MAY 23 ― After more than two months of staying home for most of us, I'm pretty sure that our viewing patterns have changed from when the Movement Control Order (MCO) started on March 18, 2020, when movies about virus outbreaks and being locked up (like Contagion, Carriers, The Platform etc) were all the rage back then.
Global viewing patterns have taken such strange turns that even half-forgotten box-office flops from the quite recent past like House At The End Of The Street and Sleepless began turning up on Netflix's top 10 charts.
As for me, I've been spending quite a lot of my movie watching time in the past two weeks or so just getting reacquainted with some of my childhood martial arts movie faves from the likes of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, and even forgotten direct to VHS action faves from the 90s like Showdown, Rapid Fire and Angel Town, with me somehow enjoying all that 90s action cheese! Being cooped up at home does things to you, I guess.
Anyway, as we start to approach what may look like the end of this MCO chapter in our history, as we're about halfway through the conditional movement control order (CMCO), things are starting to look a bit more rosy, so what better way to ride that feel-good feeling than to binge on some feel-good stuff on Netflix, right?
Never Have I Ever
Thanks to Netflix, the coming-of-age teen comedy has been having quite a moment in the last two years, with crowd favourites like The Kissing Booth, To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser and plenty more reminding us how fun and magical these stories can be when told right.
2020, however, put another feather in the cap of Netflix as far as teen comedies are concerned; we were treated, in very quick succession, to two series with Asian American leads in them, telling stories that truly speak to the Asian American experience.
The 10-episode series Never Have I Ever arrived first, premiering on April 27, 2020.
This Mindy Kaling produced (and written) show, about a first generation Indian-American teenage girl called Devi (captivating newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) navigating her high school life in Sherman Oaks, California, is quite simply a joy to watch.
I'm obviously not an Indian-American, but I'm still Asian, and there are plenty of moments here that will ring very true from either personal experience or from stories you've heard from friends.
Most crucially, the writers are smart enough to not make the series about Asian representation on American screens, as the characters here are nowhere near perfect, make plenty of frustrating decisions, and have a hard time understanding other people, which of course makes them human, and makes their experiences even more relatable to us viewers.
At less than 30 minutes per episode, this is one series that you can binge on effortlessly in just one sitting, and enjoy every single second of it.
The Half Of It
Arriving just a few days after the excellent Never Have I Ever on May 1, 2020, this new film from Alice Wu (almost a full 15 years after her last film Saving Face) is more or less another variation on the immortal classic Cyrano De Bergerac (a queer one, actually), with the Cyrano character now a Chinese-American teenage high schooler named Ellie Chu (a star making performance from Leah Lewis), the Christian character a high school football player named Paul (Daniel Diemer) and the Roxanne character Ellie's classmate Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire).
Lewis and Diemer share irresistible chemistry whenever they're on screen together, and the whole film is simply chock full of characters you can't help but fall in love with, played beautifully by the actors.
In short, this is one of those absolutely irresistible and tenderhearted teenage coming-of-age comedy-dramas that'll leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
Another home run by Netflix.
Coffee and Kareem
Before I start, please don't watch this one with kids, even though one of the movie's lead characters is a pre-teen kid. Like last year's Good Boys, this is a foul-mouthed comedy where most of the foul-mouthed content hilariously comes from a kid's mouth.
If Good Boys was more or less Superbad with kids, then Coffee and Kareem is more or less one of those buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours with a kid as one of its lead characters.
Playing the straight man to the movie-stealing Terrence Little Gardenhigh (who plays the glorious Kareem) is Ed Helms, the Coffee to his Kareem.
Yes, the jokes are kind of lazy, the comic set-ups obvious and easy, but there's no denying the appeal in witnessing F-bombs and creative turns of vulgar phrases flying out of Kareem's motormouth almost non-stop throughout the movie.
With some terrific turns from a supporting cast that's clearly having a blast, especially Betty Gilpin and Taraji P. Henson, this is a riotously enjoyable low comedy that only director Michael Dowse (of Fubar and Goon fame) seems capable of making these last few years.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.