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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘I Am Another You’ and ‘Rellik

‘I AM ANOTHER YOU’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE) In this haunting documentary, Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang heads down to Florida after moving to New York City, and decides to film every aspect of her visit there. She’s in search of some mythical America cowboy spirit that leads to total freedom without ties, and [...]

Viewer’s Discretion: “Quicksand” and “Rillington Place”

‘QUICKSAND’ (NETFLIX) School mass shootings aren’t quite a daily occurrence here in the U.S., but it’s sadly gotten to a point where you could imagine that happening. This Swedish series doesn’t come from that depressing reality. Sweden has faced eight school mass shootings since 1967, while in our own country there have been 148 just [...]

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: ‘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: ‘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: ’54 Hours’ and ‘The Weissensee Saga’

‘54 HOURS’ (SUNDANCE) This tense four-episode German series recounts the events of the Gladbeck Hostage Crisis, which unfolded in 1988 when two bank robbers fled with bank employees as hostages and, in the pursuit, escalated the situation to include multiple innocent people. At the very center, of course, are the bank robbers themselves, with excellent [...]

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: ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ and ‘The Cry’

‘ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT’ (NETFLIX) Much has been made of this true-crime documentary in regards to the victim and her parents, with the idea that only stupidity on the part of Mary Ann and Bob Broberg could explain their gullibility in falling for the manipulations of sociopathic pedophile Robert Berchtold that led to his abduction [...]

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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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’

‘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 [...]