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Drama

Nine Perfect Strangers Episodes 1-3 Review

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Could ten days at a wellness retreat really change you forever? These nine perfect strangers are about to find out. Welcome to Tranquillum House a place were these nine strangers have come to lose weight, reboot and some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all the luxury amenities and architecture lies ten days of hard work that ultimately will challenge them, though they have the faintest idea what lies ahead. 

There are solutions they may see, but how far are they willing to trust someone who seems to have all the answers. 

Nine perfect strangers is a new eight- part series based on the book of the same name by Liane Moriarty and after the success of Big Little Lies and The Undoing, writer/producer David E. Kelley is back with Emmy-winning star Nicole Kidman to adapt this best seller. Once more they have dived into the drama full of gossip and dark humour. The central Mystery is about a mysterious wellness entrepreneur, who is receiving anonymous death threats during a retreat that is unsteady. 

 

Hulu on Wednesday debuted the first three episodes, but for UK viewers Nine Perfect Strangers debuted today and will be every Friday on Amazon Prime Video. Jonathan Levine directs all eight episodes, the first three of which will be covered in this review. 

Staying at this Lavish wellness spa are the Crew of Nine Strangers that go through this 10 day retreat to rejuvenate themselves. Among them is romance novelist Frances( Melissa McCarthy) who’s successful writing career appears to be past its sell by date. At the start of episode one titled “Random Acts of Mayhem” her agent informs her that the publisher is passing on her latest novel and would prefer to buy out her contract. 

Then there’s Instagram Influencer Jessica(Samara Weaving) who’s got insecurity issues. She’s with her husband Ben(Melvin Gregg) in an attempt to save their relationship.

The Marconi family, Napoleon(Michael Shannon), his wife Heather(Asher Keddie) and their daughter Zoe(Grace Van Patten) are all attending Tranquillum House together as they mourn the loss of a loved one which they also touch up on in episode two titled “The Critical Path”. Then there’s Tony(Bobby Cannavale) a grizzled gruff loudmouth who hides his substance abuse struggle whilst also having a strained relationship with his own daughter. 

Excited and perky stay at home mum Carmel(Regina Hall) is also staying at the Tranquillum. She’s sweet but extremely nosy and perhaps a tad more Volatile that you might expect. Rounding up the group is Lars(Luke Evans) the only Tranquillum guest who seems to suspect that something is not quite right. 

Vince Valitutti/Hulu

However the biggest mystery is Masha(Nicole Kidman), she’s the mastermind behind Tranquillum House’s unique and unusual form of therapy. Masha Controls every detail from protocols, special smoothies and is even personally involved in her staffs (Tiffany Boone and Manny Jacinto) lives. Nicole Kidman truly gives the character a mask to hide in and she’s able to shut away the inner demons at work. 

 

Kidman’s performance is eccentric, flawless and otherworldly, she even does this alarming stare straight through the camera which drew me in. As the series progresses through it’s first three episodes we see Masha’s dark secrets star spiralling out of control. Each episode shows violations, failings and betrayals. 

The first three episodes move at such a glacial pace and takes time getting to know the characters and to further the plot. much of the revelations are set up mostly during the first act amid shared meals, group activities and sessions. It’s truly the stories that bring these strangers together. Happily it’s the cast that get the story going, from Luke Evans’s smug smile whilst he stirs up the pot and causes unrest, Regina Hall who gets the laughs and the tension as she plays a high strung but earnest mother. Samara Weaving shakes things up by becoming an Instagram celeb and Manny Jacinto, who I’ve loved since he played goofy Jason Mendoza on The Good Place. At first i didn’t recognise him as his goofy personality has become serene.

Happily the most thrilling performances come from the established stars, this is definitely a bonus for making Strangers watchable. Firstly Napoleon feels like a character that’s ripped from real life, Shannon’s intense performance elevates through the first three episodes, whether he’s delivering an intoxicated speech or singing in the hot spa. 

Melissa McCarthy is also another standout, plus she’s also an executive producer on the show. McCarthy brings the hilarious one-liners but her performance also wrestles with trauma and growth. She’s paired brilliantly with Bobby Cannavale. They take full advantage of the hilarious and chaotic chemistry they share onscreen.

Trauma is used throughout episodes 1-3 as an experience, it can also sometime motivate us. But Nine Perfect Strangers uses Trauma to explore these broken characters and ultimately reconstruct them which is a tough Journey to take and Masha will have their mental health readings go off the charts. By the end of episode 3 titled Earth Day, Nine Perfect Strangers became an intriguing worthwhile watch especially for the drama, thrills and somewhat humour.

 

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Drama

Netflix’s Damsel: Millie Bobby Brown’s Medicore Fantasy Drama Fails Angela Bassett and Robin Wright

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Robin Wright, Millie Bobby Brown and Angela Basett in Netflix's Damsel

Netflix’s latest 109-minute original movie, starring Millie Bobby Brown, unfortunately fails to conquer its audience. The twisted dark fairy tale turns into a fantasy survival thriller as the “damsel in distress” faces betrayal and hardships. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and written by Dan Mazeau, Damsel offers a beautiful concept with a weak story.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

The opening narration of the movie, “There are many stories of chivalry where the heroic knight saves the damsel in distress. This is not one of them,” sets the tone of the movie as Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) was ‘sold’ to another kingdom as a bride only to be betrayed by her husband soon after getting married. Hurt, alone, and frightened, the protagonist soon learns that she has been ‘sacrificed’ for the benefit of the kingdom to a dragon. Survival seems hard for the princess as she comes across the dangers of the majestic creature. Brown’s character soon finds out that she is not the first to be sacrificed. Several brides like her have been thrown away for generations like a stick thrown to a dog.

Damsel offers an unusual and strong concept with captivating visuals and cinematography. The traditional classy costumes and rich makeup style match the theme well. As usual, the Stranger Things star offered outstanding dialogue delivery with expectational expressions.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

As much as Millie Bobby Brown’s magnificent performance needs to be applauded one cannot help but notice the waste of fine talents. Yes, we’re talking about multiple award winners, veteran actresses Angela Bassett and Robin Wright, who are highly recognized talents out in the world, famous for their spectacular roles in multiple critically acclaimed projects. Brown’s heavy presence leaves no room for Bassett and Wright to shine. It leaves other actors such as Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, and Brooke Carter far out from the spotlight.

Damsel includes some heart-wrenching action scenes along with many emotional turning points that make Elodie question her life. She is living in fear, facing betrayal, figuring things out, and most importantly, trying to survive all alone in a dark cave. The bland dialogues in between disrupt the flow of the movie, but the rushed conclusion lashes all hopes to the ground! All the buildup was quickly washed away as the movie ends cursory.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

The period movie challenges patriarchy, inequality, and gender roles. The protagonist Princess Elodie is an open-minded, strong, progressive-thinking character who can do anything for her people – even if it means giving up her dreams and life in an arranged marriage. The women in the movie are bold, strong, rational, and, protective. It is only fitting that Netflix’s Damsel was released on International Women’s Day as the distressed damsel shows she needs no man in shining armor to protect her from the dangers present in the world. She is a brave, daring, sharp-minded young woman who takes revenge and expresses power when it was needed. Game of Thrones may have set a standard for dragons, but this one is no less. We’re sure Khaleesi would be proud of Elodie!

Damsel is available to stream on Netflix.

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Action

Napoleon: Explosive and Victorious!

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Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Plot

Napoleon is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Oscar®-winner Joaquin Phoenix. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking orchestrated by legendary director Ridley Scott, the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.

Vanessa Kirby as Josephine Bonaparte and Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Movie Review

The movie starts off on a high note, showcasing the end of one of France’s major historical figures while Napoleon watches on. The storyline is centered around some of Napoleon’s highlights in his military career such as the siege of Toulon, the Battles of Austerlitz and Waterloo, as well as his exile to St Helena. Every moment combined with dramatic effect delivers a well-rounded historical war-drama.

We are taken to picturesque locations supported by an epic soundtrack delivered by Martin Phipps (listen below).

Napoleon (Original Soundtrack by Martin Phipps)

The costumes and military regalia is done to perfection. The display of explosive artillery adds to the battle highlights, and watching the movie in a IMAX theatre adds even more value in terms of sound and picture quality.

Even though the movie contains historical inaccuracies, a well dramatised historical account of Napoleon Bonaparte is offered, and Joaquin Phoenix delivers a performance worthy of a medal. Vanessa Kirby plays the part of Empress Joséphine, and delivers

One movie would never be enough to share all of the highlights of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, but I feel this movie really summed up some of the stories quite well. The movie is filled with non-stop action between the battlefields and political halls of France. Ridley Scott delivers a war movie that gives us a shortened but powerful glimpse of the legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte. Give him a medal!

I would personally have loved a see an entire series dedicated to the stories of Napoleon Bonaparte.

I rate this movie 4 out of 5. Not for sensitive viewers. Lots of action with a few violent scenes. There are a few sexual scenes but with no graphic nudity.

The movie trailer doesn’t spoil too much of the movie content and is a brilliant appetizer for the history buffs among us. There is no post-credits scene though, so no need to wait till the end.

Watch Napoleon at a cinema near you!

Napoleon Official Trailer (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

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Comedy

Netflix’s Crashing Eid Review: Love, Culture, and Differences

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Crashing Eid

If you are curious about other cultures, or maybe want to see how your culture is represented in mainstream media, then you should binge-watch Netflix’s Arabic Comedy series Crashing Eid this weekend. It’s a 4-episode long series with each episode of roughly 47 minutes. The series revolves around culture, love, differences, family, and drama.

The story focuses on Razan (Summer Shesha) as she finds love for the second time in her life but struggles to convince her family for marriage. Razan is shown to be living in the UK with her daughter Lamar (Bateel Qamlo) and finds her British-Pakastani boyfriend Sameer (Hamza Haq) as a suitable match for herself. She proposes to him for marriage before traveling to Saudi Arabia, her home, to celebrate Eid. Her family is convinced that she is back in Saudi for good but Razan has other plans. She tries to tell them about Sameer but constantly fails due to fear and lack of ‘perfect’ timing. She tells Sameer that her parents have agreed to their marriage as she panics to tell him the truth.

Summer Shesha and Bateel Qamlo in Crashing Eid

Summer Shesha as Razan, Bateel Qamlo as Lamar in Crashing Eid

Here comes the twist – Sameer reaches Saudi to surprise Razan and to meet her parents! She tries her best to handle the situation and hide their relationship with the help of her daughter Lamar. At the end of the episode, the truth uncovers itself and everyone is left disappointed. The story follows Razan’s family drama, bitter relations with her mother, previous abusive marriage, her brother Hasan’s (Yasir Alsaggaf) struggle to connect with his son after losing custody, etc. Her previous marriage with her cousin affected her relationship with her own mother as she blames Razan for the failed marriage.

Summer Shesha’s portrayal of a strong woman struggling with every close person in her life but still managing to face everything with bravery is appreciable. Khalid Alharbi deserves applause for his sweet, loving, and understanding role as Razan’s father.

Yasir Alsaggaf, Summer Shesha and Amani Idrees in Crashing Eid

Yasir Alsaggaf, Summer Shesha, and Amani Idrees in Crashing Eid

Despite a fun twist challenge, representation, and Khalid Alharbi’s brilliant performance, a few parts lack perspective. The story doesn’t completely revolve around Razan yet it fails to involve Lamar’s (Bateel Qamlo) emotions in the family drama. She is seen upset at times but it’s never completely addressed. She plays the role of a typical elder daughter helping out her mother in everything and neglecting herself at times. The ending felt rushed as it doesn’t properly elaborate on how Razan’s mother (Amani Idrees) suddenly changed her mind about her daughter. Emotions take time and that’s what felt rushed.

Summer Shesha, Hamza Haq and Khalid Alharbi in Crashing Eid

Summer Shesha, Hamza Haq, and Khalid Alharbi in Crashing Eid

Crashing Eid  offers strong cultural representation, women empowerment, and how love can help you deal with almost everything. It focuses strongly on social taboos surrounding women and Muslim culture.

Crashing Eid is now available to stream on Netflix.

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