The Homecoming (2018, 2020)

Rating: 4 / 5

Time: Season 1 – 10 episodes; Season 2 – 7 episodes approx. 30 minutes each

The second season of Homecoming begins with a woman waking up in a canoe in the middle of a lake with no memory of who she is or how she got there. The rest of the series is the story of how she slowly uncovers her identity. Little by little, she follows clues to reveal what had happened to her in the days prior to being stranded in the middle of the lake. The series is fast-paced and to the point. It does not unnecessarily linger at any one point or divert attention from the main story.

Memory loss is the continuing theme of the second season of Homecoming. In the first season, Julia Roberts plays Heidi Bergman, a social worker turned waitress. She has no memory of her days spent at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center as a social worker helping US army veterans returning from war. Her journey to discover the missing years of her life makes for a suspenseful psychological thriller.

The Kitchen (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Rating: 2 / 5

Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish

Three housewives turning into mafia bosses overnight is a difficult transformation and a tough story to tell. A good movie would have given it some thought, treated the characters with care, and given them the scenes, situations, and dialogues required to make this transformation.

Instead, The Kitchen fails to thoughtfully conceive the theme and narrate the story well. None of the characters have been fleshed out with the result that the end product is not very believable.

There seems to be a lot of potential in Elisabeth Moss’s abused wife character but we don’t get to see it. Her metamorphosis from a timid, mistreated wife to a murderous gang member seems incomplete. Tiffany Haddish in the role of Ruby seems like fish out of water – she’s clearly uncomfortable in the role and when the scene requires her to act – she tries too hard. Melissa McCarthy slips more comfortably into her role as the housewife of an Irish mafia man. But even she looks bewildered when thrust into the role of a mafia boss just a couple of scenes away.

The Kitchen had the potential of a good story idea but failed to realize it with a weak screenplay, bad direction, and forced acting.

The Outsider (2020)

Streaming on Disney plus Hotstar

Rating: 4 / 5

1 Season, 10 episodes of approx. 1 hour each

A man accused of murder is also found to be at another place, several hundred kilometres away, at the same time as the murder. There are solid alibis at both places. An increasingly incredulous detective must question his own life beliefs as he comes across more such murders.

Based on the Stephen King horror novel of the same name, The Outsider is an edge-of-the-seat supernatural thriller that keeps you engaged throughout its 10 episodes. But the miniseries is not only about paranormal activity, shrieks, and ghosts. Instead, it stands out with its sensitive portrayal of grieving families. Some grieving families disintegrate when facing loss, while others survive.

There are spirits out there that prey on the fear, loneliness, and sadness of loved ones left behind. This is what detective Ralph Anderson finds difficult to believe. He takes the help of private investigator, Holly Gibney, to investigate a series of murders where the alleged perpetrator seems to be innocent and it becomes increasingly difficult to nail the real culprit.

Person of Interest (2011-2016)

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Time: 5 Seasons; 103 episodes of approx. 44 minutes each

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Sarah Shahi, Kevin Chapman

Government surveillance, invasion of privacy, and artificial intelligence have become buzzwords in recent times. Person of Interest captures all of these themes in a fast-paced drama. The series comes with an impeccable pedigree. It is created by the same producers who were behind iconic sci-fi thrillers such as Star Wars, Interstellar, and Westworld – Jonathon Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan) and JJ Abrams. As such, the show does not disappoint. It is filled with thrilling action sequences at par with a major Hollywood flick, original plot twists, and competent acting.

Teaming up with an eccentric billionaire, a burnt-out ex-CIA agent (played by Jim Caviezel) and a friendly New York city cop try to stop crimes and criminals before the act is committed. Backing them is a powerful AI entity, simply called The Machine. Overall, an entertaining watch!

Paatal Lok (2020)

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Rating: 4 / 5

1 Season, 9 episodes between 40-45 minutes each

Inspector Hathi Ram Choudhary neatly divides the New Delhi police jurisdiction into three levels. At the highest level is Swarglok or Heaven under which comes the posh Lutyen’s Delhi. Next is Dharti Lok or Earth, covering middle-class colonies and the lowest level is Paatal Lok or the netherworld, where live the poor and children of lesser gods. Paatal Lok is the good Inspector’s jurisdiction – the Outer Jamuna Paar police station, where all cases come to die.

However, Inspector Choudhary’s fortunes take a favourable turn when four suspects are arrested for the attempted murder of a famous journalist and he is tasked with the investigation. With media frenzy surrounding the case, this is a rare opportunity for a policeman from Paatal Lok.

The series will keep you engrossed throughout. It is fast-paced, although at times the sub-plots can sidetrack you. Freedom of the press, caste violence in rural Punjab, marriage infidelity, political corruption, Hindu-Muslim divide – the nine-part series manages to cover a lot of themes in contemporary India. 

Jaideep Ahlawat as Inspector Hathi Ram delivers a stellar performance. We get to see his character’s multi-faceted personality – the diligent cop who wants to crack his first, big case to a promotion. The worried father of a 15-year old rebellious teenager and loving husband. He is ably supported by a stellar cast – Gul Panag plays his wife but seems to be underused as a character. Ishwak Singh plays his junior, Ansari, a diligent officer who is also studying for his Civil Services. 

Modern Family review (2009-2020)

Where to watch: Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

Rating: 4 / 5

Time: 11 Seasons, 250 episodes of approx. 20 minutes each

Cast: Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neill, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez

Filled with eccentric characters, in the Modern Family, even everyday life situations take on hilarious turns. Eminently bingeable, the show has won multiple Emmy awards for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Modern Family revolves around a diverse family with complicated relationships – a gay couple with an adopted Asian baby, the family patriarch married to a Colombian woman who is as old as his daughter, their Colombian step-son, and the typical American nuclear family with a stay-at-home mom, working husband, and three kids. Yet with all this diversity, the family manages to click.

The cast is excellent with competent acting skills and great comedic timing. The show’s writers have worked on some very amusing situations in every episode. The jokes are genuinely funny with plenty of witty one-liners. Light-hearted and entertaining watch!

The Extraction movie review (2020)

Streaming on Netflix

Rating: 2 / 5

Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda

Chris Hemsworth – starrers are usually high on action. The Extraction is no exception. The action thriller has some good fight sequences, including a 12-minute action sequence that was shot continuously.

However, the rest of the movie disappoints with a predictable story line.

Set in India and Bangladesh, the movie features an Indian cast. The story unfolds with the kidnapping of the son of a Mumbai-based crime lord by a rival drug lord based in Dhaka. The boy, Ovi, is subsequently taken to Bangladesh from where a mercenary, Tyler (Chris Hemsworth), has been hired to extract him.

Things go wrong (as they usually do in a movie, otherwise where is the drama?) and carefully laid plans go waste. Tyler must improvise but there are complications as our hero carries a death wish, haunted by the death of his own son a few years ago. Will Ovi be saved? Will both Tyler and Ovi survive the extraction?

There is one particularly stomach-churning scene when Tyler and Ovi jump into a Dhaka sewage drain to escape the bad guys. With creepy crawlies on the walls and rats swimming in the drain, it was scarier than when our heroes were under fire.

In other news, the producers were in the process of making a sequel for The Extraction but the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have delayed it considerably.