Netflix Original Movie Catchup: The Dig and Finding Ohana (2021)

An archaeologist embarks on the historically important excavation of Sutton Hoo in 1938.

The Dig is pretty great, I really did not know much about the movie before watching! It’s a straightforward movie that’s about an important excavation, the acting all around was very solid Carey Mulligan being the standout who really shows her talent here and does a pretty great job. The cinematography combined with the setting of the film gives it a beautiful look and captures the feeling of going out on a important excavation, the direction from Simon Stone is also quite great. Stone captures quite a lot in each scene and manages to make them unique in their own way, I do feel the pacing does drag towards the final act and could have been 10 minutes shorter. But that doesn’t take away how beautiful and quite great The Dig is! A very solid Netflix Original and I can’t wait to see what Simon Stone does next!!

7/10 B

A summer in rural O‘ahu takes an exciting turn for two Brooklyn-raised siblings when a journal pointing to long-lost treasure sets them on an epic adventure with new friends, and leads them to reconnect with their Hawaiian heritage.

I don’t quite understand why Finding Ohana was 123 minutes long but oh well, the movie itself is a very serviceable family movie. It feels a lot like The Goonies, ET and a few others, the acting is decent enough that gets the job done for the most part. The problem is the jokes, the pacing and the writing, the jokes very rarely hit a lot of it is the type of humor that just isn’t funny. The pacing really becomes a problem towards the middle of the film, it comes to a full stop and feels like it goes on and on. The writing is just not good, tons of cliche characters, way too predictable and feels like a chore to sit through. Which is a shame because somewhere in this movie there is a decent family movie but it’s crowded by way too many flaws that ultimately make this movie a clone of other family movies. It’s nothing particularly bad but it’s one of those Netflix originals that will be quickly forgotten about.

5/10 C

Alex Wheatle (2020)

Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJ’ing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.

Alex Wheatle is the fourth of the five part series of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe Series…and it’s hands down the weakest. The story itself is interesting and it’s based off of a true story, the problem is the movie itself really isn’t as powerful as the other movies in the series. The acting from Sheyi Cole is really strong and everyone else in the film does a fantastic job as well. Which ultimately does help Alex Wheatle stand, one of the major issues is the fact the film is way too short. It has a runtime of 66 minutes which is barely enough time to really do anything really special, especially if you are going for a topic like the true story of Alex Wheatle. Lovers Rock got away with using s small runtime of 70 minutes mostly do to it’s story being more expansive, it wasn’t about a particular person. So it could really expand on anything it wanted, plus a shorter runtime definitely helped that movie out. Here the shorter runtime just doesn’t work for Alex Wheatle, while yes it is a very decent movie that I still recommend watching it is just nowhere near as good as the previous three movies in the series.

6/10 C+

Mank (2020)

1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane.

Mank truly is a time capsule of 1930s Hollywood, while yes it is about Citizen Kane it also focuses on some of the politics and basically how 1930s Hollywood was. Mank is something completely different from any of David Fincher’s previous work, you get that sense from the very beginning. The movie is absolutely beautiful from the filming, to the black and white it’s all there. It blends so well together to make the film represent a 1930s film heck the sound of the characters talking matches very well, it’s the little things that really help this movie become stronger as it progresses. Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins are the standouts (at least for me) they all did an incredible in their roles especially Seyfried. They really matched who they were playing and dived deep into their roles. The direction is absolutely incredible, as I said earlier it’s a lot different from Fincher’s other films so this was sort of a risk but I feel Fincher nailed it. The best way to describe Mank is that matched a 1930s film really well, from the incredible amount of detail and stacking up the little things it’s quite the accomplishment. It’s a huge lover letter to old Hollywood and succeeds at doing that! Mank is definitely not going to be for everyone which is completely understandable, but this is definitely one I highly recommend checking out!

9/10 A

Ammonite (2020)

1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.

Remember when I said Peninsula was the most disappointing film of the year? Well I think Ammonite has topped that, it’s very unfortunate but this movie feels like a huge missed opportunity. Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are both great in their roles and do what they can with a script that really does not give them much to work with. The movie looks great meaning the filming, the setting all work really well and compliment each other well. The major problem is the movie doesn’t make you feel anything towards the characters, the emotions are just not there, the rawness is just not there a lot of it is missing. It’s very unfortunate because there are a few moments that do seem genuine (the last couple minutes have a very strong scene) the relationship between Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan just doesn’t feel raw, it feels way too forced and doesn’t come off as genuine. The writing really doesn’t help either sure there’s a few moments with some clever writing but a lot of it just feels very very basic and doesn’t dive deep into the main character’s relationship. There just really isn’t much to talk about here and that’s a shame, because Ammonite definitely had loads of potential. It’s by no means a bad movie, as I said there are plenty of good things about it. But it’s not a film that I will ever consider watching again and definitely not one that I’ll remember in the coming years.

6/10 C+

Stardust (2020)

Stardust will chronicle the young David Bowie’s first visit to the US in 1971 – a trip that inspired the invention of his iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Stardust is honestly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen and that is no exaggeration. First off it’s worth noting that David Bowie and his family didn’t allow this movie to use his music. When David Bowie sadly passed away, his family said NOT to release this movie. But they went ahead and did that anyway, what do I even say about this movie? The acting is dreadful there isn’t one scene that has a good performance. The writing feels like a first draft that wasn’t even completed, it’s a gigantic mess of a movie that truly feels like nobody gave a crap while making it. If you thought Bohemian Rhapsody was a bad Biopic of a famous singer Stardust makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like a masterpiece. The direction is horrid it really shows nobody had any idea what they were doing with this movie, luckily Stardust has seemed to fall into the cracks and got almost no attention after it’s release. Which I’m glad but my point is this should had never been released especially when the family of a person you are making a movie about flat out tells you “don’t release this movie” it’s a dreadful mess that I recommend avoiding at all costs.

Disgrace To Cinema F

A Call To Spy (2020)

In the beginning of WWII, with Britain becoming desperate, Churchill orders his new spy agency – SOE – to recruit and train women as spies.

A Call To Spy is about a fascinating World War II story that should have been told in film awhile ago at least now it has been told and it was a pretty good way of telling it. The cast does a really great job in their roles the standouts being Sarah Megan Thomas, Stans Katic and Radhika Apte all three really gave it their all in these roles and the results are impressive. The writing is really solid as well it feels very natural as it should, I say this because a lot of World War II movies as of late have not had very natural writing which is a huge problem, because after all World War II actually happened. So it’s refreshing to see one have a natural feel to it after awhile, the only real main criticism I have with this movie is that I don’t think it needed to be 123 minutes long, at some points it does feel like the movie drags on a bit. But otherwise A Call To Spy is a very solid film, I really hope this is beginning of telling more World War II stories that are barely ever talked about. I recommend giving this one a go definitely one of the better releases (at the time this was written.)

7/10 B

The Glorias (2020)

The story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s itinerant childhood’s influence on her life as a writer, activist and organizer for women’s rights worldwide.

The Glorias is the type of film that I really wanted to like more than I did, unfortunately there is a lot holding this movie back from being brilliant. I’ll start with what really worked, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Bette Midler and Janelle Monae gave strong performances and are what makes this movie stand, I thought the second half of the film was very interesting and had a lot to say. There were some really strong scenes in particular that were quite powerful especially with the ending. As for what didn’t work…the biggest problem was how the movie was put together, so the premise is it shows different ages of Gloria Steinem the problem is it doesn’t do a really good job at it. The editing is just not that great and feels sloppy, combine that with a running time of 2 hours and 19 minutes and you have some problems. It really did not need to be 2 hours, some of it could have been cut and it would have not changed much. Overall I definitely respect what Julie Taymor was going for but it just didn’t really come together. It’s definitely not a bad movie and I do recommend checking it out for the cast alone. Just don’t expect anything incredible.

6/10 C+

Chemical Hearts, The Sleepover and Tesla (2020)

A high school transfer student finds a new passion when she begins to work on the school’s newspaper.

Chemical Hearts is another high school romance movie, sure it’s better than some of the other ones that have been coming out recently. But that is really not saying much at all, I will say the acting is not too bad Lili Reinhart isn’t too bad and everyone else does a fairly decent job. But everything else just ranges from bad to below average, it feels like the people who worked on this movie just copied off of every other high school romance movie and didn’t do anything to change it up at all. Chemical Hearts really does not have much to say at all, sure there’s a few good moments that are supposed to give the characters some development, but a lot of it is elements that you have already seen several times before. I really don’t know what else to say, if your a fan of high school romance movies you will probably like this…otherwise skip this one.

4/10 D+

When two siblings discover their seemingly normal mom is a former thief in witness protection who has been forced to pull one last job, they team up to rescue her over the course of an action-packed night.

It can’t be a coincidence that Scott Speer who directed Endless also directed Step Up 4, but then one week later The Sleepover comes out and that’s directed by Trish Sie director of Step Up All In! Anyway The Sleepover is terrible (surprising!) it’s your classic example of movies Netflix knew was awful so they did everything in their power to not advertise it at all, The Sleepover also has a trend I’ve been noticing a lot more and more with a lot of family “action” movies. It has barely any action in it, they throw on the action label hoping it will get clicks. Which is a very cheap tactic and not an honest one either. As for the movie itself it’s garbage, the acting is terrible, the writing is a complete trainwreck. Speaking of the writing the very first joke and line in this movie is a poop joke…that is pretty much a foreshadowing of how the rest of the movie will be, there’s tons more bathroom jokes as well. The “action” feels lazily put into the movie, no thought or care was put into it. It pretty much comes down to “oh kids love action let’s do the bare minimum and put a few action scenes into the movie!” Look I’m not expecting the next John Wick, but good god it feels forced. I really don’t know what else to say? The Sleepover feels like something The Disney Channel would put on if it were the 90s, except where as some of the Disney Channel movies had charm this movie doesn’t have that.

2/10 F

A freewheeling take on visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light.

Why does Ethan Hawks sing “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” in a movie about Nikola Tesla? I swear if someone asked me what is one of the most uninteresting and just downright terrible movies so far this year. I would say it’s Tesla, I mean sure in concept the movie sounds pretty okay a biopic about Nikola Tesla how could you possibly mess that up? Unfortunately the writers wanted something different and then came up with whatever this was, it’s actually really hard to explain because I still don’t know what they were trying to do. The only good thing I can give this movie is Ethan Hawks’s performance, he definitely tries his best in such a terribly written movie. I feel like the worst part about this whole movie is how it is just not interesting at the slightest, it quickly loses the viewer’s interest by not doing anything really. It’s biopic that honestly felt like it did not need to be made, sitting through this movie is like doing chores around the house. You don’t want to do them but if you want to be done you have to do it, just give this one a skip..

1/10 F

Shirley (2020)

A famous horror writer finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple.

This is definitely Elisabeth Moss’s year, first she gave one of the best performances so far this year in “Invisible Man” now she gives another one of the best performances of the year in this movie! Shirley is definitely one of the strangest films I’ve seen in quite awhile and I mean that in a very good way, Shirley kind of starts out as a biopic about well Shirley Jackson a famous horror writer, but then a lot happens (which I won’t say) and turns into this dreamlike horror of a fairytale. It’s quite fascinating Josephine Decker’s (Madeline’s Madeline) direction really sells this movie, it feels like a fantasy that comes to life, combined with the cinematography and the hypnotic feel of the movie you get yourself a fantastic movie that you would not expect at all. The pacing is just right it’s very balanced and moves at it’s own pace which is something I like to see! I don’t want to say too much more because this is a movie that you really should see for yourself (plus I don’t want to spoil it at all!) overall Shirley is one of my favorite films of 2020, it’s a very well crafted movie that I recommend!!

10/10 A+

Sometimes Always Never, To The Stars, True History Of The Kelly Gang and Greed (2020)

A man searches tirelessly for his missing son who he has not seen in years. When a body is located, the entire family’s life is turned upside-down and they must all learn how to reconnect with one another. This is an interesting one, I watched this several days ago it was hard for me to decide what rating I wanted to give this movie. But after thinking about it the movie has some really solid stuff in it. First off the cinematography is top notch, there are some really beautiful shots that were just wonderful to look at, the acting is quite great everyone does a pretty solid job in their roles. The writing could have been a bit stronger, plus I’m not going to lie this movie at times does come off as a Wes Andreson rip-off. Luckily it’s not to the point where it’s directly stealing, the movie does come up with it’s own ideas and combines the two so it has that going for it. It’s also a very relaxing movie to watch that I would most certainly watch again. I recommend giving this a go!

7/10 B

Under small town scrutiny, a withdrawn farmer’s daughter forges an intimate friendship with a worldly but reckless new girl in 1960s Oklahoma.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this one, mostly because a huge portion of the movie just did not do anything for me. I will say the first act of the movie was pretty strong and I liked where the movie was goin, but then it just kind of does a complete turn around in a not very good way. The performances were strong, the writing was solid but could have used another look, I do appreciate what this film was trying to do I just think it didn’t do it very well.

6/10 C+

Based on Peter Carey’s novel. The story of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s.

Justin Kurzel redeems himself with this movie and I couldn’t be happier, he directed Snowtown, Macbeth (Which I love) and the abomination Assassin’s Creed. True History Of The Kelly Gang is very raw and quite powerful, it really does not shy away from violence which is good to see especially knowing the topic of the film. It’s very well directed and has a lot of emotion put into it, the movie hits really hard when comes to the writing. It’s very well written with some very dark scenes that truly hit it out of the park, the running time of 2 hours and 4 minutes may seem like a problem at first but trust me when I say that it really is not a problem. It’s one of those movies where you really don’t feel the running time at all. It’s a very engaging movie that drags you into it due to just how interesting it is! This is one I highly recommend!!

8/10 B+

Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie, whose retail empire is in crisis. For 30 years he has ruled the world of retail fashion, bringing the high street to the catwalk and the catwalk to the high street. But after a damaging public inquiry, his image is tarnished. To save his reputation, he decides to bounce back with a highly publicised and extravagant party celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos.

I mean I’ll give the movie this….it’s not as bad as I thought it would be? That still doesn’t make it necessarily “good” I put good in quotation marks because I truly don’t know how I feel about this movie. It feels like the type of movie that wants to tackle a bunch of issues but the stuff it says about said issues everyone and their grandmother already knows. The humor isn’t all that funny, I remember laughing about maybe two times when I watched it. A lot of it heavily relies on dropping names of celebrities, movies and more. Then there’s the movie’s own humor which really doesn’t stick, as far as acting…I guess it’s okay? Nobody really did a terrible job there was just nothing really noteworthy to mention, I really don’t know this movie just kind of exists. It’s not hurting anyone it just happens to be there and that’s all there is to it. If it sounds interesting to you by all means give it a shot but I wouldn’t recommend it.

5/10 C