Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

A-one, a-two, a-you know what to do!

I admit that I know next to nothing about the blues.  I’ve listened to the blues performed live several times, in Chicago and New Orleans, but as a musical genre, I’m completely ignorant of its history and context.  Country music would be a close second.  (My mother decided country music was her thing in the seventies and eighties, so I have an unconscious awareness of its tropes and stylings.)

With this in mind, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie I can really appreciate for giving me some much needed schooling on the blues.  Not that the movie is a history lesson or documentary.  Ma Rainey is based on an August Wilson play of the same name.  Like the play, the movie is a work of fiction where the lead character is based on an actual person.  Born Gertrude Pridgett in 1886, she started out as a performer in black minstrel shows, then vaudeville.  In 1914, when she was roughly 28, she began performing as a blues singer, touring the south extensively.

Continue reading

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

What exactly is “The Queen’s Gambit”?  According to Wikipedia, it is a chess opening by the white player.  This opening is mentioned once or twice in the series, and pieces are moved on the board accordingly. Since I’ve never played chess, I couldn’t explain to you what the strategy actually involves if my life depended on it, however.  Nevertheless, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about The Queen’s Gambit: the acting, the direction, the characters, the story, the fashion and music, all of it.  This has been one of the best, if not the best series I’ve watched all year.  I highly recommend it, regardless of your understanding of chess.

Continue reading

Mank (Netflix)

While I’m no film school nerd, I have watched Citizen Kane several times over the past twenty-five years, and have read several articles on the making of the movie over that time as well.  I’ve also been watching David Fincher’s films since the early nineties.  And while some (Se7en, Zodiac, The Social Network) are better than others (Alien 3, Panic Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), his movies always warrant at least one viewing.  When I read about Mank, I thought the movie could be a great one.  Fincher is one of the best directors of his generation, and he’s making a movie about the making of one of my favorite movies.  The resulting movie is not among Fincher’s greatest, placing solidly at the top of the middle-tier films he’s made.

Continue reading

Rebecca (Netflix)

Rebecca is a curious movie.  It has all of the ingredients that should make it far more enjoyable than it ends up being.  The leading roles are played by Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and Lily James (Cinderella), both young, attractive and capable actors.  Supporting actors include Ann Dowd (The Leftovers, Hereditary) and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).  The production design and camera work are aces.  The movie is based on the same material that brought Hitchcock his only Best Picture Oscar (back in 1940).  For varying reasons, the ingredients don’t come together, resulting in a middling viewing experience.

Continue reading

The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)

The Haunting of Hill House, released on Netflix in 2018, was regarded as both a commercial and critical success.  The series was a retelling of the novel by Shirley Jackson published in 1959.  While two movies based on the novel have been released (the 1963 being far superior to the 1999 version), the Netflix series felt fresh due to a new take on the material, one which retained the scary elements at its core, but moved the story to a modern setting and tweaked the plot in ways that defied expectations.

Continue reading

Hubie Halloween (Netflix)

A friend of mine who reads my reviews said he couldn’t wait to read my review of Hubie Halloween.  Given that I am not a fan of Adam Sandler in any way, and have not watched any of his movies from beginning to end–or for more than a few minutes at a time, to be honest, reviewing his latest offering on Netflix would be an interesting challenge.  Even though I am not a film critic who gets paid for their work, and must see and critique films that they would gladly miss, I felt it was my duty to honor this request from my small, yet devoted audience.

Continue reading

American Murder: The Family Next Door (Netflix)

American Murder: The Family Next Door, was released on September 30.  Certainly Netflix could have waited to release it one day later, so it could appear alongside other movies and television programs typically scheduled for October.  Maybe they made the decision out of respect for the families involved.  Maybe the algorithm that Netflix utilizes to determine when to release its content decided on the last day of September for reasons only it knows deep down in its code.  We will probably never know why Netflix releases its content on particular days, but American Murder definitely could have been released during the month Halloween, alongside other horror films.  Because while American Murder is many things, in the end it is a horror story.

Continue reading

Enola Holmes (Netflix)

I admit that I am not an avid follower of Sherlock Holmes.  While I have seen From Hell and both of the Robert Downey Jr. movies, I’ve only watched a few episodes of PBS’s Sherlock.  I have not watched any episodes of Elementary.  Even with my limited exposure to the character, I understand him well enough to be able to follow along with the plot of Enola Holmes.

Continue reading