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Netflix Picks is a feature with a list of seven films currently available for streaming on Netflix and the reasons for why you should watch them. 

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) - 

        Look, either you’ve seen it and you already know Wright’s singular sense of comic genius, or you’re lucky enough to still experience it fresh. A cult comedy of the highest order, Fuzz is at once a sharp satire of the buddy cop action film and a totally kick-ass buddy cop action romp of its own, er, (w)right. It’s the followup to the lesser but great Shaun of the Dead (parodying zombie movies instead of movies like Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon), effectively launching the careers of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, boasting a blink and you’ll miss it appearance by Martin Freeman. I’ll be honest, this isn’t just one of my favorite comedies ever, but an endlessly rewatchable all timer of any genre. Hilarious and quotable, it’s a great.


This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984) 

        Famous for putting the final nail in the already-nailed coffin of glam rock, the famous mockumentary Spinal Tap lovingly remembers the era it so cleverly teases. Drummers keep dying, stage designs come out too small, and amplifiers literally have a notch to “turn it up to eleven”; the more you know about rock and roll and metal, the funnier this will be. It’s been absorbed so thoroughly into the public conscious by now Spinal Tap almost feels like a legitimate band, and not just because the fictional hair-metal group became slightly less fictitious by actually touring. By 2015 this is an honest to god classic, likely seen by many but always in need of being seen by more, it’s effortless and funny viewing Roger Ebert inducted into his “great movies” series in 2001 with a 4/4 stars. It’s essential, hilarious viewing. 

Three Kings (David O. Russel, 1999) 

       If you’ve seen late-career hits like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, or American Hustle, you may be curious of Russel’s early work. Three Kings is an early career high for the prolific and controversial filmmaker, a gulf war action-comedy turned treasure hunt-heist film headed by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, that’s somehow an absolute blast despite a heavy political subtext. There’s a real bite to the action here, directed with all the gusto of a hot-headed over ambitious director with something to prove. And prove it he did. Three Kings is called by some a modern classic, a cohesive and studied picture that uses the fun stuff—action and comedy—to invite a smart and deserved emotional wallop as the film literally runs to the finish. Three soldiers find a treasure map that may or may not lead to loads of gold bullion. 


The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) - 

         Other than maybe Life Itself it’s the only film on this list not bound to make you laugh. No, The Babadook is an instant horror classic, a deeply psychological thriller that twists the psychosis of a mother and her outbursting son into a suffocating, morbid, and downright terrifying horror spectacular bound to leave you devastated. This is decidedly not Anabelle. That is, an artificial chewed out slob of the genre, using weak jump scares without an ounce of smarts. No. The Babadook lets the slow churning atmosphere of dread slowly envelop the film, giving credible creepiness to the movie monster from which the film takes its name. It’s an emotionally boiling meditation on mental illness and parenting, one that digs its sinister claws deep. BBC critic Mark Kermode named it his best of 2014. It’s easy to see why. 


The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000) - 

       One of Disney’s smaller and more forgotten animated features, New Groove is an unambiguously lesser entry in their catalogue—what can compete with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and others? But what Dindal’s film lacks in iconic imagery and eternally memorable characters it makes up for through sheer grinning charm. David Spade gives a comfortably funny voice part, but it’s John Goodman’s poncho wearing Pacha and the evil witch’s side-kick Kronk you remember. It’s a small, lighthearted affair wrapped up in less than 90 minutes, making New Groove brisk, ridiculous fun.  Add in inventive action sequences and a gorgeously animated Incan Empire and it’s hard to find a more delightful 78 minutes to spend on Netflix. 


Film Review Life Itself

Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)- 

           There’s an unnerving psychological precedent to mourning celebrity deaths. We don’t know them personally. We aren’t their families, friends, or probable acquaintances. When friends seemed stricken by the passing of Michael Jackson or Brittany Murphy I feigned sympathy, but ultimately I didn’t understand. That is, until the god of modern film criticism, Roger Ebert, passed away at the too early age of 70 in April 2013. He was—and is—an enormous inspiration, to the point I couldn’t review Life Itself, the documentary chronicling his life and final days, with any hope of objectivity. It’s moving, poignant, and radiating in positivity. Steve James captured the spirit of Ebert, showing not just a man who celebrated going to the movies, but life itself. If documentaries aren’t your thing, this is a fine place to start. 

The Big Lebowski (Joel Cohen and Ethan Cohen, 1998) - 

        A bowling stoner comedy cult classic to the point that there’s actual Lebowski Fest, many regard this as one of the finest comedies ever. If you disagree, well that’s just like your opinion, man. Arguably one of the single most iconic characters of all time, Jeff Bridges’ zen performance as The Dude is the stuff of movie legend. Deservingly so; he’s funny, perceptive, and a loving blend of loser hippie and enlightened buddha. Following the labyrinth adventures of the bathrobe wearing Dude, his always screaming short fuse best friend Walter (an enraged and freaking brilliant John Goodman), and Steve Buscemi’s clumsy “shut the fuck up Donny”, this is a sublime head trip where laughs come as effortlessly as John Turturro’s pink-purple tracksuit wearing Jesus Quintana can bowl a strike. 

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