Hidden Netflix Gems - June 2017
As a fan of live theater and as one who does marketing for it, I've often trumpeted that among the biggest threats to the success of the performing arts is subscription video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Why go spend $15 - $50 bucks for a local, community, or regional theater show that may or may not be good when you can spend $15 a month and binge watch every show ever?
A tough conundrum but not the argument I'm here to make. I'll just say that I STILL support the performing arts but DAMN there's some great stuff available. I go through phases where I'm far too busy to watch anything and then there's times when I can cocoon safely for an entire weekend and catch up on things that I may have missed or overlooked. I don't make it a point to hunt for obscure gems but I still seem to stumble over them.
Let's start with what's NOT on the list. I won't be adding any of the traditional favorites that we all know and love. Nor will I add anything that makes me sound like an overt film/TV snob. You won't find Manga or Anime, no Doctor Who or other cultish show. I DO have a fondness for some foreign films but they still need to have a few of the elements that I adore; color, mood and great camera work.
In no particular order, here we go! Click the film's title to be taken to it on Netflix!
Alleys and Basements? Yes. Sewers and Landfills? Yes Kitchens and bedrooms? Also yes! Rats are everywhere.
Morgan Spurlock, the Super Size Me guy, has created a film more creepy and ghoulish than any of the best thrillers out there. It's more than a documentary, though. It's a beautifully shot zombie movie, a tale of an unstoppable virus, an in-depth look at civilization's shortcomings and, well, maybe even a bit of a love story for these creepy and resilient beasts.
Yes, you very well may get the willies and have nightmares.
I must confess that I'm already biased in favor of this guy because I think his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, is among the best of shows out there. He does have a bit of a "Bro" air to him but if you're able to get past that, you'll find him to be very warm and intellectual ... especially when he and his guests are high af while recording.
He is a proven pro when it comes to the comedy circuit and from an early age has done as much as possible to master the craft of his style of performance art. In addition to just being super funny, dude is JACKED. A jiu-jitsu black belt and experienced MMA fighter, Joe Rogan is 49 and super fit. He's quite an icon of aging well.
The demon bit at the end KILLS!
A leading role for one of my all-time favorite actors, Stellan Skarsgård. Here, a drug deal gone wrong takes his son away and after the swell of loss and depression washes over him, he becomes determined to find out why and how his son was murdered.
Sure, not the most original premise, but handled in this very Scandinavian way, the tale shows off the utter wonder and horror of the barren, northern snowscapes. Using a mix of dry humor and stark violence, In Order of Disappearance steps out of itself in its manner of keeping track of who is killing who and while letting the viewer know the body count. A cool flourish in an already cool film.
Up there with any of the best ever action films and for all the best reasons; fantastic characters, an exciting storyline, realistic swordplay and fast action. There is one silly moment with the buckets of blood in the explosion but you'll get over that.
Cult director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era. 13 Assassins is centered around a group of elite samurai who are secretly enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord to prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war torn future.
From an early age, I have been a fan of the many nature shows on PBS and BBC. The George Page-narrated Nature was always one of my favorites but the penultimate voice of any of the programs was from Sir David Attenborough. I'm sure that there's a full compilation of all the shows for which he's lent his voice and I'm equally certain that I've seen most of them. This series is by far the best of them.
The question that most popped into my mind a hundred times while watching was, "How did they get that shot?". The camera work is equal to any staged shots for a high budget film but the finished product is even more amazing know how near-impossible it must be to capture such rare visual gems. Over the 8 parts of the series, we're taken around the globe to see how predators operate in rather tough conditions.
Two scenes to look for. While on the African plains, the footage of the wild dogs stalking their prey is amazing and, while in the ocean, the moment when the humpback whale pushes through the crowd of other predators to pounce on the dwindling shoal of fish. Stellar!
Is it a zombie movie if you don't see zombies?
Grizzled morning radio legend Grant Mazzy has pissed off a lot of people in the radio business. That's why he finds himself announcing school closures and traffic reports from the basement headquarters of The Beacon in the icy remote hamlet of Pontypool. While in the dark and "safe" broadcast studio, the calls start coming in from the listeners around town reporting a few strange but innocuous happenings. Nothing to worry about, right? Just folks freaking out because of the bad storm.
Bit by bit, the tension in the studio rises until, well ... it hits the fan. A spectacular low-budget, high-qualty thriller.
There's an old adage that says, in essence, what you own ends up owning you. I've taken that to heart and in the past few years of my life, I've tried to divest myself of most of my possessions. So far, I have no regrets about that. These guys have crafted that mentality into both an art form and as a successful business/cultural movement.
The film asks a lot of great questions about our love of "stuff" while looking at the lives of folks that have embraced the movement. A great look at how our lives might be "lighter" if we lose some of our burdens. Yes, the movement touches on the emotional/spiritual aspects of downsizing, too.
A trio of Danish thrillers that follow a cold-case detective and the secrets he uncovers. Getting past the trope of a washed-out, alcoholic burnout with a new, motivated partner, we see a triptych of films that mix the feelings found in SE7EN, The Killing, and other modern noir pieces while mixing in some of the most wonderful camera work I've seen.
Yes, it's worthwhile to view these films for their value as a thriller and crime stories but the added benefit of treating the viewer as a patron of visual art is a wonderful bonus.
Stunningly beautiful in almost every frame of all three films. In addition to the fantsatic stories, it's well worth the effort to watch these just to SEE them.
Now go see a play! After that, cuddle up in a blanket and waste your weekend.