To paraphrase one cinematic hero, Netflix is like a box of chocolates - you never quite know what you're going to get. That, and chocolates are awesome.
And such is our love for all things Netflix, each month we are trawling through the very latest releases on the streaming service to ensure you are kept well up to speed on their newest offerings.
The outdoors are overrated anyway.
The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison
Prepare to farm some serious emotions; this documentary follows the lives of six convicts of the maximum security Louisiana State Penitentiary (the Angola Prison of the title) – an institution few of its inmates ever manage to leave. The stories on offer give a good indication of why The Farm was nominated for an Academy Award: John A. Brown, Jr. is serving a death sentence for murder, aware that the prison is the last ‘home’ he’ll ever inhabit, while double rapist Vincent Simmons is set to serve 100 years. A challenging watch, best give yourself a couple of hours of silence in which to contemplate life after you’ve finished this one.
Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For
One of those “films you were going to see at the cinema before everyone gave it an underwhelming review", so you went to see another film instead. Now it’s reached the hallowed halls of Netflix, it’s fully deserving of your attention across a slow Sunday afternoon. Directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez renew their directorial partnership, pointing their cameras at more of the same seedy, urban trauma, with Marv (Mickey Rourke), Nancy (Jessica Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) among the returning cast members. No, it doesn’t have the same drive and lethal edge as the 2005 original, but it’s a refreshingly dark departure from the lycra and capes brigade of recent comic adaptations.
Believe it or not, those chubby features belong to Jared Leto, the very same actor who bagged an Oscar for his role as an emaciated transgender AIDS sufferer in Dallas Buyer's Club. This, however, was the first of his major dramatic on-screen appearances, filling the cumbersome shoes of John Lennon’s murderer Mark David Chapman, who claimed The Catcher In The Rye made him do it – hence the film’s title. In the film we’re given an all-access pass to a day in the life of a seriously warped mind. Deeply disturbing, highly engrossing, worthy of a day on the sofa.
The only thing safe about this film is that you can be fully assured Jason Statham will angrily punch and kick his way throughout the running time. When his former cage fighter botches the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old girl, he subsequently spends the majority of the film protecting her from a crop of goons - Triads, Russians, some of the shiftiest New York cops you’ve ever seen – turning the whole of Manhattan into a one-man battleground in the process. If you like watching The Stath, he’s in overdrive here.
Cop & Robbersons
Sure, it was probably green-lit by Hollywood execs on the title alone, but even so we’re happy to report that this mid-'90s comedy remains as good as it’s ever been. Peak career Chevy Chase is Norman Robberson, a middle class family man who secretly wants to be a cop. Jack Palance is Jake Stone, a grizzled detective so desperate to bring down a mobster who’s moved to the burbs that he’ll even move into the Robberson’s house to get his man. Together? They’re trouble. Think the Griswolds with guns.
The biggest crime Danger Mouse ever faced? That only three of his series (there are ten in total, broadcast between 1981 and 1992) have made it to Netflix. Yet there’s enough of a nostalgia kick here to sooth any potential hung-over state. A monolith of British animation, the show sees Danger Mouse (voiced by David Jason) tackle a variety of fiendish, child-friendly villains and their plots to take over the world, backed by floundering sidekick Penfold (Terry Scott). No, things are never really that dangerous – though Count Duckula does present some moments of mild peril.
What is it with creepy kids and cinema? We’re never not freaked out every time a bowl-haired youngster finds themselves possessed by wrongdoing spirits. Hollywood just gets it. And they’ve certainly not let up for this riveting horror, which sees a couple fight supernatural forces when their son enters a comatose state, finding himself becoming the host for ghosts from an astral dimension. Whatever you do, don’t watch it alone.
At this point in the franchise you don’t need know who Sylvester Stallone and his starry mob of A-list grunts are going after. Or even why. All you know is that they’re going to have a lot of fun doing it and somebody at some point will end up on the receiving end of a bicep-trembling high five, doubtlessly as a thousand lifeless, bullet-torn corpses deck the floor. But if you really want to know who the chief baddie is this time around – it’s Mel Gibson, a wild-eyed maniac whose thirst for greed and a new world order make him a serious threat to mankind. And his character in the film is pretty bonkers too.
Orange Is The New Black: Season Three
The US doesn’t need John Oliver to dictate the failings of its penal system for comedic effect – no, it already has Orange Is The New Black, the pitch black comedy based on the experiences of Piper Kerman and her memoir about living for a year in a women’s prison. The episodes just get better and better, and with season three now added, if you’re not already telling friends/parents/strangers about this show today, there's no better reason not to commence binge viewing today.
Austin To Boston
Five battered VW vans. Three thousand miles. Two weeks. One insightful, all-access music documentary taking us right into the lion’s den of life on the road. Or should that be Bear’s Den? Tailing a bunch of the world’s best folk artists - Ben Howard, The Staves and yes, Bear’s Den – from rowdy bars to rustic barns on their way to Boston. Director James Marcus Haney’s film does away with the clichéd gloom, debauchery and snipping between bands we’ve come to associate with music tours, focusing instead on the normalness and strong emotional bonds between musicians finding their way in a turbulent world.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
The second of the Pirates films - in case you’ve forgotten your taglines - this all-action swashbuckler has sailed its way back onto Netflix, once more allowing us to marvel at Johnny Depp’s inimitable Jack Sparrow. This time he’s on the hunt for Davy Jones’s heart, which he must claim before his soul is damned forever. Bolstered by a cast including Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Bill Nighy (seriously, it might as well be a Richard Curtis film), Depp once more shows why he’s the best in the business.
Wish I Was Here
After superbly addressing a mid-twenties crisis in Garden State, a decade on and Zach Braff has repeated the trick for men in their thirties – with another top notch soundtrack besides. Playing a laissez-faire father of two who finds himself feeling torn between his stop-start acting career and helping his breadwinner wife pay the bills, his preference for the former puts him on a direct collision course with his gruff, old fashioned dad, played by the eminently bearded Mandy Patinkin. As much a commentary on modern life as it is men and their fathers, Braff’s film will leave you in tears. The good kind.
All This Mayhem
Cine-hipsters will already all too aware of this indie gem, which transformed Ryan Gosling from former Mouseketeer into serious lead man material (we’re not counting gush-fest The Notebook, oh no). Furthermore, as a coke-addled inner city high school teacher who befriends a student that catches him getting high, it remains his finest acting work so far. Real powerhouse stuff from the Gos-myster.
A grown-up rom-com, Obvious Child stars Jenny Slate as a young woman who has a drunken one night stand and plans to get an abortion. Wondering where the romance and comedy is? Sorry, we should have mentioned: she’s a stand-up comic and the script is brimming with touching, realist humour as she forges a friendship (and possibly something more) with the unplanned child’s father.
If you enjoy watching cockneys punch each other in the Queen Vic but just don’t think Eastenders has enough swearing for your liking, you could try The Guvnors, a gritty gangland drama set in South East London which sees a former head of a hooligan firm reluctantly drawn back into sink estate skirmishes when a younger firm, led by one half of Rizzle Kicks, Harvey Sylvester, begins to wreak havoc. And Sylvester's surprisingly good, too.