Reviews & More: Keep on Streamin’

"Perry Mason"

“Mr. Jones” (available to rent on Amazon Prime). Truth-tellers are often dismissed out of ignorance or fear. Such a man was Gareth Jones, a young Welsh scholar who, after interviewing Adolf Hitler in the mid-1930s, tried to warn British Prime Minister Lloyd George and his cabinet about the monster waiting in the wings. And during the time when Josef Stalin was revered for his accomplishments in bringing Russia into the modern world, Jones saw first-hand the dreadful starvation and genocide occurring in Ukraine but no one would listen. This film, a good one, has been made about the man and is aided by the appearance of James Norton (“Grantchester,” “Happy Valley”) in the title role. It is further enhanced by the fine direction of Agnieszka Holland (Academy Award nominee for “Europa Europa.”) Norton’s youthful confidence and self-assurance gradually morphs into bitter zealotry with each successive campaign to make those in power hear him and take action. We seem never to tire of World War II tales, especially those which posit “What if…?” scenarios. “Mr. Jones” is a worthy addition to the canon.

“Never Have I Ever” is Mindy Kaling’s fictional re-telling of her teenage years in California. A first generation Indian-American, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a sophomore in high school. Her life is a crazy seesaw between what her parents expect of her and what her contemporaries value. Kaling is a gifted writer, equally funny and insightful, and so goes the show, especially as its theme is what we’re all too aware of at the moment: integrating cultures, skin colors, sexual orientation and ethnicities into this awkward experiment we call America. It’s refreshing to see white actors in the minority, and if I found it a bit too glib for my taste, it might be that it’s skewed to a younger populace.

I am haunted by “Lenox Hill,” a documentary now streaming on Netflix. I binge-watched it this past weekend because every time I told myself to not go to the next episode, I didn’t listen; I had to know what happened. What is so mesmerizing about this portrait of a huge hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan? The dedicated doctors, nurses and staff, all of whom seem to be infused with the desire to help others get through the most difficult situations as best and as gently as possible; the fact that these doctors are compensated as a group, rather than which one can earn the most money via the most patients; the fact that life and death are treated with respect and that the stories we follow tug at our emotions and make us care, and care deeply, for patients from all walks of life.

“Bathtubs Over Broadway” is another documentary on Netflix. It’s about the golden era of industrial showcases, full-fledged, professionally produced and cast musicals created to sell a product. If you love Broadway musicals or offbeat documentaries or admire the comedy mind of one of David Letterman’s chief writers and are interested in his obsessions, check out this one. You’ll be glad you did.

“Perry Mason” on HBO. What to say about this new series? I’ve only seen the first one, of course—there will be one a week until it’s done. And there is no doubt that Matthew Rhys is spot-on in the role of an angry, alcoholic and disillusioned private detective, and that other cast members are excellent, even that the 1931 period is meticulously recreated. But it’s over-the-top violent, over-the-top gratuitously titillating and it also fails, somehow, to be gripping. It might have worked much better without the Perry Mason name because it doesn’t make the case that this character is the believable prequel to the Erle Stanley Gardner mystery novels and the Raymond Burr-starring TV series. 

Finally, this is your last chance to see these amazing films before they leave Netflix on June 30: “Inception,” “The Matrix,” “Minority Report” and “Philadelphia.”