As the landscape of theatrical releases is drastically changing (less screens, limited runs), more and more people are comfortable watching major films the day of release in the comfort of their own homes. Netflix continues to release impressive and original big budget films like Gerald’s Game, Okja and MANY more – here are my top 5:
After I watched Duncan Jones’ (Warcraft, Moon) latest sci-fi drama MUTE, which was a Netflix exclusive feature length film, I thought to myself — what the hell is happening here? This movie is… not well made.. Not long before MUTE’s debut, The Cloverfield Paradox was purchased by Netflix after Paramount predicted it would fail miserably in theaters, so fans were treated to a surprise post-Superbowl debut with ZERO notice. Netflix bought it and posted that shit (literally) onto their streaming service a couple hours after the first trailer debuted. It was terrible. Two huge science fiction movies – two massive letdowns as both MUTE and Cloverfield 3 bombed badly.
Critics seem to have a bitter relationship with Netflix original films. I will agree that the quality hasn’t been great lately, with both MUTE and Cloverfield Paradox being abysmal pieces of hot garbled trash, but I do appreciate the effort. It’s almost as if most online film critics seem to have become prog rock hipsters and they all consider Netflix to be the Limp Bizkit of the industry. Well — if that’s true, and I don’t think it is (yet), I’ll admit that I like some Limp Bizkit… It isn’t for everyone – but it’s cheap and entertaining.
The Top 5 Netflix Original Movies
#5. Bright/Death Note (Tie)
Most people HATED both Bright and Death Note. HATED them. I thought they were both fun genre flicks, and although they are littered with problems, they also have some breathtaking moments. In Bright, there’s a slow-motion sequence where Will Smith guns down some corrupt cops and it’s one of the best scenes of 2017 – it was jaw-dropping good. The film also has some of the worst dialog I’ve ever seen in a movie – Uwe Boll calibur stuff (PS – MUTE, felt like it was directed by Uwe Boll too). Death Note was stylistically gorgeous and featured some brilliant moments from director Adam Wingard, but it also had a leading man who screamed like he was Ned Flanders in The Simpsons. So while both of these genre flicks may have mixed reviews (to put it mildly), I’m including them here because I do believe that they would have made some money if they were released in theaters. I liked them – they weren’t great, but they certainly weren’t as bad as everyone said they were.
#4. Beasts of No Nation
The first major Netflix original film is still considered by many to be the best from True Detective director Cary Fukunaga. Starring Idris Elba as a warlord who recruits children in a third world country to be his soldiers, Beasts of No Nation deserved more award recognition the year it came out. But people weren’t ready to accept Netflix as a “serious” company alongside other Oscar darlings. It’s a shame, because this film is incredibly well-made, acted and directed. Elba is always stellar in everything he does, but his dark and disturbing turn as the villain here might be the best performance of his career.
#3. Gerald’s Game
Last year, Stephen King’s IT hit the bigscreen and shocked fans worldwide because we finally got a GOOD film adaptation of the author’s work. It was faithful, well made, had an incredible cast, you name it. The pieces of the puzzle were there and they won over audiences in a big way. Gerald’s Game is another faithful adaptation and just as important as IT, but most people missed it because of the quiet Netflix release. Like that movie with the scary clown, Gerald’s Game took the same approach of, trusting in King’s source material and shooting what’s on the page. The results were profound and the end result was a jarring, creepy and suspenseful horror drama unlike any other scary movie in 2017. A woman is handcuffed to a bed while her lover dies and she’s left to the elements, including a potential serial killer and rabid dog who begins to eat her husband’s body beside the bed. It’s unnerving, features a twisted subplot about child molestation, you name it — Gerald’s Game probably has it and even though it’s a loaded, heavy experience, I urge you to check it out.
#2. The Fundamentals of Caring
Rob Burnett’s indie comedy/drama about a caretaker (Paul Rudd) who looks after a disabled young man (Craig Roberts) is both heartfelt and hilarious. The Fundamentals of Caring reminded me a lot of Little Miss Sunshine, in that it wasn’t afraid to tackle dark subjects while keeping the tone relatively light and comedic. If this movie had been released in theaters during the Fall awards season, I bet it could have garnered some nominations somewhere in the mix. Rudd and Roberts’ onscreen chemistry was perfect and I still fondly remember the moments where Roberts would begin faking his death just to scare the shit out of Rudd.
Bong Joon-ho‘s strange little sci-fi drama about a young child trying to rescue her pet superpig from a slaughterhouse is like a Disney film on acid. The tone shifts between comedy and horror flawlessly making Okja one of the most strangely compelling movies you’re likely ever to see. The movie may turn you off on eating meat for a couple minutes after seeing all those strange hippo/pig/elephant looking things forced onto the killing floor, but there’s something beautiful about how Bong Joon-ho directs this bizarre opus. He injects a healthy dose of black comedy, equally poking fun at the animal rights activists and corporate shills who just want their superpigs to taste really f***ing good. Plus – Jake Gyllenhaal delivers one of the craziest performances of his career as a borderline psychotic television zoo-keeper personality.
Honorable Mentions: Spectral, Mudbound, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, The Do-Over.