True North Streaming: The Best New Titles on Netflix Canada, August 26/16
True North Streaming is a semi-regular column highlighting some of the best new additions to Netflix’s Canadian service. Like many of you, every so often I get a pleasant surprise when I discover a cool movie or TV show that’s just popped up on Netflix’s often-maligned sister platform. These posts will help you filter through the often quirky mix of Netflix Canada’s offerings and find the most valuable ways to waste some time.
And with that, in no particular order…
Whether it’s a long-time favourite of yours that you don’t own on disc, or **gasp** you’ve never gotten around to seeing it, you’ve officially run out of reasons not to watch or rewatch Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece. The film follows a housebound photographer (Jimmy Stewart) who believes that he’s witnessed a murder from his apartment, but can’t investigate due to a broken leg. Instead, he ropes in his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and uses detailed observations of his neighbours to figure out what really happened across the courtyard.
With some of the most indelible performances of Stewart and Kelly’s careers, Rear Window is also fascinating on a technical level: the entire neighbourhood seen from the apartment is a full-size, multi-storey set! For a taste of the kind of practical, truly suspenseful filmmaking that a lot of Hollywood productions missed out on this year, look no further.
Where to Invade Next
Any mention of a new Michael Moore film is an instant polarizer for a conversation. So if you’re in the league of Moore skeptics, keep scrolling; for those still here, it’s important to note that I’m far from a fanboy of the 21st century’s favourite (?) documentarian. Moore has been repetitive and even annoying at times in some of the stunts he dreams up for his films – to say nothing of the rants he goes on in blog posts and interviews. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by Where to Invade Next, which I had very low expectations for.
Moore’s idea is to visit socially progressive countries with wild concepts (to American ears) like government-mandated vacations, free education and no work emails/calls after 5 p.m., and “claim” them for the United States. In large part, this allows Moore to touch on multiple social ills all in one film, and as long as you do your research and understand the many unmentioned caveats to Moore’s endorsements, Where to Invade Next at least gives you something to consider, however briefly.
22 Jump Street
22 Jump Street has finally popped up on Netflix Canada, after its predecessor 21 Jump Street (which I liked a lot more than I figured I would) has been available on the service for a number of years. When the sequel hit theatres in 2014, a number of trusted critics argued that 22 is one of the few comedy sequels to meet and even exceed the first installment, a rare bonus in the often-maligned trend of “cinematic universes”.
The movie takes up the story of less-than-sharp cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), who have gone undercover as college students following a surprisingly successful anti-drug operation in a high school. It’s hard to find many comedy pairings with as much chemistry as Hill and Tatum have in these roles, which makes me even more curious about the completely bonkers idea developed recently to blend this series with Men in Black (yes, really!).
If I have one failing as a reviewer, it’s that I don’t watch much North American TV comedy. My default has always been British comedy (What can I say? I was raised on Monty Python.). Every so often, a friend will put me on to a new delight from one of the U.K. broadcasters, and several years ago, I tried out the first three episodes of this medical comedy via this route.
Since that time, I didn’t get around to seeking out more, but now that the show is up on Netflix Canada, and I’m out of excuses! One of my main draws to Green Wing is the touches of surrealism in its writing and direction, something the ABC medical comedy Scrubs used to great effect (albeit for a much longer run). Green Wing is also a great way to catch up on the early work of actors like Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) and Michelle Gomez (Doctor Who).
This unexpected 2014 indie directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens) has been available on the service in the past, but it’s recently come back for another stay. Widely seen as a way for Favreau to take a break from the studio culture of Hollywood, Chef has Favreau also star as a famous chef who explodes at a snarky food blogger, loses his job and ends up rebooting his life as the purveyor of Cuban sandwiches on a food truck. It’s an uncomplicated, heartwarming piece that combines Food Network visuals with the kind of A-list talent (Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman) that only a director like Favreau could get for a film this low-key.
Life is Beautiful
Until he appeared in Woody Allen’s 2012 release To Rome with Love, North American moviegoers likely hadn’t heard much from Roberto Benigni, whose chair-walking reaction at the 1999 Oscars was one of the biggest highlights from the ceremony in recent memory. Benigni’s film Life is Beautiful, which won Best Actor, Best Original Score and Best Foreign Language Film, just appeared on Netflix this week, and it feels like time that I find out why it was the foreign-language darling that year.
Due to the way the film tries to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust through humour, it might be the easier of the two films on the subject to hit the service this week (alongside Son of Saul, a newer, but notoriously brutal depiction). Any fans of silent-film-style physical comedy (especially Charlie Chaplin) will likely be charmed by Benigni’s approach here.
The Lady in the Van
This dramedy starring Dame Maggie Smith was one of the titles I missed out on at TIFF last year, so I’m glad to see it make its way onto the service just ahead of this year’s festival. It tells the story of an elderly, cantankerous woman (Smith) who lives in the titular vehicle in the driveway of a writer’s house in London for 15 years. Based on a real-life woman who lived outside the home of the film’s screenwriter, this film is marketed squarely at people with a taste for small, quirky films and at fans of Smith. However, the latter should really be everyone by this point. No one spurns the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey.
What did you think of this list of Netflix recommendations? Are there any notable recent uploads on the Canadian service that I missed? Join the discussion in the comments section, and if you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers!