Netflix is wasting absolutely zero time capitalizing on the pandemic induced theatrical shutdown to fill all the gaps of a desolate 2021 release calendar. And when I say fill the gaps, they’ve got at least one film premiering every week of the year. Check out the sizzle reel below:Continue reading “Netflix Does Sizzle Reels Right, Previews Entire Slate of 2021 Films”
As you can probably tell from the title, I’m a fan of alliteration.
The Avengers had the single biggest weekend ever, by $40 million dollars. It broke the record by a margin of what, for most other films, would be considered a solid opening weekend. And it’s an amazing film (you can read the review here), which if you haven’t seen, do so. Right now.
Anyway, Netflix is streaming several of the animated Avengers movies, that I also recommend you check out.
The Ultimate Avengers 1 & 2
These two films are a whole lot of, and are a solid throwback to the terrific run Marvel had in the 90s with their animated shows. Any kid like myself who grew up on those shows will certainly love these two features, and will love showing them to their own kids (and if my Facebook feed is any indication, everyone my age has a kid). You can watch Ultimate Avengers 1 here, and you can watch Ultimate Avengers 2 here.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
There was a pretty good show that had a run of about 30 episodes back in 2010 that was based on the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Avengers called Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. All hell breaks loose when the worst villains they’ve ever faced (Loki, Red Skull, etc.) break loose from captivity and the Avengers assemble to bring them down. Definitely worth checking out, or putting on in the background to keep the kids distracted. You can watch the show on Netflix here.
Today’s ‘Stuff That’s Streaming’ is all about first films. There are two directors whose work I’ve loved for the past decade, and have done some truly incredible films, the first of which is Darren Aronofsky. My introduction to him was Requiem For A Dream, as I’m sure it was for many of my generation. I caught that my freshman year of college and was enamored with the intensity of the film. He created this brutal experience that the viewer is with every step of the way. It’s one of the few that I count among my all time favourites, yet have very little desire to ever watch again (though it has been quite a few years, so I may refresh myself). Since then, he’s put out consistently quality flicks, even The Fountain, which I really liked, even if it was a bit muddled, but it was his next two that really got the glory. Both The Wrestler and Black Swan are similar to Requiem, in that they are brutal experiences for the film, but underneath is a fascinating story being told.
I came to his first film, Pi, during my first membership to Netflix, back when it was just DVDs in the mail. You definitely see the seed from whence his style came. He really dives into the paranoia of mathematician Max Cohen, which you would later see with Sara Goldfarb in Requiem (a role for which Ellen Burstyn garnered an Oscar nomination) and Nina Sayers in Black Swan (which Natalie Portman won the Oscar for). It’s fun to go back to his first work to see where it all came from. It’s the string that ties Requiem, Wrestler and Black Swan all together, and you can see how they could all be made by the same person. All of his features are worth at least one viewing in your lifetime, and I can’t wait for 2014’s Noah, his take on the Noah’s Ark myth currently set to star Russel Crowe. But see where it all came from… definitely see Pi.
The other director is the great Christopher Nolan. Nolan of course is now the well-known director of Inception, the current Batman trilogy which wraps up in July with The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige, and his breakout film, Memento. He’s achieved the nigh impossible: critical and commercial success, essentially being a one-man, live-action version of Pixar. His partnership with Warner Brothers on the Batman franchise has given the opportunity to make the films he’s wanted (when he’s not doing Batman, though he has quite a bit of creative freedom) in The Prestige and Inception, and bring them to a large audience. He’s such an engaging story-teller because the beginning, middle and end aren’t his style. All of that is there, he just leads you through it in a brilliantly amazing way, and there’s always a big AHA! moment at the end for the viewer, without the feeling of being lied to or tricked that other directors (looking at you, Shyamalan) haven’t mastered.
And it all started with 1998’s Following. The way Nolan’s films unfold all go back to his non-linear, made for $6,000 on weekends over the course of a year, debut. The way he draws the protagonist from the comforts of unfulfilled potential into the slightly dangerous world of B&E and burglary. But even if you’ve only seen just one Nolan film, not even one of the Batmans, you’ll know that it’s just not that simple. I love the way his films crescendo and hit you with that “HOLY SHIT!” moment. He’s one of the more exciting directors, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store post-Dark Knight.
Before you head to the cinemas to see The Dark Knight Rises in July, catch Following on Netflix here.
The nicest thing I can say about the “found footage” sub-genre is that it exists. Cloverfield is its beacon of quality, while Oren Peli tries beat it to death every year with a “new” Paranormal Activity, and I didn’t even bother with Apollo 18 (did anyone?). But what started way back in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project (say what you will, I liked it), finally climaxed in 2010 with the Norwegian film Trolljegeren (Troll Hunter).
I say the sub-genre climaxed because this is the ultimate in found footage. One question I always raise is who, within the confines of the narrative, is taking these hours upon hours of footage of people being slaughtered (since this sub-genre is usually horror), and cutting it together into a 90 minute narrative? Whoever does is a terrible human being. But that wasn’t a big hang up for me in this one, I was with it all the way through and afterwards… it was only much, much later that the thought even crossed my mind.
Troll Hunter tells the story of a student documentary crew who trek out to investigate mysterious animal killings in Norwegian farmland, only to encounter the equally mysterious Hans. They’re able to convince him to let them join his hunt for whatever beast is killing the farm animals. While they’re all speculating that it’s bears or wolves, he reveals the dark truth: that he’s been in the employ of the Norwegian government to keep the Troll menace at bay. What ensues is a beautifully shot (easy on the shaky-cam) cat & mouse monster film.
Not to sound like a snob, but I’m one of those film nerds who can’t stand dubs, and will only watch foreign films subtitled. It’s a better presentation, and it helps get over the cultural hump. And because of this, I became much more invested in the film.
If you like monster films, this is definitely the one to check out.
The 80s were a boon to the teen movie genre. That was the ultimate launching pad for the genre, and many, many careers. Yeah, Rebel Without A Cause in the 50s and American Graffiti in the 70s also fall into the genre, but for sheer volume and presence of teen films, it’s the 80s. John Hughes and his Brat Pack were of course the poster faces, from The Breakfast Club & Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Weird Science & 16 Candles. That’s what we think of when we think Teen Movie. Of course there’s also the great Fast Times At Ridgemont High (which is my 2nd favourite of the genre, behind Dazed & Confused from the 90s) and Say Anything… both written by Cameron Crowe. Those are the standards. What’s great about the 80s is sometimes the movies got really weird, or into really specific sub-genres.
My Best Friend is a Vampire starring Robert Sean Leonard and Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox. Then you’ve got Summer School, Better Off Dead (both two of my all time faves), The Outsiders, Red Dawn, Can’t Buy Me Love, Rockula, Risky Business… I could literally go on for hours. All of which I recommend.
But I want to bring your attention to one that only recently, within the past few months, hit my radar. I’m a big fan of The Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, and a few months ago I noticed them mention the movie Three O’Clock High as a great 80s flick. I hadn’t even heard of this one. But they mentioned it a few times, and I said, “Well shit… I have to seek this out and see it, if these guys who I admire speak highly of it.” I didn’t have to seek long as it was right there on Netflix.
The film stars Casey Siemaszko as Jerry Mitchell, a not popular, but not geek-loser kinda guy, just… cool in the way that he does his own thing. And he pisses off this new kid who’s legendary status as a bully has been passed around before the first bell even rings, warranting a countdown to his death by beating at 3:00pm.
It’s a wonderful riff on the old classic Westerns, “This town ain’t big enough fer the 2 of us. Shoot out at dawn, pardner!” So that thrusts it into the sub-genre category, but it’s also delightfully surreal. It’s a kindred spirit to the equally bizarre Better Off Dead with John Cusack. You’re inhabiting the head and the mindset of the main character, and seeing the world in his skewed way, with his imagination. The principal (Jeffrey Tambor, who has never aged), the cop (Philip Baker Hall, who has also never aged) and the security guard (Mitch Pileggi, he’s aged) are all exaggerated caricatures. That’s not who they are, but that’s how Jerry sees them. And Richard Tyson’s bully Buddy Revell is so gloriously larger than life.
If you like the standard John Hughes teen flicks, this one may be too…. out there for you, but if you’ve seen and loved Better Off Dead (I’m using it as a point of reference since that’s slightly more well-known), then this one is definitely for you.
Similar to last week’s entry regarding The X-Files and my trip down memory lane, this is about another revisit of my youth, this time in the form of high nerdery, the wonderful mythos that is Star Trek.
I originally conceived the idea of going on a Star Trek binge and watching all the TV Shows and Movies in as short a time span as possible way back when I was unemployed and had literally nothing else to do (aside from job hunting). Disregarding the animated series, if you were to watch every episode of every series, and every movie, in the in-universe chronological order (Enterprise through Deep Space 9), I figured it would take roughly 22.8 days of non-stop viewing. I wouldn’t be able to do that then, nor now, but it was an idea I kicked around, but never fulfilled.
Then a few months ago the wonderful documentary The Captains showed up in my Netflix recommendations, I watched it, and decided to get started on watching Star Trek. Though I broke from the original idea by starting with The Next Generation, instead of Enterprise. The titles and images are clickable links to the Netflix stream.
The pop-cultural significance of this piece of film should not go unnoticed at all. It’s nothing fancy. Just the Original Series Captain, Kirk, William Shatner, taking a film crew and discussing Star Trek, one of the biggest franchises in history, with all of the other Trek Captains – TNG‘s Picard (Patrick Stewart), DS9‘s Sisko (Avery Brooks); Voyager‘s Janeway (Kate Mulgrew); Enterprise‘s Archer (Scott Bakula); and new, young Kirk from the reboot movie, Chris Pine.
It’s truly fascinating to see these 6 people together on film, though unfortunately not all at the same time. You get a behind the curtain look at what it was like (for most of them, excluding Shatner, obviously) to enter this phenomenon of a TV/Movie series, coming from their varied backgrounds, and how it impacted their careers. It’s a fun sit-down and chat style interview between director Shatner and his 5 successors (or, predecessor, technically, in Bakula’s case) to the Captain’s Chair. Shatner does focus on himself quite a bit, as he tends to do, and is more than allowed to do. As someone who grew up on Trek, I watched from beginning to end with eager ears to hear the charming stories each would tell from their time in Starfleet.
And then there’s of course what led me directly to that: the shows. I grew up on first The Next Generation, moving straight into DS9 and Voyager. I of course caught reruns of The Original Series back when SyFy was Sci-Fi, and actually showed Sci-Fi. I never watched Enterprise, which is surprising to even me considering I’m a big fan of both Star Trek and Bakula’s previous series, Quantum Leap. But I’ve recently started reliving my time with TNG, even tweeting about (#RelivingTNG). I finally got over the Tasha Yar/Beardless Riker hump and I’m at the point where it’s starting to get good. I’m probably going to keep pushing through TNG, taking each series at a time, and if you want to check out Star Trek, either again, or for the first time, do it.
This is the maiden voyage of a new weekly feature here on the blog: A weekly suggestion of something cool to check out online. I’m going to start with Netflix, then expand to include Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime, to help you with the full online streaming experience.
I’m going to ease into this with a few TV shows that I feel are all kindred spirits (no pun intended), and are solid entries into the sci-fi procedurals. Clicking the images and headlines will take you to the Netflix page for each of the shows.
I know, I know… “DUH! You don’t have to tell me to watch that. I already saw it back when it first aired!” So did I. I grew up on the show, as did many nerds of my generation. But I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode since it went off the air back in 2002. Not that I’ve been avoiding it, and I may have caught a random episode here or there over the years in the wee small hours the morning during local programming. But I’ve yet to fully revisit one of my all time favourite shows. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now (as well as another personally formative show I’ll discuss next week).
I’m a little over halfway through the first season (I only recently started this endeavour), the exploratory season. You can definitely tell that Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are finding their footing on this groundbreaking series. It was a unique program to join the line-up of the then 6-year-old FOX Network, which was still trying to stake a claim in prime-time, and had already found some success with Married… With Children, 21 Jump Street, Beverly Hills 90210 and, of course, The Simpsons. But that’s always been the fascinating thing about FOX, they’ve always been just a step ahead, and quite bold with their programming choices. A prime-time animated sitcom which led to a whole block of animated program. Roseanne got the glory, but Married… with Children beat it to the punch on blue-collar dysfunction. Even into the 2000s, if it wasn’t for both The X-Files and later 24, we probably wouldn’t have seen Lost. But I digress, back to The X-Files…
As long as there’s been TV, there’s been cop shows, Dragnet started all the way back in 1951. The X-Files took that long tradition of solving cases and threw aliens, ghosts, monsters and demons at it, but rarely strayed into the truly ridiculous. OK… there were a few episodes (mostly in the admittedly uneven 1st season) that got a little off topic, but once you push through the muck and WTF moments, the show really hits its stride.
What always kept my interest was the balance between “Monster-Of-The-Week” episodes, the stand alone stories, and the ones that fell under the purview of the running narrative arc – Mulder’s quest for the truth, specifically as it pertains to his sister’s disappearance, and the alien cover up conspiracy. The addition of the fantastic Mitch Pileggi in the second season gave Mulder and Scully an authority figure to both clash and commiserate with. Skinner was both friend and foe, but not out of inconsistent writing, but out of the intricacies of the character. His arrival was when the show really started to pick up, and just a year after that, Vince Gilligan joined the writing staff, and he would go on to create Breaking Bad, one of the best TV shows of the past decade.
Say what you will about the first season, and there’s a lot to be said about it, but it’s a landmark show and I’m thoroughly enjoying the trip down memory lane. All 9 seasons are available for streaming on Netflix by clicking here. Run through the whole series, or just catch up on your favourite episodes.
I spent a lot of time talking about The X-Files, so I promise to keep the next two relatively short. I was first introduced to Warehouse 13 by my dear friend Joel. I believe his exact words were “Dude, you gotta check out Warehouse 13.” It had just started, so the first few episodes were there for my viewing pleasure on Hulu. I marathoned them all and became an instant fan. I remember discussing the show a few days later and referring to it as “X-Files: The Next Generation.” Federal agents in a sci-fi show tracking down the weird and unexplained… I think it’s an apt description. It’s a little heavier on the comedy than The X-Files was, but it works.
I was attracted to this show because of its pop culture references. Not pop culture references the way Community and Psych (both great shows, Psych is on Netflix, Community is on HuluPlus) make Star Wars jokes. Pop culture references like… Victorian era authors. Centuries old world leaders. The show really hit the ground running, and I think benefits from the shortened seasons of cable. It’s definitely worth a watch, with seasons 1 & 2 on Netflix which you can watch here, season 3 will be released soon, and season 4 starts this summer. Also worth a watch: their sister show, Eureka, which is coming back this summer for its 5th and final season. All 4 seasons are on Netflix.
Admittedly, I initially dismissed this show as “Great… another Buffy retread featuring guys who are way too good-looking, and it’s on the CW, so whatevs. GIRL SHOW!” But then I started hearing really positive things about it. From people whose opinions I trusted, and I wouldn’t have normally pegged to have enjoyed my perception of what kind of show Supernatural was. Then the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon kicked into high gear, and I started seeing it recommended on Netflix, on Hulu, I saw it mentioned a lot on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, it even showed up in Fark. So I said, “FINE! I’ll give it a shot!”
Holy shit! I totally should have been watching this from the beginning. It’s a damn good sci-fi/fantasy/horror show that very much follows the mold of The X-Files in that it does the aforementioned “Monster-Of-The-Week,” but also balances it with an overall arc. Since I’m watching this one in tandem with The X-Files, I’m still only on the first season with this one, as well. Though there are a few later season episodes I’m looking forward to, including the S5 finale set in Stull, KS, which as any good Kansan (like myself) will tell you, is allegedly one of the gates to hell. And there’s a S6 episode that gets really meta, which I’m looking forward to watching.
Mostly I’m disappointed I ignored this one for so long. It’s a really good show and if you aren’t watching it, catch all 6 seasons on Netflix here, and it’s currently in its 7th.