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Twisted Tales on Netflix and Amazon Prime: ‘Marcella,’ ‘In The Shadow of the Moon,’ and More

If you’re looking for streaming options that stray from the beaten path, here are some selections

If you’re of the opinion that Netflix and Amazon Prime often play it safe, and you’re looking for storylines across genres that are out of the mainstream, you’re in luck with the following. Tales From the Loop, and Coffee & Kareem just dropped in April.

In the Shadow of the Moon (Netflix)

A sci-fi thriller that kicks off with a crime action sequence, this is a cross-genre hybrid—giving you an idea of what’s in store for you with this Originals film. Tommy Locke (Boyd Holbrook) is a police officer in 1988 Philadelphia when mysterious events involving three persons suddenly hemorrhaging fatally occurs. It was bizarre because they were in different city locations. The suspect? An African-American woman in a blue hoodie Is the suspect, and Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) offers succinct, but bewildering, pronouncements when Tommy tracks her down in a subway station. Directed by Jim Mickie, there’s an intriguing premise and set-up to this other-worldly tale.

Turns out this ‘serial killer’ shows up every 9 years, and there are no scientific explanations for how this happens. As events unfold in 1997, 2006, and so on; we come to appreciate just how ambitious this mind-bending, twisting tale is. Sure, it’s far-fetched and goes off the rails at times; but I appreciate how it’s trying to be different by combining distinct genres—action, SciFi, and even socio-political commentary; and trying it’s best to make it all make sense.

Tales From the Loop (Amazon Prime)

You take the illustrations of Swede Simon Stålenhag, which juxtaposed 1960’s rural Sweden with futuristic technology, and weave stories out of these stark, surreal images—and you have this sci-fi anthology series which just dropped this April 3rd on Amazon Prime. You transpose the location to Ohio, and get the likes of Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall to play recurring characters; and execute the stories in a very measured, meditative manner. So despite the elements you may have in common with Stranger Things, this one has a very quiet, indie, European feel to it, with each episode a stand-alone.

In the first episode, "Loop," the reveal is done in a very slow, subdued manner. And interestingly, the 3rd episode follows a Chinese-American girl who wishes that moments could last, regretting how ephemeral life is. Rather than concentrate on the weirdness of what’s going on, such as the sci-fi elements; this is more about people, and how they react to the strangeness. Trying to be philosophical and meditative, this one is perfect for those who loved the film, Ad Astra. It’s got that kind of ruminative pacing.

Coffee & Kareem (Netflix)

Produced by and starring Ed Helms (of The Office and Hangover trilogy fame), and directed by Michael Dowse (who gave us Stuber which starred Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista); this one sets out to be a mismatched buddy film. But the ‘buddies’ this time out are ‘white bread’ police officer James Coffee (Helms), and a 12-year old, foul-mouthed, wannabe gangsta, Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). The connection between the two is that Coffee is dating Kareem’s single mother, Nessa (Taraji P. Henson). This one just dropped on Netflix April 3rd.

Raunchy, and filled with action, this comedy has the right premise and ingredients; but I don’t know if the twisted decision to make Kareem so potty-mouthed will go down well when watching at home—despite the presence of the 12-year old, this has been rated 18+. The finale is actually good, action-laced and stupid-funny; and the bad guys, Orlando Johnson and his henchmen are hilarious. In fact it’s Henson’s Nessa, and Coffee’s arch-nemesis on the force, Officer Watts (the wonderfully over-the-top Betty Gilpin) who have the best lines and roles.

Marcella (Netflix)

Here is one superbly acted, twisted heroine, Detective Superintendent Marcella (Anna Friel). The two seasons on Netflix are from a few years ago, but there’s a third season set to drop this year, so if you haven’t watched this yet, here’s your chance. Friel won an International Emmy for her portrayal of Marcella, and from the first episode alone, it’s easy to understand why she was honored. If you combine Hamlet and Macbeth, made her female and a detective, you’d have Marcella. She’s an intrepid, brilliant policewoman, but suffers from a tragic flaw—she has blackouts, gets ultra-violent, and has dissociative amnesia when she recovers.

Each season takes on one big case, but there are multi-strand narratives that somehow intersect, creating impressive twists and turns in the plot lines. In the first season, Florence Pugh (of Little Women) has a minor, but crucial, recurring role, offering online sex. Generally, the ensemble acting is top-notch; and given the very twisted end to the second season, you’ll be curious to see where they’ll take the series on its upcoming third season. This one is definitely for binge-watching.

Lead photos from IMDb