Here’s the return of our regular post which delves into the Netflix goody bag to bring you a selection of some the tastiest content available.
We’re dividing our picks into different categories designed to accommodate the diverse choices available, old and new. Happy streaming.
The feeling of decay and malaise is evident early on in the film as Joe manages a team of woodland workers who are tasked with poisoning a whole forest of trees in an area due for redevelopment. Outside of work the lonely protagonist lives in the kind of unruly place where a bar-room brawl results in a shotgun retaliation attack, but he does his utmost to keep his coiled-up rage in check, having spent numerous stints in the penitentiary. Into his life steps a young man (Mud’s Tye Sheridan), seeking employment and an escape from a destructive family life. A bond quickly develops between the pair but various ill forces in their lives conspire against the two forging a lasting, untroubled friendship.
Green strives for authenticity throughout, populating the cast with the number of non-professional actors. He shows an uncanny knack for drawing out some truly unforgettable performances, not least from the late Gary Poulter, an actual homeless man plucked off the streets, who is truly remarkable as Gary’s drunken sociopathic father, Wade.
Cage is wholly believable amongst those untrained players, and it’s difficult to reconcile his work here with those mannered B-movie turns which have increasingly become commonplace in his career (the forceful dressing down he gives to a police officer on his trail is primal, vintage Cage). Undoubtedly one of last year’s better State-side offerings, Joe will hopefully find a large, appreciative audience on the small screen.
Netflix Top Five: Based on real life
Here’s a list of five absorbing tales based on actual events and featuring the exploits of real life figures.
Martin Scorsese’s lavish biopic of epic filmmaker, aviation pioneer and germ-phobe Howard Hughes is a truly underappreciated feature from the renowned director, which again showcases a captivating performance from regular collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio in the titular role.
He’s backed by a ridiculously starry supporting cast as Scorsese brings to life the heady era Hughes rose to prominence without shying away from the demons and mental issues which plagued the philanthropist’s later years.
Best bit: The early formation of Hughes the filmmaker as he feverishly works away on mounting his 1930s sky-bound epic, Hell’s Angel.
Dead Man Walking
Sean Penn really seems to really register when he’s tackling real-life characters (also see his Oscar-winning turn in Milk) and he’s equally electrifying here as Matthew Poncelet, a prisoner on death row in Louisiana who begins a correspondence with a caring Nun (Susan Sarandon). Sarandon picked up the Best Actress Oscar but both are incredibly in a film which has lost none of its power in the 20 years since it was first released. Keep your eyes out for a fleeting appearance by a young Jack Black as Poncelet’s brother.
Best bit: The wonderfully understated but hugely impactful moment towards the end when Poncelet comes clean to his sympathetic confidant.
A brutal and absorbing account of the Israeli government’s secret retaliation following the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Steven Spielberg directs with barely a trace of that mawkishness which can sometimes trickle into his work, concocting here an unsettling, nightmarish look at the costs of revenge. If Munich is one of those few Spielberg you haven’t seen, it’s definitely worth making time for.
Best bit: The opening of the film which portrays the terrorist attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics in a vivid, violent and remorseless detail.
Based on the events leading up to the death of a young man unlawfully killed by a police officer whist out celebrating the New Year, Fruitvale Station may veering a little too close to Hollywood sentimentality occasionally, but the material is sensitively handled by director Ryan Coogler (currently filming Rocky spin-off Creed). Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer are both excellent as the tragic lead character and his strong-willed mother.
Best bit: Spencer’s character spending the final moments with her deceased son in the hospital.
Dallas Buyers Club
Comeback king Matthew McConaughey was (rightly) awarded Best Actor at last year’s Oscars for his portrayal of horny hustler Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed in the mid 1980s with AIDS.
Told he has just 30 days left to live, Woodroof negates the U.S medical system to seek out alternative therapies and smuggle unapproved drugs over the border. McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss is just part of the actor’s incredible transformation, and he’s matched in the acting department by fellow award winner Jared Leto as Woodroof’s HIV-positive transgender ally.
Best bit: When it’s revealed just how many patients Woodroof is helping to keep alive through his efforts.
Further cinematic true story treatments:
Escape from Alcatraz – Clint squints and pulls a fast one in this Don Siegel-directed tale of the only successful escape attempt from the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island.
50/50 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt tugs heartstrings and Seth Rogen annoys (no surprise there) in this moving story of the film’s scriptwriter Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer.
Binge on…The Shield
Here’s your opportunity to watch the dirtiest cop in TV history in all his law-breaking, street-hustling, bribe-taking glory. In the role that turned Michael Chiklis in a brawny badass, the multi-award winning series pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for network television at that time, crafting a nail-biting, verite style jaunt around the mean streets of LA with rogue cop Vic Mackey (Chiklis) and his corrupt Strike Team. Bold, uncompromising and nihilistic, make The Shield your next series splurge.
Best bit: The end scene in the pilot episode which will leave you gasping in disbelief and wondering where the show can go from there.
Celebrated director Andrew Dominik’s debut is a dark and disturbing look at one of Australia’s most notorious criminal-cum-celebrities, Mark ‘Chopper’ Reid.
The film launched the new wave of Oz suburban crime movie and it features a truly show-stopping, lightning-in-a-bottle turn from lead Eric Bana, who has never bettered this performance despite working in Hollywood for well over a decade now. Dominik creates an interest clash of styles, mixing a surrealist colour palette with a down-and-dirty aesthetic to striking effect.
Best bit: The aftermath of Chopper knifing fellow inmate Keithy George. Bana delivers an acting masterclass in mixed emotions in a matter of seconds.
An early lead role from Keanu Reeves sees him turn in one of his strongest performances in this heartwrenching tale of a group of high school friends who are overcome by grief when tragedy strikes.
Inexplicably this film is rarely made reference to when The Matrix star’s career is being discussed, but it’s a delicate and thoughtful story of the hidden pressures of being the popular student. Complete with a fine score from The Clash’s Joe Strummer, this 80s teen drama is fully deserving of a place amongst the best from that period.
Best bit: Reeves’s breakdown after revealing a terribly burden he’s been carrying for much of the film. Johnny Utah will bring a tear to your eye.
Ridiculed at Cannes a couple of years back, this pulpy and shamelessly lurid piece of sweaty Southern noir is hugely entertaining and well worth a viewing. An investigative reporter (Matthew McConaughey) in 1960s South Florida teams up with his younger brother (Zac Efron) as they try to prove volatile swamp dweller (John Cusack) was framed for murder.
The Paperboy is the cinematic equivalent of picking up one of those tawdry-looking pot-boilers from the airport and getting much guilty pleasure in what you’re reading whilst lounging by the pool.
Best bit: The infamous jellyfish peeing scene, if only for the opportunity to see what got all the critics so hot and bothered on the French Rivera.