Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Herrens Veje’ and ‘First Reformed’

‘HERRENS VEJE’ (‘RIDE UPON THE STORM’) (NETFLIX) Series creator Adam Price previously gave the world the infectious and intelligent show “Borgen,” which portrayed the fictional first woman prime minister and launched the international career of actress Sidse Babett Knudsen. Here he takes the same attention to detail he showed to Danish politics and applies it [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Deutschland 83,’ ‘Deutschland 86,’ and ‘Skyggenes Dal’

‘DEUTSCHLAND 83,’ ‘DEUTSCHLAND 86’ (SUNDANCE) The final years of East Germany — or, more properly, the German Democratic Republic — have proven fertile ground for German television, partially, it seems, as an act of atonement. But it’s also a period rich in political corruption, espionage, human drama and cautionary tales about the limits of control that lends itself to [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’

“THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON” (AMAZON, APPLE, IMDBTV, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) Given the death last week of Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston at the age of 58, it seemed right to write about the 2005 documentary on his troubled life, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.” I suppose there are many people out there who [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Alena’ and ‘Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle’

‘ALENA’ (AMAZON, OVIDTV, SHUDDER) Things aren’t right in a private boarding school for girls, but when are they ever? In this Swedish film, a disadvantaged girl arrives to find animosity among the existing student body, and her already damaged existence becomes further pummeled by elitist bullies. But there might be something else going on as [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘A Very Secret Service’ and ‘Now He’s Out in Public’

‘A VERY SECRET SERVICE’ (NETFLIX) The words “spy comedy” evoke something very specific, but this French period comedy delivers something deliciously outside of those restrictions. Taking place in the early 1960s and featuring an attention to period detail that rivals “Mad Men,” “A Very Secret Service” follows the experience of Andre Merlaux (Hugo Becker) as [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Gentleman Jack’ and ‘Victor’s History’

‘Gentleman Jack’ (HBO) One of the reasons masculinity has done so well hanging on so long beyond any point of positive usability is that we all love a rogue, at least in fiction. But it’s been a misunderstanding that roguishness is a quality reserved for men. Though certainly examples highlighting this mistake have seen light [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Hail Satan?’

“ Hail Satan?” (Amazon, Apple, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play) Regardless of where you fall on the spiritual or political spectrum, it’s probable that you will be surprised by the revelation that a documentary following the creation of The Satanic Temple and its short history is easily one of the most feel-good, life-affirming movies to be [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Ministry of Evil’ and ‘The Nightmare’

‘MINISTRY OF EVIL: THE TWISTED CULT OF TONY ALAMO’ (SUNDANCE) We live in a golden age of documentaries about cults and one of the unavoidable thoughts to have once you’ve seen a bunch of them is to wonder when people are going to learn their lesson. Even if the circumstances of the cults are signposts [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Leila’ and ‘Sarah Plays a Werewolf’

‘LEILA’ (NETFLIX) This dystopian series from India has been compared to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and though on first glance that seems fair, a closer look suggests that might simplify both series. And, at the very least, “Leila” takes less than half of the time of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to get its point across, while remaining [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Woman At War’ and ‘Black Lake’

‘WOMAN AT WAR’ (APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE) Talk about unexpected achievements, “Woman At War” manages the near-impossible by offering up a feel-good movie about climate change, but perhaps that’s what you can expect from a film product of Iceland. Never a country to wallow in problems, the Icelandic outlook of “Woman At War” suggests that [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Akta Manniskor’ and ‘A Harlot’s Progress’

‘Akta Manniskor (Real Humans)’ (Hulu) Mainly known as the inspiration for the series “Humans” rather than for any details of its own, Swedish writer Lars Lundstr m’s original surpasses its English-language remake particularly in its satirical scope. Presenting a world where human-like robots, HuBots, have been created to serve “real humans,” the series questions if the [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ and ‘Requiem’

‘AT ETERNITY’S GATE’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) It seems obvious from the moment he appears on the screen that Willem Dafoe was meant to play Vincent Van Gogh, even though there’s nothing particularly Van Gogh-ish about his appearance. And yet, as he wanders through the fever dream of “At Eternity’s Gate,” Dafoe is [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere’ and ‘Trust Me’

‘LOVE & TERROR ON THE HOWLING PLAINS OF NOWHERE’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, SUNDANCE, VUDU, YOUTUBE) In the winter of 2006, a college professor in Chadron, Neb., disappeared, and once he was found, created a mystery that the residents are still struggling with today. Pronounced a suicide by law enforcement, some in the town think [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘This is England ‘86’

  THIS IS ENGLAND ’86 (AMAZON) Imagine living in a dystopian society. If you lived in England in the 1980s, and you weren’t of a certain class, you didn’t have to imagine, you were there. The view on the street was a lot worse than the one presented in the media there, full of Mrs. [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Transferts’ and ‘Vox Lux’

TRANSFERTS (NETFLIX) There are two behaviors in science fiction that humans will never disappoint with. One is that if there is an advance in technology that extends life or youth in any way whatsoever, it will only be available to rich people. Another is that if humans have any reason to hate and persecute the [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Border’ and ‘Watership Down’

‘BORDER’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) There’s something about “Border” that made me think of the current DNA craze, the impulse by people to find the answers to themselves within their own genetic structure. Looking for your ancestry is one way of asking, “Who am I?” especially in a world where we fabricate race [...]

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: ‘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: ‘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’

‘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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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 [...]