Welcome to 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.
Pick of the new releases
Prefixed with a ‘presented by Martin Scorsese’ credit, it’s easy to see why the fabled filmmaker would put his weight behind this spirited Swedish crime yarn. Much like Scorsese’s work within the same milieu, Easy Money also captures the less than glamorous side of the criminal profession. Essentially this is a three-hander with the main characters hailing from very different worlds, yet all sharing a common goal of escaping their current circumstances. Jorge (Matias Varela) is a Chilean immigrant who has fled from imprisonment and is looking to pull off a huge drug deal which will guarantee his passage out of the country. Brutal Serbian mob enforcer Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) is on Jorge’s tale and into this volatile mix arrives student JW (Joel Kinnaman). Hailing from the working-class regions of the north, he has become enamoured by the wealthy world of his college friends. In order to climb the social ladder, he lends his business skills to the criminal world in return for the money to maintain the lifestyle he is increasingly becoming accustomed to.
Watching Easy Money, it isn’t difficult to see why director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House and the upcoming Child 44) was enthusiastically snapped up by the US. He shows a muscular confidence behind the camera, drawing the viewer straight into the action from the very first frame (Jorge’s prison break has a wonderful matter-of-fact spontaneity). The urgency and immediacy of the handheld camera style recalls the sterling work found in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s debut Amores Perros, and like that world, we also see a three-dimensional, human side to the lawless figures. Kinnaman (star of the ill-fated Robocop remake earlier this year) is an appealing lead, and even when dealing in some pretty nefarious activity, he manages to keep the audience on his side throughout. Propelled by a pulsating Cliff Martinez-like electro score, Easy Money is an intelligent and classy crime yarn which will have you gripped until the end.
Netflix Top Five: Documentary
As the documentary film continues to grow in popularity, here’s a look at some the best and quirky offerings available to stream.
Beware of Mr. Baker
The temperament of legendary musician Ginger Baker is as fierce and forceful as his extraordinary drumming skills in this revealing look at the demons that drove the former Cream and Blind Faith member to both grand success and deep failure. Winner of the Grand Jury prize for best documentary at SXSW, this is a thoroughly entertaining biography of a true rock and roll curmudgeon.
Best bit: Director Jay Bulger literally suffers for his art during one moment in the film when he finds himself on the receiving end of one of Baker’s fiery outbursts.
Best Worst Movie
Forget Hearts of Darkness, this is the greatest film documentary out there. Catching up with the actors and crew behind horror fantasy sequel Troll 2 (regarded as the worst film ever made and bearing almost zero relation to its predecessor) the extraordinarily good-natured director Michael Stephenson (and child star from the actual film) offers a hilarious and touching retrospective about how even the best creative intentions can sometimes go irrevocably south.
Best bit: The unadulterated awfulness of the actual footage from the feature film is absolutely priceless.
Inside Deep Throat
A nice companion piece to the Amanda Seyfried-headlining narrative account, Lovelace (also available on Netflix) Inside Deep Throat offers an absorbing look at the life of adult actress turned anti-pornography crusader, Linda Lovelace. Narrated by the late Dennis Hopper (one of the Hollywood elite who was probably jostling for a cinema seat when the film exploded across the mainstream) this is a cautionary tale of misplaced celebrity and the hazy line between entertainment and exploitation.
Best bit: A pivotal clip from the infamous scene, which is still shocking when viewed in a modern context.
Once a celebrated photographer for The Sunday Times, Don McCullin spent over three decades of his illustrious career on the frontline of human conflict. This riveting biography derives much of its power from the pseudo-confessional style where the subject matter solemnly (and candidly) recounts the many sobering assignments he undertook. McCullin is a haunting but essential look at a true visual artist.
Best bit: McCullin recounting his darkest moment as an observer to the death and destruction around him.
The Queen of Versailles
A fascinating character study which refrains from vilifying the principal figures, and instead offers a sobering (and often very funny) indictment of the American dream and the merciless pursuits of hypercapitalism. Warning: this film contains scenes of extreme shopping and excessive splurging on chintzy items.
Best bit: Property magnate and patriarch David Siegel lambasting his wife and kids for leaving lights on around the house and wasting toilet paper after his multi-billion dollar empire has collapsed.
Further nonfictional picks
This Ain’t California – A carefully-constructed, fictional/reality-straddling look at the popular East Germany skater scene in the early 1980s.
Sunset Strip – LA’s most iconic stretch of road is explored and dissected by neighbouring rock stars and A-list actors.
Religulous – Satirist Bill Maher’s no holds barred, take no prisoners look at modern religious practices.
Binge on….Orange is the New Black
Newbies to Netflix or those hesitant to take the plunge, rest assured, this series is absolutely worth putting your life on the inevitable hold once you’ve been drawn in by the first episode. In what will surely go down as one of TV’s greatest ensembles, Taylor Schilling (in her breakout role) is a young woman who finds herself amongst an array of hardened cons and generally unhinged types when she’s sentenced to fifteen months in prison after a decade-old crime catches up with her. Having picked up a ton of plaudits after two equally impressions series, this is an absolute must-see.
Best bit: Every time the psychotic and child-like inmate Crazy Eyes (played with a marvellous mix of vulnerability and malevolence by Uzo Aduba) launches into one of her rages.
Revisit….Pretty in Pink
Take that journey back to a simpler and more colourful era where the now-mythical Brat Pack were in their prime and Hollywood could produce a thoughtful and thoroughly disarming romantic drama that wasn’t based upon a best-selling YA novel or the cynical rehash of past properties. Rewatching Pretty in Pink is akin to meeting up with an old school acquaintance who is eager to reminisce and ends up leaving you deeply nostalgic for the past you both shared.
Best bit: Duckie (Jon Cryer) doing his passionate rendition of Otis Redding classic Try a Little Tenderness for his bemused, unrequited love.
This 60s adaptation of the famous Philip Roth novella of the same name makes a fine companion piece to the similarly-themed The Graduate, and is one of those near classics which has somehow failed to find much in the way of longevity. When a working class library clerk falls for a wealthy student during the summer break, class and social boundaries conspire to drive a wedge between the lovebirds. Insightful, charming and delightfully droll, this is one of the best offerings of that era.
Best bit: The first encounter between protagonist Neil (Richard Benjamin) and his future girlfriend Brenda (played by the luminous Ali Macgraw).
Panned upon initial release, this horror/sci-fi schlocktastic epic is stuffed with a whole slew of genuine WTF moments and nutty exposition delivered in an admirably straight-faced fashion by its cast of distinguished British thesps (which also includes a pre-Enterprise Patrick Stewart). It’s utterly bonkers, thoroughly entertaining and has more flesh on show than a whole series of Game of Thrones.
Best bit: The visually-arresting and jaw-dropping catacombs which hold the alien vampires. A truly remarkable piece of pre-CG physical production design.