Category: Netflix Hidden Gems

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...

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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...

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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....

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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

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...

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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 with perhaps the most immediately...

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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...

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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...

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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 believe that even its...

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