Well, another Netflix November has come and gone – and I’ve saved over $300 the last few years by only buying the subscription for one month instead of twelve. Feel free to credit me for the life-hack. But enough about money, let’s talk about the
digital drugs online content that I watched this month, ranked from least to most entertaining.
The King – starring Timothée Hal Chalamet as Hal (that’s actually his character’s name)
This King Henry V biopic-melodrama is, apparently, not accurate or faithful to any of the plays or historical accounts in any sense. It’s essentially a showcase for Timothée Chalamet to be broody in a period drama while talking in an odd accent. The unnecessary shirtless scene just confirmed this theory. Also, there are almost no women featured. Unless you’re a die-hard Chalamet fan, avoid this one.
Enola Holmes – starring Millie Bobby Brown
Similarly, this film is an eye-rolling showcase for a talented actress who deserved better material: Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from Stranger Things). She puts her heart and charisma into a role that feels like a glorified Dora the Explorer for adults, with some of the most ham-fisted social commentary I’ve seen in a mainstream movie. If you’re a fan of hers, you won’t be disappointed, but all others need not apply.
Spiderhead – starring Chris Hemsworth
Once again: talented lead + mediocre script = cringe experience. I promise it’s the last one of these though. Chris Hemsworth is phenomenal as the devious warden of a prison where they test drugs on prisoners. And he plays the role with a perfectly disconcerting blend of charm and psychpathy. Unfortunately, nothing else about the film is memorable or interesting (except the name of the most sinister drug, Darkenfloxx, which made me chuckle every time they said it).
And now on to the good content.
Malcolm & Marie – starring Zendaya and John David Washington
This small-scale gem from Sam Levinson (Euphoria) seemed reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s an intimate black-and-white drama that takes place in a single house, was filmed over a short time-span, and used cast and crew members that the director had worked with before. Zendaya and John David Washington are the only characters, so it’s a great showcase for their talents – and unlike the previous films on this list, they’re given good material to work with. It was a low-key departure from Levinson’s previous work, but definitely one worth seeing.
Is That Black Enough for You?!? – written, directed, and narrated by Elvis Mitchell
With interviews from Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, and a host of others, Is That Black Enough for You?!? is a solid documentary about the renaissance of black movies in the 1970s. It’s very dense and thoroughly researched, and it’s refreshingly by-the-numbers: no gimmicks or anything avant-garde, just a straightforward, eye-opening, expert study about a fascinating slice of black culture. Fun fact (one of many): apparently, Melvin Van Peebles pioneered the practice of using the movie’s soundtrack to promote the movie itself. So that’s pretty awesome.
Concrete Cowboy – starring Caleb McLaughlin and Idris Elba
This is another film that doubles as a showcase for one of the Stranger Things kids – Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas. But unlike Enola Holmes, the rest of the film is actually good. It’s a coming-of-age story inspired by a real-life subculture of black urban cowboys. Which is a refreshingly original take on the Western that I hadn’t seen done before. And while it hits a lot of predictable plot beats with the father/son dynamic, it’s well-made, rhythmically paced, and features fantastic performances from Elba and McLaughlin.
The F**k-It List – starring
Christopher Collet Eli Brown
As one reviewer put it: What a crock of s**t. It’s about a smart, perfect, straight-laced teen who doesn’t get into Harvard (although he gets into seven other Ivy League schools). But then, he takes part in a school prank, gets caught, and suddenly his future is ruined. So, he says ‘f**k it’ to our broken education system, goes viral with his nihilistic and impulsive mantra, then ironically gets into Harvard because he’s an ‘iconoclast’. Oh, and he likes a girl who claims that he wouldn’t understand all of her ‘baggage’. And that’s just the tip of the cliche iceberg. It’s ludicrous, shallow, generic, and absurd. It features numerous gratuitous shots of the protagonist’s bare chest. It has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the pinnacle of Netflix teen trash. And I loved every f**king second of it.
And finally, the only TV show I watched, but without question the best thing on this list:
Better Call Saul
If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad – don’t worry. Better Call Saul stands well enough on its own, and personally, I prefer it to Breaking Bad. There’s less emphasis on the drug trade, more on the white-collar side of crime. And while Bob Odenkirk is pitch-perfect as Saul (no surprise there), the rest of the cast is stellar. Rhea Seehorn in particular is iconic as Kim Wexler, one of the most assured, complex, tragic, empowered female characters I’ve seen since Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood. Not to mention that it’s far more cinematic than most movies, let alone most TV shows – especially during the black-and-white flash forward scenes that open each season. It’s unironically the sort of show that’ll be on top 10 lists fifty years from now. And like everyone else who’s watched it, I can’t recommend it enough.