Category Archives: Netflix It

Netflix it: Ripley

By Kaitlin Lyle

“If I could just go back… if I could rub everything out… starting with myself,” And so, with that soft-spoken opening line, the cinematic journey of Ripley begins into the mesmerizing world of intrigue, murder, and a darkly perfected talent at impersonation.

In this 1999 psychological thriller, director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) brings Patricia Highsmith’s cat-and-mouse novel to great heights as it captivates the viewer from the big screen with each twist and turn. A bespectacled Matt Damon stars as title character Tom Ripley, a struggling young sociopath who goes by the melancholy belief that it is better “to be a fake somebody than a real nobody”.

When Tom is mistaken to be of higher class, he receives the opportunity of a lifetime. The wealthy Herbert Greenleaf bribes him to travel to Italy in order to persuade his wayward son Dickie (Jude Law) to return home. From Tom’s arrival into Italy to his budding friendship with Dickie, he finds himself enraptured into Dickie’s world, a dazzling polar opposite to that of Ripley’s. As their friendship grows, it becomes clear that Dickie possesses everything that Tom desires, the unpredictable freestyle of both music and life. A pleasing contrast to Tom’s classical naïveté. The mischievous saxophonist Dickie has a dizzying hold over money, power, and the respect and adoration of men and women alike; and as Tom becomes more accustomed to the luxuriant existence, he increasingly becomes less willing to let go of it.

Eventually, Dickie tires of their friendship, berating Tom for being a leech, and tragedy strikes as Tom’s hurt gives way to anger. Now, with the prodigal son out of the way, Tom’s talents for telling lies and impersonating “practically anybody” comes into play as he assumes Dickie’s identity, and from that point on, the audience becomes hooked into a deceptive whirlwind.

Throughout the characters’ journey to uncover the mystery, the audience is given a scenic view of Italy’s cultural hearths and celebrations, from Mongibello to Venice. The film’s soundtrack presents itself as a reflection of three different personalities: the exotic vibrancies of the Italian culture, the hauntingly beautiful melodies of Ripley’s piano, and the uplifting jazz that once was Dickie’s identity.

The cast themselves shine in their roles as though they knew their characters all along: Gwyneth Paltrow as Dickie’s fiancé, Marge; the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as callous best friend, Freddie Miles; and Cate Blanchett as zealous debutante Meredith- all of whom unknowingly play a part in the tangled web of lies spun by Tom himself.

While it’s quite clear that Tom is far from being the hero of the film, you’ll find yourself torn between sitting back to watch as he tries to untangle himself from one of his many lies and breathing a sigh of relief when he finally manages to free himself from another moment of suspense. Even while watching him do everything in his power (murder included) to not be found out, you can’t help but admire his knack for saying the right words to get him in the clear, nor can you help but sympathize as his sad mantra renders him incapable of truly connecting with another being.

Overall, if you are looking to put a dark twist into your evening with a well-known cast and a thrill for duplicity, this film comes with high recommendations.

Netflix it: Archer

By Joshua Peck

One of my personal favorite TV shows to “binge watch” on Netflix is Archer.

A parody of most conventional spy shows, it features a series of raunchy one-liners. The show never fails to make me laugh out loud. What’s most remarkable about the show is it’s extensive usage of references, both in the form of satire as well as parody.

The show thrives on it’s ability to replace the conventional with the absurd and to simply poke fun at certain institutions we take for granted. Having said that, much of the absurdity exists in the inclusion of potentially former Nazi scientists, indifferent matriarchal figures or the ever-changing plot line followed throughout the seasons.

What’s more is the inclusion of satire, both towards the generic portrayal of spies and their happenings on the big screen, as well as the relationship between society and spy organizations themselves. For instance, the entrance to their classified headquarters is accessed through your run-of-the-mill laundromat downstairs. As a refrain throughout the series, Archer uses his status as an international spy to help him when picking up members of the opposite sex, primarily when he’s had a little bit much to drink.

Through its many varied parodies the show boldly addresses taboo issues such as alcoholism, fatherlessness and vain promiscuity, all while making you laugh and granting you a level of perspective you might not otherwise have thought of.

One of my personal favorite examples of this is returned to time and time again: as Archer embodies the notion of being a “child in a man’s body,” he repeatedly behaves in particularly poignant ways only as a means to an end, both with women and with his career. Archer has an undying addiction to instant gratification and it permeates his every action, small or large.

But where does most of Archer’s meandering stem from? Well, the answer can undoubtedly be argued as rooted in his mother’s eccentric behaviors and his lack of a real father figure. His mother Malory Archer, played by Jessica Walters, whose voice some of you might recognize as being that of Lucille Bluth in the show Arrested Development. Malory serves to really display the roots of Archer’s negative projections, not only is she even more of an alcoholic than Archer, which is saying a lot, but she also appears just as promiscuous, sometimes uncomfortably so.

Contrary to Archer’s immaturity, his opposite and often partner — both in the field and sometimes romantically — Lana Kane, as voiced by Aisha Tyler, is the embodiment of female empowerment. As an African American spy, she is often faced with discrimination both by her peers and the people shooting at her; however, she remains to be one of the arguably strongest characters throughout the series both in and out of their shared workplace.

First premiering in January 2010, the show created by Adam Reed, has seen largely positive reviews for it’s witty dialogue and hilarious absurdities. Within it’s first year of airing, H. Jon Benjamin, voice-actor for Archer, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance. Similarly, as of 2014 the show received a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

If there would be any television show featured on Netflix that I could recommend, Archer is undoubtedly be it!

Netflix It: Double Indemity

by Kaitlin Lyle

“Murder’s never perfect; always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it’s usually sooner,” said Barton Keyes in the 1944 award-winning noir film “Double Indemnity”.

“Double Indemnity” director, Billy Wilder, guides his audience in unveiling a murder mystery centered on the life and lies of an insurance salesman. The cinematic crossing begins as a memorandum narrating the story of protagonist Walter Neff played by Fred MacMurray, who has killed “for money and for a woman” and received neither.

Upon Walter’s first visit to the Dietrichson household, he arrives with the intention of discussing auto insurance only to fall for Dietrichson’s irresistible wife, Phyllis, who is played to sinister perfection by Barbara Stanwyck.

In her flirtations with Walter, Phyllis begins to take interest in the company’s policy for accident insurance, particularly with the double indemnity clause: in the case of her husband’s death, she will receive his money doubled under the policy.

Phyllis then seduces Walter into helping her concoct a murder, and Walter’s admiration mixed with the thrill of fooling his beloved insurance system overthrows his morality. With meticulous craft, having calculated all possibilities “straight down the line,” the couple succeeds in carrying out the murder and awaits their seemingly controlled fate: Phyllis to receive her money and Walter to be with her.

As the aftermath of the murder pans out, Walter’s world revolves underneath the stifling suspicion of analytical claims manager, Barton Keyes. He begins to realize that the woman he loves is not who she appears to be. In keeping face under surveillance, Walter then becomes acquainted with the haunting realization that, once a duo commits a crime, they remain stuck together until the end of the line, with “the last stop at the cemetery”.

One key characteristic that demonstrates cinematic excellence is a film’s ability to enrapture its audience with its story and to tease out emotions once the viewer begins to follow the plot. “Double Indemnity,” in all of its plot twists and shady passages, manages to achieve this characteristic: a flawless accomplishment within a story of flawed characters. The cast in its entirety thrive in their roles as though they have each clue to the mystery at their fingertips. Each of the story’s scenarios succeeds in carefully coaxing out human reactions and emotions from the audience. A chill runs down one’s spine as we witness Dietrichson unknowingly sign away his life with Walter and Phyllis watching overhead; a sharp inhale is taken throughout each step of the crime; and an impending dread settles in our chests whenever Keyes draws closer to the truth. Though Walter was the one to enact the “perfect crime,” the human side of us exhales painfully as he later finds himself to be a marionette under the false pretense of love.

Following every seam that keeps the game afoot, “Double Indemnity” has gone beyond the call of the film noir genre to earn its place in the American Film Institutes’ Top 100. The film is enhanced with memorably sharp dialogue, ominous compositions and an overwhelming inscrutability that sends a cloud over this murderous anti-love story.

Netflix it: Without a Paddle

by Kaitlin Lyle

“Without a Paddle” succeeds in satisfying the basic elements to a hilarious story: take a trio of idiots, put them in the middle of nowhere to fend for their lives and sit back and enjoy the show.

Childhood friends Jerry, Tom, Billy and Dan have dreamed about searching for the lost treasure of the legendary epithet D.B. Cooper, who disappeared into the wilderness after jumping from a hijacked aircraft with the sum of $200,000.

Following graduation, each of them set off to find their lives, only to reunite when Billy is killed in a parasailing accident. After the funeral, the remaining three explore their old tree house to find that Billy has left behind the adventure that they had neglected to carry out as a group. Having pinpointed the coordinates and carefully researched the story, the late voyager Billy has left them a map that will ultimately lead them to finding Cooper’s missing treasure.

Determined to have one last great adventure in memory of their friend, they set off on a canoeing trip with Billy’s map in hand; and from that moment on, the trip begins spelling out disaster in every way possible.

​Before the “Hangover” franchise found its way onto the big screen, the trio of “Without a Paddle” manages to present uproarious, yet relatable characters as they navigate through the setbacks posed by the great outdoors.

Through their side-splitting dialogue and individual quirks, each of the actors shine in offering a range of three unique characters. Matthew Lillard’s Jerry is a perpetual dreamer, the closest friend to the late Billy, who prefers living in the moment over the responsibilities of reality. Dax Shepard’s rebel Tom is a Harley-riding wiseass with an adventure streak that matches his quick tongue in defying all limits. Seth Green’s doctor Dan is especially lovable as the redheaded hypochondriac who tags along for the ride all while citing his fears, much to the amusement of his friends.

When put together, each actor’s personality and brand of humor serves as a set-up that complements the others’ throughout the duration of the film. The comedy comes with an impressive soundtrack made up of relatively unknown musicians — 38 Special, Blind Melon, Faces — that sets the pace for an epic adventure of outrageous proportions.

The jokes range from gross-out laughter to quips that generate a double-take, and the dialogue is crafted to match the whims of daily life to unbelievable situations for a guaranteed chuckle every couple of minutes.

One particularly memorable scene involves finding ways to survive a grizzly bear attack that ends with the mother bear “adopting” Dan as her cub, much to his terror and our amusement.

From escaping violent pot farmers to stumbling upon a pair of bodacious tree hippies, by film’s end, the trio not only finds themselves caught in the midst of an adventure worth talking about, but also in the understanding of both life’s value and the triumph of childhood friendship.

With its comically crafted dialogue and characters to bring its written laughter to life, “Without a Paddle” presents itself to Netflix viewers as a great film recommendation as well as clear instructions on what to avoid doing on a camping trip.

Netflix it: Fatal Attraction

by Kaitlin Lyle

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but what happens when there’s two women?

Director Adrian Lynne has been known particularly for his enraptured focus on infidelity and its consequences on our loved ones. For “Fatal Attraction”, he concocts a gripping mixture of one man’s adultery, an affair’s bold sexuality, and the psychological terror that is a scorned woman at her worst.

In this steamy 80’s thriller, successful lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has everything going for him: an excellent career, a beautiful family and a new house in the country. In other words, he has no reason whatsoever to start an affair.

When devoted wife Beth (Anne Archer) leaves town with their daughter for the weekend, Dan’s attempt to concentrate on work leads to catching the eye of charismatic associate Alex Forrest (Glenn Close).

An attraction sparks between the two as they chat over dinner, and in spite of their awareness of Dan’s marriage, a weekend of daring trysts ensues.

Following the weekend, Dan returns home where he assumes that life will go back to normal, though Alex’s growing attachment has yet to fade. Over time her desperation begins to spiral out of control as she stalks Dan and his family in her mission to show that she’s “not going to be ignored”. Through Alex’s efforts to make Dan’s life a living hell, Dan learns that his passing indiscretion carries a toll that he will regret for the rest of his life.

All things considered, “Fatal Attraction” sets free a tumultuous adrenaline rush in presenting a story where extramarital affairs and revenge go hand in hand.

The film pays a fond tribute to the opera “Madame Butterfly” as a bond for the lovers, but then is gently chilled once the psychosis sets in. Above all, the film comes with superb character development that gives the audience realistic individuals as well as a struggle in deciding where they should place their sympathy.

The intensity of Michael Douglas’ acting surfaces as the leading man, a smoldering role that offers us schadenfreude to relish as well as hope for his survival. Though it is through Dan’s supreme selfishness that his family is put into danger, we still reserve fear for him as we watch him become the subject of startling vengeance.

Alex’s character is brought to heart-pounding dimensions by Glenn Close in one of her greatest, if not most daring, roles. From first glance to final call, the audience tracks each of her movements with the increasing horror that there’s something lethal lying beneath the surface. As a spurned lover, we can’t help but sympathize with her whenever she is ignored by Dan, who strives to cut strings between them without accepting responsibility for his actions. And then the “bunny boiler” arrives onscreen for the family to unveil, and our sympathy becomes strained in watching the shoe drop to deadlier depths.

Anne Archer’s character Beth undertakes a slow transformation from loving wife to something much stronger in protecting her family from her husband’s psychotic lover. It is almost as though the knowledge of his cheating has suctioned out the naïve housewife routine and replaced it with a sharper edge, especially when she gives Alex a warning of her own.

Despite its limited awards among prestigious nominations, “Fatal Attraction” continues its notorious success in scaring married men towards faithfulness; as a thriller, it has been referenced throughout pop culture over the years, even earning a place as #59 of “Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments”.

As a revenge fantasy flick for any woman who has been rejected and has sought blood, this makes for an exceptional Netflix viewing.

Netflix It!: The League

by Ashley Arnesen

Good news for all the guys out there: you can finally watch football with your girlfriend even if she still has no idea what’s going on. And, good news for all the ladies out there: you can stop pretending you have any idea what’s going on!
Guys, after endless hours of trying to explain the rules, the history, the players’ positions, and well whatever else there is (because I still have no idea), you can just watch, The League. All you have to do is log into Netflix. Simple, right?


Finally, a TV show about football and fantasy football where you don’t need to know a thing about either to watch it. Let’s face it ladies, the only reason we pretend to like football is because it’s an excuse to have a beer and look at guys’ butts. Am I right? I’m right. So guys, when we start jumping up and down with you because someone made a touchdown, we’re probably just really excited that we saw that cute guy’s butt in that tight spandex. Sorry, bro. But, if you want to watch The League, that’s cool. We’re down to actually watch something that isn’t all hearts and drama all the time, we like comedy too.
For anyone who hasn’t seen this show before, go watch it while I judge you from a distance. No, it’s not all about football; it’s about humiliating your friends, doing a lot of trash talking and realizing you hate some of your friends but you hang out with them anyways.
So, ladies if you’re looking for that fall boyfriend with his Patagonia vest, driving mocs and willing to do a no-shave-November, he better at least watch The League. 

Netflix It!: “Drop Dead Diva”

by Larry Clark

Deb was a high fashion model with everything going for her. Perfect home, perfect boyfriend, great family and friends, but this all gets flipped upside down when tragedy strikes.

Deb ends up in a car crash and dies, going straight to heaven where she ends up at the desk of an angel whose name we learn to be Fred. Fred tells Deb that she’s a unique case, in that she’s neither good nor a bad — a decent person, just selfish.

Deb in a fit of hysterics hits the “return” key, sending her not only back to earth, but back to earth in the body of Jane Bingum, a plus-sized attorney at law and all-in-all the opposite of Deb. Now the personality of Deb has to figure out how to navigate the scholastic world of law, while somehow balancing Jane and being true to herself.

The story moves on from here to follow the life of Jane Bingum and her new life as a lawyer. Jane quickly regains a friend in Stacey, Deb’s best friend who is also a model and now roommate, and our friend Fred who is now Jane’s guardian angel. With her friends, Jane now has the footing to go on and handle her life as a lawyer at a high profile law firm.

The show follows a fairly consistent format that adds to an over arching story line. Jane will cover a case whether pro-bono or for her law firm, and then another case will be taken up by another lawyer within the firm as well. These cases follow a story of Jane, her fellow lawyers and their clients; however, all the stories tie into the lives of these lawyers and teach them valuable lessons about life and themselves.

“Drop Dead Diva” is not only a funny and witty lifetime show, but also a heartwarming and wrenching drama/comedy. The show began its run in the summer of 2009 and just ended its final season in 2014 and was recently added to Netflix with all five seasons.

“Drop Dead Diva” aims to leave viewers feeling warm-hearted, but a bit teary eyed with every episode, and certainly achieves that aim — the comedy of a ditzy blonde trying to learn her way through the legal world mixed with the sadness of Deb having to leave her old life behind.

Fortunately, the show leaves each episode as individualized from the previous episode, only with a few over arching story lines. This show is perfect for someone who only has time to watch one or two episodes, and then come back to the show.

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.