Review: ‘Bird Box Barcelona’ doesn’t fly far from the original nest, for good and ill

Four people in blindfolds make their way down a Spanish street
Gonzalo de Castro, left, Georgina Campbell, Mario Casas and Naila Schuberth in “Bird Box Barcelona.”
(Andrea Resmini / Netflix)
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‘Bird Box Barcelona’

The 2018 thriller “Bird Box” arrived without much hype yet still became one of Netflix’s biggest hits, for two reasons. For one, the movie’s star was the perennially popular Sandra Bullock, playing a scrappy survivor of an apocalyptic event. The film also caught on because its plot (adapted from a John Malerman novel) inspired a slew of memes and viral “blindfold” challenges, drawn from the central premise of unnamed paranormal invaders spreading a suicidal madness to humans who look directly at them.

“Bird Box Barcelona” is more of a companion film than a sequel — and as such, likely won’t become as much of a sensation. The new movie jumps around in time to show how the invasion affected Sebastián (Mario Casas), a Spaniard who loses his wife and becomes determined to protect their daughter, Anna (Alejandra Howard), even if that means embarking on dangerous journeys with dubious strangers. While making his way to a rumored safe haven, Sebastián meets the capable Claire (Georgina Campbell), who worries — not without reason — that Sebastián may not be the most reliable traveling companion.

The new writer-director team of Álex and David Pastor takes some chances by making Sebastián a somewhat unstable hero. For the most part, though, this “Bird Box” is much like the last one. The threat is kept intentionally vague — represented by eerie sounds and levitating debris — which allows it to function as a free-floating metaphor for whatever the viewer is worried about. Climate change? Pandemics? Fanatics? Take your pick.


The Pastors stage some suspenseful sequences and, as with the first film, it’s fascinating to see the various ways survivors work around the “try to keep your eyes closed as much as possible” problem. But a persistent unwillingness to define the antagonist made the original “Bird Box” feel generic at times — like just another end-times story, but with a “TBA” where the apocalypse should go. The “Barcelona” edition is essentially a repeat of the first film, flaws and all.

‘Bird Box Barcelona.’ In Spanish with subtitles (or dubbed). Rated TV-MA for language, suicide and violence. 1 hour, 50 minutes. Available on Netflix

‘The Jewel Thief’

In 1998, a Canadian man in his mid-20s snuck into Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace and replaced a diamond-and-pearl star once worn by Empress Elisabeth with a gift-shop replica. The crime went unsolved for nearly a decade, and even today, the authorities don’t know how Gerald Blanchard did it. In Landon Van Soest’s documentary “The Jewel Thief,” Blanchard declines to explain, because although he has served time in a Canadian jail, he might be open to charges in Europe. But that’s OK, because there are other things he’s willing to talk about — including the many bank jobs he pulled.

The theft of the Sisi Star is just a small part of “The Jewel Thief,” a movie more about the otherwise unassuming Blanchard’s knack for burglary. Blanchard had a chip on his shoulder from an early age, and focused his intellect on two things: outsmarting security systems and documenting his misadventures. Because of those archival inclinations, Van Soest has video in this documentary dating back to Blanchard’s teenage years, when he and his friends stole from gas stations. And because Canadian law enforcement was aware of him early, “The Jewel Thief” has audio from police wiretaps in which he discussed his operations.

Though Blanchard is interviewed throughout “The Jewel Thief,” he’s not one for in-depth self-analysis — and neither is this movie, really. The reenactments of the crimes are more “just the facts” than pulp thrills. Still, it’s fascinating to hear the details of how prolific Blanchard was, before the law caught up with him. If he saw a vulnerability in a store, a museum or a bank, he felt compelled to exploit it. He’s half crook, half Type-A task manager.

‘The Jewel Thief.’ Rated TV-MA for language. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Available on Hulu


‘The Attachment Diaries’

Writer-director Valentín Javier Diment’s visually splendid, fervently florid Argentine art film “The Attachment Diaries” could be described as a melodrama, but only in the way that Pedro Almodóvar’s movies are melodramas — which is to say that Diment twists the form to his own ends, for reasons that defy easy explanation. Jimena Anganuzzi plays Carla, a pregnant woman who seeks out a doctor named Irina (Lola Berthet) for an abortion. When Irina tells Carla she’s too far along, she offers a lucrative backup plan: Carla can move into Irina’s house, and they’ll sell the baby to a wealthy couple.

That’s the first weird turn “The Attachment Diaries” takes. Later, Carla and Irina form a deep bond that leads them to protect each other with ferocious violence. Diment gradually ratchets up the exploitation elements throughout this movie, adding sex and a fair amount of splatter. He even changes the look of the film about two-thirds of the way through, replacing the clean black-and-white of the first hour with garish color. A rushed, muddled ending — and a general lack of any cogent point — keeps “The Attachment Diaries” from being an Almodóvar-level success. But for fans of those seamy places where art and smut intersect, this movie is a nasty little treat.

‘The Attachment Diaries.’ In Spanish with subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 42 minutes. Available on VOD

Also on VOD

“The Flood” is an unapologetic drive-in-movie throwback, combining two pulpy plots: one about mercenaries seizing control of an understaffed prison; and the other about giant alligators attacking everyone inside after torrential rains turn the surrounding streets into one big lake. The effects look cheap, the Louisiana accents are broad and the characters are one-dimensional, but veteran B-picture stars Nicky Whelan (as a tough sheriff), Casper Van Dien (as a notorious criminal) and Louis Mandylor (as the raiders’ leader) all throw themselves into the film’s cheesy spirit. Available on VOD