Netflix Notes

By way of introduction. The evening activities around here involve some tv watching, mostly streaming from Netflix. I thought I’d make some notes occasionally on some of what we watch so I don’t forget it all completely

            Blackhat is a movie that appeared on Netflix after having been around for a while. They must have got it for a song because it failed when it was released in cinemas overseas and was not released here. Don’t watch this unless you like starting a movie getting annoyed and more frustrated as it goes on, and only watching to the end just so you won’t die wondering if it was as predictable and stereotyped as you expected.  You could end up throwing things at the screen if you happened to have something handy that you didn’t mind breaking.

            All the stereotypes are on display, a brilliant computer hacker in jail who gets released to counter a dire computer attack that causes a meltdown of a Chinese reactor. It goes downhill from there. It turns out that the attack on the reactor was done through a computer attack the destroyed the pumps that ran the cooling system. Later our hero is in a water storage dam in Pakistan and sees it has the same kind of pumps. He then realizes that the attack on the reactor was only a dress rehearsal to a plot to blow up pumps in dams in Pakistan that will flood tin mines nearby that will result in either a fabulous financial outcome for the villain who has invested heavily in tin futures or will lead to the end of the world as we know it – we’re not sure which. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but if you stop the pumps in a dam wall from working nothing happens because the water just stays where it is. It would be much easier and quicker to blow up the dams than go to all the software trickery that this movie starts with. And talk about an annoying ending, with the hero and villian fighting it out man-to-man in the midst of some kind of mass religious celebration in Indonesia. A James Bond movie might get away with this kind of thing but this movie definitely didn’t. To cut a long story short, the hero wins and he and the love interest walk off into the sunset arm-in-arm, not literally. There is an extended gun fight in the middle that is totally confusing and pointless to the plot, people rush about for no apparent reason and our hero and heroine fly from Hong Kong to Pakistan in a Beech King Air, I could go on. In summary, NWW (Not Worth Watching).

            Going In Style was more to our liking and we gave it a rating of 4/5. (No complicated Middlemiss scoring here, I ask Valma what she thought and we then agree on a number.) I admit it, Valma and I don’t watch stuff on the screen to be informed or uplifted by high art, we watch for entertainment and diversion. That’s what this movie provides, in spades. It is helped along because the three lead actors are Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin who might not put in Oscar winning performances but do the light weight but clever and well written script as much justice as it deserves. It is your typical heist movie with three old codgers driven to robbing a bank when they are laid off and their pension fund is evaporated by big business. There are, however, some clever plot twists and some nice bits of business along the way that might not work for younger folks but are designed for the older viewer. Right at the beginning Michael Caine goes into a bank to get some answers about something and is told to go and wait in the waiting area. He looks at the low chair he is supposed to sit in and he – and us older viewers – know that it is a chair he is going to have trouble getting out of again. We were on-side from that moment and the rest of the movie would have had to be fairly dreadful for us not to like it. What else can I say, there are a few tear jerking moments and some reasonable laughs. In general it is a delightful creation, nothing too serious but fun in a gentle kind of way. I’d watch it again even though I know how it turns out and that everyone lives happily ever after which, the characters acknowledge, might not be as long as it would have been had this been your average romcom.

            New Amsterdam is a hospital show that now has two series on Netflix. I can’t say that I’ve ever watched a hospital show before but the lead actor was a face we knew from Blacklist so we gave it a go. It’s pretty good, and not too gooey when it comes to little kids having incurable diseases or people dying from cancer – there’s a lot of tumors in this hospital. What makes it work is the generally high class acting, well written scripts and high production values.

            The story begins with a new Medical Director arriving at the hospital who shakes things up radically with a lot of innovative approaches. He is married to a wife who is pregnant, they have some marital problems and it also turns out that he has cancer (too!). It wouldn’t be giving too much away to say that his wife dies during child birth in the final episode of the first series but is brought back to life when hospital staff arrive with the necessary equipment, only for her to be killed again on the way to hospital in a car crash. This leads to the lead character having grief issues in the second series. Then there is the hospital psychologist who is gay and has four adopted children. He is addicted to adopting more children and when that has to stop he gets an eating disorder. All the other lead characters have the quirks too, what else would you expect. The episodes take us through a series of medical dramas which are almost secondary to the show’s continuing themes which include the appalling state of the American health care system because New Amsterdam is a public hospital where patients come because they can’t afford to go to other hospitals. There are also the usual American issues of race and gender, and religion bobs up from time to time. I wouldn’t be surprised if non-American viewers got quite confused about plot lines and discussions between cast members if they didn’t know a fair bit about what goes on in the American health care system.  Okay, it’s a soap opera with all the usual comings and goings you’d expect. But it’s a high class soap operas and we liked it. 4/5 on a good day.

            Who Killed Sarah is a Mexican show that has one season so far on Netflix. Fortunately it is well dubbed in American because our poor old eyes don’t take well to subtitles these days. There were clear American influences and selling to an American market may have resulted in some restraints with, for example, the Mexicans possessing the ability that Americans apparently do to have sex with vital pieces of clothing still worn.

            Those Mexicans sure are excitable people, there’s a lot of over-the-top emoting going on most of the time but the plot is interesting and intriguing so we kept coming back as the story unfolded. It begins with the death of a young woman in a paragliding accident which, it soon turns out, was not accidental at all.  Grandfather, who is the family patriarch and a bit of nasty work, is one suspect. His son, who is a sadist, could be another. Her young lover and the supposed father of her unborn child is another. In fact, as the story unfolds the question becomes, who is not a suspect. In the final episode of this season we find out who did the actual killing but motivations are as confused as ever and there are hints that young Sarah might not have been the innocent we have been led to believe.

            After a show like New Amsterdam this is a refreshing and very energetic change. The acting is generally good and the script is like an onion with the layers gradually peeling back. As for a score, I’m unsure. It might either be very good or quite bad, I still haven’t made up my mind. I might do that if there is a second series.

            Venom is one of those Marvel movies, apparently based on a comic character about which I know nothing. I thought it got off to a too slow start as the characters were set up but once it got rolling it was fun and action most of the way to the victorious and happy ending. The special effects are up to the usual Marvel standard and there is a good car chase in the middle that works nicely due to the super powers invested in the hero after he is taken over by an alien symbiotic creature.

            There is all the plot devices that you’ve come to expect from this kind of movie and you know that the good guys are going to win in the end because that is how Hollywood movies have to be made. So, despite how dire the situation is with fifteen minutes remaining, we all know that there will be a fight scene in which the hero emerges victorious, despite the odds. Knowing that means we, the audience, can just sit back and enjoy the action. I don’t know what we’d do if somebody changed the rules and things did go wrong. Even so, highly entertaining for what it was and we gave it 4/5.

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