The Streaming Society

Even if you don’t have an account – or if you’re one of those people who uses someone else’s account –  everyone has at least heard of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video. The three forerunners of streaming services have been competing with each other for years. They even were established around the same time.

Netflix has been around since 1997 – I’m sure everyone remembers ordering DVDs and then receiving them a few days later. Then you watched the movie and sent it back. In 2007, Netflix began streaming in order to catch up with the times.

Hulu began in 2008. They are partnered with several television stations to stream their specific shows.

While Amazon Video has been around since 2006, it’s only recently that people have started more actively using it to stream movies and shows.

In 2013, all three decided it was time to broaden their horizons. They began creating original television shows and then eventually movies. Rather than simply streaming shows and movies that are either ongoing or complete, they push their own content. Many people wonder if these streaming services continue to push their own content if cable will cease to exist in the years to come.

Amazon Video, Hulu and Netflix have pushed out quite a few successful original shows. Amazon Video has The Man on High Castle, based on the book of the same name, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a comedy show. Hulu has The Handmaid’s Tale, also based off a book, Marvel’s Runways, a show about teenaged superheroes, and Castle Rock, which is a mash of Stephen King’s work. Netflix has their Marvel shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Orange is the New Black. 

As someone who has all three of these streaming platforms, I have watched both original shows and a few originals movies. Though I have yet to explore Amazon Video and Hulu’s original movies, I have watched several of Netflix’s original movies. While Netflix has pushed out several decent movies, they all seem to be missing the same thing.

Bright

Bright is an interesting and modern take on fantasy that explores not only that how fantasy fits into the 21st century, but also touches on real life societal issues that are prominent today. When a human cop receives a new orc partner, they both struggle to trust each other, in a time where no one wants the partnership to work. The two must learn to trust each other when they are thrown into an ancient war that’s been going on for centuries. Bright is a stunning movie that has a well-built world, but it leaves you with many questions unanswered.

Released December 22nd, 2017., Bright had trailers on cable as well. Netflix definitely used Will Smith’s popularity (The Pursuit of Happiness, Independence Day, I Am Legend, 7 Pounds and more recently Suicide Squad),in order to get people interested in Bright. But what is this movie about? David Ayer directed Bright. He was also the director of Suicide Squad.

This is how Netflix describes it: “In an LA rife with interspecies tensions, a human cop and his orc partner stumble on a powerful object and become embroiled in a prophesied turf war.” In simplest terms, think of it as J.R.R. Tolkien meets our modern era. In Bright‘s universe, humans, orcs, fairies and elves have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Will Smith leads Bright as a human cop, Daryl Ward, who unwillingly gets a new partner, Nick Jakoby, the first orc police officer. Joel Egerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings) co-stars as Nick.

While Bright was a visually stunning movie with a stellar soundtrack, it suffered from the same problem Suicide Squad did: shoving so much story into a 2 hour movie. Bright told us about the tensions between orcs and humans, how having an orc cop was a new concept, how Ward (Will Smith’s character) was asked to make his orc friend look bad, introduced a female elf who was guarding a wand, a secret organization who wanted to bring back some Dark Lord and semi-explain what a “bright” is. Bright was a well-built world, but trying to have all these plots in the same movie, lessened the plots. Having everything going on at the same time didn’t give enough attention to certain parts of the movie, and thus, there were a lot of questions that were never answered.

Why was there interspecies tensions? If humans, orcs, fairies and elves have been coexisting for a millenia, then why are there now problems? Why haven’t there been any other orc cops? What happened to magic? Why are wands not allowed? Why are Brights feared?

What is a Bright you might ask. Not only is it the origin of the title of the movie, it is a subgroup of people. These people, whether human, orc, fairy or elf, are capable of wielding magic wands without dying. Most Brights are elves but humans have been known to be one.

While the battle with the Dark Lord is explained, after his defeat history is not explained. Or it’s more implied but never really spoke about. The origins of the Shield of Light and the Inferni (the first whom knows the Dark Lord will return and are preparing for battle while the second wants to bring him back) are only slightly told. As is the Magical Task Force whose job is to investigate illegal magic happenings.

How could this have been solved? The easiest way would be if this was instead a show. That way there is equal opportunity for each plot rather than everything being crammed into a 2 hour movie. There could be a show about the Dark Lord and how he was defeated. A show on the beginning of the Shield of Light and the Inferni. Then another show about Ward and Nick and how their partnership works. Within their show, they could explore the Shield of Light and the Inferni. This way there wouldn’t be competition and the plots could be further explored than in the movie.

Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark is a beautifully eerie movie that explores the rural and rough terrain of the Alaskan wild and the mystery behind it. When children go missing, allegedly taken by wolves, an outsider comes to help. But he soon finds that everything is not as it seems. Hold the Dark keeps you wondering until the very end, and even long after the credits roll, you ask: why?

Released September 22nd, 2018, Hold the Dark is based off a book of the same name by William Geraldi. The trailer caught my attention because of how eerie and unknown it seems. It gave you enough information to be intrigued, but also want to know more. But what exactly is this movie about? This is how Netflix describes it: “In the grim Alaskan winter, a naturalist hunts for wolves blamed for killing a local boy, but he soon finds himself swept into a chilling mystery.” This movie is based off a book of the same name by William Geraldi. In this movie, a boy is taken by the wolves that haunt the Alaska wild. The mother calls an author who wrote a book about killing a wolf in order to survive.Like Bright, Netflix casted a rather well-known actor is a semi-lead. Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan and True Blood) plays Vernon Sloane, a discharged soldier. However, Skargard is not the main character. Or rather the story isn’t told from his perspective entirely. It is told by Jeffrey Wright’s (The Hunger Games) character, Russell Core.

Wright plays a author and naturalist Russell Core who is sent a letter from Medora Sloane (the wife of Skarsgard’s character). She lives in a tiny town in Alaska called Keelut. A few children have gone missing, taken by wolves, and Medora wants Core to find her son, Bailey. Meanwhile, Vernon is discharged by the army and heads home. In the end, it turns out that Medora killed her son. Vernon gets back, kills a few cops and goes hunting for his wife. There is a huge shoot out with cops and Cheeon, Vernon’s friend and another who lost a child. The movie is very disjointed. While it does show Vernon’s perspective, it mainly focuses on Core. Core is an outsider who is trying to figure out the small village. He is trying to understand what is happening, and in the end, he really doesn’t find out what happens. Medora and Vernon are reunited (after he strangles her then kisses her) and then they walk into the wilderness, dragging a coffin with their son’s body. Core is reunited with his daughter.

This movie left a lot questions unanswered.

Why did Medora call Core of all people? Why did she kill her son? Did the old woman know what Medora did? Why did Vern’s father think he was ‘unnatural?’ What is the reason behind all the symbolism of wolves?

Perhaps that was the intention of the director. Perhaps they wanted you to question what this movie was really about. At stated before, it is based off a book. In the book, it is more clearly stated that Medora and Vernon are twins. The unnatural thing Vernon’s father wanted to cure him of was incest. Thus Bailey was born of incest. In the beginning of the movie, Core finds a pack of wolves eating a pup. He says that wolves often do this when food is scarce and they have to survive. Was Medora killing her son so she could survive? But survive what?

How could these questions been solved? If it was more clear that Vernon and Medora were twins. Perhaps have a few flashbacks scenes of them when they were younger. Such as when Vernon was taken somewhere to be cured of his unnaturalness. Perhaps if the story was told more from the characters that the story is about: Medora and Vernon, rather than seen from an outsider’s perspective, then the audience would get a better idea of what the story is about.

Before I Wake

Before I Wake is not only a heart-wrenching, but a heartwarming movie that delves into the affect grief has on people, but also how a child is affected by the environment around him. It delves into how a child deals with his mother being diagnosed with cancer, and how a young child uses their imagination in order to come to terms with that diagnosis. Before I Wake is a strangely touching thriller movie that not only touches your heart but also keeps you on your toes.

Released by Netflix January 5, 2018, Before I Wake is a haunting movie. We chose it one night when we needed something to watch on a cold and wet Saturday night. What the movie is about is pretty obvious. This is how Netflix describes it: “Still mourning the death of their son, Mark and Jessie welcome foster child Cody into their lives. Soon they discover he has a strange ability.” It’s simple and to the point. A year after they lost their son, a couple fosters a strange little boy who has gone through many different families since he was little and has a very active imagination. This couple is determined to not let him down, but they soon find however that the little boy is more than what he seems, and the things he imagines becomes reality. His dreams become real, but so do his nightmares. The couple soon finds themselves struggling to reach the sad little boy and understand his horrifying nightmares. Thomas Jane (The Punisher and Deep Blue Sea) plays Mark Hobson. His wife, Jessie is played by Kate Bosworth (Remember the Titans and Blue Crush). The Hobsons’ son, Sean, died a year ago after an accidental drowning. The couple has been going through therapy and believe they are ready now for another child. They decide to foster a young boy named Cody Morgan.

Cody, played by the adorable Jacob Trembley, has been in and out of foster care since he was 3 years old. His mother died and his father wasn’t known. The social worker is determined to find him a home, but she has problems finding one. Strange things seem to happen around him and it makes people wary. The Hobsons take in Cody, somehow connecting to him and finding out that he likes butterflies. But they can’t get him to sleep. He tells them that he’s afraid to sleep. They, being adults, assume it’s because of the normal reasons, such as being afraid of the dark. Finally after he can’t stay awake any longer, Cody falls asleep. Mark and Jessie are in the living room when suddenly there are butterflies that glow brightly. But then they disappear. After a while, Mark and Jessie figure out that Cody is bringing this to life. It’s his dreams coming to life.

One night, Cody dreams of Sean, the Hobsons’ deceased son, and this spurs Jessie into abusing Cody’s gift. She shows him images and videos of Sean, then tries to get him to sleep so that she can see Sean again. Mark finds issues with this (rightfully so) and takes down the pictures of Sean. This doesn’t deter Jessie who ends up drugging Cody. Then his dreams turn into a horrific nightmare, showing the “Canker Man” who ends up taking Mark. Cody is taken away by social services. Jessie digs into his history. In the end, it is revealed that the “Canker Man” was how Cody coped with is mother dying of cancer. Jessie and Cody are reunited while the people the “Canker Man” took are released into a better dream. Jessie took Cody home

The ending wasn’t clear. It left me with a lot of questions.

What happened to the people the Canker Man took? Are they dead? Or are they “alive” in another world? Why did Cody have these abilities? Where did they come from?

This could’ve been solved very simply. All that was needed was a more clear ending that explained what happened to the people the Canker Man took. There also wasn’t anything really stated about where Cody’s abilities came from. If those two things were explained more then this movie would have made more sense. In the end though, it was a strangely sweet thriller movie.

What Happened to Monday?

What Happened to Monday? is a modern dystopian movie that creates a world that is close to ours, but in this one, people are only allowed to have one child in order to control the population and ensure that there is enough food for everyone. not a new concept (similar in fact to Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow  Children) What Happened to Monday? tells the story of how 7 sisters fight to be themselves in a world where only one of them is supposed to exist legally.

Released by Netflix August 6th, 201, What Happened to Monday? is yet another dystopian movie but it’s different than The Hunger Games and Divergent. When we watched it, we actually thought it was a show not a movie, and were disappointed that it ended. Initially we watched it because like in Orphan Black, you had an actress playing several different characters. This is how Netflix describes it: “In a future with a strict one-child policy, six septuplets must avoid government detection while searching for their missing sister.” It is somehow a thriller and an action movie, with hints of comedy. Set in the future where overpopulation caused a worldwide crisis, in fear that there wouldn’t be enough food to sustain everyone. Due to this, a one-child policy is enforced which means that if a mother has multiple children, all but the oldest are put in cryosleep (think the Winter Soldier from Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

The story shows a grandfather who teaches his identical-septuplet granddaughters to be one single individual in order to keep themselves and each other safe. These sisters, named after the days of the week, are only allowed to go out of the house on the day they are named after. Their grandfather, Terrence played by the wonderful William Dafoe (Spider-Man and so many others), goes so far that when one of them, Thursday, injuries her finger, Terrence cuts off the tip of every girl’s in order to keep them all the same.

Years later, the sisters are grown up and working as a banker, Karen Settman (their mother). Their grandfather, though gone, his lessons are not gone. For decades they keep up this facade. After Monday never returns, her sisters go out on their day in hopes of figuring out what happened to her – hence the title: What Happened to Monday? In the end, the sisters all die except for Tuesday, who lost her eye, and Thursday. They figure out that Monday betrayed them in order to keep her unborn twins safe. During all this, it is revealed that the children that were really supposed to be put in cryosleep, were incinerated. Tuesday reveals this and the creator of the one-child policy Nicolette Cayman, played by Glenn Close (101 Dalmatians), is not reelected. After all, the children she swore that were safe aren’t, they are dead. Parents all over whose children were taken are dead. Cayman faces death penalty and her act is repealed. Meanwhile, Tuesday (going by Terry now) and Thursday (going by Karen now) go to live separate lives and watch as Monday’s twins develop in an artificial wound.

What Happened to Monday? is an interesting concept. It takes a similar idea that we have seen before in Shadow Children, and brings it to the modern world. It takes this policy of only one child, and makes it more than that, and sheds light on how a policy such as this sometimes has shadier intentions. It also shows how overpopulation can become a problem and how, metaphorically it could be taken care of. However, it did leave some questions unanswered.

What if parents already had more than one child when the act was established? Did they have no choice but to put all but the oldest in cryosleep? How was an act like this passed? How did Cayman get away with incinerating children? Did the parents not ask for proof? Was this act everywhere in the world or only where the sisters lived?

Like Bright, I think this movie would be better as a show. That way, the audience could see more of the world. We could have a show of when the act was first established and how parents dealt with the trauma of losing their children. Then the other show could be when the act has been around for a few decades (perhaps more on the sisters but when they were younger). And then the next show could be when the act is repealed and how parents deal with the fact that the children they thought were cryofreezed, are really dead.

Conclusion

With all of these movies, they all suffered from the same thing: a plot that is either too busy, such as Bright, or a plot that is not well established, such as What Happened to Monday? How can this be fixed? Simply either focus on one main plot, perhaps with a subplot, and develop that more in order to establish a well-thought out and interesting story. Either way, these four a brilliant movies that I highly recommend. 

Streaming will continue to broaden. Perhaps a time will come that there will be no more cable and sites such as Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu will run the show. Meanwhile, other companies are trying to catch up. DC launched its first streaming platform, DC Universe on September 15th, 2018. It’s first live-action show Titans premiered in October. And it’s rumored that the animated show, Young Justice, which was canceled but due to popular demand was finally brought back, will also premiere on this platform. Disney is also launching it’s own streaming service which will be pushed sometime in 2019. With this new service, not only will all Disney movies be on here, but also they are rumored to be making shows for characters such as Loki and Scarlet Witch. 

With that, it really has become a streaming age, and there’s no doubt that that won’t change anytime soon. 

-K

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