Ghoul doesn’t scare, Jack Ryan gets a makeover 

A wrap-up on the latest series and movies on the web that people are watching

Ghoul doesn’t scare, Jack Ryan gets a makeover 

Biswadeep Ghosh

Change is inevitable. Film buffs would remember how their viewing experience had been redefined in the 1990s. The multiplex had tiptoed into their lives, offering better seats, an array of viewing choices and shopping options, too. The urban middle class had fallen for it. The single-screen theatre would fade away soon.

The video on demand service offered by multinationals like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has emerged as a new option for the viewer. Can this medium of home-based entertainment rewrite the rules of the multi-billion dollar game? It certainly can, the diminution of the screen’s size notwithstanding.

These platforms have a few obvious USPs. One can watch one’s chosen show at any time of the day. Besides, one can see films that have not been released in one’s city, and also watch well-produced original shows made especially for the web at no extra cost.

The video on demand service, offered by multinationals like Netflix and Amazon Prime, has emerged as a new option for the viewer

Sacred Games, a widely popular series, had premiered on Netflix some time ago. Writer-director Patrick Graham’s Ghoul, a new three-episode horror series, stars Radhika Apte and Manav Kaul.

The plot is situated in a dystopian world under military rule. Suspicions and distrust among communities rear their ugly heads. The brutal system chokes the liberal intellectual. Sectarian violence is common. Dissent is trampled upon. Big Brother rules.

Ghoul attempts to redefine the horror genre by interweaving such socio-political possibilities in the plot. Nida Rahim (Apte), a fine performer in a military academy, turns in her liberal father. When she joins Meghdoot 31, a detention centre, she experiences religious prejudice. Most of the plot unfolds inside the detention centre, which is a reconditioning camp of sorts.

Torture sequences and ominous music try to provide a hair-raising experience. Apte is convincing, and so are Kaul as the centre head and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as his deputy. But the series is marred by slow pace and near-absence of mind-numbing horror. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has premiered on Amazon Prime Video. Created by Clancy, Ryan has featured in 21 novels written by the man himself and four other authors. The character had been played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine and Ben Affleck earlier. John Krasinski plays him in the new web series, which makes for a very good watch.

The series proves that a drama of its kind can keep the viewer absorbed even if houses aren’t set on fire and cars do not blow up. Krasinski is most impressive as the financial analyst with a military background. His facial expressions and body language create a new identity for Ryan, which is what Clancy fans would have been expecting. Millions of dollars have been deposited into an account, which needs to be investigated. Such is the premise of the first episode that loss of lives and accidents masterminded by criminals seem inevitable. That doesn’t happen in a show, which captures the viewer’s attention with fine plotting and succeeds.

How the story has been conceived can be seen in a defining subplot about two brothers, who had confronted racism in France and survived bombing in Lebanon. Significant focus on their backstory leads to the point where they have been radicalised. The message that good and evil must not be judged in black and white is clear.

Insatiable on Netflix is a much hyped twisted comedy series about an overweight girl, who is a victim of bullying and underestimation. After being punched in the face, she gets her jaws wired shut. She is unable to eat for a long time, which leads to weight loss. Now, she wants revenge. In an era of widespread eating disorders, Insatiable’s message of dieting for a long time – even if involuntarily – is a harmful one. Besides, body-shaming is blatantly unfair, even if it wears the mask of black comedy.

Lauren Miller’s Like Father, a feature film on Netflix starring Kristen Bell alongside veteran Kelsey Grammar, is a comedy. The algorithm appears to suggest that online comedies with simple stories and predictable endings work. The film seeks to deliver that, and partially succeeds. The film explores the relationship between Rachel, a workaholic executive (Bell), and her estranged father Harry (Grammar). Rachel’s addiction to work leads to a disaster at the outset. Unable to deal with her workaholism, her fiancé dumps her at the altar. Eventually, she ends up on a pre-booked honeymoon cruise with her father.

The film has some funny moments, such as the one in which Rachel and Harry are mistaken for a married couple. There are some efficient performances too, with Seth Rogen who plays the divorcee reliably good as usual. Seen in a meaty film role after long, Grammar, who is the standout performer, shares a fine chemistry with Bell.

‘Like Father’ is unremarkable, which seems to be what the director had set out to make. If you dig sugary melodramas with a little bit of fun, however, it may be the right weekend watch for you.

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