Film & Photography

All The Cool Stuff On Netflix In July

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Tbh, yours truly thought he could get away with not doing a Netflix preview for July 2022.  After all, viewers out there didn’t need prompting to check out the finale of “Stranger Things Season 4.”  Nor were they likely to skip out on the July 14 debut of “Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight” (with Jack Black returning to the role of Po) or “Resident Evil Season 1” (adapted by “Supernatural”’s Andrew Dabb).  Finally, July 22 sees the debut of Netflix’s big budget spy action-thriller “The Grey Man,” which is helmed by the Russo Brothers, stars Ryan Gosling as the title character and has Chris Evans playing his evil nemesis.

Then again, there are less well-known Netflix offerings this month that could use a signal boost.  Maybe not Carrie Cracknell’s semi-updating of “Persuasion,” which is liable to be a magnet for hate-watching Jane Austen fans.  But readers might not know about a Polish animated series starring a John Constantine-like character or a film essay about sound or even a reality series mixing interior design and sexual fantasy.

If they float your boat, go ahead and check out the higher profile Netflix offerings mentioned above.  But why not have fun screwing with Netflix’s programming algorithms by trying out something unpredictable you find intriguing?

A Call To Spy

Now Available

A Call To Spy–Viewers of the “Doctor Who” episode “Spyfall” were introduced to real life British spy Noor Inayat Khan.  This historical drama tells the story of Khan and that of fellow British spy Virginia Hall.  Both women of unusual backgrounds were recruited by Vera Atkins (Stana Katic) of the Special Operations Executive in the early part of World War II.  They’re trained and sent out without organizational support to help build a resistance in France and conduct acts of sabotage.  Hall’s ability to speak fluent French leads her to meet up with the fledgling Resistance and organize sabotage missions.  Khan’s gift with the wireless means the information she sends out is vital, but it also means she’s constantly on the run.

Deliverance–In John Boorman’s horrifying action-survival film, a quartet of city slicker friends from Atlanta (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox, and Ned Beatty) decide to take a week-long canoeing trip in the Georgia wilderness.  However, the inbred locals they encounter prove violently far from welcoming.  Before the vacation is over, one of these friends will be killed while another will be raped.  Reynolds’ performance in this film would vault him to stardom.

The Dirty Dozen–Director Robert Aldrich’s seminal 1967 war-action movie would inspire everything from a popular comic book series (the 1980s iteration of “The Suicide Squad”) to a Hong Kong action classic starring Sammo Hung (“Eastern Condors”).  It’s 1944 and D-Day is approaching.  Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) has been handed an unusual assignment.  His job: assemble a team of soldiers, parachute inside enemy lines, and kill a group of German military officials who use a particular French chateau as a vacation spot.  The mission is essentially a suicide job, so Reisman decides to draw his team members from murderers, rapists, and other criminals on death row.  If the team members complete the mission and survive, their sentences get commuted.  If they fail…well, they are going to die anyway.  

Falls Around Her–Folk singer Mary Birchbark (Tantoo Cardinal in her first lead role) has made a successful career on the road with her band The Nightmare.  One night after a show, she slips away from her bandmates and obnoxious manager without telling anyone.  Her destination turns out to be the Anishinaabe reservation on Northern Ontario’s Bear Island.  But rather than reconnect with family and friends from her youth, Mary wants to be left alone.  The singer gets her wish, but after some time passes there are now signs she’s not as alone as she thinks.

Falls Around Her

July 6

Girl In The Picture–High-schooler Sharon Marshall once had a bright future ahead of her.  She was a JROTC officer and had earned a full scholarship to Georgia Tech University to study aerospace engineering.  So why, years later, did she wind up dying by the roadside and survived by a son and a man claiming to be her husband?  Part of the answer involves her father Franklin Floyd, a fugitive with a history of committing violent crimes.  Putting the pieces together is journalist Matt Birkbeck, who solves what would eventually be revealed as a 30-year-old mystery.  Skye Borgman (“Abducted In Plain Sight”) directs this true crime documentary.

King Of Stonks (Season 1)–This German drama focuses on one Felix Armand, who quite simply wants it all: his firm’s CEO spot and control of Europe’s biggest FinTech company.  However, the many problems that pop up during his firm’s IPO rollout threatens to make his ambitions a distant dream.  These problems include money laundering, investor deception, Internet pornography, and a limelight-hogging megalomaniac of a boss.  But the biggest problem Felix will face comes from falling in love with notorious short-seller Sheila Williams.

Uncle From Another World (Season 1)–In 2017, Takafumi’s uncle finally awakens from a 17-year coma resulting from a truck hitting him.  Takafumi thinks his uncle is missing a few sandwiches from his picnic basket given that the older man claims he’s supposedly returned from some world called Gran-Bahamal.  The younger man’s doubts quickly disappear once his uncle performs a feat of magic in front of him.  Can these two men of different generations both live in the same apartment together and even make it as video content creators?

July 7

Vinland Saga Season 1—In this historical anime adventure drama, Thorfinn Snorresson longs to leave his peaceful Icelandic village, see the world, and even visit the magical land explorer Leif Erikson calls Vinland.  However, the teen’s plans change after his father is murdered by Askeladd and he winds up joining Askeladd’s Viking band.  The young man longs to avenge his father’s death by fighting the band leader in a duel to the death.  However, the English-Danish war and Thorfinn’s own currently inadequate fighting skills means the young man must learn patience and truly hone his fighting chops before he can achieve his goal.

July 8

Capitani Season 2–How can you get police undercover work done in a small country such as Luxembourg, where everybody knows everybody else?  Normally, the cops bring in an outsider.  But to infiltrate the underworld of Gare, they settle for the next best thing.  Everybody knows that it’s been three years since former police detective Luc Capitani was tossed into prison for murder.  So it’s not a stretch for the disgraced cop to seemingly offer his services to Gare’s underworld to get out of prison.  But will he wind up having much more to atone for once he completes his mission?

Uncle From Another World

How To Build A Sex Room Season 1–Welcome to the new reality show that mixes home improvement with sex positivity.  Interior Designer Melanie Rose spent fifteen years designing the interiors of high-end homes.  Then one day, a client’s request for a sex room sent her career in an unexpectedly refreshing direction.  Now she designs functional and beautiful home spaces for adult intimacy.  The challenge is figuring out what to put in the proposed sex room that would make the couple happy.and allow them to grow together emotionally.  Hint: video games for just the guy have no place in a sex room.

The Sea Beast–This animated adventure written and directed by Chris Williams (“Moana,” “Big Hero 6”) will hopefully give a new generation of viewers the thrills of a sea-based adventure.   Young Maisie Brumble’s parents were apparently killed in a sea monster attack, leaving her orphaned.  One day, the girl runs away from the orphanage and stows away aboard the monster-killing ship the Inevitable.  She’s hoping to find adventure with Captain Crow and crew hunting down sea monsters.  Their current mission is to find and kill the Red Bluster, a mashup of Moby Dick and Toothless the flying dragon that’s colored like Clifford the Big Red Dog.  But when Maisie accidentally gets lost at sea and winds up befriending the Red Bluster, uh oh… 

July 12

How To Change Your Mind–Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney adapts Michael Pollan’s book of the same name for this docuseries.  Pollan hosts this look at how LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and mescaline might be used to heal such mental illnesses as PTSD.  Can these once reviled drugs be turned into curative forces for damaged human minds?

July 13

D.B Cooper: Where Are You?!–In November 1971, a mysterious man calling himself D.B. Cooper hijacked a Northwest Airlines passenger jet and later parachuted from the plane with his $200,00 ransom (close to $1.45 million in today’s dollars) and four parachutes.  Cooper was never seen again and the money was never recovered.  Despite the passage of five decades and the efforts of both the FBI and amateur sleuths, nobody to date has solved the mystery of Cooper’s identity or the whereabouts of either Cooper or the money he stole.     . 

Hurts Like Hell Season 1–Tony Jaa may have introduced Western cinemagoers to the speed and power of muay thai boxing.  But this hybrid docuseries shows Muay Thai as professionally practiced has now strayed from its historic noble roots into far darker territory.  The drama part deals with a Muay Thai-obsessed fan whose life is falling apart.  The documentary part comes from interviews with actual boxers, gamblers, and referees connected with the sport.

July 15

Country Queen–Netflix’s first production from Kenya is a tale of ordinary people vs. corporate greedheads.  In contemporary Nairobi, Akisa has made a career for herself as an event planner.  When her father falls ill, she makes a return visit to her home village of Tsilanga after leaving it 10 years ago.  Tsilanga is currently in turmoil.  The EcoRock mining company has discovered the village sits atop some vast gold reserves, and it wants to exploit that mineral wealth.  The villagers oppose EcoRock’s efforts, but EcoRock owner Vivienne is used to getting what she wants.  Max, Vivienne’s husband, is an ex-gangster who’s quite willing to engage in dirty tricks to advance EcoRock’s interests.  After Akisa encounters an example of Vivienne’s ruthlessness, she decides the answer is to take the fight to the mining mogul’s doorstep.

Forged In Fire

Forged In Fire (Season 8)–For the uninitiated, this reality competition show challenges four swordsmiths to use such raw material as meat hooks and steel from a burned car to make workable bladed weapons from various historic eras.  The weapons made have included the sword of Saladin, a Vajra-Mushti, and a Boateng saber.  In this new season, a new host takes over and the show’s judges are pitted against each other in the making of historic blades. 

The Metamorphosis Of Birds–Director Caterina Vaconcelos’ debut feature documentary mixes family legend, metaphor, metafiction, and art installation in a dizzying blend.  The first part of this film recreates the relationship between the director’s grandparents Henrique and Triz.  Henrique was a sailor who was away at sea for long periods of time; Triz was the wife who stayed home raising their children.  Vaconcelos attempts to recreate the sense of the long passionate letters (later destroyed at Henrique’s request) her grandparents wrote to each other.  The second part of the film examines the director’s loss of her own mother.  Vaconcelos’ debut is filled with references to everything from Portugal’s colonial past to the beauty of forests and mountains.

Remarriage And Desires–This new Korean drama series centers on a professional matchmaking service known as Rex.  It caters to wealthy high-class individuals, either those who want to enter such high class circles or to stay in these circles through marriage or remarriage.  Seo Hye-Seung is an ordinary housewife who has signed up with Rex to get revenge against her dead husband’s ex-mistress, the ruthless lawyer Jin Yoo Hee.  Meanwhile, professor Cha Seok Jin battles his stepmother (and Rex CEO) Choi Yoo Seon for control of his father’s large inheritance.  

Soa–Humans may live in a world of sounds, but they’re not necessarily conscious of every sound around them.  Director Raquel Castro’s film essay looks at how sounds, frequencies, and even infra- and ultrasounds shape each and every one of us and the places we inhabit.  What responsibilities to the environment do people have for the sounds they produce?

July 20

Bad Exorcist (Seasons 1 & 2)–What if DC Comics character John Constantine was even more of a lowlife than he currently is…and funny, too?  That’s the premise (more or less) behind this new Polish adult animated comedy.  Meet Bogdan Boner, a hard-drinking self-taught exorcist-for-hire who’ll attempt to get rid of your demon problem if the price is right.  Using only his wits against powerful supernatural forces, Boner frequently finds that getting down and dirty with the paranormal takes him to some pretty raunchy places.

The Metamorphosis Of Birds

July 22

Blown Away Season 3–Return to the Hot Shop for a new season of competitive glassblowing.  One of these ten expert glassblower contestants will be dubbed Best In Glass, and awarded $60,000 plus an artist’s residency at New York’s Corning Museum Of Glass.  The challenge for these contestants comes from working with a very temperamental medium that can explode, have pieces break off, or even get accidentally dropped on the ground and shatter.  On the other hand, glass’ fragility and malleability means an expert glassblower can create anything from intricate vases to a flower with a mouth at the center.

July 27

The Most Hated Man On The Internet–Raw TV, the production company which produced the acclaimed true crime documentary “The Tinder Swindler,” returns with a new true crime docuseries.  Hunter Moore is the titular man.  In the 2010s, the self-proclaimed “professional life ruiner” founded IsAnyoneUp.com.  This revenge porn hub regularly posted unauthorized explicit photos of both men and women, and built up a cult of followers of Moore’s antics.  Victims of Moore’s site fought to have their nude photos removed, but it would be a mother whose daughter was publicly humiliated by IsAnyoneUp.com who would finally deliver Moore’s well-deserved comeuppance.

July 29

The Beauty Queen Of Jerusalem Season 2–This multi-generational historical drama follows the fortunes of the Armozas, a family of Ladino-Sephardic Jews living in Jerusalem.  It jumps back and forth in time among the days of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and Israel’s War Of Independence.  At the center of the tale is the tense relationship among Gavriel, Rosa, and Luna Amorza.  Gavriel and Rosa are stuck in a loveless marriage, and their eldest daughter Luna happens to be the prime recipient of Gavriel’s affections.  Rosa’s jealousy of Luna results in family conflict. 

Detective Conan: Zero’s Tea Time–This side story to the Detective Conan anime series (known in the US as “Case Closed”) focuses on the day-to-day life of supporting character Rei Furuya aka Tooru Amuro.  When he’s not involved in one of Conan’s cases, he’s also working undercover for the National Police Agency in the Black Organization…and he’s part of Cafe Poirot’s waitstaff.  How does Rei keep his different roles straight throughout the day?  Watch and find out, but maybe don’t think too hard about it as this is anime.

The Most Hated Man On The Internet

Purple Hearts–In this teen romance drama, Cassie is a struggling singer-songwriter who works a day job as a bartender.  When she gets diagnosed with diabetes, the looming medical debt for day-to-day care threatens to crush her dreams.  Her solution is to do a military marriage to access military health benefits.  The frustratingly intense and troubled Luke agrees to the arrangement.  Why has the soldier agreed to marry Cassie?  And what happens when their marriage becomes something more than a pretense?  

Uncoupled Season 1–Neil Patrick Harris stars in this new comedy from Darren Star (“Emily In Paris”).  Michael (Harris) thought he had the perfect life: a great career and a strong 17-year marriage.  But when his husband suddenly walks out the door, Michael’s life crumbles around him.  Not only must he deal with the trauma of losing the man he thought was his soulmate, but trying to find a new long-term romantic relationship will be a nightmare given that he’s a mid-40s gay man living in New York City. 

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.

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