Netflix and even other such streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime have been churning out so many original movies on a weekly basis, it is sometimes hard to keep track of them all. Rather than individually review each film, I’ve decided to start doing mini reviews of all the streaming originals I’ve watched in a month. So if you’re feeling as overwhelmed as I am as to what to watch next, check out my thoughts on some of May’s new Netflix film releases, and let me know what your favorite thing you watched this month was.
This documentary directed by Rachel Lears looks at four female Democrats running for Congress in the 2018 election. The diverse group of women includes Cori Bush of Missouri, Amy Vilela of Nevada, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia, with particular emphasis on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the only one in the group who won the election, becoming the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. While the film follows members of the Democratic party, it does so without feeling overly biased. Each woman has their own reason for running, and their stories are compelling enough to engross viewers regardless of their political persuasion. It’s both an informative and inspirational look behind the scenes of the most important mid-term election in U.S. history. 4 out of 5 stars.
Directed by Amy Poehler, this comedy follows a group of women on a trip to Napa to celebrate their friend’s 50th birthday. The lifelong friends reminiscence about their college years and struggled with getting older while getting into mishaps along the way. Poehler also stars, alongside Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Emily Spivey, Paula Pell, Tina Fey, and Jason Schwartzman. But despite having a cast of some of the most successful and talented female comedians currently working in Hollywood, the script never pushes the premise as far as it could, resulting in a movie that is obviously trying to be both funny and heartwarming, but fails at doing both. 1.5 out of 5 stars.
This crime drama directed by Joe Berlinger tells the true story of the trial of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy (played by Zac Efron), who killed over 30 women in the mid-1970s. But this film tells that story from the perspective of Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), a single mother who had been dating Ted for several years at the time of his arrest, and who for years refused to believe that he could have committed such horrible crimes. This film never actually shows Ted committing any of the murders until the very end of the film, focusing instead on his relationship with Liz, and later on his trial (the only part of the movie that is actually rather engaging). But in doing that, the film feels like it is trying to humanize this horrible man, and even almost leaving whether or not he did commit those murders up to the audience’s interpretation until the very end—even though it is a known fact that Ted confessed to over 30 murders prior to his execution in 1989. Collins is great, as is Kaya Scodelario as Ted’s delusional love interest Carole Ann Boone. Maybe Efron could have played a creepy serial killer, but I guess we’ll never really know, as he doesn’t get the chance to go full villain with his role. 1.5 out of 5 stars.
I’ve got to be honest, I still don’t really know what I think about this movie, which is directed by Richard Shepard and became something of a viral sensation after its release on Netflix. This is the sort of twisty thriller you’ll want to go into knowing as little as possible, so I’ll just say that it stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning as accomplished cellists who trained under the same teacher since they were kids. The film takes its premise from Korean revenge thrillers and runs with it; trust me, you may think you know what’s going on, but you don’t. It isn’t exactly great cinema, but the story is propelled by compelling performances from both Williams and Browning that make it worth checking out. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
This pleasantly romantic comedy is directed by Kate Melville and stars Tiya Sircar as Kate Bradley, a New York City reporter following a story about a mysterious man leaving bags of cash on people’s doorsteps throughout the city. We ought to know where this story is going from the get-go, but it manages to pack in plenty of twists along the way, balancing both romance and mystery along with a likeable lead in Sircar. 3 out of 5 stars.
This comedy/drama directed by William Brindley follows a group of Chicago teens as they struggle to balance their lives and relationships in the summer before they head off to college. The ensemble cast is led by Riverdale’s KJ Apa and Maia Mitchell, but it bounces around too much between all the different stories and characters to allow the audience to get attached to any of them. And with so many teen movies recently taking a more honest and fresh approach to how they tell their stories, this one just feels phony. 2 out of 5 stars.
Directed by Nahnatchka Khan, this romantic comedy stars Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also co-wrote the script along with Michael Golamco. They play Sasha (Wong) and Marcus (Park), childhood friends who fall for each other when they get older but break off their relationship after a disagreement. Years later, Sasha, now a celebrity chef, returns home to San Francisco, where an unexpected reunion with Marcus rekindles old sparks. Wong and Park are both incredibly likeable and have great chemistry, and the film is funny and fresh despite falling into some old rom-com tropes along the way. It’s absolutely worth checking out to both support an Asian-American led film, and also to witness a surprise addition to the cast who pops up halfway through. Be sure to watch through the end of the credits as well to hear what may be my favorite movie song of 2019. 4 out of 5 stars.