My Netflix Reviews (Part 2)
As I mentioned in Part 1 (posted yesterday — READ HERE), Netflix has become the go-to channel for shows about bad people doing terrible things. Serial killers. Mad dictators. Con men. And again, check out the Top Ten on Netflix anytime, and you’ll see what I mean.
I don’t seek out shows about crime and war. There just seems to be an overabundance of them, presumably because that’s what the public wants. I also watch other stuff, of course, but for purposes of writing reviews, I’ll try to group these and stick to many of the most well-known Netflix programs released over the past year or two.
Last time, I did 20 reviews on the more recent shows. Now, I’ll dig a bit deeper into the archive (aided by the “What You Watched” feature at the push of a button–I sure didn’t do this from memory, except for the review part). Listed in the order they appear on my queue:
THE TINDER SWINDLER — A true-crime documentary about an Israeli Cassanova who wines and dines lots of pretty young rich European women, then gradually starts conning them out of their life’s savings. He’s got game, that’s for sure–until the gullible women start connecting online and figure out his con. Pretty riveting, especially in what’s become the online dating craze. Be careful ladies, that gorgeous hunk on Tinder driving the new BMW is probably a scumbag. GRADE–8
FYRE (THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED — I absolutely loved this. More scumbags decide to host a “music festival” and charge other rich scumbags thousands of dollars to attend some swanky VIP party to be hosted on a small island in Bermuda. The scumbags (think of Jonah Hill playing the lead) raise millions in investment capital, attract lots of reservations from dopes, charge up everyone’s credit cards and then the “festival” turns out to basically be a rained-out company picnic with cheap beer and bologna sandwiches on Wonderbread. Plus, the entertainment cancels at the last minute. But hey. Enjoy Bermuda! There are no good guys in this show, so it’s fun watching everyone basically get fucked upside down and sideways. Schadenfreude on parade. GRADE–8.5
RETURN TO SPACE — Timely documentary about Space X and Elon Musk (yes, I know — please stop giving this drama queen oxygen!). Really well done from a scientific standpoint (I know little about science but found myself fascinated from start to finish). Also just as much a business inspiration. I was somewhat disturbed by the manipulative behaviors shown by Musk at times and will write more about this perhaps, but also have to give him and his company (funded largely by our government) credit for allowing behind-the-scenes access to cameras and microphones. One of the best-done space and science shows I’ve seen on Netflix. GRADE–9
MADE YOU LOOK — Documentary about an NYC art forger, who somehow managed to con (and sell) several paintings he claimed were “unknown” treasures by the masters. Also reveals the gullibility of so-called “experts” in this and perhaps any field when they are enticed by profiting and compromise their own high standards to make a fast buck. GRADE–7
MISHA AND THE WOLVES — Seemingly one of the most ridiculous plots ever concocted in human history. An older woman who grew up in Holland claimed that at age 7 she was hidden (and later raised) with wolves in the wild in a European forest for four years, thus missing out on her chance to experience, viola! — the Holocaust. Oh, boy. Sort of like “Anne Frank” meets “Dances With Wolves.” Where to begin? This story, later proven false, was actually believed for many years and even prompted books and many interviews, which created a faux-celebrity. Then, an investigative reporter starts asking questions and the wolves aren’t around to hide or save the fraudster. Dubiously fun. GRADE 7
BOB ROSS — Biopic about the PBS-Television painter decked out in the loud 70s clothing and bushy brown hair who looked like he belonged under a disco ball doing lines of coke but in reality, had a weekly show where he brush-stroked pretty much the same cedar tree onto hundreds of canvasses over and over and over. Yet, inexplicably, we all watched. Fluffy white clouds. Seagulls. Week after week. Year after year. I mean, didn’t he paint the same fucking tree 85,000 times? Ross was the king of the $5 garage sale “masterpiece.” Nevertheless, I couldn’t get into this, I mean, what’s there to show in a 90-minute documentary about a guy who painted the same mountain every week and died 30 years ago and seemed pretty nice? Murder somebody Bob! Yawn. GRADE–3
THE ADOLF EICHMAN TRIAL — Very well done documentary of the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichman. Watching it gave me a great appreciation for the Israeli court system (more on that in future writings) and the way the government handled this incendiary case. Very straightforward, with no dramatic enhancements (music, etc.). Let the material speak for itself. Sort of a legal show stripped to the core, exactly as it should be. The final few minutes about how Eichman’s remains were disposed of, told here by a witness for the first time on film (I think) is an extraordinary moment. GRADE–9
THE LAST DANCE — Despite being utterly sick and tired of the subject matter (do we REALLY need a ten-part series on Michael Jordan or any NBA player not named Kareem Abdul Jabbar?) I finally gave in and watched. Within ten minutes, I was hooked. Yes, it pulled me in. Brilliantly done sports documentary, which isn’t even a sports documentary. This is a human story. A story about fame. About fortune. About failure. About finality and fate. Terrific program from start to finish. GRADE–9.5
UNTOLD: MALICE AT THE PALACE — I remember the ugly night of the NBA brawl of the decade. I was playing poker in Las Vegas that night and saw it on TV then got home, woke up Marieta, turned on ESPN late and night, and said — you gotta see this! And you wanna know something? We got it totally WRONG. What a documentary. Totally reverses public mass misconceptions about the “thug” players involved and clearly shows the shitstain Detroit Piston fans that night were to blame for the whole brawl. Video footage from surveillance cameras is slowed down in painstaking fashion and reshown as we hear the principles talk about the incident where basketball players and fans went at it in the stands nearly 20 years later. Absorbing, and quite a revelation for what we discover. My highest recommendation. GRADE–10
FANTASTIC FUNGI — I hate mushrooms. Can’t stand them. But there’s a documentary on mushrooms (all kinds) and it’s astounding. Seriously. I’m not taking mushrooms, I promise. Beautifully filmed, and scientific without being — you know — too scientific. One of the best shows I’ve seen on Netflix since I’ve been a subscriber. Oh, and I still hate mushrooms and won’t eat one. GRADE–9.5
SON OF SAM — Relives the 1978 “Son of Sam” murders in NYC. Desperately tries to raise some alternative crackpot theories about motives and possible accomplices. Poorly contrived, unbelievable in parts, and a little too long, but still interesting because hey, how often does a guy go on a murder spree after being hypnotized by the neighbor’s dog? Plus, anything from the 1970s in New York is kind of gritty and gory groovy to watch in the same way you can’t peel your eyes away from an overflowing toilet. GRADE–4
BAD SPORT — Multi-series of major sports scandals, most of them foreign (non-US). Pretty good drama with suspense, since most of us here in the US don’t know much about the Russian figure skating scandal or the Italian soccer match-fixing, or a cricket star from South Africa who was a murderer. However, the best episode is on the 1994 Arizona State college basketball betting scandal. Best feature I’ve seen on the subject. The other episodes were so-so. GRADE–6
DOWNFALL–THE CASE AGAINST BOEING — Exemplary documentary on the Boeing Aircraft design flaws and corporate scandal that led to the grounding of hundreds of planes, and nearly brought down the American commercial aviation industry. Masterfully well done investigative journalism, and a grave injustice that the corporate profit-mad executives weren’t punished for crimes that killed several hundred people in aviation disasters (overseas). Reminded me of a PBS Frontline episode. GRADE–8
SCIENTOLOGY — Lengthy series about the cult of Scientology and the evil those scumbags do. Despicable expose, but really important to see (paging Tom Cruise, you have some serious explaining to do, Sir). Many lives have been ruined. Very in-depth. Basically, this is an irrefutable indictment of mass madness. Moreover, there are some applicable lessons to the allure of cults that have much deeper connections to current events, so this isn’t just a series about bug-eyed religious wackos. It’s quite a docuseries, with so many episodes that they all seem to blend together but do show an unmistakable picture of the horrors of mind control and unrelenting intimidation. GRADE–7.5
WILD WILD COUNTRY — Three-episode series about some crazed Indian guru who sets up a spiritual commune in Oregon and preaches to his flock of thousands from the back seat of a Rolls Royce. Then, when the lights go out back at Rajneeshpuram, he starts fondling the ladies. What’s a lonely guru to do? Interesting story, which actually happened in the 1980s. Another rubbernecking vehicle into the madness of cults (and indeed any religion). GRADE–6.5
THE DEVIL NEXT DOOR — A three-part series on John Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian-born / then-retired Cleveland autoworker who immigrated to the USA and was later suspected of being a brutish concentration camp guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” during the Holocaust. I won’t give anything away but the court trial is fascinating. Lots of twists and turns. I’d forgotten the real story, so watching this was riveting. See my earlier comments about the Israeli court system, which are echoed here. A remarkable example of proper justice being practiced despite extraordinary public pressures bordering on mob frenzy. And Demjanjuk’s Israeli attorney should have his own late-night TV show. Mesmerizing to watch, in parts. GRADE–9
Part 1 was mostly crime documentaries. This Part 2 concentrated mainly on war and con artists. Next time, I’ll go a bit lighter and review some Netflix movies and television series, including comedies.