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Reviews

Review: #Alive (2020) [Spoilers]

January 5, 2021
#Alive [Source: Forbes]

Zombies have definitely become overexposed in the past decade, but does Il Cho’s recent zombie film #Alive offer anything new? Join me as I review the Netflix original to see if it’s worth checking out.

Synopsis

Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-In), who lives with his family and spends most of his time streaming himself playing videogames, wakes up one morning to find the news talking about the spread of a disease that is causing people to become rabid and consume human flesh. He soon becomes trapped inside his parent’s apartment. Although he posts a rescue request on social media, he soon faces the prospect of surviving on his own. Driven to despair he thinks about ending his life. However, he is saved when he finds another living person in his apartment complex, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye). Finally having something to live for they both decide to manoeuvre to the top of the complex to be safer. But is it really as safe as they think?

What Did I Like?

With the themes of disease and isolation playing on everyone’s minds this year, #Alive seems very relevant. And the way it explores these themes feels quite captivating from a cinematic perspective. In the first half, the film has long stretches without dialogue. As Joon-Woo attempts to navigate through the world’s ever-growing craziness. And sometimes Joon-Woo speaks to himself or people who can’t respond. Which is a very accurate dramatic way of showcasing the isolation and growing mania of the main character. The film conveying information to the audience through television news and social media also feels very realistic. And is an effective way of placing us in Joon-woo’s perspective.

Coupled with this the film has some fantastic central performances. Yoo Ah-In is impeccable as the immature tech-obsessed Oh Joon-Woo. Managing to make us laugh at his obliviousness and over the top actions while also making us empathise with his position. Park Shin-Hye is also really good as survivalist Kim Yoo-bin. She’s very much the straight person to Joon-woo’s more animated personality, and her cold put-downs of him are very funny. Combined with this she is also a very warm presence in her private moments and she really sells her action-heavy scenes. Making her into a funny heroine who knows how to handle herself in a hairy situation but still has a very relatable human core. And special mention must go to late player Jeon Bae-soo who leaves a great impact as the only survivor on the top floor, with an outwardly inviting attitude hiding something sinister.

What Did I Not Like?

Unfortunately, #Alive is held back by much of its story feeling rather generic. Most of the film’s plot beats – the outbreak, failure of the government to respond, survivors teaming up to take on the horde – are by now standard for zombie films. Making #Alive seem very stale. While the potentially refreshing elements (the idea of facing the peril alone or how social media might affect someone’s understanding of the apocalypse) are either underdeveloped or are jettisoned by the halfway point. Which leaves the film feeling like just another zombie movie with some half-hearted gimmicks added on.

The production work is also lacking. With the constant jump cuts being very distracting; making the film seem rather amateurish instead of contributing to any sort of presentational effect. The lacklustre musical score also adds little to the overall experience. Not to mention the only standout visual decision is to incorporate drone footage into the narrative. Otherwise, the film’s visual presentation is very conventional. Leaving little of interest from a stylistic perspective.

Finally, the film’s climax feels very out of step with the rest of the film. With the ever-darkening tone suddenly dropped for a hopeful ending. It sees the two main characters rescued by the army because of Joon-Woo’s social media post. Not only does this feel tonally contrary to the rest of the movie but it also feels very implausible. As the post was made days before the rescue effort. Meaning there was no guarantee that the main characters were still alive. So why would army resources be used on this? And with the film focusing little on social media outside of the first act, this conclusion feels inappropriate.

Verdict

#Alive has some great central performances. As well as some unique ideas for how to explore isolation and the spread of disease. With that said #Alive is let down by not committing to its more interesting ideas. The result is a project that despite some inventive ingredients ultimately becomes like every other zombie movie. Which is further diminished by some poor production decisions. As well as the out-of-place conclusion. Consequently #Alive is little more than a fun disposable distraction. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

#Alive (Official Trailer)

Also Read: A Quiet Place 2: A Film Too Far?

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Editorials, How Film Changed Me

How Film Changed Me: On Trailers

August 16, 2020

Sometimes I wonder if I love trailers even more than I love the movies themselves. As a kid (and, hell, even now) I never wanted to miss the trailers, the two-minute mini-movies that reek of possibility. Sure, I’ve seen most of them before, at previous screenings or on YouTube, but that doesn’t quell my excitement. Last year, for example, I felt the same wide-eyed wonder every time a saw the trailer for Hustlers, which was exceptional and set to Cardi B’s ‘Money’, and every time Jennifer Lopez delivered her lines, it felt like the first time. It was the same the year before with the trailer for A Star is Born, when Lady Gaga belted gibberish over images of private jets and motorcycle rides, I felt a giddy, childlike glee. 

It’s not just me who is excited by them either; there is a whole industry built around trailers. Now, studios rely on YouTubers and internet sites to deconstruct them frame-by-frame, to search for clues, and talk about them on Twitter. They hope that the internet erupts with discussion and excitement. Remember last summer? Was there anything more discussed than the Cats trailer? From the horrified to the morbidly curious, digital fur technology and a-sort-of-sexy-but-I-don’t-really-want-to-think-about-it-because-he’s-meant-to-be-a-cat Jason Derulo captured the hearts and minds of the internet. It became instantly meme-worthy, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hadn’t seen it. Cats is an example of how a trailer can become a cultural event in the same way music videos like ‘WAP’ and shows like Tiger King were this year. Even if the movie itself bombed, it cemented itself within our cultural consciousness in just two-minutes-and-thirty-three-seconds, and that’s exactly what the studios want. 

Jason Derulo - Cats
Cats / CREDIT: Universal Pictures

These days, you have to have a keen eye when it comes to trailers. I can generally tell a studio is trying to promote a stinker from the trailer they release. After all, millions of dollars go into these films, and then, when they’re presented with a naff final product they have no choice but to try and sell it. However, if you look closely, you can tell. When I saw the trailer for The Goldfinch, I knew. Jojo Rabbit, I knew. Downhill, I knew. How to Build a Girl, I… well, actually I had no idea about that one (lol jk, I knew). Advertising teams try to hide bad films by editing bombastic trailers for them; they use quick cuts and let it all build to climax. Still, even if trailers act as smoke and mirrors for bad movies, there is nothing better than seeing a great trailer; one that gets your blood racing and has you on your knees asking your God (in my case, Stevie Nicks) not to let you die before that film comes out. 

At the end of August, the cinema’s will finally have new releases to screen and the trailers for those are already out there. Tenet, the Bill & Ted sequel, and The Kingsmen prequel are all slated to open in September. October holds Wonder Woman 1984 and Candyman (which had a stellar trailer set to a creepified version of ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child) while November offers Black Widow and No Time To Die. The trailers for these all came out months ago, and the studios are hoping that audiences remember them. 

Tenet
Tenet / CREDIT: Warner Bros.

As for me, the most exciting trailers released recently are both for Netflix. I’m Thinking of Ending Things Charlie Kaufman’s latest endeavour starring a cast of people I adore – Jessie Buckley (who deserves all the world), Jesse Plemons (who is one of my favourite actors working today and is also married to Kirsten Dunst which is a huge bonus), and Toni Collete (who is literally incomparable to everyone else) to be precise. The trailer is a weird mix of spooky and challenging which, if you look at Kaufman’s oeuvre, fits perfectly. It’s the first time, since lockdown began, that I’ve felt excited about a film release and I’ve watched the trailer about fifteen times since it dropped last week. 

Then, they also have the star-studded and much anticipated The Devil All the Time which brings together everyone’s internet crushes: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, and Riley Keough into a bizarre-looking gothic tale of the American South. This one could go either way, quality-wise, but it also has Robert Pattinson pouring spiders onto his own face so… well, do with that what you will.

Soon, we will be able to sit in dark spaces and revel in the coming attractions. Hopefully, those films will keep coming and, after a nearly six-month break, the back end of 2020 could be pretty crowded. To stand out, they’ll need some killer trailers and I, for one, am ready for them. 

Also Read: How Film Changed Me: On Moving House

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Reviews

Review: The Old Guard

August 1, 2020

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings to Netflix the action blockbuster The Old Guard. The film stars Oscar-winning Charlize Theron as the leader of a group of (almost) immortal mercenaries who suddenly find themselves fighting for their survival.

What’s Going On?

The Old Guard team (rogerebert.com)

The Old Guard is the story of a group of secretive almost-immortal soldiers who do what they can to make the world a better place. The group is lead by Andy, by far the oldest, seemingly thousands of years old but never quite confirmed, there is also Joe and Nicky, both around a thousand years old and Booker, relatively young at around two hundred. Unsurprisingly being around for centuries makes you pretty good at your job and they are highly sought after but always trying to balance this with the fear their secret may be uncovered – which after taking a job for a former employer it is. As they are found out they also realise a new semi-immortal has come into the world and it is their responsibility to find her. They must confront their greatest fear – not death, but endless imprisonment and torture.

Behind The Scenes

Charlize Theron as Andy (decider.com)

The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, a director and writer perhaps best known for the film Love & Basketball as well as various credits writing and directing television, including co-creating recent TV drama Shots Fired. The Old Guard is written by Greg Rucka, the creator of the comic-book series on which the film is based.

In Front Of The Camera

The star of the film is very much Charlize Theron, who as well as being one of the best dramatic actors of her generation has recently made a lot of action films. Theron plays Andy, the leader of the mercenaries, and is very good, carrying much of the film herself. Newcomer to the group and our way into understanding this story is Nile, played by KiKi Layne. Layne is best known for starring in If Beale Street Could Talk and she has the difficult job of explaining the story to the audience and struggling with this earth-shattering knowledge. The rest of the immortal team are made up of Nicky (Luca Marinelli), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts). There are two villains – Copley, ex-CIA agent and former employer of the group played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, looking to use the extraordinary powers of the group to help the world and the far more selfish Merrick played by Harry Melling. Ejiofor is another acting heavyweight and does his best to express the conflicted feelings of someone who has genuinely good intentions but involved in quite unpleasant work. Melling is a far more standard evil baddie – and to save everyone googling this – Melling is probably best known for playing Dudley Dursley in The Harry Potter films. Merrick works for Big Pharma which is shorthand in the film for absolutely untrustworthy and is hoping to rip out the group’s special powers out of them with brutal medical methods.

Does It Work?

Joe and Nicky (thegeekiary.com)

The Old Guard is an enjoyable action film with an interesting premise and a great cast. It’s not going to reinvent the genre but it is very good. Theron is utterly convincing as the ancient mercenary soldier with slightly less convincing performances as we go down the cast. Ejiofor never quite manages to sell the disconnect between his noble intentions and committing horrific human rights abuses but I think this is the fault of the film rather than Ejiofor. Indeed, the rationalising of a number of the villains is paper-thin.

The action scenes are first-rate, the most memorable being the plane fight between Andy and Nile near the beginning of the film – when Nile still doesn’t trust the strange woman telling her she’s immortal. They also have fun with the healing abilities of the soldiers – bones jutting out from limbs that heal neatly and head shots that are gone within seconds.

But the film is not built solely on its action and there is more going on with the characters. Andy and Booker are clearly struggling with their near-immortality and the grief and pain that has accumulated and at it times it reminded me of vampire films and the “curse” of immortality. This is especially interesting as Andy and Booker are the oldest and youngest respectively. Then there is Joe and Nicky who manage to get an awful lot of feeling into their relatively limited screen time focused on their relationship. Two men who fell in love whilst fighting – and killing -each other in the Crusades is about as star-crossed a pair of lovers as you are going to get, and a timely declaration of their love is genuinely emotional.

The main problem in the film are the bad guys, it doesn’t help that the role is effectively split between Copley and Merrick (with the addition of one soldier who seems to be the leader of Merrick’s mercenaries but you never consider as dangerous as Andy or her team). Copley is half-hearted in the endeavour whilst Merrick is so utterly ruthless and cruel that he is a bit of pantomime villain. I would much rather have seen Ejiofor play someone along the lines of his unnamed character in Serenity, a supremely effective individual doing admittedly bad things for a greater purpose – a character that I hold as a high watermark of sci-fi villains.

Overall this is a very enjoyable action film with good acting and great fight sequences. There is a very interesting premise which allows it to do something different to most action films and there is an emotional depth many similar films do not have.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Old Guard (Trailer)

Also Read: The Best of Blumhouse

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Editorials

Share the Love in Lockdown

April 11, 2020
Watching Online with Friends during lockdown [Source: The Daily Dot]

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, many film fans have been missing the communal experience of going to the cinema. There’s just something about watching a story unfold with other people that enhances the experience. Well, many have decided to find other ways of connecting with the outside world in order to enjoy watching the latest digital releases and old favourites. So today we’re going to look at the various ways you can beat the lockdown blues and enjoy the cinema experience while in self-isolation.

Interacting on Social Media and YouTube

Sometimes the best motivation to give something a watch is knowing that others will be watching the same thing. Well over the past few weeks various social media sites and platforms like YouTube have presented opportunities for you to give a film a watch and interact with the wider community.

Several big names have encouraged the world to check out certain titles on Twitter. Jared Leto started his own tweet along cinema club with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And director James Gunn recently joined in with a #QuarantineWatchParty of Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile, on Facebook, groups like Celluloid Screams have used the Watch Party function to host their own movie marathons. Here the festival programmers provided intros for several horror films encouraging people to binge-watch all of them in a single day.

Also, platforms like YouTube have proven a great place for watch parties to be hosted. Actor Riz Ahmed recently hosted a live stream on the platform where he provided commentary on the film Four Lions along with the films other actors Kayvan Novak & Nigel Lindsay.

The appeal of these online events comes from knowing that you are watching these titles along with others. And that you are able to engage and interact with them. So keep an eye open for similar events coming up on these platforms. Or why not host your own?

Watching movies on the laptop
There are plenty of interaction opportunities just waiting for you online [Source Liveabout.com]

3rd Party Applications and Add Ons

There are also several applications and add ons you can use to interact with others while watching films. Video and voice chat applications like Skype, Messenger Video Call and Discord allow you to connect with friends and chat along together while watching something.

But there are also apps that allow simultaneous viewing of films with your friends. For example the Netflix Party application for Google Chrome. This app allows you and several friends to watch and text chat over the same show/movie on Netflix at the same time. However, it’s currently only available on Chrome. Other resources like Metastream also offer similar services. Finally, there are services like Kast. This application works on Windows and Mac; it allows you to connect with several other people and stream your computer screen to them. Allowing you all to sit back and watch a movie on your platform of choice.

These apps and add ons provide a great way to Netflix and chill with your friends while in lockdown.

Watch Netflix with friends by using some of the apps mentioned above [Source: Tech Viral]

Festivals

Finally, because many film festivals have had to cancel physical screenings, several festivals including the upcoming SXSW festival in America and Visions du Réel 2020 in Switzerland have opted to showcase their films and other content on the internet. Releasing films through subscription services or websites, hosting interviews and performing masterclasses online. Which when coupled with the social media and connective opportunities mentioned above will allow the public to remain in touch with film culture. So be sure to keep an eye out for more opportunities like this in the future.

Conclusion

With all these options provided by 3rd party companies and online platforms, we have ample opportunity to connect together and still enjoy a social media experience during the lockdown.

With many filmmakers and stars providing opportunities for socialization the community has a great opportunity to interact with each other as well as creatives in the industry. Allowing us to gain extra insight into films and perhaps giving us some inspiration to make something for ourselves. And while it may not be the same as the cinematic experience, these apps and events will help us stay in touch. As well as allowing us to continue experiencing great movie moments with others.

Also Read: The Most Important Cinema In The World (To Me)

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Editorials

Coronavirus: How It’s Affected The Film Industry (Part Two)

April 3, 2020
Vue Cinema Coronavirus Closed

As large portions of the world go into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many businesses have been left to fend for themselves. With many films delayed and production halted, people in the industry are having to fend for themselves.

No Films means no work

Netflix Headquaters
Netflix has pledged a $100 Million relief fund (credit: John G Mabanglo/EPA/Shutterstock)

As people self isolate and socially distance themselves, many “non-essential” industries have completely shut down for the time being. With no one having a good estimate of how long this situation will last, this has left many people out of work indefinitely. The people hit hardest by this decision are the ones at the bottom. Many Crew, Freelancers, and cinema staff have themselves without a job, it’s hard to make a film from home!

While many people working in pre and post-production are able to at least do some work from home, actors, camera, lighting, sound crews are all having to fend for themselves. Much of the industry revolves around freelance work, with individuals often going from one job to another and few jobs being permanent. Fortunately, some companies, like Netflix, have set up hardship funds, as have the BFI.

The main issue is the amount of freelancers, as they are self-employed, if a job is cancelled they have no support, although the UK Government has stepped in. In Hollywood, it’s estimated around 120,000 people are out of work, while in the UK the number is closer to 50,000. This situation is different for everyone, as some freelancers will have worked more than others and be in better conditions to take a hit. As the pandemic has spread across the globe, many shoots have been delayed before lockdowns began. This has caused concern, as many of the measures only apply to workers affected by having work cancelled from March, while many jobs have been cancelled well before then. Additionally, as most of these are freelancers, there is no furlough option.

However the longer this goes on the more difficult it will be for freelancers to survive. When “normality” finally does return, the job hunt will likely be even more competitive than it already is, as everyone looks to secure work. It is an incredibly difficult industry to get in with very little long term employment. With the whole industry looking for work at the same time, it will likely be very difficult for less established workers to find work.

Future of Cinema

Could delayed films like Black Widow be released on streaming platforms instead? (Disney 2020)

Likwise cinema staff cannot work from home, although audiences can still watch films at home. Even before countries were placed on lockdown, many cinemas pre-emptively closed due to advice to avoid large gatherings, in the UK. Several of these cinemas let these staff go without pay, a move that was understandbly controversial. This decision has since been reversed due to Government relief in the UK, however this is not the case in the US. With no support in place, AMC Theaters are “paying staff for as long as they can” potentially risking huge losses. While the large chain cinemas are clearly struggling, many smaller independent cinemas may not survive without help

As an added worry, a new study suggests that audiences may be less inclined to go back to the cinema after the pandemic subsides. With cleanliness and proximity to other people on audience’s minds, as well as a lack of summer blockbusters, it could be a while. Another factor to consider is streaming, which has been a concern to cinemas for several years. Some studios, like Universal are releasing some films straight to streaming, while still in theaters. It remains to be seen if this will remain in place once they do reopen

While cinemas are struggling, this whole situation is obviously good news for streaming services. Disney + launched in the UK, with it’s sign-ups tripling as more and more people are stuck indoors, and has even released films such as Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker months earlier than advertised. Meanwhile Netlfix may have to reduce the quality of it’s streaming in order to keep up with demand

These are certainly worrying times for everyone, whether in the film industry or not. But this period of uncertainty will help us appreciate the magic of cinema even more.

Also Read: Coronavirus: How It’s Affected The Film Industry

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Editorials

5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

March 29, 2020
5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

With everything currently going on in the world regarding Coronavirus, many of us just want a way to distract ourselves from this depressing situation. Thankfully streaming giant Netflix is happy to provide us with hours of escapist fun. And today I want to take the opportunity to recommend five titles that are currently streaming on Netflix to help put a smile back on your face.

Classic: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is the film equivalent of a warm, loving hug. There is nothing I can say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said a million times. The story of young Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland) journey of self-discovery as she is swept away to the land of Oz has inspired many people and continues to inspire many more as years go by. And while it may have its scary parts (The Wicked Witch of the West; her armies of flying monkeys and Winkies continue to scare children to this day) the loveable heroes, beautiful set design, iconic music, and the heart-warming story will ensure that a smile is never far away. If you don’t feel happy inside by the end of the Wizard of Oz, there is something wrong with you.

Wizard of Oz, currently streaming on Netflix
Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road with Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939) [Source: AVS Forum]

Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbour?

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, this is the film to see. This documentary goes in-depth into the life of children’s TV host Fred Rogers and gives us insight into his world view. How he believed in teaching children about important issues without talking down to them to help them grow and develop into good people. He dealt with topics like the assassination of Robert Kennedy, racism, depression and many other heavy subjects on his show. And the doc even delves into his personal fear that he hadn’t done enough to reach people. It’s a very human portrait of a man who believed in the best of us, which will leave you inspired and much more positive about the world.

Won't You Be My Neighbour, currently streaming on Netflix
Fred Rogers putting on his iconic cardigan. Won’t You Be My Neighbour [Source: Empire]

Comedy/Drama: Fighting with my Family

The story of Saraya Knight alias Paige (Florence Pugh) and her journey from humble beginnings, wrestling and teaching the sport with her family in Norwich, to WWE Diva’s Champion. Fighting with my Family is a treat for one simple reason, it feels entirely genuine. Everyone can relate to the hardships of trying to chase your dreams and even the hardship of having to give up your dreams for something else, like Paige’s brother Zak (Jack Lowden). And because of that, we route even more for our heroine to succeed. The family dynamic is also tender and affectionate with Nick Frost and Lena Headey providing fantastic turns as Paige’s parents. And a funny bit part for Dwayne Johnson ensures you will come out of the film with a spring in your step.

Fighthing With My Family, currently streaming on Netflix
Florence Pugh as Paige dreaming of becoming a wrestling superstar in Fighting With My Family [Source: Entertainment Weekly]

Animation: My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro is the definition of adorable. Two young girls and their father move to a new house in the countryside while their mother is in hospital. Through a series of chance sightings and some investigating the girls then encounter several woodland spirits. Which includes the eponymous Totoro with whom they proceed to have many adventures. Totoro is a film that is impossible to not love. Showing the world through the eyes of a child, where there is no argument that can’t be solved with kindness and compassion, nothing is ever hopeless, and the world truly is a magical place (coupled with some of the cutest creature designs ever) the film is guaranteed to get you in a good mood.

My Neighbour Totoro
Satsuki and Mei fishing with Totoro and the woodland spirits in My Neighbour Totoro [Source: Empire]

Netflix Original: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has long existed in the margins. Her crush is dating her sister, her former friend is now her worst enemy and her little sister won’t stop criticizing her driving. Her one solace is her letters to all the boys she has had a crush on. Which allows her to get all her feelings out. However, when her letters are sent to her crushes she has to try and fix the problem. And the answer to her problems may lie in her former friend’s ex-boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo). If you’re looking for a rom-com, full of charming characters, a good sense of humour, a central couple with great chemistry and even a few surprises along the way then do yourself a favour and check out To All the Boys for a reminder of the beauty of young love.

Netflix Original, To All The Boys I Have Loved Before
Lara Jean, her younger sister Kitty and Peter watching a movie in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before [Source: NME.com]

Thus, ends our recommendations list of feel-good film on Netflix. We hope you all enjoy our choices and that they help to add a little joy during this tough time. If you want to recommend any films on Netflix then let us know in the comments.

Also Read: 5 Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

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Editorials

Netflix By The Numbers

February 23, 2020
Netlix logo on a laptop

Netflix needs no introduction. Chances are even if you don’t have an account, you probably use someone else’s. The streaming service has become a huge giant in recent years. Being the biggest hitter in the “streaming wars” and spawning the phrase “Netflix and chill”. It’s hard to imagine life without Netflix.

As a celebration of how Netflix is always there for us, whether we’re hungover or going through a bad breakup. Here are 7 fun facts about the streaming giant you may not have known.

Netflix has been around since 1997

Netflix originally mailed out DVD's for rental
Netflix originally mailed out DVD’s for rental (Credit: CNN, 2019)

While many think the company started around the time the streaming service debuted, it actually started much earlier. Originally it was envisioned as a competitor to Blockbuster. It even sent out physical DVD’s of the show/film customers wanted to watch. The rental chain actually had the chance to purchase Netflix, but the CEO never even considered it. He probably regrets it now…

YouTube inspired it’s streaming

YouTube is another site that has exploded in popularity as streaming has become popular

While the idea of renting films without the hassle of posting a DVD was always on the company’s mind, thing’s could have been quite different. Because of internet speed and bandwidth back then, the idea was to have a “Netflix box” which would download the film overnight, having it ready for the next day. However, the rise of YouTube made them reconsider, and adopt a streaming method, instead of downloading.

Netflix has 10 of the best TV Shows

Stranger Things is one of Netflix's most popular original shows, both with critics and viewers.
Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s most popular original shows, both with critics and viewers (Netflix, 2017)

Netflix has quickly become known for its original programming, as well it’s a massive library of licensed content. Since 2013, it has produced its own “Netflix Originals”, with 10 of these being rated on IMDb’s Top 250 TV list. The highest-rated of which is Narcos (Number 52 at 8.8) and Stranger Things (55 also at 8.8). Other Netflix Originals on the list includes Bojack Horseman, Daredevil and Mindhunter.

The “Netflix Effect” on Breaking Bad

Netflix not only helped make Breaking Bad one of the most popular shows ever, but also helped develop the sequel film.
Netflix not only helped make Breaking Bad one of the most popular shows ever, but also helped develop the sequel film. (Netflix, 2019)

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 2010 Breaking Bad wasn’t the influence it is now and was almost cancelled after the third season. Netflix needed a big hit for it’s streaming service and Breaking Bad needed more viewers. Luckily it worked for everyone, as the show was introduced to a whole new audience just in time for its fourth season. This partnership is still ongoing, with the sequel El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie premiering on the site, as well as new episodes of spin-off Better Call Saul.

They’re an International Distributor

While Annihilation got a theatrical release in the US, in many countries, like the UK it was released on Netflix.
While Annihilation got a theatrical release in the US, in many countries, like the UK it was released on Netflix (Netflix, 2018)

On top of their Netflix Originals, and library of licensed content, they also distribute some new releases internationally. In 2018, they premiered The Cloverfield Paradox after a surprise reveal at the Super Bowl. They have also dealt with international distribution for films such as Alex Garland’s Annihilation and Andy SerkisMowgli: Legend of the Jungle“.

It’s one of the most visited websites

Many Netflix accounts have multiple users (Netflix)

The exact ranking’s vary day to day, but Netflix is one of the most visited websites on the whole internet. At the time of writing, it is currently ranked at number 21. In 2019, there was reportedly 158.8 million viewers in the US alone, this figure is expected to grow to 2023 177.5 million. That’s over 18 million more viewers in 4 years!

It’s won eight Oscars

Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was nominated for 10 Oscars (Netflix, 2019)

Since 2014, Netflix has been nominated 54 times over various categories. Their films have in total been nominated in 21 of the 24 categories, and have won in the Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron), Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern). Several of their documentaries have also won Oscars.

Also Read: The Netflix Problem

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Reviews

Retro Review: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

September 18, 2019
Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner has proved eerily predictive of many things for its 2019 setting. OK, there are no flying cars or high functioning androids. But the images of smog-choked streets, ruled by mega-corporations and a workforce that is treated as subhuman because of their origins feel very relevant today. And there was, of course, the unfortunate passing of actor Rutger Hauer. Who died in the same year that his character Roy Batty did.

With the first film making a monumental impact on popular culture, and it’s increasing relevance based on unfortunate happenstance I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the long-awaited sequel to blade runner. Which picked up the story 30 years later and took 35 years to be released.

It’s always difficult making a sequel to critically acclaimed films, especially when they are released so long after the original. But during its release, Blade Runner 2049 was called one of the best sequels ever made. Perhaps even better than the original. But two years on does the sequel still stand as sturdily as its predecessor?

Synopsis

In 2049 old replicants (human-like androids used for manual labour) are being hunted down and killed by newer models. However, when K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant employed by the police to retire other replicants, discovers that a replicant was able to produce a child he begins to tug on the threads of the mystery. Eventually leading to him to the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his nefarious forces. And into the path of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

What did I like?

Firstly, Blade Runner 2049 continues the originals trend for stunning visuals. Everything about this movie looks amazing. Whether it’s the set design that perfectly blends the futuristic, the modern and the mythical into a unique world that feels thematically appropriate for the characters and story or the beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography from Roger Deakins. Which makes every frame look like a piece of art. Or the special effects that never once look fake or out of place. Everything in this world feels authentic and organic, doing a lot to tell the story without dialogue.

The cast is also fantastic. Everyone does a great job inhabiting their roles. Making their characters feel like characters and not merely actors reciting lines to you. The standouts are Ryan Gosling, who does a great job inhabiting the stoic replicant K and Harrison Ford who reprises his iconic role as Rick Deckard; even with his comparatively limited screen time, Ford still manages to steal the show.

And like the first film, 2049 also concentrates on both weighty philosophical questions about identity, technology and corporate greed that feel truly relevant to today’s world. But it also incorporates spectacular action sequences. Which makes for a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch. There are some very interesting set pieces and concepts peppered throughout this film which will give you much to think about and remember long after the ending credits. Including, holographic AI and the question of their sentience. Underground replicant resistances and a tense fight scene taking place in a glitching hologram nightclub.

In fact, as its own standalone film, 2049 works quite well. Creating a fully functioning world with some good performance and great philosophical ambitions. While never forgetting to be an entertaining movie.

What did I not like?

However, as a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), 2049 really falls short. With the main problems being the story, pacing and characters.

2049’s story is unfortunately bogged down by lots of exposition. With several characters frequently explaining the plot to each other, something noticeably minimal in the original Blade Runner. And it never fails to draw the viewer out of the experience because of how obvious it is. The story is also rather lightweight because of the lack of significant consequences. For example, we are told that replicant reproduction will break the world. But aside from one scene with the replicant resistance, nothing in the film’s world indicates that our characters actions are having any impact. Lessening the tension of the film’s story.

There are also plot elements that feel extraneous e.g. K’s hologram girlfriend who can almost pass for being human. An interesting concept, but it serves no narrative purpose aside from illustrating that no one is special. Something which is already dealt with when K learns his true origins. This concept feels like padding. Which makes the narrative feel unfocused and causes the pacing to drag significantly.

Lastly, 2049 suffers from bland characterisation. K is a boring lead. He’s stoic and by-the-books, lacking the edge that made Deckard a compelling protagonist. The occasions when he emotionally conflicts with himself are too few and far between to make him engaging. And because he’s a virtually invulnerable replicant, the movie lacks any sort of tension on a character level. But the worst offender of flat characterisation are the villains. Niander Wallace is a typical capitalist with a god complex and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is your typical hard staring badass. Compared to Blade Runner’s replicants who had relatable goals, wanting more time to live their lives, these villains just come across as dull.

Verdict

Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. The set design, cinematography and special effects are all fantastic. Nothing feels out of place in the world they’ve created, and it makes for very stimulating viewing. Everyone in the cast gives a good performance with Ryan Gosling really fitting the part of K and Harrison Ford doing particular justice to his iconic role from the original blade runner. And the blend of action and interesting concepts will definitely keep you entertained.

The problems come when you begin viewing the film as a sequel to blade runner. When faced with the memorable characters, cinematic storytelling and overall cohesiveness of the original, Blade Runner 2049 really feels like an unfocussed pale imitation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Blade Runner 2049 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

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Reviews

Review: The Great Hack

August 10, 2019
The Great Hack Poster

The idea of everyone being connected by the internet once had positive connotations. The films that showed the supposed dangers of the digital world like The Matrix seemed so preposterous. But in a post-Edward Snowden and Wikileaks world, the dangers of the internet are now all too real.

There have been several documentaries in recent years about the acquisition of private information online and today we are going to be looking at Netflix’s newest offering to this particular subject, The Great Hack.

Synopsis

Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of several world-altering campaigns in the last few years. Leave.EU in the UK Brexit debate and the Donald Trump Presidential campaign in the USA. But while they had a huge impact on these campaigns, their methods were far more nefarious. Analytica harvested personal information from thousands of Facebook users, without their consent, and then used this to create targeted marketing.

The film follows several people involved in the unravelling of the CA scandal. Including David Carroll, who sued CA to get back the data CA had on him. Former CA employees such as Brittany Kaiser who have decided to blow the whistle on the company. And journalist Carol Cadwalladr.

What did I like?

There are two things that The Great Hack does very well. The first is the way it uses graphics and montages. Throughout the film, graphics are used to impart/illustrate information quickly in a way that doesn’t intrude on the action. And along with graphics the film also uses montages of websites and news stories to give a sense of mood. The montage of various targeted Facebook adverts showing how CA was able to manipulate how people see the world and the use of small square particles to indicate the passage of online info, effectively illustrates how much of our personal daily life is part of and reliant on the internet. Making the points made about CA more threatening.

The second positive is the presentation of the emotional arc of one of the principal participants, Brittany Kaiser. Kaiser, once a key player inside Cambridge Analytica, later came forward with information about how CA conducted their operations. The presentation of her arc from an idealist working on the Obama campaign to being part of the unethical practices of CA is fascinating. Because her motivations are so human. She switched sides in political marketing because she needed money to support herself, which the Obama campaign apparently would not give her. She enjoyed working with who she worked with, so she didn’t see all the negative implications that we can see as outsiders. But she admits her flaws and in the end, stands up for everyone’s right to privacy. Honestly, the film owes much of its success to Kaiser’s inclusion.

However, this leads me into The Great Hack’s problems.

What did I not like?

The Great Hacks first major problem is its pacing. The films key arguments: The dangers of companies using personal information to target you with marketing on social media; Our overreliance on the internet & What CA was up to and how it impacted the world. Are all covered within the first hour. The film then spends another hour repeating the same points. And it begins to get frustrating. This wouldn’t be so bad if the film employed new ways to engage us. But the camerawork is standard, the music is unengaging and the visual flourishes are too infrequent.

Secondly, because the documentary focuses on peoples journeys with CA, it’s critical to get the audience on side with the participants. But Kaiser is the only participant who manages to engage with the audience because she acts like a normal person. Carol Cadwalladr isn’t given enough screentime for us to care about her involvement. And David Carroll, who blatantly tells the audience, that companies having access to private information without consent is bad as if we didn’t already know, projects a very condescending attitude. Which is nothing but off-putting. Not helped when he consistently takes jabs at Kaiser.

There is also a problem with some points being over and underexplained. It expects you to already subscribe to the belief that Trump and Brexit were a bad idea, without giving any contextual information. But they spend an inordinate amount of time talking how information is gathered online and the dangers it poses to privacy. Something that is common knowledge by this point.

Finally, The Great Hack appears to argue that the Trump and Brexit campaigns were wholly won by targeted social media. Ignoring the larger issues of social division and the growing disillusionment with so-called experts and politicians. Electing to solely focus on technology as the purveyor of misfortune. Which seems a little reductive of a complicated issue.

Verdict

Overall while The Great Hack does have some minor visual flair and one incredibly well-told arc, it’s not enough to carry the film. Perhaps as an hour-long TV special it would have faired better. The stripped-down, just the facts version of the story would have been at least novel as a piece of unfolding news.

But as a film, The Great Hack is severely sloppy as it drags its points out and operates from a condescending and in some ways reductive viewpoint, that ultimately will leave most viewers either cold or frustrated.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Also Read: Five Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

Editorials

Five Sci-Fi Films To Watch Right Now On Netflix

April 15, 2019

Netflix has hundreds of films from blockbusters to indie gems to cult classics and it has no shortage of great science-fiction.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (comicbook.com)

The Plot – The film follows Jyn Erso a woman who has been on the run from the Empire since her childhood because her father is the man who designed the Death Star. Forced by the Rebel Alliance into a mission to extract her father from the Empire’s clutches and so disrupt their plans, Jyn becomes more and more involved in the civil war that is only just beginning.

Why It’s Great – In my opinion this has been the best of the new crop of Star Wars films. A self-contained story (more or less) that fixed perhaps the biggest plot-hole in all of Star Wars – namely, who builds a priceless weapon of mass destruction with such an easy Achilles’ Heel. The cast is sensational with Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as great leads, Ben Mendelsohn doing his Evil Scumbag routine in space and with great actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker taking on small roles.

Verdict – A wonderful addition to the Star Wars Saga.

Inception (2010)

Inception (hit.com)

The Plot – Leonardo Di Caprio plays Cobb, a very special kind of criminal who enters peoples’ dreams to steal information. Challenged to the seemingly impossible act of “inception” – implanting a new idea in a dream that the dreamer will believe to be their own Cobb puts together a crack team to accomplish his goal.

Why It’s Great – Christopher Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Or at least he hasn’t yet. Inception was the first film Nolan directed after Nolan makes blockbusters like no one else, making them as intelligent and original as they are a spectacle. There is a lot of the “one last job for a criminal” motif going on but that is just a great jumping off point. The special effects are truly stunning with the city landscape being twisted and folded as the high point and even if the writing and acting were terrible – which they aren’t – it would be worth watching for the effects alone. As frustrating as the ambiguous ending might be, I like a film that is brave enough not to give you all the answers.

Verdict – A dazzling and smart sci-fi blockbuster.

The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End (kino&co)

The Plot – Gary King wants to reassemble his school friends to complete the “Golden Mile” a pub crawl along twelve pubs in their home town. Sadly for Gary much has changed since school, the group is estranged and he is no longer – if he ever really was – their leader. As the friends reunite and start their pub crawl things in the town become increasingly odd leading to a sensational fight in a pub toilet that reveals what is going on in the town.

Why It’s Great – All of the Cornetto Trilogy are more than what a simple category can describe – all of them are excellent examples of their genre but excel in being films about people. The World’s End is a film about aliens slowly taking over the planet but it’s also about friendship, betrayal, dealing with disappointment in life, youth (and losing your youth), what is life about and more. I would say this is my least favourite of the trilogy but that still could put it in my top twenty films of all time. It has another feature of the Cornetto Trilogy in combining huge, over the top scenarios, in small unlikely places. Few films pack the emotional punch of The World’s End let alone comparing it to other sci-fi comedies.

Verdict – A triumphant end to the Cornetto Trilogy.

Back To The Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Back To The Future (npr.org)

The Plot – After accidentally travelling backwards in time teenager Marty McFly interrupts the meet-cute between his parents and thus will never be born. Recruiting the younger version of the scientist who sent him back in time, Doc, Marty seeks to set the timeline right and save himself. In Part 2 Marty and Doc travel to the future to avert a disaster for Marty’s son only to make things much worse everyone – well, nearly everyone. And Part 3…well Part 3 is set in the Old West for some reason ( just go with it, it’s fun).

Why It’s Great – I suppose it’s cheating to put a whole trilogy into one slot but it’s surely a crime to break up these wonderful films when they make such a satisfying collection. It’s hard to overstate the impact these films had on science-fiction and pop culture in general. For many these are the films that made time-travel (and all the paradoxes, dangers and opportunities that come with it) vaguely possible to understand, partly through literally drawing it on a blackboard in Part 2.

Verdict – If for any reason you have not seen these films prepare to watch three of the most enjoyable films ever made.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (midwestfilmjournal.com)

The Plot – Lena’s soldier husband returns mysteriously to their home but something is very wrong with him and it isn’t long before the government swoops in and takes control of the situation. It turns out her husband was sent on a secret mission into The Shimmer – a mysterious area of land where normal rules do not apply and her husband is the only person to return from numerous missions. Lena, a scientist and former soldier joins the next team determined to find out what happened.

Why It’s Great – While it does feel somewhat fitting to include a Netflix original film on this list doesn’t mean Annihilation doesn’t got a free pass – it’s a great sci-fi film, and in a way that few sci-fi films are. It has gunfights and monsters and all those things going on it has also has unusual ideas that make you think about the world and the universe. Science-fiction gets a lot of criticism but to me it’s always been the genre of big ideas – whether that’s time travel or space flight or what it means to be human. Written and directed by filmmaking genius Alex Garland and adapted from the successful Southern Reach book trilogy this film comes with exemplary sci-fi credentials.

Verdict – Bizarre mind-bending sci-fi epic.

News

2019 Video Streaming Survey

April 8, 2019

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