February is almost over, but we still have some time to take a look at what Netflix brought to the movies and TV show table in January 2018.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars went down a darker route the more it progressed, and even if the last two seasons focused more on specific characters like Yoda to forecast events that would find a conclusion in Revenge of the Sith, the series still didn’t deliver anything especially memorable or interesting for the Star Wars universe in its entirety.
The first season of Stranger Things that was featured in the Netflix watchlist: April to May 2017 didn’t impress me much, as despite all the praise it received, it lacked personality, originality, and simply suspense. So my hopes weren’t really high for the second one, and I was proven right again. Despite having some admittedly fast-paced horror action at the end (even if taken too much from Resident Evil creature design), it had simply boring characters and a plot that didn’t offer much new in the sci-fi genre. What was worse was that it took over half of the season until something big actually happened. Of course it tried to build up something for the third instalment, which was a problem in itself, as it left the audience with the impression that it was a clever show. And that’s the biggest issue I have with this: 80ies music and style is all very well and good, but if one can’t relate to the characters that are either annoying or whiney, with teenage angst themes thrown all over the place, one loses interest very fast, especially since the episodes themselves don’t have any satisfying endings, so that it seems as if one watches an over-long movie with a story that could have been told in under 2 hours.
Two other Netflix Originals that fared better were Wynonna Earp and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency which both received their second seasons as well. The former was discussed in Netflix watchlist: July 2017 and turned out to be a surprisingly witty and above all else original mix of comedy and horror with a Buffy – The Vampire Slayer and Wild West feeling. Unfortunately, the second season wasn’t as good and had some extremely annoying Lesbian relationship scenes that were so forced that one wished both characters would be gone by the end of each episode. Still, the more it progressed, the more the season became emotional and suspenseful in unexpected ways, while there was enough action and splatter with the right amount of wisecracking jokes.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was sadly a drop in quality. The preceding season played with one’s expectations and turned them upside down, always introducing new characters, offering twists and turns, while connecting everything in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, the whole investigation made way for a horribly silly fantasy world and the main characters spending too much time on dwelling on their actions and feelings. Even if there were scenes of genuinely great ideas, and some of the comedy and violent outbursts worked well, one couldn’t shake the feeling as if the series wanted to differentiate itself from the first one in too many ways. The ending also showed that something much bigger was prepared for the third season. Still, fingers crossed, as it’s still one of the more creative series around.
I usually stay away from TV shows that run for a very long time with too many episodes, but I had to try out Supernatural, as I heard good things about it, and it was from some of the X-Files people (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, as everything went downhill after Season 4 or 5 with that show). And what can I say? I really loved the first season. Even if the overall story arc about the two brothers Sam and Dean Winchester trying to find their missing dad who taught them to fight demons was pushed into the background for more monster-of-the-week fair, each episode brought something different to the horror table. I’ve always been fond of slasher and haunted mansion or demonic possession movies, and having these themes in about 40 minutes with pretty decent special effects and make-up creature design was a dream come true. At times it was a bit scary, and the wisecracking between the brothers even gave it a bit of a Buffy vibe, but with more grown-up humor. Unfortunately the second season didn’t go down so well, relying too much on people being possessed and getting shot or stabbed in the end, giving the impression that the production team wanted to save on special effects and monster designs. While the first season did a really good job of providing background info on different folklore stories and offering a sense of American urban legend horror mixed with a road trip environment, this became less important here, which might also have to do with the overall story arc. Sadly, it didn’t turn out as engaging as it could have been. Fingers crossed for the next seasons (of which I’ve already seen more than enough to say it goes in quite different directions, for the good and bad of the show).
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Season 2) [7/10]
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Seasons 5+6) [7/10, 7/10]
Stranger Things (Season 2) [5/10]
Supernatural (Seasons 1+2) [9/10, 7/10]
Wynonna Earp (Season 2) [8/10]
I managed to watch a few movies, this time all from Asian countries. Headshot from Indonesia might have been low on story content, but it was full of awesome and really violent fight scenes. Considering that Germany is known for editing these types of movies, it was surprising to see everything in an uncut state, especially since the director’s former Killers had a hard time to be released with many cuts involved. A no-brainer for action fans with a penchant for breaking-bones hand-to-hand combat scenes, this comes highly recommended and was a surprise hit for me.
A long time ago I watched the first Ip Man and I didn’t remember a lot of it. Telling the story of the future Bruce Lee teacher and how he goes against the Japanese occupation made this more a political statement than an all-out martial arts movie. While the fight scenes were quite good, the whole Chinese pathos was almost unbearable at times. Having a national hero and celebrating his legacy in a movie has been done again and again in cinema, but unlike a movie like Braveheart in which the fighting is all part of the storytelling and character development, it somehow seems disconnected at times in Ip Man. It’s very well played, but a lack of suspense and attachment to the characters and especially ideology makes this a problematic movie to watch.
This is even more true for the sequel Ip Man 2 which pits the Chinese hero (who actually stays humble in his teachings) against the evil British empire. I can’t think of another movie in which the acting of an Englishman was as terrible as in this one. It might have to do with the strange dubbing (even in the original version) or simply because the over-acting made Ip Man’s boxing opponent a disgusting racist. The fight scenes are still brutal and exhilarating, but as in the original, the Chinese pathos is even more prominent and downright insulting to what an audience can take.
Ip Man [7/10]
Ip Man 2 [6/10]
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