Category Archives: Netflix

Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Pride and Prejudice

Anatomy of a Scandal Review

It is a universal truth that men (especially those in politics) often think with the organ below their belt instead of the one in their head.

The new six-part Netflix miniseries, Anatomy of a Scandal, is based on the 2018 book of the same name by Sarah Vaughan. James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is a UK-based politician who has been accused of raping Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), his subordinate/paramour whose relationship has gone sour. While his college sweetheart/wife of twenty-plus years, Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) is standing by her husband, her resolve is tested.

Prosecuting the case is Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery). Though she appears to be randomly chosen to represent the government, her connection to the case is much closer than anyone would guess.

Holy shit. The tension in this series is so thick that it could be cut with a knife. What starts out as a straightforward story morphs into twists and turns that made my mouth figuratively drop. Though I have never read the book (or even heard of it until I watched the on-screen adaptation), I am tempted to read it. The narrative is a roller coaster ride that is a thrill to watch and a unique way to explore a topic as tempestuous as sexual assault.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Anatomy of a Scandal is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Netflix, Politics, Television, TV Review

Regency Review Roundup: Sanditon and Bridgerton Season 2 Reviews

*There will be spoilers for Sanditon.

The Regency era is an interesting time in human history. Looking back, it is easy to see that, as a species. we are on the road to the modernity that is life today. But we are also still clinging to the rules and social structure of previous generations.

Bridgerton

After a year and a half wait, season two of Bridgerton premiered last weekend on Netflix. It’s been nine months since the narrative of season one ended. Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett (Phoebe Dyvenor and Rege-Jean Page, who decided to move onto other projects) are happily married and have a baby boy. The oldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) has decided it is his time to settle down. Among the eligible women of the ton, he chooses Edwina Sharma (Charitha Chandran). But before they can walk down the aisle, he has to get through her overprotective older sister, Kate (Simone Ashley). She is tough, smart, and unwilling to compromise on whom she sees as her future brother-in-law. The problem is that there is something between Anthony and Kate that cannot be ignored.

If last season one was hot, this season has the fire of several volcanoes exploding at the same time. The chemistry between Ashley and Bailey is intense. The enemies to lovers/slow-burn narrative is so perfect that I would recommend that anyone who wants to write a good romance novel watch this series. It’s that good.

Sanditon

Its been nine months since the audience has spent time with the denizens of Sanditon. After the death of her first love, Sydney Parker (Theo James), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) has returned to the seaside town and the Parkers. Bringing her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham) with her, Charlotte reunites with old friends while making new male acquaintances. Among them are Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) and Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).

With her usual tenacity and intelligence, Charlotte is trying to move on with her life. But she is still grieving (as I suspect the viewers are as well) for what might have been, had things gone in another direction. As much as we all miss Sydney, I feel like this is opening the door for new opportunities for her in both the romantic and career arenas (as much as a woman could have back then). Akin to Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) dying in a car crash at the end of the third season of Downton Abbey, it was a heartbreaking loss. But I feel like if we look at it from a modern perspective, this unexpected change is normal. Not everyone spends their life with the first person they fell in love with. It sometimes takes a few years and a few relationships to find your other half.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Bridgerton is available for streaming on Netflix. Sanditon airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Life After Death with Tyler Henry Review

It’s easy to believe that a psychic is either a charlatan or a con artist, looking to make a quick buck by telling their “clients” what they want to hear.

The new Netflix series, Life After Death with Tyler Henry, follows psychic Tyler Henry as he travels around the country, providing comfort and messages from loved ones who have passed. But his life is not all sunshine and roses. When he returns home, Tyler is faced with a family mystery that has already opened the door to emotional scarring.

I sat down to watch this reality show last weekend. For a few episodes, it was compelling. What drew me in was the family mystery more than his work. The problem is that the program became repetitive to the point in which I was no longer interested in continuing on.

Do I recommend it? No.

Life After Death with Tyler Henry is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch Movie Review

A young person’s sexual and/or emotional awakening is a standard narrative. What makes one stand out from another is not just the specific character detail, but the culture that this young person has grown up in.

The Awakening of Mottie Wolkenbruch (based on the book of the same name by Thomas Meyer)was released on Netflix in 2018. The title character, Mottie Woldenbruch (Joel Basman) is a young man from an Orthodox Jewish family. Having followed the prescribed life path so far, the next step is to get married and have children. While his mother, Judith (Inge Maux) is more than eager to see her son become a husband, Mottie is not so sure. His preference would be to have a say in his future wife. Things become more complicated when he becomes friends with a perceived shiska (a woman who is not Jewish), Laura (Noémie Schmidt). As their relationship grows, Mottie finds himself torn between his mother and Laura.

Warning: The video above is only partially in English. Subtleties may be required.

There are two ways to use cultural or religious stereotypes when developing characters. One way to use them as-is and not give these people room to grow. The second is to use specific traits or personal history as a baseline and use that as an opportunity to expand someone’s full humanity, warts, and all.

Having never read the book, I can only speak of what I saw. To be perfectly frank, after sitting through all of 30 minutes, I had to turn it off. I could have waited until next year to write about it on a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post, but I could not wait until 2023. This movie is beyond bad. The book’s author (who is also the screenwriter) doesn’t even try to break away from Jewish stereotypes. The mother is overbearing, Laura is the shiska goddess and Motti has no redeeming value as our protagonist.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.

The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Flashback Friday, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Throwback Thursday

Forgive Us Our Trespasses Review

When we talk about the Holocaust, we forget that Jews were not the only ones targeted for persecution and murder. Among the other undesirables were people with disabilities or severe illness.

The new Netflix short, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, follows Peter (Knox Gibson), a young man who was born without one of his limbs. When Nazi officers start banging down the door, Peter has two choices. He can wait for the inevitable, or run with everything that is within him.

Though this movie is less than 15 minutes, it packs a punch that is not forgotten anytime soon. The courage that this boy has rivals many adults who are twice or three times his age. I was equally rooting and grieving for him, knowing that Peter was being denied the opportunity of being a child, simply because of a twist of fate.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under History, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix

Found Review

We all want to know where and who we come from. Someone who is raised by their birth family can easily answer this question. Those who are adopted may not be able to come up with that same information as easily.

The 2021 Netflix documentary, Found, follows three young ladies who were born during the one-child policy era in China. Living in orphanages as babies because of their gender, they were each adopted and raised by Anglo-American parents. Finding each other via a DNA test, they travel to the land of their birth, hoping to find blood relatives.

This film is touching and beautiful. I felt for these young women, whose lives were forever altered simply because they were born girls and not boys. I loved their connection, it was the emotional throughline that kept me watching. Throughout the movie, I was crossing my fingers, hoping that their deepest wish would come true.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Found is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix

Flashback Friday: The Royal House of Windsor (2017)

The image of royalty is that of fine clothes, jewels, titles, and opportunities that the average person does not have. But anyone looking closely would see that that experience is far more complicated than what the media portrays.

The Netflix six-part miniseries, The Royal House of Windsor, aired back in 2017. It tells the story of the British royal family starting during World War I and ending in the present day. Going into great detail, it reveals the family trauma, the scars, and the behind-the-scenes drama that is only that is generally kept from the public.

I liked this series. Adding onto what is already known, it is a deep dive into the Windsors and reveals the humanity underneath the press and the imagery that is created by the PR machine. It’s that humanity that allows us to see them as someone we can relate to as opposed to someone who is the image of far-away perfection.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Flashback Friday, History, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Flashback Friday: One of Us (2017)

Humans were not meant to be alone. We need other people, we need to be loved and wanted. But sometimes, that need conflicts with the internal knowledge that we are different.

The 2017 Netflix documentary, One of Us, follows three former NYC-based Hasidic Jews as they break away from their previous lives. To say that this process is difficult is an understatement. It’s more than the change in physical appearance. The emotional journey from where they started to where they ended is challenging, to say the least. It requires the knowledge that they may lose everyone they love in the process.

Going through this process is akin to coming out of the closet as an LGBTQ person. The push-pull of being true to yourself while wanting to be accepted is a psychological see-saw that no one should go through. But we live in a world that says that the only way we will be loved is if we conform to what is “normal”.

Though the subjects of this film are Jewish, one does not need to be of the same faith to try to understand what these people are going through. I suspect that there are many people, of all faiths, who were raised one way, but come to realize that that is not how they want to live.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

One of Us is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, New York City

My Best Friend Anne Frank Review

Outside of your family, no one knows you like your best friend. It is a connection that can hopefully withstand whatever life throws at it.

The new Netflix movie, My Best Friend Anne Frank, premiered last year. It tells the story of Hannah “Hanneli” Goslar (Josephine Arendsen), who was best friends with Anne Frank (Aiko Beemsterboer) before the Nazis tore their world apart. The film flashes back between two different time periods. The first is the semi-carefree normal teenage girl experience that we all can relate to.

The second is a few years later, in Bergen-Belsen. Up to this point, Hannah, her father, and her baby sister have received “special treatment” due to having passports to pre-Independence Day Israel (known then as Palestine). When she hears that Anne is alive and in the camp, Hannah has to make a choice. She can either do nothing or try to help Anne, knowing that she could possibly be killed in the process.

We all know Anne’s story. This is an angle that adds to her humanity and universality. It also points out (which is unfortunately still necessary), that the Jews were top on the list for extermination and reminds the viewer that Anne was killed because of the faith she was born into.

The problem is that the drama is a little slow. I understand the reason for the pace, but it could have been picked up a little. By the time we get to the scene in which Anne and Hannah are reunited, I did not feel what I expected to feel.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

My Best Friend Anne Frank is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, History, Judaism, Netflix