Category Archives: Netflix It

Netflix It: “The House I Live In”

By: Kevin Jachimowicz

The ‘war on drugs’ is a term that I recall hearing since I was just a kid in elementary school, probably thanks to the D.A.R.E program, either that or one of those ‘this is your brain on drugs’ adverts. In a perfect world, the war on drugs is a highly respectable and responsible concept, that would successfully function; in the real world, it appears the policy creates far more systemic problems than it solves. “The House I Live In” is a heartbreaking film documentation of our nation’s drug laws and the damage they can cause, and have caused. The front of the DVD’s cover bears the quote: “The war on drugs has never been about drugs.”

The director of “The House I Live In”, Eugene Jarecki, began his journey of filming this documentary with an urge to show people how hard drugs ravaged a family close to his heart. In the end, he decided to unhinge some of the America’s greatest misconceptions of the incessant drug problems that exist in the United States. Many voices are featured as spokespeople to support the various claims Jarecki is making throughout, including the creator of The Wire, David Simon.

The discussion begins as a Grandmother discusses how drug abuse hurt her and her family, ultimately either imprisoning or taking the lives’ of her children. Other people of importance are featured throughout the documentary to offer their own explanations and experiences. These people include everyone from an Iowa Judge whose specialty is drug cases, to those involved in the illicit drug trade themselves. These additional voices are pivotal to Jarecki’s goal – providing a full-circle perspective in regards to the institutions built and jobs created due to the illicit drug industry. The serious need to look at drug use as a health problem and not a crime is also discussed repeatedly. “The House I Live In”, in its final argument, seemingly claims that those in positions of power have created a system designed to imprison subsets of the population.

What makes “The House I Live In” really hit home, more-so than your typical documentary, is in the way that it facts alone are weaved throughout the overall story. These laws that are sometimes arbitrary, also highlight just how systemic the war on drugs has become.

“The House I Live In” is a successful showcase of the numerous facets which make up the world of drugs, from the foot soldiers to the policy makers. The disconnect between those who create laws and those who live with the consequences of them is a real concern raised by Eugene Jarecki and his co-narrator David Simon.

“The House I Live In” is a great documentary due to the way it engages the viewing audience, keeping them interested, and sparking them to ask more questions, and push the debate even further.

Netflix It: “Friday Night Lights”

By Ariana D’Avanzo

Crowds of howling fans cheering, popcorn being thrown amongst the packed bleachers and arguments happening left and right about who’s the better team: the environment of a football game. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the game, the fans fall silent and let out a big roaring gasp in unison, something happens that no one saw coming. This personifies the first episode of the very first season of “Friday Night Lights”.

Love triangles, relatable family drama and football. If you enjoy watching a series containing all three of these, then “Friday Night Lights” is for you.

The five series phenomenon that was developed by Peter Berg and executive produced by Brian Grazer, Sarah Aubrey, David Nevins and Jason Katmis, takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and follows the progress and hardships of a very competitive high school football team. “Friday Night Lights” aired on NBC from 2006 to 2011 and is now available on Netflix streaming.

The series emphasizes how the high school football team in this small hick town enables and affects the people of the community as an entity.

The main focus is that of Coach Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler. He begins as the head coach of the Dillon Panthers, then later becomes the head coach of the East Dillon Lions and is the soundboard of the entire town. This coach is the go-to-man in the show; he is looked at as if he is a god by his community, at least when the football team is winning, but when the team hits a losing streak or an outsider comes in, the tables seem to turn.

“Friday Night Lights” contains an overall main plot with numerous subplots seamlessly mixed in to the latter. The series follows specific players of the team: The way they live their personal lives off-the-field, their family, the friends they keep, and how they deal with various situations and influences that they encounter throughout.

Some of these situations include incidents with alcohol, which Tim Riggins encounters quite often, causing him some some quite detrimental consequences for his sometimes erratic behavior which consisted of: breaking the law, death of a family member or friend, prison, love triangles, trust issues and more. Oh, and lets not forget sleeping with the coaches daughter.

For a total of 76 episodes, “Friday Night Lights” leaves you at the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. Although, a majority of the time you are left wanting more; it is also one of those series during which you can take a break – and then go back to it when it is most convenient for you, without completely losing track of the sequence of the show. You can also always feed your craving and go on a Netflix binge and watch all 76 of said episodes back-to-back in a short amount of time.

 

Netflix It: Prisoners – Edge of Your Seat Thriller

The Prisoners: Movie Review

By: Arianna Cecchini

Warner Brothers produced a heart-thumping thriller last September titled “The Prisoners” starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film takes place in a rural New England neighborhood on Thanksgiving wherein two families share dinner together. Joy and Anna, two six year old girls, ask to walk to Anna’s house to get toys. They leave without supervision.

The two are abducted in an old, run-down RV, and Alex Jones is the driver. Alex is a disheveled, grungy guy who makes your skin crawl with just one look at him. Alex is quickly arrested for being the driver of the RV that allegedly abducted the girls. Alex’s Aunt, who he lives with, pleads to the cops that he is mentally incapable of committing such a crime and that he should be released. Detective Looki, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, gets assigned to the case that stirs numerous confrontations with Keller Dowler (Hugh Jackman), Anna’s father.

Keller is an aggressive man who cannot handle patiently waiting for the cops to take care of what they promise. When Alex Jones is released on a lack of evidence, Keller kidnaps him and keeps him captive in his father’s deserted rundown apartment. This is where he brutally beats and tortures him to try to get the truth–the kid does not crack, leaving Jackman’s inner wolverine to make an appearance in the film.

When a strange man runs from Looki, during the girls’ candle light ceremony, he instantly becomes a suspect. Looki finally gets a lead on where the suspect is hiding out and arrests him, also finding children’s clothes containing blood stains in his house.  The girls’ clothes are found and the viewer is left to think that the movie is reaching it’s end; it is only near the climax.

It becomes learned that this random suspect actually was a kidnapped boy himself. He had snakes in his house and constantly drew creepy mazes. When questioned about where the girls are, he quickly grabs one of the police officers weapons to shoot himself in the head, leaving Detective Looki in yet another stand still. When the blood is tested for from the clothing, it is learned that it is pig’s blood, not children’s; hope remains that the girls are still alive. Keller decides to go to Alex’s Aunt to get some information.

She seems like a kind old lady, but she is covering for her nephew. Keller links her husband’s death to a suspect on the news, realizing that she may very well be the person holding the girls hostage. The story takes a major twist.

Not only did Warner Brothers produce a heart-clenching thriller, they also brought out the fiery inner-personalities of Jackman and Gyllenhaal. It is a movie that has an open plot. The viewer cannot predict a thing, making this a must see. It is a classic, edge-of-your-seat thriller. The movie is a great Saturday night watch; and if you haven’t seen it yet, it should be your first choice on a snow day.

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Netflix It! “Abduction”

Kiley Krzyzek

“Abduction” (2011) is an action-packed, modern take on the classic face-on-the-milk-carton scenario.

It starts out like every other teen movie, complete with a guy who has the guts to ride on the hood of a moving car on the way to a party but not enpugh to talk to his crush. This guy takes a quick turn for the worse. At one point, he is forced  to jump into a pool to protect himself from his exploding house.

Nathan, played by Taylor Lautner of the “Twlight” famedom, finds a childhood picture of himself on a missing persons website while working on a school project with his friend Karen, played by Lily Collins. As a result, Nathan starts to question his upbringing. After gaining knowledge that his biological father is part of the CIA, Nathan and Karen find themselves fighting for their lives.

Testosterone fueled scenes, such as dramatic car chases, motorcycle rides and fight scenes are the result of Nathan’s ‘save the girl’ mentality.

Overall, the movie is entertaining but, unfortunately, somewhat predictable. At least there are not vampires in this one.

You can find “Abduction” on Netflix. It can also be found in the seemingly unlimited bank of streaming content for Amazon Prime subscribers. Check out Amazon’s free, student trial offer on this subscription!

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Netflix it! Death Note

By Danny Contreras

What would you do if you had a magic notebook capable of killing anyone whose name is written within? What if that same notebook allowed you to predetermine their death, up to their last second? That’s the premise of the great anime series Death Note. Originally aired between 2006-2007 in Japan, it is based on the eponymous manga (comic book) by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata that was published between 2003 and 2006.

The series follows Light Yagami, a high school senior with genius intelligence, who stumbles upon a death note–a fully black notebook inscribed “Death Note” on its cover with a set of rules inside.

“The person whose name is written in this notebook shall die,” states the first rule. Suspicious of its powers, Light tries it out on a criminal who once held an elementary school hostage. When the criminal dies 40 seconds later, Light begins a descent into oblivion. Kira (“killer” in Japanese), the arrogant and chaotic evil personality of Light, considers the world to be rotten and full of criminals. He then embarks of a genocidal spree, killing off criminals all over in an effort to rid the world of them.

Enter L: the world’s only super detective. Orphaned at a young age, L was sent to Wammy’s House where he underwent extensive intelligence training, helping him to become the world’s best detective. His reputation crosses borders, and he has been credited with solving some of the most puzzling crimes in the world. In the end, L’s personality is very much like Kira’s wherein the only difference lies in their sense of justice.

L and Kira embark on an epic game of cat and mouse to figure out their identity.

Spanning 37 episodes, Death Note can be divided into three different arcs, each revolving around Kira’s effort to relief pressure from himself. L deduces that Kira has access to confidential files within the Japanese police.  Light, whose father is the chief of police, is L’s prime suspect. Each character tries to stay one step ahead of the other, both failing in the process due to their similar way of thinking.

The animation is typical of Japanese anime, but with a more mature tone. It is accentuated by dark settings and the glares of each character’s eye. Unlike other anime, Death Note pays a great deal of attention to detail, especially when it comes to the clothing of its characters. Near the time of publication, the series reflected pop-culture in Japan.

The voice acting is extremely well done. Both the Japanese and the English cast capture an atmosphere of suspense and drama perfectly. While the Japanese version is more original, the English version does very well through voice acting. At times, translation can feel awkward, but it never takes away from the show.

Employing the talents of Yoshihisa Hirano and Hideki Taniuchi, music is specially composed to fit the feeling of the show. If one pays close attention, many of the songs are darker versions of compositions by Chopin and Beethoven, a fact that helps intensify the mood.

Overall, the series is able to be enjoyed by every one–adults and kids alike. The Japanese version can be rowdy at times for younger audiences, but adults should have no problem with it. Unlike more popular series like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z, Death Note lacks the slow storytelling of the aforementioned series, which moves things very quickly–forcing the viewer to pay attention to everything. If you like the anti-heroes, or have a twisted sense of morality. Heck, if you like when the good guys fight the good fight, Death Note is perfect for you.

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Netflix it! Orange Is The New Black

By Danny Contreras

When men go to prison, they usually hear the “don’t drop the soap” joke. But what advice do women receive? Actually, is anyone aware of what happens in a women’s penitentiary? What kind of unwritten rules and constructs exist in a women’s prison? These are the types of questions that Netflix’s original series “Orange is the New Black” asks and answers.

Based on memoirist Piper Kerman’s experience in prison, the eponymous series stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties, and a “former lesbian” who is sentenced to 15 months in prison for transporting drug money at the request of her former lover, Alex Vause, portrayed by Laura Prepon of “That 70s Show” fame.

While the show does not focus solely on Chapman’s character, she is used as vehicle to tell the back-stories of the supporting cast and the reasons they are in jail. Whether it was a crime of passion, or a bad upbringing, it is the contrast between Piper and her supporting characters that truly drives this story forward.

However, there is a third dichotomy and that is the lives of the people close to Piper, like her fiancée, Larry, who is left to live by himself and struggles with the reality that Piper is now a convicted felon.

Yet, most of the comedy comes from Piper and her inability to adapt to her new hostile environment, especially with Alex being one of the inmates. At first the hostility between Alex and Piper is noticeable but it develops into an awkward but adorable sexual tension.

The supporting characters’ stories are varied but all are results of the constructs of modern society. “The Litch” as the prison is known, is a mirror of society, just more violent and less regulated. The women are subjected to a patriarchal prison, where the officers take advantage of their position, abuse the women sexually and physically. Yet, within that patriarchal society, exists a degree of racism and shaming between the women.

The form of storytelling is fairly linear, with intercepting segments that show the backstory of the character they are focused on. It works well in allowing viewers to sympathize with the characters. On a bigger scale, it destroys the idea that all prisoners are bad people, and sometimes their reality adds to the reason of their crime.

For an original series on Netflix, the production value is equivalent to an AMC, HBO of Showtime Series. The series is broadcasted in HD, and the shifting of scenes is fluid, never forced. The lapses in time are done through the shifting of stories, whether it goes from Piper to Larry to the episode’s focus character.

The series has amazing acting as well. Schilling and Prepon have great comedic timing, while Biggs’ awkward humor is still ever present from his “American Pie” days. Kate Mulgrew, who plays Russian immigrant “Red”, is one of the best characters, with a strong and menacing personality but also someone who cares for what she does, allowing viewers to empathize with her. Michelle Hursts also stands out as Claudette, an immigrant from an undisclosed French-speaking country (possibly Haiti), who is a strict but caring long-time tenant at “The Litch.”

Visually, the series is dark; the prison’s life is grey and white and the New England, haunting autumn weather is clearly observable. Yet, the color is found through the interaction of the diverse cast, and their respective culture. The colors are obviously representative of prison life: blue is authority, brown represents newcomers and lack of experience, and orange is self explanatory.

The series is definitely a raunchy one, with sex scenes popping up randomly, depending on the anecdote. There is upper-torso frontal nudity, but nothing too “American History X” or anything that would keep it from being shown in HBO, but be mindful of younger audiences watching it.

Overall, it is surprising that this series is not on a major network. The production is amazing (financed by LionsGate Production) and the cast is professional, engaging and hilarious. The writing is impeccable, with the stories merging extremely well; nothing feels out of place, not even the anecdotes. This is a show that must be seen. With only 13 episodes, signing up for a free trial on Netflix should be enough time to catch up on this great show.