So I’ve been a bit lax with my Amazon Prime reviewing. Oops. I am going to maybe split it into two posts depending how the words pour forth. The past couple of weeks I’ve had rather a lot of bones to pick with Amazon. They did a massive update on all Sony and some Samsung products that basically made the whole service go kaput for three days. We are kind of in a limbo of waiting for the day our 2011 “Smart” t.v. no longer makes the cut – Amazon recently became incompatible with rather a lot of devices which I’m sure is a joy for lots of people who forked out for the service. As it is we have occasional content errors and a rather clunky system on the Sony t.v. to navigate, so we are resigned that we will probably need to buy a blu ray dvd which can host the app in the near future. (I know a lot of people use their gaming devices but we are not gamers). Wow all this tech speak (not!) is exhausting!
And then this month they went and removed Scandal, Greys Anatomy, Alias (which I was on the fourth season of -Grr!), Criminal Minds which I was hoping to watch, and many of their U.S. comedies, of which they have a severe dearth to begin with. It does particularly annoy me when they take off long running shows which people are trying to work their way through. Although they also have a weird habit of putting stuff back on – in just over a year they’ve removed and put back on and removed the aforementioned Scandal and Grey’s. It’s quite annoying as a consumer.
Anyway enough grumbling, sorry! Onto the breach…erm, the couch!
Red Oaks (Amazon Originals): Do you like John Hughes films? Do you like the 80’s? Do you like coming of age tales? Did you enjoy the film Submarine? (um scratch that, I wasn’t crazy about it, but the British lead in this was the young teen in that, and he is very good here). Then you might like this! It’s a retro Caddyshack style comedy (well less old fashioned and sexist, mostly) about a young college student who gets a job as a tennis coach at his town’s upscale country club. There’s even a girl who looks like Ally Sheedy. With tongue firmly in cheek it relishes the glorious tackiness that was the 80’s in a very affectionate way. Very binge-able half hour show that feels familiar, maybe too familiar at times, but is good fun nonetheless.
The Man in the High Castle (also an Amazon Original): Based on a dystopian sci fi novel by Philip K.Dick and brought to Amazon by producer Ridley Scott, this show is set in 1962, only it’s an unrecognizable world where the Allied Forces lost WWII when Japan got the atomic bomb first. It’s pretty scary stuff. Rufus Sewell is an American Nazi commander (certain swathes of U.S. citizens seem to have become out and out Nazis, I did find this element slightly confusing. Like at what point during the war did this happen?). The East coast is occupied German territory, the West (California anyway) is Japanese ruled and occupied. The Japan/Germany alliance is an uneasy one, which an underground resistance is trying to help exploit and weaken. The Midwest is a sort of Neutral zone, but still dangerous.
Juliana Crain is a young woman living in San Francisco who has embraced Japanese culture in her love of Akido, but she becomes drawn into the resistance because of a family tragedy. Her artist boyfriend Frank is also affected by this in harrowing and upsetting ways at the hands of Japanese interrogators. There are films made by a “Man in the High Castle” circulated by the underground resistance which I won't spoil but which the Germans and Japanese are trying very hard to stop. A new American S.S. recruit, Joe, is sent to stop Juliana from delivering one in the Neutral zone, only various things go not to plan on both sides and the two become unlikely friends who also make googly eyes at each other (I apologize if this is tmi but this is basically what sets the rest of the show in motion). It’s very atmospheric and tense drama – if a tiny bit slow moving at times. The premise is so intriguingly terrifying that it does much of the work for the show. Definitely worth a watch.
Map to the Stars: Julianne Moore is everything in this. It’s honestly not a great film, a sort of Bret Easton Ellis lite skewering of Hollywood with added weird family gothic drama. Jon Cusack is wasted, or just bad in it, I can’t decide. Mia Wakisowaka (Sp? omg you know who I mean?!) hasn’t convinced me she can act yet and this melodramatic bleak story isn’t really the place to try. But worth a watch for Julianne Moore playing a washed up narcissistic actress like the supreme goddess she is. And Carrie Fisher has a small cameo with her French bulldog, Gary, so you know, not a total write off!
Nightcrawler: Hmm. Jake Gyllenhaal is unquestionably watchable and creepy and interesting in this. It’s about an aimless drifter who makes money stealing scrap metal, who accidentally stumbles on what seems the perfect job for him: Crime scene stalker/photographer. He is willing to break the law/bend rules of decency to get the best footage, which quickly makes him a success. Renee Russo hires him for her local news broadcast and it escalates...sort of. I felt like this film was building to something it never quite managed. It was darkly creepy to watch though (if you enjoy that sort of thing!).
Gravity: I really, really like Sandra Bullock. I presume that is why this movie did so well, because most people really like Sandra Bullock? And the dazzling space special effects which are admittedly lost on the small screen. It’s not that it’s not watchable (though I spent most of the time going “No, don’t do that! Agh!”), it just feels sort of like it could have been an episode Star Trek or something. I am admittedly not the target audience for this film, but then again I enjoyed Moon which is a similar sort of lone person in space type drama – it had a bit more to it though. Gravity just felt sort of…lightweight. (sorry! ;-)