Tuesday 19 September 2017

New on netflix: Predictable tragicomedy is well worth a watch

Burn, Burn, Burn (2015), Available from today

Laura Carmichael and Chloe Pirrie in Burn Burn Burn
Laura Carmichael and Chloe Pirrie in Burn Burn Burn
Sasha Pieterse, Alex Saxon, Alexis G Zall, and Jay Walker in Coin Heist
Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin’?

Donal Lynch

This is like PS I Love You meets an English Thelma and Louise - an independent tragicomedy which tackles the hefty issues surrounding one man's death from pancreatic cancer.

Life and soul of the party, Dan, leaves his two best friends Alex (Chloe Pirrie) and Seph (Laura Carmichael) with the responsibility of scattering his ashes in four significant locations across the UK. Seph is looking for a reason to get away from her cloying boyfriend (Joe Dempsie) and annoying boss (Sally Phillips), and Alex is reeling after catching her girlfriend (Eleanor Matsuura) with another woman.

So they hit the road, heading first to Glastonbury, then to Cardiff, York and finally to Ben Lomond in Scotland. Along the way, Dan's videos guide them as they have a variety of small adventures.

There are some painfully obvious plot devices in their inevitable voyage of self-discovery via a chaotic road trip, and there are a tad too many contrivances and coincidences propelling the journey forward. There's also an over-the-top and drawn out sequence involving Diana (Alison Steadman), a fragile elderly woman searching for her son.

Diana's inclusion which seems only useful to the plot in prompting Alex to confront her own issues with her parents.

But what elevates this rather pre-determined material is two committed, and revelatory performances from Pirrie and Carmichael. Definitely worth a look.

Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin'?

Available from Wednesday

SN Jen Kirkman.jpg
Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin’?

Would it be a stretch to describe Jen Kirkman as the female Simon Amstell? She has little of his Never Mind The Buzzcocks smart alec-ry but definitely a high dose of his fussy, hilarious neuroticism. She does comedy for people who live mainly inside their own heads. Her best routines take a thought and follow it to any and all conclusions, no matter how bats it makes her sound or how insane the eventual conclusion winds up turning out. It's a skill that's carried her through two comedy albums-2006's Self Help and 2011's Hail To The Freaks-and allowed her to build a successful podcast, I Seem Fun, all spun out of the one simple yet brilliant conceit of her just sitting alone in bed and saying what's on her mind. Her memoir - I Can Barely Take Care Of Myself: Tales From A Happy Life Without Kids - was genuinely hilarious and her cult following will be glad that Netflix is now bringing her to a larger audience.

Coin Heist (2017)

Available from Friday

Sasha Pieterse, Alex Saxon, Alexis G Zall, and Jay Walker in Coin Heist

So most of us know that the university fees that Americans have to pay would make your eyes water - this was one of the central issues in 2016's Democratic primary. This film - a Netflix original - shows an unlikely group of students who come up with an unusual solution to their prep school's financial troubles: robbing the US Mint.

Fortunately, they're intelligent enough to understand that hauling out a mountain of coins isn't practical. What they decide to do instead is break in, print a few flawed coins, and then sell those at a premium to collectors.

The plan obviously isn't an easy one to pull off, but that's the best idea they have for raising $10 million fast. And it's probably not much more dangerous than actually defaulting on American college loans (debt collectors can even 'garnish' welfare cheques there.) This looks like a fun film and is a winking portrait of millennials.

One Day At A Time

Available from Friday

There was a time, just a decade ago in fact, when the only Latino character in mainstream comedy was Rosario, the hilarious disgruntled maid in Will & Grace. (We weren't much better on this side of the pond, as the death of Andrew Sachs - Manuel from Fawlty Towers - reminded us recently).

So yay for this series which reimagines the classic Norman Lear sitcom with a Cuban-American family in Apartment 402. The iconic theme song, This Is It!, however, remains the same - with one crucial difference: The new version has been reworked by music legends Gloria and Emilio Estefan. From what we've seen so far this looks like a warm and witty reworking with a cute cast. And Gloria's voice is always a delight.

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