Category Archives: Netflix

Best New TV Shows of 2020

  1. Bridgerton (Netflix): This Jane Austen inspired series is based on books by Julia Quinn. Sexy and romantic with a feminist twist, it is the perfect BPD (British Period Drama) to lose one’s self in.
  2. Saved by the Bell (Peacock): The re-imagining of this much loved 1990’s teen comedy program will thrill both new fans and old.
  3. Cursed (Netflix): Based on the comic book by Frank Miller, it revisits the Arthurian myth via Nimue (Katherine Langford).
  4. World on Fire (PBS): This PBS/Masterpiece follows a group of individuals as World War II is on the horizon.
  5. Mrs. America (F/X/Hulu): In the 1970’s, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was close to becoming the law of the land. A tug of war begins between one group of women that is for it and another that is against it.
  6. Sanditon (PBS): Based off the unfinished book of the same name by Jane Austen, we follow Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), a young woman who leaves her family for the seaside resort town of Sanditon.
  7. The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix): This Netflix series is based on the books by Ann M. Martin.
  8. Flesh and Blood (PBS): Natalie (Lydia Leonard), Jake (Russell Tovey), and Helen (Claudie Blakely) are unsure about their widow mother’s new boyfriend.
  9. The Weakest Link (NBC): A delightful reboot of the early 2000’s game show of the same name. Hosted by Jane Lynch.
  10. The Windemere Children (PBS): World War II has just ended. 300 child survivors of The Holocaust are taken to England to heal. The adults have their work cut out for them.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

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Bridgerton Series Review

A good romance has the power to metaphorically sweep the audience off their feet.

The new Netflix series, Bridgeton premiered on Friday. Set in Regency era England, the program follows the romantic trials and tribulations of the eight children of the widowed Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). Her children are named in alphabetical order, from A-H. It is based on the book series by Julia Quinn and the first book in series (The Duke and I). The female protaganist is Lady Bridgerton’s eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), who is entering her first Season.

The initial response to Daphne, according to the unseen narrator and gossip Queen, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), is that she is the one to watch. But before Daphne can enjoy the spotlight, she is downgraded by Lady Whistledown to persona non grata. On the flip side, the husband that every match-making mama wants for her daughter is Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Having recently come into the title after the death of his father, Simon has made it clear that he is content to remain a bachelor for the rest of his days.

Simon and Daphne have a plan. They will pretend to court. He will appear to be spoken for and she will have more suitors than she knows what do with. But like many plans, there is a hitch. Somewhere along the way, their relationship begins to change.

Bridgerton is easily the best new television program of the year. In a nutshell, it is Jane Austen meets Shondaland. I love the diversity, I love the characters, and I love the smart and capable women who populate this world.

This Regency nerd is ready for season 2. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bridgerton is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Social Dilemma Review

When social media was created, the purpose of the new medium was innocent enough. It was to serve as a tool to bring people and ideas together in an open forum. But something changed along the way, and not for the better.

The docu-drama, The Social Dilemma premiered earlier this year on Netflix. The movie explores how social media, in spite of its innocuous surface presentation, has a dark underbelly. Combining interviews with experts, former tech employees, and a fictional story about one family, the film explores how social media has had an impact on our mental health, politics, and other aspects of our collective world.

Watching this film was a wakeup call. Social media is such a part of our everyday life that we don’t think twice about the side effects. What impressed me was the choice to interview people who had been at the forefront of the companies who created and own the social media platforms. Having an insiders perspective created a gut punch that would not have otherwise existed.

If there was one thing I enjoyed about this film was the solution to all of these problems. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to act as a nagging parent or teacher, telling us to get immediately close our social media accounts. Instead, they present a plan that allows for these companies to stay open while preventing future damage to our culture and our world.

I can’t say that this movie has convinced me to stop using social media. But it made me think twice about how I use my accounts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Social Dilemma is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Thoughts On the Bridgerton Trailer

There is nothing like a good BPD (British Period Drama). It has the power to sweep the audience into another world and for a short time, take them away from their everyday life.

The full trailer for the new Shondaland Netflix series, Bridgerton, premiered earlier today. Based on the series of books by Julia Quinn, the audience is introduced to the influential Bridgerton family living in Regency England. As the program progresses, they deal with the ups and downs that are unique to that world and that era.

The characters and the narrative are in the vein of Jane Austen, but the stories are not specifically based on any Austen novel.

I am intrigued by the casting of Julie Andrews as Lady Whistledown, the all knowing gossiping narrator who, according to the trailer is only heard, but not seen.

From a writing perspective, the couple pretending to be in love to get others off their back is one of those storylines that is used semi-regularly. The question is if the writer(s) make it their own or just copy what has been done before.

I am really excited for program. I can only hope that the promises made in the trailer are kept.

Bridgerton premieres on Netflix on December 25.

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Mank Movie Review

From the outside looking in, the path from writing a screen play to seeing it on film is a simple process. But show business, like any business does not always make it easy for the screenwriter(s) to see their work come to life.

The 1941 film Citizen Kane is one of those movies that has been admired by generations of audience members. Directed by then twenty something wunderkind Orson Welles and co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, the story of the making of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The new Netflix film Mank tells the story of how the movie was was made.

In 1940, Mankiewicz, known as Mank (Gary Oldman) is commissioned by Welles (Tom Burke) to write a screenplay. As a writer, Mank is known as one of the best. But he is also an alcoholic and can be upfront in his opinions, which are not always polite or welcomed. The screenplay he writes is based on the time he has spent with the uber-wealthy William Randolph Hurst (Charles Dance) and Hurst’s much younger, long time mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). Mank knows the scandal that will be created upon the release of the movie. But he and Welles forge on and ultimately create one of the most beloved and admired films to come out of Hollywood.

Every year, the various movie studios release films that are nothing but Oscar bait. Mank is one of them. Combining movie history with history from the period and the complicated politics of the era, it is not your average “behind the scenes” movie. If nothing else, Oldman is sure to receive any number of nominations, if not awards for his work. I loved that it was filmed in black and white, making it feel authentic. The problem is that it is slow narrative, possibly turning off some viewers.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Mank is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Crown Season 4 Review

Sometimes a writer does not need to look too far back into the past for inspiration.

The 4th season of The Crown premiered yesterday on Netflix. The season follows the lives of the British royals from 1979-1989. Coming back from season 3 are Olivia Coleman (Queen Elizabeth), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Erin Doherty (Princess Anne), Helena Bonham-Carter (Princess Margaret), and Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother). Adding new levels of drama and intrigue are Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher).

In addition to the internal family drama, there is political and economic upheaval beyond the walls of Buckingham Palace.

I binge watched a good chunk of the new season last night. It is nothing short of fantastic. I loved the new additions to the cast. Corrin brings a humanity to her role and adds to the mystique of the real woman behind the character.

If there is one actor among the main players who deserves an award for her work, it is Gillian Anderson. I am the first to admit that my knowledge of Thatcher’s work as Prime Minister is limited. But I know enough to know that then and now, she is a polarizing figure. As the character, Anderson plays a ball busting, glass ceiling shattering woman who is as formidable as the Queen.

The thing I really enjoyed so far is the complete 180 of how Charles is viewed. Last season, he was a young man trying to out who he was as a human being while dealing with burden of responsibility placed upon his shoulders. This season, he still draws empathy, but not as much as did during season 3.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for streaming on Netlflix.

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The Life Ahead Movie Review

Having an adult mentor or teacher when we are young is sometimes all that is needed to guide us to adulthood.

The new Netflix film, The Life Ahead (based on the book entitled The Life Before Us by Ugo Chiti and Romain Gary) premiered this weekend. In a small seaside town in Italy, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) is a Holocaust survivor and a retired prostitute. She earns her bread by taking care of the children of those who ply the same trade that she used to.

She meets Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), a young orphan boy who was born in Senegal. In the country illegally, he steals a pair of candlesticks from her in a market. When he is forced to apologize and return the stolen goods, Rosa reluctantly agrees to take him in. What starts as a forced relationship turns into mother/son bond that both Rosa and Momo learn to treasure.

Directed by Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti, this film is easily one of the best of 2020. Returning to the screen after a decade, Loren is nothing short of breath taking as Rosa. Her acting is superb and her character’s arc is perfection. Gueye is a young actor who based on this film alone, has the acting chops to hopefully have a long career ahead of him. What kept me watching was the slow reveal of what was beneath the emotional hard shell of the main characters.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Life Ahead is available for streaming on Netflix.

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I Am Woman Movie Review

It’s easy to get on a soapbox and rail against whatever one feels is wrong with the world. But sometimes, it takes art and music to give that needed change life.

I Am Woman premiered last year. Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters, and Danielle Macdonald, the movie tells the story of the late singer Helen Reddy. The narrative begins in 1963. Helen (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is a single mother with a dream of signing a recording contract. Originally from Australia, she is currently living in New York City. Making a living as a lounge singer, it looks like her dream is just that.

Her fate changes when she meets music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) and wannabe talent manager Jeff Wald (Evan Peters). Lillian inspires Helen to write her iconic song “I Am Woman“. Jeff straddles to the dual role of husband and manager.

It looks like Helen has everything she has ever wanted. But fame and the constant grind of work begins to take a toll on her private life. Jeff becomes an addict, forcing Helen to take a hard look at her life.

The thing about a movie or television biopic is that it can feel dry and predictable. The womb to tomb story arc has been done to death. But this movie is neither dry or predictable. It is entertaining, charming, and most of all inspiring. I love that the filmmakers wove in their protagonist’s story with the burgeoning second wave of feminism in the 1970’s.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Am Woman is streaming on Netflix.

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Anne with an E Review

For multiple generations of readers, Anne Shirley will always be one of their favorite literary leading ladies. The heroine of L.M. Montgomery‘s beloved novel Anne of Green Gables, Anne is a spirited young woman with a wild imagination and an open heart.

The Netflix reboot of the series, Anne with an E, ran for three reasons. Stepping into the hallowed shoes of the young Miss Shirley is Amybeth McNulty. Playing her adopted parents, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are Geraldine James and R.H. Thomson.

I only watched the first episode and I couldn’t help but smile. McNulty is the perfect young actress to play Anne. Her take on the character is everything we expect from Anne Shirley. James and Thomson as the unmarried, middle aged Cuthbert siblings are equally well cast. James is severe while Thomson is willing to give the newest member of their family a chance.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Anne with an E is available for streaming on Netflix.

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