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Tag Archive: Netflix


Review by C.J. Bunce

Netflix has been carrying BBC’s British police procedural series Shetland on Netflix for a few years, but now is a good time to get caught up on the series’ first three seasons as Season 4 aired in February in the UK and is expected to arrive on Netflix soon for U.S. viewers.  Set in the remote Scottish Shetland islands, Shetland stars Douglas Henshall (Sea of Souls, Outlander, The Secret of Crickley Hall, Kull the Conqueror, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, who solves crimes against the dramatic backdrop of the Shetland Islands.  Based on a bestselling detective series by award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves, the series spotlights the stark landscape of remote Scotland and its small population, which must manage the big crime trouble of the far off Scotland metropolis of Glasgow, with far fewer resources.

The backbone of the series is the personable nature of Henshall’s cop as he wrestles with growing daughter Cassie (Erin Armstrong) who has a mind of her own, and the sparring he has over her in an almost spousal love-hate-bickering relationship with his deceased ex-wife’s second husband Duncan (Mark Bonnar).  Helping him dig into crimes is his right arm, DS Tosh McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell), who is part smart investigator and Glasgow street savvy and also very familiar with local norms, and next level down cop Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson, who is trying to build his career path while routinely held back by his strange family and personal relationships.  Technology, a remote geography, and a culture removed from the rest of the country combines to create plenty of opportunities for resourceful police work by Perez and his team.

In the series’ third season Shetland hits its stride, combining the show’s regular cast of five recurring characters with a guest appearance by genre film star Ciarán Hinds, who drives the mystery for the bulk of the season.  Hinds boasts an impressive career in some of our favorite films, including Excalibur, Mary Reilly, The Sum of All Fears, Road to Perdition, The Phantom of the Opera, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Woman in Black, John Carter, Frozen, Game of Thrones, Justice League, First Man).

Although it’s not yet known when or if Season 4 will make it to Netflix, Season 4 is now available here via Amazon on Britbox.

Here is a brief trailer for Season 4–a Season 5 was in production this summer:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the first chapter in the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will have you thinking the new straight-to-Netflix movie is more of the same from the Coen Brothers, the subsequent chapters may have you think again.  It just may be the most thought-provoking, subdued, and effective film from the entire catalog of Coen Brothers films, and it may even eclipse Bone Tomahawk and the Coens’ own True Grit as this century’s best Westerns–at least in parts (and it’s a leap ahead of Quentin Tarentino’s past two efforts).  Netflix’s Mudbound was nominated this year in major categories (but didn’t win) and the studio brought in one documentary Oscar, but can this new Coens release bring Oscar home to Netflix for a major, large-scale production?

The common thread of the film is classic Americana: 19th century settlers possessed a kind of unique grit, and they paid a steep price, in unique and unglamorous ways, to build a nation.  The film chronicles six fictional fails and near fails that might have happened (mostly), presented as chapters of an anthology dime novel.  The first chapter follows the title character, a goofy but sure-shootin’ singing cowboy played by Tim Blake Nelson, in a story that will have many thinking this movie is another Western parody like 1985’s Rustler’s Rhapsody (it is not).  The next chapter follows a determined thief (James Franco) unsuccessfully robbing a bank in an era before the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (in a mash-up inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”).  Another story finds a young woman (Zoe Kazan of the famed film dynasty in a masterful performance) on a frontier wagon train just trying to make it to the next town.  The least of the tales comes off more as a one-note Aesop’s Fable, as Liam Neeson‘s character carts a young limbless orator (played eloquently by well-known Harry Potter actor Harry Melling) from town to town carnival style for money.  To round off the anthology, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, and Tyne Daly star in a John Ford-inspired stagecoach bit that would be good source material for a stage play.

But the best of the chapters is an adaptation of a Jack London story about an old gold prospector, a character study starring Tom Waits.  His performance could be seamlessly spliced into any of the best classic Westerns.  And it’s the kind of acting achievement that should earn Waits a supporting Oscar nod, if the Academy gets in lock-step with Netflix as a legitimate moviemaking studio.  The other performance worth Oscar contention is Chelcie Ross‘s trapper in the stagecoach segment.  His rambling story and delivery is laugh-out-loud funny, and you can almost see in the eyes of Rubinek and Daly a real struggle to hold back laughs.

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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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