The Good, the Bad and the Netflix
What is truly chill on Netflix?
By Colin Macgillivray, Staff Writer, and Alex Warkentin, Staff Writer
Beasts of No Nation
Beasts of No Nation is an act of gripping empathy. It’s a sobering and uncompromising take on the life of Agu, a “good boy from a good family” and his descent into the horrors and atrocities that come with being a child soldier in West Africa. The film’s director, writer and cinematographer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, known best for his adept directing on the set of the first season of True Detective, delivers an absolute masterclass in dynamic storytelling and hallucinatory imagery while still giving an honest depiction of the bloody disparity of war.
Agu, played skillfully by newcomer Abraham Attah, gives one of the most mature performances from a young actor I’ve seen in years, while powerhouse actor Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) gives a titanic performance as the commandant of the legion of orphan soldiers.
Netflix struck gold with this movie, plain and simple. Buying the distribution rights for $12 million was an absolute steal, as having a film of this quality in their “Netflix Originals” section bolsters their reputation as a legitimate film and television business, rather than just a streaming service.
“If I have to read subtitles while watching TV, I might as well read a book.” That statement was a real thing that was said to me after I asked a friend of mine if they were enjoying Narcos, the brilliant biographical crime thriller centred around the life of the notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Unfortunately, my stupid-idiot of a friend kind of has a point. A lot of people are turned off by the idea of watching a show that is almost entirely in Spanish and having to commit to paying attention. Unfortunately for them, they are missing out on another one of the most underrated Netflix Originals.
Narcos is intense, enlightening and unnerving all at the same time by offering the viewer a glimpse inside the mind of Pablo Escobar. Wagner Moura, who plays Escobar, is so unreal, that he sometimes makes the murderous drug lord an incredibly sympathetic character just due to the strength of his performance. Moura is the real star here, but the rest of the cast also deliver great performances. From the DEA Agents to Colombian Government figures and even Escobar’s group of lackeys, each performance feels so real and genuine that you are immersed into the cocaine filled world of Escobar.
If the idea of a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live side by side sounds like a dream come true, Bojack Horseman is the show for you. I know a lot of people are justifiably skeptical about adult animated comedies because Family Guy has ruined the genre by dominating it for 15 years with its dumpster fire comedy. Rest assured folks, Bojack is no Peter Griffin.
It takes a certain amount of elegance to craft an animated television that is both incredibly hilarious and heart wrenchingly sad. Bojack tackles themes like depression, success, failure, relationships, friendships in a serious and enlightening way, all the while satirizing Hollywood culture and our society’s odd obsession over celebrities.
With Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie and countless other talented actors and actresses providing their voices, Bojack Horseman’s cast is top tier.
Bojack Horseman is definitely my favourite Netflix Original of them all. Hidden behind all the goofy talking animals are complex stories, riveting characters and most of all, some of the most clever comedy I’ve had the pleasure to watch. This show is incredible. Watch it.
Arrested Development (Season 4)
The hard and fast rule when it comes to adding onto something that has developed a cult-following, especially something with a wide reception such as Arrested Development, is thus: just don’t.
Although loved by fans, Arrested Development wasn’t able to keep up with the ratings during it’s initial run, leading to it’s cancellation in 2006.
Through word-of-mouth, internet circulation and a fanbase that just wasn’t ready to give up on the Bluth family after only three short seasons, Arrested Development’s reputation as one of the most clever, enigmatic sitcoms to come out of the early 2000’s has only increased in the decade following its finale.
Unfortunately, renewed interest means that someone is going to try and squeeze out a few more dollars from a show that should have simply been left alone to ruminate in its finite state.
Eager to build its growing repertoire of “original” programming early in the stages of Netflix’s hype, the digital streaming giant snapped up the rights to Arrested Development in 2012 to film a fabled fourth season. Fans rejoiced at its return, but, as with all good things that get revived, the new season fell flat.
The Ridiculous 6
Before anything is said about the latest in a string of abhorrent films produced by Happy Madison Productions, one thing must be clarified: Adam Sandler is a good actor. Adam Sandler knows how to act. Adam Sandler is just dead inside.
Complaining about The Ridiculous 6 (a play on the titular 1960 film The Magnificent Seven by John Sturges, and a nod to Tarantino’s 2015 flick The Hateful Eight) is a little like beating a dead horse at this point, especially when it comes to talking smack about whatever the latest monstrosity featuring Adam Sandler constitutes.
It’s offensive on all levels, including ideologically and to the senses, and it’s another nail in the “it’s-okay-we-still-love-you” coffin that’s only being held open by Sandler’s spectacular roles in the 2004’s Punch Drunk Love (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson), and Judd Apatow’s 2009 serio-comedy Funny People.
What The Ridiculous 6 essentially equates to is 120 minutes of unadulterated garbage featuring cameos from every usual suspect of the Sandler brood, along with some “good” (see: respected) actors that clearly only had eyes for the big fat paycheque signed by the Happy Madison folks when it came to featuring in this godawful excuse for a movie.
Pretty much every stand-up special
While a nod must be given to Netflix for spotlighting comics, both famous and otherwise, and giving them their chance to shine, the recent influx of comedy specials is comprised of a whole lotta bad masquerading as good.
While there are some big names attached to the most recent releases such as Bill Burr, Joe Rogan and Louis C.K., the overwhelming barrage of content from these alleged purveyors of social commentary makes for an atmosphere of smugness that would rival any damage done by the greenhouse gas crisis.
Of course, one must be partial to the fact that humour is subjective, and because of this it’s hard to critique stand-up comedians still pushing their bits in these televised specials.
This instant “hot-take” form of comedy has essentially killed a lot of how stand-up comedians operate, most notably because what was once a slightly risqué way of collectively “sticking it to the man” through observational humour is now so vastly shared by everyone via status updates and Facebook shares that any power it held by being controversial in the first place is rendered null by the ennui of the mainstream.
But maybe it isn’t necessarily that the Netflix stand-up specials are bad. Maybe it’s just that we’ve heard it all before.
Maybe memes have killed all that’s good about comedy.
Maybe, just maybe.