Tag Archives: Netflix

Jessica Jones – Season 3

For a good long while the prestigious mantle of Most Overdone Superhero Story was without a doubt the origin tale. Dead parents, ancient birthrights, Chosen Ones, freak laboratory accidents — after a while people caught on to the fact that all of these were basically following the same formula. We’ve seen Bruce Wayne witness the death of his parents upwards of seven different times. Time for something new! Take the third season of Jessica Jones, a show which gracefully skirted an origin tale in its first season only to backtrack into one for its sophomore outing. Surely the third season of the most unlikely Marvel/Netflix venture must break fresh ground, especially considering that this third season is also the last. Right?

To be fair, it’s more likely than not that Jessica Jones was never intended to conclude after Season 3, what with the collective axing of Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Punisher and any future spinoffs Marvel/Netflix might have had in the oven. Despite the popular rumor that Disney might resurrect some of these properties for their Disney+ platform, that seems doubtful to me. And with the increasing tedium characteristic of each and every one of those shows, maybe that’s a good thing.

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Daredevil – Season 3

Boasting a “return to roots” formula meant to appeal to champions of the first season, Daredevil‘s third season premiered on Netflix this weekend in the wake of the cancellation of its peers Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Trailers revealed Matt Murdock back in his homemade origin-story duds, rather than the classic crimson armor. The villain is also back, Wilson Fisk returning to his old ways and prompting Murdock and Co. to take him down…twice and for all. The question was whether there would be enough newness to offset what frankly sounds like a remake of the first season, enough to actually move the series forward. It’s worth remembering that the Netflix/Marvel model is a business model, not a storytelling model, and while both could be said to have an “arc” it’s always been evident that the former has dictated the output strategy of both Netflix and Marvel Studios.

And the arc here is a fairly predictable one:

  1. Marvel and Netflix launch a new arm of the all-encompassing MCU, populated by more “realistic” street-level heroes.
  2. Praise follows, mostly for Jessica Jones and Daredevil, which has a second season that spawns a Punisher series of its own.
  3. Iron Fist premieres to negative reviews, the first show to break the streak. Probably just a fluke, though. Right?
  4. The Defenders happens in an attempt to mirror the team-up mentality that led the film series to Avengers: Infinity War. The main difference, of course, is that Defenders is one of the most arduously-conceived, inconsequential, straight-up boring television shows ever made.
  5. This seems to spook the larger Netflix/Marvel model, predicated on interconnectedness from the get-go, and each individual series begins to shy from too much overlap. Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse, the only character to appear in each show, seemingly evaporates.
  6. The second seasons of Jones, Cage and Fist premiere, all to lowly-to-middling reviews that fail to generate much more of a reaction past “meh.”
  7. Cage and Fist get the axe and Daredevil‘s third outing arrives with the promise of a return to the Glory Days of Season One, back when it was the only one of its kind in existence.

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Roma (2018)

You could call Roma the most colorful black-and-white film ever made. After the Centerpiece screening at the 56th New York Film Festival, writer/director Alfonso Cuarón noted how important the visual presentation was to the overall effect of the movie. Crucial among his points was that this black-and-white is “not a nostalgic black-and-white” but instead “modern” and “pristine,” disabusing the viewer of the notion that this tale is unfolding in a long-forgotten place or time. Despite being assured throughout the film that the place is Mexico City and the year is 1971, Roma simultaneously manages to assure you that what’s happening is happening here and now.

You could also single out the production design, the incredible detail in every frame of the film, as a primary contributor to this experience of color in a movie that supposedly doesn’t have any. A sweeping shot of the countryside seems to give off a yellow hue because the lighting is so sunny and natural; muddy brown makes its way into an otherwise cold shot of a discarded action figure and a flattened soccer ball in the garage outside. A rock thrown through a window in one scene leaves a hole that we look through weeks later, and somehow this lasting detail even evokes color in clear glass.

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Daredevil – Season 2

It’s incredibly tempting to write two completely separate reviews of the second season of Daredevil. The most superficial reason for this urge is simply because that’s more or less the way the season is divided: Part One, the first five or six episodes, focuses on the gun-toting, villain-slaughtering Punisher. Part Two focuses on Elektra, the long-ago flame and now-returned firestarter of Matt Murdock. Not long after the second season received the greenlight after a rollicking first season, these were the only two words you needed to mark your excitement: Punisher and Elektra.

The former was exciting mostly because the three preceding attempts to bring Punisher to life — the 1989 Dolph Lundgren version, the 2004 Thomas Jane version, and the pitiful 2008 movie War Zone with Ray Stevenson — all pretty much sucked. Marvel Studios hoovered up the rights to the character and soon announced that he’d appear in a supporting role in Daredevil, signifying an understandable hesitation to give the dude yet another full-length feature after three straight misfires. The latter inclusion was exciting because Elektra is an inextricable part of the Daredevil mythos, per Frank Miller’s incredible must-read run on the comics series in the early ’80s and, yeah, okay, fine, per Jennifer Garner in two movies. Basically this was a time for redemption for both characters, just as the Daredevil series itself is a redemption for the title character.

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Netflix Picks #6

Shayna: I’ve been in a David Cronenberg frame of mind lately, and after watching Crash — a brutal, totally visceral film experience that you can somehow find on YouTube — I felt like slipping further down the rabbit hole with eXistenZ. While this 1999 film didn’t leave me curled up in the fetal position and near tears like Crash did, it does provide plenty of bleak takeaways about the state of human existence. Plus it stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, who pretty much owns in everything.

Set in a not-so-distant future where people can enter virtual realities and video-game designers are fawned over like rock stars (so perhaps not so unlike today), eXistenZ also stars a young Jude Law and features appearances from Willem Dafoe and Sarah Polley. Leigh is frosty and vaguely menacing here as Allegra, the designer of the not-yet-released game eXistenZ. After someone tries to kill her during a focus group session, Allegra is forced to go on the run with Ted (Law), a security guard/would-be “PR nerd” tasked with protecting her and helping ensure the survival of the game itself.

Admittedly, the plot gets Gordian-knot levels of convoluted very quickly, making it difficult to keep track of characters, corporate espionage subplots and even what reality the characters happen to be in most of the time. But the real attraction in eXistenZ is the atmosphere and the props that go along with it. There’s a gun made of bones, which fires teeth and is dripping with slimy viscera. The “bio-pods” used by players to access the game look like squishy embryos and mew contentedly when rubbed the right way. Once inside the game, Ted and Allegra are compelled by its power to follow game script, which at one point leads to an all-you-can-eat feast on mutated frog parts.

It’s wild. While the film feels very much like a product of its time, more aged and less visionary than earlier Cronenberg works like Videodrome and The Fly, eXistenZ is necessary viewing for body horror and sci-fi aficionados alike.

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Netflix Picks #5

Patrick: This past August, I lived in Pamplona, Spain which is directly on the route of “El camino de Santiago”, a famous 800 kilometer pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees to the shrine of Saint James in Northwestern Spain. Every day, I would see “pilgrims” with backpacks as big as they were walking by. Being an ignorant American, I asked a Spanish friend about all of the pilgrims, and he told me to watch the Martin “Seen” movie. After a puzzled look and a few Que?s I realized he was talking about Martin Sheen and the movie The Way.

Recently, I finally watched the Emilio Estevez movie starring his own father which, not coincidentally, is about a father who has lost his son on the camino and decides to do the walk himself to scatter his son’s ashes on the pilgrimage he could never finish. I started to watch the movie out of nostalgia for my short-lived home and to see all the sites again, but continued watching because I genuinely liked it. The movie has somewhat of an Into the Wild feel to it, with a personal journey and the bonds formed and lessons learned on it. Martin Sheen’s Tom relearns the importance of travel, feels more connected to his now-deceased son, and meets some interesting people along the way: Sarah takes the journey to quit smoking; Joost walks the 800 kilometers to lose weight; Jack needs the pilgrimage to beat his writer’s block. Together, they take the journey. And together, they make the journey that is The Way a fun but profound movie, certainly worth the watch whether you’ve lived in Navarra or never heard of it before.

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Jessica Jones – Season 1

What do you want out of a superhero show? There’s no shortage, of course — you’re getting superheroes whether they’re what you want or not. They’re everywhere. Shakespearian actors are nudging each other out of the way for the chance to play a purple-faced mind-controller. At least kids across America are thankful that there’s something to be for Halloween besides Harry Potter. Heck, even the Academy Awards are doling out statuettes for superheroism (although there’s something special about Birdman winning Best Picture, as if the Academy were trying to fight back). There’s no way around it: the increasingly staggering numbers of superflicks hitting theaters over the next half-decade can now be measured in metric shit-tons. The only thing more tiresome than the parade of superheroes is the commentary about how the parade of superheroes is so tiresome.

And, yeah, the shared universe gripes/laudations are just as stale, but here we are. Marvel in particular has reached the point where they seem to want it both ways: they want their superheroes to be intricately connected to every other superhero and yet be distinctly standalone. And, yeah: Jessica Jones. The latest entry in Marvel’s grand scheme has more inherent push/pull to the interconnectedness thing than any other installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that includes the Netflix predecessor Daredevil. On one hand Jessica is about as far away as you’re gonna get from Captain America, and maybe that marks trouble for an inevitable crossing-of-paths — either the dark tone of Jones would be compromised to accommodate Cap or the other way around.

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Narcos – Season 1

Narcos has a rookie season that moves like a final season. Netflix has been in the TV game for a while now, with their flagships House of Cards and Orange is the New Black both entering fourth seasons soon, and it’s rare that a Netflix series falls wide of the mark — Bloodline, Daredevil, and Sense8 all drew in high-powered acting and directing talent and were almost immediately renewed for second seasons. Narcos, with the pacing and and urgency of a well-established series and character arcs that would normally be stretched over the course of a lesser show, might outdo them all.

A large part of what sets this story apart from the pack is the fact of this story being a true one. Pablo Escobar has been portrayed several times by all the people you might expect — there’s Benicio Del Toro just last year in Paradise Lost, Javier Bardem next year in a new biopic, and then John Leguizamo (okay, so maybe not who you’d expect) in yet another biopic the following year — but the infamous Colombian drug lord has never been viewed under a microscope like this. It’s Wagner Moura who steps into Escobar’s patterned polos here in Narcos, and he’s up to the considerable task.

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Sense8 – Season 1

Sense8 seems like the kind of show that began with the title, then developed an edgy concept to match/justify the title, then built a plot around the concept, then sort of accumulated characters to fill the whole thing out. That’s conjecture, of course, and of course there’s no “right” way to build a lasting story in the medium of television or otherwise. Lana and Andy Wachowski have been around the block, too, with the Matrix series, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas and their most recent film Jupiter Ascending among the numerous entries on their joint résumé. Their sci-fi movies are big, loud, and undeniably ambitious, and while the jury’s mostly still out on whether those movies are any good or not it’s certainly true that their concepts are highly original.

The concept of Sense8 is simultaneously the best thing about the series and the most frustrating. Eight people, spread across the world from San Francisco to Chicago to Mexico City to London to Berlin to Nairobi to Mumbai to Seoul, make a fascinating discovery about themselves: they are able to sense each other. Thoughts, feelings, secrets, emotions — regardless of the distance between them, these “Sensates” (get it?) share a bond that no one else can understand. They themselves don’t understand it for some time, and by the end of the first season there’s still a lot left to explore about the connection these eight people share.

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Netflix Picks #4

Matt: Remember the Titans director Boaz Yakin got his start with Fresh, a 1994 film about a 12-year-old drug dealer caught in a bad cycle with bad people. Young Fresh is a quiet kid living in a loud world. The housing project where his family lives is packed with people, and out on the street it seems sex and violence won’t leave him alone either. There’s a realness to Fresh that you don’t often see in coming-of-age tales, an earnestness that makes the movie seem less like the idealistic Titans and more like a David Gordon Green film. Fresh’s escape from the prostitutes, dealers and gangster-wannabes comes in the form of his estranged father (Samuel L. Jackson), who plays chess with Fresh every week. Sean Nelson, the 13-year-old kid who plays Fresh, turns in some amazing scenes with the veteran Jackson; their relationship is the core of the film, though the rest of that noise keeps encroaching on their meditative matches. As a whole, the blend of real-world urgency and sincere emotion makes Fresh compelling, distinctive and — sorry — refreshing.

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