Roads less travelled, streaming choices mid-April

Published April 17, 2021, 8:48 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Here are three recent drops on Netflix that possibly fly under the radar, but deserve some attention, or outright avoidance. Your call!

‘Ride Or Die’

Ride Or Die (Netflix Japan) – This is a Japanese film that will come as something of a surprise to find on our favorite streaming platform. It’s definitely not the usual fare that we find on Netflix; and I, for one, was pleased that at least it’s been given a chance to be viewed. Think of it as a Thelma & Louise set in modern Japanese, with plot twists and turns that’s unconventional for a Netflix ‘drop’. At its most basic, it’s about Nanae, a straight battered housewife, reconnecting with a lesbian friend, Rei, a classmate who had a High School crush on her a decade ago. And what Nanae does is somehow convince Rei to murder her husband.

What follows is a buddy, road trip film that unravels as much as it reveals. It’s a slow burn kind of film marked by graphic depictions of sex, nudity, murder/violence, and disturbing images – and be forewarned about this, the +18 rating is for real. The actress playing Rei is a popular Japanese/American model, while portraying Nanae is a drummer from an equally popular band. They convince us of their roles without overplaying it, and kudos to the director for keeping the narrative interesting even when vignettes begin to feel repetitive. Some story threads are left hanging or not really pursued, but I’ll give high marks for execution and effort and for sensitively tackling LGBTQ themes.

‘The Soul’

The Soul (Netflix Taiwan) – Remember the name of the Director of this Taiwanese film. It’s Cheng Wai Hao; and it’s pretty clear to me that Cheng has studied the early David Fincher and Christopher Nolan canon of films. Second thing to remember is that the English title of this challenging film is The Soul, not to be mistaken with the Disney Pixar animated film, Soul. As the film opens, it seems like this will be a murder mystery, and a police procedural as well, but pretty soon, as we realize the film is set 2032, elements of SciFi, of Horror, and even family melodrama begin to appear. It’s clear that Cheng is attempting a nimble juggling act, and we’re actually curious to see if he’ll drop any of the ‘balls in the air’.

To his credit, Cheng actually succeeds in keeping things ‘flying’. The case has to do with the murder of a medical technology billionaire, and assigned to the case are two genuinely interesting characters. It’s a husband-wife team of police officers, one a prosecutor who leads the team and is suffering from late stage cancer. And there’s his detective wife, who’s in early pregnancy with their first child. That the Medtech company was working on an advanced cancer cure only heightens the drama, and what’s at stake, as the police investigate the murder, and we’re introduced to a number of likely perpetrators. There are moments that have us wondering if Cheng took on more than he can handle, but while it may take patience and close attention, this film rewards you if you stick to it.

‘Dad Stop Embarrasing Me’

Dad Stop Embarrassing Me (Netflix USA) – Jamie Foxxx must have really wanted to get back into the sit-com world he left behind after In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show, which last aired around 2003. Or a lot of money was plonked on the table to get him committed to this single Dad, ‘fish out of water’ raising his teenage daughter series. Playing daughter Sasha is Kyla-Drew of Nickelodeon fame, and David Allen Grier is on board as Brian’s (Jamie Foxx) father. It’s got the two leads constantly breaking the 4th wall and speak8ng directly to the audience, Jamie showing off his impressions, and even playing multiple roles (in one early episode, he’s the preacher at the local church).

Jamie is still great at the physical comedy band is obviously still a talented actor, having fun in this series. But I couldn’t help feeling like we were in some time warp and this series despite all the today references, felt like it had been exhumed from the 1990’s. It’s all very MOR (middle of the road) and even misguided. Like the emphasis on how Brian is such a womanizer, and yet, seems to be clueless around women. I hate to say it, but it’s even feels like Eddie Murphy with the playing more than one character, and so many jokes fall flat. But who knows, maybe this is just me, and it’ll prove to be successful.