Five 2020 Movie and Netflix Series Reviews
“It’s a world that needs changing”
Based on the book Enola Holmes, the movie is an adaptation of Nancy Springer’s renowned young adult classic. Set in 1884, the movie places not Sherlock Holmes, but his younger sister Enola (ALONE backwards) as its charming protagonist whose sleuth skills mirrors Sherlock’s. The storyline follows Enola (played by Millie Bobby Brown) as she sets out on a mission to find her missing mother, but she ends up solving the mystery shrouding Tewksbury’s family, thus outsmarting her detective brother. The movie takes two major risks by breaking down the fourth wall, with Enola constantly interacting with the audience, and making Sherlock’s character (played by Henry Cavill) a mysterious and quiet supporting role, much like the original character in the books. It slays both these elements, so if you’re here for a Robert Downey Jr. kind of Sherlock, then this movie may not be for you. Fast-paced, exciting, and immensely entertaining, Enola Holmes smashes the historical social constructions and patriarchal obstacles of the 1800s and conveys an important message through the strong-willed “kid” Sherlock herself. Here’s to hoping that Enola Holmes is the start of an exciting franchise.
Genre: Young Adult fiction
Actors: Millie Bobby Brown, Louis Partridge, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter
Haunting of Bly Manor
“Dead doesn’t mean gone”
Many think that just because the word “Haunting” is in the name, this series will be filled with jump scares and mortifying ghostly faces. Mike Flannigan’s gothic romance-influenced ghost story proves not to be the case. Haunting of Bly Manor takes on a new meaning of the word as the series is something that will keep you thinking and will stick to your brain long after it's over (because stories, like the house or the people in this one, don’t need to frighten to be haunting). Set in the 80s in an English countryside backdrop, the story follows an American au pair who is hiding as many secrets as the family she is hired to work for. In the Bly manor, nothing is what it seems: The housekeeper keeps skipping meals, the children seem to be in a trance, and the family cook describes Bly as a “gravity well” that traps people. The character developments are immensely applaudable and the relationships between them make us want to be part of the pack. There is a strong emotional core that becomes clearer with each passing revelation and time is played with as we see characters face their pasts and presents repetitively. Flannigan envelopes the audience with the characters’ psychological trauma as well, but sometimes, the past stories of a character can be a bit overdone and stretched. Nevertheless, you will be very confused until the last two episodes where all the threads holding the suspense finally start to unravel. Only after you’ve watched the ending will you understand the subtle references and all the faces of “people” you could see in the manor when the characters were having a normal conversation (Yes! There are many faces you will see in the shadows in the background in the manor, but probably not during your first watch. This is not meant to scare and is by far the most exciting and spine-chilling element in the series). Bly Manor explores the same metaphor of ghost as regret as Hill House but the similarities end there.
Genre: Psychological Drama (No, it’s not horror)
Actors: Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Rahul Kohli, T’Nia Miller
The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Give You Me A Moment, Would You, Friend? I’ve Never Been On Trial For My Thoughts Before”
This film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of 7 defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy for protesting America’s brutal invasion of Vietnam. This revolves around the counterculture protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The trial left the nation spellbound and sparked a conversation about mayhem intended to undermine the U.S. government. This movie is full of appropriately incendiary speeches and very strong rhetoric with enough dramatic scenes and insanely hilarious moments that will keep you entertained. However, it’s other elements used in the film that make it sort of a mixed bag honestly. There are some bizarre dialogue and action that is completely unnecessary. But again, that could be to replicate the booming bizarre culture in the 60s. Moreover, the audience is expected to already know the historical context before watching the film, so if you’re going to watch it, make sure to do some research first so you understand everything. A few key diversions from reality keep this from an 8 ranking, but this film portrays Sorkin at the height of his rhetorical powers. So, if you really like Sorkin’s films (The Social Network and Moneyball), this is a must watch!
Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen
“It’s gone forever. That funny, young, lost look I loved so much. You’re not that person anymore”
Screen adaptation of the 1938 gothic romance novel by Dame Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca concerns a young unnamed woman as its protagonist who impetuously marries a wealthy widower Maxim de Winter only to realize that she has to fill another woman’s shoes which is not an easy task. The house de Winters live in, Manderley, is cold and empty. The new Mrs. de Winter feels rather unwelcomed when each room seems like a key away from knowing the previous wife Rebecca, Maxim turns out have more secrets up his sleeve than she knew of, and everyone in the household seems to behave strangely; the servants have a way of seeming like they’ve just finished whispering about Mrs. de Winter when she walks into the room. Director Ben Wheatley has done an excellent job in mirroring the sense of displacement that’s in the book. The arc of the story is figuring out how Rebecca died and the movie couldn’t have unfolded the mystery around her death more satisfyingly. However, the good parts for me end there. The dark side of devotion - the blinding, unappeasable, unending form of love that verges on utter possession - is the real heart of this story. It is what makes Rebecca so eerie. And this is also where Wheatley stumbles. He focuses more on answering questions and unraveling the mystery that he completely loses the psychological thread in this story. He offers no fresh retelling of the story which blends this film with any other average movie. Except for Kristin Scott Thomas’ Mrs. Danvers, I wasn’t a huge fan of the performance either. But if you’re only here for a 30s mystery of who killed who, then this movie is certainly for you.
Actors: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott Thomas
Emily in Paris
"It's Paris. Everyone's Serious About Dinner"
With its extravagant outfits, exotic backdrops, and exciting French life, this fun series is definitely something you won’t be able to stop once you start watching. Emily in Paris follows the journey of a Chicago marketing executive Emily Cooper when she is hired to provide an “American perspective” at a marketing firm in Paris. We see her adjust to her new life as tries to grasp the language of love, have work problems with her boss in a fairly sexist environment, have a fair amount of friendship and relationship issues, all the while trying to keep her instagram followers increasing at a steady pace. Emily in Paris is one of those “dopamine-filled” series (like F.R.I.E.N.D.S.): It is immensely eye-catching and satisfying, even with its ups and downs, but at the same time could be ruled as an ideal replication of reality...like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Therefore, this series could be considered ambient television - contemporary dystopia. Nevertheless, the performance delivered by the cast, especially Lily Collins who plays Emily (her dramatic eyebrows is the crux of her character!), and the interesting experiences of other characters keep us staring at the T.V. screen with our mouths agape. (And did I mention the outfits!). The series begins and ends in an avalanche of desiccated digital-marketing language that seems to have consumed Emily’s soul. She cares about nothing more than “social” impressions and paves her way to become an instagram influencer in her own right.
Actors: Lily Collins, Lucas Bravo, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Camille Razat