Tag Archives: Netflix

Best New TV Shows of 2021

*I apologize for the delay in posting. I should have written this before New Year’s Eve.

  1. Loki: Tom Hiddleston shines once more as Loki, the complicated immortal who has become much more than the standard antagonist. Forced into new circumstances, he goes on a journey that forever changes him.
  2. The Wonder Years: This reboot of the beloved 1980’s/1990’s series is just as poignant as its predecessor. The choice of making the main character and his family African-American only adds to its relevancy.
  3. Law & Order: Organized Crime: This spinoff of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit starring Chris Meloni as returning Detective Elliot Stabler is a thrilling and spine tingling hour of television.
  4. Ordinary Joe: This new NBC series is the story of one man and three distinct life paths before him. Told concurrently and using different colors for each decision, is is a reminder of how one choice can affect the rest of our lives.
  5. Impeachment: American Crime Story: The latest chapter of this long running F/X series focuses on the affair between Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and former President Clinton (Clive Owen) and the impeachment trial that followed. Instead of focusing on Clinton, the story is about the women who were directly affected by his less than honorable actions.
  6. WandaVision: This first foray by the MCU via DisneyPlus is everything it promised to be. Wanda Maxmioff and Vision (Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany) are living in family sitcom wedded bliss. But it not what it seems to be. With a star making turn by Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, this series is a must see.
  7. All Creatures Great and Small: Ths unexpectedly Masterpeice/PBS series is adorable and charming. A rookie vetenarian starts his career in rural Yorkshire in the 1930’s and grows in unexpected ways. The new season starts tonight at 9PM ET/ 8PM CT.
  8. Atlantic Crossing: This second Masterpeice/PBS series tells the story of the friendship/supposed affair between Franklin Delanor Roosevelt and Crown Princess Martha of Sweden during World War II. Forgotten for nearly a century, this tale of one woman’s drive to save her nation is truly worth watching.
  9. The Book of Boba Fett: This latest entry into the Star Wars universe from DisneyPlus just premiered on December 29th. Though only two episodes have been released, it is already asking questions that are begging for answers.
  10. Behind Her Eyes: Based on the book by Sarah Pinborough, this six part Netflix series about a married man’s affair with his secretary has a delicious ending that is jaw dropping and completely out of left field. Few endings have wowed me as this did.
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Best Movies of 2021

  1. Quo Vadis, Aida?: This harrowing tale of one woman’s choice to save her family or save as many people as she can during the Bosnian War is as powerful as a film can get.
  2. Mass: Two sets of parents meet after one of their sons has killed the other in a school shooting to figure what happened. Along the way, they are forced to answer questions that are painful and difficult.
  3. Spencer: This fictional take on Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and what might have occured during Christmas in the early 1990’s is a unique take on the myth of the late royal.
  4. Belfast: A young boy is growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s. As he starts to transition from a child to a young adult, he begins to realize that nothing is ever a simple as it seems to be.
  5. Black Widow: After ten years, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets the movie she should have gotten. Trying to atone for her past while living in the present, she must face reality and make up for mistakes.
  6. Framing Britney Spears: This Hulu documentary took viewers in the life and career of Britney Spears and how it has changed since her father took control over both.
  7. West Side Story: Steven Spielberg’s adapation of this beloved musical takes it into the 21st century while retaing its message about prejudice and lack of opportunity.
  8. The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain not only brings Tammy Faye Bakker back to life, she reveals the real person behind the punchline.
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: This latest addition to the MCU is more than just the first all Asian cast. It is the story of a complicated father/son relationship and a young man who cannot run from his fate.
  10. Moxie: A shy teenage girl stands up to the sexist bullshit at school and empowers her fellow female students in the process.
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This will be my last post of 2021. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing tonight, have a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2022.

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The Last Czars Review

Hindsight is 20/20. It can also change the course of history if we are unwilling or unable to make changes while the door is still open.

The Last Czars (2019) is a six-part Netflix miniseries that tells the story of the end of the Romanov family and dynasty. Combining interviews with historians and filmed footage, it is a slow downhill ride towards a fate that could have easily been avoided. Starring Robert Jack as Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Susanna Herbert as Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and Oliver Dimsdale as their children’s tutor, it opens with the question of the woman who claims to be Anastasia, youngest of the Grand Duchesses.

I liked this series. It has a nice balance of a fictional narrative based on documented events and experts adding extra layers of historical truth. It is engaging, entertaining, and a reminder that sometimes being hard-headed is not always a wise decision.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Last Czars is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Passing Movie Review

When one is part of a minority group, there are two obvious choices. The first one is to be who you are, regardless of what is being said about you. The second is to pretend to be someone else and fit in, otherwise known as passing.

Passing is the title of the new Netflix film. Based on a book written by Nella Larsen, it is set in New York City in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) were friends in high school. Both are biracial and have not seen each other for many years. Irene has embraced her identity as a woman of color while Clare is passing as Caucasian. Upon meeting Clare’s very white and very prejudiced husband John (Alexander Skarsgard), Irene is both curious and disgusted by her old pal’s life preference. For her part, Clare is drawn into Irene’s circle of mostly African-American friends (including Irene’s husband, Brian, played by Andre Holland). Unlike Clare, they have openly and proudly embraced their identities. She is forced to grapple with the self-applied mask of passing she has put on.

Written and directed by Rebecca Hall (who has been speaking to the press about her own biracial identity), this is a powerhouse of a film. Though both the book and the movie tell the story of two women who are both partially of African-American descent, I felt like understood them. I’ve often spoken on this blog about my own Jewish faith and identity. I could, if I wanted to, pass as someone of another faith or no faith at all. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I am of Irish ancestry due to my red hair.

At the end of the day, it is this decision we make that defines our lives. Do we not give a fuck and just be ourselves or do we submerge who we are to be accepted by others? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, knowing the outcome has to potential to have life-altering consequences.

Do I recommend it? absolutely.

Passing is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. I would not be surprised if Passing did well come award season.

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The Comey Rule Review

Politics is a strange push pull of personal needs vs. the needs of those who voted for you. It would be easy to say that you became a politician to serve the nation and your constituents. The harder aspect of the job is ignoring your gut instincts for prestige and press.

The Comey Rule premiered last year. Based on former FBI Director James Comey‘s 2019 book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, Jeff Daniels steps in the role of the man whose held the fate of the 2016 Presidential election in his hands. The 4 part miniseries follows two different and important narratives in recent political history: the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the four year tenure of you know who in the Oval Office.

The discovery that Clinton used personal servers for government business sends Comey and his staff on a year long search to discover if anything untoward was located within her emails. When they come to the conclusion that it was just a mistake by the former Senator/Secretary of State/First Lady and her staff, Comey is torn as to how to proceed. He could keep it within bureau, or make a public statement. His wife, Patrice (Jennifer Ehle) and those who work under him advise Comey to not say anything to the press or or public. But, as we all know, he chose to bring this information into the light.

When a certain reality show star and businessman is elected President (played by a fantastic Brendan Gleeson), Comey does his best to do his job. But when it becomes clear that the new leader of the free world is underqualified, he knows that this man is different than any other who has held the role.

I loved this series. Combining news clips with scenes based from the real James Comey’s book, it is tense, dramatic, and reveals an aspect of the 2016 election that only a few at the time were privy to. If nothing else, it is a reminder of how important the separation of powers is and how democracy if not tended to as it ought to, can quickly disintergrate.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Comey Rule is available for streaming on Netflix.

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My Octopus Teacher Review

Nature has a lot to teach us. But we must be willing to listen.

My Octopus Teacher premiered last year on Netflix. This nature documentary follows Craig Foster, a documentary filmmaker from South Africa as he spends a year bonding with an octopus. Recovering from a depressed state, he takes to the water, looking for a reason to feel good about himself. This comes in the form of his eight legged friend. In the year that they spend together, she teaches him about life, the importance of saving the natural world, and appreciating what he has.

This movie would not be my first choice to watch. It is certainly interesting and is educational without the viewer realizing it. I can see its value and why it won the Oscar for Best Documentary. But ultimately, it is meant for a niche audience who can truly appreciate what this film has to offer.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

My Octopus Teacher is available for streaming on Netflix.

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This Changes Everything Review

Change, whether on a personal level or societal level, is hard. It requires work, the ability to open our eyes, and most importantly, the want to change.

The 2019 Netflix documentary, This Changes Everything, examines sexism in Hollywood and its impact on the careers of female creators, filmmakers, and performers. Speaking to noted names such as Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Shonda Rhimes, and Reese Witherspoon, the film looks at the ways in which women are inhibited from reaching the peak of their careers. Female filmmakers are not given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. If they have one successful film, it is a fluke. If a male filmmaker receives positive notices from critics and audiences, the door opens more work and a bigger budget. In the same vein, female actresses are often boxed into certain roles and are limited in screen time compared to their male co-stars. Very often, they are over-sexualized or forced into playing traditional female parts.

I got angry watching this film. Women are 50% of the population, yet on screen, we are at best minimized and at worst, forced into the background. What is worse is that we learn early that we need to fit a certain physical and sexual mold to not only be happy but also thrive. The one moment that really pissed me off was a conversation with actress Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie, 2013). At the young age of 16, a directive came down from the studios that she needed to amphliphy her bosom. What kind of adult tells a young girl that this is necessary to keep her job?

It is the kick in the but we need. Women are just as creative and capable as men. But we have not been given the opportunities to show what we can do. Those opportunities can only come when we break down the doors and demand our rights.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

This Changes Everything is avaliable for streaming on Netflix.

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Worth Movie Review

What is a human life worth? Is it the emotions we create in others? Is it the experiences that define our lives? Or is it in a check that is given to our loved ones when we are gone?

The new Netflix movie, Worth, follows the story of real life lawyer Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) as he tries to help the victims of 9/11. He has been assigned to help the survivors and the families of the nearly 3000 people who died that day. His job is to lead the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, but it will not be easy. With the help of associate Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), he and his team must determine what each person was worth.

Challenging Kenneth are two surviving spouses. Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) lost his wife when the Twin Towers fell. A community organizer, he is continually nipping at the team’s feet, pushing them to think with their heart and not with their calculators. Karen Donato (Laura Benanti) is torn between her needs and what she is hearing from her brother-in-law.

Kenneth knows that the task he has ahead of him will be grueling, in every sense of the word. Money can never replace the ones we love. Whatever happens, he knows that he must succeed, even with the difficulties that lay before him.

This movie is riveting and powerful. Based on a true story, it is a reminder that the souls who died that day were not just names on a spreadsheet. They were human beings whose loss represent a black hole that can never be filled. It also a reminder that there is still hope in this world. Kenneth starts the film as the typical cynical bureaucrat who is just doing his job. By the end of the film, he understands the grief and heartache of those who he is trying to help.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Worth is available for streaming on Netflix.

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He’s All That Movie Review

Movie remakes are the rage in Hollywood, they have been so since nearly the beginning of the film industry. There are two ways this reboot could go. The first is that it stands on its own two feet while paying homage to its predecessor. The second is that on the surface has the imagery of the previous film, but it is nothing but a hollow shell of its forerunner.

The new Netflix film, He’s All That, was released on August 25th. A gender swap reboot of the late 1990’s classic, She’s All That, the new teenage would be lovers are popular girl/social media influencer Padgett Sawyer (Addison Rae) and artistic rebel Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan). As in the original, Padgett’s boyfriend publicly cheats on her. When she makes a bet that she can do a makeover on any of her male classmates, the chosen candidate is Cameron. As they spend time together, they begin not just understand each other, but fall in love. But the revelation of Padgett’s initial impetus has the potential to break them apart.

The truth is that it does not take a rocket scientist to see where the narrative is going. But, that is this charm of both films. Its sort of a wish fulfillment fantasy about romance that has just enough of reality in it to keep it grounded.

What I liked was that it was not a line by like copy. It has enough of the 1999 film to keep old fans like me entertained while still being set in 2021 with everything that did not exist when I was that age. Add in Matthew Lillard and Rachael Leigh Cook as the high school principal and Padgett’s mother respectively (now I really feel old) and you have an entertaining 90 romantic adventure.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

He’s All That is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Last Letter from Your Lover Movie Review

*This review is based solely on the movie. I have never read the book or heard of it until I saw the film.

A good love story is supposed to grip the audience by the throat. You want to feel the anxiety, not knowing if the potential lovers will be together by the end. It should be a heart stopping, blood pumping through your brain experience.

The new Netflix movie, The Last Letter from Your Lover, is based on the Jojo Moyes book of the same name. In 1965, the marriage between Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley) and her husband Lawrence (Joe Alwyn) is on the rocks. She starts seeing Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) on the side. It quickly blossoms into a full blown love affair. They write to each other, trying to keep the romantic flame alive while Jennifer maintains the façade of a happy marriage.

In our time, Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is journalist whose newest assignment is to uncover the secrets behind the newly discovered letters. Working with colleague Rory McCallan (Nabhaan Rizwan), they start to fall for one another as the decades old truth begins to slowly reveal itself.

Just like anyone, I like a good love story. But it cannot be a romance just for romance’s sake. There has to be a legit reason as to why certain characters walk into the sunset together. While the 1960’s narrative was reasonably compelling, the modern narrative felt forced. Whatever it is that brings two people together, there was nothing that made me believe that Ellie and Rory would work as a couple. It felt forced and dragged down the movie as a whole. I would have preferred that they remained colleagues without crossing the line into a relationship.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Last Letter from Your Lover is available for streaming on Netflix.

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