True North Streaming: The Best New Titles on Netflix Canada, Feb 4/17

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…

The World’s End

If you’re not already familiar with Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, it’s time to fix that, fast. Perhaps you know the movies better by their actual titles, though: 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, 2007’s Hot Fuzz, and 2013’s The World’s End. (Rather than spoil why the trilogy bears the name, I’ll let the uninitiated figure it out). While the three comedy films aren’t a narratively cohesive series, they’re linked by lead performances by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and each one tackles a different film genre. Dead = zombies, Fuzz = buddy cop, and World’s End = sci-fi/disaster films.

It’s nice to see The World’s End appear on Netflix Canada, especially considering that it only made about half the money that Hot Fuzz did, which suggests that there’s plenty of people out there who still need to complete the trilogy. Being a huge fan of Wright, I rushed out to see this opening weekend and can confirm that it recaptures everything we love about Wright’s partnerships with Pegg and Frost: movie-buff in-jokes, dark British humour, and the melancholy that gives Wright’s films their emotional heft.

Santa Clarita Diet

I’m adding Drew Barrymore’s new Netflix Original here out of a sense of cautious optimism. Best described as a blend of Weeds and Dexter, the series follows a California real estate agent (Barrymore) who turns into a ravenous (albeit rather intelligent and healthy-looking) zombie. In need of a reliable supply of human meat, she recruits her husband (Timothy Olyphant) and daughter to help track down and kill people (bad ones, of course) to keep her going. Expect lots of digs at suburban life and buckets of gore.

Early reviews suggest that Santa Clarita Diet is tracking to be a solid hit for Netflix, and I’m interested in it mainly for the talent. Barrymore’s career has been fairly quiet of late (and wasn’t helped by ongoing appearances in Adam Sandler movies) and Olyphant put in some great work on FX’s Justified, so I’m eager to see both of them try out some fresh material. Horror comedy certainly isn’t a new genre, but it’s still uncharted territory for Netflix-funded productions, so this show is also one to watch in terms of the platform as a whole.

A Bigger Splash

Here’s another title where the draw is mostly from the performers. A Bigger Splash features Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton as former lovers who run into each other at a luxurious Sicilian resort – Fiennes’ character is accompanied by his daughter (Dakota Johnson) and Swinton by her new boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Naturally, old arguments and new passions begin to stir up, and the filmmakers sit back to watch the results boil over.

The trailer for the film suggests a movie drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and packed with psychologically complex characters. Maybe it’s not the first thing you’ll reach for if you’re looking to unwind, but it could be well worth your time if you like any of the talent involved.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Courtroom dramas, like Westerns, are few and far between these days, partly because the format is in desperate need of freshening up. The “scrappy underdog lawyer righting a wrong” routine just doesn’t have the punch it used to. So maybe that’s why 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer took many by surprise – a movie about a lawyer trying to beat the odds that rises above its formula via the performance that is thought to have kicked off the McConaissance – the complete resurgence of Matthew McConaughey’s career.

The plot starts out simple (McConaughey’s character is hired to defend a rich playboy) but seems to get twisty early on, putting plenty of doubt on the client character played by Ryan Phillippe. The movie is stocked with a great supporting cast, including Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston and William H. Macy. If nothing else, I’m most drawn to the movie to fully understand how its star made the unexpected transition from Failure to Launch to winning an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.

Mystery Team

This indie from 2009 is something I don’t think I’d ever hear about if it weren’t for a colleague of mine with a taste for hidden gems. While the critical consensus suggests that the movie is pretty rough around the edges, it’s a bit of a proving ground for actors who we know today for much higher-profile projects: Donald Glover, Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kemper and Ben Schwartz. It also appears to be where Glover first tested out the innocent character traits that he’d become known for on Community.

The plot concerns a trio of Hardy Boys-esque kid detectives who grow up and have to confront a real case (along with the pressures of the adult world). If you’re tuned to the slapstick, foul-mouthed style of comedy that Mystery Team offers, Dan Eckman’s movie might be a solid weekend diversion.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

If you’ve followed this site for some time, you’ll know that I have a special place in my heart for Werner Herzog. (Bonus Herzog clip: the time he got shot during an interview and insisted that it continue!) Netflix makes this fascination easy to satisfy by continuing to partner with the filmmaker in releasing his acclaimed documentaries. Herzog actually released two in theatres last year, and Netflix now features them both: Into the Inferno (about the societies that live close to volcanoes) and Lo and Behold, where Herzog trains his gaze on the madness of the Internet.

While not all film writers were convinced by the director’s attempt to distill such a vast topic into a single 98-minute documentary, this film has so many things I like (Internet culture, quirky personalities, German-accented narration) that I can’t help but recommend it.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

This pick is a bit of a cheat, in the sense that it’s not brand-new on Netflix Canada. But Dirk Gently was added recently enough – and is likely to remain pretty obscure for most users – that I’m including it in this edition of the column. Gently resists most attempts to describe it – on the surface, it’s a comedy with sci-fi/fantasy elements, but there’s an absurdist, spiritualist and conspiracy theorist bent to the show that pushes it into a genre of its own.

Either way, it’s an intriguing choice for its most recognizable star, Elijah Wood, who plays Todd, a sad-sack punk rocker turned hotel bellhop. After a murder occurs in the hotel penthouse, Todd crosses paths with a socially awkward yet persistent private eye named Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett), and gets swept into a multi-dimensional adventure involving kittens possessed by hammerhead sharks, time-travelling steampunk inventors, and rogue CIA training programs (told you it’s hard to describe). Weird, but charming stuff.

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!