Heaven help us. This February alone, Netflix will roll out 30 original films and series. I watched three such movies this weekend, thinking that surely one of them would be worthy of criticism. But what can I say? I struck out. Here’s a brief sampling of What Not to Netflix and Chill in these dark days of winter, with some viewing suggestions to help you thereafter:
When We First Met
This light-as-air romcom stars Adam Levine (“Workaholics”) as a love-obsessed goofball who’s about to watch his best friend/No. 1 crush (Alexandra Daddario) get married to a super nice guy named Ethan. If only he had done something differently when they first met three years ago at a cursed Halloween Party! The movie employs the classic Groundhog Day construction (this time in the form of an enchanted photo booth machine), which sends Levine back to this goddamn party again and again, where we watch him fumble his life in a variety of ways until lessons are learned and—zzzzzz. Worse than just bad, this movie is utterly harmless. You don’t need it. Watch instead: Groundhog Day (1993)
The Cloverfield Paradox
People who aren’t me love this franchise. (The outcry I received from my negative review of 10 Cloverfield Lane still stings.) And so, when the JJ Abrams-conceived movie dropped from the sky unexpectedly on Super Bowl Sunday, the crowd went wild. “Finally, unanswered questions about how the existing Cloverfield films fit together will be answered,” the crowd reasonably assumed. (They were not.) Given how much people hated this on the internet, I was kind of steeling myself for the picture to be a lot worse. What we get is a very unlikely team of international space cadets tasked with saving the world from an energy crisis — and also monsters are there. This is science fiction for a YA audience, ergo, the grownups are expecting too much. Watch instead: Solaris (1972) or (2002) — both are good.
Of all the bad movies I wasted my time with on Netflix this week, director David Bruckner’s horror feature The Ritual is the least worst. Here we meet an old gang of blokes as they’re planning their annual vacation. They begin the film five strong, but then an early tragedy strikes, which casts a dreadful pall on the rest of the action. We jump ahead six months to a somber hiking trip of four in the Swedish mountains, where the men are stalked by a sinister, invisible force in the forest. Think The Blair Witch Project, but less original. Still, The Ritual is the best of the three because despite the garbage script and insufferable characters, the film looks good, and the underutilized monster at the end (that’s a spoiler, I’m not sorry, did you really think there wasn’t a monster in the woods?) has a cool design. To see what I mean, you can just skip to the last 10 minutes and infer everything else that came before, no problem. Watch instead: The Descent (2005)