Category Archives: Netflix

Flashback Friday: The Last Days (1998)

The only way to learn from our past is to not repeat it. Sometimes, that requires reliving it, as painful as it sounds.

The 1998 documentary, The Last Days, was released on Netflix back in May. The film follows five Hungarian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. During the last year of World War II, the Jews of Hungary were the last intact Jewish community in Europe. That would quickly change. Within six weeks, hundreds of thousands were deported to Auschwitz. Only a handful would survive. Containing interviews with survivors, a SS doctor, and American soldiers who helped to liberate Dachau, it is powerful and haunting reminder of both the light and the darkness in humanity.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It was riveting, emotional, and a punch to the gut that is absolutely necessary. Hearing about this time in history from the people who lived through this nightmare reminds us all that the Holocaust is not a myth and not strictly relegated to the world of literature. It is an event that happened in the lifetimes of many people who are still alive. While we cannot bring back those who were murdered, we can honor their memory by remembering them, and open our eyes to the negative energy and destruction that hate drags behind it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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My Unorthodox Life Review

Walking away from the family we were raised in and the world that we have known our entire lives is not easy. In the world of Orthodox Judaism, the term is called “off the derech“.

The new Netflix reality show, My Unorthodox Life, follows the life of former Orthodox Jew and businesswoman Julia Haart. Living in New York City with her second husband and three of her four children, the viewer is introduced to the tug of war between Haart’s previous life in Monsey and her current day to day life.

After watching a few episodes, I can understand why some Orthodox Jewish women are annoyed by how their community is portrayed, I think the viewer has to take into account that this is Haart’s perspective. I like the mental health aspect of the series, addressing how many women in conservative or fundamentalist may feel trapped by the constraints of their gender and the rules of their gender. I also liked how positively Judaism is portrayed. Though Haart is no longer Orthodox, she is still Jewish and not afraid to be open about it. It is educational without hitting the audience over the head.

It has the gloss of a Bravo reality show, but it is slightly less trashy and not as much of a brain drain as other programs in the genre.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

My Unorthodox Life is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice Book Review

Menstruation is a normal and natural part of human existence. But in many parts of the world and many cultures, it is considered to be a taboo subject that is both misunderstood and vilified.

Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent), was published earlier this year. Inspired by the 2018 Netflix film Period. End of Sentence., Diamant explores how one’s monthly visitor is perceived. Throughout most of human history and even into our present day, it is considered to be dirty. There are traditions that state that when someone is menstruating, they must be separated from their families and every day lives. Due to this false and misleading mythology, many women and girls are denied the same educational and professional opportunities that their brothers, fathers, and husbands don’t think twice about. She also talks about how individual companies and governments are slowly starting to undo the menstrual injustice that have plagued humanity for millennia.

I really enjoyed this book. It delves into a topic that it is intrinsic to the experience of half of the human population, but it is not given the respect that it is due. One thing I was surprised about was that some men don’t even know what a period is. Others believe it to be related to sex and sexual activity, forcing young women into a life that does not exist beyond the borders of home and family.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Ophelia Movie Review

The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.

The 2018 movie, Ophelia is a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.

Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Ophelia is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Alias Grace Review

The accusation of insanity can be vague. Depending on the circumstances, it can be used correctly or an easy excuse when a viable reason cannot be found.

The 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace is based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name. Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is a young woman in 19th century Canada who has been found guilty of killing her employer, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). After languishing in prison for fifteen years, she is being analyzed by Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) to determine if the verdict can be removed due to insanity.

First of all, I have a problem with the all too common use of the word “insanity”. We live in a world in which mental health is both real and diminished in importance compared to physical health. By doing so, it lessens the experiences of those who live with it every day.

That being said, I really enjoyed this series. It is never quite clear if Grace had a hand in Nancy’s murder. But like that ambiguousness, it kept me engaged and wanting to know if the truth would ever be revealed. It also spoke to the idea of class and who has certain rights and who doesn’t.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Alias Grace is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Fatherhood Movie Review

When our children are born, we see nothing but possibilities and a bright future. But nothing, as we all know, is promised. Life gets in the way and forces us to face reality.

In the new Netflix movie, Fatherhood, Matt Logelin (Kevin Hart) has just become a father for the first time. He has also lost his wife the day after their daughter is born. Though his friends and his family are trying to be supportive of Matt, there is some concern that he will be able to parent his daughter alone. As time passes, he proves them wrong. Like any parent, he is juggling raising his child and working. There is also the potential of a new romance, making his complicated life that much more complicated.

Comedy wise, there is nothing special about this film. However, it feels emotionally authentic. Though I have not had the experience myself, I imagine that anyone who is raising or has raised children will connect with Matt and the challenges he goes through.

Do I recommend it?

I am leaning toward yes. It is also appropriate that it was released on Father’s Day weekend.

Fatherhood is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Halston Series Review

Every decade has its own unique style. In the 1970’s, there was one name that represented the height of women’s fashion: Halston.

The new five part Netflix miniseries, Halston, stars Ewan McGregor as the the iconic fashion designer. The viewer is initially introduced to Halston in the early 1960’s. His salon in New York City is besieged by customers after he designs the hat that Jackie Kennedy wears at her husband’s inauguration in 1961. We then flash forward to 1968 when the business has dried up. Despite being a talented designer, it appears that his once thriving career is in the past.

Then the 1970’s dawns and his wildest professional dreams come true. But as his star grows, Halston’s past and his demons begin to catch up with him. Addicted to drugs and pushing away even the closest of his friends, it appears that his genius and talent will be eclipsed by the shadows he can never get away from.

*Warning: the trailer above contains strong language and images of drug use.

The narrative is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This man is brilliant, driven, funny, eccentric, and devoted to his friends. Among them is Liza Minnelli (a fantastic Krysta Rodriguez) and the recently department jewelry designer Elsa Peretti (Rebecca Dayan). He is also selfish, full of it, arrogant, and thinks that he has all of the answers. McGregor is superb as the title character, painting a complete picture of a man who myth and mystique is still with us three decades after his passing. It is one of the best roles I have seen him play in a long time.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Halston is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Jupiter’s Legacy Review

As children, all we want is to please our parents and make them proud of us. When that wish stays with us as adults, it holds a power over our lives as few things can.

The new Netflix series, Jupiter’s Legacy, is based on the comic book by Mark Millar of the same name. Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian (Josh Duhamel) is not the young man he was once was. Part of a society of superheroes, he has lived by a code of ethics that has been his moral backbone for decades. Married to Grace Kennedy Sampson/Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb), they have two grown children. Their son Brandon, known as the Paragon (Andrew Horton) is doing everything he can to live up to his father’s expectations. But no matter what he does, nothing feels like it will ever be enough. Their daughter, Chloe (Elena Kampouris) has chosen another life entirely.

It is up to Brandon and Chloe’s generation to continue the legacy of their parents generation going. But as it usually happens between parents and children, that continuation is complicated.

This review is solely based on the series. I had never heard of the comic book until last night, when I sat down to watch the program. What I liked was that the characters are emotionally and physically fallible, and not the images of perfection that other characters in the genre are made out to be. The first two episodes were fine, but I was lost by the third episode. Whatever emotional connections I made with the characters dissapeared.

Do I recommend it? Maybe

Jupiter’s Legacy is available for streaming on Netflix.

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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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