Netflix’s assault on cinema has really picked up recently. Their Netflix Original films are often full of well known actors made by well known directors. Whatever you may think of seeing films at the cinema (and this option being taken from you with these) the most important thing is are they actually any good? Personally, I don’t think they’re doing too well thus far.
Special Correspondents. I watched this last year, and was very disappointed that Ricky Gervais – with, basically, full creative control – would churn should a poor film out. There are a couple of funny moments and it’s a decent idea, but it seems like Gervais just wasn’t trying. I get the impression that it was just made for the sake of it. It was disappointing whoever the filmmaker, but particularly from the co-writer of The Office.
Tallulah. Three impressive lead performances from Ellen Page, Alison Janney and Tammy Blanchard cannot quite save this film from a somewhat boring and all over the place concept that packs in plenty of cliché for good measure.
The Fundamentals of Caring. I don’t think that the overdone concept was necessarily a barrier to this being a good film but I suppose it meant it was going to be an uphill battle from the start. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts work hard and play off each other nicely, but despite some genuine humour and attempts at addressing some serious issues, it never really got going and never threatened to be memorable.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore. Macon Blair, usually an actor, makes his directional debut here (as well as writing it). Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood are really great and there are some excellent moments, but it didn’t quite stick together as a film. This certainly is not bad, one of the better ones within this list, but it was slightly messy and underwhelming. It felt as if a good concept wasn’t quite thought out fully before being filmed.
The Discovery. Two years after the afterlife is scientifically proven (by Robert Redford) a man and a woman (Jason Segel and Rooney Mara) find themselves wrapped up in Redford furthering this research. It really does begin well – the first scene is particularly impressive and it goes along pretty nicely for a while after that. However, it begins to descend into what eventually proves to be nonsense and, more disappointingly, a wasted concept.
War Machine. Brad Pitt is the lead in this and is great, if only for the way in which he jogs, and this is a good film. It is also a bit of a mess. It is full of great ideas and great moments and laugh out loud lines. It seems overlong, though, and meanders somewhat. It definitely felt as if it could have done with a couple of months more work on the screenplay before they starting to shoot it.
Okja. Good reviews preceded me viewing this; and with the director being the excellent Joon-ha Bong (co-writing with – pretty randomly – Jon Ronson) along with a cast that includes Tilda Swinton (twice), Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal, I basically settled down expecting a winner. And I didn’t get it. It started off ok and there were a lot of great ingredients story-wise. It eventually just gave me the impression of being made up as it went along, though. Messages were confused, especially around animal rights – the Animal Liberation Front, fronted by Dano, for instance, seem to be shown as the good guys; however, I didn’t understand the eventual use of violence from an organisation that was set up as pacifistic. Originally, the lead seemed to be Seo-Hyun Ahn, and she was presumably meant to be throughout, but she and her story felt like it got lost amid the bigger stars too often. The film’s attempts at humour and silliness and over-the-topness were mostly misguided and it was just all over the place narrative-wise