Streaming Away in June—a.k.a. Sex Sells Best
Gratuitous is gratefully received, Spike Lee offers up a wonderful new joint, and Jo Koy in his own house
The highlights of this week’s offerings from the streaming services include a new Spike Lee Joint, a lowbrow Polish rehash of 50 Shades of Gray, plus a Jo Koy special, filmed right here in the Philippines. No prize for guessing which film zoomed up to #1 on our Netflix charts.
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix USA)
Call it impeccable timing, but with all the civil unrest happening in the United States right now, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods puts a lot of recent Black History into searing perspective. On one level, it’s about four African-American GIs who lost their charismatic leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman) during the Vietnam War, heading back to Saigon decades later, to dig up his remains and bring them back to the United States. At another level, this is a heist film about buried gold bars left during said war, and the effort of the four surviving Bloods, along with the son of one of the four, to retrieve the bars and have a French broker convert the bars to cash. But the wonderful thing about the film is how Lee intersperses so much racial history, political, and social commentary, while providing a treasure of the Sierra Madre-type adventure.
Among the four veterans, it’s Paul (Delroy Lindo) with the most complex, incendiary performance. Paul is pro-Trump, and Lindo himself admitted it was difficult at first to wrap himself around the character. Intelligently, Lee takes side trips into such situations as the bi-racial children that were left behind, the land mines that are still an issue, the Americanization of modern-day Vietnam, how Hollywood perpetuated the fiction of what happened, trying to win the war in films such as Rambo, while ignoring the fact that more than 30% of the troops drafted and sent were African-American. The film opens with Muhammad Ali explaining why he resisted the draft, and ends with Martin Luther King, a year before his assassination—two very poignant bookends for all that comes in between. At some two hours thirty, some may feel it meanders at times, but there is a point to all the narrative tangents.
365 DNI (Netflix Poland)
If ever you were wondering what the Netflix audience was terribly missing during these COVID times, one possible answer could be gleaned from how this cliche-ridden, badly-acted, softcore film from Poland (okay, technically a Polish-Italian co-production) zoomed to #2 of our Most Watched in the Philippines chart in just a day, and rose to #1 by the next night. It’s a Son of the Godfather Has His 50 Shades of Polish Gray film treatment, filled with risqué scenes of sex, bondage, and sado-masochism; all delivered in high camp, and did I mention god-awful acting already? But it seems that the Filipino loves his smut and gratuitous sex, no matter if it comes bookmarked between the most hackneyed of storylines, and even if it’s championing Stockholm Syndrome in this #MeToo era.
Massimo (Michele Morrone) is the Mafia heir, and he even performs a couple of the songs on the film’s soundtrack. Laura (Anna Maria Sieklucka) is the dissatisfied wife, who’s ready to play falling in love with your captor. The plot is so predictable I was fast-forwarding to get to see how far the film would go in testing the boundaries of its 18+ rating, and I have to say that this would have had to been streamed when all the children are asleep. And yet, it rose up the rankings in a blink of a voyeur-eye. Saw that coming, and called it on the day it dropped; and thank you, Philippines—both women and men, for disappointingly proving me right. So until the local motels reopen, Netflix has found the formula for what works here—S-E-X.
Jo Koy In His Elements (Netflix)
This was taped during Jo Koy’s visit to Manila earlier in the year, during the Taal eruption and before the pandemic broke. Striving to be much more than a stand-up TV special, it’s also part travelogue, a retracing of his roots, and his being accompanied by US artists of Filipino descent: from stand-up comedians, to singer-songwriters, break dancers and a Grammy winning music producer—most of whom have never been to Manila. The jeepney ride, eating adobo, they’re all part of the itinerary which may feel predictable for us Filipinos, but was obviously planned as a window to Filipino culture for the global Netflix audience.
Jo does a great Pacquiao routine, taped during the Solaire show, but if you’re really into Jo Koy and his stand up, then you might be better off heading to his other specials. In this one, he’s more often introducing the acts he flew in; and to be honest, you’ll see why the three comedians haven’t crossed over to the mainstream yet. We discover that Joseph Glenn Herbert is his real name, Jo Koy a nickname his aunt created for him, and the touching, real story behind the nickname. There’s a trip to Farmers Market with Jo’s family. So this one ends up more like a variety show, including a song from Iñigo Pascual.
Lead photos from IMdB