ZOO series review (2017- 2019)

Where to watch: Streaming on Netflix

Zoo series trailer

Rating: 3/5

Time: 3 seasons, 39 episodes of 40 minutes each

Zoo series cast: Kristen Connolly, James Wolk, Billy Burke, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arnezeder

“The world was becoming a zoo, without cages.” James Patterson, author of Zoo

The James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge novel of the same name is the inspiration behind the Zoo series, streaming on Netflix. The show is based on an interesting premise – what if after generations of subjugation, hunting and killing by humans, the animals and birds of Earth were to rise up in unison against humans?

This rebellion takes place in multiple locations across the world. In Botswana, Africa, lions unify as one team to hunt and kill tourists. In Japan and Rio de Janeiro, swarms of bats come out of their hiding places to wreak havoc in broad daylight. In Slovenia, domestic and street dogs form packs to kill people.

In order to make sense of this dystopian nightmare, a motley group of investigators is put in place. We have Dr Jackson Oz (played by James Wolk), a zoologist based in Africa who has a day job as a safari guide. His father’s thesis on animal behaviour may shed light on the bizarre behaviour of the animal kingdom. He’s joined by his assistant and good friend, the ever-dependable Abe (played by Nonso Anozie). We have the veterinary pathologist, Mitch (played by Billy Burke) and pushy journalist, Jaime (played by Kristen Connolly) who is convinced that the chemicals dispensed by a big, bad global corporation is responsible for the animal attacks. Finally, we have Chloe Tousignant, a French spy agent who is the leader of this disparate group.

Heroes of Zoo

Season 1 of Zoo is eminently binge-worthy. You will want to know what happens next….will the investigators find out how this happened? Can they find a “cure” for the animals’ erratic behaviour? However, the fast-paced sci-fi thriller runs out of James Patterson’s original novel in the first season. By the second and third seasons, Zoo begins to take on new and bizarre twists and turns, which even for the sci-fi genre is hard to believe. We’ve given a 3/5 rating for Season 1. Seasons 2 and 3 can be given a miss.

Has Zoo been renewed for Season 4?

The Zoo tv series was cancelled by CBS after Season 3 due to dwindling popularity. The show could get only a 0.51 rating in the 18-41 demographic and just 2.56 million viewers.

The Courier movie review (2021)

Where to watch: Streaming on bookmyshow.com

The Courier trailer

Rating: 3/5

Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Angus Wright, Vladimir Chuprikov

Oftentimes, the contribution of less famous men and women in changing the course of history goes unreported or unrecognised. The Courier narrates one such story of the sacrifices made by two men in averting a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile crisis in the 1960s.

The Courier tells the real-life story of Greville Wynne (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a British businessman, who gets roped into being a go-between a Russian mole and British and American intelligence. The story reminds one of Tom Hanks’ Bridge of Spies, another true story of getting a civilian to do spy work.

Since the CIA had very little presence in the USSR, they got British Mi6 to recruit Wynne to do business in Moscow. In Wynne’s words, he was only “an ordinary salesman with no connection to the government.” This put him above suspicion on business trips to the USSR. In Moscow, his contact was Oleg Penkovsky (played by Merab Ninidze) a member of the Soviet military intelligence. Penkovsky passed on tremendous amount of information to the British and the Americans, especially about the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. His information enabled Kennedy to call Krushchev’s bluff in Cuba and avoided a Third (perhaps last) World War.

Unlike a Bond spy thriller, there are no action scenes or gun fights in The Courier. But as often happens in real-life, history is made by men with a conscience who are willing to sacrifice their happiness for the greater good of mankind.

Where can I watch Harry Potter movies?

Ever since J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in 1997, the young boy wizard has captured the attention of young and old admirers alike. Readers thronged book stores to get their hands on the latest instalment of Harry Potter’s adventures.

So when the first movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 2001, it was a super-duper hit. There are a total of 8 Harry Potter movies based on the books of the same name.

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) – On his eleventh birthday, young Harry Potter discovers he is the orphaned child of two powerful wizards. He is taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn about his unique heritage.
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Harry Potter is warned not to return to Hogwarts but he does. He encounters a series of mysterious attacks and events at the school.
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – Harry returns with his friends, Ron and Hermione, for a third year at Hogwarts. They face the infamous prisoner, Sirius Black, who has escaped from Azkaban and is headed for Hogwarts.
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – Harry Potter’s name emerges from the Goblet of Fire and he must represent Hogwarts in the Triwizard Tournament.
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix (2007) – Lord Voldermort has returned and the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to prevent the truth from coming out.
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) – Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for the sixth year and finds that Lord Voldermort is tightening his grip on the school. Dumbledore prepares Harry for the inevitable final battle.
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to destroy the Horcruxes and discover the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world – the Deathly Hallows.
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) – The final battle – it all ends here.

Where to stream Harry Potter movies in India?

There are multiple options to view Harry Potter movies online –

  1. Apple TV+ : Apple TV+ is offering all the eight Harry Potter movies as a bundle for Rs 2,900. You need to subscribe to their service which costs Rs 99 per month. Currently, you can get a free trial for 7 days, after which you will be charged Rs 99 per month.
  2. Amazon Prime Video: All eight Harry Potter movies are available on Amazon Prime Video. You need to subscribe to their service, which costs Rs 999 per year. This also includes ad-free music, and free and expedited delivery for e-commerce orders.
  3. Google Play – All eight Harry Potter movies are available on Google Play on rent for Rs 120 per movie. Once you rent, you can start to play it within 30 days and finish once started within 48 hours. Alternatively, you can buy each movie for Rs 620.

Teheran series review – Season 1 (2020)

Streaming on Apple TV+

Tehran series trailer

Rating: 4/5

Time: 8 episodes of approximately 47-48 minutes each

Cast: Niv Sultan, Shaun Toub, Navid Negahban, Liraz Charhi

Tehran is created by the same writer (Moshe Zonder) as the famous Israeli spy series, Fauda. As such, it follows the tradition of Israeli spy thrillers – fast-moving story line with plenty of twists and turns, full of action and gadgets, and some good, old-fashioned spy work.

Tamar Rabinyan (played by Niv Sultan) is a Mossad agent who enters Tehran disguised as an air stewardess. The circumstances of her entry into Iran is the stuff of great spy thrillers. She speaks fluent Farsi because her Jewish family is originally from Iran. In fact, her aunt still lives in Tehran but has since converted to Islam. Tamar’s mission is to disable an Iranian nuclear reactor. Her plans are foiled by an agent from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Faraz Kamali (played by Shaun Toub). Stuck in enemy country, Tamar seeks help from a group of Iranian dissidents who are in secret rebellion against the Iranian regime.

Filmed in Athens, with foot-tapping music by Mark Eliyahu, Tehran is an entertaining watch. Farsi- and Hebrew-speaking actors lend an air of authenticity to the series.

About Tehran – Season 2

Apple TV+ has confirmed the second season of Tehran. While the release date has not yet been confirmed, it is expected that season 2 of the Israeli spy thriller will drop in September 2021. Glen Close has signed on to the second season of the web series. She will be playing the role of a British citizen living in Tehran.

Sherni movie review (2021)

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Sherni movie trailer

Rating: 4/5

Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

Cast: Vidya Balan, Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Ila Arun, Sharat Saxena, Brijendra Kala

Sherni is a realistic and sensitive portrayal of the forest officers who are responsible for guarding India’s forests, flora and fauna. It provides a peek into the workings of the forest department that is constrained by political interference and the constant clash between man and wild animal in the quest for survival.

Vidya Balan plays Vidya Vincent, a Divisional Forest Officer, in the movie. She is posted in a remote forest location in Madhya Pradesh, while her husband stays back in Mumbai where he works. Faced with loneliness and a stalled career with no growth prospects, she often wonders about resigning. Her posting is not easy. She is surrounded by male misogynists. At one point, someone tells her “When trouble comes, they send a lady officer.”

A man-eating tigress creates more trouble for her because fearful villagers create pressure on the forest department to capture the animal. The issue gets further complicated when two rival politicians manipulate the villagers in a bid to win the next elections. One of them gets a professional hunter, Ranjan Rajhans (played by Sharat Saxena) involved. Rajhans calls himself a conservationist but in reality he is just looking to make his next trophy kill.

Sherni provides a fascinating view of how tigers are tracked in the wild. Officers have to trek hundreds of kilometres to locate the animal’s pug marks and droppings. Camera traps are set up in various parts of the jungle to understand the animal’s movements. Sherni is based on the true events surrounding the 2018 killing of tigress, Avni, in the Yavatmal forests of Maharashtra. At that time, as in this movie, it had caused major national controversy.

The movie is a must-watch to increase our appreciation of Mother Nature. Another reason to see the movie – Vidya Balan’s understated and graceful performance as she quietly goes about fulfilling her official duties.

Greyhound movie review (2020)

Streaming on Apple TV+

Rating: 4/5

Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Elisabeth Shue

Greyhound is a thrilling World War II movie set in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1942. The hero of our story is Captain Ernest Krause (played by Tom Hanks) who is tasked with the mission of leading an international convoy of 37 ships on a mission across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver supplies to the Allied Forces fighting Hitler’s army in Europe. The North Atlantic waters are treacherous with German U-boats on the prowl. But Captain Krause carries on the US Navy tradition of “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Inspired by true events, Greyhound is based on the Battle of the Atlantic – the longest military campaign in history lasting five years from 1939 to Germany’s defeat in 1945. The UK and other Allied Forces depended on the Americans for soldiers and supplies to survive the war. But these supplies from North America had to cross the Atlantic and were often targets of German warships and submarines.

Events in the movie unfold in rapid succession. Hardly has Captain Krause’s ship, the Greyhound, sunk a German U-boat, than another makes its appearance. The special effects are great with sweeping aerial shots of the ship convoy, as well as clearer shots of the choppy and turbulent waters and menacing U-boats circling the Allied convoy. Greyhound is well worth the watch, especially with Tom Hanks’ faultless acting.

Those Who Wish Me Dead movie review (2021)

Streaming on Apple TV; rent it on bookmyshow.com

Those Who Wish Me Dead movie trailer

Rating: 1/5

Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Medina Senghore, Finn Little, Jake Weber

Angelina Jolie-starrer Those Who Wish Me Dead starts out promising to be an engrossing action thriller. But somewhere along the way it loses its charm. Insipid dialogues, weak story and uninspiring performance by the lead actress makes the movie predictable.

In fact, the real heroine of Those Who Wish Me Dead seems to be Allison (played by Medina Senghore). Six months pregnant, she manages to seriously hurt two bad guys before riding off on a horse searching for her husband!

There are big holes in the movie’s story. It starts with the murder of the District Attorney and his family by two henchmen Patrick and Jack (played by Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen). On hearing the news the DA’s forensic accountant, Owen (played by Jake Weber), realises that he is probably next because of his investigation of a corruption case. We are never told the details of this case. Owen scribbles it down for his son, Connor (played by Finn Little). But we never get to know what was written. Without knowing why Patrick and Jack are out on a killing spree (they manage to track down and murder Owen and spend a major part of the movie looking for Connor), it is very hard for the viewer to empathise with the victims or the story unfolding on the screen.

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie plays a smokejumper – a firefighter who parachutes into the site of a wildfire to fight it. Now, given this and Angelina Jolie’s background as action heroine, you would expect at least one scene where we get to see the actress perform a stunt or at least a couple of smokejumpers in action. You will be disappointed.

There is a mysterious storm brewing in the middle of the movie that seems to be developing into something major but by the next couple of scenes, the storm is nowhere to be seen.

The movie shares the same script writer as Without Remorse, so it is not surprising that the dialogues are uninspiring. (Read our review of Without Remorse). The dialogues are insipid and do nothing to add value to the characters or move the story forward. (sample – campfire scene with Hannah and Connor).

Those Who Wish Me Dead has a stellar cast and the potential of a good action movie but fails to deliver.

Mare of Easttown review (2021)

Streaming on Disney plus Hotstar

Mare of Easttown trailer

Rating: 4/5

Time: 7 episodes of 1 hour each

Cast: Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson, Sosie Bacon

Mare of Easttown marks Hollywood star, Kate Winslet’s entry to the OTT world. She carries the show on her able shoulders – the bright sun around whom all of the supporting cast revolve. In her deglamourised role, she has perfected the Delco accent spoken in Pennsylvania where Easttown is located. Her performance of a character duelling with multiple problems in life is believable and compelling.

Mare of Easttown is very similar to many crime thrillers we view today. The investigating detective’s own personal drama and story gets intertwined with the crime that has been committed. Gone are the days of Agatha Christie, when it was enough to describe the crime, the suspects, and the detective work undertaken by the investigator to create an absorbing crime story. Today’s crime thrillers not just describe all of the above but also include the detective’s own personal foibles and his/her life story which is usually full of tragedy and remorse (True Detective, Shetland).

Mare of Easttown is no different. There is plenty of drama in Mare Sheehan’s (played by Kate Winslet) life. She is divorced with an elder son who committed suicide not too long ago. He left behind a young boy whom Mare is looking after but the child’s mother (played by Sosie Bacon, Kevin Bacon’s daughter) who is a recovering addict is fighting a custody battle for the boy. Mare Sheehan’s ex-husband will get married soon and she is the last to find out. She is not in any steady relationship but lives with her mother (played by Jean Smart) and daughter, both of whom have difficult relationships with her. All of this would have been enough material for a season or two. However, we also have a murder and two missing girls, leading everyone in Easttown to wonder – is there a serial killer on the loose?

Mare of Easttown shines above most other crime series because of the presence of Hollywood star, Kate Winslet. She has ably portrayed the various layers of a complex character. The series also benefits from writer Brad Ingelsby’s engrossing script. All of the sub-plots in the web series will keep you glued to the screen, making the Mare of Easttown a binge-worthy show.

Monster movie review (2021)

Streaming on Netflix

Trailer of Monster

Rating: 3/5

Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Ehle, John David Washington

Monster assumes relevance in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement. Getting picked up by the police is a common occurrence for young, black men in the US. There are countless cases of innocent, black men serving long prison sentences for relatively minor crimes. Our protagonist, Steve Harmon (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr) is just 17 years old, happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He gets arrested for a convenience store robbery gone wrong when the owner is shot dead by the robbers.

The director, Anthony Mandler, weaves the story back and forth from Steve’s trial to the days leading up to the crime. We see vignettes of Steve Harmon’s life as a school student, his obsession with recording his daily life on phone, and his aspirations to be a filmmaker. We get to see the school activities and passions of a regular teenager. In fact, right up till the movie’s climax, we are left guessing about the extent of Steve’s involvement in the crime.

In a society where the jury tends to prejudge a black man, does Steve Harmon stand a chance? Or will he be viewed as the monster that he is not? Monster is a slow-burn movie that slowly peels back layers of the story and takes time to build up to the climax. Every actor has delivered a memorable performance but it is clearly Kelvin Harrison Jr as Steve who carries the movie.

The Family Man – Season 2 review (2021)

Streaming on Amazon Prime

The Family Man Season 2

Rating: 4/5

Time: 9 episodes of approximately 40 minutes each

Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Priyamani, Samantha Akkineni, Sharib Hashmi, Seema Biswas

Season 2 of The Family Man is similar to Season 1 in terms of taking real-life, socio-political issues to create plot twists and turns in the story. While season 1 focussed on the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism angle in Jammu & Kashmir, Season 2 focuses on the LTTE and Tamil issue in Sri Lanka. In fact, the web series takes it one step further – what if India’s enemies – Pakistani jihadi terrorists and Tamil rebels were to unite to cause disruption in India?

The Family Man in a new avatar

Manoj Bajpai ably reprises his role as Srikant Tiwari but in a whole new life situation. After having resigned from TASC team at the NIA, he joins a 9-to-5 corporate job that lifts him out of his middle-class status. He has a brand-new car, his son has new gizmos and gadgets to play with and the family has made the downpayment on a brand, new flat. And he is working on his fractured marital relationship with wife, Shuchi (played by Priyamani). But his heart is not in his job. Guess, once a spy…always a spy?

A hostage situation in Chennai gives Tiwari the opportunity to get back in the game. His trusted colleague JK (played by Sharib Hashmi) provides him with news and updates on the current case and Tiwari realises his role is not behind a desk, working for a “minimum guy” boss but out in the field, fighting terrorists, following leads and catching the bad guys.

Exceptional performance by Samantha Akkineni

Samantha Akkineni as the Tamil rebel, Raji, is phenomenal. The award-winning actress has brought great depth and emotion to the complex character she has played.

Never a dull moment, Season 2 lives up to expectations of being a bingeworthy show. Interesting subplots, humorous and witty dialogues and strong performances by the entire cast make The Family Man one of the best Indian shows. So, get the snacks out….and don’t get up till the bad guys get caught.