Her Son (Television/Stage Thoughts: American Son, Netflix)

MV5BMDk1Y2UyMTgtNGQyYi00OGViLWFlODUtMDY3ZmYwYmQ4MWVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I am really liking this ‘Broadway on Netflix’ trend, and want to support it.  Kenny Leon directed ‘American Son’ on Broadway at he has now also directed the Netflix adaptation of the production of Christopher Demos Brown’s work. All in all, I think this is a pretty good effort, but I also had problems with it. I still recommend seeing it, as I thought the play itself has some things to say, even if at times it feels like the messages are bludgeoned. Kerry Washington is the main draw here, as she plays Kendra, who son has gone missing. She goes to the police station  to find out what is going on, the only information she has is that her son has been detained by the police. Washington plays her role without fear, and damned if her character doesn’t come across as likable. TO be honest, I had some trouble with sympathizing with her character. Kendra acts with so much entitlement at times that it clashes with the idea that she understands the ‘black’ experience.There is fine support with the rest of the cast but it’s Washington front and center here. The play feels very claustrophobic and Leon films it that way – you get the sense of panic and urgency waiting for the ‘inevitable’ here. At times, it really did feel that the action was closing in, and perhaps that was the director’s intent. All in all, I thought it succeeded in what it wanted to do, and hope we get more similar fare from Netflix.

Notes On How To Be King (Film Thoughts: The King, Netflix)

large_king-posterDavid Michod’s ‘The King’ showcases Imothee Chalamet, who plays King Henry V, and we see a young actor come into his own here right before our eyes. Prior to this, we have only seen him in young, tortured roles, but in this film, even though Hal is young and tortured, we see the character complete an arc to young adulthood, and he literally becomes a King as a character and as an actor before our eyes. It shouldn’t surprise me how good Chalamet is – he puts great thought in his role but the result does not come off mannered – and he is fantastic here. In a lot of ways he elevates the film, which comes off a little heavy at times. The story of King Henry V’s rise to young kinghood in 1413 is an interesting one, but it is also very details. Michod and screenwriter Edgerton cuts some necessary corners, but the film still logs at a heft 140 minutes, and I wonder if your average Netflix viewer will have the patience for it. I was at the screening at the film is gorgeous to look at on the big screen, and I would say that’s the preferred version for one to truly appreciate this film.  The film makes the story easily accessible, and the dialogue is more modern than archaic so it doesn’t really ‘read’ as too much ‘history.’  It’s a meaningful and timely film, and was even jokingly described as “the story as to how Brexit happened.’  I hope it gets eyes, and it looks like Netflix is promoting the hell out of it. (It starts streaming 1 November and is in selected theaters right now)

P.S. I have to do a quick shout out to Robert Pattinson, who plays Dauphine, the son of the French king. He steals most of the scenes he is in, with a great comedic flamboyant fearless performance. I bet we will hear more about his performance here.


Spin Cycle (Film Thoughts: The Laundromat)

llAbout halfway through Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Laundromat,’  the story veers away from where it started, and you ask yourself, ‘what am I watching and where is this going.’ That’s only the beginning of how bizarre this film feels to me. We are first introduced to Ellen Martin, played by Meryl Streep in one of her ‘character’ performances, and yes, her story is interesting and relatable – a woman who gets killed in a boating mishap and then finds out the insurance that covers their boat ride has been shady. Ellen plays sleuth and tries to find out what caused this and gets drawn into the world of offshore shell companies that really are just corporation paperwork and nothing else. But the film abandons that narrative and goes into not one but two different arcs. It was trying to show us different situations about how these ‘shell companies’ are used to defraud the banking system but it felt jarring because it took us out of the narrative, and honestly, it felt like I was being taken out of the movie I was watching.

When the story comes back to Streep, it gets even weirder, and the ending baffling. I am still trying to process about that artistic choice. Streep is reliably good, and it’s great to see her along for the bizarre ride, but I kind of don’t like it when she goes into character mode, wherein she packs a lot of things with her performance – a wig, an accent, physical acting. It enhances the performance but also distracting at the same time.  Soderbergh does a good job of trying to explain how the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal worked, and I hope it inspires resistance from common folks. This film as an experience, though, baffles as much as it entertains.

Lovin’ Tall (Movie Thoughts: Tall Girl)

MV5BMDI3YmEwOTItNDEyNC00MGNlLWJiMjEtMzc0MTJjZmM1NGEzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_So there has been a lot of controversy over how tone deaf Netflix’s ‘Tall Girl’ can be.  And sure, I can agree – in these troubled times we are living in, can we muster sympathy for a teen character who is despaired because she is…tall? I want to slap her and say, girl, celebrate being tall – you can be a model with that height. But of course, this is a Netflix teen romance presentation, so all is wrong in the world. As far as teen romances go, ‘Tall Girl,’ directed by Nzingha Stewart, is sewn very close to the 80s teen classic ‘Pretty In Pink,’ with a character almost identical to that one’s Jon Cryer character. I do like some nice little touches here, like the main characters loving and singing showtunes – they sing a somewhat off-pitch ‘I’ve Never Been In Love Before’ that is almost adorable, and on their first date, they watch the film version of “Oklahoma!’  And you know that just warms my heart immensely. Plus, the New orleans setting is unique, though I wish they explored the local flavor more because this could have been set in any random suburban high school. If I didn’t mind the film’s set up, I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more.

Let’s Get Political (Television Thoughts: The Politican, Netflix, Pilot Episode)

ThePolitician_Vertical_GeorginaPayton_RGB_UK20190815-6077-1bxw55I always say that I want to dig in my long long list of television to-be-watched pile, but I couldn’t resist vaulting all of that in favor of Netflix’s ‘The Politican,’ only because Ben Platt. I kind of like his work, even if at times I disagree with his artistic choices (a lot of his overwrought singing exhausts me)  And this was so heavily advertised on all the things that I am interested in that I feel like I am its target audience, for better or worse. Plu it has Bette Midler in it somewhere, so what’s the harm?

Well, the verdict is that I will keep watching. There’s a lot in the pilot that interested me – it’s glorious to watch, first of all, with beautiful people (David Corenswet, where have you been all my life?) and its slickness is addictive. But I wonder if I will hate watch it as well, as there are a lot of things that bothered me. First of all, I saw a lot of similarities with ‘Glee.’ Is  Payton Hobart just a variation of Rachel Berry, someone who manufactured all her life so she can achieve a certain goal? And the high school setting feels as familiar, albeit with actors who look like they are in their 30s. There is even an identical disabled character here, and musical numbers with songs that are so ‘obviously chosen’ they make me cringe. Yes, I thought Ben Plat singing ‘River’ was fine, but singing that song about a character named River? Well, even Stevie Wonder could have seen that a mile away. But for sure, it has already lured me enough to want to go back. Jessica Lange is always a treat to watch but Gwyneth Paltrow playing a caftan wearing Gwyneth-Paltrow like character alone is worth the monthly Netflix subscription. Most importantly, I think the show will inspire me to write more about what I think about it.

Though Cute (Movie Thoughts: Falling Inn Love)

dMz89EX3lbTrPbh10CC9q2vgzkXI really don’t know how I feel about all these Netflix movies. While occasionally we get a ‘Roma,’ we also get a lot of thee middling fares, such as ‘Falling Inn Love.’ Thi film, directed by Roger Kumble is a typical rom com that wouldn’t be out of place in the Hallmark Channel (look at the poster, it even looks like it came from there)  And its predictability knows no bounds, you can practically mouth off the screenplay as you are watching. But sure, there’s some low-key chemistry between the two leads (the current Administration probably won’t be too happy about the interracial coupling)  and although Christina Milian’s too-earnest acting mostly grated on me, Adam Demos was there to provide heat. This is mindless, though cute.

Those Pesky Moms (Movie Thoughts: Otherhood)

large_qtIZDvHie8T4btmwj4IywNNbKpRI have this thing with Netflix movies. Are they theatrical-type ones just being shown on the platform?? Or are they really just television movies on Netflix? Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ certainly fits the former, but I think a lot of what’s there could just be classified on the latter. ‘Otherhood’ is a perfect example – it has an A-list cast of Academy Award winners, but the tone and feel of the film felt very sitcom-y, and that’s unsurprising because the Director (Cindy Chupack) does mostly television.

But I enjoyed it enough, for what it is. It complemented my beer and hot wings on a lonely Saturday night – and the three leads – Patricia Arquette, Felicity Huffman, and Angela Bassett – looked like they were having the time of their life, so I can just let them be. I heard that this was supposed to come out around Mother’s Day but was pushed back because of Huffman’s legal troubles. I’ll even cop out to being a little teary eyed because it made me think about my own mom, but then again that may be the result of the beer and hot wings.