It’s summer, and you probably spent half of it in the movie theater. Loved “Avengers: Infinity War”? Thrilled by “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”? Sang along with “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again”? Overloaded on buttery popcorn and mega-sized sodas? Maybe or maybe not.
For those who didn’t need digital projection, crowded theaters and the toxic smell of the fattening yellow stuff, home provided just as much entertainment. For less than the price of a movie ticket and a trip to the concession stand, home screens provided new flicks for every movie lover. Load that movie theater popcorn package in the microwave, relax on the coach, and check out reviews of the summer’s streaming offerings from Netflix:
“Anon,” streaming on Netflix
In futuristic New York City, Clive Owen has an eye on crime that no longer exist and a name for every face. As Detective Sal Frieland, Owen navigates through a crimeless, cataloged world of neo-noir until he meets a femme fatale known simply as the Girl (Amanda Seyfried). Wherever the Girl travels, people’s identities are wiped clean in Frieland’s view.
This trick becomes upsetting to officials as a serial killer pops up on their radar. The Girl is off the grid, with no digital footprint or identification, and because suspect No. 1. Frieland must find the Girl, stop her undermining plan to corrupt the system and upgrade his life as a lonely, grieving bachelor.
Director Andrew Niccol doesn’t sway much from the neo-noir, sci-fi niche in which he keeps himself with previous movies like “Gattaca” and “In Time.” It almost feels like an “In Time” sequel as Seyfried dons another bad dark wig in a futuristic film. “Anon” is a play off of anonymity — a state in which the new New York robs humans of having and the desire the Girl has for keeping hers. And like the name, Niccol only accomplishes this halfway. The technology behind categorizing every person, memory and action is fascinating, but Niccol and the cast lack the drive to do anything with it. The film’s production design uses shades of black and white to evoke the classic noir style, and in the shots where Niccol shows the the killer’s point of view recalls scenes from Humphrey Bogart’s “Dark Passage” and Robert Montgomery’s “Lady in the Lake.” However, fancy camerawork and tips of the hat can’t make up for this life-draining sinkhole.
“Anon” continues film noir’s long history of misogyny where none of the female characters talk to each other and only exist to comply with Frieland’s commands, including the Girl. Privacy is a right being trampled upon, but gender equality is not important. Compare the number of call girls in this picture to the civilians and see what story Niccol is really telling.
Even with a running time of 100 minutes, it feels like a marathon. Is the Girl available to wipe out memories of this movie?
½ star out of five.
“Ibiza,” streaming on Netflix
“I Took a Pill in Ibiza” was a top hit for electronic dance music artist Mike Posner, but as a plot for a summer comedy starring Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer and Phoebe Robinson, it’s a no. Jacobs stars as Harper, a young, uptight New Yorker who is sent to Barcelona to lock a business deal. Her friends, Nikki (Bayer) and Leah (Robinson), see the trip as a chance to get their party on. Once landing in Spain, the trio go to a club, take some Ecstasy and chase any single man in the place while dancing to EDM. For Harper, her sights are set on hot DJ Leo (Richard Madden). Her friends help her track him down to his next gig in Ibiza so that she can “smash that DJ,” but Harper has to make her boss happy and get her work done.
As simplistic as it sounds, the plot is a touch different from your typical female-led comedy. The three friends aren’t fighting over the same guy, the same dress or the same job. In fact they’re building each other up with paradise as their canvas. Movie fans have “Bridesmaids” to thank for that. As Harper is searching for that good-looking DJ, she’s also trying to find herself in this change of scenery. Nikki brings out Harper’s silly side and Leah umphs the sassiness. Both friends have their own adventures and conquests, with the favorite being Nikki’s overnight stunt in a bathtub.
If you’re not a EDM fan or the lifestyle it promotes, be like the late Avicii and have someone to wake you up when it’s all over. If it’s your thing, don’t you worry child like Swedish House Mafia, because “Ibizia” is the movie for you.
Three stars out of five.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” streaming on Netflix
An isolated island in the English Channel is the scene of a World War II mystery and a mini-”Downton Abbey” reunion in the charming yet long-titled “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” A correspondence between pig farmer Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) and noted author Juliet Ashton (Lily James) lead the London writer to Guernsey Island. Juliet is writing a story for the London TImes on reading in the middle of a book tour her publisher Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode) wants her to do, but the lure of the island sends her to meet the book club with the long title. Although the society gives her a warm welcome, when Juliet wants to share their story, they turn cold, especially Amelia Maugery (Penelope Winton), a grieving mother.
“Potato Peel Pie” is as sweet as its title, with great views of the island and 1940s costuming. If you miss “Downton Abbey” and wonder how it would be like if the Crawleys made it through World War II, you will enjoy this movie with James at her enchanting best and Winton in top-notch shape. Jessica Brown Findlay is Elizabeth, a village woman who disappeared during the war but everyone has their own story about her. It should also appeal to literary lovers as well as it is the adaptation of the 2008 historical novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The plays on “Romeo and Juliet” and “Pride and Prejudice” are no accidents.
The slightly dueling storylines between Juliet and Elizabeth are fascinating but distracting. Elizabeth’s path, told in flashbacks, goes from A to B to A again to C as Juliet and the villagers figure out what happened to the woman with a rebellious streak. As for Juliet, the writer tries to balance her life as a newly engaged socialite with her desires to stay humble and true to herself.
Lighthearted yet heartbreaking, “Potato Peel Pie” is good film to spend an afternoon with instead of watching 10 seasons of your favorite TV series in one sitting. If you can’t wait for the “Downton” movie to be released, this is a nice substitute.
Four stars out of five.