You may have noticed by now that I am a fan of Netflix. That is partially because a number of years ago I cut the cord and realized paying $100 a month for cable that I mostly scrolled through was futile. More often, though, I find that Netflix seems to have a knack for either finding or producing compelling original gems, both in standalone movies and series that can entertain us for years. One of their most recent films, The Laundromat, provides an entertaining and horrifying glimpse into the tangled web of financial scams that spans the globe.
While the film often strikes a whimsical tone, it is an embellished and over the top version of events related to the very real Panama Papers scandal. In short, a law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, helped thousands of wealthy and questionable clients shelter money in offshore accounts and shell corporations. The intricate connections among individuals and dishonest businesses lead to a kind of domino effect that hit small businesses and individuals alike.
The name Stephen King is synonymous with horror, and for good reason. He is a master of suspense, world creation, and intricate plots. I am a huge fan of King’s novels, as well as some of his movie adaptations, so it should come as no surprise that I have also embraced one of his latest transitions to the screen, HBO’s series The Outsider. Even for viewers wary of horror, the series promises an invigorating ride.
The plot centers on the brutal murder of a child that initially seems like an open and shut case. The fingerprints and DNA of local teacher and baseball coach Terry Maitland (played by Jason Bateman) are found everywhere at the crime scene. Numerous witnesses and even video footage place him at or near the scene as well and point to him being the culprit. After his very public arrest, an impossible paradox comes to light: there is also footage of him 60 miles away at the time of the murder, and fingerprints to support that version of events as well. The question for detective Ralph Anderson (played by Ben Mendelson) then becomes much deeper and confounding: how is it possible Terry committed this crime if he’s on film elsewhere at the time of the murder? How could someone be in two places at once? And if Terry is innocent, is the real killer still out there waiting to strike again?
“There is only one god and his name is Death, and there is only one thing we say to Death. Not today.” This quote is from season one of Game of Thrones— while it is a completely different genre and even flavor of show— it can also be aptly applied to Netflix’s Altered Carbon.
From the first moments humans became capable of considering existential matters, like the future and the afterlife, we have wondered about how to circumvent death; with creams, chemicals, surgeries, or shamans we try and delay the inevitable march to the grave. In the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, a hypothetical earth is set several centuries in the future from our own, fantasy has become reality.
In this future earth (and the many worlds we have colonized), humans have achieved a measure of immortality, though with some caveats and twists. The entire essence of a person, the memories, personality, the very consciousness, can be copied onto a durable metal disk. At the age of one, these disks are inserted into every human’s body at the base of the neck. Physical bodies, what we think of as defining our identities, are in fact almost disposable and called “sleeves”. The durable stack can live on even if your body dies from old age or physical trauma, and you can continue living on in a new body. Being able to upgrade to a new form after each life has its perks, as might conversing with ancestors from generations past. Better yet, if you were extremely wealthy, you could keep uploading yourself into perfectly cloned bodies of your original self, achieving something closer to true immortality.
If you’re like me and have never tried psychedelic drugs, a fine substitute would be Netflix’s new original movie, Horse Girl. The film straddles different genres with pleasing, albeit confusing, results.
Horse Girl’s star, Alison Brie, plays the socially awkward young woman who works at an arts and crafts store. Brie—who has starred in Mad Men and Community—shines and stands in stark contrast to the glamour of some of her previous roles. Brie’s Sarah is socially inept and obsessed with a horse she rode as a child. While also making braided anklets and bracelets the way an eleven-year-old might.
Cracks soon begin to emerge in Sarah’s dull routine as her behavior and imagination begin to run wild. Initially, this seems to be innocuous, perhaps some kind of sleepwalking, until the incidents become more and more bizarre; Waking up blocks from home in the middle of the night with her pajamas on backwards, abandoning her car in the middle of traffic, and vivid hallucinations. These hallucinations are of alien abductions, and start to blur the line between make-believe and reality as she obsesses over whether or not they are in fact paranormal in nature.