Tag Archives: Netflix It

Netflix It: ‘The Terminal’

By Danny Contreras

Starring Tom Hanks, and directed by Steven Spielberg, The Terminal is my favorite movie of 2004, and should be a must watch in your Netflix queue.

The story centers around Viktor Navorski, a man from the fictitious Krakozhia in Eastern Europe, who comes to JFK on a tourist visit. Rebel troops in his country have begun an armed conflict against the ruling government and officials in the United States prohibit his entrance into the country due to the civil war and lack of sovereignty. Navorski cannot go back to Krakozhia because flights are prohibited from entering a nation in civil war.

Forced to stay at JFK, hilarity ensues when Navorski needs to find food, shelter and money to make his stay in JFK survivable while carrying his luggage and a Planters peanut can. He slowly gains the trust of the workers in the airport; from bag handlers to workers in a contracted company. He also falls in love with Amelia, a flight attendant in a precarious relationship.

The main antagonist is Frank Dixon, the head of Customs and Border Protection who grows annoyed with Navorski’s presence and devises a way of getting him out of the airport. First, he tries to get him to stop getting money from the carts that cost 25 cents. Then he tries to get him to set foot outside the airport so that customs agents can arrest him for being an illegal immigrant. Eventually, through his idiosyncrasies, Navorski begins living comfortably in the airport, begins making more money than Frank Dixon and tries to woo Amelia into falling in love with him.

Inspired by the real story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived in Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, the film provides a look into the life of the people who desperately try to live here in the United States, how homelessness affects everyone and the lives of workers in the airports.

Yes, we get an inside view at those people who handle our bags. The ones we grow paranoid of every time we put something valuable in our luggage. And sometimes, it feels like the movie makes those fears true. But, in the end it shows that they’re just working people, like all of us.

More importantly, we take a look at homelessness and immigration, both issues in this country. That’s the amazing timeliness of The Terminal. Here we’re dealing with immigration, and how typical of an immigrant Navorski is. He’s not a criminal, nor a bad person; he’s a tourist with a goal in mind. He’s just trying to get his goal achieved. He can’t be blamed for what happened at Krakhozia, he’s a victim. It feels as if the story is asking the viewers to reconsider their stance on immigration. In addition to that, we look at homelessness and the extremes people need to face in order to make ends meet. He first works as “luggage” handler, in order to make 25 cents to get some McDonalds. When that fails, he gets an off-the-books job that pays extremely well. But even that is not enough to make a decent life. So, we need to reconsider our views on homeless people. Because, we never know their circumstances.

The movie remains a favorite of mine because the acting is amazing and Spielberg’s vision is genius.

Netflix It: The Troll Hunter

Photo courtesy: SF Norge A/S

By Dalton Silvernail

I will be the first to say that I don’t enjoy subtitled movies. It’s far too difficult for me to sit for an hour or two trying to read everything said while watching the events of the film. That being said, every so often it is worth it. Norway’s The Troll Hunter (2010) by André Øvredal is easily one ,if not the best, example of this.

Set in Norway, primarily taking place in the remote forest and mountains of the country, the movie is shot by a team of college students following a man whose job it is to kill trolls. From deep woodlands to deserted mines to the camping trailer the hunter lives in, the varied locations of the film are fantastically chosen and manipulated to give the appearance of the trolls’ presence within them. The migration from one setting to another also avoids the issue of film monsters being present in one place only; a premise I consider to be a major pit fall in monster films given that if people spend decades looking for the Loch Ness Monster they would do the same for whatever creature the film is portraying.

Taking a page from The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, the visuals and audio of the movie are recorded by the characters. By having college journalism students record the events, they avoid the issues of bad picture and audio quality and poor camera handling. This simple act, of putting control in the hands of people with access to better equipment and at least some training in its use, drastically improves over movies in this format that become two hours of video that looks like it’s from YouTube.

The handling of the details about trolls, as well as the organization keeping them secret, is explained in fairly believable ways, keeping the viewer from having to disregard the film’s events as unrealistic.

Throughout the movie, the film crew slowly gets information from the hunter about the trolls and those keeping them secret. And while certain characteristics of the trolls, such as a potential 1,000 year life span and their ability to smell the blood of Christians more readily than that of other people, are a bit more fanciful than scientific, the explanations for things such as multiple heads and their rather extreme reaction to ultraviolet light are explained in ways far closer to realm of possibility.

As for the secretive TSS (Troll Security Service), I found the choice of refraining from explaining the full extent of their government connection and motivation behind their work to be more than satisfying. For instance, it’s oddly satisfying that when asked why trolls were kept secret, the hunter admitted that he didn’t know exactly why. The lack of focus on the ‘why’ of things left much more time to explore the emotion and humanity of the hunter with a lonely life and a job that he does because he must, not because he wants to. It also forces the film crew to have reason outside of wanting to expose the governments secrets (a rather cliché concept) as they continue putting themselves in danger.

Separately, these elements improve on a plot that is, for the most part, the basic monster movie story. What brings them together and what truly sets this movie above so many others of the same variety is the acting. Every actor portrayed their character so well that they truly appeared more real than acted. The director’s choice to refrain from the standard overly shocked reaction at the existence of the trolls, which is present in monster movies both good and bad, made the characters much more organic.

Overall, this is one of the best films I have ever seen. It may not be the most exciting, have the best graphics, or be a film I’d watch on a regular basis, but it’s an amazing movie with a great plot and some of the most realistic characters I have ever seen. This movie is a fantastic reminder that film was once thought of as a medium of art more than a medium for fame and wealth.

I won’t say it’s the next movie you should watch, or that you’re going to want to watch it over and over, but this is a film in the form of art rather than just entertainment. I will say you should certainly take the time to watch it at some point—much like I would say you should take a break from looking at funny cat pictures online and visit a museum once in a while.

Netflix It: Visioneers

By Peter Stroczkowski

It’s no secret that Zach Galifianakis is hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming. What many of us may not know, however, is that the man did not simply appear out of fat air to play the role of ‘the bearded guy’ in The Hangover, and its miserably underwhelming sequel The Hangover II. As well as a film and television actor, Galifianakis is also a comedian and writer- and lo and behold, he is the star of this hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming independent film!

Visioneers (directed by Jared Drake) is set in a dismal, not-too-distant future wherein George Washington Winsterhammerman (Galifianankis), is a low-level employee of the Jeffers Corporation, a massive conglomerate that runs the United States with its iron fist and ethos of mindless productivity. A common one-fingered gesture now serves as the polite social greeting, coupled with the statement “Jeffers morning to you.” Winsterhammerman leads a productive and comfortable but mundane life until people around him (including fellow employees) begin exploding (yes, literally). Horrified at what is going on and whether he may be at risk, he attempts to get comfort from his loveless marriage and absentee son. Winsterhammerman soon learns from his doctor that the victims of exploding had similar symptoms to him (having dreams, binge-eating, and sexual incapability). When Winsterhammerman’s dreams intensify and become more frequent, he believes his explosion is inevitable. He quickly begins to doubt the path of his marriage, job, diet, and life in general, and attempts to seek true happiness.

The film is equal parts love story, drama, and absurdist comedy, and Galifianakis plays his role to perfection as the pitiable, relatable, and ultimately lovable Winsterhammerman. The film is definitely more subtle and complex than what Galifianankis has become popularized for (no hookers, recreational drug use or wolf pack references here folks), so bros and brodettes looking for more accessible humor should await the release of the third Hangover flick. For those who appreciate eccentricity, charming and unpretentious independent films, or overweight comedians with magnificent beards should give the film a try. At best (or maybe worst), it could leave you questioning the meaning of true happiness.

It’s no secret that Zach Galifianakis is hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming. What many of us may not know, however, is that the man did not simply appear out of fat air to play the role of ‘the bearded guy’ in The Hangover, and its miserably underwhelming sequel The Hangover II. As well as a film and television actor, Galifianakis is also a comedian and writer- and lo and behold, he is the star of this hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming independent film!

Visioneers (directed by Jared drake) is set in a dismal, not-too-distant future wherein George Washington Winsterhammerman (Galifianankis), is a low-level employee of the Jeffers Corporation, a
massive conglomerate that runs the United States with its iron fist and ethos of mindless productivity. A common one-fingered gesture now serves as the polite social greeting, coupled with the
statement “Jeffers morning to you.” Winsterhammerman leads a productive and comfortable, but mundane life until people around him (including fellow employees) begin exploding (yes, literally). Horrified at what is going on and whether he may be at risk, he attempts to get comfort from his loveless marriage and absentee son. George soon learns from his doctor that the victims of exploding had similar symptoms to him (having dreams, binge-eating, and sexual incapability). When George’s dreams intensify and become more frequent, he believes his explosion is inevitable. He quickly begins to doubt the path of his marriage, job, diet, and life in general, and attempts to seek true happiness.

The film is equal parts love s

It’s no secret that Zach Galifianakis is hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming. What many of us may not know, however, is that the man did not simply appear out of fat air to play the role of ‘the bearded guy’ in The Hangover, and its miserably underwhelming sequel The Hangover II. As well as a film and television actor, Galifianakis is also a comedian and writer- and lo and behold, he is the star of this hilarious, bizarre, and oddly charming independent film!

Visioneers (directed by Jared drake) is set in a dismal, not-too-distant future wherein George Washington Winsterhammerman (Galifianankis), is a low-level employee of the Jeffers Corporation, a
massive conglomerate that runs the United States with its iron fist and ethos of mindless productivity. A common one-fingered gesture now serves as the polite social greeting, coupled with the
statement “Jeffers morning to you.” Winsterhammerman leads a productive and comfortable, but mundane life until people around him (including fellow employees) begin exploding (yes, literally). Horrified at what is going on and whether he may be at risk, he attempts to get comfort from his loveless marriage and absentee son. George soon learns from his doctor that the victims of exploding had similar symptoms to him (having dreams, binge-eating, and sexual incapability). When George’s dreams intensify and become more frequent, he believes his explosion is inevitable. He quickly begins to doubt the path of his marriage, job, diet, and life in general, and attempts to seek true happiness.

The film is equal parts love story, drama, and absurdist comedy, and Galifianakis plays his role to perfection as the pitiable, relatable, and ultimately lovable. The film is definitely more subtle and complex than what Galifianankis has become popularized for (no hookers, recreational drug use or wolf pack references here folks), so bros and brodettes looking for more accessible humor should await the release of the third Hangover flick. For those who appreciate eccentricity, charming and unpretentious independent films, or overweight comedians with magnificent beards should give the film a try. At best (or maybe worst), it could leave you questioning the meaning of true happiness.

tory, drama, and absurdist comedy, and Galifianakis plays his role to perfection as the pitiable, relatable, and ultimately lovable. The film is definitely more subtle and complex than what Galifianankis has become popularized for (no hookers, recreational drug use or wolf pack references here folks), so bros and brodettes looking for more accessible humor should await the release of the third Hangover flick. For those who appreciate eccentricity, charming and unpretentious independent films, or overweight comedians with magnificent beards should give the film a try. At best (or maybe worst), it could leave you questioning the meaning of true happiness.

Netflix It: Twelve Monkeys

Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys Source: Universal Pictures

By Dalton Silvernail

If there’s a movie I could try to oversell, it would be Terry Gilliam’s 1995 Twelve Monkeys. A psychological/suspense thriller, Twelve Monkeys is film making at its best.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been forced underground by an airborne virus, criminal James Cole (Bruce Willis) must travel into the past to gather information on “The Army of the 12 Monkeys” and its connection to the virus in exchange for a pardon.

In his first trip Cole is placed in a mental hospital where he meets psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), the lunatic son of a pharmaceutical company CEO. Haunted by a recurring nightmare and increasingly questioning his sanity, Cole struggles in a world he doesn’t understand. Forcing Raily to aid him, he slowly uncovers the connection between the virus, Goines, and “The Army of the Twelve Monkeys.”

Watching this movie made me realize how capable Bruce Willis is of portraying more than a strong, silent hero or wise-cracking, cut loose cop. Willis’ convincing portrayal of a complex and troubled character did not fall short of enthralling. I find it somewhat upsetting that he was not cast in that sort of role more often. And while the plot itself effectively creates great suspense, the slow emotional progression of Willis’ character makes every twist and turn even more mesmerizing.

Not to be outdone, Stowe’s performance astounds differently. Her character evolves from a rational, emotionally stable, psychoanalyst to an impulsive, desperate woman who finds herself believing Cole’s insane narrative of the dystopian future from which he comes. Complementing Willis’ performance, Stowe’s characterization is easily one the better examples of an effective supporting role I have ever seen.

Perhaps the most surprising and entertaining performer is Brad Pitt. Surprising not because I thought of him as an incapable actor, but because it was a role so different from any other of his I have seen. This is all the proof anyone will ever need that Pitt is capable of method acting and portraying demanding characters. It’s rare to find an actor comfortable with becoming a character so detached from reality and even rarer to find someone who masters every subtle, physical detail of the role. Every twitch, nail bite and gesture is so convincing that you wonder if Pitt actually went insane during filming. Even the way he blinks befits the character. While there is little to no emotional or personality development of his character through the film, Pitt knew Giones so well that from his first frame to his last, the character never became jaded.

Every shot, line and set is so befitting of the genre that it’s difficult to believe this film shares a director with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Comparing this film to Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Holy Grail, I can only conclude that Gillium is a man that doesn’t simply understand a particular genre, but rather understands the art of film in its entirety.

Netflix-it: Twelve Monkeys

If there’s a movie I could try to over sell, it would be Terry Gilliam’s 1995 Twelve Monkeys. A psychological/suspense thriller, Twelve Monkeys is film making at its best.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been forced underground by an air born virus, criminal James Cole (Bruce Willis) must travel into the past to gather information on “The Army of the 12 Monkeys” and its connection to the virus in exchange for a pardon.

In his first trip Cole is placed in a mental hospital where he meets psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and the lunatic son of a pharmaceutical company CEO, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Haunted by a recurring nightmare and increasingly questioning his sanity, Cole struggles in a world he doesn’t understand. Forcing Dr. Raily to aid him, he slowly uncovers the connection between the virus, Goines, and The Army of the Twelve Monkeys.

Watching this movie made me realize how capable Bruce Willis is of portraying more than a strong, silent hero or wise-cracking, cut loose cop. Willis’ convincing portrayal of a complex and troubled character did not fall short of enthralling. I find it somewhat upsetting that he was not cast in that sort of role more often. And while the plot itself effectively creates great suspense, the slow emotional progression of Willis’ character makes every twist and turns even more mesmerizing.

Not to be outdone, Madeleine Stowe’s performance astounds differently. Her character evolves from a rational, emotionally stable, psycho-analyst to an impulsive, desperate woman who finds herself believing Cole’s insane narrative of the dystopian future from which he comes. Complementing Willis’ performance, Stowe’s characterization is easily one the better examples of an effective supporting role I have ever seen.

Perhaps the most surprising and entertaining performer is Brad Pitt. Surprising not because I thought of him as an incapable actor, but because it was a role so different from any other of his I have seen. This is all the proof anyone will ever need that Pitt is capable of method acting and portraying demanding characters. It’s rare to find an actor comfortable with becoming a character so detached from reality and even rarer to find someone who masters every subtle, physical detail of the role. Every twitch, nail bite and gesture is so convincing that you wonder

If there’s a movie I could try to over sell, it would be Terry Gilliam’s 1995 Twelve Monkeys. A psychological/suspense thriller, Twelve Monkeys is film making at its best.Set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been forced underground by an air born virus, criminal James Cole (Bruce Willis) must travel into the past to gather information on “The Army of the 12 Monkeys” and its connection to the virus in exchange for a pardon.

In his first trip Cole is placed in a mental hospital where he meets psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and the lunatic son of a pharmaceutical company CEO, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Haunted by a recurring nightmare and increasingly questioning his sanity, Cole struggles in a world he doesn’t understand. Forcing Dr. Raily to aid him, he slowly uncovers the connection between the virus, Goines, and The Army of the Twelve Monkeys.

Watching this movie made me realize how capable Bruce Willis is of portraying more than a strong, silent hero or wise-cracking, cut loose cop. Willis’ convincing portrayal of a complex and troubled character did not fall short of enthralling. I find it somewhat upsetting that he was not cast in that sort of role more often. And while the plot itself effectively creates great suspense, the slow emotional progression of Willis’ character makes every twist and turns even more mesmerizing.

Not to be outdone, Madeleine Stowe’s performance astounds differently. Her character evolves from a rational, emotionally stable, psycho-analyst to an impulsive, desperate woman who finds herself believing Cole’s insane narrative of the dystopian future from which he comes. Complementing Willis’ performance, Stowe’s characterization is easily one the better examples of an effective supporting role I have ever seen.

Perhaps the most surprising and entertaining performer is Brad Pitt. Surprising not because I thought of him as an incapable actor, but because it was a role so different from any other of his I have seen. This is all the proof anyone will ever need that Pitt is capable of method acting and portraying demanding characters. It’s rare to find an actor comfortable with becoming a character so detached from reality and even rarer to find someone who masters every subtle, physical detail of the role. Every twitch, nail bite and gesture is so convincing that you wonder if Pitt actually went insane during filming. Even the way he blinks befits the character. While there is little to no emotional or personality development of his character through the film, Pitt knew Giones so well that from his first frame to his last the character never became jaded.

Every shot, line, and set is so befitting of the genre, that it’s difficult to believe this film shares Gilliam’s previous works include Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Comparing this film to Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the Holy Grail, I can only conclude that Terry Gillium is a man that doesn’t simply understand a particular genre, but rather understands the art of film in its entirety.

if Pitt actually went insane during filming. Even the way he blinks befits the character. While there is little to no emotional or personality development of his character through the film, Pitt knew Giones so well that from his first frame to his last the character never became jaded.

Every shot, line, and set is so befitting of the genre, that it’s difficult to believe this film shares Gilliam’s previous works include Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Comparing this film to Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the Holy Grail, I can only conclude that Terry Gillium is a man that doesn’t simply understand a particular genre, but rather understands the art of film in its entirety.

Netflix It: Doctor Who

By Gunarso Nguyen

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a little weird?”

“They never really stop.”

No other quote in the latest season of Doctor Who fully encapsulates the personality of the latest actor to portray the titular character.  The latest season of the immensely popular British television program Doctor Who, the world’s longest running science fiction television program, originating in 1963, is now available on Netflix.  The show, cancelled in 1989, a temporary hiatus for fans, was rebooted in 2005 under former head writer Russel T. Davies , and is currently in it’s 5th season, which in the continuity of the show is the 30th season.  Matt Smith, the 11th person play the role, is the youngest actor to play the Doctor, the quasi-mysterious 900 year old Time Lord, the last of his kind.  The show, under new direction by head writer Steven Moffat, portrays a frenetic, easily distracted old man trapped in a young man’s body gallivanting across all of time and space with a new pair of companions, Amy Pond, portrayed by the effervescent Karen Gillian and the charmingly insecure Rory Williams, played with lovely earnestness by Arthur Darvill.

This latest season captures a childlike sense of wonder and mystery to the universe, a quality that was considered occasionally lacking by some under Davies’s run.  The first episode of the fifth season, titled The 11th Hour, shows a new Doctor desperately trying to salvage his severely damaged ship, the TARDIS (which is perpetually trapped in the form of a 1960s police box), before crash landing in the front yard of an 11-year-old Amelia Pond, who is praying to Santa for someone to come and fix a mysterious crack in her wall which has been emanating strange voices.  It is a positively fairy-tale like story, full of charm and wonder and the kind of mystery that makes you feel like you’re five years old again and still believe in monsters.

Indeed, one of the recurring themes of the latest series is that monsters are real, and frightening, and that courage, intellect, wit and just a little bit of luck will see you through.  A large part of the charm of the show, in contrast to many American television programs, is a running theme through the life of the series that intellect and romance (in the classical sense) will triumph over adversity, as opposed to brute force and cynicism.  Do yourself a favor and check out the latest season of Doctor Who available on Netflix, and join the rest of your brethren across the pond.

Netflix It: ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’

By Michael Walsh

Donald Sutherland stars in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'

Few science fiction horror films capture the pure essence of paranoia quite like the ones that make a valiant effort to tell the body snatching story first written by Jack Finney.

While Don Siegel’s 1956 version of Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers is quite possibly the best film to tell the story of an alien race that goes about its world domination without metal spaceships and with flowers, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 update holds a much more special place in my heart for a number of reasons.

Although I do love the small-town setting Siegel’s film takes place on, Kaufman moves Finney’s tale of paranoia and identity pandemic to the big city, making the takeover’s initial location San Francisco, a delectable setting for any genre film of the 1970’s.

The film features some serious star power, placing Donald Sutherland in a lead role as a public health worker, Jeff Goldblum as his paranoid friend and Leonard Nimoy as a know-it-all author and psychologist. The female leads are played by the recognizable but lesser-known Brooke Adams and Veronica Cartwright. Between the strength of these five actors, a great sense of paranoia begins circulating early on in the film, as suspicions rise about people who simply aren’t themselves anymore.

What makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers such a treat is sensational sense of paranoia it instills in the viewer, let alone the characters, and how Kaufman so effectively portrays it and pushes it.

“I keep seeing these people, all recognizing each other,” says Adams’ character Elizabeth as she suspects something has changed in San Francisco. “Something is passing between them all, some secret. It’s a conspiracy, I know it.”

This line puts the entire journey in perspective. It summarizes the entire feel and atmosphere of the film. The emotionless duplicate bodies that walk amongst our main characters lack human quality and a sense of uniqueness, yet they communicate so well, almost without a whisper. All human character and identity is lost once the pods take control and birth out a new body absolutely the same as the old one.

Kaufman’s film is delightfully eerie, a true champion of the science fiction horror genre that a very few succeed at. Filming most of its climax at night, Kaufman makes use of shadows and the unknown during running chase scenes across a freaked out San Francisco.

A most remarkable and memorable shot places the camera across the street from our main characters as they try to run away from a group of impostor human beings hoping to change them into emotionless facades of themselves. In this shot, we see giant shadows of the four projected onto the building they run alongside, creating suspense through a simple static shot with a beautiful  eye for aesthetics.

This version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers also has another one-up on Siegel’s already great attempt to tell the story. Forget the technical advancements that allow Kaufman to film his story in grander scope and vibrant color, the team at work here also gets the opportunity to work with some top notch special effects (for the time) that will undoubtedly creep the hell out of you.

There’s a dog with a man’s head, and that’s hardly the epitome of disgusting creature effects Body Snatchers features. The detail of the undead yet dead looking bodies and the pods they grow out of is remarkable to not only the look, but to the touch, and adds a whole heck of a lot to capturing the uneasy feeling the rest of the film strives so hard to attain.

Additionally, Kaufman’s film is home to a few of the most memorable moments in 1970’s cinema. The entire chase sequences is full of emotionless beings screeching at the top of their lungs with unhuman sounds coming from their open mouths and fingers pointing straight at you while they attempt to identify those who haven’t ‘turned’ yet. The film’s ending is shocking and one of the most well-done and well-executed in the genre, something I can only let you discover on your own.

Terrifying for more reasons than just the same old movie scare tactics, Invasion of the Body Snatchers brings forward real concepts of paranoia, that while achieved through unbelievable action of alien infusion via a new species of plant, can be taken as allegory for all sorts of real life paranoia we might have for brain-altering people of certain religions or belief groups.

This story has been told many times, most recently in the Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman film The Invasion. Before that, the story was told on a military base in 1993’s Body Snatchers. And while the original film adaptation is among the era’s most remarkable science fiction films, the 1978 Kaufman production has that extra push that allows the film to most certainly appeal to all those interested in otherworldly exploration.

Netflix It: ‘A Serious Man’

By Nicholas Proch

Michael Stuhlbarg. Many of us didn’t know that name before he appeared on Boardwalk Empire. Before he played Arnold Rothstein on the HBO series, who famously rigged the 1919 world series while betting on the Chicago White Sox, now dubbed the ‘Black Sox’, he had only landed minor roles.

It was his work in A Serious Man that opened the door for Stuhlbarg to take larger roles.

The 2009 film, written and directed by the heralded Coen brothers [No Country for Old Men, Fargo], is another masterpiece in the eyes of those who really work to understand their dark level of comedy.

Stuhlbarg, who plays lead character Larry Gopnik, nails it. He’s a physics professor in Minnesota in 1967, who happens to be a very tight-wound jew. Gopnik is nervous, unsure and now being left by his wife for the much older Sy Albeman.

His life unfolds on the screen during the two hour piece. Gopnik’s son is experimenting with drugs while he’s supposed to be getting ready for his bar-mitzvah, his brother Arthur (played by Richard Kind) is an unwanted house guest who is convinced that he has found the key to the universe through his math and he is being forced out of him home by his wife and Sy. It’s these elements, and many more, that make this film a pleasure to watch.

You can’t say enough about the direction from the Coen brothers. They have a complete vision for their work, which they carry out to the fullest. There are scenes in which Gopnik is searching for the answer to his troubles from his faith. The level of awkwardness created between the rabbi and Gopnik is captured through clever editing and strong flashbacks and cut scenes.

A ‘get’. What is a ‘get’? Before you watch this film you might have no idea what a ‘get’ is. It’s a recurring plot device which shows up throughout the movie. Sy Ableman and Judith Gopnik, are asking Larry for a ‘get’. ‘Get’. ‘Get’. ‘Get.’ It’s mentioned in the film enough times to make you nauseated. But what is it? That’s the humor in it. It’s never fully explained to Gopnik, making your time spent watching even more frustrating.

This frustration is what should make you want to watch this movie. It’s not frustrating in the sense that you’re going to get pissed off, but in the sense that you’ll be grabbing your sides as you feel bad for Gopnik and his trail of misfortunes.

One of the things that the Coen brothers do especially well in all their films are their written dialogues. Every line seems unplanned and surprising, but this is only due the combination of the script and talented actors. There are long scenes which rely on conversations and nothing else. There is sometimes no movement and no action, but it works. However, what works well is the book ends to these dialogue-heavy scenes. They’re entertaining, fast and they often have kick-ass 60’s music playing.

If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers and their work, then you should absolutely check out A Serious Man. It’s a strong effort from the pair that doesn’t get enough attention. That’s surprisingly simple considering this work is sandwiched by No Country for Old Men and True Grit.

Netflix It: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare

By Max Kyburz

The fourth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia featured an episode in which Rob McElhenney unveils Project Badass, a series of ill-fated stunts such as driving dirtbikes sloppily into propped up mattresses and falling off roofs onto mattresses (they play a major role). Despite his evident misfires, he is stoked on how “bad-ass” it makes him look. Had this self-confidence been absent, the gag would have fallen flat.

Part of what made this moment so memorable is its perfectly chosen soundtrack: Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” For those who spent most of their young adulthood teasing their hair and daydreaming about Tawny Kitaen dry-humping their Pinto, this was a song to get behind. It was a song for men, and those who believed in it felt their testosterone levels reach 11. But in reality, it was crap. Pretty much all hair-metal was, which is why it’s still so enjoyable. Whitesnake is undoubtedly a bad band, but when that song plays I can’t help but to croon along.

The point is, few things tickle me more than watching failed attempts at “being a bad-ass.” Perhaps no other person made a career out of this than Jon Mikl Thor. Seek out his appearance on Merv Griffin in 1976 and see what I mean: this Canadian beefcake is not only flexing his muscles and vocal cords, but also makes a heroic attempt to blow up a balloon until it looks like Octomom’s 7-month pregnant belly. The best part being that Thor thought people actually admired it. People did end up liking it, but for all the wrong reasons.

As an imitation of the famous Marvel superhero of the same name, Thor is a downright embarrassment. Sword in one hand, microphone in the other, Thor has sung tales of Ragnarok and being a rock soldier for over twenty years. Though now he looks like the dude from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, his glory days allowed the prettiest blonde bangs in the cock rock biz. He was a life-size Singin’ He-Man action figure.

Since his badassery couldn’t have possibly just be portrayed through records and TV appearances, Thor set out to conquer the film industry. In 1986 he starred in Zombie Nightmare, a would-be horror/zombie flick costarring Adam West that found its final resting place (and subsequent resurrection) in MST3K hell. Then along came Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare in 1987. Produced and penned by Thor himself, the film was a $100,000 vanity plate. Watch and see what I mean.

RnRNM is a 4 minute music video ballooned up to 83 minutes. Here’s the premise: John Triton (played by Thor, as if the pompous name didn’t give it away) cheerfully leads his band the Tritonz to the countryside of Canada, which he claims is a mecca of culture and art. Of course, none of that can be seen, since the entire film takes place in a barn/country house. (This movie’s alternate title is The Edge of Hell. If one of Thor’s goals was to create an anti-travelogue, he’s certainly succeeded). Along with their manager, the band brings along their bimbo girlfriends, who seem to exist for two reasons: be constantly horny and wear clothing that allows their hardened nipples to break through.

Oops, I forgot to mention the obligatory horror movie prologue! The house (that would later become the shrine of Canadian art and culture) used to be inhabited by a small family that was consumed by an oven-dwelling demon! Ten years later, it seems to have been awaken by the breast-beating rock of John and his merry men of metal. They’re there to record an album, and the first scene in which they record is absolute gold. The recording of the anthem “We Live To Rock” is a producer’s wet dream: the band performs live, all decked out, and require only one take. Nobody seems to take into account the fact that midway through the song, the film begins to melt, causing the vocals to sound demonic and the scene to look Lynchian. No disc issues, no nothing. It’s really in the very film itself. (The alternate title is The Edge of Hell. If Thor is trying to reveal his alter ego as Satan, he’s certainly succeeded.)

After a series of monstrous possessions, each member of the Triton party gets picked off one by one. Most of it happens because the women somehow turn into blood-thirsty succubi donning Party City masks. Or are they merely clones turning others into clones? Or is the whole thing an illusion? It’s never really explained, but the film’s focus is less on storytelling than it is on Thor’s greased up muscles and ass (yes, it’s there). The film is poorly edited, horribly acted (one actor wielding the worst British/Australian accent in history) and populated by horror monsters that would make John Carpenter weep. But that’s OK, because in the final “twist,” Thor reveals himself to be the most athletic guy at the local live-action RPG. Surprise, surprise.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare is Jon Mikl Thor’s Project Badass. His sincerity comes through more prominently than his overabundance of eyeliner. Many times you’ll question whether or not Thor is being supremely tongue in cheek (even I still can’t quite figure it out), but ultimately it doesn’t stop it from being the worst (and thereby best) 80s metal/horror flick hybrid. Crack a few open, and enjoy.

Netflix It: ‘Pulling’

By Jason Cunningham

During the course of its two seasons and hour-long special, BBC Three’s Pulling brought viewers the complexities of ending a long term relationship and beginning a new single life with edgy laughs and smart writing. The show focuses on 30-year-old Donna, an incredibly selfish and impossibly likable character who naively stumbles through love. She’s very easy to root for.

Played by Sharon Horgan, who along with Dennis Kelly created and wrote the show, Donna is relatable and warm, yet consistently frustrating as she tries to escape her mundane unhappiness in everyday life. She suffers from a painful case of boredom that’s constantly itching at her nerves.

We meet Donna in bed with her finance Karl, played by Caven Clerkin. She’s giving him a handjob. This act is as comically depressing as it is true to the nature of the waterboarding-like relationship that Donna feels stuck in. Donna doesn’t notice when Karl climaxes and quickly runs off to get ready for her day after he announces that he’s “finished” in a way that clings to the severe awkwardness British humor can deliver. He cleans himself off with a leaf from the house plant at their bedside. After being together for five years, things have gotten stale for these two.

From that very first scene, Pulling pulls the audience into a world of disappointment in both endings and beginnings. During a drunken euphoria near the end of what started as a rocky bachelorette party Donna decides that she can’t go through with her approaching marriage to Karl.

After the break, Donna moves in with her two her two closest friends Karen and Louise. This begins the trio’s adventures in the dating world. Karen, played by Tanya Franks, is a biting, self-destructive alcoholic primary school teacher who jumps from man to man like a chronic overeater shovels through their food options at a buffet. Louise on the other hand is a traditional offbeat misfit who fights a life of disappointment after disappointment with proud optimism and a cheery smile. She often offers undeserved comfort to her friends and counteracts Karen’s mostly vile behavior with grace.

Each roommate plays a distinct role in their ‘Three Musketeers’ dating scene chemistry. On a couple of occasions, this formula excludes the “All for one, and one for all” mentality and, for the most part, each character is consumed with their respective romantic pursuits. Donna’s luck in finding love after Karl is a constant emotional tug of war between her lingering feelings for Karl, inconsistency in dating standards and wavering disappointment with the dating world. Karen doesn’t really care who she’s with as long as he’s willing to have sex and she seems to do the best with men who are as equally self-destructive and lewd as she is. Louise is desperate and on occasion displays stalker-like tendencies while going after the men she desires. Each approach to love provides a good reason to laugh during most episodes while never really suffering from the dullness that comes along with being character defining.

Pulling delivers great insight into modern dating, misguided feelings and the struggles of boredom and loneliness. It also also showcases the devastating and empowering results that can occur after a long term relationship meets its end. Witty writing and impeccable delivery make this British comedy both hysterical and intelligent. Series 1 and 2 of Pulling and its series finale hour-long special are currently available for instant streaming through Netflix and through gaming systems for subscribers as well as for DVD queues.

Netflix It: ‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’

By Michael Walsh

Vincent Cassel furthered his notoriety among North American audiences in 2010 with his incredible performance in the Oscar-nominated Black Swan. While his exploding performance wasn’t nominated for an award itself, it could have been.

Before he was dancing alongside Natalie Portman in Darran Aronofsky’s latest, Cassel was one of France’s hottest upcoming actors. Performances in heralded films such as 1995’s minimalistic La Haine and 2002’s intense Irreversible cemented Cassel among the most brightest young actors in the business, a title he oddly enough regains with his arrival to North America with appearances in the second and third films in the Ocean’s series and a major role in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, where the French-born actor gave a rousing performance alongside the Oscar-nominated Viggo Mortensen.

You might wonder why I speak so much of one actor in Mesrine: Killer Instinct, the first of two films about well-known French gangster Jacques Mesrine.

Cassel, who plays the titular gangster, does so with an explosive energy and fire unseen of the genre in years. His performance is the most important aspect of the entire film, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that it’s at heart a bio-pic about the bank-robbing and murderer that Mesrine was.

Jean-François Richet’s film is a good one itself. It breathes to life the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, who made gangsters priority number one through a stretch of filmmaking in the 1960’s and 1970’s in France. Like Melville, Richet’s film focuses it’s eyes on a particular gangster and the world exploding around him. Richet isn’t Melville, and that’s clear by the film’s unbalance between being a character study and action, something Melville had a clear grip on in his best-regarded films Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rogue.

Richet’s film instead relies heavily on Cassel’s worthwhile performance. The arcing story covers a lot of ground in a little time, despite having the life story of Mesrine spread over two films (part two is subtitled Public Enemy #1). Richet may jump from a scene of consequence for Mesrine – a murder, a robbery, something that leads to his next prison sentence. The painful prison aspects of the film are well-covered, but the film quickly jumps to a future life where Mesrine swears crime away to live happily ever after with his wife and children.

But the erratic nature of the film’s story-telling ability is nothing to worry about when it comes to turning the film on. It’s still a well-told vision of Mesrine, highlighted by high-octane action sequences, but defined by Cassel’s explosive performance of moral debauchery and elevated crime. It’s an intense portrayal of a man who hardly has any moral ambiguity and Cassel explores it intensely and well.

Richet’s film also gently straddles the border between the slight moral ambiguity found inside Mesrine’s mind. When he turns ‘soft’ and becomes a family man, there’s an open possibility that allows the viewer to explore the hardened criminal’s other side. But note the title of the film: it won’t last long. Mesrine, proven by Cassel’s beyond great performance, finds the killer instinct inside himself to accurately portray the lifestyle of Mesrine.

Style abound, Richet’s film fits within the classic lexicon of French gangster films. While it won’t be a classic on Melville’s level and doesn’t exactly have the best narrative balance, Mesrine: Killer Instinct is a worthwhile film in a revived genre.