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Tag: Netflix

Editorials

Share the Love in Lockdown

April 11, 2020
Watching Online with Friends during lockdown [Source: The Daily Dot]

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, many film fans have been missing the communal experience of going to the cinema. There’s just something about watching a story unfold with other people that enhances the experience. Well, many have decided to find other ways of connecting with the outside world in order to enjoy watching the latest digital releases and old favourites. So today we’re going to look at the various ways you can beat the lockdown blues and enjoy the cinema experience while in self-isolation.

Interacting on Social Media and YouTube

Sometimes the best motivation to give something a watch is knowing that others will be watching the same thing. Well over the past few weeks various social media sites and platforms like YouTube have presented opportunities for you to give a film a watch and interact with the wider community.

Several big names have encouraged the world to check out certain titles on Twitter. Jared Leto started his own tweet along cinema club with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And director James Gunn recently joined in with a #QuarantineWatchParty of Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile, on Facebook, groups like Celluloid Screams have used the Watch Party function to host their own movie marathons. Here the festival programmers provided intros for several horror films encouraging people to binge-watch all of them in a single day.

Also, platforms like YouTube have proven a great place for watch parties to be hosted. Actor Riz Ahmed recently hosted a live stream on the platform where he provided commentary on the film Four Lions along with the films other actors Kayvan Novak & Nigel Lindsay.

The appeal of these online events comes from knowing that you are watching these titles along with others. And that you are able to engage and interact with them. So keep an eye open for similar events coming up on these platforms. Or why not host your own?

Watching movies on the laptop
There are plenty of interaction opportunities just waiting for you online [Source Liveabout.com]

3rd Party Applications and Add Ons

There are also several applications and add ons you can use to interact with others while watching films. Video and voice chat applications like Skype, Messenger Video Call and Discord allow you to connect with friends and chat along together while watching something.

But there are also apps that allow simultaneous viewing of films with your friends. For example the Netflix Party application for Google Chrome. This app allows you and several friends to watch and text chat over the same show/movie on Netflix at the same time. However, it’s currently only available on Chrome. Other resources like Metastream also offer similar services. Finally, there are services like Kast. This application works on Windows and Mac; it allows you to connect with several other people and stream your computer screen to them. Allowing you all to sit back and watch a movie on your platform of choice.

These apps and add ons provide a great way to Netflix and chill with your friends while in lockdown.

Watch Netflix with friends by using some of the apps mentioned above [Source: Tech Viral]

Festivals

Finally, because many film festivals have had to cancel physical screenings, several festivals including the upcoming SXSW festival in America and Visions du Réel 2020 in Switzerland have opted to showcase their films and other content on the internet. Releasing films through subscription services or websites, hosting interviews and performing masterclasses online. Which when coupled with the social media and connective opportunities mentioned above will allow the public to remain in touch with film culture. So be sure to keep an eye out for more opportunities like this in the future.

Conclusion

With all these options provided by 3rd party companies and online platforms, we have ample opportunity to connect together and still enjoy a social media experience during the lockdown.

With many filmmakers and stars providing opportunities for socialization the community has a great opportunity to interact with each other as well as creatives in the industry. Allowing us to gain extra insight into films and perhaps giving us some inspiration to make something for ourselves. And while it may not be the same as the cinematic experience, these apps and events will help us stay in touch. As well as allowing us to continue experiencing great movie moments with others.

Also Read: The Most Important Cinema In The World (To Me)

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Editorials

Coronavirus: How It’s Affected The Film Industry (Part Two)

April 3, 2020
Vue Cinema Coronavirus Closed

As large portions of the world go into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many businesses have been left to fend for themselves. With many films delayed and production halted, people in the industry are having to fend for themselves.

No Films means no work

Netflix Headquaters
Netflix has pledged a $100 Million relief fund (credit: John G Mabanglo/EPA/Shutterstock)

As people self isolate and socially distance themselves, many “non-essential” industries have completely shut down for the time being. With no one having a good estimate of how long this situation will last, this has left many people out of work indefinitely. The people hit hardest by this decision are the ones at the bottom. Many Crew, Freelancers, and cinema staff have themselves without a job, it’s hard to make a film from home!

While many people working in pre and post-production are able to at least do some work from home, actors, camera, lighting, sound crews are all having to fend for themselves. Much of the industry revolves around freelance work, with individuals often going from one job to another and few jobs being permanent. Fortunately, some companies, like Netflix, have set up hardship funds, as have the BFI.

The main issue is the amount of freelancers, as they are self-employed, if a job is cancelled they have no support, although the UK Government has stepped in. In Hollywood, it’s estimated around 120,000 people are out of work, while in the UK the number is closer to 50,000. This situation is different for everyone, as some freelancers will have worked more than others and be in better conditions to take a hit. As the pandemic has spread across the globe, many shoots have been delayed before lockdowns began. This has caused concern, as many of the measures only apply to workers affected by having work cancelled from March, while many jobs have been cancelled well before then. Additionally, as most of these are freelancers, there is no furlough option.

However the longer this goes on the more difficult it will be for freelancers to survive. When “normality” finally does return, the job hunt will likely be even more competitive than it already is, as everyone looks to secure work. It is an incredibly difficult industry to get in with very little long term employment. With the whole industry looking for work at the same time, it will likely be very difficult for less established workers to find work.

Future of Cinema

Could delayed films like Black Widow be released on streaming platforms instead? (Disney 2020)

Likwise cinema staff cannot work from home, although audiences can still watch films at home. Even before countries were placed on lockdown, many cinemas pre-emptively closed due to advice to avoid large gatherings, in the UK. Several of these cinemas let these staff go without pay, a move that was understandbly controversial. This decision has since been reversed due to Government relief in the UK, however this is not the case in the US. With no support in place, AMC Theaters are “paying staff for as long as they can” potentially risking huge losses. While the large chain cinemas are clearly struggling, many smaller independent cinemas may not survive without help

As an added worry, a new study suggests that audiences may be less inclined to go back to the cinema after the pandemic subsides. With cleanliness and proximity to other people on audience’s minds, as well as a lack of summer blockbusters, it could be a while. Another factor to consider is streaming, which has been a concern to cinemas for several years. Some studios, like Universal are releasing some films straight to streaming, while still in theaters. It remains to be seen if this will remain in place once they do reopen

While cinemas are struggling, this whole situation is obviously good news for streaming services. Disney + launched in the UK, with it’s sign-ups tripling as more and more people are stuck indoors, and has even released films such as Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker months earlier than advertised. Meanwhile Netlfix may have to reduce the quality of it’s streaming in order to keep up with demand

These are certainly worrying times for everyone, whether in the film industry or not. But this period of uncertainty will help us appreciate the magic of cinema even more.

Also Read: Coronavirus: How It’s Affected The Film Industry

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Editorials

5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

March 29, 2020
5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

With everything currently going on in the world regarding Coronavirus, many of us just want a way to distract ourselves from this depressing situation. Thankfully streaming giant Netflix is happy to provide us with hours of escapist fun. And today I want to take the opportunity to recommend five titles that are currently streaming on Netflix to help put a smile back on your face.

Classic: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is the film equivalent of a warm, loving hug. There is nothing I can say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said a million times. The story of young Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland) journey of self-discovery as she is swept away to the land of Oz has inspired many people and continues to inspire many more as years go by. And while it may have its scary parts (The Wicked Witch of the West; her armies of flying monkeys and Winkies continue to scare children to this day) the loveable heroes, beautiful set design, iconic music, and the heart-warming story will ensure that a smile is never far away. If you don’t feel happy inside by the end of the Wizard of Oz, there is something wrong with you.

Wizard of Oz, currently streaming on Netflix
Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road with Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939) [Source: AVS Forum]

Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbour?

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, this is the film to see. This documentary goes in-depth into the life of children’s TV host Fred Rogers and gives us insight into his world view. How he believed in teaching children about important issues without talking down to them to help them grow and develop into good people. He dealt with topics like the assassination of Robert Kennedy, racism, depression and many other heavy subjects on his show. And the doc even delves into his personal fear that he hadn’t done enough to reach people. It’s a very human portrait of a man who believed in the best of us, which will leave you inspired and much more positive about the world.

Won't You Be My Neighbour, currently streaming on Netflix
Fred Rogers putting on his iconic cardigan. Won’t You Be My Neighbour [Source: Empire]

Comedy/Drama: Fighting with my Family

The story of Saraya Knight alias Paige (Florence Pugh) and her journey from humble beginnings, wrestling and teaching the sport with her family in Norwich, to WWE Diva’s Champion. Fighting with my Family is a treat for one simple reason, it feels entirely genuine. Everyone can relate to the hardships of trying to chase your dreams and even the hardship of having to give up your dreams for something else, like Paige’s brother Zak (Jack Lowden). And because of that, we route even more for our heroine to succeed. The family dynamic is also tender and affectionate with Nick Frost and Lena Headey providing fantastic turns as Paige’s parents. And a funny bit part for Dwayne Johnson ensures you will come out of the film with a spring in your step.

Fighthing With My Family, currently streaming on Netflix
Florence Pugh as Paige dreaming of becoming a wrestling superstar in Fighting With My Family [Source: Entertainment Weekly]

Animation: My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro is the definition of adorable. Two young girls and their father move to a new house in the countryside while their mother is in hospital. Through a series of chance sightings and some investigating the girls then encounter several woodland spirits. Which includes the eponymous Totoro with whom they proceed to have many adventures. Totoro is a film that is impossible to not love. Showing the world through the eyes of a child, where there is no argument that can’t be solved with kindness and compassion, nothing is ever hopeless, and the world truly is a magical place (coupled with some of the cutest creature designs ever) the film is guaranteed to get you in a good mood.

My Neighbour Totoro
Satsuki and Mei fishing with Totoro and the woodland spirits in My Neighbour Totoro [Source: Empire]

Netflix Original: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has long existed in the margins. Her crush is dating her sister, her former friend is now her worst enemy and her little sister won’t stop criticizing her driving. Her one solace is her letters to all the boys she has had a crush on. Which allows her to get all her feelings out. However, when her letters are sent to her crushes she has to try and fix the problem. And the answer to her problems may lie in her former friend’s ex-boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo). If you’re looking for a rom-com, full of charming characters, a good sense of humour, a central couple with great chemistry and even a few surprises along the way then do yourself a favour and check out To All the Boys for a reminder of the beauty of young love.

Netflix Original, To All The Boys I Have Loved Before
Lara Jean, her younger sister Kitty and Peter watching a movie in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before [Source: NME.com]

Thus, ends our recommendations list of feel-good film on Netflix. We hope you all enjoy our choices and that they help to add a little joy during this tough time. If you want to recommend any films on Netflix then let us know in the comments.

Also Read: 5 Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

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Editorials

Netflix By The Numbers

February 23, 2020
Netlix logo on a laptop

Netflix needs no introduction. Chances are even if you don’t have an account, you probably use someone else’s. The streaming service has become a huge giant in recent years. Being the biggest hitter in the “streaming wars” and spawning the phrase “Netflix and chill”. It’s hard to imagine life without Netflix.

As a celebration of how Netflix is always there for us, whether we’re hungover or going through a bad breakup. Here are 7 fun facts about the streaming giant you may not have known.

Netflix has been around since 1997

Netflix originally mailed out DVD's for rental
Netflix originally mailed out DVD’s for rental (Credit: CNN, 2019)

While many think the company started around the time the streaming service debuted, it actually started much earlier. Originally it was envisioned as a competitor to Blockbuster. It even sent out physical DVD’s of the show/film customers wanted to watch. The rental chain actually had the chance to purchase Netflix, but the CEO never even considered it. He probably regrets it now…

YouTube inspired it’s streaming

YouTube is another site that has exploded in popularity as streaming has become popular

While the idea of renting films without the hassle of posting a DVD was always on the company’s mind, thing’s could have been quite different. Because of internet speed and bandwidth back then, the idea was to have a “Netflix box” which would download the film overnight, having it ready for the next day. However, the rise of YouTube made them reconsider, and adopt a streaming method, instead of downloading.

Netflix has 10 of the best TV Shows

Stranger Things is one of Netflix's most popular original shows, both with critics and viewers.
Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s most popular original shows, both with critics and viewers (Netflix, 2017)

Netflix has quickly become known for its original programming, as well it’s a massive library of licensed content. Since 2013, it has produced its own “Netflix Originals”, with 10 of these being rated on IMDb’s Top 250 TV list. The highest-rated of which is Narcos (Number 52 at 8.8) and Stranger Things (55 also at 8.8). Other Netflix Originals on the list includes Bojack Horseman, Daredevil and Mindhunter.

The “Netflix Effect” on Breaking Bad

Netflix not only helped make Breaking Bad one of the most popular shows ever, but also helped develop the sequel film.
Netflix not only helped make Breaking Bad one of the most popular shows ever, but also helped develop the sequel film. (Netflix, 2019)

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 2010 Breaking Bad wasn’t the influence it is now and was almost cancelled after the third season. Netflix needed a big hit for it’s streaming service and Breaking Bad needed more viewers. Luckily it worked for everyone, as the show was introduced to a whole new audience just in time for its fourth season. This partnership is still ongoing, with the sequel El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie premiering on the site, as well as new episodes of spin-off Better Call Saul.

They’re an International Distributor

While Annihilation got a theatrical release in the US, in many countries, like the UK it was released on Netflix.
While Annihilation got a theatrical release in the US, in many countries, like the UK it was released on Netflix (Netflix, 2018)

On top of their Netflix Originals, and library of licensed content, they also distribute some new releases internationally. In 2018, they premiered The Cloverfield Paradox after a surprise reveal at the Super Bowl. They have also dealt with international distribution for films such as Alex Garland’s Annihilation and Andy SerkisMowgli: Legend of the Jungle“.

It’s one of the most visited websites

Many Netflix accounts have multiple users (Netflix)

The exact ranking’s vary day to day, but Netflix is one of the most visited websites on the whole internet. At the time of writing, it is currently ranked at number 21. In 2019, there was reportedly 158.8 million viewers in the US alone, this figure is expected to grow to 2023 177.5 million. That’s over 18 million more viewers in 4 years!

It’s won eight Oscars

Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was nominated for 10 Oscars (Netflix, 2019)

Since 2014, Netflix has been nominated 54 times over various categories. Their films have in total been nominated in 21 of the 24 categories, and have won in the Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron), Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern). Several of their documentaries have also won Oscars.

Also Read: The Netflix Problem

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Reviews

Retro Review: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

September 18, 2019
Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner has proved eerily predictive of many things for its 2019 setting. OK, there are no flying cars or high functioning androids. But the images of smog-choked streets, ruled by mega-corporations and a workforce that is treated as subhuman because of their origins feel very relevant today. And there was, of course, the unfortunate passing of actor Rutger Hauer. Who died in the same year that his character Roy Batty did.

With the first film making a monumental impact on popular culture, and it’s increasing relevance based on unfortunate happenstance I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the long-awaited sequel to blade runner. Which picked up the story 30 years later and took 35 years to be released.

It’s always difficult making a sequel to critically acclaimed films, especially when they are released so long after the original. But during its release, Blade Runner 2049 was called one of the best sequels ever made. Perhaps even better than the original. But two years on does the sequel still stand as sturdily as its predecessor?

Synopsis

In 2049 old replicants (human-like androids used for manual labour) are being hunted down and killed by newer models. However, when K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant employed by the police to retire other replicants, discovers that a replicant was able to produce a child he begins to tug on the threads of the mystery. Eventually leading to him to the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his nefarious forces. And into the path of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

What did I like?

Firstly, Blade Runner 2049 continues the originals trend for stunning visuals. Everything about this movie looks amazing. Whether it’s the set design that perfectly blends the futuristic, the modern and the mythical into a unique world that feels thematically appropriate for the characters and story or the beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography from Roger Deakins. Which makes every frame look like a piece of art. Or the special effects that never once look fake or out of place. Everything in this world feels authentic and organic, doing a lot to tell the story without dialogue.

The cast is also fantastic. Everyone does a great job inhabiting their roles. Making their characters feel like characters and not merely actors reciting lines to you. The standouts are Ryan Gosling, who does a great job inhabiting the stoic replicant K and Harrison Ford who reprises his iconic role as Rick Deckard; even with his comparatively limited screen time, Ford still manages to steal the show.

And like the first film, 2049 also concentrates on both weighty philosophical questions about identity, technology and corporate greed that feel truly relevant to today’s world. But it also incorporates spectacular action sequences. Which makes for a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch. There are some very interesting set pieces and concepts peppered throughout this film which will give you much to think about and remember long after the ending credits. Including, holographic AI and the question of their sentience. Underground replicant resistances and a tense fight scene taking place in a glitching hologram nightclub.

In fact, as its own standalone film, 2049 works quite well. Creating a fully functioning world with some good performance and great philosophical ambitions. While never forgetting to be an entertaining movie.

What did I not like?

However, as a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), 2049 really falls short. With the main problems being the story, pacing and characters.

2049’s story is unfortunately bogged down by lots of exposition. With several characters frequently explaining the plot to each other, something noticeably minimal in the original Blade Runner. And it never fails to draw the viewer out of the experience because of how obvious it is. The story is also rather lightweight because of the lack of significant consequences. For example, we are told that replicant reproduction will break the world. But aside from one scene with the replicant resistance, nothing in the film’s world indicates that our characters actions are having any impact. Lessening the tension of the film’s story.

There are also plot elements that feel extraneous e.g. K’s hologram girlfriend who can almost pass for being human. An interesting concept, but it serves no narrative purpose aside from illustrating that no one is special. Something which is already dealt with when K learns his true origins. This concept feels like padding. Which makes the narrative feel unfocused and causes the pacing to drag significantly.

Lastly, 2049 suffers from bland characterisation. K is a boring lead. He’s stoic and by-the-books, lacking the edge that made Deckard a compelling protagonist. The occasions when he emotionally conflicts with himself are too few and far between to make him engaging. And because he’s a virtually invulnerable replicant, the movie lacks any sort of tension on a character level. But the worst offender of flat characterisation are the villains. Niander Wallace is a typical capitalist with a god complex and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is your typical hard staring badass. Compared to Blade Runner’s replicants who had relatable goals, wanting more time to live their lives, these villains just come across as dull.

Verdict

Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. The set design, cinematography and special effects are all fantastic. Nothing feels out of place in the world they’ve created, and it makes for very stimulating viewing. Everyone in the cast gives a good performance with Ryan Gosling really fitting the part of K and Harrison Ford doing particular justice to his iconic role from the original blade runner. And the blend of action and interesting concepts will definitely keep you entertained.

The problems come when you begin viewing the film as a sequel to blade runner. When faced with the memorable characters, cinematic storytelling and overall cohesiveness of the original, Blade Runner 2049 really feels like an unfocussed pale imitation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Blade Runner 2049 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

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Reviews

Review: The Great Hack

August 10, 2019
The Great Hack Poster

The idea of everyone being connected by the internet once had positive connotations. The films that showed the supposed dangers of the digital world like The Matrix seemed so preposterous. But in a post-Edward Snowden and Wikileaks world, the dangers of the internet are now all too real.

There have been several documentaries in recent years about the acquisition of private information online and today we are going to be looking at Netflix’s newest offering to this particular subject, The Great Hack.

Synopsis

Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of several world-altering campaigns in the last few years. Leave.EU in the UK Brexit debate and the Donald Trump Presidential campaign in the USA. But while they had a huge impact on these campaigns, their methods were far more nefarious. Analytica harvested personal information from thousands of Facebook users, without their consent, and then used this to create targeted marketing.

The film follows several people involved in the unravelling of the CA scandal. Including David Carroll, who sued CA to get back the data CA had on him. Former CA employees such as Brittany Kaiser who have decided to blow the whistle on the company. And journalist Carol Cadwalladr.

What did I like?

There are two things that The Great Hack does very well. The first is the way it uses graphics and montages. Throughout the film, graphics are used to impart/illustrate information quickly in a way that doesn’t intrude on the action. And along with graphics the film also uses montages of websites and news stories to give a sense of mood. The montage of various targeted Facebook adverts showing how CA was able to manipulate how people see the world and the use of small square particles to indicate the passage of online info, effectively illustrates how much of our personal daily life is part of and reliant on the internet. Making the points made about CA more threatening.

The second positive is the presentation of the emotional arc of one of the principal participants, Brittany Kaiser. Kaiser, once a key player inside Cambridge Analytica, later came forward with information about how CA conducted their operations. The presentation of her arc from an idealist working on the Obama campaign to being part of the unethical practices of CA is fascinating. Because her motivations are so human. She switched sides in political marketing because she needed money to support herself, which the Obama campaign apparently would not give her. She enjoyed working with who she worked with, so she didn’t see all the negative implications that we can see as outsiders. But she admits her flaws and in the end, stands up for everyone’s right to privacy. Honestly, the film owes much of its success to Kaiser’s inclusion.

However, this leads me into The Great Hack’s problems.

What did I not like?

The Great Hacks first major problem is its pacing. The films key arguments: The dangers of companies using personal information to target you with marketing on social media; Our overreliance on the internet & What CA was up to and how it impacted the world. Are all covered within the first hour. The film then spends another hour repeating the same points. And it begins to get frustrating. This wouldn’t be so bad if the film employed new ways to engage us. But the camerawork is standard, the music is unengaging and the visual flourishes are too infrequent.

Secondly, because the documentary focuses on peoples journeys with CA, it’s critical to get the audience on side with the participants. But Kaiser is the only participant who manages to engage with the audience because she acts like a normal person. Carol Cadwalladr isn’t given enough screentime for us to care about her involvement. And David Carroll, who blatantly tells the audience, that companies having access to private information without consent is bad as if we didn’t already know, projects a very condescending attitude. Which is nothing but off-putting. Not helped when he consistently takes jabs at Kaiser.

There is also a problem with some points being over and underexplained. It expects you to already subscribe to the belief that Trump and Brexit were a bad idea, without giving any contextual information. But they spend an inordinate amount of time talking how information is gathered online and the dangers it poses to privacy. Something that is common knowledge by this point.

Finally, The Great Hack appears to argue that the Trump and Brexit campaigns were wholly won by targeted social media. Ignoring the larger issues of social division and the growing disillusionment with so-called experts and politicians. Electing to solely focus on technology as the purveyor of misfortune. Which seems a little reductive of a complicated issue.

Verdict

Overall while The Great Hack does have some minor visual flair and one incredibly well-told arc, it’s not enough to carry the film. Perhaps as an hour-long TV special it would have faired better. The stripped-down, just the facts version of the story would have been at least novel as a piece of unfolding news.

But as a film, The Great Hack is severely sloppy as it drags its points out and operates from a condescending and in some ways reductive viewpoint, that ultimately will leave most viewers either cold or frustrated.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Also Read: Five Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

Editorials

Five Sci-Fi Films To Watch Right Now On Netflix

April 15, 2019

Netflix has hundreds of films from blockbusters to indie gems to cult classics and it has no shortage of great science-fiction.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (comicbook.com)

The Plot – The film follows Jyn Erso a woman who has been on the run from the Empire since her childhood because her father is the man who designed the Death Star. Forced by the Rebel Alliance into a mission to extract her father from the Empire’s clutches and so disrupt their plans, Jyn becomes more and more involved in the civil war that is only just beginning.

Why It’s Great – In my opinion this has been the best of the new crop of Star Wars films. A self-contained story (more or less) that fixed perhaps the biggest plot-hole in all of Star Wars – namely, who builds a priceless weapon of mass destruction with such an easy Achilles’ Heel. The cast is sensational with Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as great leads, Ben Mendelsohn doing his Evil Scumbag routine in space and with great actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker taking on small roles.

Verdict – A wonderful addition to the Star Wars Saga.

Inception (2010)

Inception (hit.com)

The Plot – Leonardo Di Caprio plays Cobb, a very special kind of criminal who enters peoples’ dreams to steal information. Challenged to the seemingly impossible act of “inception” – implanting a new idea in a dream that the dreamer will believe to be their own Cobb puts together a crack team to accomplish his goal.

Why It’s Great – Christopher Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Or at least he hasn’t yet. Inception was the first film Nolan directed after Nolan makes blockbusters like no one else, making them as intelligent and original as they are a spectacle. There is a lot of the “one last job for a criminal” motif going on but that is just a great jumping off point. The special effects are truly stunning with the city landscape being twisted and folded as the high point and even if the writing and acting were terrible – which they aren’t – it would be worth watching for the effects alone. As frustrating as the ambiguous ending might be, I like a film that is brave enough not to give you all the answers.

Verdict – A dazzling and smart sci-fi blockbuster.

The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End (kino&co)

The Plot – Gary King wants to reassemble his school friends to complete the “Golden Mile” a pub crawl along twelve pubs in their home town. Sadly for Gary much has changed since school, the group is estranged and he is no longer – if he ever really was – their leader. As the friends reunite and start their pub crawl things in the town become increasingly odd leading to a sensational fight in a pub toilet that reveals what is going on in the town.

Why It’s Great – All of the Cornetto Trilogy are more than what a simple category can describe – all of them are excellent examples of their genre but excel in being films about people. The World’s End is a film about aliens slowly taking over the planet but it’s also about friendship, betrayal, dealing with disappointment in life, youth (and losing your youth), what is life about and more. I would say this is my least favourite of the trilogy but that still could put it in my top twenty films of all time. It has another feature of the Cornetto Trilogy in combining huge, over the top scenarios, in small unlikely places. Few films pack the emotional punch of The World’s End let alone comparing it to other sci-fi comedies.

Verdict – A triumphant end to the Cornetto Trilogy.

Back To The Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Back To The Future (npr.org)

The Plot – After accidentally travelling backwards in time teenager Marty McFly interrupts the meet-cute between his parents and thus will never be born. Recruiting the younger version of the scientist who sent him back in time, Doc, Marty seeks to set the timeline right and save himself. In Part 2 Marty and Doc travel to the future to avert a disaster for Marty’s son only to make things much worse everyone – well, nearly everyone. And Part 3…well Part 3 is set in the Old West for some reason ( just go with it, it’s fun).

Why It’s Great – I suppose it’s cheating to put a whole trilogy into one slot but it’s surely a crime to break up these wonderful films when they make such a satisfying collection. It’s hard to overstate the impact these films had on science-fiction and pop culture in general. For many these are the films that made time-travel (and all the paradoxes, dangers and opportunities that come with it) vaguely possible to understand, partly through literally drawing it on a blackboard in Part 2.

Verdict – If for any reason you have not seen these films prepare to watch three of the most enjoyable films ever made.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (midwestfilmjournal.com)

The Plot – Lena’s soldier husband returns mysteriously to their home but something is very wrong with him and it isn’t long before the government swoops in and takes control of the situation. It turns out her husband was sent on a secret mission into The Shimmer – a mysterious area of land where normal rules do not apply and her husband is the only person to return from numerous missions. Lena, a scientist and former soldier joins the next team determined to find out what happened.

Why It’s Great – While it does feel somewhat fitting to include a Netflix original film on this list doesn’t mean Annihilation doesn’t got a free pass – it’s a great sci-fi film, and in a way that few sci-fi films are. It has gunfights and monsters and all those things going on it has also has unusual ideas that make you think about the world and the universe. Science-fiction gets a lot of criticism but to me it’s always been the genre of big ideas – whether that’s time travel or space flight or what it means to be human. Written and directed by filmmaking genius Alex Garland and adapted from the successful Southern Reach book trilogy this film comes with exemplary sci-fi credentials.

Verdict – Bizarre mind-bending sci-fi epic.

News

2019 Video Streaming Survey

April 8, 2019

Watch Netflix, Amazon Prime or other video-on-demand services?

Big Picture Film Club is conducting a survey on movie / TV streaming platforms available in the UK: what features you like about them and what you would want to see improved.

We would love for you to take part, the survey will take less than 5 minutes to complete and is available below.

Create your own user feedback survey
Editorials

The Netflix Problem

March 27, 2019
Netlix Roma

Steven Spielberg caused controversy recently with his comments about streaming platform Netflix – the legendary director appeared to roundly condemn those who want to include films made directly for the media service provider in the list of Academy Award nominees, referring to their eligibility for the accolades as “token qualifications”.

And here we, as film enthusiasts, find ourselves trapped between a rock and a hard place: the rock being arguably the most famous movie director of all time, and the place being the Western culture of 2019, where content is consumed in a vastly different manner than it was when Spielberg first began his directorial career.

Director

Is this the opening skirmish of a war between the past and present? Are we supposed to pick a side?

Probably not.

When Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma won three Oscars at the Academy Awards (including, most significantly, Best Director) last month, it broke a taboo that perhaps none of us realised even existed.  Roma was put forward for ten awards by the Academy, and though it wasn’t the first streamed film to be nominated (that honour goes to Manchester By The Sea), it was the first to ever win in the Best Director category. That’s a major distinction.

And yet, Roma ruffled more than just Spielberg’s feathers. One of the reasons why the film was considered so contentious by those in the movie industry, in fact, was the way in which it was released. Netflix made the film available mid-December, around the time most Oscar-hopefuls will start distributing their work, and also released it in a few movie theatres at the same time, which was frowned-upon by some because it failed to stick by the 90-day cinema window.

In the run-up to the Oscars, Tom Rogers (former CEO of TiVo) explained why Roma could be a milestone in the history of cinema.

“It’s such a disruptive pick for the Academy to end up embracing something that’s really going to go to the heart of movie theatrical distribution and the whole windowing system it has,” he said. “Netflix came up with a better way to watch television. Consumers have voted. It’s a great way to get what you what, when you want, and how you want it. And they’re doing the same thing with movies.”

CNBC

So while Netflix is indeed breaking new ground, it isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong (in the eyes of most people, anyway).

However, Steven Spielberg wasn’t quite so accommodating, stating:

“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theatres for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

The Guardian

He went on to suggest that Netflix movies should be nominated for Emmy Awards as they’re technically made for television. The veteran director is expected to raise the issue at the next Academy board of governors meeting and argue for a rule change that would ensure Oscar-nominated films adhere to the traditional theatrical run format in order to be eligible for the awards.

So what’s the bottom line here?

Well, it depends what way you look at it. Peter Bradshaw writes:

“Those sympathetic to Netflix contest their opponents’ claim to be the defenders of decent celluloid values battling against an overweening corporate monster intent on crushing the community values of movie theatres. On the contrary, they say Netflix is challenging the privileges of entitled white males.”

The Guardian

Bradshaw does, however, go on to point out that Netflix relies heavily on subscriptions and is simultaneously engulfed in massive, crippling debt – a staggering $28billion – that could quite easily cause the platform to collapse, “leaving us to wonder how we could have been so naive and disloyal in relation to the workable theatrical release model.”

And for those who might try arguing that the current generation is transitioning away from traditional models of cinema towards instant content, it should be noted that just last year, attendance at UK theatres was at its highest since 1970, with 177million admissions.

Perhaps Spielberg has a point, and the purity of the Academy Awards should be preserved at all costs. Or maybe we’re simply in a new era of cinema, one in which we can watch Oscar-worthy films on both our television and theatre screens, depending on our preference.

Surely increased access to quality works like Roma can only be a good thing, after all? Certainly, Spielberg’s contemporary Martin Scorsese seems to think so, with his next film The Irishman set to debut on Netflix later this year.

Reviews

Review: Await Further Instructions

March 22, 2019

A claustrophobic horror thriller centred around a bitterly divided family.

What’s Going On?

Nick brings his girlfriend, Annji, back to his family home for Christmas after an absence of several years. It is not long before the tensions in the family boil over, particularly the racism directed towards Annji. After making the decision to leave Nick and Annji find out they are trapped in the house by metal shutters placed there by some outside power. Their only outlet to the outside world is through the television broadcasting instructions on what they should do. The already fractured family are put through increasingly intense dramas that only brings out the worst in them.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by Johnny Kevorkian and written by Gavin Williams and this is probably their biggest project to date. The film certainly has it’s interesting moments but neither the direction or the writing particularly stand out.

In Front Of The Camera

The main actors are Sam Gittins (Nick), Neerja Naik (Annji) and Grant Masters (Tony, Nick’s father) and they are all asked to a lot but don’t manage to pull it off. Of the three Naik’s performance is the best as she tries to withstand a familiar line of abuse, ranging from unpleasant comments about immigrants to vicious slurs yet not lose her temper. Gittins plays the dependable boyfriend and (as well as Naik) the voice of reason to the encroaching madness. Masters isn’t quite believable as the ringleader of what happens and fails to convincingly portray a normal man who goes too far.

The most recognisable member of the cast will probably be David Bradley best known as either Filch from the Harry Potter films or Walder Frey from Games of Thrones. Bradley plays Granddad – the family member who never even tries to welcome Annji or moderate his behaviour at all.

Does It Work?

The film starts off with an interesting premise of a family, already on edge, being pushed further by the horrendous circumstances. Often films where people are trapped together in a small space they start as friends or strangers but before any of the horror starts there are clear dividing lines in the group. It’s hard to not think that this is a post-Brexit film; the issues of immigration and race are specifically brought up, with each side thinking the other is utterly ridiculous and completely to blame. The first half of the film definitely works better and Abigail Cruttenden plays the mother desperately trying to reconcile the different elements of her family and maintain the peace quite well.

When they wake up on Christmas day and realise they are trapped these fault lines only harden. Tony tries to take control of the situation but that is limited to blindly following the instructions via the television, trying to disguise his blind obedience as sensible and practical behaviour.

There are a few cliches that get wheeled out and when things start getting out of hand it’s not a surprise when the most obviously unpleasant character is the first to suffer. Then there is the presence of Nick’s sister, Kate, heavily pregnant, used as justification by her husband for his behaviour and, of course, making her incredibly vulnerable.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that the slip from imprisonment and mild paranoia to outright violence and worse is incredibly quick. It is only hours before all manner of terrible things are being done and even with their existing problems, it’s hard to reconcile such extreme behaviour with their circumstances. Even families that don’t get along will have their limits and most people place their family’s wellbeing as the centre of their world.

What the film reminded me of most was an episode of Black Mirror, or probably more accurately, a sub-Black Mirror inspired show. The film comments on hysteria, the power of media, the fear of the Other but without any subtlety or particular originality. The film also reminded me of one of the most infamous experiments in all of psychology – Stanley Milgram’s study on obedience. Participants were asked to give electric shocks to a person every time they got a question wrong, increasing the voltage with each wrong answer. Most participants carried on past the point their victim begged them to stop with one of the researchers telling the participant they must continue. Importantly no one was actually harmed in the experiment but people thought they were harming people. The film is partially a study on obedience to authority; obeying the government, obeying your father, obeying those with power over you. Each character responds differently to these different authorities and this is one of the film’s most successful aspects.

As the film nears the end and the madness is ramped up even further the bizarreness of the ending does not feel justified. I can go along with all manner of oddness if I feel it has been earned or handled in an interesting way but it just felt silly – the worst thing that can happen to a horror film.

Overall Await Further Instructions is not a good film, despite a good beginning and an intriguing idea of bringing the division of the country into one home. I would say in its defence that I was never bored and did want to see where it was going and how it would all end, but I could already sense that the ending would not be able to tie up the loose ends sufficiently let alone deal with some of the bigger plotholes.

Verdict 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Editorials

5 Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

March 13, 2019
Netflix Banner

Who doesn’t love a good documentary? They offer informative and intriguing glimpses into the world that surround us. But the best documentaries are not just talking heads reciting information at you. The best documentaries are the ones that take you on a journey and leave a lasting emotional impact on you.

And with Netflix having a treasure trove of documentaries available at your fingertips, today I’m recommending five documentaries, both films and TV series, for you to queue up and watch as soon as possible.

Five Came Back

Netflix has created many engaging original documentaries, but today I am giving special mention to two. The first being Five Came Back, which chronicles the lives of influential filmmakers William Wyler, George Stevens, Frank Capra, John Huston and John Ford, and the film industry that surrounded them, before, during and after World War II. Beginning with the first rumblings of the second world war and how Hollywood dealt with it, to many of the men seeing active service. Through their involvement with American propaganda and how the war impacted their careers after coming home. The series is a gripping and intensely personal character study of how the directors’ wartime experiences shaped them and their films. All the men’s stories are captivating. Their personalities are conveyed so well through archival interviews and insight from modern filmmakers, who share common traits, that you forget the documentary’s retrospective nature and become completely absorbed in the experience. The use of music and the directors archival battle footage makes the series as gripping as any war film and shows that art isn’t merely escapism. It helps us process the world around us. And is essential to the healing process of both artists and society.

Five Came Back Poster (2017)

Planet Earth

This entry can apply to any of David Attenborough’s documentaries. Many are available on Netflix and all are worth watching. But for the definitive Attenborough wildlife documentary, look no further than Planet Earth. Being one of the world’s foremost natural historians you know that Attenborough knows what he is talking about when it comes to the subject matter and he delivers information in a way that is easy for all to enjoy. His smooth and authoritative voiceover invites the viewer in and makes the information easily digestible, which would be enough to recommend a documentary alone. But when combined with some of the most stunning wildlife footage ever captured, that gets up close and personal with the storied lives of earth’s tiniest insects, most feared predators and even endangered species from across the world. It makes for the definitive wildlife documentary series.

Planet Earth BBC Poster (2006)

Senna

I’ve never been a big sports fan but I love sports documentaries. Because the best sports documentaries help you understand and empathize with the people who participate in these global events. And one of the best examples of this is Senna. Senna tells the story of Brazilian Formula One driver, Ayrton Senna. From how he won the F1 world championship 3 times in his careers through to his tragic death in 1994. What makes this documentary stand out is that it’s made up entirely of archival and home movie footage/voiceover about Senna. Which gives the movie an authentic feeling as everything is rooted in recorded history. What is truly impressive is how the film builds such a comprehensive picture of Senna, his life and his mindset while also being as thrilling and engaging as any fictional sports movie. Proving that learning about history doesn’t need to be boring and that real life really can be just as exciting as fiction.

Senna movie poster (2010)

13th

Now for my second Netflix Original choice. 13th is a film that looks at the history of the USA and posits that slavery never actually went away. Though ownership has gone, the USA’s judicial and governmental system is still so poisoned against minorities and black people in particular, that many are now locked up and used for free labour for having the audacity to defend themselves and demanding a fair trial. From that description, it’s easy to see why 13th pushed so many people’s buttons. It is not an easy topic to think about, nor should it be. But the film delivers this difficult subject matter in a way that is easy to understand and showcases some truly disturbing material that has resulted from this oppression, but in a way that feels purposeful rather than exploitative. It is a polemic but it is incredibly successful at being one and at best stimulates a conversation that is worth having. As a good documentary should.

13th Netflix Poster (2016)

Paris is Burning

Finally, we go for an older documentary which is altogether more uplifting though in places no less sad. Paris is Burning documents the New York underground drag scene at the end of the 1980s. Looking at the competitions that bring the community together and the personalities of the contestants that take part. Paris is a fascinating time capsule. Although it could be looked upon as a glorified home movie, it holds significance because of what it represents. It is a glimpse inside a culture that, at the time, was very marginalized. As a result, the unprofessional and grainy presentation makes the film feel real and reflects its underground subject matter. It also doesn’t coyly skirt around discussions of transvestism, racism and homosexuality within the 1980s either. Focusing on how the community formed itself under the oppression, brutality and indifference of the culture. And although the subjects have their doubts about themselves and their place in the world, you ultimately come out feeling uplifted, for the film’s celebration of love and beauty in a marginalized group.

Poster for Paris is Burning (1990)

So there are five documentaries available on Netflix to get you into the world of non-fictional entertainment. Of course, there are many other documentaries available on Netflix. Both old and recent, and covering a range of different subjects. Do you have a favourite Netflix documentary you would like to recommend? Then please mention it in the comments. And help us discover more real-life stories to treasure.