Kieron Self casts a critical eye over the latest offerings from Netflix – it’s a mixed bag.
Dir: Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht (12A 106 mins)
This superb documentary shines a light on a continually struggling group, the disabled, with a story and ongoing battle that has been shamefully ignored for decades. In the early 1970s, the life of a disabled teenager was one of isolation, discrimination and unfairness. A teenager in a wheelchair, or with cystic fibrosis, learning difficulties, indeed any disability would never be seen as ‘a teenager’, they were defined by their ailment rather than their humanity, often institutionalized in horrific circumstances, forgotten about, swept under the carpet. At the very special hippie led Camp Jened however, these teens were treated as teenagers, sporting activities, first kisses, pot smoking and honest discussions were the norm for a treasured few weeks. Those who went to this camp formed close bonds and went on to form disability revolutionaries, pressurizing successive governments to see their worth and leading to constitutional reform in the USA. Their struggle forms the thrust of this engrossing documentary, as we follow several of the Camp Jened alumni through their battles for recognition and simple access to human rights. The extraordinary Judith Heumann is at the forefront staging sits in in government buildings, blocking New York roads, appealing to Congress to draw attention to the basic rights being denied to the disabled. In an era where public transport could only be accessed via steps, where disabled children were segregated from their schoolmates, disruption and a willingness to be upfront and shine a spotlight on their plight was necessary. The fact that it took decades for this to be achieved with the Americans with Disabilities Act as successive US administrations said yes in principle but proceeded to do nothing is shameful, but Heumann and her fellow campaigners, including co-director James Lebrecht persevered. The Crip Camp of Jened spawned determined revolutionaries that have shaped present day attitudes to the disabled after the barbarism of the past. An excellent documentary, executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, on a shamefully neglected and ongoing struggle, just look at the terrible toll Universal Credit is having on those with disabilities now. This is essential viewing.
Streaming on Netflix now
COFFEE AND KAREEM
Dir: Michael Dowse (15 88 mins)
Deeply awful so-called comedy full of repellent unrealistic characters, crass ‘jokes’, casual misogyny, racism and uncomfortable violence. Ed Helms struggles through the proceedings doing his normal stressed everyman schtick as ineffectual cop James Coffee in a relationship with Taraji P Henson’s hugely underwritten ‘mad black woman’ widow Vanessa. After her son, Kareem, an expletive spouting Terrence Little Gardenhigh, sees Helms having sex with his Mum he decides to get a local gangster to threaten him. Yup. Said gangster Orlando Jones, (RonReaco Lee) a 2D gun toting stereotype, is in the middle of killing a cop when our ‘loveable’ child lead stumbles across him and witnesses the murder. Now Coffee and Kareem are on the run, Coffee has to clear his name as they discover their police squad is riddled with dirty cops amongst them GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, who deserves far better than this. As their escapades continue our poor mans 48 Hours pairing bond…at a strip club… talking about masturbation, in a painfully horrid terribly written scene from the dark ages. Coffee and Kareem is woefully bad, having a 12 year old constantly spew aggressive homophobic drivel and tell women to show him their body parts was never funny. How Shane Mack’s script was ever greenlit is staggering, even if it was augmented by some apparent sweary improvisation. This is a grubby, nasty film with, unfortunately, no redeeming features.
Streaming on Netflix now
LOVE WEDDING REPEAT
Dir: Dean Craig (15 100 mins)
A very formulaic mix of the Richard Curtis-esque rom com template with a dash of Sliding Doors, this remake of French film Plan de Table is instantly forgettable thin froth. Sam Claflin stars as Hugh Grant-esque Jack, desperately in love with Olivia Munn’s war journalist Dina, but unable to tell her. When his sister Hayley’s wedding, set in an idyllic Italian house, brings them back together again he wants to seize the day but forced and frenetic comic mishaps abound, hitting and missing with frequent, irritating results. Turns out Claflin’s sister, played by Eleanor Tomlinson has been unfaithful to her husband to be with an old school friend who is now obsessed with her. Jack’s ex-girlfiriend played by Frieda Pinto is there too with new boyfriend played by Allan Mustafa, with their whole subplot turning into a soon wearing ‘joke’ about Mustafa’s penis size. Joel Fry is the best mate, a struggling actor determined to make an impression with a famous director. Thankfully Tim Key and Aisling Bea shine as comic characters imbuing a sense of melancholy to their believably needy characters, naturally funny amidst the straining farce. Sedatives are involved, people are locked in cupboards, declarations made over wedding speeches and there’s an omniscient narrator to get us over a few plot holes and scenario resets but is then conveniently forgotten about. Capable performances just about see the nuptials through, but the script has all the characters jumping through silly hoops, and the. Est laughs come from Key and Bea improvising. A Euro-pudding setting with sketchily drawn Italian characters that act as extras rather than anything vaguely fleshed out, including husband to be, Roberto, played by Tizano Caputo, this is a wedding reception best avoided.
Streaming on Netflix now
Dir Peter Berg (15 111 mins)
Mark Wahlberg attempts to kickstart a Netflix franchise for himself in this by the numbers crime comedy drama, set in his beloved Boston. Reteaming with director Peter Berg with whom he created the far better Deepwater Horizon and several other middling thrillers like Patriots Day and Mile 22, this riffs on a TV detective series from the 1980s, Spenser for Hire, that starred Robert Urich from a series of potboiler novels by Robert B. Parker. Wahlberg is a committed if truculent cop, jailed for beating up a dirty commander and subsequently released only to find that his old police force is riddled with corruption and his old nemesis has been murdered. Another good cop is framed for that murder and Wahlberg sets out to clear his name and get justice, avoiding hits on him along the way and discovering how deep the corruption runs, involving drugs and corrupt gambling deals and a blatantly obvious main suspect. Winston Duke co-stars as grudging partner Hawk, a cat loving MMA fighter Wahlberg trains with his old school street smarts. Stand up Iliza Sclhesinger is wasted in an underwritten female role as Wahlberg’s unhinged girlfriend, Glow’s Marc Maron as an exposition spouting journalist and Alan Arkin adds a modicum of comic class as a father figure/wise old curmudgeon. The drama never really ignites however and everything is ridiculously testosterone fuelled, Wahlberg looking at himself in a mirror as he has a swift sexual encounter with Schlesinger fully illustrates the star vehicle narcissism. It remains rather dull and bland, Wahlberg lacking the necessary twinkly likeability required to make us really care about the beatings he takes. The crunching violence often grates with the supposedly jocular tone, the machinations of the plot are often clumsy and ultimately this feels like a swearier more big budget TV pilot that doesn’t work.
Streaming on Netflix now
Words: Kieron Self