new murder or missing persons case.  His fatal flaw may very well be his inability to remove himself from each situation, and as each new case is presented, we learn more about DCI Mathias and his investigative staff.  Richard Harrington (Requiem, Bleak House), plays Mathias in a role that would have earned him major accolades on American television (it was nominated and/or won more than 70 awards, including dozens of BAFTA awards).  Harrington’s Mathias has a unique persona with reserved understated mannerisms impeccably performed in the style of a real police officer like you might find in Wales or here in the States–he created a character that is conscientious, intelligent, sympathetic, and yet also flawed.

Subtitled “y gwyll”–Welsh for The Dusk, Hinterland was the BBC’s first production broadcast in both English and Welsh.  That’s right, each scene is filmed twice, once in each language.  Filmed on location in rural Aberystwyth, Wales, the cinematography is striking, cold, and strangely beautiful.  Often rainy, windy, and desolate, the series is not as creepy as it could be.  Sure, you’ll see the crime scenes of any modern television police procedural, but the slow pacing and thoughtful artistry of every camera angle never seems used for ill effect.  The quaint, insular community provides all kinds of personalities, rarely anyone all that likeable, but viewers will get the feeling that what seems like an obscure, faraway locale is a town with all the modern problems of any metropolitan city.  And even urban Englanders will likely learn new and local rules and procedures of law along the way.

DCI Mathias works closely with Detective Inspector (DI) Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harries (Doctor Who, Being Human, Midsomer Murders), a 33-year-old mother who can never seem to connect with her daughter, but she’s masterful at her job.  Mathias and Rhys form what is probably the most realistic working pair on television.  Never getting that close to each other, and often uncomfortable sharing any of their personal lives with each other, they follow the rules of their profession to the letter, only straying where a higher morality is warranted.  Their trust with each other is implicit, and their detective work second to none.  The crimes are often complex, and DCI Mathias’s sleuthing techniques are always on-the-ground, personal, detailed, and his pursuit of truth and justice is always a passionate one.

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November of course means Novembeard–where participants grow beards to raise awareness of men’s health issues.  Or, just because beards are cool and it’s become an annual tradition.  So who better to celebrate than the actor who has made a beard work for him throughout his career?  That would be Kurt Russell.  As Snake Plisskin in Escape from New York.  As MacReady in The Thing.  As Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (stubble counts).  (Russell only had a moustache in Tombstone so we’ll skip that one).  As the sheriff in Bone Tomahawk.  As John Ruth in The Hateful Eight.  As Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.  Even his son Wyatt knows how to sport a cool beard–He wore won this year as the star of Lodge 49.  So what’s left for the guy with the cool beard to take on next?  How about playing the guy with the best beard of all time?  That’s Santa Claus, of course.

The best part?  In this trailer for Netflix’s new The Christmas Chronicles, Russell isn’t playing just another “Bad Santa” role.  Sure, it looks like a traditional family Christmas show, but Russell revealing how cool Santa is (and always has been) and lines that sound like they were written for Jack Burton?  That’s an inspired choice.

He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so you’d better clean up your act right now.

The movie stars Benji star Darby Camp and The Babysitter’s Judah Lewis as kids who want to film Santa in action.  Look for co-stars Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride, Darrow & Darrow) as their mom, plus Lamorne Morris (New Girl, The Guild) and Martin Roach (Kick-Ass 2, The Shape of Water). 

Check out this new trailer for The Christmas Chronicles:

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This week the creators of Stranger Things are releasing the first comprehensive look behind the scenes of the popular Netflix series’ first two seasons in Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down–The Official Behind-the-Scenes Companion Along with a sneak peek at next year’s third season, the book is full of nostalgia from the series, a sci-fi/fantasy adventure all about nostalgia for the 1980s.  That comes through in the unique design on the cover, which intentionally resembles a battered, old book fresh off the revolving used book rack at the local supermarket.  Check out a preview below courtesy of Random House.

Look for full color photographs, concept art, and even some pull-out material.  Many of the photographs have not been published before.  Details include:

• original commentary and a foreword from creators Matt and Ross Duffer
• exclusive interviews with the stars of the show, including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and David Harbour
• the show’s earliest drafts, pitches to Netflix, and casting calls
• insights into the Duffers’ creative process from the entire crew—from costume and set designers to composers and visual-effects specialists
• deep dives into the cultural artifacts and references that inspired the look and feel of the show
• a map of everyday Hawkins—with clues charting the network of the Upside Down
• the Morse code disk Eleven uses, so you can decipher secret messages embedded throughout the text
• a look into the future of the series—including a sneak preview of Season 3

It also includes classic retro character sheets from Dungeons & Dragons, filled in for each key cast member.

You can pre-order Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down now at more than $5 off the cover price here at Amazon.  Check out this preview:

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Odds are, you’re going to find this year to be the best year yet for accessing your favorite Halloween movies in October.  Particularly if you have a DVR and basic cable, you’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and brand new shows–our annual compilation of the movies you get with the typical national basic cable packages.  Syfy’s 31 Days of Halloween is back, along with Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween.  AMC’s Fear Fest begins October 14, this year swapping out many movies for reruns of The Walking Dead, leads up to the new season premiere of the series (AMC’s listing below will be updated once they publish their final official schedule).  And TCM is back with monster classics and special theme days.

We’ve bolded some of our recommendations and other notable events in October.  A new Halloween movie will be in theaters and you can watch all the past entries in the series on AMC.  TCM honors the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein with several classic spin-offs.  You won’t want to miss Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, too.  A Stephen King movie marathon, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Bela Legosi, Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and lots of exorcisms.  Plus lots of animated movies on Freeform, and the Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month.

All month long on Netflix you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, plus series like Stranger Things, The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  On Starz you can find a mix of sci-fi and horror movies including John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more.  If all else fails, you can probably grab your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything.  (All times listed are Central Time):

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Among the best of the free swag at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was scoring a copy of the ashcan* issue that previewed this month’s new Stranger Things comic book series from Dark Horse Comics.  The series will be published in four issues, all beginning this month.  This year’s go-to comic book writer Jody Houser is writer on the series, with artwork by Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, and Lauren Affe.

Not only is this new story retro in every way like the series, Houser takes us back inside the events of Season One, following Will and his journey through the Upside Down.  Don’t worry–the rest of the kids are part of the story, too.

Look for four covers for the first issue, created by Aleksi Briclot, Kyle Lambert, and Rafael Albuquerque, with a variant series for all four issues with nifty retro-Scholastic book order-style, tattered back-pocket paperback-inspired covers, created by Patrick Satterfield.

  

Now you can download the entire 16-page preview issue from the publisher–free!  Then check out our first look at all the cover artwork for Issues #1, #2, and #3, including covers from artists Greg Ruth, Steve Morris, Matthew Taylor, Grzergorz Domaradzki, and more (including a brilliant M.C. Escher-inspired creation), courtesy of Dark Horse.

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Filmed on location in Scotland, a 14th century biopic is coming to Netflix in November.  Chris Pine is turning from Jack Ryan and Captain Kirk to Robert the Bruce, the legendary King of Scots, a national hero of Scotland and one of the most famous characters of Scotland’s history, revered to this day for regaining Scotland’s independence from England in 1314.  Netflix released its first trailer for the film, Outlaw King, which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, and see a limited theatrical release before airing on the streaming service.

If you think it looks like Braveheart, that makes sense.  The films cover common territory and events–Angus Macfadyen played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart opposite Mel Gibson’s William Wallace.  Wallace will not be a key player in Outlaw King.  This film covers the low points in Robert’s battles during 1298 to 1306 and his initial victory against England.  Spoiler?  Nope, you can’t spoil an event in the history books that happened 700 years ago.

Director David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) returns to direct Pine in this story based on actual events, which also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Kick-Ass), Florence Pugh (The Commuter), Stephen Dillane (Darkest Hour, Game of Thrones), Tony Curran (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World), Alastair Mackenzie (Monarch of the Glen), James Cosmo (Shetland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Braveheart), Callan Mulvey (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Sam Spruell (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Snow White and the Huntsman), and a large Scottish supporting cast and production team.

Get your kilt.  Here’s the first trailer for Chris Pine in Outlaw King:

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In three weeks we’ll see the return of Danny Rand to Netflix, continuing the ongoing Marvel television universe we last saw in this summer’s excellent sophomore season of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  Finn Jones’s martial arts master and corporate exec Danny Rand–the Immortal Iron Fist–returns in season two of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Netflix just released its first trailer for the season, providing a glimpse at what fans of the Marvel franchise can expect.  More action is takeaway No. 1.

The first season of Marvel’s Iron Fist was a bit rough after a dark season of Daredevil, a spectacular first season of Jessica Jones, and a knockout first season of Luke Cage.  Compared to the other series it approached its origin character with a slowly building story, with co-lead Colleen Wing, played by Jessica Henwick, carrying most of the emotional and dramatic excitement through the season.  A heavily corporate boardroom plot with siblings Joy and Ward Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey) didn’t help matters.  Not even the inclusion of genre-favorite David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) could lift the ho-hum plot.  And the parallels in Iron Fist and CW’s Arrow were plentiful starting with the similarity of the leads.  Marvel’s The Defenders then brought together Rand, Cage, Jones, and Daredevil’s Matt Murdock, but when the characters even acknowledged they didn’t want to be a team that projected to viewers a team-up that wasn’t quite ready.

So can Iron Fist re-engage this season?  Star Trek and Men in Black III’s Alice Eve appears briefly in the trailer as supervillain Typhoid Mary.  Mike Colter and Finn Jones’ brief team-up as the classic Power Man and Iron Fist hinted at something fans would love to see much more of.  Although we don’t see Colter in this first trailer we do see Simone Missick’s Misty Knight will at least return for an episode–something to look forward to.  Fans of G.I. Joe won’t be able to resist comparing the conflict between that series’ Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to Danny Rand and this season’s rival Davos aka Steel Serpent, played by the returning Sacha Dhawan.

Take a look at this first look at Season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The right mix of writing, acting, art direction, and music come together in Orbiter 9, a direct-to-Netflix Spanish film that really has it all.  Like the critically-acclaimed Midnight Special, saying too much about the plot will give away too much of what is compelling about this film.  But you can be sure to find a tense piece of science fiction derived from those classic tales of great writers of the past like Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick.  It’s a tale of future Earth where Earthlings have ravaged the planet, so, like recent sci-fi entries Passengers and the Lost in Space reboot, the only chance for humans is to embark on long voyages to distant worlds.

Clara Lago (The Commuter, The Librarians, LEX) masterfully plays Helena, a young woman left on board a spaceship heading from Earth to a distant colony who encounters an engineer named Álex, coming to repair the ship’s oxygen system, played by actor Álex González (X-Men: First Class).  We learn from a video image Helena is re-watching that her parents left her alone three years ago when the oxygen system broke down–their math showed that with Helena flying alone the oxygen could still get her to Celeste safely.  Raised on the ship since birth, she has never met another human.  She is diligent in her daily rituals, including exercise, with a determination to complete her mission prompted by her parents’ sacrifice.  But after Álex’s arrival, everything changes.

More believable than prior visions of the future in this sub-genre (Passengers, Moon, the Cloverfield series), Orbiter 9 may pull its tale in part from classic Greek sacrifice mythology or closed-room mysteries like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, and wrestles with the limits of sacrifice, for family or others–again, a concept addressed in many past sci-fi stories, Star Trek in particular (think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Suddenly Human” in Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Child’s Play” from Star Trek Voyager).  Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?  Orbiter 9 attacks this question in many surprising ways.  And unlike many a recent sci-fi film, it’s story belongs in a full feature format like this–it’s not just another short story dragged out to fit a movie-length format.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest big-budget movie that has arrived at Netflix could have been on par with prior Netflix movies The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright.  These are science fiction movies that have something to offer viewers, yet they probably would disappoint most if you paid to see them in the theater.  As much as the marketing for these Netflix films is trying to convince subscribers these are the “real deal,” the new sci-fi movie Extinction brings the discussion home again.  The Cloverfield Paradox had a broad, fairly well-known cast and significant production values.  Bright relied on the charisma of star Will Smith with a solid performance from Joel Edgerton working through some hefty prosthetic make-up.  So they had that minimum quality for first-out-of-the gate films for newcomer movie house Netflix.  But despite the well-known genre star cast of Extinction, the latest Netflix sci-fi movie just isn’t strong enough.  Remember the rack of B-movie sci-fi films at the old movie rental stores?  Sadly, that’s where this one would have been filed.

Michael Peña plays the father of two girls in a future Earth.  He’s having problems dealing with violent nightmares that are too real to merely be in his mind.  His wife, played by Lizzy Caplan, and their friends, all think he’s crazy.  When an invasion on par with War of the Worlds arrives in the middle of a dinner party, the father attempts to use the bits he can recall from the dreams to keep his kids and wife alive, and try to understand the menace approaching from the skies.  Peña and Caplan are not given enough to do, not enough to make us want to cheer them on, as director Ben Young drags the audience through very carefully selected architectural layouts, platforms, pathways, futuristic buildings, all slowly panning and following people walking, doing mundane things that people do.  For an entire hour nothing happens.  Luke Cage’s Mike Colter plays Peña’s boss, and when hell breaks loose you get the feeling that roles once owned by Keith David can now be handed over to Colter, as Colter becomes that take-charge leader.   But his scenes are few.  The standout performance in the film is by British actor Lex Shrapnel (K:19: The Widowmaker, Captain America: The First Avenger) who steps in to assist the family after the first barrage.  His performance brings some much-needed life, albeit too late.  But the actors just aren’t enough to save the film.

You can’t blame the cast for this one.  The slogging story doesn’t gain any momentum until the last 30 minutes, and then it must rely on a gotcha to even get viewers’ attention to stay around for the last act.  The film probably suffers from a young director and an unsalvageable script by the Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly thin and derivative screenplay for Arrival, Eric Heisserer, among others.  And it lacks a much-needed sci-fi or action flick musical score–the one thing that might have given some energy or passion to the first hour (The Nelson Brothers are listed as composers, but someone must have edited out most of their music).  At only an hour and 35 minutes, the movie drags to feel like a full 2 hours, yet the thin story could have been told in a 20 minute episode of a show like Black Mirror.  Worst of all, Extinction is devoid of any humor–an essential element of the best tense sci-fi action thrillers.

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