New In Netflix: Monsters and Pyschopaths

The following reviews the latest in what Netflix has to offer, helping to narrow down your choices for your next study break or date night.

 

It’s The End of the F**king World As She Knows It

Netflix’s newest TV show, ‘The End of the F**king World,’ builds characters you just don’t want to leave.

James and Alyssa are your typical 17 year olds, at least until they decide to embark one what can be only described as a Bonnie and Clyde style adventure.

Switching from several points of view, this common coming of age story is placed above the rest. Enriched by the multiple characters this show switches from, James, the male lead, to Alyssa, the female lead, to the two police that are pursuing them, this story is rich and dynamic.

Set in England, this dramadey leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next. Even though we learn that James believes he’s a psychopath from a young age during the first minute of the show, his complex emotional range, portrayed compellingly by “Black Mirror’s” Alex Lawther, leaves the audience constantly questioning his motives.

Serving as a surrogate for most of the audience, Alyssa, played by Jessica Barden (“The Lobster,” “Hanna”) helps bridge the gap of James’s emotional unavailability. That being said she isn’t without her own fair share of problems. The product of divorce, Alyssa is consistently ignored by her parents, and must reconcile her own self-destructive urges with her need to be loved.

Between Alyssa’s family problems, James’s psychopathic tendencies, James’s relationship with his own father, and their being teenagers, their escape was inevitable by the time that they met.

While the coming of age style narrative is nothing new, watching the growth of the characters, especially given the specificity of their characterization, and the honesty with which their teenage years are described, is captivating. Showing the childish mistakes, from inside the very heads that make them, and following their specific rationalization of those mistakes, allows for this honesty in storytelling. They had no clear end game, just to keep moving indefinitely– something a child would think.

That being said, the characterization of the supporting characters within the show left something to be desired. This is the case with the two police officers assigned to track Alyssa and James down, Detective Constable Teri Dengo (Wunmi Mosaku) and Detective Constable Eunice Noon (Gemma Whelen). Although there was a start to an interesting and strained relationship between the two, the show lacked the depth necessary to explain that relationship. Being seen in their differences within the treatment of the case, with Noon becoming overly invested with the wellbeing of the two leads, and with an unspoken event that occurred outside of the show’s narrative arc, there was very definitely something the show could have latched on too.

This leads to the major critique of the show– its unfinished nature. I felt unfinished watching. Beyond the character development of the leads, little else is developed. Riddled with loose ends this show is begging for a second season, even with its explosive ending.

All in all, I highly recommend this show to someone who is looking for a dramedy that twists and turns just like the indecisive mind of a teen would. Nothing’s set in stone when you’re 17.

 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

‘The Cloverfield Paradox,’ Netflix’s newst orginial movie, will be remembered for the story of its release only.

Amidst the football game on Sunday night, a quick teaser was dropped for the upcoming “Cloverfield” installment that (to audience’s dismay) was released directly after the game.  In the past, the franchise has delivered top notch science fiction storytelling with a toolkit of marketing techniques that advance the narrative quality and advertise the movie. Prior to the trailer dropping, there were rumblings that Paramount Studios had sold their rights to “The Cloverfield Paradox” to Netflix, but nothing was ever officially confirmed. The strategy of releasing a trailer just hours before dropping the film itself is an unprecedented tactic within the film industry and was a driving force behind my enjoyment of the film.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” follows a crew of scientists aboard a space station orbiting earth as they test a device on the brink of solving an ongoing energy crisis plaguing the inhabitants of earth. However, experiments on the device leave the crew with problems like a severed sentient limb, Cronenbergesque body horror, and being cast out of orbit into the abyss of space.

At the very least, the story is derivative.  You’ve seen this plot more than once, and it feels reshuffled.  However, it is lead with one good performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Hamilton), who plays a scientist struggling with remaining calm in an extraordinary difficult emotional and physical situation.  The tragedy is that the film’s star-studded cast – David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd and Elizabeth Debicki— all fall into meandering tropes that give them little character development.

My major problem with the movie is that the script does not take risks needed to set itself apart within the science fiction genre. It does not portray characters deeper than archetype, which could have elevated the film to a science fiction pedestal that its predecessors have been crowned on by subverting the genre it utilized and building characters upon real substance.

The past two “Cloverfield” films were exemplary trademarks in the art of suspense and tension, leaving the audiences riveted until the screen cuts to black. This film only manages to capture a small sense of that urgency—yet there is no end game to this. It feels like panic for the sake of panic.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” is by no means a bad movie—it’s just okay.  It is the third installment in an anthology series that does not meet the standards established by its predecessors.  But it’s a fun watch on Netflix.

However, not having months of trailers, fan speculation, and trailer analysis made the viewing experience of the movie more enjoyable.  There were no preconceived notions that the audience placed on the movie, so it could not fail to meet those expectation because no one knew what to expect.  Critics and audiences alike were treated to the film as a blank slate.  The story around the film will always be about its avant garde release strategy—but not the story itself.