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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice’ on Netflix, a Strange and Beautiful Documentary About Grief, Loss and Love



Netflix documentary Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice chronicles how a Thai family had their two-year-old daughter cryogenically frozen after she passed away due to brain cancer. The story made international headlines, but director Pailin Wedel goes deeper, spending significant time with the girl’s scientist parents and budding-scientist teenage brother, broaching wide-ranging topics from pragmatism to spirituality.

The Gist: When he was a kid, the aerator on Sahatorn Naovaratpong’s goldfish tank stopped working overnight. The fish were floating. His mother had him put the fish on ice, allowing them to revive half of them later. In 2012, Sahatorn, who owns and operates a “laser factory” in Thailand, and his wife Nareerat became parents for the second time. Their son Matrix always wanted a sibling, and is overjoyed upon meeting his baby sister, who they called Einz — Japanese and Chinese for “love.”

Einz was two when she unexpectedly fell into a coma. She had a form of brain cancer that’s essentially a death sentence. Multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy followed. About a month shy of her third birthday, Einz died. But prior to that, the family contacted a company in Arizona called Alticor, who agreed to cryogenically preserve her remains. Sahatorn believes that science will be able to reanimate her someday, and in that idea he invests all his hope. He’s interviewed on many TV news programs about the technology and why the family chose this path for Einz.

We see the family visit Alcor; they grieve and pray at the chrome canister in a laboratory — where Einz’s brain is preserved — like one might do at a loved one’s gravesite. This family is wholly devoted to science, but also devout practicers of buddhism. Sahatorn and Matrix discuss how specific dreams affect their lives. Matrix, 15 years old when the film was made, is passionate and dedicated to scientific practices, but in honor of his sister, he has his head shaved and becomes ordained as a novice Buddhist monk. Matrix then travels to the U.S. to meet a scientist who won awards for freezing and reviving a rabbit’s brain, and faces a series of revelations about the technology his family used to keep Einz’s brain viable on a cellular level.

Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice
Photo: Netflix

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The philosophical and ethical questions are indelibly burned into the subject matter, but as soon as Matrix and Sahatorn begin talking about dreams, you’ll feel the specter of Werner Herzog’s big-question documentaries in the room — Wedel’s tone and innate curiosity brings to mind Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World and Encounters at the End of the World.

Performance Worth Watching: Matrix is the heart of the movie — his scientific and spiritual journeys illustrate how he’s committed to understanding the nature of the human soul from both philosophical and rational perspectives.

Memorable Dialogue: “One day, if you wake up and watch this video, maybe hundreds of years from now, we want you to know we love you.” — Sahatorn records a video for Einz

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: Hope Frozen shows us where grief, science, religion, hope and despair meet — and it’s a cloudy place where the seed of absolutism can find no purchase. Except maybe the assertion that science will find a way, as Sahatorn at one point extrapolates, “We may have time travel by then,” showing unerring devotion to mankind’s ability to someday achieve what we now deem almost impossible. Most compelling is the Naovaratpong family’s holistic understanding of life; Western sensibilities posit science and religion as binary opposites, but for these Thai people, it seems as if the human soul is merely waiting to be discovered and explained by the rigors of science, in a day, a week or millennia from now.

Such is the film’s ecstatic truth. Ultimately, though, it’s more intuitive than informational. Wedel all but acts on the assumption that we’ve read some of the many news stories about Einz and pondered the ethical concerns, and therefore takes the story further; it took an internet search to find the family’s surname and clarify that Einz’s body wasn’t preserved, but rather, what remained of her cancer-ravaged brain. More on Alticor would be beneficial for context, too (it’s the same company that famously cryogenically froze baseball star Ted Williams). Such details don’t seem as crucial as Wedel’s exploration of the incalculable desperation incurred by devastating loss, or the subtle rumination on the nature of what makes us human: Suffering perhaps, memory certainly, a mind and soul and intellect indelibly.

Like his parents, Matrix doesn’t exhibit signs of extreme grief — possibly due to cultural differences — but instead, an ability to look progressively forward, with hope and inquisitiveness. In the film’s most subtly powerful moment, Matrix places a greeting card on the chamber containing his sister and it reads, “You are your own unique story.” What an odd sentiment that is, until you fully consider the goal of his quest.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Wisely, Hope Frozen sidesteps every opportunity to sensationalize this strange story. You’ll wish it was more factually thorough, but its willingness to tackle big questions is its strength.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Stream Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice on Netflix


Vanessa Bryant Shares Heartfelt Video Of Daughter Capri Remembering Her Late ‘Dada’ Kobe Bryant




Ever since Kobe and Gianna Bryant tragically passed away earlier this year, grieving momma Vanessa Bryant has been doing everything she can to get justice for her late husband and daughter while also keeping their memory alive at home.

On Friday, the 38-year-old widow shared a touching new Instagram video of her youngest child Capri, 15 months, calling out for her father, whom she barely spent much time with before he perished alongside eight others in a helicopter crash over Calabasas. It’s equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking, but totally worth a watch (below).

Related: Vanessa’s Cryptic Quote About ‘Letting Go’ Of ‘Trusted People’ Amid Drama With Her Mother

In the clip, the sweet tot is seen walking around the house in pink pajamas while holding a framed picture of the NBA legend and it’s obvious her momma has been making sure Capri knows how deeply loved she is.

“Coco, who’s that?” Vanessa asked, as her daughter responded, “Dada. Dada.” Mrs. Bryant added, “That is your dada. Dada, he loves you!” and we’re not crying, you’re crying…

Although the widow’s social media profiles have been made private, you can ch-ch-check it out here, courtesy of timely repost by Complex Sports:


Wow, this one really gave us all of the feels. Moments like this remind us that in addition to getting her “Ko-ko Bean” namesake from her father, she’ll always have beautiful reminders of him to last her lifetime. Still, we wish that Kobe and Gianna were with us today instead of how they were taken from the world far too soon.

We continue to keep the entire Bryant family in our thoughts, now and always.

[Image via Sheri Determan/WENN/Vanessa Bryant/Instagram]

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Netflix’s Francisco Ramos: Spanish-language content has to keep its ‘specificity’ | News




“Without specificity we will lose our identity,” said Francisco Ramos, vice-p[resident of Spanish-language originals for Netflix in Latin America, in an online industry talk organised by San Sebastian’s industry desk alongside Creative Europe this week. 

Ramos was speaking about the boom in Spanish-language content, with the goal to protect each country’s, or even each region in a country’s, specific voice.

He added, “In Latin America, more and more we want stories that start to pave the way to talk about diversity, and the specificities of culture. In countries like Mexico and Brazil, each region is a whole universe…We need different and diverse perspectives, diversity of stories.”

“The language somehow is the vertebrae of us, but it doesn’t mean it’s one single culture. Let’s promote the specificities of our own Hispanic cultures. That specificity that unique point of view that comes from the director, creator, that is what makes each product special.”

Netflix is very active in Spanish production of course, but increasingly also in Mexico and Latin America, such as Brazil and Argentina.

”The main motivation that we have to expand our location presences in more and more countries is that we are convinced the combination of the best content coming from each country in the world, they need to have those local stories but linking that with this global perspective,” Ramos explained.


“We are in a moment in which we are demolishing barriers. Spanish content isn’t just for Spain and Mexican content is not just for Mexico. Each country has its own culture, it’s a huge opportunity.”

 He continued, “The Spanish language is important because it links so many different civilizations, between Latin America and Spain, and links with the Mediterranean basin.”

Ramos hopes Netflix can support more unique voices, including in countries such as Uruguay, Chile or Peru, to tell their specific stories. “Being from a small country that doesn’t mean you are small in a creative setting, there is a lot of talent,” he said. “You have impact through credibility. That story can only happen right there at that place, at hat moment. That is the most interesting thing for us.”

He added, “We need to give power to the executives in each country so that they can create the fabric of local relationships. And in those places where we have no local office, we have headquarters in Amsterdam or Mexico, we have Argentinians working with Argentinian producers, and Colombians working with Colombian producers, that is the first step. The second step is that we need to use more traditional co-production models. To have the best possible offer for our subscribers., we have to be open to any model [of financing and production].”

He noted Netflix productions had begun again, with new Covid-19 safety measures, in both Spain and Mexico.

He wants Netflix’s Spanish-language productions to be “more and more ambitious” and that can be powered by the current subscriber growth. “at a local level, we are able to do things maybe eight years ago that we wouldn’t have been able to carry out. The goal is to be ambitious and to improve the quality and diversity of our offer.”

Of the Spanish-language world, Ramos said, “The value of language is something that American people have been taking advantage of, and we have to do the same.”

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‘Utopia’ Review: Amazon’s Gillian Flynn Adaptation Is a Grim Nightmare




By and large, “timely” is a terrible word to use in the context of a review. There are obvious exceptions, when dissecting the weight of an excellent program is tied directly to its relevance, and before my pesky little trolls dig up eight old articles where I improperly lean on that particular adjective, I’ll admit: I’ve used it. We’ve all used it. When you watch a show or film that feels particularly relevant to headline news, it’s almost instinctual to throw the word “timely” into your own headline. People need to know know that this one is different than so much of the mindless entertainment out there, because this show speaks to the moment.

But does that mean it’s good? Bad? Effective? Affecting? “Timely,” on its own, doesn’t really tell us anything qualitative, and even as a context clue, the word has been hollowed out by misuse. Commentators who use “timely” to describe narratives about police misconduct or racial injustice simply haven’t been paying attention long enough. Overuse is a problem, too. As long as you’re writing about what’s going on in the world today — and, one way or another, we all are — everything is timely. Trump’s election really crystallized that concept, as so many stories post-November 2016 felt related to the president, his supporters, or the many problems connected to both.

When your mindset is dominated by a common concern, all roads lead to the same spot. A drama about the systematic oppression of women? Timely. A comedy about political sniping? Obviously timely. A show about dragons and warfare and full frontal nudity set in a made-up fantasy land? Still timely! The point being, if you sit with something long enough — whether it’s living under a misogynistic fascist or surviving a global pandemic (with a death toll that’s been exacerbated by that same misogynistic fascist!) — then it clouds your every thought. You see everything through that fog, and thus everything you see is foggy.

Enter “Utopia,” Amazon Prime Video’s new original series that’s impossible to discuss without mentioning its timely premise. Set in modern day Chicago, the eight-episode first season follows a group of comic book geeks who are fighting a mysterious organization for control of a graphic novel — and here’s where the relevance comes in — that may hold the key to ending a national pandemic.

Hazmat suits are worn by nearly every lead character. National news covers the viral outbreak 24/7. People are scared. Protests erupt. Conspiracies are debunked and, disconcertingly, validated. “Utopia” carries more parallels to the ongoing global pandemic than many of today’s news outlets (where the next election has outranked COVID coverage).

Jessica Rothe in “Utopia”

Elizabeth Morris / Amazon Studios

It’s also very, very different. Without getting into spoiler territory, it’s hard to say exactly how “Utopia’s” fictional pandemic differs from our real one, but its origin, dispersal, and effects are all tailor-made for a TV thriller, if not outright science fiction. This isn’t a grounded take. This is entertainment, and any timeliness wasn’t invited by its creators — it was thrust upon the show by circumstance.

So here’s another problem with “timely”: Whether intended as an endorsement or a censure, the word can often elicit the opposite effect. Maybe you don’t want to watch a TV show that hits a little too close to home right now, but plenty of people do. Similarly, if you’re only invested in seeing direct parallels to your real-world experience, there’s still someone else who’s hoping to escape into an alternate timeline only tangentially connected to our own. People are fickle. Just because you “can’t imagine” who would or wouldn’t want to watch this show, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of those folks out in the world. All you can do — as a critic, a writer, or anyone with a louder megaphone than average — is interpret how well the series achieves its goals, and what effect it had on you.

What you need to know about “Utopia,” now that I’ve spent more than half of my word-count explaining what you don’t, is that it’s grim to the point of being hostile, clumsy in critical character-centric moments, and an otherwise efficient dystopian thriller. (Many episodes are under 50 minutes, which is often the bellwether of streamlined television these days.) Amateur conspiracy theorists have plenty to chew on (arguably too much by Episode 7), and the unsettling trail of breadcrumbs is dispersed well enough to keep hardened viewers engaged. There’s at least one too many gruesome “twists” by Episode 2, especially a kicker that undermines a lot of long-term potential, but fans of Gillian Flynn’s dark and violent written work will likely see a lot of similarities between her past screen adaptations and this, her second adaptation of another author’s work. (Remember: “Widows” was also based on a British TV show.)

Utopia Amazon Series Dan Byrd

Dan Byrd in “Utopia”

Elizabeth Morris / Amazon Studios

If you’re looking for a stronger opinion, maybe consider why I ended up writing more about the annoying trend of “timely” TV than “Utopia,” but let me expand on the provided premise anyway: “Utopia” starts at a comic convention where a random relative has discovered the eponymous comic that could save the world — and is selling it for cold hard cash. “Utopia” is the sequel to “Dystopia,” which according to its obsessive fans, accurately predicted many of the diseases afflicted upon society over the last few decades, so it’s only logical to assume the follow-up will offer similarly clairvoyant foresights. Unfortunately, mega-fans Wilson (Desmin Borges), Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Ian (Dan Byrd), Samantha (Jessica Rothe), and the mysterious Grant (Javon “Wanna” Walton) aren’t the only ones who believe in “Utopia’s” predictive power, and soon they’re being chased by an ominous corporate goon squad (led by Christopher Denham’s cold-blooded Arby) and a lethal woman who may or may not be a character from the comics (“American Honey’s” Sasha Lane).

Near the end of its seventh episode (the last provided in advance), “Utopia” lands itself in the middle of a debate I’m not sure it wants. Time (and interviews) will tell what kind of messaging was intended, if any at all, but this kind of narrative mismanagement isn’t restricted to the show’s more delicate thematic content. The biggest problems lie in its characters, mainly the possible comic book character Jessica Hyde, who is simply too cold-blooded and underwritten to make for a compelling central figure. The rest of the crew are similarly flimsy, even if the performers (notably Desmin Borges and Cory Michael Smith) manage to elevate them above sketches.

For how well “Utopia” mines modern society’s greatest fears, it’s mainly cultivating them for ambiance, not commentary. Maybe current events make it difficult to judge the show on its own terms, but it’s not free from judgment either. There are problems and pluses that exist no matter when someone watches — credit to the Chicago backdrop for helping distinguish the series’ overall look — and, ultimately, it’s just another spooky story in need of refinement. To call it timely would be too generous and too thoughtless. Huh, it’s almost like the conversation should’ve been focused elsewhere.

Grade: C

“Utopia” Season 1 is streaming now via Amazon Prime Video.

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