Netflix Hidden Gem #...

Little Sister Directed By: Zach Clark Genre : Comedy Forager Films Synopsis: A young “former goth” woman returns home from aspiring to be a nun to face her past. Overview: Sometimes Netflix has a bizarre algorithm for its recommendations, but every now and then it gets it just right. Back in...

Netflix Hidden Gem #100: Look Who’s Back

Look Who’s Back (2015) Director: David Wnendt Genre: Comedy Constantin Film Synopsis: Adolf Hitler wakes up in modern Germany and becomes a media sensation. Overview: Look Who’s Back is structured like Borat or Bruno — a mix of scripted scenes and those of the main character interacting with the public. The entertainment, of course, comes from the public’s reaction to the eccentric figure at the centre of the movie. However, unlike those films and their heightened stereotype main characters, the protagonist of Look Who’s Back is Adolf Hitler. Waking up in a park in 2014 Berlin, Hitler finds himself transported...

Netflix Hidden Gem #99: Trash Fire

Trash Fire (2016) Director: Richard Bates Jr. Genre: Horror Vertical Entertainment Synopsis: A couple whose relationship is on the rocks try to rebuild old family bonds and conquer personal demons, with violent results. Overview: Trash Fire gets into the garbage right away. Meet Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (the cat-eyed Angela Trimbur) a couple on the rocks at a juncture in their lives. We see them together through an awkward anniversary argument that lets us know things are not going well and only one of them seems to care. Being a fly on the wall for their disintegrating relationship feels like a guilty pleasure, the kind that has...

Netflix Hidden Gem #98: Inside Job

Inside Job (2010) Directed by: Charles Ferguson Genre: Documentary Sony Pictures Classics Synopsis: A documentary that deconstructs the factors that led to the Credit Crisis of 2008. Overview: Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s searing documentary about the Credit Crisis, is one of the most deliberate and unrelenting investigations in the popular documentary canon. Taking a politically liberal stance, the film condemns the bankers and government employees in power, and in some ways plays almost as if the director is deconstructing a mastermind heist. Even the title Inside Job is a fitting descriptor for the work done by the film’s...

Netflix Hidden Gem #97: 3 Women

3 Women (1977) Director: Robert Altman Genre: Drama 20th Century Fox Synopsis: In a barren 1970s California desert town, a woman forms a complicated relationship with her mysterious co-worker at an elderly rehabilitation center. Overview: Among the deluge of outrageous and depressing headlines that came out of November 2016, Shelley Duvall’s appearance on Dr. Phil stood out. Duvall’s obvious mental illness became fodder for the kind of tabloid opportunism that turns human lives and stories into an “eyes at any cost” media strategy. There was of course a collective response of disapproval, but our attentions have been diverted to the newer,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #96: Lace Crater

Lace Crater Directed By: Harrison Atkins Genre : Comedy Invincible Pictures Synopsis: A woman develops a mysterious illness after meeting a strange figure in a friend’s coach house. Overview: Lace Crater is a weird little film. It views like something a friend has made, and because of that, it seems like your friends are in it. A standard group of mid to late 20-somethings are headed to The Hamptons for the weekend. Someone’s parents have a place there and they’re just going to chill out and do some molly, drink some Pabst, and maybe get laid. Where some horror movies point to drugs as the axis for trouble, this group has it all safely...

Netflix Hidden Gem #95: The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) Director: Henry Hathaway Genre: Western Paramount Pictures Synopsis: Four men return home for their mother’s funeral to find that the small Texas town they left behind is no longer very welcoming, in this classic late-era Western. Overview: Like any good Western, the climax of The Sons of Katie Elder plays out as a gunfight crescendo against a gorgeous backdrop. But the more satisfying emotional payoff happens near the beginning, as the four Elder brothers return home for their mother’s funeral only to be repeatedly shamed by everyone—from the town minister to the woman running the boardinghouse—for...

Netflix Hidden Gem #94: Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills (2014) Director: E.L. Katz Genre: Comedy Drafthouse Films Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck, wannabe writer struggling to scrounge up enough money to keep his wife and infant child off the streets comes across a childhood friend and a pair of deranged good samaritans. Overview: Cheap Thrills is a wildly subversive independent comedy in the same vein as the very best theatrical works of Bobcat Goldthwait. Serving as the directorial debut for E.L. Katz, Cheap Thrills stars two of the most under-appreciated character actors of the past twenty-plus years. As former high school friends Craig Daniels and Vince, Pat Healy and Ethan Embry...

Netflix Hidden Gem #93: The Parent Trap

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 young family was seemingly living out our ever-after daydreams. June 21 was a Wednesday (it will be in 2017, too) and, if astrology is your thing, this was all taking place under the zodiac sign, Gemini—the twins. All of this is to say that it was a pretty auspicious time for Disney to release a movie starring a singular Hayley Mills as long-separated...

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 #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 Gems: Female Directors (And Creators) Edition: Part Two Aug26

Netflix Hidden Gems: Female Directors (And Creator...

Happy Women’s Equality Day, and welcome to part two of a feminist little feature that holds a special place in my heart. (Check out part one here.) As a women living and working in the film industry in Los Angeles, it’s clear to me every day that even in our more progressive era, women still have a major problem in film. According to a study conducted in 2014 by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, 85% of films made in 2014 had no female directors, 80% had no female writers, 33% had no female producers, 78% had no female editors, and 92% had no female cinematographers. Today, in...

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 #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,...