Code 8 – A Movie Review

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Have you noticed a movie on your Netflix Top Ten list called Code 8? Know anything about it? No? I didn’t either.

In fact, it wasn’t until I read an article over at Wired that I even became aware of Code 8. This movie has a fascinating history, one that prompted me to see the film

In short, this was a crowd-funded independent film that began as a short, then had a limited theater release, and is now part of Netflix’s Top Ten. That’s quite a story in and of itself!

Starring Robbie Amell and his cousin, Stephen Amell, Code 8 is about a city full of super powered beings who are treated as second class citizens. Despite their power, they are discriminated against, hated, and treated less than human. These are not super heroes–these are just regular people trying to squeak out a living. When the mother of Robbie Amell’s character desperately needs expensive medical treatment, he turns to Stephen Amell’s character and a life of high-paying crime in order to save her. But how high of a price is he willing to pay, even if for his mother’s life?

If the name “Stephen Amell” sounds familiar to you, it’s because he played Oliver Queen on the CW’s Arrow. His cousin, Robbie, also played a smaller role on the CW’s Flash. I’d like to say that it was refreshing to see Stephen Amell playing a different kind of character. There were plenty of similarities, to be sure, but Stephen definitely has a “star” quality. And, frankly, so does Robbie. Both men more than carried Code 8.

Speaking of which, is Code 8 actually any good?

Yes, it is. At just over an hour and a half, it’s full of action, has some cool special effects, and it knows how to tease us with the captivating robotic police officers called “Guardians”–they give us just enough of these things to satisfy, but definitely leave us wanting more.

However, Code 8 didn’t quite stick the landing for me. I felt that the last five minutes were a little awkward and inconsistent with the rest of the film. Generally speaking, though, Code 8 kept me entertained, and what more can you ask for during these difficult days?

If you enjoy action, sci-fi, fast-paced movies, or just simply the Amell cousins, I recommend you give Code 8 a chance.

 

Ozark: Season Three – A Few Thoughts

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No spoilers, I promise.

Ozark is one of those shows that is difficult to describe. The title is both perfect and horrible because it completely throws the viewer off from the actual nature of the show, which is also what makes the title so fitting.

If you’ve never seen it, the first two seasons are basically about a Chicago accountant named Marty Byrde, played by Jason Bateman, who becomes embroiled with a Mexican drug cartel. He works out a deal with them to launder money in the Ozarks. Why the Ozarks of all places? I won’t tell you that, but trust me, it actually makes perfect sense. Marty moves his entire family down to the Ozarks, and, once there, the problems keep compounding and he just keeps getting deeper and deeper in trouble with the drug cartel, the locals, and even his own family.

The cast of all three seasons are fantastic. Jason Bateman is so stoic and cold, yet so absolutely likable–it’s quite something to watch. Laura Linney plays his wife, Wendy, and it’s not long until you realize that she is her own force to be reckoned with. Julia Garner plays Ruth, a local girl from the trailer park who, throughout the three seasons, finds herself both a rival and an aide to Marty.

The absolute star of season three, however, is Tom Pelphrey. Pelphrey plays Ben, and I won’t tell you anything about him because any hint of information would spoil aspects of the show. It turns out that I’ve seen Pelphrey before in Netflix’s Iron Fist, but he’s so good in this season of Ozark that I didn’t even recognize him! His talents are absolutely showcased and he became an instant favorite of mine. (I admit that Ben’s character is very problematic if analyzed at a deeper level. That’s a topic for later, though.)

Ozark is generally well written, well acted, and intense, but season three outdid itself. The twists and turns were captivating, the characters continue to get more and more interesting, and the plot definitely satisfies as it feels both intricate and organic. Oh, and those last sixty seconds of the season … they caught me completely off guard.

Enjoy! And, please, no spoilers in the comments.

Netflix’s Sugar Rush – A Fun Family Show

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If you’re looking for a fun family show, I’d like to recommend Netflix’s Sugar Rush.

My youngest daughter actually discovered this show on her children’s profile. She wanted to watch it, so we thought we’d give it a shot. Turns out that the whole family loves it!

The premise is pretty simple. There is a host and two judges who are celebrities within their respective fields. They also feature a guest judge every episode.

The contestants are four teams made up of two people each. However, these are not amateurs–they are professionals. Many of them own their own bakeries or work in high-end restaurants.

There are three rounds per episode comprised of cupcakes, confections, and cakes. Each episode usually revolves around a theme.

The judges eliminate one team after the cupcakes, one team after the confections, and then the final two teams go head-to-head with a $10,000 prize on the line. Yes, they hand out $10,000 every episode. You definitely feel the participants’ stress!

The show is generally lighthearted, funny, and family-friendly. You’re going to see some absolutely amazing pieces, and–because sometimes things go absolutely wrong–some real duds.

Are you already watching Sugar Rush? Let me know how you like it in the comments.

 

Mute – A Movie Review

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Mute is a sequel of sorts to Moon, which you may remember I enjoyed quite a bit. Ducan Jones wrote and directed both, so it makes sense that they exist in a shared reality.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy Mute nearly as much as Moon. Mute has a run-time of two hours and six minutes, and because it felt every bit of that, I found myself drifting away. The movie is very slow to start and features Alexander Skarsgård in the beginning, which also contributed to my disinterest. In Mute, he plays the protagonist, and a mute hero at that. Skarsgård is a fine actor, particularly when he plays a villain, but he just can’t carry a movie as the star in my opinion.

The plot features a man living in Berlin in the near future. He grew up disconnected from technology and suffered a terrible accident in his  youth, which led to his muteness. He’s now a bartender, and when his troubled girlfriend goes missing, he desperately tries to find her. As he searches, he becomes mired in all kinds of villainy.

Like I said, the first half of this movie is rather slow. However, when Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux begin to dominate the second half of the film, it really picks up. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the last thirty minutes. Rudd and Theroux play former military medics, men who seem decent enough, but as the movie progresses, their depravity becomes more and more apparent. I enjoyed the end so much because I’ve never seen Rudd play someone quite as edgy as “Cactus Bill.” He fully committed to his role, and he mesmerized me much like Sam Rockwell did in Moon. In fact, had Mute featured only Rudd and Theroux, it would have been far more captivating (though it obviously would have needed a different title).

That’s really the main issue I have with Mute–it’s almost two different movies in one. One movie features a silent man looking for his missing girlfriend, the other features two men who are very likable but also really quite awful. Eventually their worlds collide, but only because they must.

If you want to see Paul Rudd do something drastically different from his usual fare, I highly recommend Mute–his charisma is no less potent even as a morally ambiguous miscreant. However, if you’re just looking for something to stream on Netflix, I wouldn’t settle on Mute. Pick Moon, instead.

 

Netflix’s Tiger King – A Few (Introductory) Thoughts

I’ve seen a LOT online about a documentary on Netflix called Tiger King. Even so, when I would notice the “poster” on Netflix, I always thought it looked ridiculous. It appeared as some sort of a mockumentary–I assumed it couldn’t be real.

However, I listen to a radio program called The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz and they could not stop talking about how absolutely nuts Tiger King actually is. I generally agree with LeBatard on a variety of subjects, so his opinion motivated me to give it a chance.

I’m only three episodes in, but this has got to be the wildest show that I’ve ever experienced. I simply cannot believe it’s real, yet it has to be due to all of the actual news footage included–decades of legitimate news footage. I’m pretty cynical about these kinds of things, but they show local news vignettes, appearances on late night television like Jay Leno and David Letterman, actual legal documents, newspaper clippings, real magazine covers, archived Internet footage. It’s quite convincing.

The documentary essentially details the lives and “zoos” of several different people that have a particular fondness for big cats. After three episodes, I’ve come to realize they are all insane in their own way, they are all criminals in at least some capacity, and they all yield the strange charisma of a cult leader. Two of them are obsessed with destroying the other, and it certainly seems like they are on a collision course.

Listen, this is not high art. While I do believe the documentary is well made with excellent pacing and superb edits, this is an absolute circus. It’s pure spectacle.

I have no idea where this train wreck is going, and I can’t look away.

If you’re looking for a new binge, I haven’t seen anything else quite like this.

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Netflix’s Dracula – A Few Thoughts

I watched this show on Netflix in early January when it debuted. It had two things going for it that definitely got my attention.

First of all, it looked to be dealing with the real Dracula–Bram Stoker’s Dracula–my Dracula. Secondly, it was created and written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the talented creators behind my favorite versions of Doctor Who and Sherlock.

The show had some good buzz. Critics were saying the first episode was genuinely scary, and it was! It had some quirky, funny moments, to be sure, but that first episode absolutely dabbled in the horrific and grotesque.

Somewhere throughout the three episode series, though, it became … campy? I still got a kick out of it, but it felt less scary and more wacky. There were some clever twists and turns, but the end of the series didn’t leave me particularly impressed.

Probably its greatest assets were the lead actors–Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. Bang plays Dracula and Wells plays Sister Agatha, as well as [REDACTED]. These two had incredible chemistry together and were a lot of fun to watch.

I can’t say I’m excited for a second season of this particular Dracula adaptation. I’m not sure I would watch it, honestly.

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Netflix’s Locke & Key – A Few Thoughts

I’m a big fan of IDW’s series entitled Locke & Key. Written by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), this title was a little bit horror, a little bit fantasy, a little bit family saga, and a whole lot of charm. Besides the captivating writing, it also benefited from a nice blend of the cartoonish and the Gothic from artist Gabriel Rodriguez.

When I heard Netflix planned to make a series out of it, I got very excited. After a few starts and stops in production, it finally got made.

I actually watched this series after it released several weeks ago. I’ve had some time to think it over and … it’s not great.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it–I did. But I’m also a fan, you see. I’m not completely objective about Locke & Key. While I thought it looked great and had nice pacing, it just failed to capture the magic of the comic series.

This is primarily because of the actors. The acting just never quite clicked for me. I didn’t ever enter that space where I forgot that I watched people acting. They didn’t become the characters, and that’s a problem with a story like this.

Also, the show didn’t commit to its actual identity. It frankly tried to play too nicely. I think it hoped to capture the Stranger Things crowd, but Locke & Key is not Stranger Things. It’s far more violent, graphic, and intense. The themes are more mature, and the consequences more severe. I love Stranger Things, but they shouldn’t operate on the same frequency. As it stands, Locke & Key came off more like a bland imitation, which is a real shame.

Of course, I want you to watch Locke & Key because I want more of it on Netflix. It’s not too late to course correct. Like I said, it looked beautiful, and they moved along at just the right speed. They just need to get comfortable in their own skin and maybe bring in an acting coach.

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Moon – A Movie Review

I’ve been meaning to watch Moon for a really, really long time. (After all, it came out in 2009.) For some reason, I never knew quite enough about it to warrant devoting an entire evening.

Recently, I saw a list of the top science fiction movies on Netflix. I can’t remember what website I saw this on, but Moon topped the chart. That, coupled with the extra time we all now have, prompted me to finally give it a chance.

At barely over an hour and a half, Moon came in at just the right amount of time. The premise is both simple and complex. Sam Rockwell plays a man in the near future supervising a large moon station that’s responsible for mining helium and sending it back to Earth. He is the sole human in the station, though he does have an artificially intelligent robot called GERTY that is tasked with preserving his health and maintaining the station’s mechanics. Because of a persistent malfunction with the station’s live stream capabilities, Sam is completely cut off from his wife and child. However, the end of his three-year contract is only two weeks away, and Sam could not be happier to get back home. As you might expect, a complication arises, one that threatens both Sam’s homecoming but also the entire understanding of his existence.

Sam Rockwell, who plays the aptly named “Sam,” is always fantastic. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first starring role that I’ve ever seen him in. He is likable, vulnerable, and–most importantly–charismatic. To watch a movie featuring virtually one actor … well, it takes a special person to pull off that role.

I also appreciated the mystery of Moon. A strange occurrence happens early in the film, and from that moment on, Moon keeps you guessing. It’s a quiet movie with moments of intense action, but it’s never boring. The special effects, by the way, are exquisite.

As I said, you can stream Moon on Netflix right now. I’ve read that another movie available on Netflix, Mute, is a sequel of sorts to Moon. I’ll have to check that one out soon and let you know my thoughts.

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The Witcher – A Few Thoughts

I finished this Netflix series several weeks ago and needed some time to wrap my head around it. After some days passed, I realized that I was really, really, really overthinking this show.

The Witcher is an enjoyable watch in the way that peeling dried glue from your fingertips is enjoyable. There’s no real purpose behind it, it doesn’t seem to accomplish much of anything, but man, is it ever fun.

That’s the operative word — fun. The Witcher doesn’t have particularly great special effects, the story is convoluted at best, the acting is mostly regulated to a series of grunts and scowls, yet it’s somehow a rollicking good time.

If you find yourself with some extra time, give it a shot. Beware, there is some pretty graphic nudity from time to time, so make sure the little ones aren’t around. Furthermore, the violence is never overtly gory, the language is about on par with most “mature” themed shows, and there’s even a pretty catchy song you might get stuck in your head.

You’ll know within twenty minutes if the show is for you or not. It doesn’t get any better, but it also doesn’t get any worse.

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Triple Frontier – A Movie Review

Triple Frontier is an action-packed film that kept me both anxious and very entertained.

The premise is that Oscar Isaac’s character is working as a security contractor who trains foreign armies and police.  He’s been after a particular drug lord for quite a while, but can never quite pin him down.  Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal play men who once belonged to Isaac’s unit, a band of brothers.  They are all retired from the military, and they are all down on their luck with little to show for their service.

Isaac’s character propositions them to help  him take down this drug lord by amassing intelligence regarding his stronghold.  They can each make a large sum of money doing so.  What is initially supposed to be a simple recon mission turns into a flat-out burglary.  From there, the unit must try to escape the drug lord’s men through the jungles of Columbia, through Peru, and over the Andes Mountains while carrying very, very large amounts of cash.

While Triple Frontier kept me on the edge of my seat throughout due to action and an ever-present danger, I also thought it said something provocative about soldiers who give everything to their country with nothing to show for it.  Who can blame these warriors for taking desperate actions to try to help their families, their friends, and even themselves?  The ethical dilemmas presented in this movie will make quite an impact, I assure you.

Furthermore, I found the locations beautiful and lush.  Most of the film was shot in Hawaii and Colombia, so these jungles and mountains are authentic.  The scope of the film is magnificent with some truly breathtaking scenes.

Best of all, though, was the cast.  I actually felt like these men had a bond between them.  Affleck, Hedlund, and Hunnam were fine, but Pascal and Isaac were the heart and soul of this movie.  Oscar Isaac gets better with every movie I see him in, and Triple Frontier is no exception.

Though very violent and laden with profanities, Triple Frontier kept me engaged and entertained from start to finish.  If you’re looking for an action movie with some authentic emotional beats, this one won’t disappoint.

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