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: ‘After Life’ and ‘Bathtubs Over Broadway’

‘AFTER LIFE’ (NETFLIX) Appreciating the work of Ricky Gervais has always hinged on your taste, and even then, some of his efforts over the years seem to have lost him fans. His problem is that he’s always pushing the boundaries of good taste in ways that some people find mean-spirited, focusing his comedy on concepts [...]

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: ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘Braguino’

CHERNOBYL’ (HBO) It might be surprising that a mini-series dramatizing a devastating nuclear power plant accident in the Soviet Union in 1986 has met success, especially considering the show’s embrace of the gloomy and the grotesque, and rightfully so. But if it is a surprise, maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the state of [...]

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: ‘The Restaurant’ and ‘Elvis: Strung Out’

The Restaurant (Sundance) This new addition to the pantheon of dysfunctional Scandinavian family nightmares, “The Restaurant” (“Var tid ar nu, also known as “Our Time is Now”) distinguishes itself by making its starting-point post-war Stockholm and taking occasional leaps in time to chart the progress of not only the Lowanders and their posh restaurant, but [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Act’ and ‘Granny’s Dancing on the Table’

‘THE ACT’ (HULU) Based on a 2015 homicide case in Missouri that saw a woman murdered by her daughter, reported as stricken with leukemia and muscular dystrophy, as well as a few other conditions, including brain damage that left her mentally incapacitated, “The Act” takes you into their life together in intimate terms. Following their [...]

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: ‘51 Birch Street’ and ‘Making A Murderer’

’51 BIRCH STREET’ (APPLE, SUNDANCE) Thank goodness for people who like to work out their problems in public, because they have single-handedly enlivened the dysfunctional family documentary genre, and I’m a sucker for those. In “51 Birch Street,” filmmaker Doug Block mourns the death of his mother and then is blindsided when his father decides [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Mole Man’

‘MOLE MAN’ (AMAZON, SUNDANCE) Focusing on autistic 66-year-old Ron Heist, “Mole Man” presents a manifestation of compulsive creativity on a grand scale seldom witnessed. Heist qualifies as an outsider artist for sure, but he could also alternately be proclaimed an outsider architect with the huge structures he has crafted at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Bodyguard’ and ‘Nico 1988’

‘BODYGUARD’ (NETFLIX) If you want tense, exciting, hard-to-predict crime conspiracy stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, British television writer Jed Mercurio should be your go-to guy. His series, “Line of Duty,” a labyrinthine display of tension and amazing guest performances in the setting of a police internal affairs investigation unit, is [...]

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: ‘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’

‘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: ‘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: ‘Un Village Francais’

‘A FRENCH VILLAGE’ (MHZ CHOICE) Following the lives of the citizens of Villefranche during its occupation by Nazis during World War II, and examining the moral conundrums the citizens face and which will affect the rest of their lives, “Un Village Francais” is one television show I have no problem proclaiming as one of my [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: “A Gray State” and “Wormwood”

‘A GRAY STATE’ (APPLE, NETFLIX) At a time when reality is dismissed as “fake news” in favor of “alternative facts,” “A Gray State” functions well as a cautionary tale of allowing such reality dysmorphia to take control of your life. But that’s only part of a cocktail that turns deadly for David Crowley and, most [...]