Category Archives: Netflix

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Movie Review

Being different is most certainly an awkward experience. But being accused of falsehoods is another story.

In the 2018 movie, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (based on the book of the same name by Shirley Jackson), Mary Catherine “Merricat” Blackwood (Taissa Farminga) and her elder sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario) live in their isolated mansion at the edge of their small town in the late 1950’s. After being accused of killing their parents six years previous to the start of the story, Constance goes only as far as the garden. Their only companion is their wheelchair bound Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover), who is obsessed with the continual rewrites of his memoir. Only Merricat goes into town, knowing that it will not be a pleasant experience.

Things change when their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) comes for a visit. What starts out as a pleasant time together turns into an emotional rollercoaster. Family secrets that have been kept in the dark are brought to the light, threatening the tenuous existence within the household.

I don’t recall reading the book, so I cannot comment on the changes that were made to the screenplay. I really liked this movie. The acting is fantastic, specifically by Farminga and Daddario. Merricat is an unlikely heroine. Her mannerisms and the way she speaks is unconventional for a female character in her late teens. Behind her smile and easy going nature, Constance appears to be emotionally frail and easily set off. It has a noir-ish, Rebecca feeling that immediately sucked me in.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Betty White: First Lady of Television Review

Hollywood is not known for being the most comforting of industries. This is especially true for women of a certain age. Betty White is one of the few actresses who has been able to not only survive, but thrive in this environment.

The 2018 documentary Betty White: First Lady of Television is the story of her career. Ms. White entered showbusiness when television was in its infancy. Since her first appearance seven decades ago, she has become an icon, a groundbreaker and a performer who has entertained multiple generations of fans. Using archival footage and interviews, the viewer is given a glimpse of the real woman behind the beloved character actress.

What I loved about this film is that it shows its subject as she is. There are some biographies that present a slick and polished image of perfection. What you see is what you get. She is a smart, salty, and extremely funny woman who at the age of 99, is as real as she ever was.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Betty White: First Lady of Television is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The 2018 episode of Saturday Night Live that she hosted is for my money, one of the best in the past few years.

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Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal Review

From the time we are little, we are told by our parents and teachers that our future professional success does not come without a college degree. When we enter the working world after graduation, a good number of job listings will require that the applicant has at least a BA in something.

One of the major scandals of the last few years was the revelation that some parents from the 1% paid Rick Singer to get their children into prominent universities via the back door. The new Netflix documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal premiered last month. With Matthew Modine playing Singer in a series of re-enactments and interviewing several real life participants, the film follows the timeline from the first whiff of something untoward until the explosion of the truth.

If there was one word to describe the emotion I felt it would be disturbed. The financial reality of college is that the price of tuition has skyrocketed in the last twenty years. I am forever grateful that my parents were able to put money aside so I earn my BA. But not every parent has the financial means to give their child that experience. If nothing else, the movie points out this obvious inequality that can be solved, if we are willing to put our money where our mouths are.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Atlantic Crossing Review

A mother’s love for her children and a royal’s love of their country is one and the same.

The new PBS/Masterpiece historical drama, Atlantic Crossing, premiered last night. Based on a true story, it starts in 1939. Martha, the Crown Princess of Norway (Sofia Helin) is touring the United States with her husband, Olav, the Crown Prince of Norway (Tobias Santelmann). One of the events on their itinerary is having lunch with the President and First Lady, Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt (Kyle MacLachlan and Harriet Sansom Harris). FDR seems to be taken by the Princess.

A year later, Martha’s idyllic life ends World War II explodes and the Germans invade Norway. While her husband and father-in-law stay protect the nation, Martha and her children first escape to her native Sweden before traveling to the United States. Taking refuge within the walls of the White house, she start to advocate for her native land. This advocacy could be damaging in two equally important areas: her marriage and the tenuous world politics of the era.

The first episode is absolutely brilliant. Helin is perfectly cast as Martha, who could have easily been a shrinking violet, relying on the men around her. But she is smart, tough, and passionate. I wasn’t sure about the casting of MacLachlan and Sansom Harris (who also played the same role in the Netflix series Hollywood) as FDR and Eleanor. But upon seeing the full scene, the spiritual representations of these giants of American history seem to be so far pretty good.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Atlantic Crossing airs on PBS Sunday night at 9PM.

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Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty Review

If we are lucky, the people we are closest to we are our siblings. But even a relationship born and solidified in childhood can be altered by events that occur in adulthood.

The 2020 Netflix documentary, Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty, is about the complicated dynamics between Queen Elizabeth II and her late younger sister, Princess Margaret. Before ascending to the Throne of England, their father, the future King George VI, was the spare. His older brother David, known during his brief time on the throne as Edward III, was the heir to the throne. When David chose love over duty, Elizabeth and Margaret’s life forever changed.

Their father and mother were now King and Queen. Elizabeth, as the heir presumptive and Margaret, the new spare, would have a completely different life. Elizabeth lived and breathed duty. Her life was on the straight and narrow. Margaret was the rebellious wild child, sometimes submitting to the responsibilities of being a working royal and other times living on her own terms.

I really enjoyed this documentary. What struck me was that underneath the titles, the jewels, and the castles was an ordinary relationship between two sisters who were trying to navigate extraordinary circumstances. Though that bond was tested many times over the years, it was never broken.

Do I recommend? Absolutely.

Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Last Blockbuster Movie Review

Those of us of a certain age may remember that the highlight of our weekends was going to Blockbuster Video. But like many corporate brands, it has gone the way of the dodo.

The Last Blockbuster premiered last year on Netflix. The documentary tells the story of the history of Blockbuster Video and introduces the viewer to the last store in the United States. Located in Bend, Oregon, this film contains interviews with the store manager Sandi Harding, celebrities who worked in the store when they were young, and business experts who explain why this once giant of the movie industry is nearly one for the history books.

I loved this movie. As a member of the millennial generation, it is pure nostalgia. Though the Blockbuster where I lived as a teenager and an early twenty-something closed long ago, the experience of entering those doors and being in film heaven is one I will never forget.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Last Blockbuster is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Lost Pirate Kingdom Review

When we think of pirates, we think of swashbuckling men on the high seas in the 18th century, fighting for a live of freedom against tyranny. As romantic as the story is, it is a myth.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom, recently premiered on Netflix. Narrated by Derek Jacobi, it combining interviews with historians/experts and re-enactments, this six part series tells the story of the short years in which pirates ruled the Caribbean in the early 18th century. Using well known names such as Blackbeard, Benjamin Hornigold, Anne Bonny, Charles Vane, and Samuel Bellamy, the viewer sees this world as it was, not as the legends tells us it was.

I appreciated that I was both entertained and educated. I knew that democracy existed within this society, long before the American Revolution. What I was surprised to learn is that the captains of these ships captured slave ships and offered freedom to the Africans who were being taken to the Americas to be sold as chattel. That being said, it started to lose steam after the 3rd episode. I finished all six episodes, but to be frank, I was glad when the credits rolled for the final time.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Audrey (2020) Review

When dealing with childhood trauma as an adult, there are generally two paths to take. The first is that of possible mental illness, addiction, and life long emotional scars that never heal. The second is that of forgiveness, being open, and putting the past behind you.

I watched the new Netflix documentary, Audrey (2020) last night. It is an intimate vision of Audrey Hepburn, one of the most iconic performers from Old Hollywood. Using archival footage, interviews, and clips from her work, the film opens the door to an image of the icon that goes beyond the glitz and glamour. The movie documents her difficult childhood during World War II, her turn as one of the most famous performers in the world, and then her later years, highlighting the charity work she did in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

I loved this movie. It goes beyond the typical Hollywood documentary. I felt like I was introduced to the real woman, not the actress whose profile was specifically created by the studio system. As a fan, it made appreciate her more, both as a performer and a human being.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Audrey is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Moxie Movie Review

Moxie is defined as having force of character, determination, or nerve.

The new Netflix movie, Moxie, premiered earlier this month. Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is a shy sixteen year old raised by her single feminist mother, Lisa (Amy Poehler, who also directed the film). The new girl in school, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), is being harrassed by the BMOC/Football Captain/all around d-bag Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver). Tired of the sexist bullshit, she anonymously creates and publishes a feminist zine. It quickly gains a following, but Vivian stays silent. When push comes to shove, she must make a choice. Stay silent or put herself out there.

I loved this movie. It combines two genres (the high school comedy and the feminist revolution) into a final product that has a wide appeal. Though the main characters are teenagers, the issues they face go well into adulthood.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Moxie is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Celebrating Women’s History Month and the Female Characters Who Inspire Us

March is Women’s History Month. This year, I would like to shine a spotlight on some of the female characters who both push against the glass ceiling and inspire us.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix): It would have been easy to peg Adele (Eve Hewson) as the wronged wife and Louise (Simona Brown) as a modern version of Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction. But both women are given the opportunity to be fully fledged characters that go well beyond the stereotypes.

Bridgerton (Netflix): For non-fans of the BPD (British Period Drama), Bridgerton would just another Jane Austen-ish historical romance/drama. But fans know that though women are second class citizens in this world, they have other abilities that are not obvious to the naked eye. My favorite characters are Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Lady Danbury (Adjoah Andoh). Instead of mindlessly following in her elder sister’s footsteps, Eloise would love to be free of the constrictions that women are placed under in the 19th century. For her part, Lady Danbury is a badass who knows of her place in society and uses her experiences wisely.

WandaVision (DisneyPlus): Every female character in this series is fully formed. As we learn more about this world and the women who inhabit it, their humanity is revealed in a manner that is normal and natural. They are allowed to be who they are without being pegged as certain character types and forced into boxes that can be easily checked off.

P.S. That series finale last night was nothing short of mind blowing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am ready for season 2.

Law & Order: SVU (NBC): For a television show to last twenty plus years, it has to have a certain something about it. In a nutshell, what makes it stand out is the difficult subject the show brings to the forefront and the capable female detectives whose job it is to solve the crimes. At the head of the unit is Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Though she has been working sex crimes for decades, the job has not hardened her. She can be tough when she has to be, but she can also be compassion and humane. Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) has fought against her demons and survived. That alone is worth its weight in gold. The newest and youngest member of the squad is Katriona Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder). Though she still has a lot to learn, she has the passion and the drive to bring the criminals to justice.

Readers, what other female characters inspire you? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.

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