10 underrated recommendations for Netflix UK
|LISTS - TV LISTS|
Americans, as you were...
The infamous movie-streaming video buffet-service Netflix hit UK shores recently, but sadly is very lacking compared to the goldmine of content available via the equivalent American service. Furthermore, Netflix UK is somewhat barren in regards to recent releases, with most films at least two years old.
However, there is a silver lining. The lack of modern content left me scouring its ageing database like an antique dealer rooting through a charity shop, and consequently I found a number of diamonds in the rough...
10. Primer (2004)
Perhaps the smartest time-travel movie ever made. Shot on a minuscule budget - though it never feels 'cheap' thanks to a sharp script - and possessing eerily sterile visuals and naturalistic performances, this was a true gem of a find. By the end of the movie you’ll know you’ve watched something special and will be eager for a rewatch, in an attempt to piece together Primer's well-crafted plot.
9. Evil Dead and Army of Darkness (1981 and 1992)
Nearly twenty years before Sam Raimi directed the wildly successful Spider-Man trilogy, he burst onto the scene with the wildly inventive black-humoured Evil Dead trilogy. Unfortunately, the second in the trilogy hasn’t been licensed for the site yet, but the first and third movie are well worth seeing; both hold their own, despite their age, thanks to the strong performances, eerie atmosphere and a witty script which balance out the now-dated special effects.
Raimi’s unique and manic directing style demonstrate a quirky charm decades after the film's original releases, so both come highly recommended.
8. Breaking Bad Seasons 1 and 2 (2008-09)
This is the recent television critic’s darling, with multiple awards for its writing, directing and star Bryan Cranston.
It tells the story of a struggling and mild-mannered chemistry teacher who learns he has lung cancer and transforms himself into infamous drug baron and master meth chef “Heisenberg” in a matter of months in order to pay his medical bills and provide for his family. Breaking Bad has smart writing (creator Vince Gilligan had a big hand in The X-Files), great performances from its leads, and a uniquely cinematic feel.
7. The Chappelle Show Seasons 1-3 (2003-06)
Perhaps the funniest and most thought-provoking comedy sketch series ever, Dave Chappelle created really memorable characters and catchphrases such as his interpretation of Rick James and “I’m rich biatch”.
A comedy which addresses the heady issues of racism, gender and black/immigrant culture in America in a skilful deft way - allowing everyone an opportunity to laugh and pause for thought - The Chappelle Show has many calling its star one of the greatest comedians of our time - in the space of two and a half seasons.
6. The 25th Hour (2002)
This movie is a career high (in many respected critics' Top Ten Movies of the 2000s) for both controversial but immensely talented director Spike Lee and one of the most dynamic actors of our time, Ed Norton. This introspective drama avoids the standard crime genre clichés, following the last day of freedom for a career criminal and drug-dealer (Norton).
It is expansive enough to give us an insight into both the main character's mistakes and the regrets and temptations of his “civilian” friend/family unit. Norton's excellent performance is driven by strong and measured writing, whilst Lee’s stylistic choices combine with understated-but-insightful performances to really give us a window into the turmoil at the heart of the plot, and its tormented central character. Lee also manages to reference the effect 9/11 had on everyday New York life through the prism of different viewpoints.
5. Ninja (2009)
The glory days of the hard hitting visceral Hollywood action genre in the 80s and 90s was brought to a close by the rising popularity of the Superhero movie and visual effects-laden blockbusters; but there’s still a fringe contingent of talent dedicated to lower budget - but equally entertaining - 'B movie' action fun.
Scott Adkins is the heir to the throne of the Western Martial Arts action star, previously filled by Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Naturally gifted athletically, he knows how to translate the technique of traditional fighting styles into visually-striking fight scenes.
Ninja is only passable in the story and acting stakes, but has some of the best fight scenes of the last decade. Well worth a guys' night in with a few beers.
4. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
Perhaps Jackie Chan at his peak, Drunken Master 2 - as it’s known in Hong Kong - was released four years before Chan would become a Hollywood star in the Rush Hour movies, and is widely praised as one of the greatest traditional martial arts movies by fans of the genre.
It blends the best of Chan’s talents in physical comedy, innovative fight scenes and his likeable on-screen presence and powers via a fun battle against moustache-twirling villains trying to exploit Chinese culture. The final twenty-minute fight scene ranks among the best action scenes of all time.
3. The Big Hit (1998)
The 'action comedy' is a genre that suffered no end in recent years and The Big Hit was ignored even when it arrived at the tail-end of the craze; but it has to be seen to be believed.
The unique tale of naturally talented killer, the 'nice guy' hitman Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) who is having problems with his overbearing girlfriend and the impending showdown with her straight-laced Jewish parents, The Big Hit has humour in abundance. Moreover, its plot is solid - as well as the interim plots mentioned earlier, Smiley has to contend with being tricked into kidnapping and ransoming the god-daughter of his scary Mafia boss employer - only to then realise he is falling for her.
It has my favourite Mark Wahlberg performance (he's genuinely really likeable in this role) and balances these two conflicting plot-lines masterfully. When they converge, The Big Hit has some truly hilarious moments; whilst featuring a number of memorable John Woo (he was an producer on the movie)-inspired action set-pieces. It also has great supporting performances from his lazy hit-men colleagues, many of whom turn on Smiley and want him dead.
2. Spooks Seasons 1-6 (2001-07)
Overshadowed during most of its run by its American counterpart 24 (which, ironically, came a few months after), Spooks was also an action thriller series which attempted to portray a more nuanced, believable look at Counter-Terrorism in contemporary times.
It followed the “Spooks” (slang for Spies) of MI5 and their attempts to save the country from multiple internal and external threats. Better still, it managed to address many real life incidents and groups such as the conspiracies around the death of Dr David Kelly, British-born terrorists and the minor resurgence of Fascist groups during the mid 00s. It also did a cracking job of giving an insight into how difficult it would be to attempt to balance the dual roles of being an intelligence operative and attempting to live a normal life with people unaware of your secret career.
1. Buried (2010)
Ryan Reynolds’ emerging status as a leading man was bruised last year with a lacklustre performance as Hal Jordan in DC Comic's Green Lantern; but if you want proof that he has the acting chops to be a star, then Buried is the ultimate showcase.
A taut contained thriller, Buried tells the story of an American civilian contractor, kidnapped in Iraq and buried in a coffin, whilst held for ransom. Reynolds has only his acting ability to rely on, as he never leaves that location. He gives a captivating performance of a man trying to stay sane and hopeful in a truly frightening situation, receiving much critical acclaim in the process.
It may be a nothing film, but it's a darn good one...
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