True North Streaming: The Best New Titles on Netflix Canada, October 7/16
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…
I’ll admit, I didn’t want to join the throngs of people gushing over Deadpool when it came out in February. It seemed like all anyone cared about was the film’s edgy presentation - its willingness to do raunchy jokes and extreme violence and its attempt to “revolutionize” the superhero genre. This is despite the fact that other than the R-rated content, the movie resembles every other superhero film in its plotting and characters.
That being said, now that the fervor over the movie has calmed down a bit and I look back on Deadpool, maybe I was too harsh. More than anything, Ryan Reynolds’ dedication to his portrayal of the lead character shines through, and I’m a sucker for the anti-hero’s fourth-wall-breaking commentary. I may have felt a bit let down at the theatre, but seeing it again now that it’s on Netflix could inspire me to update my opinion.
As Ben Affleck prepares to release his fourth film as a director, Live by Night, Netflix is encouraging us to catch up on the film that first proved that Affleck had the chops to be a noteworthy filmmaker. Even though his first movie Gone Baby Gone got plenty of attention, The Town made it known that the success wasn’t a fluke. The movie follows a team of career criminals as they plan their next big heist, all while their leader (Affleck) tries to figure out if a life of crime is still worth it. Centered on the infamous Boston neighbourhood of Charlestown, The Town is both a gripping thriller and a heartfelt portrait of a community. Affleck also shows off his casting abilities in this film, bringing together an ensemble that includes Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm.
The Trip to Italy
Netflix may be customizing their “Recently Added” section to suit my tastes, but that doesn’t make their addition of The Trip to Italy any less worthy to recommend. If you like British comedy, and more specifically Steve Coogan (Philomena, Night at the Museum) and Rob Brydon, this is a can’t-miss comedy sequel. Re-edited from a British TV series, the two Trip movies follow Coogan and Brydon as they travel through beautiful countrysides and review expensive restaurants, alternating between mercilessly annoying each other with fantastic celebrity impressions and begrudgingly learning about the culture of their surroundings. The first film has been available on the service for a few years (if it isn't still) and the 2014 sequel just popped up recently.
The unexpected detail about The Trip movies is how they fold in a twinge of melancholy: both leads are middle-aged men who are afraid of getting older, and they wrestle with how to stay in a committed relationship and be good fathers. In the first Trip, these preoccupations centred around Coogan’s character, and in the second, it’s Brydon who's in a tailspin. This sad-but-sweet quality, combined with dry wit and ever-quotable lines makes for an experience I go back to over and over again.
My Big Night
I stumbled upon this Spanish ensemble comedy at TIFF 2015, and it’s been burned into my brain ever since. Set behind the scenes at a never-ending taping of a New Year's Eve TV special, half a dozen or more subplots (including murder, blackmail, and mysterious accidents) unravel over the course of the film, focusing on different groups of extras, performers, production staff and PR people. Most of them have been cooped up for weeks, perhaps months, with no end of production in sight, while outside the soundstage, hundreds of workers fired from the show riot with police. It's behind-the-scenes drama as apocalyptic farce: we're looking at an alternate universe where a TV show goes from being a national obsession to some sort of cult-like crisis. It's a fascinating way to simultaneously entertain an audience and comment on popular culture.
Having never seen any of Álex de la Iglesia's films before, My Big Night felt very different from most of comedies we get treated to in English-language cinema. The scenes and jokes fly so thick and fast that it can be difficult to keep up, and if the film has one flaw, it's that its frenetic pacing may annoy more contemplative viewers. But the material is delivered with such gusto and irreverence that it's hard not to get swept up in the fun. If you like madcap action and dark comedy, this film comes highly recommended.
Detectorists - Series 2
Continuing the pattern of “British comedy with a twist” in this wrap-up is the second season of a TV show called Detectorists, a BBC-distributed series about metal detector enthusiasts (yes, really). The show plays off the potentially boring subject matter with wryly funny rivalries between different detectorist clubs in the fictional little English town of Danebury, in Essex. The core of the story follows the attempts by Andy and Lance (Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones) to uncover a treasure hoard in the fields around their town, and finally strike it rich.
The added layer here is the theme of arrested development; what are Andy and Lance missing out on by being so obsessed with their hobby? We see all the ups and downs in their relationships, and watch as jealousies and disagreements threaten to tear their circle of friends apart. Crook (who you may recognize from the British version of The Office and the Pirates of the Caribbean films) also writes and directs, delivering a show with a truthful depiction of small-town England.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly
Despite the surge in documentary filmmaking in the past few decades, there are still precious few star directors in the genre. That being said, German director Werner Herzog is indisputably one of them. Before Herzog made Grizzly Man, Close Encounters at the End of the World or Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he released this film, telling the the story of a German-American fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, who was shot down on a mission during the Vietnam War and held captive in the jungle, surviving months of torture until finally escaping. Ten years after the documentary, Herzog returned to the story again and dramatized it to make the film Rescue Dawn, casting Christian Bale as Dengler.
While I haven't seen this doc yet, it instantly went into my queue when I saw it appear on Netflix this week and noticed Herzog's name attached to it. Not only am I a fan of Herzog, but any film where he has to confront his feelings about the jungle is bound to be fascinating.
This is a film that I only know from the trailer, but the topic is so eccentric that I can't help but recommend it. Set in rural Iceland, Rams follows two sheep farming brothers who haven't spoken to each other in forty years. When a disease breaks out that threatens all the sheep in their valley, one of the brothers outright refuses to follow the government order to kill his flock, and the other brother tries to save a few of his animals to protect their breed. The two brothers then have to repair their relationship and team up to save their flocks. Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes in 2015, and currently tracking at 95% (out of 87 reviews) on RottenTomatoes, Rams is an example of the kind of world cinema that I love to find on Netflix Canada.
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!