Netflix Hidden Gem #...

The Parent Trap (1961) Director: David Swift Genre: Comedy Buena Vista Distribution When The Parent Trap was released nationwide in June of 1961, love and marriage were on our minds. Life Magazine that week featured a cover touting “Weddings Worldwide” in its pages and in the White House a...

Netflix Hidden Gem #92: Autohead

Autohead (2016) Director: Rohit Mittal Genre: Drama Amit Verma Films/Stalker Films Synopsis: A group of documentarians get more than they bargained for when their cinéma vérité subject—an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai—reveals a side of himself that’s darker and more horrific than they could have ever imagined. Overview: We expected the first murder in Rohit Mittal’s Autohead. We’ve seen Narayan (Deepak Sampat)—a rural immigrant to Mumbai who’s making a pathetic living as an auto rickshaw driver by day and a pimp by night—deal with tough customers. We’ve seen older ladies stiff him his fares, old men browbeat him for taking wrong...

Netflix Hidden Gem #91: Blue Jay

Blue Jay (2016) Director: Alex Lehmann Genre: Drama Netflix Synopsis: Past lovers meet unexpectedly in their hometown and reconnect through one meaningful night. Overview: I don’t like crying at movies just for the sake of crying. It’s just not my idea of a good time. Sometimes it feels like movies of the romance/drama genre aim to shoot little darts at the ovaries/brovaries of viewers just to get a cheap reaction rather than relying on solid writing and performances to get the message across. Quite frankly, outside of the random repeat viewing of Bridges of Madison County, I never go looking for that kind of “get me some ice cream”...

Netflix Hidden Gem #90: The Wailing

The Wailing (2016) Director: Na Hong-jin Genre: Horror 20th Century Fox Synopsis: A mysterious, violent illness descends on a village and impacts a family, testing their spiritual limits. Overview: Korean horror has been sitting deservedly high on its throne for decades. Fans who appreciate its elegant style eagerly anticipate each new release or return to the classics with admiration for the genre that’s well-earned. Creeping through the festival circuit this year was The Wailing, an epic story of the lengths a father will go to save the life of his daughter, and how destructive our fear of “the other” can be. One word that always...

Netflix Hidden Gem # 89: Always

Always (1989) Director: Steven Spielberg Genre: Fantasy Universal Pictures Synopsis: After dying in an accident, aerial firefighter Pete Sandich is enlisted to become the guardian angel of his replacement pilot, Ted Baker, a man who happens to also be in love with his old girlfriend Dorinda Durston. Overview: Perhaps because he tends to wear his influences on his sleeve, it’s always tempting to read Steven Spielberg’s films as his attempts to homage or re-interpret the filmmakers and movies of his youth. Jaws (1975) was his version of a 50s low-budget creature feature; Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) his 30s film serial; Empire of the Sun...

Netflix Hidden Gem #88: The Paperboy

The Paperboy (2012) Director: Lee Daniels Genre: Drama Millenium Films Synopsis: A writer and his partner investigate a murder that put a potentially innocent man on death row. Overview: Every person on this earth probably likes a movie that’s objectively bad. The Paperboy isn’t exactly unique for being booed at Cannes, but that should give some indication of its questionable appeal. The Paperboy is an absolutely southern-fried finger-licking guilty pleasure; It’s trashy, sweaty, and dirty – literally. The heat is palpable and everyone is sweatin’ up a storm. It was the summer of 1969 and “it was so hot God must have been sweating.”...

Netflix Gem #87: Stake Land

Stake Land (2011) Director: Jim Mickle Genre: Horror Dark Sky Films Synopsis: A vampire hunter and his teen apprentice seek a free life in the wake of a vampiric apocalypse. Overview: The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 amidst a slew of post-apocalyptic scenarios. As an obvious artistic response to culture, audiences were both enthralled with watching the fall of mankind and inspired by the will to survive they saw onscreen. This isn’t a new phenomenon; since humanity was able to comprehend life and death we’ve been fascinated or afraid of our own end. Unfortunately this theme of apocalyptic horror has become well-worn  by now but there is...

Netflix Hidden Gem #86: Colonia

Colonia (2015) Director: Florian Gallenberger Genre: Drama Screen Media Films Synopsis: During the Chilean military coup of 1973, a German stewardess and her boyfriend are forcibly inducted into Colonia Dignidad, a cult led by an evil German preacher. Based on a true story. Overview: Despite Colonia’s small production, there is a grand sense of scale surrounding the narrative events of the film. Though executed like an indie drama, it’s hard not to envision that twenty years ago this same story would have been executed with the same sweeping scale of epic romance that made The English Patient and Titanic Best Picture winners. But unlike the...

Netflix Hidden Gem #85: Cosmos

Cosmos (2015) Director: Andrzej Żuławski Genre: Drama Kino Lorber Synopsis: Two men at a crossroads looking for some time away to refocus rent a room in a strange family’s home and find themselves solving one important mystery: who hung the sparrow? Overview: It had been fifteen years since Andrzej Żuławski gifted us with a film, and then Cosmos came along. Knowing his work, there couldn’t possibly be a better swan song for his sad passing in February of this year. Cosmos is an adaptation of the book by the same name by Witold Gombrowicz,  “A dark, quasi-detective novel, Cosmos follows the classic noir motif to explore the arbitrariness of...

Netflix Hidden Gem #84: Sun Choke

Sun Choke (2015) Director: Ben Cresciman Genre: Drama XLrator Media Synopsis: A troubled young woman is subjected to strange treatments while developing a dangerous obsession with a stranger. Overview: Fans with their eye on a festival horror roundup have been anticipating the streaming release of Sun Choke for quite some time. This art house gem is gorgeous to look at with with its sterile, clean white palette and hazy dream-like sequences. Sarah Hagan plays Janie, a woman who may be suffering from an undisclosed mental health issue and recovering from a psychotic break. You might remember her as Millie, the well-meaning and awkward...

Netflix Hidden Gem #83: Goon

Goon (2011) Director: Michael Dowse Genre: Comedy Magnet Releasing Synopsis: A simple-minded bouncer, who is professionally and emotionally adrift, inadvertently winds up becoming an enforcer for a minor league ice hockey team. Overview: Like the thematically akin sports comedy cult-classic Slap Shot from 1977 starring Paul Newman, director Michael Dowse offers a light-hearted send up of some of the more brutal aspects of professional ice hockey as the other great contact sport beside American football. With American Pie alumnus Seann William Scott in the lead role as the charmingly dimwitted Doug “The Thug” Glatt, Goon blends several...

Netflix Hidden Gem #82: Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky Director: Robert Lieberman Genre: Science Fiction Paramount Pictures Synopsis: A man is abducted by aliens while his friends, family, and co-workers must contend with the law and media to uncover what happened to him. Based on a true story. Overview: Given this week’s release of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival it seemed appropriate to turn to an earlier film that examined an alien incident within the framework of human drama. Robert Lieberman’s Fire in the Sky has developed a cult reputation in the years following its 1993 release, with much of its following centered around the film’s tense and terrifying climax. We’ll get to...

Netflix Hidden Gem #81: Jonathan Strange & Mr...

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Director: Toby Haynes Genre: Fantasy BBC One Synopsis: Three hundred years after magic has left England, two magicians appear. At first they are friends, later they are sworn enemies. Overview: Adapting a novel is a tightrope. What do you keep? What do you discard? Do you consult fans or do you listen to instinct? Do you worry about offending the author? Or do you try to create something uniquely (sort of) your own?An emerging trend has been to take longer source materials and adapt them for TV rather than trying to take an 800 page book or a 60 issue comic books series and cram it into a two hour movie....

Netflix Hidden Gem #80: The White Helmets

  The White Helmets Director: Orlando Von Einsiedel Genre: Documentary Netflix Original Synopsis: A volunteer team of civilian first responders risk their lives in regime controlled Syria by running into the ruins of bombed buildings to save survivors. Overview: It feels simultaneously as if there is so much that needs to be said about The White Helmets but also that Orlando Von Einsiedel’s slimly-directed film says all that it needs to. In the past decade, since at least 2008’s Waltz With Bashir, socially conscious documentaries have been as artful and constructively complex as ever, but The White Helmets, while dealing...

Netflix Hidden Gem #79: Stretch

Stretch Director: Joe Carnahan Genre: Comedy Universal Pictures Synopsis: When news first broke of Joe Carnahan writing and directing Bad Boys 3, the sequel to Bad Boys 2 (aka the most fascinatingly ugly film I’ve ever seen), my uncertainty about the series was immediately replaced with unrestrained excitement. Movies like Stretch are the reason why. Overview: Stretch was perhaps best described to me by Cam Carpenter (WHY IS CINEMA) as “if Bad Boys 2 got punched in the face by Holy Motors.” The story follows a down on his luck limo driver named Stretch through one night in Los Angeles. The city rarely looks both beautiful and vile, an apt...

Netflix Hidden Gem #78: Come Drink With Me

Come Drink With Me Director: King Hu Genre: Thriller Shaw Brothers Studio Synopsis: When the Governor’s son is kidnapped and held for ransom by a fierce, sociopathic gang of criminals, his constable sister endeavors to rescue him. Along the way she encounters a very strange beggar whose quest might just overlap with hers. Overview: David Fincher once famously said that he doesn’t believe “there are a million ways to shoot a scene.” Rather, that “there are two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.” It’s a sentiment that legendary kung-fu director King Hu might very well have agreed with. Every Hu shot is a perfectly discrete object,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #77: The Mend

The Mend Director: John Magary Genre: Comedy/Drama Moxie Pictures Synopsis: Mat and Alan, estranged brothers, reunite just before Alan leaves for a vacation with his girlfriend. When he returns sooner than expected without his girlfriend, Alan finds Mat and his family have moved into his apartment. Overview: What makes for a great directorial debut? Before successive features can ossify a style into a recognizable brand, how does the up-and-comer distinguish themselves from the horde? Making a solidly good film certainly isn’t enough. While something like The Shawshank Redemption is clearly a decent film, it’s difficult to...

Netflix Hidden Gem #76: The Fundamentals of Caring

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) Director: Rob Burnett Genre: Drama Netflix Original There is a lot of piss and shit in The Fundamentals of Caring, the new Netflix original film from Rob Burnett based on the novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. The film’s two main characters, caretaker Ben (Paul Rudd) and muscular dystrophy patient and shut-in Trevor (Craig Roberts), connect over an interview question in which the latter asks the former his plans for wiping his ass. From there, two scenes rarely pass without a shit joke or a physical struggle to get Trevor to relieve himself. It’s crass, but fitting,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #75: Y tu mamá también

                                                                       Y Tu Mamá También Director: Alfonso Cuarón Genre: Drama, Romance IFC Films Synopsis: Two teenage, Mexican boys go on a roadtrip with an older woman (Maribel Verdú) while they learn more about each other, life, and intimate relationships. Overview: Y Tu Mamá También is like the surf, and watching Alfonso Cuarón’s reflective and sincere coming-of-age, road trip film is like the calm and ever-engaging act of watching the surf. Like the surf, the film delivers something exquisitely different. What starts off in the two boys’ heads as a fun, raunchy road trip meant for...

Netflix Hidden Gem #74: The Bletchley Circle

The Bletchley Circle: Season 1 (2012) Director: Andy De Emmony Genre: Period Drama/Mystery World Productions   Synopsis: Five women who worked together as code-breakers during WWII come together to catch a serial killer when it becomes apparent the police can’t (at least, not as fast as these women can). Their brains and bravery lead them on a thrilling and dangerous chase. Overview: This PBS series’s unassuming name belies the real strength of the show, much like the apparent roles of the women (wife, mother, librarian, etc.), belie their intelligence and influence. Set in 1950s London, The Bletchley Circle follows a group of...

Netflix Hidden Gem #73: He Never Died

He Never Died (2015) Director: Jason Krawczyk Genre: Comedy Vertical Entertainment Synopsis: The biblical character Cain is made manifest in surly metropolitan loner Jack (Henry Rollins), an immortal protagonist at constant odds with his baser nature that drives him to feed on human flesh. As a result, he must force himself into self-imposed isolation from others, and bribe a local medical student to supply him with human blood. But all of the sobriety that Jack has been able to establish for himself over the course of recent years is put to the test when a former employer and local crime lord kidnaps his daughter, forcing Jack back to...

Netflix Hidden Gem #72: Coming to America

Coming to America (1988) Director: John Landis Genre: Comedy Paramount Pictures Synopsis:  Coming to America, a film about a wealthy African prince coming to New York City to escape an arranged marriage, is the perfect movie to begin a person’s Eddie education. A hugely funny story with a big heart populated by wild characters, it is, above all things, Murphy at his most effortlessly charming and insane. Overview: It’s been a long time since Eddie Murphy made a good movie. At some point he fell into slapstick kid’s movies and sappy movies about inattentive dads. Dreamgirls was probably the last time he really went for it, and he was...

Three Classic Best Picture Winners Hidden on Netfl...

With the Oscars looming, this is a time when we not only look forward to the Oscars but we also look back at past winners. We lament the movies that were robbed and celebrate the movies that won. We are eternally surprised by the movies that won Best Picture (Chicago? Really?) and find ourselves reappraising them with the benefit of hindsight. However, most of the time we don’t look far back enough. So, with that in mind, here are the three earliest Best Picture winners available on Netflix now. See how it was done in the ’20s and ’50s and, if the mood takes you, you can always be the guy at the party who says, ‘Shakespeare in...

Netflix Hidden Gem #71: We Need to Talk About Kevi...

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) Director: Lynne Ramsay Genre: Drama Oscilloscope Laboratories Synopsis: A beleaguered metropolitan woman (Tilda Swinton) gives birth to a particularly troublesome son (Ezra Miller) with her incongruously upbeat husband (John C. Reilly), and after attempting to continue to live in the city for a short time, the young couple moves to the picturesque suburbs, wherein the mother is forced to contend with something seemingly very wrong with the child as he grows up into a mass murdering sociopath. Overview: There are several moments sprinkled throughout writer-director Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin...

Netflix Hidden Gem #70: Constantine

Constantine (2005) Director: Francis Lawrence Genre: Supernatural/Action Warner Bros. Pictures Synopsis: After a suicide attempt in his youth, John Constantine works as an exorcist in an attempt to obtain redemption and earn his way into Heaven. With death in the form of cancer looming over him, Constantine becomes involved in a police detective’s mission to discover the truth behind her twin sister’s suicide and, in the process, uncovers a much larger demonic plot. Overview: One thing that should be kept in mind when going into Francis Lawrence’s 2005 on screen version of DC Comics’ Constantine is that it does not work as a direct...

Netflix Hidden Gem #69: Masters of the Universe

Masters of the Universe (1987) Director: Gary Goddard Genre: Fantasy Cannon Films Synopsis: The heroes of Eternia must find a way to defeat their nemesis, Skeletor. Overview: There are films we like that we know are bad. We know they have poor writing, bad plotting, clunky special effects, silly dialogue, broad characters, and amateurish direction. And even with these faults we can’t help but enjoy the film. In some cases the silliness and wonkiness translates into a fun watch instead of something boring. One such movie is Masters of the Universe. At Audiences Everywhere our Netflix Hidden Gems are usually great movies you can stream that...

Netflix Hidden Gems #68: Phoenix

Phoenix (2015) Director: Christian Petzold Genre: Drama IFC Films Synopsis: After undergoing facial reconstruction surgery, a Holocaust survivor goes looking for her husband, who may have sold her out to the Nazis. Overview: People often perceive identity as something inherent to themselves, an inner truth which can be expressed or concealed at one’s will. Cinema traditionally backs this up; we’re drowning in narratives where the moral is “be yourself!” or “express your truth!” or some derivative version of the same. It’s rare to see a film argue another angle. “Your truth is what you choose to express, not the other way around!” isn’t...

Netflix Hidden Gems #67: Young & Beautiful

Young & Beautiful (2013) Director: François Ozon Genre: Drama Wild Bunch Films Synopsis: Isabelle, a 17-year old girl, becomes a call girl after losing her virginity. Overview: For such a cold film, Young and Beautiful is oddly compelling. Its plot, regarding beautiful teenager Isabelle’s unexplained transition into a callous call-girl, within its context, is completely confounding yet altogether believable, begging us to to solve the puzzle within her actions. It is a coming of age film that defies its genre. The reasoning behind every decision within it is generally unexplained – left to the viewer to decipher. And its story,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #66: Eva

Eva (2011) Director: Kike Maíllo Genre: Science Fiction The Weinstein Company Synopsis: Returning to his hometown of Santa Irene, Álex Garel (Daniel Brühl) attempts to complete the engineering of an emotionally perfect robot based off the brain patterns of a young girl. Overview: Robots exist in the everyday world, with their objective being to make life easier for humans. But the robot yet to exist in our world is the free thinker, one that operates under its own free will. Eva explains and depicts consciousness beautifully. The components of the A.I. brain Álex constructs resemble Edison-inspired bulbs, from the radiance they emit to the...

Netflix Hidden Gem #65: The Houses October Built

The Houses October Built Director: Bobby Roe Genre: Horror Image Entertainment/RLJ Entertainment Synopsis: In Bobby Roe’s directorial debut, The Houses October Built centers around a group of life-long friends who go on a tour of backwoods haunted house, road side attractions in search of the most debilitating scares. When the horror begins to prove a little too close for comfort, the line between collaborative fantasy and singular reality gives way to the imagined psycho-pathologies of the employees that maintain and perform in the film’s ostensibly fictive haunts. Overview: The nightmares on display throughout Roe’s film are persistently...

Netflix Hidden Gem #64: Curse of Chucky

Curse of Chucky Director: Don Mancini Genre: Horror Universal Studios Home Entertainment Synopsis: Serial killer and living doll Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray has returned for the sixth installment of the Child’s Play franchise, this time targeting a paraplegic woman named Nica and her family who have all gathered together after the mysterious death of their mother. Overview: So here’s the thing about the Chucky movies: They aren’t very good. Sure, there is maybe some fun to be had thanks to the novelty of the premise, but past the first one, which at least provided some campy thrills, the series lacks anything...

Netflix Hidden Gem #63: Don Jon

  Don Jon Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Genre: Comedy Relativity Media Synopsis: Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a guy who loves only a few things in life; his body, his house, his car, his Church, his family, his boys, his girls, and his porn. Jon is a porn addict, but after meeting Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he is forced to give up porn in order to commit to a real life, mutually beneficial relationship. Overview: When I saw this film in 2013, I immediately fell in love with it. The comedy really clicked, the performances were great, the film was paced really well, and all the scenes just gave off such a unique energy that I came out of...

Netflix Hidden Gem #61: In a World…

In a World… Director: Lake Bell Genre: Comedy Roadside Attractions Synopsis: After making it big in the competitive, male-dominated world of professional voiceover work, a struggling vocal coach finds herself in competition with her more experienced father and the arrogant man he has chosen as his protégé. Overview: In a World… comes to us from Lake Bell, one of the most underrated talents of our time, who pulls triple duty as the writer, director, and star of her directorial debut. Lake Bell has a remarkable way of bringing consistently excellent performances to even the worst of material, which she seems to be stuck with quite...

Netflix Hidden Gem #62: An Adventure in Space and ...

An Adventure in Space and Time Director: Mark Gatiss Genre: Documentary BBC Synopsis: A dramatisation of the creation of Doctor Who in the 1960s. Overview: Made for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time tells the story of how this international phenomena about a mad man who travels the universe in a police box came to be. It is a fascinating story about sexism and racism at the BBC in the ’60s which gently morphs into the story of one man’s battle to hold on to a job that he loves. Doctor Who was the brainchild of Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert (played by Brian Cox and Jessica Raine), a Canadian living...

Netflix Hidden Gem #60: Aim High in Creation

Aim High in Creation Director: Anna Broinowski Genre: Documentary Antidote Films Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Anna Broinowski attempts to make a movie protesting coal seam gas using propaganda methods from North Korea. Overview: A Russian doll of a movie, Aim High in Creation is about film-making, protest, democracy, dictatorship, propaganda, freedom, coal seam gas, North Korea, acting, directing, and culture. It is a credit to Broinowski that the movie never feels cluttered and it’s intent is clearly defined throughout. Fearing the arrival of a coal seam gas drilling operation near her home, and the rise of drilling and fracking...

Netflix Hidden Gems: Female Directors Edition

In our regular Netflix Hidden Gems feature, we focus on one movie and discuss it in great detail. Today, in honor of Women’s Equality Day and in an effort to highlight female directors on Netflix, I’m going to do something a little different. In this list, I won’t go into too much detail about each film, but I’ll do my best to help you find a large selection of great films of every genre directed by women and streaming on Netflix right now. Women have a problem in film. According to a detailed study from 2012, women comprised just 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on...

Netflix Hidden Gem #59: Abuse of Weakness

Abuse of Weakness Director: Catherine Breillat Genre: Drama Rezo Films Synopsis: A director (Isabelle Huppert) begins work on her comeback film after recovering from a severe stroke, and casts an infamous ex-conman who sees her as a mark. Overview: To call Abuse of Weakness a film about power dynamics seems a painfully obvious observation, but it’s too accurate not to be made. In adapting events from her real life, writer and director Catherine Breillat uses the act of filmmaking as a way of asserting control over her past. She claims authorship over history, and in doing so changes it. In real life, she was taken advantage of by a conman...

Netflix Hidden Gems #58: The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles Director: Lauren Greenfield Genre: Documentary Magnolia Pictures Synopsis: A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by The Palace of Versailles. Overview: The Queen of Versailles starts as one thing, but it quickly becomes another halfway through, and the same could be said about the film’s subjects. At first, we are watching a movie about wealth and excess. Jackie and David Siegel are crazy rich from David’s timeshare empire. They have a huge house, eight kids, tons of staff, more pets than they realise, sway, influence, famous friends, and a very special...

Netflix Hidden Gem #57: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead Director: Kiah Roache-Turner Genre: Horror Guerilla Films Synopsis: If I were to start with a detailed plot summation, I would almost certainly lose you by the second sentence. That might go a long way in explaining why Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, at least in America, has been a little slow in attaining the cult following for which it seems destined. It might be more important to start with the deserved and flattering comparisons earned by the film’s ballsy, pedal-to-the-medal style and story.  Director Kiah Roach-Turner and his co-writer Tristan Roache Turner exhibit in Wyrmwood everything that film and...

Netflix Hidden Gem #56: Tig

Tig Director: Tig Notaro Genre: Documentary Netflix Synopsis: Tig is a documentary about and by comedian Tig Notaro, tracking her from the recording over her now-famous stand-up set regarding her breast cancer diagnosis, but more than that it is about the unique experiences given birth by close encounters with that final earthly frontier: death. Overview: Tig never steps lightly around the topic at hand, though each and every frame is imbued with the director’s tender humor, compassion, and remorse gleaned from a life lived, whether it was done so well or not of an altogether irrelevant importance. Notaro is a funny comedian, but to label...

Netflix Hidden Gem #54: Creep

Creep Director: Patrick Brice Genre: Found-Footage Horror/Black Comedy The Orchard Synopsis: When Aaron, a freelance videographer, responds to an online ad, he meets Josef, a man who claims to have terminal cancer and wants to make a video diary for his unborn son. Aaron soon learns that Josef isn’t telling him the full truth, and things quickly spiral out of his control. Overview: Creep is not a particularly detailed story. With just two actors — Mark Duplass as Josef and Patrick Brice (who also directs the film) as Aaron — one handheld camera, and a story that moves forward without too many twists and turns, it’s a beautiful example of...

Netflix Hidden Gem #53: Thief

Thief Director: Michael Mann Genre: Thriller United Artists Synopsis: Michael Mann’s Manhunter is no longer on Netflix at the time my of writing this. So what’s the point of even keeping your Netflix account active anymore? Along with the other write-ups my lovely AE cohorts have shared with you (it’s a damn treasure trove), Mann’s directorial debut Thief is still available for your viewing pleasure. And by pleasure, I mean this is a perfect movie if you just want to unwind and take in a slow character piece about a man shying away from a life of crime. It’s a familiar trope, and one that Mann touches on in numerous other projects, but it...

Netflix Hidden Gem #52: Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes Directors: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer Snowfort Pictures, Parallactic Pictures, Dark Sky Films Genre: Horror Synopsis: Sarah (Alex Essoe) would do anything for an acting job, but when she’s contacted by representatives of the little known Astraeus Pictures, “anything” turns out to be a lot more sinister than she expected. For Sarah, the road to stardom is marked with signposts of betrayal, blood, and transformation. Overview: Stories dealing with the desire for and cost of fame are nothing new. The struggle to achieve stardom is a well-known storytelling trope that digs deep into our desire to be noticed, to be someone....

Netflix Hidden Gem #51: Honeymoon

Honeymoon Director: Leigh Janiak Magnolia Pictures Genre: Horror While the precise etymology of the word “honeymoon” is unclear, there are two prominent estimations of the root source. The first and most apparent, dating back to the mid-16th Century, suggests the term is meant to be descriptive of that first chapter of romance, when everything is most intimate, pleasurable, sweet (like honey) for a short phase (like the moon’s). A more modern understanding of the word has added an erotic element. Contemporary usage implies (or at times, explicitly includes) a certain sexual vigorousness that accompanies this traditional stretch of...

Netflix Hidden Gem #50: Funny Games (1998)

Funny Games (1997) Director: Michael Haneke Genre: Horror Madman Entertainment Synopsis: In an interview, film critic and director Jacques Rivette dismissed Michael Haneke’s film Funny Games as “vile,” and, “a complete piece of shit.” And I agree with him. It is vile. But it is not a complete piece of shit. It is actually quite the opposite, and as I give this movie an uninhibited endorsement, I openly cede my last ounce of humanity. Overview: Funny Games (1998) is a bit of an anti-horror, genre feature. It’s a home invasion movie that, upon close observation, criticizes the very genre and all of the people who enjoy it,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #49: Detachment

Detachment (2011) Director: Tony Kaye Genre: Drama Tribeca Film Synopsis: During the course of a month, experiences from students, teachers, and staff administration are documented from the perspective of a substitute teacher, Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody). Barthes is a shut-in (as the title implies), and emotionally detached, but his free-floating, simple lifestyle is interrupted when he meets three women. In each instance hangs the implication of attachment to some degree, but how Barthes confronts or avoids each and every risk with these women is something that becomes concrete in his malleable lifestyle. Overview: I was left breathless...

Netflix Hidden Gem #48: Last Night

Last Night (2010) Director: Massy Tadjedin Genre: Drama; Gaumont Synopsis: After seeing her husband’s stunning, but never-before-mentioned co-worker, Laura (Eva Mendes), Joanna (Keira Knightley) suspects Michael (Sam Worthington) has a reason to keep the woman a secret. After accusations fly, the two swiftly make up, that is before Michael leaves on an overnight business trip, which Laura will be attending as well. While Joanna grapples with the events of the night before, she runs into an old love she never quite got over. Overview:  Last Night works much like a stage play, with a restraint and subtlety too few films manage to master. The...

Netflix Hidden Gem #47: Exam

Exam (2009) Director: Stuart Hazeldine Genre: Psychological Thriller IFC Films Synopsis:  Eight individuals enter a windowless exam room. They’re all candidates for what we’re led to assume is a single job opening. We do not know what the job is. We do not the name of the company from which it is being offered. Overview: The rules that the candidates are given are simple: Each candidate has a piece of paper and a pencil. There is “one question before them” and “one answer is required,” but the papers are apparently blank. They cannot spoil the paper, either intentionally or unintentionally, or...

Netflix Hidden TV Gem: Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman is a masterful bait and switch. It begins as a glimpse into the hedonistic and pathetic life of Bojack Horseman, an actor famous for playing a sitcom dad in the ’90s. The first handful episodes are solid, but offer nothing new. They satirize Hollywood excess, the “selfie culture,” ’90s television, and some other low hanging fruit. They’re funny, but very much something to turn on as background noise. And then, gradually, there is a tonal shift. We laugh at how pathetic and washed up Bojack is, and then the show begins to try and find out why. What made Bojack this horrible person/horse? Who did...

Netflix Hidden Gem #46: A Girl Walks Home Alone at...

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Director: Ana Lily Amirpour Genre: Suspense, Romance VICE Films Overview: In the quiet, melancholy town of Bad City, a vampire stalks the night in search of deserving prey and unexpectedly finds something more. If you had ever paired the words “vampire” and “western” together in a sentence before I experienced this film, I’d have immediately cringed and pictured something along the lines of Cowboys and Aliens, with more blood and less extraterrestrial. But this film mashes the two unrelated genres together seamlessly, resulting in a final product that combines two...