Netflix Picks is a feature published the first and third Wednesday of the month with a list of seven films currently available for streaming on Netflix and the reasons for why you should watch them.
Headhunters (2012) - Slick, fast, and oh-so-stylish, this is the European equivalent to a mindless auctioneer. Headhunter Roger Brown lives a flamboyant high-class lifestyle, hunting down individuals and finding high-paying corporate positions for them. Hidden from his gorgeous wife and well-to-do colleagues is an ever-increasing debt. He can barely make the next payment on his lavish home. So, to help pay it off? He steals. Roger’s a professional art thief, but when he encounters the nefarious Clas Greve, the target of his next heist, the title of the film takes on a lethal double meaning. Clas is played by the fantastic Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, recognizable everywhere as Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. Abundantly exciting and full of memorable moments, this is one of the best actioners on Netflix.
Bernie (2011) - Writer/Director Richard Linklater has had a curious career. He’s one of the few directors, along with Steven Soderbergh, to smoothly slip between commercial and art house fare without skipping a beat. Mainstream fans know his work by the fan-favorite School of Rock, whereas critics adore him for his critically acclaimed Before trilogy. Bernie sees him combining all his talents into an off-beat black comedy that nearly defies explanation. The plot summary hardly makes sense, and even though the ‘plot’ doesn’t begin until some ways into the film, you’ll be incredibly entertained. Here’s what you need to know: you’ll laugh, but feel bad about it. You’ll walk away with powerful questions on what it is to be a good person, and find no easy answers. Jack Black stars, and it’s the best performance of his career. It’s a small and odd film, but one that matches the ease of enjoyment with substance. It’s great!
Raging Bull (1980) - Quentin Tarantino tells a great story where Brian De Palma, after completing what he believed to be his masterpiece, Scarface, sat down in a cineplex to see a new movie. The new movie began with one of the all time great opening shots: a stunning black and white image of a single boxer, condemned to solitude and isolation in the boxing ring, bouncing up and down with hood up, hands in the air, up, all in dramatic slow motion. De Palma cries out in shame and artistic frustration: “there’s always Scorsese. No matter what you do and how good you think you are, there’s always Scorsese staring back at you.” That movie was Raging Bull.
Into the Wild (2007) - Remember in high school or college when you had to study Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau? Those giants of literature championed American Transcendentalism, the philosophical movement that believed man’s structures were implicitly corrupt and broken, that tells us we have to cultivate the innate goodness found in each human being, and, usually, that meant a deeper connection to nature and one another. If that sounds “far out” that’s because it sorta was, but more than a hundred years after Thoreau and Emerson had died, a young college graduate felt revitalized and awakened by their ideas and begun living outside of society. His name was Christopher McCandless. He planned to return home but first traveled through parts of South Dakota and California and eventually made his way to Alaska, all to explore different ways of life. What truths his journey uncovered are left to interpretation, but his undeniably fascinating adventure was written about in a 1996 non-fiction book called Into the Wild, which Sean Penn adapted into a film. I can promise you’ll walk away with something you didn’t have before, and that means something.
The Hunt (2012/2013) - Don’t let its status as a foreign drama fool you, The Hunt is terrifying. Mads Mikkelsen, best known in America as the poker-playing villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale or as Hannibal Lector in NBC’s amazing series Hannibal (he’s tremendous and may eclipse Anthony Hopkins as the iconic character), plays an affable teacher at a children’s nursery. Soon after the film‘s start, he is wrongly accused of sexually molesting a young girl and quickly becomes the victim of mass hysteria in his small town community. See, to scare an audience, all you really need is basic human nature. This is a horror film where we, the common people, the average joes, are the villains. Scene after scene, tension builds and builds to nearly unbearable ends to the point it becomes a paralyzing viewing experience. Mikkelsen won best actor at Cannes for The Hunt, and there’s a solid chance this’ll win an Oscar in a month’s time. It couldn't be more deserved.
Love (2011) - Years in the making, this isn’t a great film, or maybe even a good one. What it is, though, is a jaw-dropping display of indie filmmaking, where a single artist (and a team to make the CGI) made a sci-fi epic for the shockingly low cost of $500,000. Most of the film takes place in a space station that director William Eubank built himself in his parents’ backyard. The whole film is incredibly impressive in the same vein and demonstrates what an inspired individual can achieve when driven to succeed. While the script plays fast and loose with logic and ultimately is one huge homage to 2001, the visuals and music both soar. It’s short and well worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of indie science fiction. Well, or if you’re a fan of Blink 182 and Angels and Airwaves frontman Tom Delonge, who produced the film. Check it out!
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)- Most people know The Man with No Name Trilogy, otherwise known as The Dollars Trilogy. Even more people, maybe even everybody, know The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is the final crescendo in a trilogy of high notes. Some -- Well, more than some -- call it the best film trilogy of all time, but lesser known to the mainstream is the next big western writer/director Sergio Leone made: Once Upon a Time in the West. Operatic and grand, this is classic extraordinary style elevating already great material to astounding cinematic power. Morally nihilistic and brutally violent, this is a movie about the New West and the relics of the old that still wage war on one another with explosives and revolvers. It’s a masterpiece, and very possibly a better movie than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s an absolute must see for any fan of film, any fan of westerns, and just about anyone else too.