Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Dear Zachary’ and ‘My Brilliant Friend’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Dear Zachary’ and ‘My Brilliant Friend’

‘DEAR ZACHARY’ (AMAZON, FANDOR, HOOPLA, SUNDANCE) Given the current frenzy for true crime, especially on streaming television and in podcasts, a documentary like “Dear Zachary” has a very specific, and very important, role to play — in reclaiming these stories for the families and friends of the crime victim. In that way, while it states the case […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Cassette: Documentary Mixtape’

‘CASSETTE: DOCUMENTARY MIXTAPE’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, PLAYSTATION, VUDU) Did you know that the man who invented the cassette also invented the compact disc? His name is Lou Ottens, a Dutch engineer who worked for Phillips, where he headed the teams that developed both audio items. This affectionate, gentle documentary by Zack Taylor devotes a […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘1983’ and ‘Bancroft’

‘1983’ (NETFLIX) This Polish series is alternative history science fiction, telling the story of a dystopian world where the Iron Curtain never fell and Poland is the center of the universe, but in doing so, manages to ask some more subtle questions about political control that are rewarding over the course of the series. The […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Earth Rising’ and ‘Trepalium’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Earth Rising’ and ‘Trepalium’

‘BLACK EARTH RISING’ (NETFLIX) Pulling inspiration from the Rwandan genocide, there’s no way the series “Black Earth Rising” was going to be light entertainment. But there’s always a danger that such a depiction could cheapen the massive tragedy in a quest for thrills. That’s not what happens here, though, as writer/director Hugo Blick, who did […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Giuseppe Makes a Movie’ and ‘National Treasure’

Giuseppe Makes A Movie (Amazon, Apple, Fandor, Google Play, Sundance, Vudu) Everybody has a different idea of what makes a community or a family, and though that’s often a reason for conflict in the United States, it would be nice if more people could just let things be. The documentary film “Giuseppe Makes A Movie” […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ and ‘Roma’

‘BLACK MIRROR: BANDERSNATCH’ (NETFLIX) My viewing experience with “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is not the same as your viewing experience with “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” but that’s the way it was designed. Or maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe our experiences are more alike than we think. Maybe it was never designed to be that different from each […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Flowers’ and ‘Tabula Rasa’

‘FLOWERS’ (NETFLIX) It might take a few episodes to get into the rhythm of “Flowers.’ That’s what I required, but once I had cracked the code, I was its prisoner. Initially, a quirky shock-style comedy that reveled in its rudeness, “Flowers” progresses into something entirely different, taking the basic cliches it presents up front and […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Strange Angel’ and ‘Theory of Obscurity’

‘STRANGE ANGEL’ ( CBS ALL ACCESS) In the 21st century, there are multiple disciplines being sold that promise hopeful seekers a way to optimize their ambitions into reality, to realize their best selves, but so many of these philosophies are not new, merely transformed into current-speak. If you reverse engineer their conceptions, you find that […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Arrival’ and ‘Safe’

‘ARRIVAL’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, HULU, VUDU) Science fiction, at least in its visual form, has become too often linked with action than intellect and empathy when it comes to the depiction of spectacle. But there are awesome wonders to be born from the quieter pursuits and on occasion, a movie comes along that takes […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Dreams of a Life’ and ‘Putin’s Kiss’

“Dreams of a Life” (Fandor, Vudu) Loneliness can be a hard thing to portray in a film. The challenge is to show what isn’t there and what the person is missing, to capture a negative space so that we not only understand the enormity of what is missing from the person’s life but what about […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Ministry of Time’ and ‘Three Identical Strangers’

“The Ministry of Time” (Netflix) This unassuming, slightly clunky, but entirely affable and often surprising Spanish science fiction show sits in an unnoticed corner of Netflix, away from most people’s sights, much like the central location of the series itself. But much like the secret headquarters of “The Ministry of Time,” bumbling upon it yields […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Forest’ and ’Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Forest’ and ’Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil’

‘THE FOREST’ (NETFLIX) At some point recently, European television makers realized they had a lot of lovely, evocative forests that made for excellent crime settings, while also doing the work of creating thematic spaces for hidden secrets that could be utilized in a mystery about isolated areas. No longer are crime shows relegated to the […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘3%’ and ‘The Rain’

‘3%’ (NETFLIX) In some ways a YA dystopian novel that skipped publication and went straight to television instead, “3%” is a Brazilian series depicting a means by which undesirables are selected out of society and placed in an exclusive society on an idyllic island. Or, basically, it’s a fable for income inequality, something that I […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Salesman’ and ‘See No Evil’

‘THE SALESMAN’ (AMAZON, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) This slow-burning suspense tale from Iran takes place against the backdrop of a small Iranian production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” In “The Salesman,” scenes from Miller’s play appear as accentuating points to a quiet, paranoid tale that mixes personal terror with cultural oppression and political […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Ghoul’ and ‘The Ritual’

‘GHOUL’ (NETFLIX) It’s not a typical combination — dystopian fiction and supernatural horror — but this three-episode series from India manages to put them together with a lot of skill, thrills and chills and achieves the unlikely victory of having each element built off each other to admirable effect. Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) is an eager advocate of the […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Hidden’ and ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Hidden’ and ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’

‘HIDDEN’ (ACORN TV) The genre of European crime shows has been perfected to a science, usually combining a few of several possible elements into a narrative formula and then fleshing them out with some character particulars that often rely on the chosen actors to give them life. Among the elements are a moody setting, an […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Author: THe J.T. LeRoy Story’ and ‘Fangar’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Author: THe J.T. LeRoy Story’ and ‘Fangar’

‘AUTHOR: THE J.T. LEROY STORY’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) Somehow, the story of author J.T. LeRoy fell under my radar, so this documentary opened up entire worlds of fascination for me. LeRoy came to the public dye through his debut novel, “Sarah,” in 1999, a semi-autobiographical work that pulled from his background as […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Art and Craft’ and ‘Keeping Faith’

‘ART AND CRAFT’ (AMAZON, FANDOR, HOOPLA, SUNDANCE NOW) When I think of art forgers, I think of crafty con men who are in it for the big money, so Mark Landis, the subject of “Art and Craft,” went against what I envisioned. Landis is an art forger, but a quirky one. He gives his art […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Inside № 9’ and ‘Threads’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Inside № 9’ and ‘Threads’

‘INSIDE NO. 9’ (BRITBOX) This anthology series starring and written by Steve Pemberton and Reese Shearsmith is a hidden British gem that exhibits a delicious dark humor that manages to give equal service to comedy and suspense. Pemberton and Shearsmith were part of the series “The League of Gentlemen,” and “Inside №9” pulls from the […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Killing Eve’ and ‘The Pain of Others’

“Killing Eve” (Amazon, Apple) “Killing Eve” manages the impossible by feeling fresh without actually doing much radical to the genre it inhabits, espionage. At least not much obviously radical — it’s the subtleties that do that work. This is the story of a woman operative for MI5 who feels she never gets her due and finds an […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘A Very English Scandal’ and ‘Calibre’

‘A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL’ (AMAZON) Much more than the sum of its parts — and boasting parts that are considerable indeed — the three-part “A Very English Scandal” recollects true crime and political corruption in England to tell a much more important tale about repression and hate, and how these two aspects of society crush down on real human […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ’45 Years’ and ‘The Alienist’

’45 YEARS’ (AMAZON, APPLE, NETFLIX, VUDU) For all the obsession with relationship stories, films by and large favor the slim pickings personal dramas of younger people over the smorgasbord that older couples offer. A relationship of several decades offers a scenario where not only the large transgressions create drama, but also the smaller ones — and the […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Chance’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

‘CHANCE’ (HULU) “Chance” is one of those curiosities of the streaming television era. Conceived as Hugh Laurie’s triumphant follow-up to “House,” big things were expected and Hulu signed it for two seasons to start. By the end, things hadn’t worked out the way everyone expected, and Hulu formally announced in January there would be no […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Spot’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Spot’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’

‘BLACK SPOT’ (AMAZON) The isolated village of Villefranche, which sets somewhere on the edge of a foreboding forest with a personality of its own, is the setting for “Black Spot,” or “Zone Blanche” as the series is known in its native country of France. The title supposedly refers to the spotty cellular coverage that supposedly […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The A Word’ and ‘The Exhibition’

‘THE A WORD’ (AMAZON) Based on an Israeli show called “Yellow Peppers,” this British series centers a family in a small English village that would probably be considered typical as they face the autism diagnosis of their son. The focus here is Joe (Max Vento), at the start of the series 5-years-old and beginning to […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Money Heist’ and ‘The Terror’

‘MONEY HEIST’ (NETFLIX) This rollicking, absurd and utterly absorbing Spanish heist thriller is apparently the most-watched foreign language series on Netflix and it’s not hard to see why. The more you suspend your disbelief, the more you are rewarded for doing so. The more you give yourself to the series, the more satisfied you are […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Faces Places’ and ‘Sacro GRA’

‘Faces Places’ (Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube) This gentle documentary brings together 89-year-old New Wave film director Agnes Varda and 33-year-old street artist JR for a journey through France for a collaboration that captures what they see and who they meet, and what they decide to affix to walls in commemoration. Varda, who […]

From The Archive: The Movie Bastard

(Back in the 1990s when everyone was creating their own zine, I set about — inspired by everything from Psychotronic to Leonard Maltin — to create my own movie guide in zine form. I called it The Movie Bastard. At the time we were working on a comic called Very Vicky and didn’t have a lot of money, especially […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Kiri’ and ‘Wind River’

‘KIRI’ (HULU) British writer Jack Thorne is getting a lot of attention these days as the author of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” but the number of complaints from hardcore fans leads me to believe that it’s hard to see Thorne’s talent through all the emotions people feel about J.K. Rowling’s creation. The TV […]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Ramblin’ Freak’ and ‘Wild Wild Country’

‘RAMBLIN’ FREAK’ (AMAZON, APPLE, VUDU) Neither the title nor the premise of the documentary, “Ramblin’ Freak,” gives much insight to what the film is about and if you take your cue from either, you’re probably going to be wrong. Sold on Amazon as a documentary about a guy who decides to take a road trip […]