What to Watch
I remember hearing about a service called Netflix some time back and thinking: “ Really, mail out my movie rentals to me and then send them back?” I thought that sounded like a lot of work just to watch a DVD. Well lo and behold, with the advent of streaming on demand, and a very eclectic library of TV shows and movies from past and present, I now find Netflix to be a treasure trove of rewarding viewing. Yes, there are many mainstream and popular things to watch, But I also think there are many more, not so obvious choices of very good things to see on this service. I will update these frequently. I will also go through some of the more popular ones that some may have missed, but now can see here. So, let the watching begin!
The most obvious benefit to have seasons of TV shows at your disposal is binge watching. Whether it be older ones you would like to see again, or newer ones you haven’t seen yet.You can put in some serious viewing as long as your eyes hold out.
Here are some recommendations:
Sing Street 2016-(PG-13)-106 MIN
The Irish filmmaker (John Carney) had previously made two wonderful films about music and how it moves us: (Once and Begin Again). His newest, (Sing Street) now on Netflix, is well worth checking out. It tells the story, (set in 1985 when MTV was booming and kids dressed like their video heroes) of a young Dublin teen Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) whose family life is on troubled water at home. Because of the financial strain, his constantly bickering mom and dad: Robert (Aiden Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are forced to put Conor in the state run school Synge Street,
This is a strict institution, and the school principal, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley), also seems to take pleasure in tormenting Conor. One day, while leaving Synge Street, Conor spots a girl across the street Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and he approaches her about being in his band's video...he doesn't have a band. She says she's a model, and Conor is smitten. Now, forced to form one to impress her, he gets a group of misfits together and they start practicing. Turns out, they actually begin to gel, and part of the fun of this film and (Carney's two previous efforts) is how much he conveys the connection of how music moves and drives us. These scenes are wonderful. All of the cast is great, but the two standouts for me were Conor's multi talented, rabbit loving friend Eamon (Mark McKenna) and his stoner older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) who once had dreams of being a rock star, but now tutors his little brother on how to make great music. Like a postcard from your youth of early love and how important it and the music that marks the time, makes you feel alive,(Sing Street) is a charmer that will have you smiling and humming the songs, well after it's over.
The Prestige 2006-(PG-13)-130 MIN
Angel Heart 1987-(R)-117-MIN
The Fundamentals of Caring 2016-TV-MA 97 MIN
So here is another road movie, about taking a trip and healing some souls. It's been done many times, as the formula presents many opportunities for characters to experience new things, in a foreign setting, with the people they meet and the places they go. This is a warm and charming film, that is based on the popular novel (The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving) by Jonathan Evison,
He takes a job that he isn't quite qualified for; taking caring of a disabled British young man named Trevor (Craig Roberts) who lives with his single working mom Elsa (Jennifer Ehle). Roberts is effective as Trevor and he is a bitter, little caustic fellow. He and Ben clash at first. Of course, they slowly become friends and eventually embark on a road trip, to places that Trevor has marked on a US map, that he would like to see. The big one ....is a giant pit in the ground. Along the way, they pick up a cute, foul-mouthed hitchhiker Dot ( very good Selena Gomez) and then a pregnant woman Peaches (Megan Ferguson) who is also looking for a hitch somewhere.(Rudd) is a very good and underappreciated actor, who does a fine job as the dad in this group. Through reoccurring flashbacks, details are revealed about Ben and his history, as this ragtag group of misfits, find something about each one of themselves on this road trip. It may not be original, but it has its heart in the right place and the actors are all wonderful.
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
An Honest Liar 2014-(NR)-90 min
This is a very good documentary on the life of magician turned debunker of charlatans: (James Randi) who at a very early age, was fascinated by illusion, then sickened to see what people would do for money to trick others; proclaiming they had special powers. Randi is a rather brilliant fellow and there is some great footage of him calling out some of these fakes. Particularly in his radar, for a long time, was Uri Geller, who comes off as he probably is: a slimy scam artist. There is some sad personal stories here, that only add to this rather interesting man, who out tricked many of the tricksters. Good stuff!
Fruitvale Station 2013-(R)-85 min
Breaking Bad 2008-2013 TV-MA
I started this one about the fourth season in, after a friend would not stop giving me grief until I checked it out. Why is this show such a big deal?
Why do people just adore it so much? I’ll give you my take:
The set up is compelling: Down on his luck science teacher: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) at a high school in New Mexico discovers he has advanced cancer. He is married to: Skyler (Anna Gunn),who is pregnant again, and a handicapped teenage son: Walter Jr (RJ Mitte). He is a brilliant chemist, whose partner way back when in their business, made millions when Walter left the company. He works part time at a car wash to supplement his lousy teaching pay. This guy cant catch a break. To cap it all off, Walter has just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. At first, he hides the news to his family.
Walter’s rather boisterous and brash brother-in-law: Hank (Dean Norris),a DEA
Agent, lets Walter go on a drug bust with him, where he runs into an old student of his from high school : Jesse Pinkman ( Aaron Paul), who he sees fleeing from the bust out a window, as he is a meth cooker nicknamed: Cap‘n Cook. Later Walter has an idea to make sure his family will be ok financially when he is gone. He will ask Jesse to help him cook meth to sell. They will make boatloads of money, because Walter has the chemical knowledge to make pure blue meth, that will blow away the crap they sell on the streets. So, after Jesse buys an old Winnebago to cook, and Walter has stolen the supplies he needs from school, the two head out to the desert to start.
That’s the set up.
The acting in this show is just first rate. Each character presented is compelling, no matter how minor, and as the show goes on, they are fleshed out brilliantly by the writing, and equally by the actors who portray them. The setting of it in New Mexico was either a genius deliberate move, or wonderful luck, as the seedy side of the drug culture, the brilliant, barren, and vibrant landscape of the desert and it’s stunning vistas, add a heightened level to the drama unfolding. It is a perfect setting. As Walter and Jesses delve deeper into the drug trade, and the stakes get higher, you will be riveted at every turn by this truly deserving across the board, acclaimed show. From time to time, since the inception of television, some shows have come along that just click on every level; from the writing, acting, characters, and this stew cooks up a brilliant classic. Breaking Bad is certainly one of them.
Bloodline 2015 TV-MA
House of Card 2013- TV-MA
Really? (Kevin Spacey) as the ruthless, brilliant, and power hungry congressman: Francis Undwerwood was born to play this role, and so was (Robin Wright) as his equally ambitious wife: Claire. The use of breaking the fourth wall, to have Spacey address us about what he has done and what he plans on doing, is perfect for the theater veteran, and he rules these scenes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. Power corrupts, and boy does this fantastic series know how to show it with it’s riveting star.I will admit, that after season 4, I think it's about time to wrap up the Underwood's need for power and end it in season 5, even though Spacey and Wright are an absolute joy to watch every week. It is kind of scary how the current political climate mirrors this Shakespearian TV series. This is smart and riveting viewing.
Wonderful adult TV.
So, here comes season 5.....will sart soon and let you know!
Top of the Lake TV-MA MINI SERIES 2013
Jane Campion’s memorizing (top of the Lake) set in the stunning island of New Zealand, is highly recommended watching. The wonderful Elizabeth Moss from (Mad Men), plays Detective Robin Griffith who returns to her male dominated hometown, to investigate the disappearance of a 12 year old pregnant girl who was raped, tried to drown herself, and then goes missing.
Personal history, old wounds , and deeply imbedded town secrets all come to a head in this truly original and engaging series. There are some wonderful characters introduced, and you will not soon forget the missing girl’s brute of a father: Matt ( a riveting Peter Mullen).The lush scenery only adds to the mood of this haunting and mysterious series by Campion that you should see.
Mad Men TV-MA SERIES 2007-2015
Over the years, I have found that there seems to be two groups of people, when it comes to where they stand, on AMC's very popular period drama: Mad Men. They are either love it, or they don't.
There doesn't' seem to be a middle ground.Why are folks either enchanted by this series or confounded by it? Why do some find it utterly boring, and others are thrilled by it's deliberate pace and dark tones? As with AMC's other brilliant show:(Breaking Bad) I came late to the party on this one also. That's where Netflix really shines.... finding these shows to start from the begining, or revisiting older ones you loved again.
After much urging by friends, I plunked down and started season one. I never looked back, and I was completely, utterly hooked.
The real star of this show, in my opinion are the period sets, that truly transport you back to the sixties.You really feel it is this time again, and I cannot stress it enough. I had read an interview with the series creator: (Matthew Weiner) and they had asked him about the meticuolos set pieces, wardrobe, cars, and all the other things that take you back to this crucial time in America. He said that alot of it was based on his memory; an archetype or indeed, the collective memory of us all about this time.I was a baby in the late sixties, but it just looks right, even though I have no memory of it. If that sounds odd, it wont when you see this show.
Of course, this wonderful show centers on the enigmatic ad man: Don Draper (the perfect Jon Hamm) a hotshot, fly by the seat of his pants executive, for the powerful firm: Sterling Cooper on Madison Ave. Who this hard drinking, smoking, and living mystery man is, and how he effects all around him, is worth your time. This is one of the best TV shows I have ever seen, and if you haven't yet....please enter the wonderful world of Mad Men, and enjoy Weiner's brilliant creation. His take on, slightly proper presentation, which excuses all kinds of scumbag behavior.....hello politics and Wall Street, is truly timeless. Yes, it is that good.
Begin Again 2013 Rated (R) 104 min