Category: Streaming Suggestions

Netflix Hidden Gem #21: In Bruges

In Bruges Director: Martin McDonagh Genre: Crime-comedy Focus Features/Universal Studios I’m a big supporter of Christmas being in all things. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s when people start taking into account what is most important in  life. Whether or not you follow the religious aspects of it all, Christmas is a time of reconciliation. And the characters in Bruges have much to think about. After a mob hit gone wrong, Ray and Ken are told to hide out for several weeks in fucking Bruges to await further instructions. Their boss orders them to go sightseeing...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #20: Short Term 12

Short Term 12 Director:  Destin Daniel Cretton Genre:  Drama Cinedigm/Demarest Film Premise:  Short Term 12 explores the lives of the workers and residents of a home for at-risk teens. Brie Larson plays Grace, our main character. She’s compassionate, yet hardened enough to keep control and run the house. Her boyfriend and co-worker, Mason, a kind-hearted, funny, almost impossibly sweet guy, serves as her right hand man. Larson is phenomenal as Grace, and she certainly has great material to work with, but it’s John Gallagher Jr. as Mason who stole my heart. The Writing: In a film that had the tendency to fall into tired clichés about inspiration kids in hard situations, Short Term 12 keeps things remarkably fresh. I don’t feel like I’ve seen this movie before. It is something new. Something I wish I had written. It is subtle and emotional, delicate in its character work and raw in its hard honesties, sprinkled with truths about life that are offered so casually that they don’t come across as some cheesy lesson. This is a screenwriter and director (Destin Daniel Cretton) who deeply cares about his characters, and that is harder to find in the film business than it probably should be. Almost every character in the film is fully developed. The character arcs mean something. The motivations make sense. Everything about Short Term 12 is rooted in empathy,...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #19: Tombstone

Tombstone Director: George Pan Cosmatos Genre: Western, Action Buena Vista Pictures I love a good western. The lawlessness, the duels, the barfights, the uninhibited drinking, smoking, and gambling, the old timey piano music. Westerns are everything our claustrophobic modern lives are not, thus providing a fabulous sense of escapism. There’s one problem, though. A lot of westerns are badly dated in their style, dialogue, and/or overtly racist and sexist content. As a result, I am always thrilled to have something a little more modern to watch. Note the qualification of “a little more modern.” Say hello to Tombstone. Released in...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #18: The Taking of Deborah Logan

Netflix Hidden Gem: The Taking of Deborah Logan Director: Adam Robitel Genre: Found Footage Horror Bad Hat Harry Productions When looking for horror films to watch over Halloween weekend, I knew I’d find some indie gems hiding on Netflix. The Taking of Deborah Logan is a real sleeper— a film I’d never heard of and a seemingly average found footage piece. I went in with little knowledge and no expectations to speak of. While this film doesn’t do too much to reinvent or experiment with the found footage form, it uses its tropes sufficiently well, and somehow refashions those tropes (not to mention possession, haunting and exorcism-type tropes, as well) just enough to give us a formulaic but fun (and, at times, truly terrifying) experience. The premise (and motivation for the found footage form) revolves around PhD student Mia’s thesis project on how Alzheimer’s has a physiological effect on the primary caregiver of the patient. The film starts as a pretty convincing documentary on the topic, utilizing home video footage from patient Deborah Logan’s somewhat younger years (which, of course, become important later as the mysteries unfold), as well as Mia’s voiceovers about the disease itself paired with scientific, computer-generated images of the human brain. About halfway through though, things start to accelerate into full-blown horror territory as Deb’s behavior seems to be less and less due to her Alzheimer’s and more...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #17: Heathers

Heathers Director: Michael Lehmann. Genre: Dark Comedy. New World Pictures. Heathers is the original “popular girls in school get what’s coming to them” movie. Without it there would be no Mean Girls, and a world without Mean Girls is not a world that I want to live in. I don’t really know where to start with this movie. It’s like coming downstairs on Christmas morning and deciding which gift to open first. Let’s start with story. The plot of the movie is that Veronica (Winona Ryder) used to be uncool until a clique of the coolest girls, The Heathers,...

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AE’s November On Demand Movie Guide

We’re nearing the end of year, which means worthwhile theater releases are few and far between.  Unless you still haven’t seen Interstellar, can hunt down a theater showing Foxcatcher, or have been eagerly waiting for Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels to show the world they’re still dumb, there’s no real reason to leave the comfort of your home in order to catch a great film.  Instead, settle in, grab some popcorn, and rent one of these movies available on demand. Camp X-Ray In Camp X-Ray, a female guard at Guantanamo Bay strikes up an unlikely friendship with one of the prisoners.  Kristen Stewart has proven over the years that given the right role to work with, she can turn in an exemplary performance, and this rings particularly true in this film.  Her convincing portrayal as a young prison guard is balanced by a likewise compelling performance by the man who resides on the other side of the fence, Peyman Maadi.  Camp X-Ray is available to rent on Amazon and iTunes for $6.99. Life Partners Life Partners follows two lifelong best friends that are forced to deal with the realities of growing up and potentially growing apart.  It creates an honest, believable representation of female friendships and the identity struggle of a woman in her late 20s.  The chemistry Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs is magnetic, and every female viewer will walk away wanting both of them as a best friend....

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Netflix Hidden Gem #16: Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest Director: Dean Parisot Genre:  Comedy/Satire Dreamworks Pictures I’m honestly surprised Galaxy Quest still has to qualify as a “Hidden Gem.” The movie did fine on initial release but over time has gained a cult following. Don’t worry about not having seen it as long as you make a date to watch it on Netflix at some point in the near future. Galaxy Quest follows a group of former stars on a Star Trek inspired television show that becomes part of an actual space adventure. Initially, the movie starts as a hard riff on Star Trek. The crew...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #15: Mud

Mud Director: Jeff Nichols Genre: Drama Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions Premise: Two small town Arkansas boys stumble across a boat in a tree along with its rugged, meandering occupant, who’s waiting for the love of his life and harboring more than a few secrets. Mud is an all-American tale about a few all-American boys that watches like Jeff Nichols plucked Huckleberry Finn right out of 1884 and dropped him into the chiseled middle-aged perfection that is Matthew McConaughey.  Not often are we treated to such a fun, adventurous movie that has as much heart and depth as Mud, a spirit and sincerity shared by...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #14: Kill List

Kill List Director: Ben Wheatley Genre: Crime, Thriller, Horror Warp X/Rook Films Premise: Jay (Neil Maskell) is a hitman who hasn’t worked in over a year because of a botched job, and his marriage to Shel (Myanna Burning) is failing. When she confronts him about their financial problems (and his laziness), he takes on a life-altering assignment. Kill List is a smartly objective film that disregards the standard techniques used in most horror films. On the front it plays like a crime thriller, but sneaks into a realm of uncomfortablet. And, in that sense, Ben Wheatley knew exactly how to accomplish his objective by hiding his ambition behind Jay and Shel’s failing marriage. This marriage is absent from the screen but always driving the action after Jay takes the new complex job. The job moves as a shocking trip through moral standards riding atop that age-old question about the complexities involved in ridding the world or horrible people.  This gray area makes Jay realize the world is a sadistic mess. This is the first instance of foreshadowing and suggestion to this films greater, unmentionable idea.  This film is a slow burner graffitti’d with violent outbursts and backed with moral reasoning. When the actual horror elements kick in, Kill List becomes something far more than a murderfest. And, at the end of it all, this film offers one of the...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #13: Resolution

Resolution Directors:  Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead Genre:  Horror Tribeca Film/Cinedigm There are two intelligent conversations occurring in the criminally overlooked 2012 horror film Resolution.  The most evident is a conversation between the directors and their audience about horror movies.  Writer/Co-Director Justin Benson and Co-Director Aaron Moorhead are two artists  sharply aware of the history and guiding principles of their chosen genre, as many modern horror directors are.  What makes them unique, and in turn what makes their first movie exceptional, is their even-tone and controlled approach, their confidence in their own audience to possess the same level of...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #12: Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis Director: David Cronenberg Genre: Drama Canal+ Premise: Twenty-something billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) needs a haircut. On the way to his barber, he meets with several business associates in his high-tech stretch limo, where they discuss different philosophies through the lens of capitalism. As the day goes on, Eric’s fortune begins to crumble. It’s hard to imagine the type of person that Cosmopolis was made for. I don’t think “entertainment value” or “personal investment” or “caring about the characters” are the best lenses to apply to art, but they’re interesting jumping-off points here. This film is esoteric to a fault, taking every possible measure to alienate its audience. The dialogue is reminiscent of surrealism, full of non-sequiturs and sudden digressions, but the filmmaking is more clinical, focused entirely on visual clarity and balance within the frame. This film wants nothing more than to keep you out, and that’s why you need to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good chance you’ll absolutely despise Cosmopolis, but that doesn’t matter. This film’s impenetrability offers a unique viewing experience. Its approaches to structure and character are so abstract that you’re forced to think differently to process them. Thinking about this film’s dialogue in a traditional way would be maddening; none of the conversations have a comprehensible flow, and the speech of every character falls into the uncanny valley. At...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #11: The American Scream

The American Scream Director:  Michael StephensonGenre: Documentary Brainstorm Media/Chiller Films When Vincent Bariteau, Manny Souza, and father and son Matt and Rick Brodeur look at Halloween, they see more than one night of spooky fun. These men are self-proclaimed “home haunters,” and for them, Halloween means weeks of crafting and preparation, a major financial investment, and more passion than most people can understand. The American Scream follows these men and their families for every step of the home haunting process. The highs. The lows. Even the buying of supplies. (Bariteau gets a real coffin.) It’s all chronicled through this...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #10: The Crow

The Crow Director: Alex Proyas Genre: Action/Fantasy Miramax Entertainment Premise: On the night before Halloween, musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancé Shelly are planning for their wedding when they are brutally murdered by a gang. A year later, Draven is resurrected by the Crow, a supernatural force that seeks out restless souls and gives them a chance to find peace. In face paint and leather, Draven uses his supernatural abilities to hunt down those responsible for his tragedy. The Crow is a film both born and resulting in the tragedy of loss. The comic book of the...

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Netflix Hidden Gems #9: Red State

Red State Director: Kevin Smith Genre: Horror/[Dark] Comedy The Harvey Boys & NVSH Productions Kevin Smith has been my hero for a long time now, and his experimentation with the horror genre only makes him more of one in my eyes. I wanted to write a Netflix Hidden Gem about Red State, his 2011 venture into the horror genre, in honor of his newest venture into horror, the far more widely talked about (though seemingly not so widely seen) Tusk. I’m a little late on that now, and in all this time, I haven’t even gotten a chance to see Tusk. Nevertheless, Red...

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AE’s October On Demand Movie Guide

As Halloween approaches, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, and it’s more and more appealing to stay home and watch a movie on your couch instead of venturing out to the theater.  Although most people are binging on horror flicks this time of year, some of us tend to shy away from the scary and would rather relax with something  a little less cringe-worthy.  So I did some digging to make your decision-making easy this month with seven of the best movies available On Demand. Bird People Bird People almost didn’t make the cut...

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